Stories that shape us

Welcome to the 6th post in our series exploring how to create a more soulful, thriving family culture,  based on the book ‘Belonging and Becoming’ by Mark and Lisa Scandrette.

What does your family culture say about the larger story you are shaped by? Let’s go through the keyhole to find out.

I once visited the Museum of American History in Washington DC, and was totally captivated by an exhibition called ‘Within These Walls’ – One House, Five families, 200 years of history. It was like a historical ‘Through the Keyhole’ experience, which reminded me of my favourite show from yesteryear (when David Frost and Lloyd Grosman hosted it – not the new version). Celebrities opened up their homes to let the panel take a virtual tour through every room in order to guess ‘who lives in a house like this?’

The contents of each room provided clues revealing the lifestyle, passions and ultimately the identity of whoever lived there.

In this exhibition, we were invited to step into the stories of ordinary families who made history in their kitchens and their parlours, through extraordinary everyday choices and personal acts of courage and sacrifice.

This is the 200 year old partially reconstructed house which stood on 16 Elm Street, Massachusetts, near Boston.within these walls pic

Josiah and Lucy Caldwell bought the house in 1822.  The Caldwells were passionate Jesus followers. Their understanding of God’s heart for justice inspired them to be local reformers in the international struggle to end slavery. This is their parlour.caldwells parlour

What struck me was how every inch of their home highlighted the higher story that they were connected to. Their kitchen and parlour not only hosted anti-slavery meetings but the whole home was filled with items reflecting their passion for Jesus, for justice and love of their neighbours. Their kitchen table became a production line hub for anti slavery goods such as this pot holder which could be sold to raise funds.

anti slavery pot holder

The children’s nursery and cradle had quilts, handkerchiefs and blankets which were carefully stitched, stencilled and sketched with anti-Slavery messages, bible verses and an abolitionist alphabet – so that the children were surrounded by values of compassion, love for neighbour, and justice in the very fabric of their homes.

antislavery alphabet book                  A abolitionist alphabet

It made me think. How do I want to use my home and family culture to reflect to my children that we are part of a larger story? That it’s not all about us? That there is a big world out there, with big needs, and a big God who invites us to join Him in an adventure to change it for the better.

As a family we have the amazing but daunting opportunity to explore the most important questions of human existence together. Mark and Lisa Scandrette say this:

Why is this such an important task for families? Because we live up to the stories we live under. Your understanding of the true story of the world significantly shapes how you belong to one another and who you are becoming together as a family. To say it another way, this is the why behind your purpose agreement.’

As a family the story we want to connect in to is the story of Jesus – and the amazing adventure he calls us in to. We want to explore what it means to live ‘ life in all its fulness’ (John 10:10) through spending time with Jesus, and asking Him to teach us how best to look out for and meet the needs of others, pursue justice, love our neighbours and try to make ethical choices which won’t harm our world or vulnerable people within it.

We can’t think of any better example of what it looks like to love and be fully alive than Jesus, and many of the historical heroes and people we admire today who are changing the world for the better pattern their life story after His.

Although we fail miserably most days of the week – reminding ourselves of this bigger story we connect to, allows us to not beat ourselves up for being less than perfect models to our children, but that it’s a life long process.

We find it so helpful to spend time in some story telling, soul-shaping type activities – usually not at a regular time or in a consistent way – but usually randomly squeezed into the chaos of our days. This week we are looking through a bible devotional book describing real life scenarios where the kids get to choose their own endings, and then we check at the back of the book what actually happened in this scenario. We end up debating what would be the good choice to make when it comes to bullying/lying/standing up for those left out/treated unfairly and what Jesus did about those things.

It has helped our boys to open up about real scenarios at school which they never thought to mention or to pray about before. We share about the times when we have made mistakes or made really bad choices and the consequences! (Some of them are embargoed until they are older mind you)

Whether it’s toilet twinning, sponsoring a child, using a holiday or half term for family fundraising activities, having a creative prayer wall with a map of the world, photos of friends, info about projects or causes you want to pray for and take action on – there are a myriad of ways in which our homes can be reflecting more of the larger story we are connecting to. Letting our kids graffiti our favourite family verse on a wall is something I’m considering – but not sure I’m quite there yet. May give them a practice wall first…on the inside of a cupboard.

We don’t always have good answers to our kids questions about life, about faith, about suffering, about why the world is at it is – but we simply want to communicate to them that that’s ok because we are all on this story-exploring journey together. We share our story and God’s story with them, and we all dwell with their questions while sharing what we believe to be true. We want to help them to learn how to live well in the real story of the world.

So What’s your story?

If we were to do a ‘Now who would live in a house like this?’ through the keyhole exercise – what story would our house tell?

If our life was a story – which characters would be want to be? Why?

What is the plot of the story we find ourselves in?

What should our quest be?

What obstacles keep us from the good and fulfilling lives we were created for?

How can we recover the good lives we were created for?

How can our home reflect our values and God’s larger story of love, compassion and justice we may want to connect in with.

I would love to hear about the soul shaping stories you want your families to connect with and how you go about using your home and family life to reflect those.

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