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.
The whole thing started when my grandson wanted a play date with a boy in his class. His request snowballed into two boys, five girls, one mom, two grandmas, and a grandpa congregating at the unofficial sledding hill of a local park.
As soon as our sled and Sno-Tube were out, the boys skidded their way down the hill. They tried every conceivable position to increase their speed: standing, sitting, or flattening themselves out. Their ultimate objective appeared to be ramming into one another with enough force to knock themselves into the air.
The girls took a little bit longer to finesse their way down the slope. They tested a brightly colored stack of plastic sleds from the back of another SUV until each found her perfect fit. Before long, their attention turned to snowball fights, building snowmen, and making snow angels.
All four adults stood at the top of the hill observing the crisscross of trails carved into the snow. “Are you going to try it?” the other grandma asked as she looked my way. Too late! I was already on my way down the hill. Everyone got into the act, screeching and laughing all the way down.
By the time our shared play date came to a close, the adults were planning our next outing. My childhood flashed before my eyes. I reminisced about the days when a dozen or more kids escaped outside to construct forts, lob snowballs, and race back indoors for hot chocolate and dry socks.
Snow is falling as I write this. I’m smiling. It won’t be long before I’m sliding into the childhood excitement of winter with my grandson once again.
Among my collection of old family photos is one taken about 80 years ago. I know this because I recognize a toddler in the photo who is now in her early eighties. The photo includes faces of many other people, mostly adults. It’s interesting because some of the faces fade into the background.
This photo serves as a visual reminder of my own temporary imprint on earth. In a few short years, my face and name will begin to fade into obscurity. And 80 years from now, someone might pull up a digital photo of me and wonder who I am.
Don Moen wrote and performed a song titled “When It’s All Been Said and Done”. It’s one of my perennial favorites, probably because it tells such a compelling story. His message speaks about our life on earth in relation to our eternal home. The lyrics challenge us to consider whether we are living for something that matters beyond ourselves, or something that brings us temporary pleasure.
In Ecclesiastes 1:14, King Solomon advises his sons that pursuing wisdom, pleasure, or success for our own satisfaction is like chasing the wind. At the end of his life, he admits that all his earthly treasures have become meaningless. He concludes Ecclesiastes with an admonition to revere God and obey His commands. What a spiritual legacy!
Do you find yourself chasing the wind? Or have you embraced the words of Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
At the end of life, we will all face the measure of how we choose to live today. Will your life count for meaningless treasures of earth, or eternal treasures in heaven? This will be the spiritual legacy you leave for generations to come.
Time is running out… The American family is in crisis… These are messages I’ve heard repeatedly during the past few days, warnings that few would dispute.
A pastor wisely shared a quote: “Crisis is a good editor.” It referenced a commentary he read about the 9/11 tragedy, when the basics of life were broken down to the few that really mattered. For the briefest of moments, nobody cared how their portfolio stacked up, what kind of car they drove, or whether their fashions were trendy. At that moment, we contemplated our own eternities.
A longtime friend visited us recently. She has never been married and never had children. She did, however, keep herself actively involved in the lives of children. Now as a grandmotherly figure, she talks candidly about her childhood goals and dreams, and how God graciously allowed her to realize them.
While visiting, she expressed an interest in writing about her journey from child to adult. This lady has a story worth hearing. Truthfully, we all do. Everyone gets hit with situations that challenge the foundations of our faith. And it sometimes takes years to overcome unwarranted guilt or shame.
That’s what makes the life messages we share with children so valuable for them. Our stories give us the power to help children face personal problems, such as self-image and self-esteem, before they grow into full-blown crises. The more transparent we allow ourselves to become about our own childhood experiences, the better we create opportunities to speak wisdom into the lives of children and to impact their futures in positive ways.
The beautiful thing is that it works with other people’s grandchildren as well as your own. You never know when they might need to hear your story. Be generous with your stories and the wisdom you have gained from living through difficulties. The best part is that you don’t even need to have grandchildren to do it.
You probably know plenty of children who could benefit from the positive Christian message of an adult who has been where they are now and allowed God to carry them through. They do not need to be your grandchildren.
Question: Why would any self-respecting, sensible, mature woman choose to go fishing with her family to celebrate her birthday instead of spending a day hanging out at a spa or tasting her way through multiple courses at a gourmet eatery? Here are five reasons.
Reason #1 – Because her family consists entirely of males, all of whom jump at the chance to fish – especially if it involves fishing off a pontoon on a beautiful day. Plus, they get really excited about your birthday when it involves something they really like to do.
Reason #2 – Because said males made the effort to pull together a gourmet picnic lunch to accompany said fishing trip and you didn’t have to lift a finger. You just have to sit and smile a lot.
Reason #3 – Because cruising around a lake on a pontoon for an entire afternoon on a beautiful day is something you enjoy, even if no fish make it onto the vessel.
Reason #4 – Because spending time with your family can be more fun than spending the day alone – even if it means no masseuse is involved.
Reason #5 – Because, hey why not? Maybe, just maybe, said woman likes to occasionally dangle a little bit of fishing line in the water.
The big lesson I learned about choosing how to celebrate special occasions is to tap into the things everyone in my family loves. It is a blessing to think this will undoubtedly become a fond memory for all of us, especially my grandson. One of the best moments was when my he said, “I want to do this for my birthday.” I could have guessed that one.
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.
If I ran a poll of all the single dads I know, none would be likely to say raising their kids alone was a preference. My observation is they made the best possible choice under difficult circumstances, if they even had a choice. Dads who take on the solo role of raising kids deal with the same issues that single moms do. All single parents travel a tough road, however, dads often get little recognition for their efforts.
It doesn’t seem to matter if the kids are toddlers or teenagers. Single dads juggle work schedules, school schedules, home maintenance, and all the other details of daily living – cell phones in hand and timetables down to a science. Their favorite pastime appears to be napping, if and when said opportunities present themselves.
As a grandparent, you might have a single dad in your circle of family and friends. Consider it a chance to connect with two generations at one time with something good for all parties involved. The dads get an extra hand, eyes, and ears to keep track of the kids, the kids get extra attention, and you get to see the world through fresh, young eyes.
A few days ago, my husband and I took a couple of single dads and their kids fishing on a rented pontoon. We brought snacks, tackle, and poles. While the kids fished and ate nonstop, the dads kicked back to relax. We drifted our way into an evening that nobody wanted to end. It inspired me to consider other things we might do together.
I have found one of the simplest ways to connect with my grandson is to spend time doing things we enjoy in common. The best part is that we have time to relax and talk to each other while we’re engaged in a fun activity.
I’ve been working on my watercolor painting skills. Trust me, I need lots of practice. When my grandson is with me during the summer, we occasionally sit on the porch and paint together. I sometimes explain techniques I am learning or we talk about the subjects we are painting.
We were both painting outdoor scenes a few days ago. Mine was a big sky over a farm, his was a small sky over a volcanic dinosaur-inhabited landscape. The conversation about our subjects flowed seamlessly into a discussion about God’s creation. Mostly he talked while I listened.
My grandson told me things he learned from Genesis during his first year of school. We talked about Noah and the Ark; how Noah did what God commanded; and how God saved Noah, his family, and the different kinds of animals from the flood. Double bonus: time to paint and to share our faith!
When was the last time you introduced one of your grandchildren to a favorite hobby? I highly recommend it.
During the off season, I use the best quality canned tomatoes available to make my grandson’s favorite Homemade Tomato-Basil Soup. That all changes mid-summer, when the vines in my little veggie garden start kicking out mouthwatering, vine-ripened fruits. This week, I fulfilled my grandson’s menu request – and watched it vanish before my eyes. Start to finish, it takes about 20 minutes to make this flavorful soup.
Ingredients (approximate measurements)
1 tablespoon each, olive oil and butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
10-12 fresh, ripe garden tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 handful fresh basil, torn or chopped
(Optional) small amount of milk or cream
In deep pan, slowly heat onion in olive oil and butter until translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional minute or two. Add salt and pepper.
In separate pan, lower tomatoes into boiling water and heat for 1 minute. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and place in a bowl to cool. Remove cores and skin, discard. Use your hands to smash tomato pulp. Add to onion-garlic mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 5 minutes. Add basil leaves.
Use an immersion blender (or standard blender) to mix ingredients to desired consistency. If needed, thin mixture with a small amount of water or tomato juice. Adjust seasonings to suit your family’s tastes. Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese and/or chopped basil leaves.
My grandson likes a little milk added to his serving bowl to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes. He mixes it into the soup with the bit of cheese I sprinkle on top.