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My Story: An Essential Question Answered through Family History

At the end of Sanders' Starfish, Rebecca shares these lines:

"...I read my father's journal. [Before] I read parts of it, but I never wanted to finish it. If I reached the end, he was gone. But if I left some parts unread, it was my way of keeping him alive."

Rebecca's lines are my lines. Even though my father was totally different than Robert Brownell, I, too, have delayed reading my father's writings in an attempt to keep him alive.

When I was 19 years old, my dad passed away after a short painful bout with cancer. Since then I've been on an inner hunt to find certain answers about him. Everyone always speaks highly of my dad! He was an incredible father and an excellent person. Still, I have a lot of questions and mysteries about his life. Although more academic, he also was a writer, and each time I go to his writings, I find myself with more questions in place of answers. So...I've left some things unread.

But this week I got a rare inner push, stirred by my current book project, to push past the fears. I did, and for an entire day, I hunted, and read, and came across some unexpected treasures.

One of those treasures was the draft of his talk shared at his mother's funeral, my grandma, who passed away fifteen months before he did. For years afterward, I had in my dad's files what I saw as a few pages of a draft copy of one of his textbooks in progress. What I also had, on the back, was his scratch paper as he prepared this tender speech.

For this 2023 Celebration, as I pick each month's theme, I just put the question out to the heavens and watch miracles happen in my quest for answers. So, in exploring this month's question, Where Am I Essential, I found new insights and wisdom through my beloved grandma's example shared through my dad's unmistakable handwriting.

Here are my father's words that perfectly describe my grandmother.

Mom's greatness consisted in the fact that she knew what she was about. She knew what she was supposed to be doing in her life—and then she simply did it—and she did it well. There was never any question or uncertainty about what she was about. She never wondered if she should...

Mom had a sense for what God had in mind for her while she was on the earth—and she simply did what she was supposed to be doing—in the way God wanted her to do it.

Mom's gift was to know how to care for, to attend to, and take care of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those whom God gave her to care for. And that was, it turned out, practically everyone she met and knew. But this ability to know how to care was not randomly directed. She knew well, again as a gift, who she had to care for first.

She was above all a dedicated wife and mother, to those whom God had given her to care for within the walls of her home—a home that she never ceased or tired of making. It was in the confines of her home that this woman's greatness was perfected.

But, then, the spirit of her home, her spirit, was not confined to the physical walls of her house.

She was one of the truly great persons to have lived on the earth—at least in the way eternity defines greatness—which, in the final analysis, is the only way that really matters.

Sometimes the hardest questions are also the easiest answers. Finding where you are essential first means knowing who you are and knowing what you are about.

These words are the exact answers I need as I continue on my quest. My grandma's life, my dad's life, and my own life are interconnected, each of our stories adding to the larger image emerging. Treasures from the past, treasures from heaven, treasures to be found after the risks.

My essential journey continues!


Sometimes writing helps to clarify the questions of life. One place I have found helpful writing prompts is Writing Down the Bones Deck: 60 Cards to Free the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.

Even if you don't consider yourself a writer but are open to seeing where your mind goes as you write, I suggest trying out these writing prompts.

Want to win a copy of Writing Down the Bones Deck? Enter this month's giveaway.


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