How We’ve Created Memories and Provided Opportunities to Talk About What’s Truly Important
By Don and Sue Wilson
The first time we consciously thought about the importance of blessing our children and grandchildren was probably when we realized our children had grown up, become parents, and we were now grandparents, which meant we must be old. All at once it was apparent our days were numbered and if we wanted to be a blessing to the adorable little children who were cascading into our lives at a rapid pace, we needed to focus on making memories instead of money.
Over the years we’ve learned that good things rarely happen without planning. And so, as Jacob blessed Joseph and his sons (Genesis 48:15, 16), and as our parents blessed us, we set out to bless our children and grandchildren by creating memories they could carry with them after we were gone. Here’s how we did it.
We decided to use the resources with which God had blessed us to host togetherness events for the entire family on a recurring basis. There are 19 of us, so we have to be creative. All three of our children serve in ministry, which further complicates the scheduling.
Our first big family event took place over Thanksgiving at a Young Life camp. We had the camp to ourselves, but a blizzard came the night before our arrival. The camp was kind enough to send a snowplow to open the roads and walkways for us, and in all honesty, we were praising God for this major snowfall, as it provided countless hours of entertainment for all of us. Just walking out the door was an adventure. Endless snow-play abounded. The cabin had bedrooms for the whole gang and a kitchen to prepare our meals. We had an amazing time together. We had decided to also celebrate Christmas while we were there. The whole week was a memory we still talk about.
We can’t afford an event like that every year, so our goal is to plan for something about every five years. Our whole family looks forward to these times together. We have gone on two cruises and another one is planned. These have been big hits. Nothing compares to seeing everyone clean up and arrive for dinner on a cruise ship, watching the grandkids sample new and exotic foods they would never get at home, and listening to descriptions of that day’s adventures.
As fun as those events are, we realized we have very limited one-on-one time with our grandchildren and that opportunities for getting together were dwindling as they aged. So we came up with a second plan: We would take each grandchild on a trip when they turned 13. After additional thought, we decided to take two grandchildren at a time. Since our grandchildren are all spaced about one year apart, each trip would consist of one child who was a little over 13 and one a little under 13. We weren’t certain this would work—we were combining boy and girl cousins who were turning 13, after all—but we persisted. The cousins discovered that once they were out of their home environment and they had no one else to hang out with, they could have a lot of fun together.
After a while the “age 13” trips were ending, and so we devised one last opportunity to bless our grandchildren (and our children) before they were thrust into adulthood. We decided on high school graduation trips, but with one important stipulation: these would be gender-specific, three-generation trips. In other words, Grandma, Mom, and Daughter or Grandpa, Dad, and Son. What awesome times we have had making memories and connecting with each other on these trips! We strive for flexibility in our planning, taking into consideration the circumstances and interests of each grandchild.
Making the Most of Limited Opportunities
These get-togethers and trips have provided countless opportunities to talk one-on-one with kids and grandkids about what is important to them and what is important to us; and to put a face on biblical values as we interpret them. In other words, we’ve created opportunities to show, rather than just tell, why we live as we do, why we choose to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the world does, and why it is important to represent our God well while we live on this earth. We’ve sought to model generosity, kindness, faithfulness, forgiveness, love, and joy . . . even in times of sorrow. Values such as these are not automatically transferred through the generations, even for those of us in ministry.
We know that lives are short and opportunities to be a blessing to our families are limited. We decided to be proactive in making the most of the time we have rather than coming to a point in our lives when we would look back and regret that we had time for everyone else, but not for our family.
We can bless people in many different ways, and although we appreciate reading the blessings of Jacob in Genesis 48 and 49, and we believe we should use words to bestow blessings on our families, our actions can be an overwhelming validation of our words. And we have found that as we strive to bless our children and grandchildren, we are blessed in return, beyond anything we could have hoped for or expected.
And now we find ourselves echoing the prayer of Jacob: May the God whom our parents served faithfully, and who has guided and loved us faithfully, and who has cared for our children, also bless our grandchildren and all generations of children to come, that they might give him glory and praise for all eternity!
Don Wilson serves as senior pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley, a multisite church in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Sue is a writer who blogs at suespaperthoughts.blogspot.com.