Pull up a chair. Maybe by the flickering firelight or cozied up on the couch, knees covered by a multi-colored quilt. The sound of a crackling fire or the quiet hum of a coffee pot (no Keurig here) percolates in the background, wafting its warm scent through the room to mix with the smell of peppermint and the residual aroma of a recently cooked meal.
Now, we’re ready.
It’s time to hear a story.
I grew up surrounded by stories – one of the wonderful biproducts of an Appalachian heritage. We love stories. The closer I get to the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it brings back such wonderful memories of sitting by my granny’s side and listening to her unravel centuries of stories passed down through the generations to the next.
It was remarkable to hear her trace lives back to some of the first people who found their way into the valleys and ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina. I know many of us can look up ancestry online, but this was different. Granny didn’t just have a name and a date of death, she had these people’s stories. From horse thieves to Irish lore to war sacrifices all the way down to a simple shop keeper in a small town nearby. Story creates a connectivity that spans years because it binds us in our humanity, but also in our search for hope and beauty in world that can leave us in want of both.
In Appalachian, family story meant something. It bound you to the culture and the people, beyond the names. It gave you a sense of identity. Even now, when I travel back home, people will know me as “Oh, you’re Peggy’s grand young’un or “Oh, your Jay and Ginger’s girl.”
It’s a sense of belonging, a connectivity that weaves me to the people in the past through a shared legacy of pain, fears, struggles, triumphs...and people. History is drawn into the present as a reminder and a guide.
The beauty of this is that it creates a deep understanding of belonging and a fierce loyalty of family and heritage. It helps us recognize our small part in a bigger story. We are one piece in a grand unraveling of family through time.
Interestingly enough, whether we’re Appalachian or not, we are all part of a great story. God’s bigger story of redemption. And we can read about our family history in the Bible – the pain, fears, failures, and triumphs. We can see how God’s fingerprints of salvation create a grand legacy of which we are a part. Our spiritual heritage places us into a family story of eternity.
Just like the stories of my ancestors, both good and bad, create in me a sense of belonging to my Appalachian culture, the tales of men and women in the Bible tie us to our godly culture. The Hope Dwellers. The Mountain Movers. The Faith Finders. The Healed Broken. The Wall Climbers and Truth Speakers.
We’re often defined by our culture…and what a culture we have.
Your story matters because it’s one piece of God’s beautiful book of redemption and you have a part to play that He’s uniquely designed you to play in the greater span of eternity.
What a legacy! What a hope!
As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.