Holy Memory

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Nurturing Storytellers

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How can we help our children and grandchildren tell and embrace their stories?  We can start by co-narrating their life events.  When kids are small, begin the story of what’s happening in the day-to-day and give them the opportunity to fill in the gaps, add details, and incorporate emotion.  Their level of detail might be maddening at times.  Their timing will be off.  The included facts might have zero relevance to the overall story (from your perspective).  But be patient.  The only way to improve as a storyteller is to tell stories.  Be curious.  Ask questions.  Resist correcting or finishing the story.  Model clear, concise, coherent storytelling by telling your own stories.  And hope to receive the same level of patience from your kids if you are new to this practice.

As children move toward middle and high school, they begin to make an intentional move toward adulthood, which means finding a way to shift and re-shape the meanings embedded in the stories of family, school, and community to make them their own (paraphrased from Dr. Dan Siegel, “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain).

By the time that kids enter their teen years, our co-narration has given way to their narration of their own stories, and it’s probably time to do more listening than talking.  Letting them tell their own stories and being attentive to how the family themes live out in their story and adapt within their changing world can be an incredibly affirming part of parenting.  It can also be a little challenging if they seem to be moving away from themes we find important.  This is when it can be helpful to meditate and pray over the idea that every life is a holy journey and the story of that life is a part of God’s work in the world.  As we pray, ask God to reveal God’s self through the unfolding of your teen’s story.

Holy Memory

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Memory is powerful.  The Christian discipline is about memory.  It’s cup and bread.  It’s water.  It’s remembering Jesus, orienting our thoughts toward his holy memory.  Jesus practiced holy memory.  He went to Passover, read the Bible, and prayed.  Jesus said that this is how we follow him, by remembering him and doing what he did.  This is the whole mechanism that Jesus left for the church to use to guide itself – memories that we choose to be faithful to.  When we choose to be faithful to the awareness of God’s activity in our history, we remember those moments and are able to orient to what is holy.

The concept of holy memory influences family life too.  As we go through our day and meet new people, if we’re married, we remember that we’re married.  When one of our children breaks curfew or has a fender bender or breaks a valued decoration in our home, at that moment, we remember that this is my child whom I love.  As our parents face complex decisions of care and independence that come with aging, we remember to be faithful. Remembering who you are, and whose you are, orients you in the present moment.

Sometimes there are traumas in life (both Traumas “with a big T” and traumas “with a small t”).  Trauma can orient you to this moment, or it can be disorienting.  If I do the hard work of telling my story, I am able to connect this unique moment (no matter how challenging it may be) to the flow of all the other moments in my life.  Memories have the ability to help us connect to what is valuable, what is precious in this life.  Memory can become a map to what is holy.

To connect this unique moment in time of my own life to the flow of all of the other moments in my life, I have to tell the story of my life.  To whom do you tell the story of your life?