Jan 7, 2011

Mom's Family Log: From Novel Research to Facebook

by Tanya Parker Mills

Regardless of how it turns out, my next novel, set in Beirut, will be dedicated to my mother, who made an invaluable (and, I'm sure, inspired) decision shortly before she got married.

She determined to keep a "Family Log," documenting all of her married life. This was back in 1950, long before blogs and Facebook (and before she had any premonition that we would travel so much), but she already had the idea of posting brief blurbs of our family's daily life, accompanied by photos, childish drawings, letters, newspaper clippings, etc. Anything that had relevance to our family or anyone in our family went in that log. And they got pretty big and heavy, too, generally measuring 10 inches wide and 14 inches long, with a thickness of some 2-3 inches. Anyone who came to visit the Parkers for a stay or even a dinner party--from the neighbor next door to apostles of the church--was invited to write in our Family Log. We children were embarrassed about it when we got to be teenagers, but I am so grateful now!

Thanks to my Mom (and Dad, for both would faithfully keep it going when separated by travel involving work or vacation), I had primary source material to fill in the details missing from my poor memory when I wrote my first novel, "The Reckoning," set in Baghdad. And now that I'm returning to our past in Beirut for my third novel, I've pulled out more volumes of the Family Log yet again. (There are, by the way, over 20 volumes.)

As I've pored over the pages detailing the beginnings of Lebanon's civil war, old names and faces have come alive again, but this time I've done something more than take notes. I've reached out, through Facebook, and found at least three. One of them, a young Armenian member of the church, had just been called to serve a mission there in Beirut when things began to fall apart. I can't wait to hear his recollections of those difficult days and how he survived everything.

More importantly, I hope to be able to help fire up the light of the gospel for him once more. We know that the gospel will be taken to all peoples and parts of the world and if we hope to bring the church to the Arabs, the seeds once sown by missionaries there (we had up to 6 elders serving in Beirut from the Swiss Mission in the early 70's...as well as missionaries in Iran and Turkey) need to be nurtured again, despite all the conflict.

Mom not only kept a family history. Like the scriptures, it contains testimonies and words from prophets. Like Mom, herself, it reaches out to all those encountered, inviting them in to be a part of our family and the family of Christ. All in all, not a bad legacy for a "Family Log." Are you keeping your family's history?


  1. Nice idea. I like the family log. This is a good reminder to keep our history and represent it in a way that it can be used for education and understanding for our future generations.

  2. What a wonderful legacy, Tanya. and a great blessing. I appreciate the reminder that what we write today can and will benefit our children and grandchildren. Thanks!

  3. Awesome idea. Things like family journals mean so much to us later and now you've parlayed it into a subject all of us can enjoy...well done to you too.

  4. I love the idea of a family log. I do a lot of journaling, besides my blog, but I love that people could sign it--what a great way to remember friends and visitors! I think 'start a family log' is going on my to-do list.


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