We're preparing for a visit to see our eight-year-old twin grandsons soon. It's tough living more than 2,000 miles away and I really wish the Star Trek transporter was a reality. Since the birth of the boys, our priority has been to build a strong relationship with them even if we couldn't be physically present on a regular basis. Technology has made it a whole lot easier, but that's not the only means to building close ties with those boys who are growing up way too fast.
Since today's families tend to be scattered, here are some things I've learned along the way as a long distance grandparent.
1. Consistent Contact - You can do this in a number of ways and the variety is enjoyable. Phone calls, Skype or Face Time, cards, email. Use them all. What a great gift to video call grandkids! We can do that for free, and what fun to see their school work, new shoes, or anything else that's happening. We've set aside Sunday afternoons for many years to connect with family.
2. Memory Books - Keep those memories of being together fresh by assembling little photo albums. It's so easy to print out photos of visits in any size and put together a story of your last visit. It's a fun gift to send by mail as a reminder of your good time, along with a note talking about the next visit. I've done them as mini scrapbooks, photo books through Shutterfly, or I've created virtual albums using Smilebox. This is a free program you can download to your computer. Our grandsons are hooked on the collection Smileboxes I've created since they were born. They love all the stories we recount as we view each album--several times.
3. Special Activities - There are certain activities we just have to do when we visit. The boys can hardly wait to bake bread with me or go treasure hunting (geocaching) with Grandpa. A visit to Dunkin' Donuts after treasure hunting is also expected. We have exciting games of hide-and-seek in a local park, play Go Fish, and read piles of books. We don't do exotic or expensive outings, but we sure have a bunch of fun. We're building special traditions and many fond memories of our adventures whether inside or outdoors. The ordinary is special if you're doing the activity together.
4. Presents - Of course gifts are a part of grandparenting. Birthdays and Christmas go without saying, but little gifts throughout the year help stay in touch. Gifts don't have to be expensive, and books are favorites of mine to send. Rewards for milestones like potty training, or a good report card, or a "just because" gift keep you involved in their lives.
Everyone's style is different, but don't let distance keep you from a close relationship with your grandchildren. Learn the technology, work at staying in touch, and building great memories. It's an investment with big returns.
I've become an avid birdwatcher since living in the West. The San Pedro River just a little over a mile away is a spectacular highway for birds who follow it north out of Mexico. We have lots of varieties of hummingbirds, vermilion flycatchers, woodpeckers, verdins, rufous-headed sparrows, and the list goes on. My husband fills the feeders daily and we keep blocks of suet available as well. We're quite popular with the feathery crowd and always have activity at the feeders. Most days it's a relaxing pastime to watch them.
However, we also have lots of predator birds--prairie falcons, hawks, roadrunners, and owls. The falcons are pretty crafty in their hunting techniques. I've spotted them numerous times under a bush near the bird bath, waiting for an unsuspecting victim. One poor finch had a tasty breakfast at the feeder, came for drink to wash it all down, and ended up as breakfast for the falcon. Not a pleasant way to start the day.
The latest attack of the falcon came one quiet afternoon while I was chatting on the phone with one of my sisters. A pair of doves was scrounging for seeds or bugs near the vegetable garden, minding their own business when the dark shadow of the falcon swooped low for his blitzkrieg. Realizing their peril, the doves flew for their lives. However, one miscalculated and slammed into the dining room window, bouncing in front of the water feature. I believe he or she was already DOA, but the falcon pounced on it nevertheless, and an instant cloud of feathers rose up. Snatching its prey, the falcon zipped over to a clearing in the mesquites to enjoy an early dinner. Wouldn't you know it, a hawk had seen the whole affair from his perch on the electric pole. Alas, the falcon lost its dinner to the hawk, which glided down oh, so elegantly to swipe the meal. The falcon didn't even try to keep his trophy.
I'm not sure I can connect an appropriate proverb to this story - the early bird gets the worm doesn't fit and birds of a feather flock together doesn't either, nor does a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush. Maybe this one will do: watch like a hawk.
Several years ago, I received a brown box full of iris rhizomes. Although rhizomes aren't much to look at, I was excited to receive this gift from my mother. The coveted gold iris which was one of stars of my grandmother's garden was part of the shipment. I could finally add it to my new high desert gardens. I managed not to kill them and those plain beige tubers bloomed with vigor the second year in the ground. The color was just as impressive as I'd remembered.
The second time the patch of iris bloomed, the bearded beauties were pure white. Not gold. White as snow. Every year since, they have produced gigantic blossoms of white and not a hint of gold. Somehow they changed--still beautiful iris, but not at all what they were originally. Not even the master gardeners in the area can satisfactorily explain the transformation in hue. Nevertheless, they remain changed. Even more striking than their former color. They stand out from the crowd of purples.
As I admired them today, it reminded me of 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. The believer may not look different physically, but the inward change is absolutely as radical as gold changing to white.
Jesus changes the inward (our hearts and minds) so that the outward (behavior) changes too. Philippians 2:3-5 says:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
That kind of behavior stands out from the crowd every time. But the final transformation is yet to come, which will change our physical bodies. The Apostle Paul writes about it in 1 Corinthians 15:49-50;53: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
We must say with Paul in verse 57: But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.