Do you purposefully record and share your family stories with your family? Authors Taralyn and Teresa Clark (“Life Happens:How to Maintain Family Strength and Unity in the Face of Adversity”) reports “For families to be unified and have a truly rich identity, there are key stories families must know and tell themselves often. ” Through Teresa’s work as a professional story-teller, she has identified seven key identity story themes. I’d like to share them with you. I’ve personalized them with my photography, added some personal stories, and much of the descriptions come directly from their book.
A family creation story is born every time there is a new beginning. When a person falls in love, their courtship, marriage, the birth of each child are examples of creation story themes. Creation stories help us remember who we are and how we got started. We owe our very existence to those who came before us.
Your origin story is the story of who and where your family comes from. In other words it is the story of your ancestors. These stories help children and grandchildren know who they are and what they have inside of them. Knowing the cultures and traditions of the people you descend from opens up the eyes of understanding to family traits, convictions, and interests. Core identity can be strengthened by knowing the trials your ancestors faced. This picture is a four-generation picture including my grandmother.
Sacred Stories are the ones that your family holds sacred. It is important to share the moments when tender mercies came in miraculous ways with your family. I am most often able to recognize and reflect upon those sacred stories when I can get away and enjoy being surrounded by the beauty and stillness of nature.
Families speak in shorthand. We all do it, but sometimes we forget to tell the “back” story to new members to the family due to marriage, or growing children. To be a truly unified family, everyone needs to know the story, so when a phrase is said like “bubble egg,” or “a Frican Lion,” no one remains in the dark about what the meaning is. The picture above was chosen to represent my favorite zoo story. We were at the Henry Doorly Zoo some years ago, when our adult son read out loud the sign outside a complex. “a Frican Lion.” My son-in-law heard what he just said, and of course had a good laugh and told us all what Trevor had said. Trevor is a good sport as we all have to retell this story every time we visit a zoo and see the lions.
I recently heard a beautiful example of family shorthand. My good friends Tamy and Karl were high school sweethearts. Karl wrote and passed a note to Tamy during class with a short list, #1 – #6. Written at #6 were the words, “I love you.” Many years and 6 children later, the number 6 still means “I love you” and the whole family knows it, has adopted it, and signs it to one another.
The things that you are thankful for will change on any given day, but over time will fall into themes. It is important for a family to share their stories of gratitude. This picture is so special to me and I am filled with gratitude every time I look at it. We had a lovely visit with my father, very ill, and mother, several days before my father passed away. I am so grateful that he was still here during the Evans Family Reunion, (participation with the benefit of I-pads) and that we could spend some very special time with him in person.
Divinely directed diversions are usually realized when one looks back on their life and sees the hand of divine providence which led them to where they have come. Often obstacles, or a trial of some sort happens which steers one “off course,” and onto a new path. Sharing these stories encourages us to keep our eyes open in the midst of trials because we never know when the impact will open up a new path before us.
When my daughter Heather gave birth, I had planned to travel there and help for a few days. I just couldn’t believe it when one morning I woke up with a little sore on my arm which enlarged very quickly throughout the morning. I went to the doctor, they cultured it, and later found out that it was Shingles! I couldn’t go see my daughter now until the sore healed! I was pretty upset, of course, but the doctor advised me not to go and be around that newborn. Weeks later, I traveled there and after a day and a half, I got a phone call from my mother: My father had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital. My daughter and son-in-law remarked that my presence there was just at the right time to be able to go give my mother the help she needed and see my father. She lived about 1 1/2 hours from my daughter. I knew they were right. Although hard to leave, my parents really did need me more and so much appreciated my help. A divinely directed diversion.
HOW families choose to record and share their stories is as varied as the number of people there are in the world. But a startling fact exists: If stories are not purposefully recorded and shared, they could be lost forever after three generations. That thought is a horrible one to me. Why? Because every individual is so special. All the little details is the essence of a person’s life. Your family deserves to know your stories of creation, origin, sacredness, family shorthand, gratitude, success, and divinely directed diversions. If you don’t write them, who will?
Taralyn and Teresa Clark offer much more information about keeping families strong and suggestions for activities in their book “Life Happens: How To Maintain Family Strength and Unity in the Face of Adversity.”