Guest post from author Dandi Daley Mackall.
When I was a kid, my two favorite words were: “’Member when?” Those words always led to the greatest adventures, true stories populated with my own relatives facing real-life conflict. My mom had eleven brothers and sisters, who married and gave me about a million cousins, or so it seemed whenever we’d travel to Grandma’s. While the grownups took their rightful places around the long dining room table, we kids ate in the kitchen, knowing that on the other side of the swinging door stories were about to unfold. I rarely ate. I’d press my ear to that door and listen. Sooner or later, Uncle Walt or Aunt Vin would talk my grandmother into remembering, and off we’d go: “I remember when we crossed the great ocean to America. I was just a girl, but my job was to keep the little Nativity safe. I slept with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus under my pillow. When I got sick off the side of the deck during rough waves, I clutched the little Nativity to my chest, never letting it go.”
That Nativity was the only thing I asked for when cousins divided my grandparents’ worldly goods. It had cost less than a dollar in the Old Country, and isn’t worth much more than that today, but the memory it evokes is priceless. I remember the day my daughter asked me about the old, plastic Nativity and the way she listened when I began, “I ‘member when my grandma . . ..” And just the other day, my six-year-old granddaughter asked about the “Baby Jesus in a Manger,” and my daughter tossed me a smile, then began, “I ‘member when . . ..”
We need to pass along memories and stories. The Bible commands us to remember—257 times! God created us and knows our weaknesses, our tendency to forget his miracles and mercies, his kindness and faithfulness. But God has also created our minds to understand through story. That’s how Jesus taught, through stories, parables.
Do your children know how you met your spouse? Have you shared with them how you came to Christ? How God saw you through the toughest time in your life? The miracle of that child’s birth? Psalm 78 urges us to tell our stories to our children:
1 O my people, listen to my teaching. Open your ears to what I am saying. 2-3 For I will show you lessons from our history, stories handed down to us from former generations. 4 I will reveal these truths to you so that you can describe these glorious deeds of Jehovah to your children and tell them about the mighty miracles he did. 5 For he gave his laws to Israel and commanded our fathers to teach them to their children, 6 so that they in turn could teach their children too. Thus his laws pass down from generation to generation. 7 In this way each generation has been able to obey his laws and to set its hope anew on God and not forget his glorious miracles.
‘Member when Joshua had to lead the Israelites across the raging Jordan River and into the Promised Land? Before he set foot in the Jordan, Joshua ‘membered when Moses had to lead them all through the Red Sea, dividing the waters so they could walk through on dry ground. Remembering God’s faithfulness to Moses strengthened Joshua’s faith. And after he’d led the Israelites safely across the Jordan, he had a plan to help them remember:
5 Each of you is to carry out a stone on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes. 6 We will use them to build a monument so that in the future, when your children ask, ‘What is this monument for?’ 7 you can tell them, ‘It is to remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of God went across!’ The monument will be a permanent reminder to the people of Israel of this amazing miracle.” Joshua 4
My grandmother’s Nativity is a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness, a “set-up,” so my children and grandchildren would ask about it, and I could tell the story of God’s faithfulness. We can build our own remembrances—a picture of a wrecked car, with the unharmed passengers leaning on the twisted bumper; a rock from a spot where you met God in a new way; the ultrasound of your child’s birth. We need reminders.
Share your stories. Build your own memorials. ‘Member when …”
Dandi Daley Mackall is the award-winning author of over 450 books for children and adults. Some of her beloved titles include My Bible Animals Storybook and the Winnie the Horse Gentler, Backyard Horses, and Starlight Animal Rescue series. You can visit her website at www.dandibooks.com or on Facebook or Twitter.