Grandkids: packing a full week of action into twenty-four hours!

This is how we were awoken Monday morning!

But the Lord’s faithful love is from forever ago to forever from now
        for those who honor him.
    And God’s righteousness reaches to the grandchildren. – Psalm 103:17

Rebekah and I enjoyed a full Easter weekend here in Wake Forest. Church, of course, was amazing; then Naomi drove down with the grandchildren Sunday afternoon and we went full-tilt for another twenty-four hours.

  • David: “Grandaddy! Let’s play hide and seek!”
  • Beks: “Grandaddy! Can we go to the park… please?”
  • “Sorry, bud, I’m making lasagna from scratch here and the kitchen requires my full attention!”

IMG_9082So out they go with Rebekah to “water the plants” in the back garden. And there is joy multiplied, mixed in with squeals of delight, and the house lights up with exuberance much the same way the church lit up earlier in the day when we celebrated the amazing life and vitality of Jesus – so strong that even death could not hold it in.

There were four particular elements of the visit that made it extra special this time. Watering with grandmama; storytelling by grandmama; the children’s love of books; and simply walking around Wake Forest’s downtown together.

Half today’s images were captured by Naomi – who has a wonderful eye for a story; you can see her name in the bottom right of the pictures she took.

listening to Rebekah’s stories

The children (David is five, and Beks is well on the way to four in a couple more months) love nothing more than to sit with their grandmama Rebekah and listen to stories. Right now they’re in the middle of an epic saga where the main character – “The Old Woman” – and her dog – “George” – are making their way across the United States to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. So far, after five or six adventures, they’re still well east of the Mississippi.

The children are rapt with attention, remember everything, and ask great questions. They’re constantly curious, inventive, independent minded, opinionated, and on the go – balancing the tightrope between exuberant discovery and remembering to listen and behave.

Wake Forest:

IMG_9045So I took them into Wake Forest’s marvelous little town center Monday morning. We walked to the bank, made our way down White Street, and ended up at Page 158 Books, where I let them both pick out a story to bring home.

Other than church, bookstores are pretty much their favorite places on earth. Beks gravitated to the puppets, princesses, and anything about cats. David – the budding engineer – immediately got busy at the wooden train table, then found a Lego reference book as well as something on trains.

Then, when we got home, they both immediately got comfortable in the big chairs for some serious reading time. It makes my heart sing.

Age and more age:

Downtown Wake Forest

When our children – Andrew and Naomi – were this age, Rebekah and I were just thirty-one. In some respects, looking over our shoulders, 1987 seems like it was just yesterday. Then in others, looking over our shoulders hurts too much because our necks are over sixty years old!

I have to admit it, I simply don’t have that level of durability anymore. Mentally, I feel as young as I ever have; spiritually, I’m actually adding capacity, flexibility, and facility; but physically I simply can’t grandparent at the speed I’d like to.

But maybe that’s the point; maybe it’s part of the balance and the design of it all. My job as Grandaddy Derek is to love David and Beks with the cumulative love of all these decades, to nurture them spiritually in ways I’m only now beginning to grow into, and to share with them the stories I couldn’t possibly have known thirty years ago because I had yet to live them.

My job as Grandaddy Derek is to love David and Beks with the cumulative love of all these decades, to nurture them spiritually in ways I’m only now beginning to grow into, and to share with them the stories I couldn’t possibly have known thirty years ago because I had yet to live them.

IMG_9054It’s all good. And though it won’t be too long before I have to say, “I believe you’re a little big for me to carry up the stairs to bed,” my aching back managed it again this time, and – just as soon as I’m recovered – I’ll more than likely do it again…

…. And by then maybe Rebekah’s Old Woman Stories will have to expand a little to accommodate an old man.


Living with enthusiasm and joy! (The Grandaddy Letters)

Hide and seek with Great-grandma Grace

“Do good, be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for yourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that you may take hold of the life that really is life.” – 1 Timothy 6

This morning I had planned to launch a potentially far-reaching conversation about Lent, but I’ve decided to wait for tomorrow morning; Sunday provides the perfect opportunity to hit “reset” spiritually, and I have a couple of questions I’d like for all of us to carry forward with us between now and Holy Week.

Today I’d like to share a few more thoughts from the week with our grandchildren. We took them back to Richmond Friday evening so I’m in a better position to reflect with a little more concentration. I’ll frame this post as one of the, “Grandaddy Letters” series that’s been running since a few months before David was born.


Dear David and Beks:

we fed the birds.. now where are they?

Wow! That sure was some four days of fun we had together, wasn’t it! You’re both so bright, and happy, and inquisitive, and loving, and full of energy. I’ve got to tell you, you wore me out!

I don’t know if you realize this, but the kind of life you have – the quality of “aliveness” that just spills out from you, all over the place – does more than give your grandparents a lift, it actually regenerates us.

This is what, in the grownup world, we call a paradox. A paradox is when something looks like it should do one thing, but it turns out to do something quite the opposite. Yes, we’re tired; and, yes, we’re not so young as we used to be; but the life that flows out from you – the ebullience – gets all the way into who we are. Your life fills us up, it lifts us up, and it stays with us after you go home.

In the Bible, Jesus teaches about how people who love God and follow him are supposed to live; it turns out we’re supposed to live with the kind of light, and energy, and belief, and creativity, that we see in our beautiful grandchildren. You, David, and you, Beks, teach us about the Jesus quality of life.

img_8248So here is my word for you, dear grandchildren. Don’t ever let go of that kind of life! Don’t ever let the world around you put out the light you carry; don’t ever trade in your creativity, your inquisitive minds, and your thirst for learning.

God – who loves us so very much – put each one of us on this Earth to not only enjoy the world but to serve God by loving each other with God’s kind of love. That means you, David, and you, Beks; God has big ideas for both of you, and those ideas involve shining brightly and loving with enthusiasm.

So thanks for another great visit. We love you both, and we love your parents too. We can’t wait to see how brightly you continue to shine for God.

In love, and because of love – Your Grandaddy Derek.

(check out the before and after haircut pics!)


love, Legos, stories, and imagination at “Camp Grandparent”


This has been a classic “host the grandchildren” week here at Maul-Hall. Four days in Wake Forest while their parents remodel the nursery at their church home in Richmond. I love the way our daughter Naomi is harnessing her creativity, her crafting, and her commitment to serve God in such an imaginative way.
Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying the creativity, the imagination, and the over-the-top enthusiasm of two extremely energetic children! The challenge is to provide constant opportunity for them to remain engaged and learning, while having fun at the same time.

img_8081The challenge is to provide constant opportunity for them to remain engaged and learning, while having fun at the same time.

That’s why I love to see them involved in so much self-directed play. They build, make up stories role play, read, and invent their own games. Then there was making bread with grandmama, heading to the park with grandaddy, and – the big project of the week – putting together a 700-piece Lego rendition of Tower Bridge in London.

At five years of age, David is eager to accomplish tasks well beyond his years. So we went through the 99-page instruction guide one step at a time, and all I did was to ask questions and drop hints: “How many of those pieces do you need?” “Remember to assemble what you need before you put that part together.” “Does that look like the picture or should you try again…”

After maybe six hours over three days we were done. I love to see the concentration, the complex spatial awareness, the problem-solving, the sense of satisfaction when things fall into place, and the willingness to try difficult things.

Volcano research

David is also a big fan of volcanoes, especially Mount St. Helens. Yesterday, while I was preparing dinner, he sat at the counter and watched the entire National Geographic special detailing the geology behind the massive 1980 explosion.

Lastly, one of my favorite things is to watch the children sitting with Rebekah and asking for, “The Old Woman Stories.” Rebekah is a master storyteller; she doesn’t just captivate the children, she draws me in too. I’m thinking I should start to record her and use the stories as the basis for a book.

The kids need some attention now, so I’ll leave you with a few photos and get on with another exiting day of grandparenting.

Peace, and more peace, on your Lenten journey – DEREK

Signs of the times (blooming flowers – and grandchildren)

img_7950Jesus: “And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith?” – Matthew 6:28-30

One of the sweetest things about an early spring is the sudden arrival of so many beautiful flowers. Daffodils are springing up all over, Hellebore, Iris, and a slew of other delicate blooms. I’m itching to get out with my Nikon and capture some images, but I simply haven’t had the time and I’m not sure when I will. I just hope they wait for me.

The other spectacular spring display comprises our beautiful grandchildren, David and Beks. They bloom and they grow, and they bloom some more. Every time I see them I have to shake my head in wonder at what perfect work the Creator does.

Yes, they’re scrumptious!

cruise ship photo

I’m heading up to get them for a few days next week, and we all know it won’t be more than a few minutes before I’ll have more new photos than I’ll know what to do with. So it makes sense to share these latest portraits now, before the moment will have passed.

So here they are, shamelessly pasted into this blog by a grandaddy who is completely convinced that ours are the most amazing and attractive grandchildren ever, since the dawn of time, and certainly since the invention of the camera. And the wonderful thing is that I entirely believe you when you insist that it’s yours who are the best, the brightest, and the most beautiful.

It’s part of the wonder of being a grandparent. It may be a non-sequitur to say that everyone has the most beautiful granddaughter, but it’s a proven fact that we all do; it may not make logical sense to say that my grandson is the smartest kid in the state, when we all know that yours is too – but it’s okay.

Royal Caribbean photographer

Fact is, in the world of grand-parenting, we understand that we don’t have to put someone else’s family down in order for ours to be awesome. My being right doesn’t make you any less right, and your grandchild’s genius can stand right next to the Nobel Prize certainty of mine.

Interestingly, there’s a lot of broadly applicable truth held is all this seemingly gratuitous glad-handing and back-slapping. Because it turns out we’re on to something, us grandparents. What we’re on to is the deep truth that it’s just fine if I’m outlandishly blessed – because at the same time, so are you; that goodwill invariably replicates itself; that rooting for other people is more effective than putting them down; that there is room at the top for everyone; that in real life there can be winners and winners; and that it’s entirely possible to hold opposite viewpoints and both be right.

Your grandchildren sure do shine! And I know you agree that mine do too. Just look at them bloom!

Of course we’re both right. I wouldn’t want it any other way – DEREK

Children are hungry for life! Do you want some?


Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:2-3

Even just a few hours with our grandchildren can be a real boost. Fact is, I don’t know of a single person who couldn’t use the hugs and smiles, most especially in this fractious era. David and Beks barreled into Maul-Hall Friday evening, jumped all over Rebekah from the get go, and were off and gone before the sun had even considered pulling the covers back and hitting “start” on the coffee machine.

Of course, like all children, our grands can be a handful. It’s called, “no time to sit around and veg, there’s too much to learn and do!” It’s all part of the growing and learning process. There’s a huge element of trial and error in the preschool world, and there wouldn’t be any progress without mistakes, instruction, falling down, trying again, lots of directive love, and hiccups along the way.

nice work, David!

That’s why I try not to look for flawless performances at any age. We’re all learning – or we should be. The idea that any one of us would ever be done with discovery, or live error free suggests that “maturity” means the end of learning. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

To my way of thinking, maturity means knowing enough about ourselves to realize just how little we do know, to recognize how far away we are from mastery in any field, and to understand how limitless is our potential once we ask God to be our guide along the pathway.

This past year I turned sixty years of age, and in terms of learning I’d like to think I’m still going strong. What I’m working on right now is my masters in applied spiritual living, my specialists degree in listening, and a lifelong effort certificate in communication. Hopefully in a few years I’ll begin to close in on a couple of PhD’s, because I’d love to contribute something new to the field of knowledge.

So I understand what Jesus is getting at when he says things such as, I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:3-5).

img_7598Jesus understood how completely immersed in learning children are, and how wide open their spirits tend to be; he describes kids as humble because they’re too excited about engaging the world around them to be caught up in the kind of arrogance that defines a closed mind. It’s not just curiosity that marks children, but hunger! Children are hungry for life, and if maturity means the end of that then I don’t want any of it.

So I guess I just love being around hungry children – because they remind me how bountiful and how exciting the spiritual life is for the one who is willing to come to the banquet.

Rebekah once said that children approach life with hands wide open, whereas too many adults come with clenched fist, not only grasping what they have too tightly, but unable to receive anything more… or new… or challenging… or satisfying.

My body may be aging in some regards, but I want my spirit to be that of a child. Hungry; hungry for life; hungry for Jesus; hungry for this Great Adventure….





“and a little child shall lead them…”


In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
    the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
    and a little child will lead them all. – Isaiah 11:6

I know some of you come to this page for the writing… and then some of you show up for the photography. Well, I’ve got to tell you, today is a photo day and then some!

In fact, there’s so much to share that I think I’m going to have to spread this out over two posts:

First, the birthday, all promise and imagination…  And then, the park. The Maymont Park images turned out to be so cool it’s going to be hard to wait another whole day to share.

David Turns Five:

img_5881Having the grandkids just a couple of hours up the road is a tremendous blessing. So Sunday, right after Rebekah finished church officer training at WFPC, we zoom-zoomed our way to Richmond to share a birthday party with a very happy little boy.

There were several gifts, there were some good friends on hand to share the occasion, and every single birthday present was gratefully and graciously received (David’s parents have done a tremendous job teaching him to say thank you) – but when all the noise was over and the dust settled, it’s obvious that nothing else mattered quite so much as one particular gift: this was the birthday of the Disney Monorail!

The Campbell family have been going to Disney World for several years, and David has been enchanted by the monorail the entire time. Not just the actual monorail they ride into and around the Magic Kingdom, but the one in the store; he’s been ogling the perfectly designed, exact to scale, super-cool play set off and on since his second birthday!

img_5902And, yes, there was the soccer ball from Grandaddy, and I’m thrilled with the poise and natural coordination he demonstrated when we kicked the ball around outside for a few minutes (well, until he went down with his first soccer injury!). And there were bubbles for everyone – a “full-contact” activity that especially excites Beks. And there were new books, and science experiment kits, and dinosaurs, and Naomi’s amazing Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake…

But, without even a second thought, this is definitely the birthday of the monorail. And David’s daddy, Craig, is almost as excited about it as the birthday boy himself!

A Little Faith & Thinkology:

img_5890Once again, David has fallen for something that captures and engages his imagination and his creativity. Seriously, the child is an engineer (and I don’t mean the person who simply drives the train, I mean the innovative mind that invents and designs the next one).

Sure it’s fun to put on the “railwayman” hat and sit behind the wheel once in a while. But David is more interested in how it all goes together, what makes it work, how to design the layout, how to improve the concept, and what possibilities come into play when you look at all the details.

You see, watching my grandson gives me hope for the future. It’s not just that God created, it’s that God is creating. Things could go either way in this country, on this planet, over the next couple of decades – and they will likely go both ways at the same time – but it’s because of children like David (and his “force-of-nature” sister, Beks) that I am confident that the balance can be tipped to the good.

Heading off to school!

Because it’s not enough for people of faith to believe, or to pray, or to encourage one-another in the beautiful experience of community we know as The Church… it is incumbent on us to do something, to apply our gifts, our good news, and our indomitable courage to be the change we want to see.

Five years old… before I know it he’ll be out there changing the world. Oh, wait a minute! I believe that he already is.

– (Grandaddy) DEREK

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
    the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
    and a little child will lead them all. – Isaiah 11:6

parents are responsible for education – schools help…

IMG_5013We all know how much I love my grandchildren. Just click on the “Grandaddy Letters” category and you will find dozens of posts featuring David and Beks over the past few years. They’re growing by leaps and bounds and in every way; I’m so happy and so proud.

But today’s featured image – the only one – demonstrates that I also understand my grandkids have a great deal to learn about life, a fact that’s not always easy for them or for the grownups around them! See – they’re both pouting. They don’t want their grandmama to leave, and neither David nor Beks are going to smile for the camera when they’re not getting their own way!

Curiosity is Key!

But it’s Ok. Learning new stuff is at the core of what it means to be human beings who embrace this amazing gift of life. In my two decades of work in the classroom, and my lifetime as an fairly astute observer, it’s pretty clear to me that the clearest sign of intelligence in a child is curiosity. And these are two extremely curious children!

They may have a ways to go when it comes to learning that pouting will get them exactly the opposite of what they want, but their moment-by-moment orientation to life is all about discovery, and new ideas, and open spirits.

A couple of days ago David, who will turn five later this fall, said this to Naomi: “Mommy, how do you know so many words?” He’s learning a bunch of new ones himself, every day, and he’s impressed with what his mom knows! “I read a lot, David,” she said; “and I ask questions, and I listen. And when I don’t understand I always ask….”

David will be starting part-time preschool after Labor Day, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Still – and this is something everyone in North America needs to understand – the primary responsibility for my grandson’s learning resides, and will always reside, with his parents.

School can help. School can pull together resources we don’t have access to as individuals, but home is where education is born, where learning takes off, where curiosity is nurtured, and where everything must be pulled together by the parents.

It’s our responsibility as a society to do our best to help, but if the fires are not light, nurtured, and stoked at home, then we have lost our best chance at the future.

Yesterday’s post outlined, “Why I Believe in the Future.” Well today’s is pretty much about the same idea. When they can get over the pouting, that is. Or, as their favorite baby-sitter likes to say, “David has his crabby pants on this evening.”

Love, love, love those learning grandkids!


the more we know… and learn… and love

Dropping the kids off in Richmond

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”John 4:13-15

WORSHIP! Sunday was another wonderful day, and the perfect conclusion to a most excellent week with our grandchildren.

I write/say this a lot, but it’s something that needs to be embraced by so many more people; so I’ll give voice once more to my refrain that there’s absolutely nothing in our experience of life that will not be markedly enhanced if only we make the simple decision to engage ourselves with a faith community, and make Sunday morning worship THE priority of every weekend.

I’m going to give that sentiment it’s own highlight box:

There’s absolutely nothing in our experience of life that will not be markedly enhanced if only we make the simple decision to engage ourselves with a faith community, and make Sunday morning worship THE priority of every weekend.

Ready for church

Our church family at Wake Forest Presbyterian is such an inspirational and an encouraging place to be. Both services of worship Sunday morning were bright, vibrant, life-affirming hours of praise, teaching, and affirmation.

After lunch – and with the children’s help – we searched every corner of Maul-Hall for grandchild detritus. Two small children sure can redefine the geography of a house! We’re fairly sure we found it all, then we transported our precious cargo to Richmond in time for supper and enjoyed their fond reunion.

KNOWLEDGE & LOVE: I think what struck Rebekah and I most about this past week was how completely relaxed, natural, and at ease David and Beks are with us. Having them close by in Richmond means that we are getting to know them so well. And – as Rebekah pointed out in her excellent message yesterday – deep knowledge and genuine love go hand in hand.

There is a burning desire in each one of us to know and to be known. Great relationships aren’t rooted in perfection, they are built on real knowledge.

at church

And, sadly, the inverse is true. When we fail to get to know other people, to listen to their stories, to take the trouble to understand who they are, and to invest in relationship… then we will never know and experience the quality of love Jesus charged the church with cultivating. The amazing thing about God’s love for us is that it is based on complete knowledge, and understanding of who we are. God knows us… and God loves us anyway.

Like the sign in Rebekah’s study reads: “Jesus knows me, this I love.”

The more we know our grandchildren, the deeper our experience of love. It’s just as true in the relationship Rebekah and I have with one another, and it’s such and ongoing truth in our community of faith.

To know God… and to be known by God. To know one another, and to be known. To listen, to understand, to learn, and to love. To live in community. – DEREK


More from Camp Grandparent!

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

DSC_0400First, I have to say that, yes, I do have some thoughts about the U.K., the European Union, and the results of yesterday’s BREXIT referendum. But all that is going to have to wait until I have the opportunity to do some more thoughtful writing. And I’m sure that’s not going to happen with “Camp Grandparent” still very much underway here at Maul Hall.

Instead, I’ll share this short series of photographs from the garden. The children love to help Rebekah with the watering, and of course they end up soaking each other as much as the plants.

As for putting together a post full with profound or inspirational thoughts… I really don’t see that happening until early next week!

Peace and blessings to you all – DEREK

when boredom is good for children!


With Day One of a six-day visit from our grandchildren under our belts, we’re already amazed at how fast they’re growing up and how everything changes from visit to visit.

They both soak up everything like sponges, learning and growing as a natural response to the abundant stimulation that is life.

Note he’s wearing his seat-belt!

A few days ago I read the summary of a new report from a team of developmental psychologists. They concluded that boredom is good for kids! What they meant, of course, is that over planning, over supervising, and over controlling children’s activities will deny them the conditions required for more imaginative, inventive, creative play.

This is not a new idea. As a parent, a teacher for two decades, and now a grandparent, I have seen this truth play out time and again. That’s why Rebekah and are a huge proponents of blocks, wooden trains, Legos, books, puzzles, art supplies etc. Anything and everything that doesn’t have a battery, buttons to push, require hands on supervision, or have too many specific instructions.

IT’s not the being bored part that’s good so much as it is the impetus to deal with the boredom in creative ways.

Right now, as I am writing, four-year-old David is asking me to solve a word problem for him. “I’ll let you figure that out for yourself,” I say. Less than a minute later he’s excitedly hopping up and down because he found the solution.

IMG_3222Children need to be constantly exposed to circumstances where they need to figure things out for themselves, where their play is exploratory and requires the application of imagination.

Back when our children were very young Andrew had a friend over. “I’m bored,” we heard the kid say, looking for someone to entertain him. “You don’t want to let my mama hear you say that,” we overheard Andrew reply. “That’s considered a crime in our house. She’ll make you wash windows or clean the bathroom.”

That was no exaggeration! We had visiting kids vacuuming, dusting, and more. “There’s never any excuse for being bored!” we’d say.

Use your imagination! Turn some boxes into a house! Make up stories! Figure something out.

This week we’re already enjoying a lot of creative play. Hopefully I’ll get to document some of it here.

Peace, always – DEREK