Category Archives: Grandparenting

The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible

The Beginner’s Gospel Story Book by Jared Kennedy (illustrator Trish Mahoney)


I’m so excited! Litfuse just sent me The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy (illustrator Trish Mahoney) to review. As a grandma of preschoolers, I’m always looking for books that don’t just tell bible stories as “fairy tales” unrelated to anything else, but rather books that connect the whole story of redemption from start to finish. This is one of the latter. There are several reasons I love it.

Focus on Promise

This book focuses on promise, tracing God’s perfect promises in 52 stories from the Old and New Testaments. In each story, one key truth is highlighted in boldface type. It isn’t always at the end of the story, but can be found anywhere. This makes a fun game for the kids – find the promise! Each story ends with a question to discuss with the child, often a question focusing on Jesus–even in the Old Testament. Salvation and the Holy Spirit are frequent. The book skips those parts of the stories that kids might have a hard time understanding. For example, it doesn’t tell that Moses killed an Egyptian. It just says that Moses went away.

Gorgeous and Educational

In addition, vividly colorful illustrations and fun elements can teach colors, counting, opposites, patterns and object recognition. These are not obvious, so the reader can look for them or not, depending on the child’s interests and level. Each story is six to eight pages, with simple language, short sentences, and lots of action words and onomatopoeia. The paper is thick and glossy. It’s gorgeous! The book is large, boasting more than 300 pages (which may make it a little heavy for a preschooler to hold by herself). The stories are very abbreviated – perhaps too abbreviated for the target age. But most preschoolers will enjoy this book. I sure do!


Creating a Spiritual Heritage

A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family by Glen & Ellen Schuknecht

As a mom and grandma, one of my primary goals in life is to make sure that my kids and grandkids are not simply following Jesus, but really following Jesus. That they have a faith that sticks in times good and not so good. This seems to be more of a challenge with each passing year. Not only does the culture create increasing obstacles, but even defining what following Jesus means in today’s environment seems to be a moving target. Even more challenging is how we as older adults speak well into the lives of our adult kids and grandkids.

Glen and Ellen Schuknecht offer a plethora of good information in their new book, A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family. They are involved in discipleship and family ministries at Veritas Academy in Manchaca, Texas and have made a deliberate commitment to daily build a spiritual legacy in their family. This is done more by dozens of small actions and rituals rather than by one grand thing.

Glen says, “These little things are what allow your precious kids and grandkids to fall asleep safe in God’s arms and wake up knowing they are part of something big and special.” He encourages us “through careful prayer and intentional conversation,” to “build a legacy of faith that will sustain your kids, your grandkids, and all your future generations throughout their lives.” That’s a goal I can subscribe to.

But the Schuknecht’s don’t just spout platitudes and sanctimonious words. They offer practical tips and examples in every chapter. And while their family seems to be one of those Norman Rockwell paintings, they offer examples of other less idyllic families they’ve worked with using their conversational coaching RITE formula: Relate, Inspire, Teach, Equip. Finally, each chapter includes one or more “Quick Tips” sections that summarize their points.

While much of this book is common sense and while some who have been Christians a long time might say, “I knew that…,” I found enough good ideas to consider this book a good investment. For those who are new to the faith or who grew up without strong family bonds, it’s a must-have.

Thanks to Kregel Publications for inviting me to review this book.

So Says Sassy

So Says Sassy by Ann Marie Shields

So Says Sassy by Ann Marie Shields

Ann Marie Shields is sassy. Or so she says. And she says it in her delightful book, So Says Sassy.

So Says Sassy is not the typical book I review. But I agreed to read it as a favor to her daughter, who has been a friend for almost 30 years. We used to be neighbors; our kids played together until Judith and her family moved away. We’ve stayed in touch through Christmas letters and Facebook posts. When Ann Marie passed away last year, Judith decided to compile her blog into a book. And what a book it is! I’m so glad I agreed to read it.

I fell in love with Ann Marie. What a sassy, bold, engaged, and authentic woman. We’re familiar with all the mommy blogs out there, but hers was a senior blog—a slice of the life of a woman in her last years. I haven’t seen another like it. Ann Marie began blogging at the spry age of 75. That alone gives me great admiration for her. I started blogging in my late 50s, and let me tell you, every step was a steep learning curve. I was grateful for the constant tech support of my son, and Ann Marie was grateful for the tech support of her family. She was a hip, techie grandma, often blogging about her new digital camera, new phone, new computer. Like me, she tried very hard to keep up with this technological new world, even though it was hard and often confusing.

But hers wasn’t a technology blog. That was just one little aspect of it. Rather, it was the very well written life and thoughts of an aging woman. A woman who wanted to be a writer, but never seemed to gain the traction she wanted. So she found her outlet in her blog. She writes about her Irish “second and last husband, Des” with all his delights, idiosyncrasies, and maladies. She writes about her family—her kids, grandkids and great grandkids and the family events that added sparkle and delight to her life. She writes about her precious and imperfect parents, about being an only child, and about growing up in the close-knit Italian neighborhood in Chicago. And as she aged, she wrote about the increasing impact of her illnesses and health challenges, and about the last days of her precious Des.

As an aging woman, I appreciated this sneak peek into the life of one who was about 15 years ahead of me. I wondered what I would write if this were a slice of life blog rather than a motivational blog. I gained new insights into the struggles of my mother, now 95 and in the midst of all that Sassy wrote about. If you are aging or know someone who is, this book is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I’m missing her sassy attitude now that I’ve finished the book.

Thinking About End-of-life Care

It’s not a popular subject, but you know, we’re getting to the stage of life where we ought to give end-of-life care more than a passing thought. And if not for ourselves, then for our aging parents or siblings.

end of life

Don’t wait until you need to make end-of-life decisions                                                      Photo Credit: Ted Van Pelt

An article in MedPage Today suggests that as advanced as we are with acute and even chronic care, we as a nation don’t do a very good job with end-of-life care. We don’t ask older patients what is important to them. Doctors, trained with w “fix-it” mentality, don’t consider the benefit of diagnostic tests or treatment for something that isn’t lethal. We as consumers – and as advocates – need to think about end-of-life care for ourselves and talk to our loved ones as well.

Obviously, everyone needs an advanced directive and a health care power of attorney. Your physician can provide you with those forms. And think about those in your circle of influence who have no one. We have a friend on disability who has no family. The last time he was in the hospital, no one knew to call us. We learned about it through a church prayer request. We’re visiting his doctor next week to set me up as his DPA (durable power of attorney) for health care and get his advanced directive in order.

But beyond the legal is the emotional and spiritual. What are your goals and dreams? How do you want to die if you have the choice? I have a friend with Alzheimers who absolutely does not want to go into a facility, while another friend with the same disease who told his wife that when he no longer knew her, she should put him in a facility. We can’t always comply with these wishes, but knowing them at least helps in making decisions. What are the spiritual practices that are important to you? What are your greatest fears concerning end-of-life care? These are the conversations to have now, while they are relatively unemotional. Then you’ll be better prepared when the time comes.


50 Prayers for Our Kids and Grandkids

Praying hands In everything give thanks...

The Fervent Prayer of a Righteous Grandma Avails Much
Photo Credit: Irina Patrascu

I just ran across this list of prayers to pray for our young people. As a grandma, I’m especially concerned about the world my granddaughters are growing up in and the influences they will face as they mature. Although they are still a little young for these prayers, it’s never too early to start. After all I’m already praying for their husbands! So as you pray for your kids and grandkids, consider adding some of these prayers to your list.







It is What It Is – And It’s All Good

We just got back from a week with our kids in the Houston area. When we visit them, I always have so much planned, so much I’d like to do. Far more than is probably realistic under any circumstances, and with a 22 month old and a 3 month old, ….

Sikora Family in San Antonio

Sikora Family in San Antonio
Photo Credit: Random Stranger

On the flight out, both Hubby and I got sick. There were animals on our flight, and I’m terribly allergic, so my immune system was compromised by the time we got there. For some reason, he got full-blown sick while I just diddled around the edge with sore throat and sniffles. The weather in Houston was “stay home hot,” but of course, Grandma wanted to take the toddler to the playground. We paid for it the biggest crop of mosquito bites I’ve ever had.

On top of the usual, we planned a three-day adventure to San Antonio to celebrate DIL’s 30th birthday. We headed to San Antonio with a forecast of 70s and clear. We arrived in a downpour that remained until Sunday morning. And we didn’t take jackets for any of us.

Nonetheless, we celebrated DIL’s birthday in style. We visited the Alamo and the grownups took advantage of the kids’ naptime. Sure, both girls had meltdowns during DIL’s birthday dinner Saturday night, relegating Son or myself to the car with them. But Sunday the sun shone and we got to swim and then take a boat ride on the River Walk, followed by a much more leisurely dinner on the River.

Traveling with little ones is different from traveling with the adult kids, which we have always cherished. But this is the season we’re in and we’re loving every minute of it. We are learning to flex, to move to Plan B, and to laugh in the midst of it. We’re building memories with our family. We get to watch the children’s development for a week. We are available to help wherever needed, to give Son and DIL breaks for both personal time and date time. We’re investing in their marriage and their family. We are thankful for the relationship we have with them. We are reaping where we have sowed. It’s all good! And it’s all God!!

Do You Have Hezekiah Syndrome? | Protecting the Next Generation

Head in Sand

Do You Have Your Head in the Sand?
Photo Credit: John VanderHaagen

War in Israel. Christian genocide in Iraq. Children flooding our borders. A flaccid economy. Ebola in Africa. Every day our senses are assaulted with trauma in our world. It’s terrible, and yet I confess that all too often I find myself wondering if things will hold together for another 30 years? Another 20 years? I read this week that the Medicare trust fund is calculated to survive until 2030 – 15 years. I found myself calculating my age and wondering if I’d still be alive.

I have to fight this tendency to look out for myself. I have to deliberately force myself to stop and pray for my kids and grandkids. I call this the Hezekiah Syndrome, from 2 Kings 20. The dying Hezekiah had just been granted a stay of execution from the Lord. Another 15 years. But in his excitement, he showed the Babylonian emissaries all the treasures of his storehouses, boasting of his great wealth.

This didn’t please the prophet Isaiah, who then issued this dire sentence:  “Hear the word of the LORD: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (2 Kings 20:16-18)

Think about it! Hezekiah had just been told that not only his wealth, but also his own sons, would be taken into captivity! And what was his response? “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’” (2Kings 20:19)

Seriously? He had just seen the Lord answer a pretty serious prayer for healing, but now he’s willing to allow his sons—who, by the way, were innocent in his sin—bear the brunt of this punishment! I’m appalled, but hey, I do almost the same thing when I wonder (and even whisper a prayer) that the world will hold together through my lifetime. Then I need to repent and pray all the more diligently for my kids, my grandkids, and the world that I am at least a little bit complicit in messing up.

Folks, we are the matriarchal/patriarchal generation. The responsibility is ours. We must pray and never, ever, give in to the temptation of short-term gain with the risk of long-term loss. Will you join me in praying for the world we are leaving to our kids?

Sometimes You Just Need to Rest | How to Manage Extreme Fatigue

Elijah Being Fed by Ravens

Elijah Being Fed by Ravens
Photo Credit: Christian Clipart

Sometimes I get tired. Sometimes I get really tired. And then there are days like the past few weeks when I’m beyond exhausted. Now admittedly, I’ve come by it honestly. I had two big conferences two weeks apart. Three days later we left for Houston for a week with our kids – read, being grandma. Much as I love my granddaughter, she can wear out people much younger than me. We got home and a few days later, left for Mom’s (after a couple of intense days in the garden). Time at Mom’s is always a physical and emotional strain.  This month and last, we’ve had to heft a wheelchair in and out of the car in addition to dealing medical appointments, other appointments, and her other needs. Add to that Mom’s well-perfected negative attitude and a four-hour drive each way, and it’s a sure recipe for fatigue. Then when we do return home, it’s back-to-back appointments that have been jammed into too few weeks.

This week I hit a wall. Deep, deep fatigue. The kind of extreme fatigue that feels like you’re slogging through quicksand and sinking fast. The kind of fatigue that feels like your feet weigh 100 pounds each. First trimester fatigue! I hate it when that happens. Since I lose so much of my month to caregiving, I feel I need to work double time when I get home. But this month, I couldn’t. Every time I turn around, I feel like I’m hitting a wall.

It’s times like this I remember Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-8. Remember how after Elijah had conquered the 400 prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel, Jezebel threatened his life? After this huge victory, he ran like crazy to escape her threats. Finally he sat down under a broom tree and whined to the Lord. But Yahweh, rather than criticizing him, had some ravens deliver some take-out and told him to take a nap. Yahweh knew that without being refreshed, Elijah wouldn’t make it.

How do I cope? Pretty much like Elijah (without the ravens):

  • Whenever possible, I schedule appointments later in the day and allow myself to sleep in. And I don’t let myself feel guilty.
  • When I hit a wall during the day, I take a nap. I can’t spare the time, but I can’t go on. Seriously.
  • I try to eat healthy food — more protein and less sugar.
  • I try to discipline myself to get more exercise. A short walk reinvigorates the brain cells.
  • Most important, I don’t neglect my time with God. It’s easy to think I don’t have time when my day is already starting late, but prayer and Bible study need to remain a priority.

What do you do when you’re utterly exhausted? How do you regroup?

Four Ideas for Helping Young Parents Find Time with God


Mom and Baby

Weary Mom and Baby
Photo Credit JaneyHenning

I’ve just come back from a wonderful week with my son, DIL, and fabulous granddaughter. She’s 16 months old and a delight. She kept us busy from early morning until her bedtime – at which time we were all pretty tuckered out.

There was a lot I didn’t get done during that week, but the thing I missed the most was my quiet time. I had forgotten how hard it is to get in a little Bible and prayer time with a toddler underfoot. Her mom is pregnant, so often naps while Abby is napping. The rest of the day is consumed with chasing, reading, feeding, and playing. Wonderful, but tiring.

So how can a young mom or a caregiver get some time with God?

  • When I’m traveling and have less time for Bible study and prayer, my go-to remedy is the Daily Audio Bible app, available for every platform.  Host Brian Hardin reads through the Bible in a year with daily selections from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. The reading plus a short devotional last about 20 minutes and can be paused and restarted as needed. I listen while grooming in the morning and was often able to get through most of the broadcast before I was beautiful. This is a perfect app for young moms. Play it during breakfast.
  • Worship music can set a peaceful atmosphere in the home and give mom a way to keep her spirit focused on the Lord, even while caring for children. I keep my iPhone in my pocket with music playing while doing routine tasks. The little ones will also benefit from the atmosphere the worship music creates.
  • When my son was little, I loved my women’s Bible studies. With the cost of babysitters these days, it’s hard for mom and dad to get away for a co-ed small group. But that’s no reason to miss out. Mom and dad can trade times away for separate women’s and men’s studies.
  • And Grandma, honor your young daughters or DIL’s. Do what you can to provide babysitting, time away, and encouragement. Especially encourage them to give priority to time with the Lord.

It’s easy for a young mom to get on the treadmill and not even realize how long it’s been since she’s had time with God. Let’s do what we can to help them.




Want to Know the Secrets of Happy Families?

Who doesn’t want a happy family? For those in the Sandwich Generation, it seems like that is often our primary focus. Or one of them… But how do we get there? Magazines promise tips and strategies. Who doesn’t want a happy family? For those in the Sandwich Generation, it seems like that is often our primary focus. Or one of them… But how do we get there? Magazines promise tips and strategies. Who doesn’t want a happy family? For those in the Sandwich Generation, it seems like that is often our primary focus. Or one of them… But how do we get there? Magazines promise tips and strategies. Library shelves are filled with books promoting different approaches. TV pundits offer their insights. Our pastors and religious leaders weigh in. Scripture sometimes seems outdated in this high tech world. What’s an ordinary woman to do?

In The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More, New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler provides a blueprint for modern families — a fresh approach to family dynamics inspired by cutting-edge techniques gathered from experts in science, business, sports, and the military. Written in a charming, accessible style, The Secrets of Happy Families is smart, funny, and fresh, and will forever change how your family lives every day.

Even though I no longer have children in the home, I was fascinated by his findings. I especially enjoyed the chapter on grandparenting, where he both affirmed the role of grandparents in kids’ lives and put us in our place.