Soul Music

Download oct 23,2015 032

I love music. It reaches into my soul and lifts my spirits. Some songs calm me and bring a sense of peace, some leave me encouraged and uplifted, while others energize me and cause my feet to tap and my head to bob without a conscious effort on my part.

Katrena at 9 months
Katrena at 9 months

Thankfully, I am surrounded by many kindred spirits. I married a man who is also a music lover. We are the parents who allowed and encouraged our children, and now our grandchildren, to play with musical toys and sing along with whatever music is playing.

I still have the little Fisher Price musically instruments, housed in a drum, my children played with when they were very young. The flute was Amy’s  instrument of choice while growing up, but I gave her ten month old son Elliot the cymbals last week while he was visiting. He grabbed them in his little hands and although he blinked repeatedly due to the noise, he continued to crash them together and bang them on the highchair tray. Glorious noise.

I brought the set with me while I was caring for the other six grandchildren several weeks ago. They wanted to have a parade. Lena, just like her mom, Amber, became the drum major, leading the procession around their farm, drums pounding, tambourine rattling, guitars screaming and cymbals crashing. I’m sure they could be heard quite a distance away. Although the youngest, six-month-old Judson, couldn’t march in the parade, he joined vocally as we watched from the sidelines.

We found in order for music to take a center part of our children’s life, they needed to be able to not only listen to it, but also to make it. Therefore, instruments occupy a lot of space in our house. Two pianos, a keyboard, a drum set, many guitar—real and toy, a bass, maracas, a tambourine and several violins are the ones most frequently in use. The kids are slowly learning how to play some of them. Isaac has an incredible sense of timing and he shares Katy’s great vocal ability, singing loudly and enthusiastically as Grandpa plays the bass and guitar.

Lena, Griffith and Sutton are quick to strum on Grandpa’s guitars when they come to visit. Lena showed so much interest in Grandpa’s guitar we gave her a child-size guitar for her birthday.Download oct 23,2015 045

As fun it is to play instruments, I feel the most important facet of music is the words that accompany the tunes. Children almost instantly memorize the words of the songs that grab their attention. I want to be sure the message is something that speaks words of truth, love and hope. When Katy and Isaac first moved into our home, they needed to continue the tradition of listening to the radio to fall asleep. They were used to the local rock station and often said, “But, Grandma, this is my favorite song,” when I turned off a song with very suggestive and/or lewd lyrics.

Soon the battle over which radio station would lull them to sleep ended as they began to enjoy, and then embrace, contemporary Christian music. They had been living with us for about a month when I realized the message was getting through and ministering to their wounded spirits. I often worked in the sewing room next to their bedroom after I tucked them in for the night. It saved me a lot of trips back up the stairs if they had difficulty settling down and falling asleep. As the music played softly I heard two sweet little voices sing the melody:

Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me,

Everything I need is in You, Everything I need.

I remember that day had been a hard one. Katy had struggled with the reality of her new life situation and Isaac’s two-year-old temper had been on display—repeatedly. Tears rolled down my face as I allowed their clear angelic voices to soothe my ravaged soul. It was truly soul music.

My prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of music to remind me of your grace and love and thank you for putting these little ones in my life to share that gift with me.

The Gift of Encouragement

oct 1,2015 065

Initially I was going to name this blog “Round Two,” but this is more like our third round of raising children. We started in 1979, and in the past thirty five years, opinions and techniques concerning child-rearing have changed many, many times.

I raised our children how my parents raised me. My Mom and Dad were loving but firm, with a definite set of rules. We were told what to do and expected to HP0006obey. My sister, two brothers and me knew those rules and knew the consequences of disobedience. “The Board of Education” was applied to our “seat of understanding”. Our spanks were never unexpected, or cruel. I knew my brothers and I earned the spanks we received. My sister was the good one in the family. She never disobeyed-honestly.

What I don’t remember was being complimented by my parents when I obeyed. Statements like, “Good choice” or “Thank you for obeying,” never came out of their mouths when we complied with their orders. I raised our children the same way when they were young. My husband, with his Masters of Education, often reminded me kids want attention. “They’ll take it however they can get it, negative or positive.” So as our children got older, we praised them a little more. “Good job,” and “I’m proud of you” was said more often, though I’m sure I missed many opportunities to encourage our kids.

It is now almost three decades since I’ve raised a two year old. I’ve been observing my daughter, Amber, mother of four, and some other young moms. I decided to follow their lead. And it works. It’s amazing how Isaac’s eyes light up when I praise him after he chooses to obey. And an extra bonus—I’ve noticed he‘s much more likely to comply the next time. The same can be said for Katrena. She absolutely glows and pulls us in close for a hug when we tell her we are proud of her. She also tries harder when we point out any chore she’s done well.

So these old dogs are learning some new tricks. It’s not easy. I have a lot old habits to break. Some days I remember to encourage and heap on praise and other days I fail miserably. Frustration with repeated disobedience and defiance puts meoct 1,2015 041 over the edge. I fail to find positive aspects of their behavior and it all falls apart. At that point I revert back to my old ways. Suffice it to say, I am not encouraging.

Then an incredible thing usually happens. I feel little arms around me and hear a sweet high voice. “I want to hold you,” is the plea. Tears follow. Mine more than theirs. We hug, we kiss and we apologize.

oct 1,2015 063oct 1,2015 061

And I try again.

I learned many years ago if you want to know what you sound like, listen to your kids. They usually repeat everything you say, with the same tone of voice and posture. I got that opportunity a few months ago. In a large public restroom. Isaac was in the stall with me when he loudly praised my efforts. “Good job, Grandma. That’s a good poopie.” I could hear snickers throughout the restroom. When the embarrassment faded I wondered if we had really encouraged him enough times that he would echo it back to me. Not long ago, he treated my husband to the same type of encouragement in the men’s room.

I guess we have.

My prayer: Dear God, Thank you for loving me regardless of my faults. Help me show the same unconditional love to my grandchildren. Remind me to use words of encouragement and focus on their positive attributes and accomplishments especially when I feel my efforts are futile.

Celebrating Milestones

Our family celebrated several milestones this week. Katrena turned nine years old and took her first dance class—ever.

Tap. Something she has wanted to learn since she saw Shirley Temple tap dancing in the movie Baby Take A Bow. It was a fitting birthday present.

Birthdays have always been celebrated in our family. I have wonderful memories of the special cakes my mother created with great enjoyment for her children and grandchildren. I remember cakes shaped like a butterfly, a doll, a giraffe, and even one in the shape of a piano. Now I‘m having a blast carrying on that birthday tradition. As soon as the children are old enough to have a preference, they choose a cake/party theme. We’ve had monster trucks, construction trucks, dolls, and castles. This week it was a unicorn.

Although my children and grandchildren focus on the cake, presents and playing games with cousins and friends, I want to mark it as a significant milestone. Another year completed. A wonderful time to acknowledge accomplishments and achievements and show them they are loved.

If they are having a “kids party” with a bunch of friends/classmates, I plan a separate event for family—those who have a positive impact on their life. We celebrate the beginning of a new year. New adventures, new privileges and new responsibilities.

Our family birthday celebrations are not only for the young, although it can be a little harder to get the adults into the young-at-heart mood.

This summer we celebrated my dad’s 87th birthday. When we sang to him before he blew out the candles, his smile was as big as the kids. It was an excellent opportunity to not only encourage my dad, but to teach our grandchildren that you are never too old to celebrate a milestone. Every year God grants us is precious and worth celebrating.

In Exodus, the Israelites built monuments of stone at the places where an important events or milestones occurred. These markers, sometimes a mere mound of stones, served as a reminder to teach their children about these important happenings. Our family is building monuments. Not of stone, but of memories. Memorialize with lots of pictures. I pray they serve as a lasting memorial to our children and grandchildren. A reminder as they begin the next year of life—you are loved.

How are you celebrating the milestones in your family?

My Prayer: Dear God, You show me how much You love me in so many ways. Help me find opportunities to show my family how much I treasure them everyday, not only on special milestones.

Pure Joy

Head thrown back, face heavenward, Isaac shrieked in delight as he soared upward.
“I ‘winging, I ‘winging,” my grandson’s words filled the air.
His belly-laughs and squeals of delight drowned out the traffic rumbling past the park.
Soon his sister climbed on a nearby swing.    

A few minutes later a teenage girl joined the two.
Laughter, accompanied by high-pitched “wees,” became a cacophony of noise which was probably heard several blocks away.
“I can almost touch that cloud,” Katrena said. She stretched her legs and pointed her toes towards the sky.
The teenager caught the vision. “I’m going to touch the one shaped like cotton candy.”

It had been life as usual before this outing to the nearby park.
Dishes, laundry, picking up toys and paying bill created a lengthy “to do” list.
A simple run to the bank led us to the park.

“Only for a few minutes,” I warned before we got out of the car. I had only crossed a few tasks off my list. “I have so much to do at home.”

Their game caused me to look up. As my eyes followed their feet, I noticed for the first time billowing large, fluffy clouds.
Back-lit by the sun, they glistened snowy white, painted on a canvas of bright blue.
My spirits soared like the swings.
My heart lightened by the children’s pure joy.
I shared their game, finding clouds shaped like a bunny, a horse, an ice cream cone and a face.

Later that evening I joined my husband on the deck swing.
Our two little ones tucked into bed, asleep as soon as their heads made contact with their pillow.
Memories of the day brought back my smile as I shared the day’s events.
“I saw joy today,” I began. “Pure joy. And I almost missed it.”

How many times have I missed it? How often, in my quest to have the toys picked up, and the house clean, have I missed the simple joys in life? Why do put so much emphasis on tasks that mean very little in the scope of their lives? I know they will never look back with fond memories of how clean the bathroom was and how neat their toys were lined up. But they will remember the trips to the park and the times I spent playing with them.

That day did not stay sunny and full of joy. As a matter of fact, their giggles quickly changed to tears and whines when it was time to go home. The supper table received a lemonade bath and World War III broke out during bath time.

I am so glad I did not miss out on this bit of pure joy, the highlight of my day.

My prayer: Heaven Father, I have a habit of placing so much emphasis on accomplishing household tasks that I become too busy to enjoy my life. Thank you for bringing these dear little ones into my life. They are teaching me to experience and see pure joy, even in the daily grind of life.

I Found A Nugget on The Deadliest Catch

storm on the ocean

It’s surprising where God places nuggets of wisdom. I found one in a “mine” called The Deadliest Catch, a TV show I enjoy watching.

On this particular episode, the seas were extremely turbulent and the fishing perilous due to an epic Arctic storm. A rookie captain was struggling to keep the boat afloat amid the fifty foot swells when a hydraulic motor burned out. He wrestled with the decision of whether to try and fix the problem on the high seas or listen to his crew who wanted to pack up and head back to port.

A veteran captain who was serving as co-pilot gave the newbie a bit of advice. “Do not worry about what they want. Do worry about what they need.”

Sometimes, as I parent my grandchildren, I find myself in a situation much like that rookie captain. Thankfully, not everyday has an epic storm. Some have only a minor squall, and a few turn out to be gloriously sunny. However, much like the new captain, my role has changed. Although he was a veteran Arctic fisherman, he was functioning in a different capacity. Now all the decisions are on him. I am a veteran grandma and now I have to be the mom. The decisions and rule enforcement falls on me.

I struggle with this role because I want to be “fun grandma.” Not only do I want to s)mother them with love but I want to give them what they want-sugary cereal, extended bedtime, and less discipline-instead of what they need- healthy snacks, structure and consistent boundaries. Katrena has noticed the difference. She has shared her observation more than once. Usually it’s something like, “I remember when I came here on the weekends and you let me stay up late,” or “You used to let me have cookies and ice cream for snack.” Maybe that makes me more of a bad grandma than a fun grandma.

I thought of this fisherman’s words of wisdom when I read this verse in Philippians 4:19.  My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

It is a promise that God will meet our needs. Obviously, needs are more important than desires. If this is how God parents his children, I can trust this is the best way to raise my grandchildren. Hopefully, if I place my emphasis on meeting their needs, fulfilling their desires on special occasions will again feel like they have gone to grandma’s house.

My prayer: Father God, I am so thankful I can rely on You to meet all my needs. Help me keep focused on meeting Katrena and Isaac’s needs. Don’t allow me to be distracted by all their wants. Amen.

I’d love to hear from you: I never had the fun of staying overnight and being spoiled at either of my grandmas. Did you? If so, what favorite memories of visiting grandma do you have?

The Future + Reality Check = Freak Out

While new mothers may scour child-rearing books for words of wisdom in facing their new challenges, Ecclesiastes is my go-to book. I especially like King Solomon’s words of wisdom in chapter 3:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

Those words came to mind the other day as my husband and I were the Future+ Reality Check = Freak Out“forward planning.” As we talked about the future, our conversation morphed into the discussion of how fast time was passing and how quickly our grandchildren were growing up.

“Just think, in a little over seven years I’ll be teaching another of our girls how to drive,” I said. He gave a little shutter.

“What’s the big deal? I’ve taught four others.”The Future + reality Check = Freak Out

Bill’s response brought the reality check. “But you weren’t sixty-six years old.”

Yikes!

“By the time Isaac becomes a teenager, we’ll be seventy years old,” he said. “That makes us close to eighty when he graduates high school.”

His math began to freak me out. Even now as I ponder these facts, the overall picture of the future is too over whelming. I can’t fathom how we will handle all the responsibilities and challenges that will arise while raising two children at this stage of our life. There are just too many unknowns in the equations.

So I choose to focus on the present and the constants.

Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Peter reminds me to “Cast all your anxiety on him (Jesus) for he cares for you. 1Peter 5:7

Consequently, my forward-planning is changing. It’s shrinking. Last year our focus was to get through the school year. That’s when physical custody was to be reevaluated. It was. Nothing had changed. Although we have no idea what the future holds for us, it’s apparent we will be caring for the children for many years.

I have to be honest. I didn’t think it would be so hard. I was wrong. It is.

My plan to cope is two-pronged. One—narrow my focus. I will make vague plans for the distant future but my largest time span to plan out is one to two months. I have many good days but some days it takes all my efforts to just make it through the day and I plan by the hour. I used to wake up and calculate the hours ‘til nap time. Isaac doesn’t nap any more, so now the question of the day is, “How many hours ‘til bedtime?”

Two—find joy in everyday life. More than once we’ve joked, “It’s a good thing you’re cute.” And they are. They are talented and funny and love bear hugs, tickles and kisses. When I look at them as the treasure then are, the future is not so scary.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets freaked out by the reality of the future. What it that reality for you? What is your plan and method to cope?

My prayer: Father God, thank you for your promise to never leave us or forsake us. It is the stabilizing constant in my life. Help me to focus on the joys of raising our grandchildren and leave the future in your loving hands.

What Do I Call You?

dreamstime_m_15253773When Katrena and Isaac came to live with us, we never anticipated the situation would become long-term. Katrena was affected the most by this disruption of their family unit. With tears she reported to her teacher and her aunt, “It not fair that all of my friends and my cousins gets to go home with their mommy and daddy and I can’t.”

Her hope—eventually she would go back to live with her mom. “Nothing against you and Grandpa,” she was quick to add, “I just miss my family.”

When circumstances changed, we had the sorrowful task of explaining to Katrena that she and Isaac would be living with us for a long time. After the tears dried she asked, “So what do I call you? Are you still Grandma and Grandpa or are you Mom and Dad?”

To all of our grands we are Grandma and Grandpa. Truthfully, one grandson can’t say grandma yet and he calls me “mommee”. His mother is “mama”.

I can’t remember our exact answer. We didn’t know what to say. We still don’t. We know they love their parents. Their mom has moved away but they see their dad a few times a month. So how do we fulfill Katrena’s need to live with a mom and dad without insulting her parents? How confusing will it be to our five other grandchildren if they hear these two call us Mom and Dad?

Isaac found his own solution. He calls Bill “Grandpa Dad.” What a smart kid! Only time will tell whether that continues to be his new name. Maybe I’ll become “Grandmama”

Katrena and Isaac with Bill's birthday cakeWe don know the right answers to all their questions. We have much to figure out. One thing we do know and we tell them often. No matter what they call us, we are a family. Our family just has grandparents for parents.

Our Prayer: Heavenly Father, please grant us wisdom as we try to meet Katrena and Isaac’s needs and the needs of our other grandchildren. Help us create a real sense of home and family for these dear ones.