The Gift of Legacy

Originally published Tuesday, 10 December 2013.

I looked down at the pile of presents at my feet. Boxes and bags of all shapes and sizes sat waiting for me to explore their gems hidden within. We took our time, each of us taking turns opening our gifts. We oohed and ahhed at each other's new trinkets and treasures. As the stack of presents got shorter, the pile of torn wrapping paper got higher.

"Open that one first," my mother in-law pointed. I picked up a bag labeled #1. Reaching inside, I felt a small glass container. I pulled out a mason jar from the bag. Strips of white paper with words written on them filled the glass.

I knew just what it was.

"I can't believe it!" I exclaimed. "You saved this all these years?"

Thirteen years ago, in graduate school and stretched for money, I wanted to give family members a meaningful present for Christmas. Always interested in family history and as the keeper of all the old photos of my ancestors, I decided to give a gift that would tell me more about both mine and my husband's family. That Christmas, I gave them legacy jars. I typed up a list of questions for them to answer about their past and gave them a journal to record the answers. Fifty-two questions in all; one to answer each week of the year. My hope was to receive back the completed journal to pass down to the children I hoped to have one day.

Time passed. Life happened. There were moves, marriages, births, surgeries, and travels.

When my children were born I had a renewed desire to find a way to document family stories. I interviewed one of my grandparents and wrote down his responses. When my other set of grandparents passed away a couple of years ago, I felt a greater urgency to learn more about the people in our family. And then there was that mason jar I gave my mother-in-law, still out there waiting...

Christmas is a season of waiting and of anticipation. Waiting, while hard, is often rewarded with the most wondrous of things. And after waiting for my mother-in-law's story, last Christmas I opened the other bag, labeled #2, and inside was the journal I had given her all those years before. Inside the journal I found her story typed out and glued onto each page. She had answered my questions, recorded her story in words, and gave me her legacy to pass on to my children.

It was the perfect gift and well worth the wait.

The gift of legacy is one of the best gifts we can both give and receive. The stories of our lives, of how we came to be who we are today, are priceless. Christmas is a time of celebrating and remembering when God entered our story and became Immanuel, God with us. Sharing with those we love the stories of how we fit into God's great story helps them see the thread of redemption woven into the tapestry of their own life. It helps them consider the chapters in their own lives and how God has penned their place in his grand true tale of rescue. When it comes to giving gifts, giving of ourselves and sharing who we really are, where we've come from and what God has done in us, is really the best gift of all.

Want to make your own legacy jar? Click here for a list of questions to include in your jar.