Last week I traveled back more than a hundred years as I sat in our dining room. I saw grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and lots of other people that I’m somehow related to. My mother’s cousin, Tom, had spent more than a year planning a family reunion, and I was helping organize a notebook full of family photos and history for the event.
There’s Alice, who worked so hard on her family’s farm. She gave birth to eight children, but lost one at birth, one in her teens, and one in her thirties, and then lost her husband in a tragic incident. My mother gave me my Great-Grandma Alice’s simple gold wedding band one Christmas. I loved wearing it. It flew off my hand during a water fight on the beach one fall, and I never found it.
There’s Hawley, one of Alice’s five children who lived to old age, my hard-working, frugal, gentle, never-spoke-a-harsh-word- grandpa, who worked the farm in his youth, established his own business in his prime years, and devoted the last years of his life to quietly caring for his wife.
There’s his brother, Chet, who outlived three wives. He came a couple weeks short of celebrating his 100th birthday and died just one day before his little brother, my grandpa, died.
There’s Robert who came from Scotland, and Phoebe who left North Dakota in her eighties to come to Oregon with her widowed daughter to claim land and start a new life.
I was grateful as I sifted through old photos and family trees. I’m a branch on a tree. Other branches and roots – the lives of my ancestors – still nourish my branch and the new branches that grow from it. Their choices, their responses to the trials God brought into their lives, their work ethic and their courage – all those things have influenced my life in some way.
I may not be able to measure it. I may not know most of their stories. But their lives, somehow, are part of mine. And my life is part of the lives of generations to come. What I do with my life will affect theirs. What I teach my children today will affect the lives of my great-grandchildren many years from now.
And what a testimony to God’s grace! In spite of the inevitable mistakes made by those who came before me, in spite of my own mistakes, God is still at work in our family. I can do my best, by His grace, and relax. He is the one who planted this “tree” and continues to cause it to grow. He redeems our mistakes and turns them around for His glory and for our good. Thank God. He uses us, but it’s not all up to us!