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Shelly Henley Kelly emphasizes the importance of making it a priority to preserve and share our family stories.

Mommy, tell me a story.

It’s an age-old call from a child to a parent. Children love hearing stories.

Through story-telling, we break down life lessons into consumable pieces, passing on our values, our faith, and creating a community of love. Stories bind a family together.

I have very fond memories of what we called “picture night,” when my father would set up a screen and bring out the slide projector. Or for a real treat, the movie projector with its box of old 8mm black and white or color reels. In those days, my father primarily took pictures on slide film, so these nights often occurred after processing the most recent canisters. We’d gather to view the results, but inevitably we’d go through box after box looking at photos of our young, newlywed parents, our infancy, holidays, family trips to Big Bend and San Antonio, and dance recitals.


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After all these years, I can close my eyes and still smell the heat lamp on the acetate, the warm air blowing from the side vent. The buzzing electricity in the motor and the clack-clack of the slide tray as it releases and catches square plastic frames of film.

Each box of slides brought on a “remember when” story from my parents, pointing out their own parents and grandparents and telling us about them. Reminiscing about the house, the cars, the hairstyles, and the clothes. The highlight reel of 8mm movie night was always our teenaged father shooting off rockets in the early 1960s, a fragile and now endangered artifact. Eventually, the night would grow long until we’d pick ourselves up from the living room carpet, put the pillows back on the couch, and stumble up the stairs to bed.


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Be present and purposeful in handing down your family stories. #catholicmom

I miss these family story nights.

Today our images are instantaneously captured on small handheld devices. Some are carefully curated for social media, sharing a story to build a platform, while thousands of others are backed up on a hard drive or in the cloud. But how often do we revisit past photos to reminisce with and tell stories to our children.

What we have heard and know and what our fathers have declared to us, we will declare to the generation to come. (Psalm 78: 3-4)


For uncounted generations, knowledge of God, His love and works, has been passed down through storytelling. Even our youngest children are introduced to the Bible through a series of age-appropriate storybooks. Jesus spoke to His followers using stories that held their attention, stirred emotion, and helped them remember the lesson. These stories spoke truth while touching the heart and were easy to share with others. The Bible binds us together as a member of God’s family, sharing the same values and faith in community.

Likewise, raising children with their own personal stories creates a firm identity that connects them between generations. Be present and purposeful in handing down your family stories. Talk about shared experiences. Tell the story of your first day of school and ask them to tell the story of their first day. By discussing what is the same and what was different, you create a bond linking the two generations together.

My children often prefer that I tell them about themselves, usually a story that predates their own memory, but they also love telling and retelling about that birthday party where the ice cream cake melted before we could blow out the candles.

I invite you to consider what stories connected your family growing up. What stories are you and your spouse creating for your children today?


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Copyright 2021 Shelly Henley Kelly
Images: Canva Pro