God's Love, Mothering

Legacy: What Makes a Legacy?

A man holding his two sons' hands walking on the beach with the sun silhouetting them

@JeanneTakenaka

A couple of weeks ago, Mary Geisen shared some thoughts about legacy in relation to a post about creating I wrote. Her words have begun to ruminate in me. This offering is my initial attempt to really consider what it means to leave a legacy.

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Have you ever thought about different aspects of legacy?

My father, whom I am beyond blessed to call Dad, was left a legacy of brokenness. His father was an alcoholic who abandoned his family when my father was three. His mother worked hard and traveled for nursing jobs to keep my father and his sister fed and clothed. But she loved him well and instilled in him a character that nurtured a loyal, hardworking man, even into his eighties. I wonder, though, if there are still scars that never completely healed because of his father’s choices.

An older man and his wife smiling and standing on a rocky path dressed for a wedding

My mother grew up in a two-parent family, knowing she was loved. The legacy her parents left her is different from my father’s. 

What makes a legacy? 

One way Webster’s defines Legacy is as: “Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”

The legacy my parents have left my sisters and me is one of love. Authenticity.

Not perfection. 

In fact, there was striving and struggling, as they raised us three girls. But even through the messy, the sometimes painful, the grappling we did as a family, we knew we were loved.

As Hubs and I raise our boy-men—watching as each day steps them closer to adulthood—I’ve contemplated the legacy we’re imprinting on their lives. These years are definitely filled with mistakes, words I wish I could take back. At times, I wish I was better at putting myself in each of their places to better understand the struggles they face.

A husband and wife walking on the beach at sunset, their footprints trailing behind them on the wet sand

But, we’ve also been intentional about listening when they wanted to talk . . . even when the words spewing from their mouths are harsh. We’ve sought to love them in ways they accept. To laugh with them, and on occasion, to cry with them.

We hope when they look back, it’ll be with a sense that we’ve loved them well.

God’s legacy to each of his children is one of love. 
He loves us when we sin, 

when we mess up,

Even when we walk away for awhile. 

There’s nothing we can do that will make our Father stop loving us.

Two young women pushing a boy in a wheelchair on the beach at sunset

He wants us to share His legacy with those who people our worlds, to love them as He loves us. 

Tall order? Indeed.

People aren’t perfect. Let’s face it. We’re going to mess up sometimes in our interactions with others. We may try to love well and do it all wrong.

We’re going to yell at our children, or our spouse. We’ll sometimes say the wrong thing to someone and hurt their feelings. At times, we’ll reflect selfishness rather than kindness. 

A man, woman and children sitting on the sand near the ocean at sunset

But, when we’re humble, 

when we admit our wrong, 

when we ask for forgiveness, 

when we choose to work on living out love again . . .

Imagine the impact God can have in others’ lives through us. 

God’s gifted His children with the privilege of sharing about Him and encouraging people to draw near to Him.

As we live our lives in a way that reflects Jesus’ presence, how will that impact those around us?

We don’t get to spend a lifetime with everyone whose paths we cross. When people look back on the season when my life intersected with theirs, what will they remember? What will they think—feel—when they recall my name? 

I hope they think, “Her life, words, and actions pointed me toward Jesus. She loved well.”

It seems like, in part, leaving a meaningful legacy comes down to how we treat others and how they receive our efforts. It doesn’t take much for people to look beyond a few words or something done for them to understand the true intentions of our heart. 

Meme with two women facing the ocean at sunset...says "It doesn't take much for people to look beyond a few words or something done for them to understand the true intentions of our heart."

When we consistently love through our words and actions, people will remember that. When we pray for them and encourage them to seek the Lord, who knows the work God will do? 

My dad’s legacy was broken, but he shattered that pattern in his life. He’s an amazing father. He was there for my swim meets, my choir concerts, the plays I performed in. He was lavish with his time and his hugs in my growing up years. He continues to be the model I look to when it comes to loyalty and loving. 

A woman standing with her two sons in front of a water fall

My mom’s the one who nudges me to think outside my box. She encourages me and serves my family in ways that enable me to pursue my writing dream. She’s the thread that keeps our family close-knit.

I hope I can leave the same kind of legacy of love with our sons—and others—as my parents have with me.

What about you? How would you define “Legacy?” What are you doing to leave a legacy in the lives closest to you?

Click to Tweet: When we consistently love through our words and actions, people will remember that.

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup and #TellHisStory

34 thoughts on “Legacy: What Makes a Legacy?”

  1. Beautiful post and wonderfully atmospheric photos! Great job, Jeanne…and Happy Birthday!

    The legacy that I’ll be leaving
    when at last I truly croak
    will leave most folks unbelieving
    thinking it must have been a joke.
    Totaled cars in torn-up hedges,
    and a Harley in a tree,
    leaps from high and flimsy ledges
    (did I clip on that bungee?)
    “Don’t do this at home!” I’ll say,
    then shame you into trying
    for life is short and anyway,
    what’s the harm in dying?
    And thus, to life, my parting kiss:
    “Hold my beer, dude, and watch THIS!”

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    1. Andrew, you made me smile. I know better than to doubt that you have done each of these things. 😉 You definitely live “all-in.” I’m praying for you, my friend. And…my birthday was very nice. Thank you!

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  2. Jeanne, these are such beautiful thoughts on legacy! So important. I give thanks for the legacy my parents left me. Although they divorced, my father was a faithful, committed dad who chose to live near by, so he could be involved in our lives. My daughter has met many kids from broken homes who come from hard situations. It has made her grateful for her family. You’ve given me things to think about as I consider the legacy I want to continue to leave on my young adult kids.

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    1. Thank you, Betsy. I’m glad your parents have left you a good legacy. To have an involved father is truly a priceless gift. When I was a teacher, my heart broke for the many students who came from broken homes. It definitely impacts a child’s heart. May we both be intentional about leaving an impacting legacy for our children.

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  3. Love this, Jeanne.
    And as our sons grow, we begin to see how our influence has impacted them, and I’m smiling right now because every so often I over hear stories that the guys are remembering among themselves.
    For me, it’s very important to take grace into my memories of the boys’s growing up. I failed in more ways than I want to think about, so I have to trust that God will make things right in the end for each of my boys and that He made me their mum for some purpose he is more than willing to fulfill.

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    1. You’re so right, Michele. I was thinking the other day about some of the things we taught our kids when they were young. And how they are different from some of their peers. Most of those differences are good. 😉 I like your words about taking grace into the memories of some of those rough. moments with our kids. I tend to beat myself up and replay incidents in my head, often feeling my failure, rather than the right things I’ve done. One thing I am thankful for is that God fills in our motherhood gaps in our children’s lives. And yes, He made me my boys’ “mum” for a reason. He knows why He places each set of kids and parents together. 🙂

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  4. Beautiful thoughts on what constitutes a legacy, Jeanne. As I get older, it’s a topic I think about more and more. I think my parents were similar to yours. although my dad didn’t come from a broken home, he was one of 12 children growing up on a hard-scrabble farm during the Depression and his father was not always there for his family. My mother was a loved only child. They left me very different legacies.

    There were many times when my kids were growing up when I acted out of anger, tiredness, or frustration. There were lots of words I wished I could take back. We do need a good amount of humility to be a parent, even when our children have grown up. Thank you for your good encouragement on the subject.

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    1. Laurie, tiredness does a lot to our filters and our interactions with our kids, doesn’t it? I believe being a mother has been the thing that has grown me the most in learning humility. Thanks for the insight, that humility is so crucial even as our kids take wing into adulthood. I appreciate your words, my friend.

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  5. Jeanne … I love that you are considering legacy now as your children are still home. Too many of us were far too busy buzzing from here to there to thoughtfully consider the pathway we were leaving behind.

    Thanks for reminding us to be aware and intentional. And it’s never too late, is it …

    God’s grace prevails …

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I guess I’ve thought about how I live out my interactions with my husband and sons for years. But, I’ve only recently thought about the legacy my choices make. It’s challenging me to be more intentional about speaking about God more with them. They’re both in that age where they’re learning and deciding if they want to own their faith. Thank you for your words, my friend. And yes, God’s grace indeed prevails.

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  6. Beautiful words and a wonderful way to think of legacy. Too often I think we throw legacy onto material things instead of the power displayed attributes from the heart that make us who we are. Thank you for the inspiration.

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    1. Thank you so much, Anita. I agree. It’s easy to limit legacy to the material aspects of this life. But, I think the eternal, or spiritual, legacy we form and leave has far deeper significance. I always appreciate your insights!

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  7. Thanks so much for this wonderful reminder, Jeanne. When I think of legacy I get mixed emotions. Many characters in the Bible, had they been plucked from their stories at a certain point, would have left terrible legacies. However, God redeemed their stories later – by grace. I think Noah, David, the Thief on the Cross, and Paul and so many more.
    If I could leave a legacy it would be this: to point others to the grace of God, by receiving it for myself and giving it freely. I pray that the Gospel would be my legacy – having talked about it with my words and and even more than that, lived it with my life.

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    1. Heidi, you’re right. If we were to pluck David from his story right after his incident with Bathsheba, that would be a depressing legacy. Thanks for the reminder that God redeems stories. I love the legacy you hope to leave. God’s grace is such an amazing, life-giving, hope-infusing quality to share with others. Thank you for sharing this!

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  8. I loved reading your thoughts here, Jeanne! It’s good to reflect on the legacies we have been left by others as well as thinking about our impact and what we will pass on to others.

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  9. Your reflections are so meaningful and truth-filled, Jeanne. I’m so glad your dad chose a loving, nurturing legacy instead of living on the broken legacy from his dad. Though I’m sure he does have lingering scars, God used it to make him determined to be better, not bitter. I’m so grateful we have a Father who will never stop loving us, no matter what we do or don’t do! Love and blessings to you!

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    1. Trudy, thank you for your kind words. I am blessed in who God gave me for an earthly father. He’s been amazing. And I’m with you…so glad our heavenly Father loves us regardless of what kind of kids we are. I so appreciate you, my friend. I’m sending love and blessings right back your way. 🙂

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  10. Beautiful post. While the legacy left to your father and mother are complete opposites, I like how you make the point there will still be struggles and mistakes because none of us are perfect parents. My father was out of my life for a while during childhood, then came back an atheist (he did eventually accept Christ). And although my mother never abandoned her daughters physically, she did on an emotional level. Both my parents with their multiple marriages and divorces seemed to leave me a legacy of dysfunction and divorce. I’m thankful me, my twin sister, and my younger sister are each married to a pastor, in ministry, and decided the vicious cycle would stop with us. I, too, hope others look at my life and actions and say I pointed others to Jesus!

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    1. Karen, we all have struggles, don’t we? Family and relationships are a constant choosing to love (in the different ways that looks) and to give grace and to be humble. I’m so sorry you had a painful upbringing. I’m so happy to hear that God gave you and your sisters godly men. I know that’s not a cure for hard seasons in marriage, but having a man for a husband who follows hard after God does help when stress comes into the relationship! I am guessing others see your life and the redeeming work Jesus has done in and through you. Thank you so much for sharing part of your story here.

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  11. Legacy is such a big word! And you have conquered the definition of it well. The first I heard of Stephen Covey’s concept that you “start with the end in mind” was over 25 years ago now, but it still stands as an anchor place for me when considering the legacy I want to leave behind. And fun grandma is one! So my health choices need always be considered with the end in mind, although birthday cake and carnival food with them is still part of the ‘healthy’ choice (just in a different way). 🙂

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    1. Lynn, Legacy is a big word! There are so many things in life when we should start with the end in mind. And you’re right, it’s true with creating a lasting, eternal legacy as well. Your thought of being a fun grandma is a great legacy to leave behind. You know grandmas have special authority to speak into their grands’ lives in ways that parents can’t always.

      My hubs and I, since we were older when God gave us children, have tried to be intentional with our health choices too. And I like the “healthy choices” you make when with your grandkids. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this perspective!

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  12. Powerful Post Sister, leaving a legacy behind that resembles Jesus is so important. That has been my goal for many years not only for my adult children but for the lives of others that we have touched as well. All for His glory, not ours. God Bless!!!

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    1. Thank you, Stephen, for your encouraging words. Making your goal to leave behind/live out a godly legacy—for family and for others—yields priceless results. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  13. I love that you began to think more about legacy and decided to write about it. One of the beautiful things about legacy is when you see the connective thread that weaves between family members and generations. You described it very well. I pray people see the thread of love that has passed from my parents to me and that I have now passed onto my sons, their wives, and my grandson.

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  14. Looks like your parents are a great support for you and your efforts. I’m glad you were able to grow up with and continue to enjoy their love. Judging by the pictures and things you share in your posts about your boys, I’m sure you and your husband are leaving a wonderful legacy of love (and for those you encounter outside of your family). I hope to leave a similar legacy, and one where my boys can know that God is real and intimately involved in their everyday lives.

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    1. My parents are an amazing support for our family and, yes, for me. My husband and I do our best, as do most parents. I would bet that your sons know God is real and involved in their lives. The stories you share on your blogs give evidence of your relationship with Him. Thanks so much for your kind words!

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  15. Beautiful! I want to break the cycle with my legacy. Even though I’ve made parenting and marriage mistakes, what matters is the choices I make from this moment on.

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  16. Wise words, Jeanne. I think of what I received from my parents and grandparents as my inheritance and what I leave as my legacy. Part of my legacy is based on what I do with my inheritance. Do I thoughtfully sift through what comes to me, embracing the good and evaluating the rest with grace? Do I take responsibility for my own actions, not blaming my mistakes on my elders? Am I generous with my affirmation and thanks for their influence on me?

    Here’s my inheritance/legacy version of the Golden Rule: Do onto my ancestors as I would have my descendants to unto me.

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    1. Shirlee, your questions are wise to ask. I like your legacy golden rule. We do need to own our actions. And I love the image of sifting through some of our inheritance with grace. Thank you for your wisdom shared here.

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    1. Mandy, I’m so sorry it’s taken a few days to respond. Legacy is such a broad topic. I can imagine you’ve found plenty to share on, especially when you consider so many different family situations and people. I so appreciate you stopping by! I will try to link up occasionally, hopefully in June. 🙂

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