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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Keep Your Story

They stand side by side, their faces ringed with perfect curls, their eyelids expertly shadowed by their older sister. Twin sisters, thirteen, elegant in their dresses and high heels. My friend titles the photo album on Facebook, “They went ahead and grew up on me.” Yesterday, I took a meal to a friend who has just had her second baby, and we laughed at the pudginess of her now oldest child. I told her that when I squeeze her daughter’s legs, it’s as if I’m holding Audrey at that exact age, watching a mirror image of belly and bottom not fitting properly into pants.

At the twins’ concert last Friday, Andrew and Colin stood on stage wearing construction paper frog hats, which they themselves have glued and sparkled and painted. Andrew worked the muscles of his jaw and lips as he sang, staring straight ahead. Colin was deliberate about every motion for every song, and whenever I caught his eye, he would smile shyly. I cried watching those babies now big enough to remember every word and motion of “Baby Beluga,” babies who have even mastered most of the words to first verse of the Canadian National Anthem.

Today, I’ll visit a friend who’s just received difficult news: cancer. Breast cancer. Two small children, a life young and busy, now interrupted without fair warning for treatments and surgery. A story to be scripted differently than expected.

Keep your story. You never know when you’ll need it.

Keep your story because your baby will one day stand before you, thirteen, in her eye shadow and high heels. Scanning your mental photo library, you’ll try to remember the moment when she took her first bite of rice cereal and let the watery paste drool down her chin.

Life passes quickly; days are sand through your fingers.

Keep your story because your little babies are going to do their growing up, before you know it, tying their own shoes and buttoning their own pants. They’ll ask you, as Colin asked me yesterday, “Did I have a stroller when I was a baby?” Keep your story so that you’ll remember the harrowing day they were strapped into the stroller, which rolled into the (thankfully) quiet residential street when your back was turned.

Tell that story as if to remind them that someone has been keeping watch.

Keep your story, remembering what their warm skin felt like against yours when you woke in the night to nurse them or stroke their feverish skin. Remember the rhythm of rocking and the melody of the quiet songs you sang.

Babies grow tall; boys don’t like kissing their moms. They’ll soon be out of reach.

Collect the petals of your past and acknowledge Who it is that makes of each life a flower intricately beautiful. Different. Days are numbered: we do not know when the final chapter will be written, but your story will be needed for your children and your grandchildren.

Keep your story in pictures, in words, in songs, in collected mementos. Believe that in the middle of your busy living, looking back to notice, remember, and record your footsteps on sand is an act important and sacred.

Tomorrow’s waves will reach yesterday’s shores.

You will soon forget.

So keep your story.

* * * * *

Practical suggestions for keeping your story and your children’s stories:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, record a few simple moments for which you are grateful. Make them as earthy as possible. In a few years, you’ll laugh to remember that at four, your daughter had asked for lip gloss for her birthday.
  2. For every child at every birthday, make an individual photo album. And I do NOT mean scrapbooking. We use iPhoto to create books for our children for each birthday: in it, we include the best pictures of the year and highlight their milestones for the year. The book also includes a prayer of blessing at the back for the year to come.
  3. Start a blog. Why not? It’s a great discipline of story-keeping. And if you live far from family, as we do, it’s a great way to share some of the day-to-day ordinariness that you might not think to share over the phone.
  4. Keep a prayer journal for each of your children. Can you imagine handing them, when they’ve grown, the record of your years of praying and God’s faithfulness?
  5. Write your testimony, and share it with someone. (Start with your children, if you haven’t yet shared it with them.) When was the last time, if you’re a Jesus follower, that you told someone the story of how Grace rescued you? Write it, remembering the people and the places. Share it, believing that the goodness that’s been yours is available to another.

* * * * *

Deuteronomy 6:20-25

20 When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statues and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.