We Are Storytellers – So Let’s Tell Our Stories

On a shelf filled with memorabilia was a box labeled “photos.” The box sat collecting dust for years, untouched until the death of my sister, Kim. We opened it to fill a memory board for the funeral, and to use some photos for the memorial slide show. So many questions surfaced… When was that? Where was that? Who was that? Our questions served as an onramp into our family’s story—a centered narrative that brought both laughter and tears. We understood our life in the context of a bigger story, with a longer timeline than our lifespan.

In one photo I was wearing a cowboy hat and boots. My family laughed and asked, “What is this about?” I offered context. I was a 14-year-old member of 4-H, showing my Hereford steer at a livestock show. Looking around, I could see my family locked in disbelief—me, showing a large farm animal sporting a western hat and boots? I explained that the boots and hat were standard dress for showing cattle. And I mentioned that I often use the story behind this picture when I’m facilitating training sessions for ministry leaders on listening skills and being present.

I remember what it was like to stand with my steer, Max, with so many others in that arena—a judge scrutinizing every aspect of our precious livestock, discerning which one would receive best in class. I wanted to make sure Max was looking his best, so I straightened his back and aligned his feet. Because I was distracted by all this, I missed the judge motioning to me (four times!) to move into the first-place spot. I got the blue ribbon, but learned a lifelong lesson—all too often we’re preoccupied, making it hard for us to follow God’s still, small voice guiding us. I wonder how often God has motioned to me, inviting me to take action, and I simply missed the nudging. 

We are people of story—stories that shape us, told by people who play an active role in our lives, and stories told by God, who created us to bear witness to God’s work in our story. On my grief journey, I’ve been reflecting on my life together with Kim. We were very much on parallel paths. We shared many deeply rooted values and loved spending time together. As I pondered what Scripture stories or Bible characters best represented our relationship, I thought about Martha and Mary. These are sisters who both loved Jesus, but lived out their values differently.  I believe Kim and I helped each other to remember God, and to appreciate the good in differences.

This week as I lead a retreat, I will use photos to support participants as they identify their gifts, lean into their values, and tell the story of how they are living out their baptismal promises. I’ll ask them: What’s the story behind the photo? How do you see people living out their calling in these pictures? How are you prompted to see your story intersecting with God’s story in these pictures?

We remember that God walks with us throughout our lives when we learn to grow as storytellers. I invite you to make time to pause, rest, and reflect on your story. This month:

  • Pull out some photos, and share stories.
  • Consider how God was walking with you during those times.
  • Recognize that life is both grief and gratitude—allow yourself to see both as you are reminded of past days.
  • How will you share your legacy through story?

TAKE NOTE: “Storytelling” is the theme for this year’s Leading Well Retreat—I serve on the retreat’s leadership team. Each year, we host this leadership learning retreat for anyone who works with paid staff or volunteers in a church context. This retreat is a unique blend of practical learning and sabbath rest, with a focus on the leader as a whole person. This year, our retreat will take place in Scottsdale, AZ – November 18-21. Interested? Jim LaDoux, Vibrant Faith’s Director of Coaching Services, would love to answer your questions. You can schedule a one-on-one meeting with him by clicking here.   

Tammy Devine is 
a Professionally Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coaching Federation. She’s an End-of-Life Coach, Spiritual Coach, Positive Intelligence Coach, and Boundless Compassion Facilitator. She accompanies leaders, congregations, and teams in coaching relationships targeted at formation, listening skills, and healthier working relationships. She serves on the Leadership Team for Vibrant Faith’s Leading Well ministry, and the Life of Faith Initiative. She’s a member of the DEI team for Boundless Compassion.





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