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.
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.
When 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.”
When was the last time you prayed a blessing over your grandchildren? I’m talking about an intergenerational blessing like Jacob prayed over the sons of Joseph. The kind that a grandparent prays over each grandchild to guide them in the future.
I always wondered how people in ancient days knew when it was time to pass along their faith legacies. How did they know what to pray? Is there a way to carry on this tradition today in a way that suits contemporary life but still suits our desire to pray for their salvation? Here are my thoughts.
First, take some time to think about your grandchildren as individuals. Allow yourself to get a clear image of one child in your mind’s eye. Pull out some photos if that helps. Consider all that you know about this child’s personality, interests, and hopes. Give yourself as much time as you need to fully explore who this child is.
Second, think of a specific time or event in your grandchild’s life that prompts a memory. It could be a happy or a sad memory, because in life we experience both. The key is to find a memory that prompts a strong emotional response in your heart. Jot down some notes about it. When did it occur? Where? What happened? How did it end?
Third, pray for God’s guidance while you look for a Bible verse befitting your grandchild, one that you want them to embrace. I look for uplifting messages. For example, your grandchild might have faced an important decision. Proverbs 3:56 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Finally, write a note or short letter to your grandchild about the memory. Include the Bible verse and your prayer for them relevant to the experience. Write it as something they can read now and when they are grown as a reminder of your relationship with them. In this way, you give them a double blessing.
The birds were munching on seeds at feeders in the Minnesota Arboretum, at least five different species: cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, sparrows, and cedar waxwings. A few squirrels and chipmunks got into the action as well. Their entertaining antics reminded me that, in His divine care, God does not overlook even the tiniest of creatures.
And yet, the animals at the feeder carried on in business-as-usual fashion. They acted as if they would somehow have an unending supply of seeds available for the taking. They live in the moment, trusting an unseen provider. Young children live this way as well, trusting that their every need will be met.
As a grandparent, I find it easier to recognize such childlike faith. It’s probably the outcome of decades of learning to trust God to cover all my needs. God has given grandparents the responsibility of sharing our faith with younger generations. Doing so can be as simple as sharing how God has guided us through ordinary days, or through the biggest challenges of our lives.
The key is to stay alert for opportunities. They can be as fleeting as a bird landing on a feeder to munch a few seeds. Relax, pray, and when the moment presents itself, speak boldly about your faith.
This summer my writing detoured in the direction of teen boys as my grandson grows ever nearer to the double-digits (age 10). The series of short stories I began in June seems to be blossoming into a novel about two teenage cousins. It’s been a fun journey so far with generally positive responses to initial readings.
One of my characters’ exploits involves calf roping on a dairy farm. All of my relevant past experiences were quickly tapped for this one before I launched into research. When my available resources were tapped, including conversations with my sister who once owned a non-dairy farm, I still had a few doubts about my story’s accuracy. I needed to know how the calf in my story would be likely to respond to the situation presented.
Question: where does a city girl find someone with expertise about Jersey calves?
Answer: the Minnesota State Fair Dairy Barn.
It didn’t take long to find a young lady who was managing her family’s livestock at the Fair. I introduced myself, explained what I was writing ,and asked if she would answer a few questions. My subject matter expert graciously confirmed all of my assumptions about the personality quirks of a Jersey calf, and she appeared to enjoy being consulted on the topic.
This encounter reinforced some valuable lessons for me and other grandparents:
We are never too old to learn something new.
Give credit to younger generations for the things they know.
A friendly inquiry is a handy tool for conducting essential research.
Many thanks to the young lady who shared her expertise about dairy farming, especially Jersey cow behavior.
This week, my husband and I took our grandson to see the new Cars 3 movie. It is a family friendly movie with a revved up story line. While it entertained our grandson, we caught the message that we are to share our wisdom with future generations.
In the movie, Lightning McQueen is an aging patriarch of auto racing who becomes a mentor to a talented but underappreciated young female race car named Cruz Ramirez. Their road is filled with potholes, but both rise to the challenges. He is forced to face the fact that an exciting chapter of his life can now only be seen in the rear view mirror. Under his guidance, Cruz gains confidence to pursue her dreams.
Through the process, Lightning has to dig deep into his past to unveil timeless lessons about work, ambition, and relationships. He hits overdrive, applying old-school techniques to Cruz’s high-tech training. The idea is clear that younger generations are eager to hear from their elders, willing to learn from them. In return, their enthusiasm gives a power boost for older models. It’s a win-win!
For me, the biggest message of Cars 3 is that God gives us no retirement plan. We might be slowing down, but as long as we have a few pistons firing, God wants us to continue sharing what we know about Him.
Resist the urge to put on the brakes. Take your grandkids to a movie – or to a ball game. Get to know their interests, hopes, and challenges. Tell them what you know about living a life of faith in God. Remember to tell me about your time together at: SpiritualLegacyMemoir.com.
So, I’m sitting here staring at a blank page. Sound familiar? Nothing is going to happen until I start hitting keys on the computer and stringing sentences together. That’s the reality of writing. It’s not as difficult as it might sound – really it isn’t. All it takes is a moment while my fingers are poised above the keys for thoughts to emerge. I just need to give those thoughts some direction.
Spiritual Legacy Memoir is about writing for children. In my case, that’s primarily for my grandson. He was with me in the morning before I started to write this, sharing time over breakfast before school. In the midst of downing a bowl of Captain Crunch, my grandson said, “I like this cereal better than the Cheerios his Dad has at home.” I considered the nuances of that statement.
For one, it means his Dad is providing his son with less sugar-laden cereal than I allowed. (Let it be noted here that I also give said child generous portions of broccoli and carrots.) It also means Dad and I have a common interest in the well-being of this child, beyond food and school.
What’s more important than filling my grandson’s belly with cereal is filling his heart with a love for the Lord. His Dad and I share this goal. You probably have similar shared goals with parents, adult children, or guardians of a certain child. What would you say to that child if you were staring at a blank page right now? Go ahead, write it down.