Listen to the stories and hear His voice

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Theology in the Trenches

History is in the making each time we gather. Listening hasn’t always come easy, but as the years go by I see how important it is to take in the stories being told by family round the table.

Last time I was home for a short visit, my dad began telling a few that I had not heard before. Soon, my stepmother chimed in with some of her own. As it was a “he said/she said” conversation, I thought you might enjoy as I retell what it is I heard. The value within verbal family history is rich. As you retell the greatest story ever told of the Christ child’s birth this Christmas, may you also put an ear to the table and listen to the stories…told round it.

He said: “The very first car grandpa Dietrich had, and the very first time he drove it, he drove it right into a swamp. They got the horses to pull it out and after that, the kids drove it because he was afraid to. The kids liked to drive it so much that when he finally decided he’d give it another try, they took parts off the car so it wouldn’t start. The kids wanted to drive when they’d go into town to buy oats for the horses, so they made sure it never worked when he tried to start it.”

She said: “The very first time I ever got a brand new coat from the store was when I was in 7th grade. It was around Christmas time and it was bright red with big white balls on the end of the sashes that tied in back. Before that, grandma made my coats from my aunt’s old coats. Each time she made them she’d sew really pretty buttons on them. The one I remember most was a blue one and it had wonderful big buttons on it. Each year I’d get three new dresses. When grandma would buy flour, she’d make sure to buy enough sacks that all had the same design on it so it would be enough to make my dresses.”

He said: “My dad had four sisters and one brother. They were Viola, Lydia, Hilda, Ida, and Dick. Hilda and Ida were twins. Viola talked, talked, talked pretty much nonstop. One day, her dad took a bowl of mashed potatoes and dumped them right over her head! I think that he was under the belief in those days that women were to keep quiet, or maybe he was just tired of her talking. She kept right on talking.”

She said: “My grandpa died when my dad was in the 5th grade. All of the kids, except the older two who were near graduation age, had to quit school. Each child was expected to help out in some form and my dad, as a 5th grader, was in charge of pulling a wagon down to the railroad tracks in the winter. As coal was used to power the train, there was always a person at the tracks shoveling it into the train. My dad had to pick up any pieces that fell to the ground so he could put it into his wagon and bring it home for his family. They heated their house with wood and if you added coal to it, it was not only warmer but kept heat in the home longer. One day, on a very cold day well below zero, the man shoveling the coal into the train must have felt sorry for my that little boy waiting in the cold for the coal because he took a shovel full and filled up my dad’s wagon. He was so proud to bring home with a whole wagon full of coal to his mom.”

He said: “Mom made everything out of everybody else’s clothes. Once she made me a tan and deep brown jacket with a zipper on it. I liked it so much and wanted to take it outside and wear it right away. It was winter and my brother was going sledding. He laid down face first on a sled and I climbed onto his back. As we were going down a big hill and he couldn’t make the turn so we headed straight under a barbed wire fence. I ducked as low as I could but that barb wire caught the back of my new jacket and ripped it to shreds. I was crying, but when I went into the house, my mom simply looked at the coat, took it off and hung it up in the closet like nothing had happened. She never said a word. I’m sure she knew that if that wire had been just a little lower, it could have been so much worse.”

She said: “When my great grandpa and grandma came from Prussia to the United States, my grandma was just a little girl. She loved one of the colored table clothes they had in their house and wanted to bring it along with her to the United States. They could only bring one trunk, and there was no room for the cloth in the trunk. Her mother took that table cloth and wrapped it around her like a shawl. It would not only keep her warm, but satisfy her little heart by being able to take it along on their journey.”

Virtues are woven within the fabric of these stories. Proverbs 22:6 says to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Don’t forget the stories… they offer stability. They offer a recognizable platform from which to launch… connecting hearts to those who’ve gone before us. There is His still small voice within each one. “Listen with the ear of your heart” (Benedict). Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug lives outside of Clear Brook, Minn., with her husband Pete and their six children. She can be reached by email at .