When I was a child, I loved hearing stories from the past. I would ask for repeats of these tales, despite almost knowing them by heart. I always anticipated the telling. And my parents were pretty good at repeating the details verbatim. Grandpa’s mule, Jack, & the pitchfork, & the gypsies who tried to steal chickens were regular requests. My full-speed-ahead, horse-riding Grandma, rounding up cattle with her 3-week-old baby cradled in one arm (my Mom), left us shaking our heads every time.
My own 3 daughters were of the same mindset, enjoying stories from the days of our youth. So, when my “grands” started to say, “Oma, tell us a story back when you were young,” it brought a smile to my face. They ask for repeats too😊. My Honey is particularly good at this because as an artist, he paints pictures with his words. Believe it or not, I would request stories from him in the pre-parent days of our marriage. A great deal of family history, faith, & life lessons can be passed down through story-telling. I think portions of Psalm 78 say it best:
“I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard & known, and our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, & His strength and His wonderous works that He has done…That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they might arise & tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, & not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…” (vs 2-4;6&7)
A while back, my oldest grandson asked me some point-blank questions about how things were, “back when” I was young. So, I told him what I remembered best. I shared how his great-grandparents married at 29 & 32, after a 4-year engagement, because my Dad served in WWII & didn’t want to risk leaving my Mom a widow. I told him about their first, & only, home that initially didn’t have hot running water & was heated by two oil burning stoves. (It was all that was available at the time.) During snowy Iowa winters, our curtains were often iced to our upstairs bedroom windows. He was surprised to learn that I was 11 before we had our first TV, a gift from my Uncle. And that I was 14 before we had hot water & a furnace. We read over a dozen library books a week, played family games regularly, & visited grandparents weekly for Sunday dinner. Life revolved around family & church. Once a week, my Mom invited neighbors over for morning coffee. During the summer months, the neighborhood kids seemed to congregate at our house for softball games, shooting hoops, riding our handmade go-cart, or testing out the high jump pit. In the evening it was 7-steps-around-the-house, Wolf, Simon Says, or Kick the Can. I had one second-hand bike, one doll, & one pair of roller skates—which my dad later recycled into the fastest skateboard ever! My grandson’s eyes continued to widen as I reminded him that there were no CD, VHS, or DVD players. Or video games. I’ll never forget his response. “Wow, Oma. It really was better then, wasn’t it?” He recognized the present-day discrepancies.
On another day, early last fall, we did breakfast together at Village Inn before the school year started. His surprise was treating me. We followed that with a visit to a great used book store & the farmer’s market, ending up at a cozy coffee shop where we played Kings-in-the-Corner. When it was time to go, I asked him what his favorite part of the day was. He quickly replied, “This, talking to you.” I was deeply touched & wanted to cry. (But I didn’t.) I’ve always had this joke with Zi. I tell him he is welcome to sit on my lap, even when I’m 80. Although I doubt that will even be possible, I’m very thankful he’s the kind of young man who isn’t ashamed to receive a hug & kiss, on the cheek, from a growing-older-Oma.
Times have changed tremendously since “back when.” We are a driven, technology-dependent culture that overall, has forgotten the benefits of simple observances in life. People are busy. Families are stressed. There is an over-commitment to activities outside of the home. The family table is almost a thing of the past. Somedays I feel downright dizzy! Don’t get me wrong. I can fully appreciate the accessibility & ease with which I can connect with folks far away. I like not having to pick up the phone, to find out every detail. And I certainly am thankful for the present access to other countries in need of the Gospel & resources to encourage their faith. Years ago, I flippantly told my honey that technology was freeing us up, to make us busier. Small town. Big city. It matters not. We all battle to find balance as the technological advances keep compounding. Our phone provider rep recently told us that the future estimate is 8 devices per person! I’m already challenged to reel it in, with just a phone & laptop. I can’t even wrap my head around that staggering prediction. One of these days we’ll find ourselves feeling lonely in the midst of a crowded room as we watch people gazing into the “blue light.” Oh wait! I think we’re there. The most sobering thought of all is, what has the electronic craze done to our intimate times with Jesus Christ? If it keeps us from relating to people we can see, it most assuredly is a deterrent from “being still” & knowing in the intimacy of your heart, that HE IS GOD. (Psalm 40)
Recently I was discussing Christmas with one of my daughters. I expressed my desire that I would rather not receive gifts. I don’t need more stuff to dust. And what I do need, requires trying on anyway. I pleaded, instead, for THE GIFT OF TIME. Does a gift mean as much if you haven’t spent time with the giver? Is a gift an adequate substitute for personal, one-on-one relationship? I think not. It feels fakes. Too often gifts can become peace offerings, for the real conviction of neglecting of others. And besides a gift doesn’t automatically communicate your heart anyway.
I’m not one for setting New Year’s resolutions. Inevitably, that’s a recipe for me to fail. But how about we do a little pre-2018 inventory. I, for one, do hope to fight for meaningful heart-connects with family & friends, to make the most of the opportunities for relationships that God sends my way. Think about this: When was the last time you sent a card instead of a text? When was the last time you called someone, to catch up? Better yet, how long has it been since you talked face-to-face? Are you able to get through a meal without checking your phone? Can you relax while riding in a vehicle, & enjoy the company you’re with? Do your kids wait for an answer while your head is lost in technology? Are you able to enjoy porch time, a walk in the park, reading to your child/grandchild, or watching a sunset? Do you feel driven inside your soul, a majority of the time? Are you a good listener or are your distracted & antsy? Finally, when your eyes pop open in the morning, do you feel panic as you review your mental list? Or is your mind quiet before the Lord?
We’ve come a long way since the time of home answering machines in the 80s. But there are consequences to good things that are taken out of bounds. That’s how I feel about addiction to devices. And I fear for the upcoming generations as I observe them slowly fading into an emotional numbness, maybe even a dissatisfaction, with what used to be a healthy norm. Individually, we can make an impact in our homes & families, with some simple choices. “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me. (Ps 101:2&3) Despite some scary changes all around us, I pray 2018 will a defining year for you— as the Lord Jesus draws you to Himself, & as you give away His love to others.