We did not know our story.

We did not know that our father was the ninth child of a farming family—spoiled by sisters old enough to mother him. We did not know how hard they worked, or how hard they loved, or how they had their very own salt cave. We didn’t know that our uncle—dad’s oldest brother–had been a prisoner of war, didn’t know how the family would sit around the radio in the evenings and listen for news, or how one of the few times my grandpa spanked my father was during one such listening when he—small one that he was—would not be quiet.

We didn’t know.

We didn’t know what a perfectionist our grandmother was, how she wouldn’t let her sister-in-law work on her quilts, or how she made extra money making rugs out of rags. We didn’t know how she wasted away from the cancer—how she waited too long.

We didn’t know our grandfather loved a fast car, or how he would shift the thing into neutral at the top of the hill and see just how far he could coast.

We didn’t know that our mother’s father had been married one time before. That he buried his first wife as a young man–that he buried his heart with her. We didn’t know that mom’s mother—our grandmother—had two children out of wedlock before she met our grandfather. Or that he used to beat her when he’d had too much to drink.

We didn’t know that he’d been a coalminer, a gravedigger, or anything else that would put food on the table. We didn’t know how he ran around and when his own wife died of cancer it was my mother that cared for her until the end.

We didn’t know.

We didn’t know our roots ran tangled all over this place. We thought we were untethered…alone. No one told us otherwise.

When I would sink deep in sorrow, grieving our lack of story, I would hug the Bible to my chest and take heart from knowing I was part of a Bigger Story. That I have this Father–whose story started time–and these brothers and sisters and these ancestors in faith. Oh, yes, that is a rich heritage.

And it was these roots—the faith ones—that gave me courage to ask.

On my grandpa’s 98th birthday, I started asking. And people sent stories. Pages and pages–written in long hand, emailed, spoken into my tape recorder at the family reunion, or laughed over and rapidly scribbled down later.

I learned how my grandpa lost his big toe (I didn’t know he was missing one). And how my dad loved candy as a boy. I read letters from my uncle, written while he was serving our country. I poured over wedding photos and aged family snapshots.

With each story collected, I was planted anew. My roots plowed deeper, weaving through the soil of the past until the dust quarried from my blood recognized the curling, twisting roots of these others.

Our stories are intertwined—we share the same blood.

I don’t know why, but it mattered.

And I stand here today with faith roots and family roots anchoring me deep—steeping me strong against the storms of life—and I know…

A story has to begin somewhere.


Don’t hoard it, keep it to yourself, be ashamed, or too sad to tell.Wrap arms around your sweetest, stare long into the fire and tell of your days gone by. Tell of legs strong for running, of favorite pets and bicycle ramps, tell of the lasts, but especially the firsts: first kiss, first car, first broken heart, first loss…



Every life a ripple

Jesus…said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. —Mark 5:19-20 


  1. says

    What a beautiful story. It is all about stories. When we stop telling the story, the story does not continue. Our Bible was an oral story before anything was written down. We must tell our children these stories and encourage them to do the same. Thanks Laura.

  2. says

    I love the telling! And our kids love it, too. I figure it was given to us for some reason, and we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves.

    Now, I love to hear the stories my boys tell of “days gone by”… It’s neat to see what they remember, what touched them.

    Love the story, love the photos, Laura.

  3. says

    Oh yes Laura. I have heard some of the stories more times than I can count, and I still love to hear them.
    We have added something new in the past few years. The grands sit around us when we visit, ready for bed and wanting Papa to tell them the stories they’ve heard a dozen times before about when he was a little boy smack dab in the middle of four brothers. They laugh in all the right places and sit quietly in wonder. It is so good.

  4. says

    My absolute favorite thing to do at our family gatherings is to sit and listen to all the stories people tell. It’s even better than the Mississippi Mud Cake my Aunt Patricia brings!

    Wonderful post!

  5. says

    We need this so much! Our culture is tossed back and forth because we don’t see past the present generation. I am praying for Patriarchs and Matriarchs to be raised up, to anchor the future generation to who they are and why it matters. Thank you for such a beautiful telling.

  6. says

    I agree. My father did tell his war story finally and I got bits and pieces from mother, but I wish I’d gotten more. Still, we have all that and so do my children and grandchildren, and so on.
    Beautiful,poignant post.

  7. says

    Author Alex Haley said, “The death of an old person is like the burning of a library.” Once they’re gone, all those stories are gone with them. So glad you had an opportunity to gather some of yours. Not until after his death did I learn that my uncle dropped paratroopers ahead of the Normandy invasion. And I sat across the table from him every Sunday in my childhood. Yes–tell our stories, and listen to those of others. Loved this.

  8. says

    Love this, thank you 🙂

    i have always enjoyed hearing stories… it’s the telling of stories that tells of us.

    and while the point is to share it so that we can be enriched in the telling and in the hearing… i love that in the absence of the little stories there is truth, too:

    “I would hug the Bible to my chest and take heart from knowing I was part of a Bigger Story. That I have this Father–whose story started time–and these brothers and sisters and these ancestors in faith. Oh, yes, that is a rich heritage.”

  9. says

    you tell it so, so well, laura. i read as though a good book, and i didn’t want it to end. and yes, teh fact that he knows it already–he knows our story, and yet, he loves us. he loves all of us, every part of us, every broken, shattered, bruised part. and he waits to quietly put it all together again. his kingdom comes in your words tonight, laura. thank you. a beautiful post. e. xo

  10. says

    Beautifully written…
    we all have stories.
    Some are for sharing publicly and some are for sharing privately but they should be shared.
    I am learning this lesson over and over … thank you for teaching it to me again.

  11. says

    Ahhh yes . . . we all have those stories . . . and it’s stepping out of our box in faith to share them.

    Thank you for sharing yours.

    It’s my first time joining Imperfect Prose and visiting you!

  12. says

    Story is at the heart of who we are… only we are the most qualified to tell it. It’s a principle I live by, and having grown up the daughter of one of the most prolific story tellers of all time (my biases opinion), it comes naturally to me to tell story, to listen to story, to get caught up in story.

    We all root from somewhere; Someone. I like to trace the lines of the family tree until we get to that Root. When we can do that, we see validation and worth in every human life.


  13. says

    I have been on a journey of discovery about my family heritage as well. I have learned so much, treasure the tidbits and try to piece it all together. And it does matter. It is amazing how the Lord has brought so much good out of the broken places. I have been both humbled and blessed by His lovingkindness.
    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I have really missed you!

  14. says

    I love this Laura, the telling of your story, and I am glad you asked and learned. We have empty spaces too. The ones who could tell are gone. But I rest in knowing God remembers, and one day I will know. Blessings. 🙂

  15. says

    “I stand here today with faith roots and family roots anchoring me deep—steeping me strong against the storms of life”…what blessing to ask, to listen and to pass on the stories. GOD bless your family as you pass on the stories.

  16. says

    oh this is good stuff, laura!! love it! God’s heart is so for one generation to pass down truths and stories to the next generation…to tell them of His faithfulness, to display how they are all connected.

    This is just beautiful–love the pics, too!

  17. says

    both my dad and my maternal grandmother are storytellers. i treasured their stories growing up and now i encourage my children to ask their poppa to tell the stories again and again. we lose so much when stories aren’t told, passed down or remembered.

  18. says

    Lovely. So lovely, Laura. I know my family’s stories. I have been collecting them since I was a little girl without a TV to keep me entertained, but with albums, diaries and hymnals scribbled in, of those who came a hundred years or more before me.

  19. says

    So good, Laura! Since my mom died, I have been ravenous for our family’s stories. My dad has been telling several I didn’t know, and I have sought out stories from other people.

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