Last-Minute or Lasting Christmas Gifts

kari-shea-177412-unsplash
Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Brick and mortar or online, stores are packed with people trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list. It might be quick to throw something in the cart and run to the checkout. But it only takes a few minutes to find a gift that packs an eternal spiritual impact on the lives of your parents, your children, and your children’s children.

Here are a few resources for gifts with a significant, memorable, and enduring shelf life:

Gospel Shaped Family

The Legacy Coalition

Bethany House Publishing – Grandparents

Let this be the year to give gifts of faith for generations yet to come.

Share your resource ideas at barbhowe.org.

Hope for Rejected Grandparents

julie-johnson-723620-unsplash
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

man holding baby-unsplash
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.”

Visit me at barbhowe.org.

Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

FireworksFireworks! What can be more exciting at the end of a festive day? Yes, there are still celebrations and community events that climax with explosive lights illuminating the night sky. They’re a big attraction for people of every generation. That is at least, for the curious ones.

It surprised me during a fireworks display to see a man standing in a front row spot, facing away from the show talking to someone. I sure hope the conversation was important, because the background scene above his head was spectacular. Children stood nearby, transfixed by the theatrics of light and sound. Seeing their enthusiasm brought a smile to my face.

Pop! Boom! Bang! Another firework shot into the air, sending tendrils of sparkling light across the velvety black sky. Beyond the man-made show, points of light made their presence known across the sky. Does the splendor of their showing fill me with awe as much as, or more than the one created by man? I can answer with an emphatic “Yes!”

Within moments the fireworks display came to an end and parents collected children to scurry home for bedtime routines. The sky once again returned to its quiet vigil. I remained a few minutes longer, contemplating the vastness of our universe, the magnificence of a Creator who could place countless points of light in an orderly, dynamic display. For those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, they are a reminder that we too are the work of an almighty God and Father.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”
Psalm 8:3-4

Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.

Equipped to Disciple

equipping_grandparents_3d

Contrary to messages from post-modern culture saying we deserve the right to endlessly pursue leisure, God has given a biblical mandate that we are to impact future generations with the Gospel. Quite honestly, His plan offers a more fulfilling use of our time as well as a greater sense of joy.

It means learning to partner within our Church community to accomplish His plan. But, where does one begin when churches overlook the powerful influence grandparents have on their grandchildren? I suggest picking up a copy of the book Equipping Grandparents from Legacy Coalition. In fewer than 100 pages, this little gem packs valuable insights from some of today’s powerhouse faith leaders.

Equipping Grandparents broadens the definition of “family” to recapture the inter-generational worship and shared activities that once typified church communities. It’s time to incorporate this creative approach in the shared objective of passing our faith to the youngest generation. It’s a “win-win” for church leaders and members alike. 

Visit the Legacy Coalition website.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.

Growth Chart

aron-visuals-320023-unsplash (1)
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

It seems like just yesterday when my grandson was an infant. With a hint of nostalgia, I remind myself that as of one week ago he advanced to the rank of 2nd grader. Sometimes it seems improbable that he is growing so quickly. Whereas I once read baby’s board books to him, he now reads children’s stories to me. Instead of me arranging crackers and sippy cups on his baby tray, he now sets our dinner table with plates and silverware.

It’s all good stuff, all part of his march to adulthood. The other day, I noted a conversation we were having had notched up on the maturity level. His ability to defend a stated viewpoint has advanced, and he knows how to locate documented information (mostly online) to support his ideas and assertions. As well, he holds me to a higher standard of accountability for the things I say and do.

At seven years of age, he is beginning to understand the intricacies of ethical choices that people make. His words belie an understanding of the way people relate to one another, and a growing awareness of right and wrong. Quite naturally, he recognizes the presence of a Creator God who set the standard for human behavior.

One of our long-standing habits is reading together the accounts from a Children’s Bible. He has favorite stories, but my husband and I intentionally slip in a few different ones to expand the breadth of his biblical knowledge. This practice affords us opportunities to hold the kinds of conversations that cut through the superficial and draw from the wisdom God is waiting to unfold for us. It makes me eager to chart the direction of his growing understanding of God; mine as well.

Share your thoughts at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.