But That's Another Story


I just learned that my great-grandmother was an Italian cheese-maker.

All my life I’ve listened to my dad tell stories about spending summers on his grandmother’s farm where he rode horses, worked in the fields and cleaned out chicken coops. But this was the first time I’d heard about her making cheese. 

I wondered what kind.

Mozzarella? Provolone? Ricotta?

My dad says he remembers her stirring a big pot on the stove making homemade cheese that she'd take into the city every week to sell, along with her produce, fresh eggs and baked goods. 

Is this where my affinity for food, delight in the culinary arts and interest {although very little skill} in cooking comes from?




Farm life is a rather unusual storyline in my family because I come from a clan of hard-working city dwellers who emigrated from Europe to work in the steel mills of Pittsburgh. 

All I really know about my great-grandmother was that she had the statuesque name of Michelangela and she left southern Italy when she was sixteen to come to America. She had a dozen children but in the middle of her life, she started a new chapter by buying a farm and becoming a business woman. 

I wonder what she thought of her life. 

Did she wish she’d stayed in Italy? What prompted her mid-life change of direction?



I think about the barest of threads that connect our stories from generation to generation. I wonder how I am like those that came before me. 

Maybe I inherited my neat-freakishness from her since my dad tells me she kept a shipshape house, making those doing outdoor work use an outhouse rather than track dirt and mud into her clean house. 

{Which, by the way, I think is a stellar idea.} 


Although sometimes we start a new chapter or turn the page or add an illustration, I think God really writes our life stories.

He's the ultimate author dipping the feather in the inkwell, slipping in commas where we think a conclusion has been written, and giving us a glimpse of the dust cover every now and again so we can find our place in the bigger story

He presides over the divine storyboard, from beginning to end, scribbling in new adventures, composing a collection of love poems, skillfully writing a narrative that gracefully unfolds over the entire course of a life. 

And his stories are unlike any we could have created or chosen on our own. 


I used to wonder if my headstrong notions or over-zealous passions through the years set me on a winding and curvy course away from the mainstream crowds. Maybe they got in the way and things could have been different.

Maybe if I'd have taken that job in Dallas or said yes to that date or kept up the friendship or agreed to serve in that volunteer role, things would be different in my life. 

But I don’t think so.  

I’m pretty sure things were supposed to turn out this way. 


That relationship wasn’t meant to work out. 

That job was never earmarked to be my career. 

That friendship was destined to fade away. 

That opportunity was intended to come to naught. 

That dream was meant to disintegrate.

Everything that happens to us in life contours our character and unfolds who we are on the inside, inclining our hearts toward God until we are near enough to see and hear and feel his heart for us.



For all those things in our lives that don't work out like we thought or dreamed or wanted, in due time new hope emerges. 

Telling myself I have to, should have, or could have been limits my story and makes it only about me.

Because there's never just one way to be happy. 

How could there ever be just one job, one person, one dream that will make a life beautiful?



I'm not sure why, in the middle of her life story, my great-grandmother decided to become a farmer and cheese-maker. 

But I wonder if she realized that her farm was such a place of joy for my dad, offering him a refuge away from his cramped city apartment and inspiring him with the love that was missing in his motherless life. 

Even now, little pieces of her story still flutter across the generations. And maybe it's that way for us too. 

Maybe our life stories are more purposeful than we could ever imagine.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. -Eph. 1:11-12 (MSG)


Despite my questions, my dad can’t remember what kind of cheese my great-grandmother made. He only recalls that it tasted delicious.

Then a thought flashed across my mind.

Were there any goats on her farm? 

My dad couldn’t rule it out completely but said he didn’t recall any goats. 

Oh well. Maybe the Italian goats I'll meet on my trip to Italy in the spring will turn the page on the comedy chapter in the story of my life.

I'm ready for more of the story.


I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's Coffee for your Heart. Hop over and read more posts to encourage your day!


Comments

  1. Valerie, Again your words stir my heart so deeply! As you ended with, "I'm ready for more of the story," I had to stop and ponder. Am I ready for more? I think that so often I dig my heels in the sand, and say "enough already!" to my Father's storyline that keeps on moving. Thank you for this precious encouragement to trust the Storyteller. He has the best in mind for us! And oh, I had a Grandmother who made cheese also--I wish I would have asked her more about the process! --Blessings and **Hugs**

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    1. Bettie,
      You are such a cheerleader -- I love your encouragement here! I wonder what kind of cheese your grandmother made -- I find it kind of amazing that anyone can actually make cheese since it seems rather mysterious to me. :) I'm with you, saying enough already, sometimes but we have to keep moving forward, don't we? Walking with you! xoxo

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  2. Your photos just get me every single time!!! And now I'm hungry for cheese and pastry. :) I love your words about the incredible author that God is. Yes - there isn't anyone who can write a better story for us. We can always wonder about the lefts and rights we should have taken, but in the end, God has seen every turn and He works so faithfully on our behalf to be sure we end up exactly where we should. Now - to listen AND obey! Big hugs, friend. You are a joy!

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    1. Tiffany,
      I love how you appreciate my photos with your lovely words! I think I do too much wondering sometimes and waiting for some divine epiphany and not enough trusting to realize I am nowhere else but here and that's where I should be.

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  3. I'm so glad you got to hear more about your grandmother, Valerie. That's so neat that she made her own cheese. :) Your photos are always so bright and appealing. I especially love the last one as I imagine myself sitting on that bench soaking up the deep truth you share here - "Everything that happens to us in life contours our character and unfolds who we are on the inside, inclining our hearts toward God until we are near enough to see and hear and feel his heart for us." Breathing in deep the fresh air and that beautiful verse in Ephesians 1. :) Thank you for this encouragement today, Valerie. Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. Trudy,
      Aren't family histories interesting?! I'd love to hear more about your mid-west life too! And Trudy, please tell me you'll be back to blogging soon -- I miss reading your thoughts! xo

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  4. Hi Valerie- How interesting! Love the pictures and imagining what it would be like in her shoes- She sounds like an amazing woman!I really liked this line- inclining our hearts toward God until we are near enough to see and hear and feel his heart for us. I love that thought- it makes the disappointing things seem worth it- Trusting His heart for us to be what leads His choices for us! (sometimes I think my ideas look better)It takes a lot of faith and trust in who He is to keep walking when things are not as we planed or dreamed- So thankful he walks with us -There is no better companion! sending love and hugs xoxox

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    1. Hi Susie,
      My dad did say she was a petite woman, but worked tirelessly! (I guess you'd have to if you had 12 children!) Trusting is so difficult sometimes as we walk into the unknown future and have our steps uncovered only as we take the next one. But I like how he's determined to help us find his love, his way, his thoughts about us, no matter what our circumstances. Hoping you're back to blogging soon, Susie -- I miss you! xo

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  5. Gosh, what a gorgeous piece this is, Valerie ... layer upon layer of beauty and truth with wisdom slipped in between those ever elusive commas, and just the perfect images to take every line up to the next level.

    Could this be your best post ever? I'm thinkin' ...

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    1. Linda,
      You are so encouraging! I can't tell you how much you reading my words every week means to me. You take an interest in my little stories and that means the world to me! xo

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    2. Alecia,
      You are such a great cheerleader! :)

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  6. Your grandmother's story intrigues me in the best way! How lovely...♥ Tell me more!!! I can't wait to hear the rest of her story and yours!! I'm betting that's exactly where your passion for food comes into play though I think it still might take you a while to warm up to farm living... haha! I love how pieces of the past can weave their way into our present and everything in our future is worked out so good for us because of our gracious God and His perfect plan. Thank you for the renewed hope today friend-- and for the verses in Ephesians! I think I'm gonna have to start reading the Message version a little more... it gives a new dimension to the word for sure. xoxo

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    1. Hi Heather,
      I actually thought of your post about your grandparents (or was it great-grandparents?) and her unusual name while I wrote mine! I'm beginning to love the Message too, since every time I look up a verse it's so impactful. And you are so right -- I don't think I'll ever love farm life up-close, but from afar it seems charming!

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  7. Those desserts are mouth-watering! And all the pictures refreshing along with your words. Yes, we can wonder what may have happened if we a made a differently choice in a moment, or we can keep embracing the path of choices we are on knowing God's got each moment as long as we navigate with Him.

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    1. Lynn,
      He does have all of our moments and we have to trust our choices are guided by him and trust that the path we're on is that one that follows him! So glad you're always here to encourage with your words!

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  8. Oh Valerie! I caught me with the cheese making but when you took it to God being the author of our stories you got me so excited! That is exactly what He has been teaching me lately. Every good or bad decision I have made was not an oopsy to Him. It is all apart of His plan and His purpose for my life. So instead of wishing away my present circumstances, I need to hold onto the bigger picture of Him writing my story for His glory.

    Oh and by the way, back to the cheese making. You don't need skills to make cheese. My husband and I have done quite a few times and it is so much fun. Now of course we had to follow a recipe on certain steps but once you do it, it is fun. We made mozzarella with bacon one time. hope you are having a good week

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  9. I am chuckling with giddy delight, because I found myself eventually reading this aloud, my son by my side -I get to the goat part at the end and I start laughing out loud talking about goats and he looks up like, "What's going on?!" I loved this part especially: Because there's never just one way to be happy.
    -But the whole story (or what we know of it) is so intriguing! I am excited for you as you learn more and share here with us. I can't bake bread and may never live in Italy or own a farm but it is so nice to hear stories of how others lived. Your words cause me to feel as if I am there!

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    1. Hi Meg,
      I love that! I think I spend more time thinking and writing about goats than I could have imagined but that's kind of what makes them so interesting to me! :) I love thinking about what might have happened if she had stayed in Italy . . . those are questions that are so intriguing to me! Thanks for reading -- I so appreciate you! xo

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  10. This is beautiful, Valerie! And, those pictures!! Thank you for sharing the story of your grandma with us. It's lovely and inspiring. I'll be looking forward to hearing about your trip to Italy in the Spring! Enjoy!!

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    1. Hi Leigh,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your well-wishes for my upcoming trip -- I'm excited! :)

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  11. Ahh I tried to post a comment this morning but apparently my computer woke up on the wrong side of the bed! :) I love how your grandmother was a cheese-maker. When I was in France I made sure to walk in the footsteps of my great-grandparents. I wonder if you will get to have the opportunity to make a little cheese on your Italian adventure!?

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    1. Hi Kylie,
      It's probably my blog -- comments often go astray or never show up at all -- I'm always so grateful readers try again! xo Oh -- I think I saw on your blog you were in Paris -- I would love to hear your family stories! And how amazing that you walked where they walked!

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  12. It's so cool to learn about your family heritage. What a great lady your grandmother was! :) And yes, God knows how to write the best stories.

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    1. Hi Tasha,
      So grateful you popped over -- thanks for being here!

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  13. So I am sad to say that I wrote a comment the other day but I have been having problems with leaving comments on others blog with blogspot. I smile hoping this works. But I just wanted to stop by and say hi and that everything about this is exactly what God has been placing on my heart. He is writing my story. Nothing is an oopsy for Him. I need to trust in that. Also making cheese is pretty easy and fun to make. Just follow the recipe and it works out well. My hubbie and I have made it a few times. Our favorite was adding bacon to it. Yum. Hope you have a good weekend

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    1. Hi Kristina,
      I got your earlier comment! For some reason it keeps them in the blogger profile and I see them in there . . . but I'm so excited to learn you actually make your own cheese -- that is amazing! And I'm laughing that you said you don't need to be all that skilled -- I'll bet there's more to it than that! Kristina, I love reading your comments here -- you are so funny, sweet and encouraging! I'm so grateful God writes our stories and your story sounds like a delightful walk with him! xo

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  14. I love hearing stories about family members! Isn't it fun to wonder where our quirks come from? :)

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      Family members always make for good stories, don't they?! A wealth of good material! :)

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  15. Valerie, I had to go back and read twice! Love your insight...it's living out the truth of the scripture, that we can have confidence that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it! No regrets, no "what ifs" and no "if only." Just total trust that all the detours and surprises are leading are part of the plan. Just loved this!! Inviting you to share on Fresh Market Friday link-up also:) Crystal

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    1. Hi Crystal,
      Yes! We have to keep our confidence strong that he will faithfully bring us to new beginnings in each of our stories! Thanks for the invite for the link-up -- I'd love to! :)

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  16. Contour our heart so that it is so inclined toward God that we are intertwined with His heart. That is just beautiful. I'll be contemplating that this week, as the contours are rough, unfamiliar, and undesired. May they draw me closer to Him.

    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Christi,
      So happy to see you here! I'm so glad he guides our pathways no matter where they lead!

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  17. YUM!! Love this and you! Wow. I kept thinking of all the detours and what-if's and should of's and how life would be different if only I would have done this or said that. But, alas, life turned out as it should. There's not one thing that I've done or haven't done that has surprised God or completely knocked me off the path He's designed for my life.

    Your pics are just beautiful and make me yearn for more simplicity, refuge in my own life. I wonder...how am I ushering in peace into my home? How will those that I love remember about being in my presence the most?

    p.s. taking a blog break break, and not sure for how long except for an occasional post here or there. I'm beginning my own new adventure, Real Estate. And right now I'm neck deep in study material for a new career. I don't know what God has up His sleeve, but I'm expectant and hope-filled. I'll be popping in here from time to time to catch up!

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    1. Hi Alecia,
      How exciting about your new adventure to learn a new business -- I am cheering you on in this new endeavor! We've chatted about the twists and turns in our lives and yes, I think we know that God is writing our stories and nothing has happened that he's surprised about! (But maybe we are!) I will miss your posts during your blog break but I know it is well-deserved and much-needed! xo

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  18. Valerie, I love your description of how God slips in "commas where we think a conclusion has been written," and gives us "a glimpse of the dust cover every now and again so we can find our place in the bigger story." That's such a lovely way of putting such wonderful truths! If I had been in charge of things way back when, I probably would have written parts of my story differently. But I would have missed out on so much joy and growth had things gone the way I originally thought they should! (By the way, my maternal grandparents were from Italy too, but I don't think there's any cheese-making in my heritage. How cool is that!)

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    1. Hi Lois,
      There's so much wisdom in what you say about joy and growth that we'd miss if we'd written our own stories -- I really love that! I'd love to know where in Italy your grandparents were from -- I'm learning the diverse and unique traits that each region seems to have on its residents and I'm finding it fascinating!

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