Posted in Stories

Never too old, I guess.

“There’s one. Grab it.”

My two year old granddaughter bend down to pick up a small twig, adding it to a fistful she would add to the fire pit at our campsite.

As we wandered down the path, past trailers, fifth-wheels, RVs, and a few tents, we happened by a guy sitting on a stump, playing a banjo. Nothing recognizable, but his notes that made us stop and watch and listen for a moment.

He nodded, smiled, and asked, “Is that your daughter or granddaughter?”

I chuckled. “Granddaughter.”

“You never know. My brother’s sixty-three; he and his girl just had a baby.”

I chuckled again. (I’m sixty-three.) I wondered out loud, “Can you imagine starting out at that age?”

This time, he shook his head, smiled and said, “Y’all enjoy.”

“There’s one.” She grabbed it and we headed back to our campsite. Almost time to kindle our fire.

Posted in Moments of grace

Lessons on focus from little ones

Photo by Joe Smith on Unsplash

I got invited to a virtual tea party the other day. I joined my grandchildren in Texas for a few moments as I had a cup of coffee and they ate homemade cookies and drank some tea with plenty of milk and sugar. As I watched them enjoy their afternoon snack, I was impressed by how focused they were on the task at hand. 100% of their attention was focused on eating freshly baked snicker-doodles. I sipped my coffee, chatted with my daughter-in-law, took note of a message that popped up on my phone and tried to snap a few screen shots of our long distance time together. For the little ones, though, it was as if nothing else existed except those cookies.

I am jealous of their youthful ability to focus. I think I’ll enlist them to be my productivity coaches! My world is filled with distractions as I try to get things done. I’m often trying to do too many things at one time. I eat while watching TV, clean while listening to music, talk on the phone while watching the dog. Even though preschoolers can have a short attention span, I took away these lessons on focus from that occasion.

Just have one thing in front of you. They had nothing in front of them except two cookies on a paper towel and a cup of tea. No crayons, books or toys. Just the snack. And they enjoyed every bite. It wasn’t till after they were done that we chatted.

Set a time. The tea party was scheduled for 4:30 pm, so that’s what we did. Block out the time. Put your task on the calendar.

Have a goal. Know what you need to get accomplished. Eat two cookies. Drink one cup of tea. For me it might be writing a certain number of words or making a certain number of phone calls or making a lesson plan.

When you’re done, you’re done. When the cookies are gone, it’s time to play. Or color. Or build legos. Finish one task, then move on to the next.

Be in the moment. They savored every bite and sip. They had just one thing to do: enjoy the snack!

I don’t know how many articles and books I’ve read about focus and productivity. I’ve learned a lot from many sources. But lately, I’ve learned even more from the little people in my life!

Posted in Ministry

A few random grandkid pics

This is by far the best way to eat spaghetti. I twirl mine, but I want to learn from the master, Elijah!
The cousins decided to start their own book club. At ages 12 and 16 months respectively, they emptied the bookshelves, ploughing through story after story, thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Keeping the grandkids busy tip #22: paint the fort with water. Each one is holding a paint can filled with water and a three-inch paint brush. Sixty minutes of quiet activity on a beautiful late December afternoon in Florida.
Posted in family

What a week!

This past Christmas we had all six of our grandchildren together for the first time ever. My son flew to Florida with his wife and three children a few days after Christmas to spend a week with us. My two daughters only live about half an hour away, and often had their families here that week, too. The three older grands are five, four and three years old. The younger ones are five, thirteen and sixteen months. Yes, it was a noisy, messy, energetic, chaotic and fun-filled week!

I was able to finish up a play fort swing set in our back yard. God blessed us with a good weather week, and the older grandkids spent a lot of time climbing and swinging. The younger ones were constantly on the move, emptying toy shelves and constantly campaigning for the next snack or meal. I found myself rotating from child to child, pushing a swing, reading a book, rolling a ball, playdohing some playdoh, sticking some stickers, coloring pictures, building legos, changing a diaper, preparing a snack, filling a drink, digging in the sandbox, taking some pictures and enjoying every minute of it. It was an amazing week. For me it was also a fleeting moment, knowing they would never be this size again.

As the reader might suspect, I thoroughly enjoyed that week. I enjoyed spending time with my children, their spouses and their children. I had no idea what a great experience that would be! My wife and I have been blessed beyond measure.

Posted in children, grandparenting

What a great box!

When I arrived at my daughter’s house the other day to watch her boys for a few hours, there was a box at the front door that must have just been delivered. I brought it inside with me and there were puzzled looks because no one remembered ordering anything. Inside was some swag my son-in-law had won at work, a nice perk. Plus – a nice box.

As soon as he unpacked the content of the box, one of my grandsons climbed in and curled up. He almost fit in the box! He then turned it over and hid underneath the box, as if he were some kind of turtle. Then both boys climbed in the box and rocked around like they were in a boat of some sort. It was as if someone had flipped the creativity switch in their little minds and turned an ordinary, reused box into the toy of the year!

And then I had a flashback. Suddenly it was 1990, I was living in Connecticut, and I was taping together all kinds of larges cardboard boxes to form a fort or spaceship or castle for my two older children when they were of preschool age. We fashioned doors from the ends, cut windows in the sides, colored pictures and furniture inside and created a playscape that entertained them for days. I don’t know if they remember that time, but in my mind it’s like yesterday.

Why is it that the container is more fun than the contents? This is a profound question for parents and grandparents who invest a lot in toys for our kids and grandkids. Is it because of the creative possibilities? A single box can be any number of different vehicles, structures or projectiles. Is it because you can go for broke? In other words, if you destroy the boxes, who cares? It was destined for recycling anyway! Is it because they are bigger than you and you can get in them? You can step into an alternate reality if you’ve got a box to play in!

The best box we ever had delivered to our house was about 5 ft. x 4 ft. x 2 ft. It was filled with packing peanuts and…wait for it…a tuba. My son was going to music school, needed a decent tuba and we bought one from the Baltimore Brass Works. They delivered the instrument to our home and dropped it off in front of the garage. I don’t remember what we did with that box or all those packing peanuts. But I’d like to buy another tuba just to take delivery and see the look on my grandchildren’s faces when they see that box and imagine the possibilities!

Posted in children, communication

Learning to communicate

So I’m learning how to communicate with someone who can’t communicate. I’m talking about my three-week old granddaughter. I’m fascinated by one who can’t speak or understand a word, yet can communicate so much.

Her face, cries and body language effectively communicate discomfort, curiosity, recognition, surprise, anger and contentment. She responds to voice, music, touch, motion, a breeze, and a smile. Without speaking a word, we communicate very well with each other!

In contrast, there are many adults I speak with who completely misunderstand my words. Or sometimes as I listen I have no idea what someone is talking about.

So one of my “blessings du jour” is learning to communicate – from someone who herself is just learning how to communicate! My granddaughter reminds me to watch the eyes, the mouth, the hands and the feet. Those parts of the body speak non-verbal volumes. She also reminds me to listen to the pitch, the timbre, and the volume of the voice. Or the silence. When I pick her up and she suddenly calms down, it’s clear that she just needed to be held. Words weren’t necessary. But human touch was. My nose tips me off to what she needs, too. (And you know exactly what I’m talking about!)

Much of my work as a pastor is communication. I preach the word in season and out of season. I proclaim the excellencies of the one who called me out of darkness into his marvelous light. I’m ready to give a reason for the hope I have. I teach. I listen as a person confesses their sin, and then speak absolution. I have ears to hear God’s word. And I not only call upon him in the day of trouble, but I pray, praise and give thanks.

I am still learning how to do all these things, from someone who is also learning to communicate!

Posted in grandfather, movies

Movie day: “The Star”

img_8139.jpgToday was movie day. My wife and I took our two oldest grandchildren to see “The Star,” an animated and creatively adventurous telling of the Christmas story, involving the experience and help of assorted animals.

Since the movie was released about six weeks ago, so we had to search for a theater still showing it. One about a half an hour from our home still had showings today and tomorrow, so the four of us headed out for the noon show. Both the three and two year old had sat through movies in a theater before, so both had popcorn on their minds when we arrived. The lady at the counter told us we could save a lot of money just getting a large popcorn and drink to split between them, but we knew better. Each grandchild had to have their own and they had to have the same, even if it meant a larger investment. It worked like a charm. The snacks lasted them the whole 90 minute show!

I thought “The Star” was well done. Yes, it is a wild departure from the biblical account, with a large cast of talking animals. But from the annunciation to the birth in Bethlehem, I believe that the plans and miracles of God along with the faith and struggles of Mary and Joseph were well presented. I enjoyed it, laughed out loud a lot, and especially liked a camel’s mishearing of Herod’s concern about a “king of the shoes.”26168646_10155353178098460_213610419848755604_n