Abraham begat Isaac;
and Isaac begat Jacob;
and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar;
and Phares begat Esrom;
and Esrom begat Aram;
and Aram begat Aminadab;
and Aminadab begat Naasson;
and Naasson begat Salmon;
and Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab;
and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth….
Two years ago, my husband was inspired for Christmas. He purchased a DNA test kit from a genealogy service for me. This gift was deeply moving since I really don’t know anything about where I came from. My hope was the kit might give me a sort of overview of my roots. But it raised more questions than it answered.
I am sure I’ve mentioned before that my maternal grandparents raised me. They were both of German ethnicity, but from parts of eastern Europe - part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Grandpa was from somewhere in Romania and Grandma was from Hungary. I grew up in a household where German was the primary language. To say I identified with my German heritage would be a bit of an understatement.
Imagine my surprise when the DNA results came back and showed I was ninety percent British and Celtic. What? Fifty percent I might believe, but ninety? And where was the supposed Jewish connection? The scant trace in my bloodline seems to indicate that it goes back to Adam and not since then. My identity was being messed with in a major way, and it didn’t lead to any further family connections. (Unless, of course, for an additional fee you want to have access to more records. As if I have the time for that.)
On occasion, I revisit the website to make updates to my family tree. Recently, I discovered something interesting. The one and only story I have about my father’s family is that he claimed to have descended from a famous feuding family. It was never clear whether it was the Hatfields or the McCoys, and I suspected it was one of those family myths. Stories, that upon closer examination, are found to have little to no basis in facts.
But it turns out, he wasn’t exaggerating and there may be a connection to the McCoys. Now, in addition to descending from a stowaway grandfather, I’m also descended from people famous for not getting along to the point of murder. Not quite what I had expected from a DNA test. Considering human history, though, should I be surprised?
The project has been completed. Hallelujah! My original estimate for it was between three to six months but it took almost two years. There were moments I wondered if I'd ever complete it and to be truthful, I'd really like to start it over. It's not up to my former standards and I want to make it 'perfect'.
But perfection kills and I need to learn to let things go. Not just in art, but in life. I could bring myself to a nervous breakdown trying to do things perfectly for Mom and Dad. It just can't be done. When I was caring for my own mother, I had to accept that I could not make her situation perfect. I just had to do my best and keep moving forward.
Years ago, I read a book by Larry Crabb. I don't remember the title, nor do I remember anything about the book, but I do remember one thing. A quote that has stayed with me. It was a question, actually. In relating to our spiritual lives the question is, “Do you want to be a mystic or a manager?” You could try to have a nice, orderly, managed spiritual walk with everything in its proper place, striving for perfection. Or you could have a wild, reckless roller-coaster ride with Jesus through life - not knowing what is coming next.
There is a small part of me that would love to have an organized, 'perfect' life. The bigger part of my heart wants to run hard after God, find the mystery He has for us to explore, and the power He has to change me into something extraordinary.
I let go of perfection. The project has come to an end. We'll see where the ride takes me next.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.