Arlene Kirk's voice hesitated and tears welled up in her eyes as she showed me her family quilt. Pointing to the middle of it, she read about her parents: "Cecil (1908-1997) and Mildred (1908-1991) Rawlings; June 23, 1925." They were married for 65 years.
After Cecil and Mildred's deaths, Arlene and her four brothers and two sisters wanted to do something to honor their legacy. So they decided to make a family quilt to display at family reunions. A 10-inch quilting block was given to each of the Rawlings' children and grandchildren—to decorate with their personal memories.
"If we were going to hold onto all that Mother and Daddy built, we had to pass it on … or we would have lost it," Arlene says. "We would have lost our family history… of morals and belief in God."
A small, gold cross is pinned to one of the quilt blocks. "Faith was important to them," Arlene says.
Today, Cecil and Mildred Rawlings' legacy lives on. As I looked at the quilt honoring them, I couldn't help but wonder, "What legacy will my husband, Jim, and I leave? If our children and grandchildren decide to represent our lives with a patchwork of memories someday, which ones will they choose? How will we be remembered?"
Here are 10 ideas to help us consider our legacies:
1. Remember that you were created for a purpose.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).
2. Absorb the fact that time is short. You are just passing through this world.
You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4:14b).
3. At the beginning of each week, write down one or two things that matter to not only you, but also to God. Examples: Spending time with God, having a strong marriage, understanding each of your children.
Then, jot down one or two ways you can show these things truly matter to you. Example: Get up 30 minutes earlier each day to read the Bible; have a date night; plan how you will have individual time with each child this week and then implement your plan.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves (James 1:22).
4. Decide whom you will serve—God or man. Sit down with your spouse (if you are married) and discuss what is seen, heard, and done in your house. Does it really please the Lord?
" ... Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve ... as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
5. Cultivate a legacy of gratitude. You may want to have a blank journal and ask family members to write one or more blessings in it every day.
" … keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2)
6. Encourage your children to pray along with you when making tough decisions, interceding for others, or asking for material provisions. As they see God answer prayers, they will learn to look to Him when they are in need.
"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you" (Jeremiah 29:11-12)
7. Take time to write or record (audiotape or videotape) your spiritual journey—your childhood memories about faith, your salvation experience, what lessons God has taught you, etc.
"Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you" (Deuteronomy 32:7).
8. Allow your children to sacrifice for a greater need. Perhaps eat meatless meals once a week and give the money to a local food pantry.
And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 5:2).
9. Look for everyday teaching opportunities. For example, if the cashier gives you too much money back after a transaction, return it and explain why to your child: "God says not to take what's not your own."
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
10. Create an atmosphere of understanding. Welcome your children's questions about faith and family.
That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself (Colossians 2:2).
Taken from the February 2007 issue of The Family Room, FamilyLife's online magazine. www.FamilyLife.com/familyroom. Copyright © 2007 FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Used by permission.