Sharing the Stories of Your Life
Why It's Important and How to Do It
The Power of Story
Something was not right in my grandson’s five-day-old world, and he was letting us all know about it. Dancing up and down the hallway, I gently jostled him in my arms. Then I began to tell him a story. Speaking in a soft, lilting voice, I began: “Once upon a time, there was a little boy born to two wonderful parents. His mommy and daddy loved him so much. And they loved Jesus so much. And they knew that Jesus loved them so much. They told their little boy over and over how much Jesus loved him. And this little boy grew up to love Jesus too.” For a few sweet and silent moments, his cries of distress halted, and my grandson opened his dark blue eyes and gazed into mine. Such is the power of story.
Photo by Mindy Olson P on Unsplash
If we are people of God, we are people of a great Story. And as we age, it is our privilege and our duty to share our stories with future generations. Through our stories, the next generation grows in faith and hope and love. Just as Asaph called the Israelites to remember the wonders God had done in the wilderness so they wouldn’t be like the faithless folk who turned and ran on the day of battle (see Psalm 78), I will one day tell my grandson how God came to a fifteen-year-old unchurched girl who desperately needed the hope of God but didn’t even know it. I will tell him stories of playing tag football in the park as a ten-year-old, of meeting my husband in a college biology lab during one of the loneliest seasons of my life, of giving birth to a precious daughter who grew up to become his beloved mother. As I share all of the stories, he will see a thread, the bright scarlet thread of redemption that God has sewn through the tapestry of my life. As I share the stories, he will see that thread running through his stories too, binding them together, to God, to his family, to a world desperate to know good news.
Telling our stories is a way to leave a spiritual legacy, which Daniel Taylor defines as “the offering of wisdom from one life to another.” Telling our stories not only gives us pleasure in remembering, it also blesses the ones who receives the story. We must tell our stories, and we must do it before we are no longer around.
How to Share Our Stories
How then shall we tell our stories? I’m a big believer in the power of the written word, but I’m also open to sharing stories through audio recording or video recording or scrapbooking or whatever way helps you get the story down. But there is something special about the written word. If you’re convinced that you must pass on your stories but aren’t sure where to begin, try the following steps. As you will see, the sessions are short, so they can be combined if you have more time and your ideas are flowing. But at fifteen minutes per session, it’s also easy to find the time to work on your story. (Note: If you’re unable to write, consider recording with your phone. Most phones have a recording app these days. If you don’t know how to work the recording app, ask a younger friend or grandchild to help you. You could choose to do an audio or video recording.)
1. Session 1: Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Consider the following story prompts or make up some of your own, and brainstorm, writing down any title or topic of story that comes to mind and a few thoughts about each.
best/worst school story
a story of rescue
traditions of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.
first job story or work story
stories of waiting
2. Session 2: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Choose one of the topics from the previous session, and start writing the story. Don’t worry about grammar or how it sounds at this point. Just try to get the story down. Consider the following questions to help you write the story:
Describe the senses: What did you hear, taste, feel, see, smell, etc.?
Who were the people involved?
Where did it happen?
What happened? Was there a conflict? Was there a resolution?
What did you or do you see about God in the story?
Is there any redemption or revelation in the story?
3. Session 3: Set a timer for fifteen minutes and finish writing the story.
4. Session 4: Set a timer for thirty minutes and edit your story, rewriting it to make it say what you want it to say, to sound how you want it to sound.
5. Share the story. Consider inviting your family and or friends to write their own stories, then set aside a time to gather and feast and share your stories. Keep your story in a notebook or folder (See below for Story Feast handout). Your loved ones will be grateful to have these stories when you are no longer around to tell them.
If you’d like to learn more about writing and sharing your stories, here are several resources, two free ones, and two for purchase.
Free Story Sharing Resources
Story Legacy Exercise: This story writing exercise is one we use in our Organizing Your Life and Legacy workshop to help people write their spiritual legacy. (If you’d like coaching to help you write your spiritual legacy, please contact me to learn more about my life and legacy coaching work).
Story Feast Handout: This handout helps you plan and host a Story Feast with friends or family.
Story Feasting Video Series: YouTube Live Series on Story Feasting: a four-part series with handouts.
Story Resources to Purchase
In his book, Creating a Spiritual Legacy, Daniel Taylor, a wise man and scholar of story, cheers on ‘every woman/man’ to “just do it,” get out there and tell a story. Not only does he encourage us; he actually shows us how to write our stories with some specific, short exercises. He includes stories from a broad spectrum of folks, old and young, to show us that leaving legacies is for everyone. Here’s a brief quote addressing the question, “why story?:
“Stories are, among other things, organisms for storing and preserving a life. But they do not do so in a static, mothballed way. Stories do not preserve our lives in the same way that mummification preserves a body or quite in the way that a battery preserves a charge. Rather, stories preserve a life in the way a plant preserves the sun. They absorb and embody the energy and dynamism of a life as a tree ties up the energy of the sun in its limbs, ready to be released again should someone strike a match.” Daniel Taylor, Creating a Spiritual Legacy
Leslie Leyland Fields: Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing, and Living the Truth of Your Life
This wonderful book encourages you to tell your story, gives practical writing tips, and offers lots of exercises to help you through the process.
“Some of you have lived awhile, and your children and grandchildren don’t know half of your life. They don’t know what you came from. They don’t know what you endured, or the ways God showed up….You want them to know because some of these events have touched them, too, though they don’t know it. They haven’t been ready to listen, or you haven’t been able to say the words out loud. But you can write these words on the page.” (p. 7).
What about you? How have you seen the power of story in your life? Are there stories about loved ones who have passed away that you wish you knew? What stories have you told or do you want to share with the next generation? Please leave a comment or hit reply. I’d really love to know.