Real Stories, Real People

October 18, 2011 | 17 comments

The girls are nestled into each another — two bodies holding one book called “Friends.” They were born sisters, but are growing into something else entirely.


As they grow older, they need me less and less, it seems. They lean on each other more and more.  Just yesterday, I found my girls on the bathroom-tile floor. My oldest daughter was leaning over her little sister, applying a Band-Aid to her little sister’s knee-scrape. It was a minor injury — I promise — but one that I had earlier dismissed as “no-big-deal.”  

So, then, it was Big Sister — not the Mama — who came to the rescue.

I felt the ache, thumping in the heart.


These two girls come from this one womb, but they have birthed something all their own.  

I watch them through the zoomed lens of my Nikon, and I snap a few frames while they read their “Friends” book. Standing on the other side of the camera, I wonder: How do they see me through their own lens?  What words would they use to frame a portrait of me?

Years from now, when I’ve grown gray and wrinkled and hunched, how will they talk about their Mama when they are gathered ’round a Thanksgiving table? How will they describe me to their own children at Christmas?

When I am gone, what will be my legacy?

These are the questions I ponder when I watch my girls together, two sisters on full-tilt toward friendship. These are the same questions I’ve been asking myself this month during The High Calling’s recent Community Writing Project, which I have been honored to host this month here at Getting Down With Jesus. 

During our writing project, many of you have shared stories of aunts and neighbors and grandmothers — people who’ve shaped you in some important way. You have shared from deep, authentic places. You haven’t given us the polished version of your family “characters.” Rather, you’ve given us the unvarnished truth.

I think this is best. For if we are to be fully known in our humanity, we must be willing to share our brokenness.

I hope my girls will tell their children and grandchildren the truest stories about me — not the varnished ones. I really do. For I am no saint.

I am a sinner, saved by grace.

And really, isn’t this the unsurpassed truth to be told and retold through all ages? Aren’t redemption stories the most elemental ones of our human history — the stories of broken people made whole?

Isn’t that your story?


Check this out! High Calling Family Editor Ann Kroeker is featuring some of your Word-Portrait posts over at today! Click here to read Ann’s beautiful bookend to our community-writing project. Or click here to find the links to all of the writers who participated.  

by | October 18, 2011 | 17 comments


  1. Ann Kroeker

    What stories will my kids’ tell about me? Yikes! You pose an excellent question that makes me pause and wonder–maybe even worry a little. But that’s the part of me that wishes they would tell the polished version instead of the real one.

    We were flipping through photo albums, and the kids were responding, saying, “I don’t remember this trip at all,” or, “Oh! I loved those cat ears!” There’s no telling what stories they will remember and retell about me.

    Thank you for hosting the Community Writing Project for The High Calling, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      I know. I know. 🙂 It can be a scary question to ponder.

      For instance, last night, I was trying to use wart-remover on one of my daughter’s fingers. Before I pressed the applicator down, she started screaming in fear and went blazing out of the room. A few minutes later, we talked calmly about it, and she settled down. I wonder if she’ll repress this memory, and it will come back in some crazy form to haunt her at age 35. 🙂

      The unvarnished truth is this: I’m quirky and have strange habits. I have a goofy sense of humor, and am a bit uncoordinated. And I’ve also done things I’m not proud of. I’ve blown up at my girls over ridiculous things. But I also hope and pray that they remember I was never too proud to say I’m sorry.

      All of these things become part of the whole picture of me.

      Thank you, Ann, for featuring some of these stories at The High Calling today.

  2. Wendy

    Hard to express how much I love this post!

    And I get it. I so get it.
    ~ Wendy

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Wendy. So glad you’ve stopped over today. xxoo

  3. Nancy

    Okay. How am I supposed to get any work done today when you and Ann have pulled together all these beautiful stories for me to read? Thanks to both of you for hosting this project. You ask a hard question, Jennifer. What stories will they tell about me? I’m hoping my story will read, “Despite the things she got wrong, we knew her faith was real.”

    • dukeslee

      I like that line, Nancy. You’re living that faith, friend.

      This is the unvarnished truth of who we are … broken but made whole by the only One who knows how to put the pieces back together.

  4. Sheila

    If they say of me, “She loved Jesus. And she loved us” I’ll have left a fine legacy.

    This is beautiful, Jennifer. So are your precious girls. Like their mamma.

    • dukeslee

      Yes. That’s it right there, Sheila. You’re livin’ it, friend.

      Do you know the song, Legacy for Nichole Nordeman?

      She sings: “Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things? … Child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically. … Leave that kind of legacy.”

      • Ann Kroeker

        Oh, golly. That song is haunting in its beauty and humbling in its truth.

  5. Dea

    I have found my children, especially my oldest–my daughter, is uncomfortable with my story. She knows I speak of it sometimes in my Bible study classes. Her friends wonder why she doesn’t come. I believe it is uncomfortable for her to hear me talk about my life in Christ and the redemption story where I played the lead role as the severely depressed.

    Ten years later, I wrote about it in a letter to my friends who walked to the darkness to help me find the light:

    I am the “character” of the family. I learned to love and accept who I am on this side of my healing— the real story and all.

    Your legacy question brings up all sorts of emotion in me. I pray my kids can accept that their Momma’s “story” has changed everything for me—for them. Maybe someday.

    • dukeslee


      Sending you hugs across the miles. I just read your beautiful post over on your blog. You’ve honored Him well. You are leaving a beautiful legacy. I prayed for you today –that your kids can see the beautiful mosaic that Christ has made of your life. You are a treasure. ((HUGS))

  6. Jeanne Damoff

    This reminds me of the time in high school when my sister and I took a speech class together and were out in the hall working on a project. Another girl in the class realized for the first time that we were related and said, “Y’all are sisters? I thought you were friends!” We laughed and said, “We are!” My sister is still one of my best friends.

    As for my kids, I’m not gone yet but they already tell stories about me, and depending on which one they tell, we all laugh or magnify redemption or marvel over God’s amazing grace. Love covers a multitude, and I bet that’s what your girls will remember most.

    Love you.

  7. Diana Trautwein

    I can promise you Jennifer, that you will begin to hear those stories sooner than you wish. :>) I am sometimes seriously shocked at what my kids tell each other about their childhood! Perhaps I was too exhausted those years for much of it to lodge well in my memory. Thankfully, they’re not all hilarious stories of my misjudgment. There are those moments when I am humbled to see and hear the occasional fond memory, and the ongoing work of redemption in my life as their mom. I’ve learned more about relinquishing things to Jesus since those days – you are way ahead of the game, dear friend. And I agree, it’s good to remember the whole person. At memorial services, don’t you love the memories that spark just a little bit of a rueful response? I know I do – we need to see that every one of us stumbles and falls … and then, by the grace of God, we get up to try again. Thanks for this sweet reflection tonight – I’m grateful.

  8. Rita Schau

    Just a quick note to tell you I had a fabulous conversation yesterday with MamaD. What a wonderful woman to have in your life. I’m sure there are memories you have where she might not have been the most wonderful – I think all of us girls have those times with our moms – but just wanted to let you know how blessed you are.

    She is truly a gem and I see bits of her in your writings. 🙂

    God’s Blessings on your harvest time and enjoy each memory made. This farm girl sure does miss her time in the tractor. 🙂

  9. Kimberlee Conway Ireton

    Oh, Jennifer, what a poignant picture that is of your girls reading together, of you standing across from them, watching as they lean on each other and not on you. Parenting is one long journey of letting go, isn’t it? Sometimes the letting go is joyful, and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s both.

    Thank you for sharing this little moment in your life. It reminds me to capture the little moments in mine that I’m all too prone to miss.

    I want my kids to say about me that I was present with them, that I was attentive to the gift of the moment at hand, at least some of the time. And if they don’t say that, I at least want that they could have said it!

  10. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    I hope no one tells all unvarnished stories that future generations can’t live up to. The stories of real people overcoming real troubles–these are the ones that keep me going, show me I’m not pathetic, especially on those days I sink knees to the floor in my kitchen and ask God to help me survive till husband comes home.

  11. Lynn Langford

    I’m so excited that I stumbled across your blog just now. So refreshing and inspirint.

    I’m your newest follower 🙂 I also LOVE to write!

    God Bless You


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