Tuesday, January 28, 2020


You shall teach them diligently to 
 your children and talk of them 
 when you sit in your house...
(Deuteronomy. 6:7 ESV)

With the passing of my last female sibling in 2011, I assumed the title of Matriarch of my family.  At the time, I casually acknowledged the comments by nieces and nephews (some only a few years younger than myself) but didn't exactly relish the idea.  After all, to acquire it, someone had to die!  Not my idea of a prestigious honor!

I thought to myself, exactly what is the role of a Matriarch any way?  It doesn't guarantee you respect or special significance.  At least not in this day and age.  Yet, after awhile it dawned on me that I did indeed have an honored position within my family.

 I, along with a few others are the guardians of precious family jewels: the legacies, experiences and memories of deceased family members.  Who will impart these to the ones too young to remember? To relatives spread across the country who have only vague recalls of names from family reunions and funerals?

I must tell these stories!

Family story telling has been a passion of mine for decades.  I'm an avid but medium level genealogist who has been collecting family stories and anecdotes for decades.  It started with a college assignment that required a sit-down with my now deceased mother and father.  My mom sadly had no family stories to pass down.  She knew nothing about her mother who died when she was eight years old. She was raised by a step mother and her father (married at least three times) sired many children but rarely talked about his own parents.   

My dad however, a story teller himself, was eager to share.  He opened a treasure trove of family history to me and revealed for the first time in my life the names of my second and third great grandparents. They were fascinating people proud and resilient but I learned this only because I asked!

My introduction into the world of genealogy provided me with resources like the U.S. federal census, ancestry.com, family letters, bibles and recently DNA testing. I've learned more about my biological, cultural, and spiritual history than I could ever imagine.  And guess what?  I'm telling those stories every chance I get!

There's an old saying that goes like this: Everyone has a book in them, and in most cases that's where it should stay!  I totally disagree!  Many life lessons could be learned and quite a few mistakes avoided if we would simply tell our story!

In the realm of film and the theatrical arts, the most inspiring and noteworthy projects have been depictions of someone's life by skilled writers who knew how to tell a story!  In the Christian community the sharing of personal testimonies (simply telling your story) have led some to a saving grace in Jesus Christ; helped others to abandon harmful habits, reformed heinous criminals and birthed our greatest bible preachers and teachers.  How's that for impact!  

I truly believe that there would be less bigotry and hatred, more human compassion and less judgement cast on others if we simply knew the life stories of both the perpetrator and their victims. That's why one of my favorite forms of entertainment is reading biographies of interesting people or watching documentaries that dig deep into the story of people and their lives.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the Lord God Almighty chose the narrative of the bible to tell His story of magnanimous love for us!  Each of the sixty-six books gives us story after story of individuals and their families.  They tell of their origins, thought processes and emotions.  We hear of their triumphs and failures.  The circumstances that shaped their character and made them who they were, good or bad.

Our children are in peril of sinking into an identity or misidentifying crisis.  They don't know who they are.  I'm sure there are other factors that contribute to this sad reality, but it should not be because we haven't told them, who they belong to and where they come from!  

Moses in Deuteronomy, chapter six recounts for a new generation of Israelites, the story of God's favor and the failures of their fore parents who perished in the wilderness.  He was adamant in telling their stories to this new generation so they would not repeat generational sins.  In this portion called the Shema he instructs them:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

As you can see, Moses encouraged the elders to tell the story of their life journey at every occasion.  There's no special place or time.  Nothing formal or contrived.  Use casual conversations at meals; while in the car, or walking back and forth to an event.  Look for and seize teaching moments!

Here are some suggestions to help you get your story out there:

1.  Prepare a favorite food dish that everyone loves. Tell the family who taught you to fix it along with a special story that reminds you of that person.  If the person you chose did not teach you to make it, simply tell them why it brings back memories of them.

2.  Start journaling. From the first time I became a grandmother, I began a journal for each of my grandchildren.  I included pictures, wrote down my thoughts, prayers and aspirations for them at various stages of their lives along with a bit of my own life story.  When my eldest granddaughter graduated high school and went off to college, I gave her the journal.  I asked her about it recently (six years later) and she told me that she read it, appreciated it so much that for safe-keeping left it in her room at her parents' home.    

3. Research family history.  If you are interested in genealogy at all, let me encourage you to make the effort to put together a scrap book/note book that include at least the beginning of a family tree. Add any interesting information you' discovered about your family members. You will be surprised at what you find and where their lives have taken them.  I discovered two civil war veterans in my family; the names of three slave masters, and during reconstruction learned my great grandfather was a post master in Mississippi.  I also found out that a great uncle is part of Black American history and mentioned in several books and articles because he was a victim of KKK violence in Mississippi. 

 One of the first duties I performed as a Matriarch of my family was to self publish a book of all of my family research up to that point. I included a short biographical sketch of my parents, what I knew about their parents and one for each of my siblings.  At the next family reunion, I gave an oral presentation and gifted a copy of the book to the eldest child of each of my siblings so they would know a bit of their parents' story and perhaps add to it their own. 

4. Share your salvation testimony.  This is by far the best way to allow your family get to know you in a very real way.  This is not the time to preach to them or judge them on behavior you disapprove of.  This is simply telling them about your life before Christ, when and how you met Christ and the changes this has made since.

You may think that your life is not worth talking about because you feel it has been very ordinary.  Perhaps you have no significant achievements or accolades you think are worth sharing with others.  You would be absolutely wrong!  What you might think is mundane or ordinary could be extraordinary to someone else.  We often down play this gift God calls life but every day brings with it,  stories of His grace, mercy and benevolence.  Don't be shy, don't belittle it.  Tell your story!

 Here's a powerful quote I came across recently: 

"Tell the story of the mountains
 you climbed.  Your words
 could be a page in someone else's
survival guide."

-Morgan Harper Nichols


If you would like to leave a comment please send an email to: sisters4sisters@att.net OR  scroll to the bottom of my blog page at  http://alittlewiser63.blogspot.com  click on the no comments by the pencil and it will change to a writing space. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey in researching your family history. I too have been thinking about checking into mine. There s so little hope know. I think it’s important our children and grandchildren know about their family. Thank you.