“Stay Beautiful, Golden Child” – a poem

“Stay Beautiful, Golden Child” – a poem

A  departure for me. Poetry. Free verse. It seemed to pour out of a place that was quite clear about the fact that this post needed to be more along the lines of poetry.

Our grandson, David, five years old, newly “graduated” from preschool yet still so completely sweet and vulnerable. Ready for school but not ready; at least not me, I’m not nearly ready.

So here is the poem:

Stay Beautiful, Golden Child (the last day of preschool):

Stay beautiful, golden child.
A child so gentle, tenderhearted, kind;
    Thoughtful beyond your years.
Polite to a fault; considering how others feel; 
      Emotional savant.
Open spirited, vulnerable.

Stay beautiful, golden child.
You love your friends;
    Not nearly ready to say goodbye at the end,
    The moment too poignant for you to bear;
Your heart open, perched right there on your sleeve.
     Your speech so polite, so quaint, so formal:
    "Grandaddy, it was so good of you to come
    All the way here from North Carolina for my graduation!"

Stay beautiful, golden child.
You play with such abandon;
    You feel so deeply;
    You resist what you believe is injustice with deep passion;
    You cry because your feelings cannot be contained;
    You become frustrated because you do not understand.
So pure.
  So raw.
    So open.
      So accessible.
        So tender.
So beautiful. So golden.

You have soared through pre-K,
    And you are ready for school, so ready to learn.
But are we ready for you to learn what we know?
    Can we release you now to know and perhaps experience
    And broken relationships,
    And pain?
This world needs you, David.
    This world needs your sweet spirit.
    But our need is for you to remain unbroken.

Stay beautiful, golden child....

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.


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

“5-photo Monday”

img_5519-001You show me the path of life.
    In your presence there is fullness of joy;
    in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.Psalm 16:11

Happy Monday, friends! I pray that your new week is full with promise, possibility, and anticipation. Each new day is a gift that we can unwrap with care and with gratitude.

I took the grandkids back to Richmond Saturday afternoon, but our house is still echoing with the residue of their irrepressible enthusiasm for life. In fact so is my car, as we listened to The Beatles’ White Album at full volume for most of the drive – David and Beks loved it!

So I scrolled through my photos to find a few particularly share-worthy images and came up with the following.

Baking Bread with Grandmama:

img_5487Making biscuits is a “thing” here at Maul-Hall. Rebekah still makes the old family recipe buttermilk biscuits and the children absolutely love getting their hands in the dough.

It’s not just the mess they make, but the complete experience with Rebekah. She tells them family stories; she lets them get involved in the process; she trust them with tasks most kids that age don’t get close to. It’s the classic “grandmama experience,” with the uniquely wonderful Rebekah twist to it. Simply put, the children can’t get enough of being immersed in grandmama Rebekah.

And the biscuits – for all the extra pummeling they receive, and the general loss of mass to the floor – they taste wonderful. They do every time. A couple of dozen went home to Richmond, then the balance… well, they’ve mostly disappeared now too.

The Park with Great-grandmama Grace:

img_5511My mum – a.k.a. Great-grandmama Grace – is always up for a walk to the park, Especially now the late September weather has given us hope for the fall. So David and Beks “help” her up the hill, and then she delights in watching them run around with joy and abandon. And so do I.

“I’m the princess,” Beks announced. “And David is the king.”

“Couldn’t David be the prince,” I asked, not intending to cause controversy, “and you reign as Queen Beks?”

“NOOOOOOOOO!” Beks yelled, her eyes blazing, clearly not open to my ideas of gender equality. “I’M THE PRINCESS!”

So the princess spent a quick couple of minutes in the penalty box before play resumed.

The bookstore with mommy:

img_5543This is the prize photo of the group. It was taken in Richmond Sunday afternoon, by our daughter Naomi, at one of the bookstores.

I’ve written before about how pleased I am with our grandchildren’s love of reading. They are both enthusiastic, on top of their letters, sounding out words.

I love how the picture books stimulate their imaginations. David may be recognizing more and more words, but he sees all the stories in the pictures, not just the ones the author suggests with the sentence or two. Both of them have fertile, active, and engaged imaginations.

And they concentrate. I have spent upwards of an hour reading with Beks. Then she’ll go another hour on her own. A book in her lap; one pinned under her leg; a couple more stashed behind her back!


So I pray that your Monday launches this week with joy, with confidence in God, and with the conviction that all things are possible for those who believe.

They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” – Mark 10:26-27




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

baking bread and making memories


Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:9

IMG_1443I may have had a career in exceptional education for a couple of decades; but the natural teacher in this family is Rebekah. I love to see her with the grandchildren, where every other instance is a teachable moment.

So this weekend they’re here with us again for an overnight; just around 30-hours. But there’s no way even such a short visit is going to be anything but filled to the brim with fun and history and learning.

David and Beks especially enjoy “Making bread with Grandmama.” Rebekah doesn’t hold back, and the experience is most definitely every kind of tactile, with flour going every-which-way and then some in the kitchen.

The children sit at the stone counter, up to their elbows in flour – then eventually dough – and Rebekah regales them with stories about their mother, stories from her own childhood, stories of their great-grandmama, and their great-great grandmother too – all custodians of the chain of knowledge that not only yields perfect angel biscuits, but passes on faith and family lore.

IMG_1459Measuring, sifting, mixing, kneading, resting, kneading some more, rolling out, cutting, covering, waiting, baking, eating, retelling the stories.

LIVE THE STORY! But we don’t just tell stories in our family, we live them. We live into this great narrative called The Greatest Story Ever Told; we pass on love and knowledge to our children and our grandchildren; we practice, we act out, we live faith out loud; we review, we do, and we teach again.

“Don’t just listen, children, ‘practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace WILL be with you’” (Philippians 4:9).

love wins; bigotry destroys us


The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them. – Isaiah 11:6

Rebekah and I are enjoying a serendipitous couple of days with our daughter Naomi, her husband Craig, and our wonderful grandchildren. It’s still a regular work week, but enormous fun to have them around.

Who can complain when breakfast on the deck is interrupted by a two-year-old and a four-year-old in pajamas?

dancing with grandmama

For me, in the middle of a contentious – and, frankly, disturbing – national election cycle, interludes such as this help to keep everything in perspective. On the one hand I am reminded of what we are putting at risk when we allow ourselves to become polarized by factionalism to this extent; and on the other I am comforted by the conviction that – at the heart of this nation – we must understand what is truly important.

LOVE = POWER: So I have to underscore (my grandkids underscore) the critically important truth that love is the most powerful force on this planet.

It wasn’t hate that led Jesus to the cross, it was love; it wasn’t exclusion that brought hope to a broken world, it was grace; it isn’t punishment that brings us into the Kingdom, it is mercy.

Watching these children renews my conviction that we will never know peace and unity until we learn that bullying, hate, bigotry, exclusion, and fear only lead to deeper conflict, disillusion, mistrust, and greater fear.

PAX ROMANA: This coming weekend we will celebrate Palm Sunday. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a symbol of peace, surrounded by children waving palm branches, his heart wide open, inviting all into the Kingdom of God. Meanwhile, the Roman governor rode in the other side of the city, surrounded by armed soldiers charged with enforcing the brutal pax Romana, an oppressive machine designed to enrich the bloated plutocracy via fear, exclusion, and the projection of Roman power.

1915738_10153642644938710_1325248694163037102_nToday, two thousand years later, the only message that offers hope and promotes the American ideal of “One nation, under God… indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is the message I read clearly when I worship God in a church full of people with open hearts; when I cast my ballot because I believe, not because I fear; and when I hold my grandchildren and look into a future where we remember that light always defeats darkness and love is the strongest power in the Universe….

A truth – and a future – not only worth voting for – but living into with every fiber of our being – DEREK




life = curiosity, and grace, and joy

 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:25-26

chalk and fun with grandmama

What a great scripture to start the day! Thanks, Bible Gateway.

It’s been a busy morning so far around Maul-Hall, thanks to the presence of Ms. Beks. Oh, she’s nothing but joy, but it’s a full-contact, constant attention quality of joy. Right now, for example, she’s sitting in my lap right here at the computer. Tough to find the right keys!

Our granddaughter woke up well before we were ready to get breakfast, but she quite happily sat in her bed with an armful of books. Two and a half is a wonderful age, so full with curiosity, and grace, and joy.

  • “CURIOSITY, and GRACE, and JOY!” Listen up, presidential candidates, pay attention to the kids, and learn to approach this life – and your relationship to this world – with a little more curiosity, and grace, and joy!

Now she’s reminding me about my promise to go to the park, and outside it’s 65-degrees and sunshine; it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Enjoy a few photos and stay tuned for a more substantial blog post later in the day…

… Or maybe not!

“He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast!”

A miserable heart means a miserable life; but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. – Proverbs 15:15

IMG_0314-001JOY! Late Thursday morning I drove up to South Hill in Virginia for our favored “grandchild exchange” venue. Cracker Barrel is a good place for lunch, and it’s a great place meet halfway between here and Richmond. It seems like every time I eat at a Cracker Barrel, corporate has removed one more of my favorite menu items; but so long as the “David and Beks Special” is included, we’ll keep coming back!

This time around Beks gets her own solo trip to North Carolina. Naomi and David went to Connecticut on their own, Craig stayed in Richmond to work, and Beks gets primo grandparent time here in Wake Forest. It’s pretty much win-win-win-win.

IMG_0326-001METAPHYSICS: Beks is two and a half now, and she’s a lot of fun. Reading is still her number one activity, and she always has an extra book tucked away under one arm. But there’s been coloring, imagination with the toy animals, “watching grandaddy cook” (she loves the kitchen), and a constant chatter of conversation.

Logistically, one child in the house is much more than one less than two. With kids it’s less math and more metaphysics.

And of course Beks is in love with her Grandmama. Rebekah tells great stories, and Beks laughs this deep belly laugh. We’ve been trying to keep Rebekah quiet this week to help recover  her lost voice. What she retrieved Monday through Wednesday, however, she gave right back to Rebekah via books and stories!

IMG_0323-001REAL JOY! This morning in my men’s Bible study we talked about the difference between happiness and joy. This weekend Rebekah and I are getting a full dose of both.

Beks is hanging around for a week. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

“A miserable heart means a miserable life; but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” – Proverbs 15:15




innocence, grandchildren, trust, and perfection in love

innocence, grandchildren, trust, and perfection in love


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars… – 1 john 4:18-20

IMG_5374Sunday morning it snowed hard between services, Rebekah preached a remarkable sermon on a very difficult subject (more on that just as soon as I can also post a link to the message on-line), and then Naomi showed up with David and Beks to surprise their grandmama.

I knew in advance, of course, because Naomi wanted to make sure I’d be cooking her favorite spaghetti for supper.

TAKEOVER! It still amazes me how completely two small beings can take over an entire house. But then after a short while it always settles back down to building and books. David is the engineer, and Beks already seems to be well on the way to her PhD in children’s literature.

Our granddaughter enters the house with book in hand, has another tucked under her arm when she’s reading, and goes to sleep with one or more within reach. It’s a beautiful thing.

IMG_5366-001At bedtime, it’s already tradition to don pajamas, brush teeth, then meet Grandmama in “the most comfortable bed in the world” for one last story – or three – before settling down for the night. You can see in the photo how Beks is actually reading her own while listening to Rebekah tell the story. They’re miniature Beatrix Potter volumes, dubbed “my cute little books” by Beks.

What I love the most is the complete, nothing held back, gut-level love our grandchildren show us. They’re not perfect little angels, but they are innocent in the sense that they are untainted by cynicism, suspicion, negativity, and the eroding of trust that can be so damaging to human beings – and our relationships – as we move out into the world.

WHAT WE’RE GIVEN BACK WHEN WE TRUST IN JESUS: Watching my grandchildren makes me realize what we are given back when we learn to approach God again because we have learned to trust in Jesus.

What we’re given back is our innocence; and in exchange:

  • we must leave our cynicism behind,
  • we must abandon our tendency toward negativity,
  • and we must embrace the invitation to love with nothing held back.

IMG_5128I’ll give you one thought from Rebekah’s sermon yesterday morning, and it comes from the pen of John. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:18)

Perfection in love. Now there’s a theology that speaks hope into a world defined by cynicism and mistrust.