An Invitation to Leave a Legacy {In Memoriam}


I love this picture. That right there is my Papa. He's standing in his backyard, and welcoming us to take in beauty. He loved our little valley. He spent his life cultivating community, serving, building and encouraging. In the large business he built, I hear he is still spoken of often, that the wisdom he imparted is still foundational, and his ideals still steer company culture.

His heart has done the same in our family. Our little tribe all care about being fiscally wise and saving our pennies, we love to hum and whistle and sing in harmony. We all care about good grades. We love Andy Williams. We think a good pair of binoculars is a worthy investment and love bird watching. Everyone hikes and loves a good adventure in the woods. We canoe. We love the Fall. We cross-country ski. We love the lake. We know how to holler "hit it" from the back of a boat and keep trying until we're sailing on waterskis.  We love to travel and take heaps of pictures, we watch home movies and still pull out slides. We all believe in being tidy and punctual, we always carry a cardigan. . . . . . . and we inhale german chocolate cake. We love what he loved and what he gave to us. 

What is the secret to leaving that kind of legacy? To inspiring the conduct and the tastes and affections of others? I think it was that beneath all his successes and all his relationships, was a grateful heart, a generous heart. Every year on my birthday, my Papa wrote me a letter. Typed with brown ink on cream paper, he told me what his life had been like when he was my age, affirmed my accomplishments in the past year and listed out all the blessings he saw in my life. Every letter ended the same way. Have a HAPPY Birthday, a WONDERFUL year, and a GREAT rest of your life. He called out the gifts he saw in me. He shared his own. He reminded me to give thanks to the Giver of all good things. I was of course, not alone in this gift. The generation before me had been receiving birthday letters since they were born, and my own children became recipients of annual words of blessing upon their arrival too. There was just so much good to share- so much life to pour out and give. And there is so much to remember still.

This weekend my youngest, nearly eight years old, was struggling with a decision she had made, and feeling that she'd chosen wrong and had missed out on something greater. She couldn't sleep. She was restless thinking of all that might have been had she chosen differently. I reminded her, "Sweetie, it will always be easy to think of what you may have missed, but then you won't be able to see the blessings you do have. You might be looking in the wrong place. What did Papa remind us to do?"  She was only six months old when he died. She doesn't remember napping with him in his hospice bed in those final days. She doesn't know just how fiercely she was loved and adored by him. But, she knows his legacy, and she answers, "Count our blessings." 

And she does. She lists every one; all the beauty from her day come bubbling out and she begins to giggle and delight in it all. And then she sighs deep and sleeps. Remembering the grace of her day brings rest.

Leaving a legacy begins with welcoming others to experience the gifts God has given. It begins with a heart that says, "Look at this! Look at what God has given, at the story we are a part of! Look at all we have to be thankful for!"  And the generosity of God expands into our own hearts and as it becomes real to us and as it grows, it is given again and again, in kindness and deed to everyone we meet. 

So what about you? What are the blessings that you can call out in your life and the lives of those around you? Where can you welcome others to gather beauty? Where can you see grace today?

Your heart can shape a community, a culture and a family for generations.

With great hope for the legacy we each create today,


Pssst.... If you are looking for ways to build intentional legacy in your own home, my sweet friends Sally and Sarah Clarkson have a new book releasing TODAY that is going to be an instant classic. I am in awe of their words, their inspiration and the grace and freedom that flow through this beautiful vision of home, healing and hospitality.