Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #4 of 5

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Photo courtesy of Nick Morrison on Unsplash

The helplessness and vulnerability of a newborn can bring out our innermost feelings of awe and wonder. Their complete reliance on adults for every need is enough to stir emotions and soften the hardest of hearts. It often leads to introspection, a form of inspiration that flows from the heart.

Unlike inspirations that are sparked by events and activities, introspection is a more considered approach. It requires us to reach deeply into our own experiences to retrieve thoughts that might not be among the first to surface. Conversely, they may be the very thoughts that jump out and grab our attention without warning.

Now, take a look at an example of inspiration that relies heavily on introspection.

Your attentiveness and response to lights, sounds, and voices at only a few days old was remarkable. I placed you on my lap facing up, cradling your head in my hands. You looked directly into my eyes, as if you were trying to communicate. “Can you sense how much joy I feel when you are so near?”

I have never met a parent (or grandparent) who didn’t feel a loving connection with their new babies. Forget scientific explanations. Instead, focus on the bonding that takes place when you are interacting with the children in your life. I truly believe God uses this type of bonding to cement relationships between children, their parents, and their grandparents.

Everyone needs to feel loved. Don’t hesitate to tell children how much you love them. Be extravagant with positive words of love and encouragement. They never go out of style.

When did you have a moment of introspection about a grandchild? Share your experiences at barbhowe.com.

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #2 of 5

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Photo courtesy of 85fifteen on Unsplash

Special occasions are naturals for inspiration with built-in excitement and action. And they often involve memorable traditions or celebrations: Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and so on. Celebrations are like recurring distance markers on your road map that show how much ground has been covered.

I like to jot down specific details at the time they occur. They come in handy when I’m ready to write and want to include all the important stuff. Sometimes the little things that we might not consider valuable at the time provide family, cultural, and historical information for future generations. Include them. I’ve had many conversations with my siblings about our family, as well as items that were common to the era. They add a lot of interest.

Here’s a snippet from my grandson’s fifth birthday celebration. It makes me laugh every time I read it.

This was the most fun I’ve had on a birthday for as long as I can remember. I’ve learned by experience that anticipation is part of the fun. You chose the balloons for your party and went with me to pick up your Spiderman cake from the neighborhood Cub grocery store. You were so excited, you almost dropped the cake into our grocery cart. We took lots of photos during the party; my favorite is one of you getting ready to stuff a big ol’ hot dog into your mouth.

Will the children born 50 years from now relate to Spiderman, or play dates? Maybe not. These everyday items could become today’s version of dial phones and Dick Tracy secret code watches of yesteryear. Elements like this add a touch of nostalgia to a story, and that never seems to go out of style.

Of course, you don’t need to include everything from your notebook. Keeping the story focused is part of the territory. My notebook is still a source of chuckles, tears, and reminders of my many blessings. I hope you benefit these ideas.

Watch for three more sources of inspiration coming in future posts and on my website at SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Let me know if this is helpful at barbhowe.org.

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #1 of 5

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Photo courtesy of Helloquence on Unsplash

Inspiration for writing about grandchildren comes from a variety of sources. As I began working on my grandson’s memoir, the most unexpected sources of inspiration prompted the most interesting stories.

It began with a journal of our time together when he was a newborn. What a blessing that was! Now, if you imagine my journal is some sort of beautifully bound book with lined pages headed by inspiring quotes, you are partially correct: it does have lined pages. This journal is a spiral-bound promotional giveaway with a business tagline emblazoned across the cover. It was the handiest way for me to record notes at the time.

I now use Microsoft Word software as a writing tool, but still rely on handwritten notes to capture details that happen when I am nowhere near a computer. Use what works best for you. The method you choose to keep notes is less important that the discipline of keeping them.

Now, about that inspiration. My stories came from five different categories of inspiration, the first of which is milestones. I consider milestones to be significant changes in physical or cognitive development, the kinds of events that often bring smiles to our faces or tears to our eyes. Children love stories about themselves.

Here’s an example of a milestone story:

One of the first routines we started with you was reading. We did that because early childhood development experts reported kids were more likely to succeed in school if someone read to them right from the get-go. I followed this advice from the time you were able to be tucked snugly by my side as I read.

Think about it. This is when you were honing your skills at holding up your head, rolling over from your back to your tummy, and discovering your fingers and toes. One afternoon, I caught you and grandpa reading a Christmas book. You were sporting a pacifier and a very attentive countenance. Suffice to say, you both appeared to be enjoying the time together.

Do you see the milestones? “Discovering your fingers and toes” and “rolling over” are two insights pulled from my journal. Notice the phrase,“you both appeared to be enjoying the time together.” That observation might have been lost without a quick note of reminder. If you’re an audio type, make a recording instead. Then, use them when you are ready to write. You will be glad you did.

Four additional sources of inspiration will be shared in future posts and will be available on my website at SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Let me know if this is helpful. Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.

Make a Note!

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Photo courtesy of Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

recent occasion of closet cleaning reminded me how much value written words hold for us. Inside a long-forgotten box on a top shelf in the closet I found a stack of letters written to me by my mother, who passed away nearly 40 years ago. I began reading.

Most of the letters contained family news. Near the middle of the stack, I found a little card with a personal message in my mother’s handwriting, expressing her love for me. What a treasure!

She did not use a lot of words, but the ones she did use touched my heart – again. I won’t repeat them here; they’re private. What I will share is encouragement and a little guidance for you to put your words of love on paper for a special someone.

Read below, and insert (selected words or phrases) from the lists that express your thoughts and feelings. Feel free to combine thoughts or insert your own words in place of the ones listed.

Dear (Name),

On the day
(you were born),
(your adoption was finalized),
(I became your stepparent),
(you became my grandchild),
(I became your grandparent),
my life changed forever.

I felt
(overwhelmed),
(more emotions than I could count),
(a loss of words),
(blessed beyond measure),
(tears of joy running down my cheeks).

The first time
(I held you in my arms),
(you looked into my eyes),
(our hands touched),
I knew
(you were a blessing from God),
(I would always love you).

I hope you will always remember
(you are one of a kind), 
(you are wonderfully made), 
(I will always love you).

Love,

(Your Name)

Here’s an example of how your message might look when you write it out:

Dear Emma,

On the day I became your grandparent, my life changed forever. I felt blessed beyond measure. The first time I held you in my arms I knew you were a blessing from God. I hope you will always remember you are wonderfully made. I will always love you.

Love,

(Your Name)

These few sentences are short enough to fit into a greeting card or one one sheet of writing paper. Yet the message they carry is enough to fill a book. And it only takes a little time to leave a big impact in someone’s day, even 40 years later. Try it!

Send your thoughts to barbhowe.org.

Thank You, Grandfather

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Photo courtesy of Rehan Syed of Unsplash

Most of my grandparents passed away before I was born. One was my maternal grandfather who emigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. Most of what I know about him came by way of oral storytelling passed down from generation to generation.

Some said he held a position similar to “town mayor” but gave it up when socialism was gaining a foothold in Eastern Europe. He reportedly envisioned conditions deteriorating during the early 20th Century. So he left his wife and their beautiful farmland to forge a new future in America.

As a non-English speaker, he worked as a laborer to earn enough money for my grandmother and their young family to join him. This grandfather died young, about one year after safely relocating his family to America. I am a United States citizen because of his selfless sacrifice. How I wish I knew more about him!

Have you ever wondered what future generations will remember about you? Memories fade and details become clouded with age. It’s the old “I’ll never forget” thing, until recollections grow dim. That happened with remembrances about my grandfather. I determined not to let it happen with my life.

In just a few hours each week, I compiled childhood stories to share with my extended family. Those stories turned into a small book that I distributed to them as gifts. It turned out to be easier and more fun that expected. A number of my relatives have thanked me for the effort.

Now it’s your turn. Set aside a few hours each week; mark it in your calendar. Start a Word or Google doc, or hand write your ideas into a journal. Before long, you’ll have a living history to pass along to your children’s children.

And let me know how it goes at: barbhowe.org.

Strengthen Your Family With Faith

Grand Parenting

The book, Grand Parenting, by Dr. Josh Mulvihill is a must read for all Christian grandparents. It is packed with content that directly addresses four aspects of life vital to every family: cultural messages about the role of grandparents, God’s purpose and design for families, discipleship practices for grandparents, and practical steps to strengthen family relationships.

Drawing on verses found throughout Scripture, Grand Parenting contrasts misguided worldly messages with the eternal Truths presented in the Bible. Mulvihill reminds grandparents why their influence matters to the spiritual lives of their grandchildren, and why it is second only to that of parents. He examines different aspects of intentionally teaching grandchildren about Jesus as well as the importance of modeling a life of faith.

Grand Parenting is a resource to keep on your bookshelf, a reference you will want to pick up and review time and again. In addition to the information presented in this book, Mulvihill includes innumerable other discipleship materials available in the marketplace. Among them is a grandparenting video series with questions to use individually or as part of a group study. For more information about resources, visit legacycoalition.com.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.org.

Hope for Rejected Grandparents

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Photo courtesy of Julie Johnson on Unsplash

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

As grandparents, our access to grandchildren is dependent upon the relationships we have with our adult children. It can be a challenge to maintain that perspective when we do not agree with their decisions. Sometimes parents oppose a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. They may even be separated by physical distance.

As disheartening as these situations may be, they are not a reason to lose hope. Rather, they are opportunities to trust God for the outcome while continuing to pray for His guidance in the way we react to our circumstances.

One widow was disheartened when her son and daughter-in-law moved out of state, taking her two grandchildren with them. Opposing this grandmother’s faith, the father severed all contact between her and his children. After weeks of prayer and fasting, the grandmother began sending gifts and cards filled with words of hope to her grandchildren. At their insistence the father relented, allowing visits between his children and their beloved grandmother to resume.

A divorced man found himself left out of his daughter’s family celebrations. After coming to faith in Christ, he admitted his hot temper and accusing words contributed to the distance between him and the people he loved. With a contrite heart, he humbly reached out to his daughter, asking her to forgive his past sins. She was hesitant at first. But after he consistently and respectfully persevered, the daughter opened her home, and eventually her heart to him. He now has a thriving relationship with his daughter and grandchildren.

These two grandparents chose to trust in God when there was no evidence or human reason to believe their damaged family relationships would be restored. Rather than give up, they persisted, they prayed, and they pursued the goal of restoration. In doing so, they cast their anxieties to the Lord and trusted Him for the results.

To anyone who is facing this dilemma I say, “Don’t give up.” With utmost humility, ask God to pave the way for you to have a godly influence on the lives of your grandchildren. Be patient. God already know what you need and what your grandchildren need. And remember to give God all the glory for the way He answers your request.

Share your stories of hope at barbhowe.org.

That Thing About Babies

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Photo courtesy of Jessica-to-oto-o at Unsplash

There is an intrinsically attractive quality that babies possess. It’s not that they have an interest in serving those around them; quite the opposite. Babies expect their caregivers to attend to their every need, day or night at the slightest whim. They are oblivious to the needs of moms and dads who are forced to function while severely sleep deprived.

So, what is it about babies? I believe their vulnerability and responsiveness to people is the thing that makes babies so attractive to virtually everyone.

I once watched a video of an infant who cried uncontrollably until her father whispered into her ear, “Everything is alright.” At the sound of his voice, she immediately ceased from bawling and started to coo softly. This loving father was able to calm his baby with three simple words.

Imagine the impact his words might have over the course of her lifetime. When this little girl heads out the door for her first day of school, her first date, or her first job, will she carry in her heart a reminder of this loving father? I hope she does. And I hope her father is thinking about how he will pass along his legacy of love to her children and to her children’s children.

Babies don’t stay babies for long. Ask anyone who has ever experienced parenthood. It gets more difficult over time to remember what developmental milestone that child accomplished at three months of age, or nine months of age. Each is worth recording. Every nurturing emotion is worth recording, even if they’re recorded years later.

If you haven’t already done so, why not start a journal of recollections from your grandchild’s early years? That’s how my memoir to my grandson began. If your grandchildren are older, try contemplating their unique personalities and talents.

Now imagine yourself writing a letter to each one about a special place they hold in your heart. Tell them how you are blessed for having had them in your life. The thing about babies is they don’t stay babies for long, but they never outgrow the need to feel loved for who they are.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.org.

Jot it Down

JournalWhen I told a friend about a memoir book I wrote for my grandson, he said, “I wish one of my grandparents had done that for me.” I’ve heard his sentiment expressed countless times by people who would love to know how older members of their families felt about them. Adults want to know how childhood experiences helped form them into the people they are today.

Thinking back, my grandson’s memoir came to be in a roundabout way. I started jotting down notes from each of his early childhood visits, a journal of sorts. Nothing fancy, just a  record of his growth milestones. Then I began reading some of the entries I had written. His first steps inspired a life lesson about getting back up and trying again. Facing the giant playground slide became a life lesson about conquering fear.

Before long, real-life stories about my grandson’s experiences began to reminded me of various accounts I was reading in the Bible. It was easy to find verses that expressed the same life lessons I was penning into my journal. (In fact, there was often more than one verse that could be applied.) I rewrote each story about my grandson’s life into a memoir, ending each chapter with a relevant verse from the Bible.

Including Bible verses underscores the reality that God’s Word is as valuable now as it has ever been. It also serves as a reminder that despite all the advances being made in today’s world, human nature does not change. We are all flawed creatures in need of our unchanging, ever-present, all-knowing, loving Savior. 

When you think of something you want to say about your grandchild’s life, jot it down! Who knows? Your words may become more valuable than you realize. Someday you may have a grandchild who says, “I am so thankful that my grandparent cared to write about me, and to share their faith in Christ.”

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Listen to the Kids

KIDSThere was a popular daytime television show during the 1950s called Art Linkletter’s House Party that featured humorous monologues and audience participation. In one of the show’s best-remembered segments, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, Linkletter interviewed children between the ages of five and ten, garnering hilarious responses.

Kids don’t have filters on the things that come out of their mouths. They haven’t learned the finer rules of etiquette and social graces enough to hold back from stating the obvious. In their innocence, children blurt out things as they see them.

I was reminded of this when my grandson mentioned a few of my imperfections. He wasn’t trying to be mean. In a good-natured way, he was simply commenting on a few of my physical and behavioral flaws. Fighting against the wrinkling, sagging ravages of time is futile. It was his observations about things I commonly say that struck me most.

Taking time to listen to kids pays off. Hearing how I sound to young ears helped me to see myself from a different perspective. It gives me a chance to think about how my words might be interpreted differently than I intended, how the infection of my voice might alter the recipient’s understanding of my meaning.

My grandson and I talk a lot. That gives me ample opportunity to listen to his interpretation of what I’m saying, watch his body language, and self-correct what I’m saying. While I’m busy trying to teach my grandson something he needs to know, he is equally busy teaching me things that I need to know. This is why I think it’s important to listen to the kids.

Share how you Listen to the Kids at barbhowe.org.