All in the Family

My paternal great-grandparents raised 13 children in a Southern mill town during the Great Depression. This weekend nearly 100 of us gathered for a family reunion, all of us descended from or somehow connected to my great-grandparents. 

It was full in every way. Crazy, loud, and overflowing with churns of homemade ice-cream.

Now that I’m a mother, I am ever more in awe of the mothers who went before me. Mothers like my great-grandmother.

Mothers who did not have electric washing machines or dishwashers.
Mothers who did not give a second thought about baby scheduling vs. attachment parenting. 

Mothers who birthed and nursed one baby after another while gardening, canning, sewing clothes & quilts, milking cows, raising older children, and caring for those in their community.
Mothers who did not get facials or worry about perfect decor.
Mothers who lived in the South without A/C.

I sort of envy those mothers. Life was harder, true. But life also seemed simpler. And these days, simple sounds good and pure. I feel increasingly compelled to unplug all the screens around me. Find myself frequently lost in daydreams of living on a farm. {Strangely out of character for an urban-wannabe like myself.} Notice that I’m more and more drawn to simpler ways of doing and living. 

I envy the hard work, strength, fortitude, and piety my great-grandmother possessed. A woman I never got to meet but whose name I now carry. 

I don’t know how she sent 5 of her boys off to World War II. Her kids remember that she locked herself in a closet for hours at a time and prayed.  {She was known far and wide as a pray-er.} All her boys came home safely, for which I’m grateful. One of those boys is my grandfather.

I don’t know how she navigated the unpredictable waters of marriage at the age of 16, eloping with her 23-year-old love, early marriage a welcome escape from her stern stepmother.

Reckoning with her story came at just the right time for me. As a 21st-century-woman, I fret over things my great-grandmother did not. As a 20th-century-woman, she fretted over things I do not. But with all those children, all that important work to be done, all that praying in her closet, I get the feeling she wasted precious little time on the business of fretting…

A lesson this 21st-century-woman needed to learn in the here and now. 

God placed her back then. He placed me right now. But over the last few days, our stories have intersected and she has taken up residence in my psyche.

I wish she had bottled a tonic steeped with all her virtues and handed it down, just for me, the one who bears her name. But I’ll settle for her legacy. Legacies do not expire or evaporate. They inspire and persevere. 

And they most certainly do not fret.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

*This post linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky.


  1. says

    It’s funny that you wrote this.

    I am finishing up the second book in a series of three by Beverly Lewis. I don’t know if you’ve read any of her stuff but she writes stories about the Amish who live in Penn. Dutch country. I know it’s just fictional stories but the lifestyle is one that many still live today, and sometimes I find myself getting caught up in a daydream of living without electricity, where we make all our own food from scratch, and live completely off the land, raising vegetables and livestock. Simple times compared to today.

    I think we get too wrapped up in making our lives as convenient and easy as possible, that we wind up making things much more complicated than they need to be.

    You’re right about God placing us here and now…sometimes I still wish He had placed me back then! I’m thankful, though, that He has the made the plans!

  2. says

    What a great post! I feel this way sometimes, too- that my life would be simpler if I had lived way back whenever. Each generation has their own set of struggles, their own burdens, their own blessings. Ours are much less physical than those our grandparents and great grandparents faced.

    How fortunate that we have such a Constant God, who is the source of Peace for generations past, present and future, who waits patiently for us to lay the complications of every day before Him!

  3. says

    I LOVED this post. I love hearing about people’s family history. Amazing that all 5 boys made it home! I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have lived in an earlier time period, and I don’t think I could have hacked it. I like AC!!! 😉

    If you have a chance to stop by today, I posted my 200th post Giveaway up yesterday with my Thrifty Treasures post. :)

  4. says

    What a great post. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure you had a blast with all your ‘kin’. Family reunions can be so fun and filled with wonderful memories for old and young alike.

    Scooper, you know that you are made from stern stuff…. you are not a delicate flower petal and could certainly have done what your great gran did if you lived during her time.

    However, like you said in the post… this is the time in which we are born. God has our destiny all planned out for us according to His ways. (that’s Beth Moore talking, not me!).
    love ya!

  5. says

    What a wonderful post! I’m always amazed at the strength and fortitude of the women that came before me in my own family. It’s always good to be reminded that God’s plans and timing are infinitely superior to my own and that He has placed me in this time and place to fulfill His purpose for me here and now.

  6. says

    What a wonderful blessing God has given you. Thanks for sharing this story. I think it’s one that all Moms should take note of.
    I got tickled how the light shade of color on your blog seemed to highlight the part about living in the south without airconditioning. Aaackkkk!! How horrible would that be?! I am completely spoiled by my air! :)

  7. says

    awesome post! and that verse was perfect for me today, so glad i stopped by!

    and i do love my air conditioning here in the south! what would i do without it?

  8. says

    I can’t believe I have not seen your blog until now…I love it…thanks for leaving a comment on my blog…I will definitely be checking back in…Enjoy your day!

  9. says

    can I say I give you a cyber hug, because you made me feel that way, and because I want you to keep feeling that forever

    thank you for good good words.

    I’ll be back to read more of you.

  10. Anonymous says

    Oh, Marian, what a beautifully written post! You captured so much in such a brief writing. Your tender connection to the historical elements of our lives shines through. So glad you were here!

    Love you forever,

  11. says

    Wow. What an amazing legacy you have in your great grandmother. And you’re so very right about the not fretting part. We all need to do less fretting, and more praying in the closet!
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us today-

  12. says

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading your blog! Thanks for visiting me. I’m so glad I found you. We have so much in common.:)

  13. says

    I’m visiting via Tuesdays Unwrapped, and I just love this post. I got chills reading about your great-grandmother locking herself in the closet to pray. What a powerful legacy! Thank you so much for telling this story. :)

  14. Ruth says

    This is definitely one of my very favorite of your posts. I’m making sour kraut in a crock, canning pickles today and harvesting tomatoes, peppers, and beans today. There is such depth of satisfaction in this sort of work. I’m off to a family reunion deep in the Mtns of NC tomorrow. We all sit around talking about how our family used to live on their mountain and never leave. All of their food, family, religion, and education was right there…

  15. says

    You don’t know me, but I know your husband’s family. As a matter of fact, my father was, for a short time, the pastor of the church your in-laws attended in Onsted. My grandfather grew up with Harold.

    Having just recently found out that woman I knew through working at camp has passed into the arms of the Savior, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on my own personal “cloud of witnesses” and the legacy that has been spoken into my life as a result. I’ve also been praying even more fervently that I add to that legacy rather than detracting from it!

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