Just over a year ago, my sweet mama had a stroke that left her with an impaired memory. Events of her recent past have been erased, causing her to struggle in her understanding of the present.
What she does remember, though, are stories from her past that I have never heard before. The pain of loss is tempered when I hear the tales of my mother’s childhood and sweet memories of her growing up years. My parents were not big story tellers, and so until now, many of the things I’ve learned about my family have come because I ask a lot of questions.
“I think it’s most unfair that the teacher should always have to ask all the questions. And I’m hoping that you’ll be enthusiastic enough about my class that you will pepper me with questions.” Miss Stacy~~Anne of Green Gables
Maybe it’s because I’m learning to appreciate my past that I am growing even more curious about the stories that shaped it.
My husband is a gifted story-teller. He delights our grandchildren with stories that cause them to sit in wide-eyed wonder, squeal with delight, and beg for “one more story, Pappy!” He loves to tell Bible stories of course, but stories of Nana and Pappy dating or events from their parent’s childhood are a big part of his repertoire. Some of the favorites, of course, are the made-up silly stories that have been repeated for the second generation of our family. Stories that their parents could tell with precision because they’ve heard them so many times.
Just the other day my youngest was surprised to hear a story from our past, insisting that he had never heard it before. I assured him that the story had been told many times, but that apparently he wasn’t too interested until now. Stories that we repeated in everyday life situations–not “sit down and pay attention to me” moments.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9
One of my favorite Christmas stories from childhood is of the year we had a big snowstorm, delaying gifts that were ordered through the mail. A highlight of the season was when the Sears and Roebuck Christmas catalog arrived and each of us would take a turn scanning the beautiful pages, marking the toys we wanted most with our name. This particular year what I most wanted was a Chrissy doll. This was no ordinary doll–she was bigger than a Barbie and she could talk and had growing hair! I thought that was the most beautiful doll I’d ever seen.
Only she didn’t arrive due to the snowstorm. On Christmas morning, my sweet, desperate mother penned a special letter direct from Chrissy: “Please be patient, I am on my way! I’ve been trapped in this awful snow storm and most certainly will arrive by your birthday!” (Dec. 30) In an attempt to pacify the longing in her little girl’s heart, she had done all she could to make the best out of the situation.
And she made a memory.
I don’t remember anything else I got that year–or most of the years before. It was the story of a Christmas that was not quite what it was supposed to be–or was it? Maybe it was supposed to happen for a reason. Maybe the absence of a gift provided the way for a story to be remembered.
God gave us memories for a reason. Not only does He want us to remember the stories of our past–and from history, but He gifts us with memories so we can share the lessons learned in the process. So many in the world (even those who are Christian) see the Bible as the history book that it is–but it is so much more than that. The story of God’s redeeming work through the ages is more than educational–it is practical. There had to be thousands of stories from history that He could have preserved, but these are the ones He chose for us, each one carrying a significant meaning. From lessons to learn, to things we should avoid, or wisdom that guides in our daily living–
The Truth of God’s Word is a story worth telling.
I am so thankful that momma’s stroke didn’t take her from us. Some of the stories she tells will be passed down to future generations. Her legacy of love and her faith in God despite her circumstances will be a living testimony long after she’s gone.
And stories will keep the memories alive.
Don’t forget that this Christmas. The story of the nativity pre-empts any other. The reason for the season. The gift of His story, meant to be passed down from one generation to the next, is the greatest gift of all.