Uncover the spiritual strength of your family story.
We all have a desire to learn more about where we’ve come from, and technology has made this more possible than ever. But our family stories are more than a list of DNA results on a piece of paper or a bunch of fading Kodachrome images filling old photo albums.
In an era often marked by both fragmentation in family and culture and a hunger to discover our genetic roots, our family stories—including the difficult, complex ones—can carry great spiritual strength. The desire to trace, interpret, and pass on our family’s history is embedded in Scripture from beginning to end—there are nine genealogies found in the book of Genesis alone. When we bring together the various threads of our family stories with Scripture’s insights, they can provide the key to decoding our identity and helping us discover our place in family, church, and world. In Translating Your Past, author Michelle Van Loon helps readers uncover how patterns and gaps in family histories, generational trauma, adoption, genetic clues and surprises, spiritual history, and the church help us translate our own pasts and understand why these stories matter. Each chapter includes questions designed for individual reflection or small group discussion, as well as an appendix of helpful tools readers can use to translate their own pasts and create meaning in order to transform their unique family history into living, faith-filled heritage.
Michelle Van Loon’s deeply rooted faith in Christ, secular Jewish heritage, spiritual hunger, and storyteller’s sensibilities inform her creative, carefully crafted writing. She’s published six books including Becoming Sage: Cultivating Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality in Midlife (Moody 2020), Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of our Pilgrim Identity (Moody, 2018), Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith (NavPress, 2016), and If Only: Letting Go Of Regret (Beacon Hill, 2014), which won an award of merit in the Christian Living category in Christianity Today’s 2015 Book Of The Year listing.
Michelle has been a regular contributor at Christianity Today and In Touch magazine and has a wide range of published work including curriculum, devotionals, articles, and plays. She is a founding member of The Pelican Project, a women’s theology organization, and the co-founder of www.ThePerennialGen.com, a website for midlife women and men.
“This book is an immensely helpful guide into an inner territory that can be daunting to explore without a good guide like Michelle Van Loon. I am grateful for her wisdom and for the accessible practices she commends.”
~CHUCK DEGROAT, author of When Narcissism Comes to Church, licensed therapist, and professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan
“As I grow older, I long to know more about the people in my family tree. This timely book helps me reconcile the people and places that make up my genealogy. Translating Your Past is a gift box for every reader, reminding us that our story is a valuable mosaic, carefully woven together by the Author of life. Michelle Van Loon’s words welcome us to behold our beautiful and broken family history through a redemptive lens, assuring us that we are indeed part of God’s good work!”
~DORENA WILLIAMSON, bestselling author of ColorFull and The Celebration Place
“Michelle Van Loon weaves together the stories of biblical characters, modern men and women, and her own family to help us map the blessings and curses of our past and make sense of our family stories. A wise, redemptive, fascinating book for everyone interested in family history, intergenerational wounds, and the possibility for healing.”
~AMY JULIA BECKER, author of A Good and Perfect Gift and the forthcoming To Be Made Well
“Not long ago, an unknown and unexpected relative came into our lives thanks to genetic testing. No one quite knew what to do, and this kind of surprise is becoming more common. How do we come to terms with surprises? With secrets? With family trauma? How do we reconcile both the coexisting goodness and darkness of our family histories? ‘God will use the voices of our past in our present,’ writes Michelle Van Loon in her wise and informed book, Translating Your Past. Thanks to this book, I’m learning to listen.”
~SUSAN FLORY, New York Times bestselling author and coauthor, writer’s conference director, and founder of Everything Memoir
“As a therapist and former history teacher, I’m elated by the content of this book. We humans are products of our stories, of the family systems into which we are born, and of the genetic code handed down to us. When we understand who we are and the family and cultural environments in which we are socialized, we are better able to understand ourselves and heal from various wounds. Michelle Van Loon guides the reader to see how our family stories provide insight into both our struggles and joys. I highly recommend this resource!”
~BRENDA YODER, licensed mental health counselor, educator, and author of Fledge: Launching Your Kids without Losing Your Mind
“Translating Your Past is an important work that invites all of us to step into our past to bring healing into our present and to transform our future. These steps affect those around us and those yet to come. Each chapter provides necessary threads to help us face and process the array of factors that form our identity: family history, genetics, generational patterns, ethnicity, religion, plus maneuvering the unknowns, adoption, and trauma. The biblical story frames and undergirds the dialogue. A recommended read for everyone looking to be more whole.”
~INGRID FARO, PhD, MDiv, visiting professor of Old Testament at Northern Seminary
“Families don’t come with a gift receipt. We can’t return the bad back we got from Grandpa or the receding hairline we got from Grandma. Our family inheritance, like the Star Wars series, is going to have stories we are proud of and stories we wish were never created (like Episodes 1–3). In Michelle Van Loon’s latest book, Translating Your Past, she teaches us how to learn from the past, live in the present, and look forward to the future. Thanks to this book I’m hoping to set aside more money for my kids’ college tuition and less for their future therapy sessions.”
~DAN STANFORD, author of Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes
“In Translating Your Past, Michelle Van Loon helps readers unwrap the threads of the past and better understand how genetics, ancestry, and trauma influence the patterns we weave into our present and future. This book provides a much-needed tool that assists readers in recognizing the many factors that contribute to attitudes, health, personality, and character strengths, and the author writes with grace and insightful narrative that draw the reader from page to page. Translating Your Past is a vital book for psychologists, social workers, educators, the medical community, people helpers, families, clergy, and the faith community. It combines cutting-edge research, spiritual application, and practical resources for anyone looking for help understanding the critical role of our past in shaping our present and future. A must-read for anyone who wants to better understand themselves and others.”
~SHELLY BEACH, cofounder of PTSD Perspectives and coauthor of the award-winning Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Struggling with Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life
“Michelle Van Loon’s intriguing compilation of life stories and biblical wisdom, in conversation with psychosocial and biological theories, invites people from multiple familial backgrounds and configurations to discover deeper understanding and healing for complex inherited patterns, joys, and challenges. Van Loon’s findings through this thoughtful, integrative work are accessible and readily applicable through the questions, suggestions, and resources generously recommended throughout the book. A timely gift!”
~MARY THIESSEN NATION, affiliate professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary