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Today’s my 13th wedding anniversary.  I’m so grateful for every year we celebrate, especially given the state of marriage these days.  But it’s much more personal than that.


You see, we almost didn’t make it.

The first two years of our marriage nearly did us in, between my depression coming to a head and my husband’s past issues rearing their ugly head.  Now when I look back on that time I’m humbled.  And I’m thankful we didn’t give up.

You wouldn’t know how close we came to look at us now, holding hands and smooching all the time (much to the chagrin of our four kids).  Strangers mistake us for newlyweds everywhere we go.  Which is funny, because when we were newlyweds, we weren’t like that at all.

Things started out pretty promising.  We met in a Christian youth choir during our teens – literally love at first sight.  The more we got to know each other, the more convinced we were that we belonged together.  We spent long hours talking out deep spiritual and relational issues over the phone, in handwritten notes, and, later, in those new-fangled things called emails.  We even discussed our ideals in a future wife/husband.

After 4 1/2 years we finally got married.  We were young (21 and 23) but we knew what we wanted.  As a young woman I felt like I’d arrived at my own personal happily-ever-after.  But I soon discovered otherwise.

It was almost the end of us – even almost the end of me.

But thankfully God didn’t leave us there.  He gave us the strength to move past all the hurt and disappointment.  So now we can say we really are happily married.  Now we have three daughters to add to our son who otherwise wouldn’t have been born.

I could easily wish that we didn’t have to go through that pain.  But I don’t.  It was through those days of testing that we both grew in our faith, in our character, and in our love.  And now we can help other people going through the same things.


It’s like any good story: without trouble, you can’t fully appreciate the good.  Click to Tweet


When I was researching my book Legacy of Faith, the Bass Rock was an important part of John Mackilligen’s story.


He spent three years imprisoned on this barren island, along with many other Covenanters (illegal Presbyterians) at the time.

The Rock itself is magnificent.  It’s basically a cube of volcanic rock that rises steep-sided out of the Firth of Forth, 351 feet high.  At present it is used as a sanctuary for seabirds, but its history is much darker.

According to legend, its first inhabitant was a hermit monk, who was reputed to stay in a cave at the centre of the island’s top.  Some time around the 14th century, the Lauder family built a castle on the cliffs, the ruins of which can still be seen today.

After Cromwell’s brief Commonwealth, the Bass Rock passed into royal hands.  Charles II decided it made a handy gaol for his many enemies, and so its period of notoriety began.

We have a few descriptions of the Bass at this time – when John arrived he would have been raised in a boat by a crane to the castle, he would have had little to eat and only dirty water to drink, and the continual dampness in the prison led many inmates to chronic sickness and even death.

And yet, John’s own words survive still: “Since I was a prisoner, I dwelt at ease, and lived securely.”


“Since I was a prisoner, I dwelt at ease, and lived securely.” John Mackilligen on the Bass Rock  Click to Tweet


I can’t read John’s inspiring story without encountering that imposing, solitary rock in the middle of the sea.  For me, the Bass is a symbol of trials in the Christian life.  I can let those trials defeat me, or like John I can use trials as a means to draw closer to God.

The Bass Rock is a symbol of trials in the Christian life  Click to Tweet

While I’ve been working onmy wip about my family history, I’ve been thinking–what does it all matter?  Why do we care what dead ordinary people did centuries ago?


I guess the answer for me is that in my mind they’re not really dead.  The stories I have about my ancestors bring them to life in my imagination.  And they’re not that ordinary, either, once you get to know them.  Or maybe they are ordinary, and that’s  the appeal–ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

Maybe your ancestors didn’t cross the ocean on a mission trip or go to prison for their faith.  Maybe they just worked away faithfully at their job or raised ten kids.  I think that deserves a medal anyway.

If you’re lucky enough to have letters, journals, or anecdotes about your ancestors, read them.  If you have an elderly relative, listen.  And on the chance that one of your descendants down the line will care, write down your stories.  Pass on the torch.