Betsy arrived from Sweden with her immigrant family at the end of the Civil War. She and her mother had to step aside to let the Minnesota soldiers exit the ferry boat at St. Anthony Falls. The troops were singing "Shoo fly, don't bother me!" a song Betsy sang for the rest of her life.
Earlier settlers helped the newcomers. An abandoned soddy would become a first home in the New World. In order to have enough to feed the children, parents often had to farm-out one or more of the older ones. And so, eight-year-old Betsy's turn arrived to go work for a neighboring farmer.
When her mother heard that Betsy's shoes had worn out, and she was out getting the cows with bare feet in November, that job came to an end. Betsy's mother went to pick up her little girl. She stuffed her shoes with straw for Betsy to wear, and wrapped her own feet with rags for the walk home.
How our great-grandparents managed to survive, let alone prosper, in their new homeland is a wonder to me. Imagine the comforts we take for granted today and the delight such conveniences as indoor plumbing, central heating, and electric lights would have been to them! They counted their blessings in healthy children, shelter, enough of a woodpile to warm them through the winter, chickens and livestock for eggs and milk, and sufficient staples in the larder. The concept of "leisure" would have been as strange as a foreign language.
Reminding each other of old family stories that have passed down to us is often a touching experience. Especially at this time of year, Thanksgiving and the Advent season, such recall serves to fill our hearts with renewed gratitude. We can only guess at the daily joys and sorrows and hardships our ancestors endured. But, thanks to their perseverance, we are here, blessed to pass along the blessings to those coming along behind us on the road.
Without our hearing the old stories and telling them to our children, the stories would be lost. I know very little besides the names, listed in a family tree of ancestors, beyond my great-grandparents. For some reason, my curiosity was limited to the family on this side of the Atlantic. Those who were left in the old country just seemed too remote to concern me. That is until recently. A cousin in Sweden posted a photo of a sad-faced old woman that bore a family resemblance. She was my great-grandfather's mother. When her young son left to "make his fortune" in America, it was the last time they saw each other's faces. I can barely imagine her grief. Letters from America became her only lifeline to him.
In much the same way, we hear and tell the old, old story, of Jesus and His love. We are the links in a chain that stretches back to the sons of Noah and beyond, to the Garden of Eden. Some of the ancient information may seem too remote and unimportant. That is until the Holy Spirit touches our hearts through a story in the Word, giving us a glimpse into the life of another person from the past who becomes real. As a child, I longed to hear God's voice, like little Samuel did. The Jewish slave girl in Naaman's house became a good example: I wanted to bring good news, too, that would lead to healing for others. And Joseph, so terribly mistreated by his brothers, became another favorite whose life moved me to tears.
Thanks be to God that the Author of life, who leads His dear children along the way, teaches us through stories of real people, like us, from the past.
"Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children." --- Deuteronomy 4:9
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." ---Ephesians 5:19-21