'Have I Ever Told You About...?'
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My adventure into personal storytelling began with a question from my eldest son: "Mom, did you ever do anything wrong when you were a kid?" It had been a rough morning when eight-year-old Joshua popped that question. Though simple, it caught me off guard.
"Of course," I stammered. "Haven't you heard the stories?"
Joshua looked at me with surprise and shook his head.
I dove into my memory bank, picked a good one, and shared it with him on the spot. In no time at all, Josh was off running through the house. "Do you guys know Mommy cut off all her hair when she was three years old?"
While he whooped it up with his siblings, I sat quietly, one question haunting me: Do my children really know me?
Sure, they knew me as a mom. They counted on me for birthday surprises, bedtime prayers, and Saturday morning chores. But did it stop there?
Did they know I twirled a baton, taught canoeing, worked on a Canadian Indian Reserve, and dreamed of parachuting while I was growing up?
The resounding answer was no. My children knew a slice of me, but they were missing many important parts of my life. They were missing my stories.
In the Beginning
I became a mom on July 5, 1994. Six-and-a-half years later, our family totaled seven—leaving me surprised, overjoyed, and overwhelmed on a regular basis. Sheer survival was my daily focus. Who has time for meaningful dialogue, much less storytelling, when there are diapers to change, dinosaurs to identify, doctors to visit, and dinners to concoct? But the day of my son's question I made a commitment to embrace the adventures of storytelling, and I haven't looked back.
Personal stories are fun, free, and with a little forethought, easy to add to our overloaded lives. Every day is full of stories. News channels funnel the world's top headlines into our living rooms. Radio stations keep us up to date on local events. The Internet feeds us its daily portion of news-making trivia. Unfortunately, this bombardment allows us to devalue and neglect both our stories and those of the ones we love.
Good news! There's a gold mine in each of our hearts waiting to be tapped. More good news! Mining this treasure isn't hard. It requires very little time or energy—just the acquisition of a few helpful tools and an attitude adjustment. Every parent has an arsenal of stories, and God will use them to strengthen family ties and fan into flame the spark of faith he's igniting in our children's souls.
Real-life stories can give children roots, or they can be met with resistance. Take for instance the tale of Grandpa's three-mile walk to school through a foot of snow when he was a boy. It's a story designed to elicit a sense of guilt and distance, not community. But stories can be powerful bridge builders. They tie hearts together by sharing the joys and challenges common to all people, through every era and stage of life.
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