“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ~Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NLT)
In June of 2005, my husband and I bought a Scrapbook store. Almost every Friday night for the next two years, we held Crops (group scrapbooking gatherings) at our store. During these Friday evening Crops, I had the privilege of watching and assisting people as they created beautiful scrapbook pages. I was also blessed to hear the stories behind the photos they carefully placed on each page. I learned something important from my time spent with these wonderful people. We all have stories—valuable stories—that need to be told. I believe it is not only our privilege, but also our responsibility to pass on the stories of our life (including our faith journey), and the legacy of our family’s history to the next generation.
Why do I believe this is important? First of all, I believe God wants us to. Deuteronomy 4:6-9 instructs us to remember and to share. Throughout the Bible, we hear stories of the Israelites forgetting who they were and falling away from God. Many of them neglected to tell the stories to their children. They didn’t pass on the tales of the many ways God had worked in their lives. What if no one had shared the stories? What if no one had written them down? What if we had lost that connection to the forefathers (and mothers) of our faith, and therefore to God?
Secondly, since multi-generational households aren’t common anymore, passing on our family history, and our own personal stories, is especially important. Our children and grandchildren may know very little about the generations that came before them. Many of them have only occasional contact with extended family. Sharing our stories can strengthen family ties, and remind them that as a family we are connected, no matter how far apart we may live. I believe that children miss out on something valuable if they don’t know who and where they come from.
What kind of stories should you and I share? Here are some of the things I believe are important:
- Share your family tree. There are many genealogical resources available at local libraries and online. Talk to older family members who are still around and record what they have to say.
- Share your spiritual heritage. Do you have a Christian heritage? Who laid the groundwork for your faith? How did you get where you are today in your Christian walk? How has God provided for you and worked in your life?
- Share personal experiences. Record and tell stories from your childhood. Talk about growing up. What was your first car? What was your first job? How did you meet your spouse?
- Share memories of special occasions. Record important family dates (births, baptisms, graduations, marriages, deaths, etc.). Tell stories about special trips or celebrations.
- Share family traditions. Where did they start? Who started them? Why are they so important to your family?
How do you go about preserving and sharing your stories? One way is to create scrapbooks. This is my favorite. You can purchase a scrapbook or binder and use paper pages, or you can create digital scrapbooks. There are many resources for ideas, training, and supplies, both online and in the real world.
Another way is to create a written history. This can be done in a notebook, a journal, or on the computer. Record the things you would like to preserve for future generations. Even if you do most of your writing on the computer, include a few things in your own handwriting. It will mean a lot to those who read it. You might want to write letters to your children or grandchildren, sharing special stories from your life, and lessons you hope they learn. My grandmother wrote letters telling stories from her childhood to one of my cousins, who graciously shared them with me. Those letters are a treasure.
You can also videotape older family members talking about the past. They are a source of valuable family history. You can even videotape yourself if you are more comfortable telling your stories that way. You don’t need fancy equipment, since most phones today will record videos. Make sure to have a list of questions you would like to have answered. Plan multiple recording sessions so that you can record a lot of information without wearing any one out.
No matter how you choose to share your story, it’s important that you do so. We all have a story that needs to be told, and a story that someone needs to hear.
O my people, listen to my instructions.
Open your ears to what I am saying
for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands. ~Psalm 78:1-7 (NLT)