Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some of us have tangled family trees

Some of us have flourishing family trees—stately and graceful.

Some of us, however, have messy family trees—tangled and awkward.

Take a closer look at the hodgepodge in this tree:  

Does your family tree look like that?

Some family trees look beautiful, others look messy, but I suspect that even the lovely tree in the top picture has jumbles and twists—we just can’t see them as easily. They’re hiding among the leaves.

I think of one set of grandparents and the ungraceful shape their marriage gives my family tree: Grandpa married his uncle’s granddaughter. Try charting a traditional family tree with that!

Remarriage (due to death or divorce) adds interesting twirls and turns to family trees, as do “his, hers, and theirs” children.

I think of the lives those branches represent—personalities, talents, the places they’ve lived, the journeys they’ve taken.

I think of the merging of surnames, of my great-grandparents: the Helmer from Germany who married the MacDiarmid from Scotland.

I think of the uniting of skin colors, and the cultures they represent.

Of the blending of religions and traditions.

Of pranks and antics, of laughter and tears those branches represent.

I think of defining moments, of abrupt changes in direction, and of new beginnings.

Of the birth—and death—of dreams.

Of choices—both foolish and wise—and of successes and failures those branches represent.

No matter how well hidden in the leaves, all family trees have kinks and wrinkles—and that’s where God’s sovereignty and grace and mercy make all the difference.

In recent months, I’ve been thinking about children born out of wedlock—through no fault of their own—and the heartaches many of them carry.

I have a hunch that we’d have to search hard to find a family tree without a child born out of wedlock, but we should not consider those children “illegitimate.” They are not illegitimate—not in God’s sight!

You [God] made my whole being.
You formed me in my mother’s body.
I praise you because you made me
in an amazing and wonderful way.
What you have done is wonderful.
I know this very well.
You saw my bones being formed
as I took shape in my mother’s body.
When I was put together there,
you saw my body as it was formed.
All the days planned for me
were written in your book
before I was one day old.
God your thoughts are precious to me.
(Psalm 139:13-17, New Century Version; emphasis mine)

Soak up Marilyn Meberg's message here: 
We want and need to know who we are. 
Of course, for the believer, there need not be a puzzle.
Specific attention, thought, and planning about me took place before God actually formed me in the womb.
That implies I am much more than a cozy encounter between my parents nine months before I was born. No matter the circumstances surrounding my conception, I am a planned event.
Not only am I a planned event, I was 'set apart.' I have a specific task to do for God.
We all have a specific task to do for God, and it was planned in his head before we were ever formed in the womb.
That is an incredible truth! Not only is my identity and calling known, but also Isaiah 43:1 says, “I have called you by name; you are Mine!” (NAS) He considers me unique and set apart, and he calls me his own.
May we sink into that cushion of joyful peace and never forget “whose we be." (Marilyn Meberg, Joy for a Woman's Soul; emphasis mine)

While you compile stories for your memoir, consider this: Someone—at least one of your readers—needs to know that, even if unplanned by human parents, God formed him or her “in an amazing and wonderful way”

… and not only that, God formed him or her for His unique and good purposes.

What stories can you share with those beloved readers—maybe even for future generations yet unborn? Give specific examples. Include Bible verses. Help them find their beauty in God’s sight. Help them find their identity, their purpose in God, their raison d’être: their reason for being.

Write stories that will assure them God delights in them, He quiets them with his love, and He rejoices over them with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).


  1. Oh, Linda, my soul was soaring as I read this post! So much truth and beauty in a simple post about family trees, and my Bob and I have a muddled one of yours, mine and ours, and yes one of those "born out of wedlock" grandchildren whom we adore. And then there's the add on of two more grandkids with our son's remarriage and before we knew it one of them had a baby and we became great-grandparents, sort of. :) Our morning devotional came from Psalm 139, one of my favorites, and I love the passage you've cited here. Also enjoyed Marilyn Meberg's words. Thanks for making my Saturday night!

  2. Ah, Sherrey, bless your heart. You and your family are a beautiful example of what God does through His loving grace. Keep writing! Keep praying! God is using you to tell important stories. I am eager to read your memoir.