11 December 2014

What can the Past tell you about the Future?

I have always loved stories from the past.
 Even as a kid, I had a wild imagination and
 loved to imagine people who had
 great or terrible adventures.....
all from things such as an unpaid electric bill stuck in the bricks of a fireplace mantle.....
or a letter left unanswered.

I was absolutely sure,
 back when I was eleven or twelve, 
that some poor relation of mine had met his demise at the hands of a ruthless 
kidnapper or somesuch.  

I held objects in my hands while my grandmother told me about the people who had owned them....touched them....made them.

Now, genealogy has become a fad....researching your ancestors is big business....show business, even.....and it is becoming easier and easier to find information on the internet.  

I, for one, am happy about that....and I can finally put more names and sometimes faces with those names with which I am already familiar.

My favorite documents to read, aside from old letters, journals and diaries.....are census records and old newspapers.

You can get quite a picture of life if you read them carefully and use your imagination.  

My husband's grandfather used to tell about 
his grandmother....
the one he was always afraid to visit.

 I heard other family members tell about her and say she'd have her shotgun on the porch to scare off unwanted visitors....

I admit, I imagined that she looked exactly like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. 

Then I found old census records and
 began to read them.....
and I realized some things. 
 She was ten years old at the start of the Civil War.  She was one of the youngest of about
 a dozen children.  

Nearly all of her older brothers fought in that war.  One of them survived the infamous 
Andersonville Prison. 

 Her husband fought in the war.  
Her child died at a young age. 

 I began to imagine not only her growing up years through such turmoil, 
but to imagine her mother living through it,
 and as a mom whose son has been to war in the 21st century, I cannot imagine
 how it must have been to have several sons scattered across the country, 
let alone, trying to raise a young girl in such uncertain times.

Recently, I found some old newspaper articles written when this grandmother was an old woman.  She was asked to reflect upon her life.  
I did not hear the voice of a "mean grandma" but of a woman who had lived much. 

 I realized that, to a child, many things can be scary and the stories that get handed down may not be the most accurate ones.  

All we have to go by, are the the things left behind by those who lived before us.  
A name in a marriage certificate here, 
an advertisement in a newspaper there......
and that is only if someone takes
 the time to go looking.

Occasionally, I find that an ancestor
 was a member of such-and-such an organization.....
or a church.....
or the pastor of a church.....
but, does that tell me who they were?  

Not really.

Does it matter?  
Apparently, it does to many people.  

Ancient cultures like the Chinese and the Jews kept detailed genealogy records. 

 European monarchs and the peerage did as well.....it was deadly serious to know who had a legal claim to things like thrones.  

Many cultures had, and still have, systems for naming the children in families, 
so there is no mistaking whose child someone is and even the order of their birth.

But what about today?  

In the Western culture?  
Where children are often named after celebrities or fruit or a Scrabble bag of mixed letters?  

How will anyone sort it out when,
 while we have the internet and a veritable information overload, 
we also have all sorts of privacy roadblocks knowing all the while that, 
nothing in life is ever private anymore?

Like I said, chasing the paper trail can give clues and if read carefully, 

can even tell a story.....but.....
what does it all mean?

People everywhere have this desire 
to KNOW.  

We want to know where we came from.  

What our people were like.  

Did they do great things? 

Did they make a difference in the world? 
 Will we?

Sometimes if we know the past,
 we can understand more about ourselves 
and why our parents and grandparents
 did things the way they did. 
 We can understand better why 
we do certain things and even why we enjoy certain things.  

But mostly, we need to know that somewhere in the billions of people on the earth, 
we belong. 

That, there is a connection that runs all the way back to the very beginning of time.  

That we matter

We have a record of the beginning of time.  
It is the Bible.  
The book that records the Genesis of the world.  
The first people, from whom all of us are descended.  

About the worldwide flood that God sent as a judgment over mankind and wiped out everyone and everything except for pairs of every kind of animal and birds and 8 people.  

So the record begins again 
with one family tree.....

and then there is the record of mankind
 not being obedient to spread all over the earth
 and so God confused their language.....

and so now the descendants of those eight people saved from the flood, become multiple people groups all over the globe.

Then out of all of those peoples and the cultures they developed, God chose a man and
 made from his family, a nation.
  God chose Abram and renamed him Abraham.  He used this man and his descendants 
to bless the whole world.

Because, it was from the nation of Israel,
 that God sent His Son,

Who is God and Man and Perfect and Sinless.  

Jesus, who fulfilled the Law and 
paid for our sins and 
gave us Grace.

Jesus, whose life, death and resurrection, 
gave us a new family, 
the Church....
who gives salvation to all who call upon 
the name of the Lord.  

They are a new family.  

One that will last forever.

There are several genealogies in the Bible.  
God's word is not an ordinary book.  
He has a reason for every word.  
There is a reason for including every name.

On one family tree I am working on, I currently have over 180 names spanning 
nine generations that are documented.  
On another I have over 300 names with many more generations that I am currently documenting.  

Each name represents a person.  
A person who was real, who lived, breathed, loved, laughed, grieved, and died. 

 If they are my ancestors, 
we share DNA and physical traits and
 talents and quirks and failings. 

We may even share a Savior. 

 Each name I now have on a family tree,
 is a name that God knew before
 it was given to them.

 Today,  we are leaving a record that tells the world who we are.  
Things like Facebook...
and Twitter....and Pinterest.....and Blogs.

What will it be like if there are archived
 Facebook Timelines or Twitter feeds
 one hundred years from now?  

Can you imagine people searching databases pulling up old statuses or blogs?

 What will our descendants think 
about the people we were?  

I am not criticizing social media, 
but let me say this.....
are you leaving a record that
 will give a good idea of who you are now to someone nine generations in the future? 

I know a young lady who wrote her salvation testimony and put it on Facebook. 
 I advised her to print it and keep it in a safe place for her future children and grandchildren.

Researching the past, and the lives of those who share blood with my family, has made me realize that life in the past was difficult....
very difficult.  

That somehow they either had strength to get through with grace or they gave in or gave up.  

That because of disease and war and poverty, 
it is a miracle we are even here.  

That God truly does have a perfect plan and He moves people both literally and spiritually to become real family.  

Are you in His family? 


  1. Thank you, Marylou.....so glad you are in my "forever family".

  2. Oh, how nice. You know, I don't know if future generations will know as much about us as we are able to discover about past generations because everything is electronic and everyone does not see the value in archives. It is so easy to press the delete button and eliminate tons of info. But we are all are part of God's family and we have the Holy Bible to trace our divine beginnings. Let's hope everyone continues the fascination with discovering their histories. This history buff sure hopes so.

    1. I'm actually finding it easier to locate stuff with the electronic age.....everything is getting put online and it is stored in a server somewhere......to me that is a goldmine....less physical driving around...and the current fascination, as you put it, is making it big business and big opportunity.

  3. This is such a lovely and thought-provoking post, Deborah. I have always wanted to research my family history more in depth. My mother's great grandmother was part Cherokee indian and I always have found it fascinating that someone in my family was on the Trail of Tears. You are right, though, that there is one family that truly matters and I am so thankful to be part of it.

    1. Wouldn't it be nice if we could really get to know those ancestors? Not just what they went through but their spiritual legacy as well.....I mean.....how many generations back did a praying grandmother or grandfather pray for the future family members? I guess we might get to find out in heaven some day.

  4. I really loved this post! I think often about the lives of those who came before us, its sometimes strange to look at a grandparent and think about just how much life lives in their hearts, how much has past and what they've done in the past! I also struggle with leaving a legacy, rather than living out a life on social media, and how posting everything about our childrens lives could affect them looking back in the future! Thank you for sharing your heart, you gave me a lot to ponder, and your post is beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Stacy. Every decade is a milestone for me to enable me to have new insights into the lives of those generations in history. An example....I read The Hiding Place to my kids about 20 years ago. At the time I was reading it, my mom was about the same age as Corrie tenBoom when she was arrested. I tried to imagine if it were mom being arrested....what it would be like for her physically and emotionally, etc....Now, I am that age.....and I have shown a documentary of the same story to my younger kids.....and all the while knowing that it is likely Corrie felt the way I would now....so....we do not realize that the older generations were our age once....and it makes me ponder as well.

  5. We have slowly been learning more about our history as well. I'm glad my dad is interested in genealogy or it would probably be lost on us. I also agree with Stacy- I want to leave a legacy (both in how I live and a written one), that isn't based on me living plugged in. It becomes an idol and distracts us from God and our families. All those experiences you mentioned though, show that God has a plan. That this isn't random but our world is full of beautiful design. Our past can teach us so much about our future. It is interesting hearing more of your family history as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Kristi. The assurance that God is in control of everything gives me great comfort in these unsettled days. I am constantly amazed at how He lets us be part of it.