"Did Grandpa really say you looked like a monkey?" giggled my daughter Serena. My son, Nikolas, chimed in. "Mom, tell us again about the day you were born!"
As we ate our dinner, I laughed, thinking How many times do I have to tell this story?
I started at a scene my children knew by heart. "The nurse walked over to Grandpa and put me in his arms. ?Whoa!? Grandpa exclaimed. ?Are you sure she?s not a monkey? Look at all her hair! It?s coming out of her nose and ears! She has hair all the way down to her eyebrows!?" The kids burst into laughter again, begging to hear the familiar stories of their births.
We were having such a good time, but I wondered what they were really looking for. They knew every detail of their birth stories, and yet they couldn?t wait to hear them again. As I began to tell about my oldest daughter?s birth, I knew there was something deeper happening between my children and me, something I couldn?t put my finger on.
So I started talking. "Noel had trouble entering this world," I began. "She came out backward and couldn?t breathe. We were so scared, but several days later she had recovered. Your father and I decided to name her Noel Grace because she was a celebration?like Christmas?and she was an undeserved gift from God."
Serena piped up, "I?m next!" I went on. "Serena was so quiet. She barely cried when she was born. The doctor laid her in my arms, and she began to make tiny squeaking sounds. Your father looked down and said, ?She sure is serene.? Right then we named you Serena Quae, meaning ?the one who is serene.?"
Noel rolled her eyes as she looked at her sister, saying, "She sure isn?t serene now!" That sent us into fits of laughter.
"Don?t forget me!" shouted Nik.
"I couldn?t!" I replied. "Nik surprised us! We were so excited when we saw we had a boy. Noel and Serena, you were thrilled to have a brother. We chose the name Nikolas because it means ?the Lord?s and the people?s victory,? and Reid as a middle name because it means ?ruddy complexion.?
"Yeah," Serena quipped, "I remember he looked like a red rubber eraser."
Such simple stories they?d heard many times, but I marveled at how much these stories meant to my children. The stories of who they are and how we became a family have given them a sense of belonging and significance, even as our family went through the pain of divorce and the challenge of starting over.
Even the family stories that don?t involve them have taken on deep meaning for my children. Last spring, Serena studied at the University of Leipzig, Germany. During her holiday break, I met her in Paris for a mother-daughter vacation. We were packing for a train trip when a small film canister filled with sand fell out of her backpack. Puzzled, I asked, "Serena, what is this?" Tears filled her eyes. "Mom, before you arrived I visited Normandy Beach where Grandpa came ashore during World War II. When I saw all the graves of the soldiers, I cried. It gave me a better understanding of the cost of my freedom. I was so proud of Grandpa, and I always want to remember what he did for me. So I scooped up some sand from the beach and put it in this canister." By sharing his stories of the war, her grandfather had made Serena part of his journey. His heritage had become her heritage, too.
The stories of life and faith we share with our children?be they Bible stories or moments from our own walk with God?instill in them a sense of purpose, of history, of being part of something bigger than themselves. And as we share the rich heritage of God?s work in our lives, we encourage our children to carry on that heritage for generations to come.
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