Fun Thanksgiving Activity for Grandkids

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! If you’re like me, your family probably has many different traditions that help bring you closer together and, at the same time, help pass along your faith. There is one special tradition of my family’s that I’d love to share with you. This is an easy craft, one that grandkids of any age can participate in, and one you can do whether your grandkids live near or far.

Our family calls this the Thanksgiving Blessing Tree, although some refer to it as the Thankful Tree. There are many variations of how to create the tree, and there is no right or wrong way. You can be as simple, fancy, or as creative as you and your grandkids want to be!

You can form your tree out of construction paper or cardboard by cutting a trunk and branches out of either material. I used cardboard so it would last longer. Either way, if you want a large tree that you can put on your refrigerator or against a wall, you’ll need to piece together several sections of branches and a trunk. Once that is formed, make leaves from various fall colors of construction paper. (See image below from http://www.ecenglish.com.)

Another idea for making your tree–and one that will surely endure the ages–is to use an actual tree branches, turning one branch sideways to create the trunk. Or, form a trunk and branches out of wire simply by twisting wire pieces of branches together to wrap and bend around the trunk. With either method, insert the trunk into a sand or gravel-filled pot, and use construction paper or craft foam for the leaves. To hang the leaves, punch a hole in the “stem” then create a loop with yarn or thread to go through the hole and around the branches. (See image below from http://www.spoonful.com.)

Now, your part is done! Your grandkids’ job is to either create their own leaves or use ones that you provide and write on them the various ways that God has blessed them during the past year. You can do this on Thanksgiving Day when your grandkids are with you, or have them mail you their finished leaves if they live far away. Be sure they put their name on the leaves if you have more than one grandchild, perhaps a picture of themselves, and date each leaf with the year.

If you have several grandkids, you’ll have a very full tree after only a few years. But what a great way to count God’s blessings throughout your family and to see a touching reminder every year of how God is moving in your family’s life!

If you have special traditions or similar crafts you’d like to share with our readers, please let us know about them.

Thursday Interview: Contributor Paula Freeman

Paula Freeman is the founder and executive director of Hope’s Promise, and adoption and orphan care ministry. She shared her story “Long Journey Home” in part 3 of Grandparenting Through Obstacles, which addresses “The Challenge of Non-Traditional Families.”

GTO:  Paula, thank you for sharing your difficult but important story about your daughter who was in an abusive relationship. Why did you decide to share that story in our book?

Paula:  I chose to share this story because it introduced additional grandparenting twists I believe others will relate to: having an adult child and grandchild move back home, and adoptive parenthood and grandparenthood.

GTO:  What are you hoping our readers will gain or learn from your story?

Paula:  Being a grandparent is relational, not biological; three of my grandchildren are not biologically related to me. God continues to write His story in me through my grandchildren.

GTO:  What has happened in your life since writing your story? Any new developments or fun adventures?

Paula:  I returned home this afternoon from Kansas City where I spent a week helping out with a new grand-baby. My daughter and her husband adopted their first child nine months ago. They now have two beautiful (one Caucasian and one African-American) daughters who joined their family through adoption and are nine months apart in age. Now in her mid thirties, my daughter was raised with three sisters, two adopted from India and one from Cambodia (in addition to three biological brothers). Our family photo looks like the United Nations. It’s beautiful, diverse and filled with stories of God’s grace and goodness. What a privilege to begin this grandparenting journey yet again.

GTO:  What can you tell our readers to encourage them to not give up on their kids or grandkids no matter how bad their situation might look?

Paula:  Wow! What a great question. I would tell them to put their hope in Christ, not in other people, jobs, circumstances or programs. God’s arm is not too short to rescue. Keep praying, but don’t stop your own life. Lean in to God’s grace then invite others to join you.  You can still be okay even if they are not.

GTO:  What advice can you give our readers to help them become more intentional about imparting spiritual truths and values to their grandchildren?

Paula:  Pray for opportunities then pay attention! These will probably come in unpredictable ways. Cultivate your relationship with Christ, enjoy your life and grab every opportunity you can to do something to let them know you love them, delight in them and are on their team.

GTO:  If you could give yourself a grandma nickname to represent your relationship with your grandkids, what would it be and why?

Paula:  Mimi…because that is what THEY have chosen to call me. It is free from titles and other relational expectations. It is theirs.

GTO:  Thank you, Paula, for sharing your wonderful story in the book and your thoughts here. You have such an amazing family. We’re grateful that you shared them with us and helped us learn from them and from you.

More Fun Facts About Grandparents

On the September 25th post we looked at “Ten Fun Facts about Grandparents.” and on October 9th we found “13 Fun Facts About Grandparents.”

Here are More Fun Facts About Grandparents:

  1. 60% work a full- or part-time job.
  2. 23% have started their own business
  3. One third (33%) have been married more than once
  4. 10% have a tattoo
  5. 3% have run a marathon
  6. 2% have gone skydiving

These facts are from “Surprising Facts About Grandparents” on www.Grandparents.com.

Thursday Interview: Barbara Ann Baranowski Part 2

Welcome back to another installment of Thursday Interviews and Part 2 of our discussion with GTO contributor Barbara Ann Baranowski. We still have quite a bit to talk about with Barbara, so let’s dive in!

Here’s a picture of Barbara and her family at a recent Nana Camp:

GTO: Barbara, we know some time has passed since you first submitted your story to us. Can you give us an update on recent developments with your grandchildren since writing your story?

Barbara: Well, my husband and I are in the midst of planning our eighth camp experience for our grandchildren.  We now have a new grandchild to add to the faith camping experience–making five.  Our theme this year is “Living the Truth.”  Our older grandchildren will have a part in instructing out youngest in what they have learned from past lessons.  We are planning a trip to Philadelphia to study the symbols of freedom, with reminders that Jesus has made us truly free when we accept Him as our Savior.  All of our grandchildren, with the exception of the two-year-old have accepted Jesus as their Savior.

GTO: That’s certainly a testimony to God’s power through grandparenting! Now, tell us what’s happened in your life since writing your story—any new developments or fun adventures?

Barbara: I always tell our grandchildren that life itself, in the Lord, is a grand adventure.  We have traveled together to places such as Pidgeon Forge, Tennessee (Dollywood), and Williamsburg–Jamestown, Virginia. In historic places I explain to the children the importance of celebrating our country’s founding through God’s plan for America.

GTO:  It’s obvious that you have a passion for this country, the freedoms it offers, and how that relates to the freedoms God has given us.  The prospect of protecting our freedoms is definitely a big challenge that we face today as a nation. What do you think is perhaps the greatest challenge faced by children today, and how can grandparents help them with this challenge?

Barbara: As a retired teacher, mother, and grandparent, I feel that one of the greatest challenges children face is to feel loved and to understand they have a purpose for being here.  So many children are aimless and without goals in life–thus the dependence on drugs and other “highs.”   Teaching them that God loves them and knows exactly why they were created (and will reveal it to them over time through prayer) gives them meaning and purpose to life.  Showing them His love brings them to the ultimate “high” of knowing God and serving Him with a future, a purpose, and a hope.

GTO: Now that you’ve invested so much in your grandkids, what do you hope they’ll most remember about you when you’re gone?

Barbara: I hope my grandchildren will remember that I loved God, accepted His salvation for my sins through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, and that  serving Him and sharing Him with them and others is my greatest joy.  I hope also that they will remember that my eternity is wonderful and secure because I am with Him forever.  I truly want them to remember Jesus when they think of me.  Of myself I am nothing, but through Him and His love, I can be what He has created me to be.  I want them to know that about themselves as well.

GTO: I think that says it all. I believe those words are shared by the hearts of grandparents everywhere who are trying to influence their grandchildren for Christ.

Barbara, thank you again for sharing your story and your heart with us! And, readers, thank you for sharing your time with us. We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Barbara.

Creating Your Own Grandparenting Camp

Last Thursday and this Thursday we are interviewing book contributor Barbara Ann Baranowski, who wrote the story “Gone Camping” for Grandparenting Through Obstacles. Barbara and her husband do not live near their grandchildren, and they wanted to find a way to help them grow in Christ during the short times they were together. After praying about it, God gave them the idea to create a special camp-like experience for their grandkids over the summer. It was soon dubbed “Nana Camp” by the grandchildren!

Barbara kept the camp simple, but made sure it included Bible stories, memorization verses, songs, crafts, games, and fun play times. She also gave her “campers” a special keepsake to take home with them to remind them of Nana Camp.

In our book, we suggested some ways that virtually any grandma or grandpa could start their own grandparenting camp:

  • Pick a theme for the camp then choose activities to support that theme. Your theme could be creation, God’s grace, forgiveness, God’s power, and so forth.
  • Plan the camp for the middle ages of your group. You can always allow the older children to help the younger ones.
  • Plan your activities around your expertise, whether that’s art, science, or baking. If you have a passion for something, your grandkids will join in your enthusiasm. And, if both Grandma and Grandpa are helping out, this is a great opportunity for both of you to share skills and interests with your grandkids.
  • Be sure to create opportunities for the kids to ask Jesus into their hearts. Don’t ever assume that children have a personal relationship with the Lord. Always give them a chance to get to know Him in a safe environment.

The best part about a grandparenting camp is that you really don’t need any special equipment or even a fancy place to hold it. You can have it in your own backyard or at a neighborhood park. The most important ingredient is you–and the spiritual memories you will provide for your grandchildren.

If you do prefer a get-away time with your grandkids where you can truly bond with them in a fun and biblical environment, you may want to consider an established family camp, such as Grand Camps, hosted by The Christian Grandparenting Network.

How about you? What special moments or activities have you created for your grandkids that make them want to keep coming back to “Nana’s” again and again? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Don’t forget to come back Thursday for Part 2 of our interview with Barbara Baranowski.

Thursday Interview: Contributor Barbara Ann Baranowski

Today we have the privilege of speaking with Barbara Ann Baranowski, who wrote the story “Gone Camping” for Grandparenting Through Obstacles. God gave Barbara the creative idea of having Nana Camps for her grandkids. What she thought would probably be a one-time experience has now been blessing her grandchildren for many, many years. Below is a picture of Barbara and her grandkids from a recent Nana Camp.

GTO: Barbara, why did you choose to share the story you did for our book?

Barbara:  I shared my story of providing a grandparenting “camp” because I think it addresses two issues that grandparents face: how, as grandparents, we can share our faith legacy, and how long-distance grandparents can participate in the faith development of their grandchildren.

Grandparents, whether living near or far, can use the suggestions to engage the grandchildren in deepening relationships with themselves and God through Bible studies and shared activities.

GTO: We agree that your camps are a great way of doing all those things! What are you hoping that are readers will take away from your story?

Barbara: I hope that the readers  will be inspired to share their faith legacy with their grandchildren through the ideas and suggestions.  We are all different in the way we pass on our faith in God to our grandchildren, but perhaps the story I have shared will give them inspiration and a way that they had not thought of to personalize their story and faith for their own grandchildren, especially if they live away from them.

GTO: Barbara, what can you tell our readers to encourage them to not give up on their kids or grandkids no matter how bad their situation might look?

Barbara: The Bible reminds in us Proverbs 22:6 that we are to “train a child in the way in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (NIV).  If we are obedient to the Word and follow the instruction of training our children and grandchildren as God instructs, we have hope for their future.  Without sharing the Lord with them (whether from us or others), they have little hope for eventual spiritual joy and happiness or the promise of eternal life with God.  We must do our part, pray, and let the Lord do His.

Children are a gift that may not show every aspect of a gift’s beauty now, but with the Lord’s touch, every beautiful aspect reflected through Him will be uncovered.  Prayer is the key to answers for the lives of our grandchildren.  Many a praying grandparent has made the difference.

GTO: You are absolutely right about that…where would most of us be today without that praying grandparent in our lives? And, that’s something that every grandparent can do. What advice can you give our readers to help them become more intentional about imparting spiritual truths and values into their grandchildren?

Barbara:  God did not leave grandparents out of His Word.  As  Christian Grandparents, we are told clearly to be intentional.  Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after that.” And Psalm 71:18 reminds us, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (NIV).

So, if God felt our importance in sharing with the generations to come, we must understand that our part is crucial.  It is a great privilege and honor to know that God still has great plans for us and for our mission as grandparents.

GTO: That is very good advice, Barbara. Thank you so much for joining us here today.

And, I know we still have more to talk about, so we’ll be continuing our discussion with Barbara next Thursday. Hope to see you back then!

13 Fun Facts About Grandparents

On the September 25th post we looked at “Ten Fun Facts about Grandparents.” Would you like some more? For October, how about an even 13 Fun Facts About Grandparents?

  1. It was estimated that by 2010, more than 50% of the grandparent population would be Baby Boomers.
  2. By 2015 it is estimated that 60% of the grandparent population will be Baby Boomers.
  3. 43% of grandparents exercise or play sports.
  4. 28% volunteer regularly.
  5. 18% dance.
  6. 71% say reading is a favorite activity.
  7. 86% read a newspaper in print or online.
  8. 75% are online and 70% use search engines.
  9. 63% shop online.
  10. 46% bank online.
  11. 30% instant message.
  12. 56% share photos online.
  13. 45% use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

These facts are from “Surprising Facts About Grandparents” on www.Grandparents.com.

Thursday Interview: Contributor Rhonda Rivers – Part 2

Last week we talked with Rhonda Rivers, who contributed the story “Worth the Wait” to the Grandparenting Through Obstacles book. Today we continue our conversation.

GTO:  Rhonda, how have you grown in the Lord through the challenges you’ve faced in trying to teach your grandchildren your Christian faith?

Rhonda:  In trying to reach my grandchild for Jesus, I found He taught me some valuable lessons. First of all, I am not the parent and my grandchild has good parents, even though at the time they were not going to church. Could I force them to take him to Sunday school? Of course not, but I prayed about it constantly. Could I make them go to church? I could pray about it and perhaps make a suggestion once in a while. Other than that, I was powerless. God taught me patience and trust. Because I was not in a position to take him with me to church, I had to trust the Lord to answer my prayers. In the meantime I learned to be joyful in the waiting and expectation of answered prayer.

GTO:  What can you tell our readers to encourage them not to give up on their kids or grandkids no matter how bad their situation might look?

Rhonda:  No matter how bad the situation might look, I would encourage grandparents to be like the persistent widow. Keep praying and ask God to show you how to recognize opportunities to share your faith. Trust the Lord that He is at work all around them and never stop praying for their salvation. I have prayed for many years before some of my relatives found the Lord.

GTO:  What advice can you give our readers to help them become more intentional about imparting spiritual truths and values to their grandchildren?

Rhonda:  Imparting spiritual truths and values to our grandchildren takes planning. If you are blessed to have time with the child, plan activities around Bible stories. Make a necklace with the colors representing the plan of salvation, which tells the whole story—from the fall to the cross. Color pictures from Bible story coloring books and tell them the story as they color with you. Teach them the Intsy Weentsy Spider and tell them how God made the sun, rain and the spider. Apply Scripture and God to any activity: taking a walk, playing games and always praying over meals. Let them see your faith and always tell them that you are the way you are because of a God that is greater than anybody and that the same God loves them. Let them see your gratitude for God in your life.

GTO:  If you could give yourself a grandma nickname to represent your relationship with your grandkids, what would it be and why?

Rhonda:  If I could give myself a grandma nickname to represent my relationship with my grandkids it would be Hannah. She had such a desire for children and after much praying, God granted her wish. Because of her deep gratitude she gave the child back to the Lord for His service. I had such a desire for grandchildren for so many years that my gratitude reached to the heavens when he was born. I know my grandson belongs to the Lord and it excites me to think of how the Lord is going to use him in the future.

GTO:  What do you hope your grandkids will most remember about you when you’re gone?

Rhonda:  I hope my grandkids will remember me as the grandma who loved them and loved the Lord. I hope they remember me as one who read the Scriptures for wisdom and sang the hymns about my Lord and Savior. I hope they remember me as the woman who went to church and the woman who told them stories about Jesus.

GTO:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Rhonda:  The world can be a scary place, especially when we consider the obstacles they will face in the future. One time my son said, “Why would I want to bring a child into such a world of turmoil?” My response was that as Christians, we need to train up a child in the way of the Lord to fight the good fight when we draw near to Jesus’ return. Our grandchildren will be the ones the lost go to when there is no one who understands what truth is or where to find God.

GTO:  Amen, Rhonda. Those are beautiful and powerful thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing them and for encouraging us all. My God bless you and your entire family, and you, too, who are reading this.

If Your Walls Could Talk

Last week we interviewed book contributor Rhonda Rivers, who wrote the Grandparenting Through Obstacles story “Worth the Wait.” This Thursday, we’ll be completing that interview with Rhonda. In Part 1 of her interview, Rhonda made a very interesting point when asked, “In what ways do you believe God has used you most in ministering to your grandkids?”

Rhonda responded that “Children learn by watching the people around them. When my grandson is in our home, he sees evidence of our faith all around him. Bible verses and pictures of biblical scenes grace the walls; bookcases are filled with Bibles, commentaries, and Christian books. In addition, we always pray before meals, something he has learned to do. He often hears the phrase, ‘praise the Lord,’ in our conversations.”

There is a popular quote by St. Francis of Assisi, which states:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”

Our lives should carry with them the presence of God wherever we go, especially in our homes. When others come to visit, what will they find on our walls, on our bookshelves, or on our DVD rack? In other words, if your walls could talk, what would they say about you and your relationship with the Lord?

When your grandkids are over your house, do they notice the things of God residing there? Is the essence of the Gospel present in your conversations with them and how you conduct yourself in their presence?

If you’re hoping to influence your grandkids—or any member of your family for Christ—your home is a great place to start. Ask God to show you anything that doesn’t glorify Him and remove it from your home. Then, think about ways that you can actively use your home to “preach” the message of Jesus to your family and to all who enter. Pray that those things in your home and God’s residing presence will draw people into a closer relationship with Him.