My wife Violet and I have been married for 52 years and were unable to have children of our own, so the Lord sent us a 3-day-old baby boy 47 years ago, whom we named Jonathan. We knew his teen-age mother and she asked if we would adopt her baby, as she was unable to raise him herself. Jonathan grew up in a Christian community and spent several years living on a YWAM base in Wisconsin. He and his wife Shelly live ten minutes away from us in Milton, Wisconsin along with their three children. Abygail, the oldest, turned 18 in May and graduated from high school this year. Todd (15) loves basketball and baseball. Jonathan Jr. (11) loves American football and is a people-person.
One of my most memorable moments as a grandparent happened two years ago. My son informed me that his two boys, Todd and Jonathan Jr. wanted to be baptized, which was exciting in and of itself. However, what really touched my heart was the fact that they wanted their two grandpas to conduct the baptism. I was honored and thrilled to be asked by my grandsons to baptize them. Their request acknowledged and honored the role that I had in their lives spiritually. As a grandparent, you hope and pray that your influence is making a difference, but you are not always sure the level of impact you are making. It’s hard to describe the joy and delight I felt being a part of this meaningful milestone in the lives of my two grandsons. It affirmed what I hoped was true; I was, indeed, passing on a spiritual legacy to my grandchildren.
The most important commitment I have made as a grandparent has been to “be there” for my grandchildren. Several years ago, my wife and I made a strategic decision to move closer to our grandchildren. We wanted to “share life” and to “be present” instead of just seeing them on special occasions. This move enabled me to attend the various sporting events, concerts, and school activities of my grandchildren.
Obviously, it is not always possible or even the Lord’s will that we live in physical proximity to our grandchildren. However, we should do everything we can to be engaged with them; phone calls, text messages, visits, Skype calls, whatever it takes to communicate our love and support to them. Fill their lives with memories of a grandparent who was “there”. Be their greatest cheerleader and supporter. Be excited about what excites them.
I made a big deal of birthdays and holidays. I went “all out” to celebrate each of my grandchildren’s special day. I secretly decorated their lawn with banners, balloons, and displays, the night before each birthday. They never knew what to expect when they woke up on their birthday: ten-foot high inflatable toy soldiers, toy monkeys hanging from the basketball hoop, life-size stuffed dogs staring through the window, or grandpa at the front door dressed as a knight announcing the birthday of “Princess Aby”. My grandchildren will retell stories of their birthdays long after I am gone. They will remember a grandfather who loved them and worked hard to make those celebrations special.
I also purposefully found ways to pass on values and wisdom to my grandchildren. I prepared a document for each grandchild entitled, “My Legacy To My Children and Grandchildren”. That document contains over thirty value statements such as: “I want you to avoid a selfish and self-centered way of living. I want you to be faithful to your spouse and to be devoted to your family. I want you to have a good work ethic and to be a person of honesty and integrity. I want you to honor the Lord in everything you do….”
I have been sending weekly e-mails to my granddaughter over the past year, addressing various issues she will face as she makes her transition to college. This is one way I have been able to invest in her life and stay engaged as she has matured. Seasons in life change, so the methods of communicating and influencing our grandchildren will change also. The overall objective, however, remains the same. We want to pass on a godly way of living to them. Be purposeful, be creative, but most of all, “be present”. You will never regret it.