March 22, 2011, is a memorable date for our family. We celebrated my mom’s 85th birthday and rejoiced in the birth of our fourth grandchild.
On her 85th birthday, if each day of Mom’s story had represented one page, the novel of her journey would have been over 31,000 pages long. At that same time, page one of Emalynn Grace’s earthly story commenced. (A bit of trivia: Tolstoy’s War and Peace contains around 2000 pages.)
A variety of factors and a chorus of voices influence each person’s story.
Birth order is often a significant factor. My mother was the youngest of six, born when her mama was going through what was then known as the change of life. Emalynn is her parents’ firstborn.
The era and culture into which she is born influence each story. Mom was born on the cusp of the Great Depression, delivered at home by her father. Deep poverty marked her childhood years.
Emmi entered the world during an era of plenty. A planned, joyfully anticipated child, her birth occurred in a hospital delivery room with the aid of a well-educated obstetrician. She went home from the hospital to an adorable nursery, filled to capacity with every modern baby accessory and enough stuffed animals to populate a zoo.
Family of origin has a tremendous impact on our stories. The stories of our parents and grandparents help define our stories.
My mom’s mother—my Grandma Emma—was born soon after her parents immigrated from Norway to the United States. My great grandparents, like many immigrants, never learned to speak English.
My maternal grandfather’s father died when he was a young child. His widowed mother was forced to place her three children in foster homes. Grandpa’s cruel foster family took the young boy during the night to another state. They told him his mother didn’t want him. As a young teen, feeling unloved and abandoned, he ran away from the abusive situation. Grandpa lived much of his life with a heart full of deep holes. He was in his 70’s before he learned how much his mother loved him and grieved for him until her dying day.
Of course, my mom and siblings never knew their paternal grandparents. Mom recalls times when she was a little girl and went with her mom to visit the family’s Norwegian matriarch. If she sat quietly in the parlor while her mother and grandmother conversed in Norwegian, she was allowed to take one lemon drop from a candy dish before returning home.
Emalynn’s parents were raised by moms and dads, who, even though imperfect, had been raised in stable homes, were committed to their marriages and doted on their offspring.
Emmi will probably have memories of two sets of grandparents whose love may have been expressed in overly extravagant ways, but was genuine and oh, so deep.
Another determining factor in our story is the messages we hear and absorb. Every person responds uniquely to words and behaviors delivered by parents, siblings, teachers and peers. Verbal affirmations as well as verbal jabs have a way of adding joyful and tear-filled pages to our stories.
Many other factors contribute to each person’s life story, including:
- physical appearance
- formal and informal education
- cultural experiences
- abuse and trauma
- a plethora of interpersonal relationships
Some of my favorite stories are those whose earliest chapters may have seemed less than ideal, but because of some amazing intervention, the course of life changed. Sadness became gladness.
Tragedy transitioned into triumph.
Failure wasn’t final.
Empty places in the heart were filled.
Hopelessness turned into hopefulness.
My story and the stories of others featured in Listening on the Journey include happy, sad, long, and short chapters. Story lines are filled with laughter, success, tension, disappointment, failure, and sometimes tragedy. Like a well-written novel, plots and anticipated outcomes are sometimes turned upside down, creating drama and suspense.
pMost accounts I share are of women whose stories have been shaped—or altered—by their faith journey. As women whose faith is foundational, our stories all have an agreed-upon ending. Each of us is convinced the tale of our life will end with these words, “And, she lived happily ever after…in a heavenly home.”
And, because we also believe our ever-after life is eternal, we’ll never experience “The End.”
Listening on YOUR Journey:
- What factors have influenced your life story?
- What traits or patterns of behavior in your family of origin, including your parents, grandparents and even great grandparents, have helped—or hindered—you in the story of your life journey?
- How can you perpetuate and preserve the healthy, honorable heritage passed on to you?
- How can you change the trajectory of unhealthy patterns in order to diminish them in your life and in the lives of your children?
Note: Each person’s story is a treasure to me. I’m convinced every aspect of our earthly story has the potential for lovely and divine significance when we invite God to bring clarity and add meaning. The next few blogs will focus on a variety of stories. I hope in some small way these posts will help you connect ‘dots’ in your own story. I always appreciate your feedback.
Wishing you a story full of joyful and blessed chapters…
My beautiful mother, Kathryn, and adorable granddaughter, Emmi, share the same birthday.