Every couple days I receive an email with a new post from a certain online magazine.
I signed up for it after I read some of the posts there and found a refreshing honesty and willingness to discuss the hard things in life.
Stories of harm, stories of shame, stories of self-destruction and abuse.
There were no easy answers offered, and it took great pains to avoid being preachy. Although it was informed by Christianity there was a lot of focus on negative self-image, manipulation, lonliness, pain and mistakes.
Once in a while there was a whisper of something more, an outstretching of a hand, a note delivered but no answer yet given.
And their posts are starting to make me a little crazy.
I know there are no easy answers.
I know that for almost all of us, growth and fulfillment come as a process over time.
That doesn’t mean I should stay where I started. We who try to follow Jesus have seasons of dormancy as well as seasons of insights and changes, but our faith will develop. We are to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” because we are new creations in Christ. Some things change in an instant, others take a while to even notice, much less actually address.
Chronic depression or an inability to get past our history may indicate something in us that needs more attention, something that needs more intensive probing and maybe the insight of a trained professional to trace and address. Sometimes we need to seek out the help of someone other than Jesus to deal with hard things. There are things that others can tell us about ourselves that we can’t see from inside ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with having rocky journey to faith. There’s also nothing wrong with a simple faith story, a story of knowing what Jesus offers and taking Him up on it, a legacy of coming from families who believe in Him and who make that appealing by their healthy example.
We belittle our own journey when we disparage it, when we wish to exchange it for something flashier or more dramatic.
I know there are plenty of people who have a story riddled with hardship who would have preferred to bypass the sadness, hurt or difficulty while it was happening (wouldn’t we all?) even though they might acknowledge that their journey made them who they are.
There is power in sharing story. Yes. Every person comes with a story and telling it honestly is part of claiming that we are made through mistakes and successes. Making public a story of abuse or neglect diffuses the power of secrecy that can keep us trapped in a cycle of shame. These are potentially exciting stories of redemption and transformation. But if what is shared is only the first portion, only a representation of the dark-side, are not the rest of us complicit in enabling a voyeuristic system that longs for the juicy tell-all TV magazine headline, the more scandalous the better?
Happily, last week the site included a story that focused on someone’s feelings about having a “plain” story. If you want to take a look, here’s the link: http://shar.es/ivtKK I think overall this magazine does a good job of representing the complexity of real-life faith. They often share glimmers of hope in the midst of difficulty and examples of real people wrestling with fragile situations, coming at it with a faith-informed approach that engages the gray parts of life.
I just happen to like some more frequent sunshine.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, maybe even hear some of your story. All versions (keep ’em clean, of course) are welcome here.
You might have noticed that on Fridays I have started to link up with Lisa-jo Baker (lisajobaker.com) pretty consistently. She hosts a Five Minute Friday blog prompt and it has been a great way to connect with others (online) around the country. It is easy to feel like you’re operating in a vacuum when your little blog gets few comments, and when blogging is something you quietly plug away at with the hopes it will matter someday. Five Minute Friday is one way I’ve found to connect with others who are also exploring this blogging thing in various ways, and if you are at all interested in finding encouragement and really great people, I suggest you check it out.
Here’s how it works. Check her site for the word prompt. Start your timer. Write for five minutes and five minutes only. Don’t worry about it all making sense or being perfect. This is an exercise whose goal is to release you from all that doubt. Write for the fun of it. Now link it up so we can all benefit from your unedited brilliance.
Today’s prompt: Story.
I can’t think of this word without Donald Miller’s book jumping into my head. Love him or hate him (or somewhere in between) he wrote a compelling book about story, and about changing your life’s story, Million Miles in A Thousand Years.
It informs the way I talk about family with my children.
See, as a kid it never dawned on me that I had a contribution to make to the ethos of my family. All my parent’s lines of “He’s your brother so he’s your best friend” fell on mostly deaf ears. I focused only on myself and on how I could relate to people outside my household, and didn’t pay much attention to how I related to my younger siblings (I’m oldest of four kids). Mostly they annoyed me and I tolerated them with the aggrieved air of my teenaged angst.
When my husband and I talk about family with our three kids today, we talk about creating the kind of family you want. We talk about their role as co-creators. We talk about all members having an important role to play. We talk about how one person doesn’t get to decide for the whole family what that family is going to be like.
They have a voice.
And because they have a voice, that gives them some power. Their input is valued.
Is this family a democracy?
It’s a dictatorship, with my husband and I as benevolent tyrants.
And we explain.
And we encourage.
And we try again.
Our family is not a set in stone family, one that has rules and traditions that must.not.be.broken. We try stuff, we let it go, we forget, we pick it up again if it worked, if it didn’t, we cast it aside and let it roll under the couch along with the other rogue Legos, single socks and tumbleweeds. But we all have a role to play. The story that is our family will be shared by my husband and I as well as Rex, Bobo and Princess Teacup. Maybe not equally shared yet, but shared and co-created alongside our Creator.
What was your role in your family growing up? What kind of story you are creating with your life every day? What is one way today you could create the life-story you desire?
Yesterday I had two significant phone calls (not that my other phone calls are insignificant, but this was in a different sphere) regarding the manuscript I recently submitted. Oh, did I not mention that I FINISHED and SUBMITTED my manuscript to a publisher in the Twin Cities? No? Oh well, you know how these things just happen.
I was FREAKING OUT about it, but I chose to let the dust settle before I wrote about it here. I can get a little…what’s the right word?…um…spazzy when I get excited so I decided to spare you my exclamation points and just casually mention it to you now.
Okay, so now we’ve established that I submitted a completed manuscript, my first attempt at writing a novel, and that I’m a spazz. Well, the editor emailed me and asked me for a synopsis, a term I’ve only read about a little bit as I’ve tried to learn about the publishing process. And since we’ve established that I’m a spazz, of course I read the email and got excited and terrified at the same time. I then sent an email to a woman who has been mentoring me in writing and asked her what this meant and what the heck was a synopsis. She wrote me back and invited me to call her.
This is where it gets interesting.
I visited with her and got some very helpful insight into what I should work on, along with some unearned praise and encouragement. The feeling of being validated in a new adventure is amazing. It brought tears to my eyes. During the conversation, she informed me that she had placed a call to a good friend of hers at a different publishing company, who knows more about the publishing business than anyone she knows. She told him about me and he said I could call him. Oh, and he’s the Director of Acquisitions.
No big deal.
I did call him, and we talked for quite a while. Again, for him to take me seriously and act as though I was really a writer felt absolutely amazing. He invited me to send him my manuscript. Let me rephrase: the director of acquisitions at a publishing company, the guy who decides which books they buy, asked if I’d like him to read my novel. He is currently reading my story.
Did that sound casual enough?
As I think about it, I vacillate between utter joy and huge dreams, and the grim reality that the chances of actually getting published are extremely slim. But as my own story has unfolded, things have happened that I never anticipated. I’d like to think that there’s something else at work here, possibly some providential timing that I can only guess at. That’s where the trust and the bravery come into play. I need to trust that no matter what happens, even if this is the end of the line for my manuscript, I have learned about the process firsthand, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I accomplished the goal of finishing a whole book. I need to trust the timing. I also need to have the bravery to step through the doors of opportunity if and when they open. It is more than a little scary, and I often feel like I’m fooling myself into thinking that anything will happen. But when I allow myself to trust and believe that something might come of all this energy and time, the prospect is exhilarating.
What are you doing lately that scares you? I’d love to hear about it.
Have I had the courage to mention to you that I’ve uploaded a large portion of the story I’ve been working on for the past year?
Did I forget to tell you?
Huh. Are you sure I didn’t tell you?
Well, maybe that’s because the idea of you actually reading it is terrifying, to put it lightly. The thought of having it read by people I might actually run into is enough to give me heart palpitations. But if I’m only writing it for my own entertainment, then why bother to actually write it down at all?
I haven’t contemplated the deeper implications of the creative process and whether it is purely a solitary exercise that is just as valid if done for only oneself. I’m sure there are plenty of souls who have reflected on this at length. I’ll leave the reflecting to them, and you can all thank me for that later.
That being said, I’m going to invite you in to my little world by giving you the link to find my “book” (I use that term loosely). I’ve posted it on this website: www.authonomy.com It’s a place where people can post their books, read other books, and even potentially have an editor at Harper Collins Publishing read their books. I have a feeling there is a certain amount of consistent dedication required to actually move up in the standings, and I just don’t have the free time to be able to cast my net into the waters of other users, hoping to convince them to read, review and put my book on their virtual bookshelves (the way to get the book to a higher ranking).
However, it does feel good to officially (sortof) share with the world (kindof) what I’ve been working on. The whole thing started as one bit that morphed into a much larger bit, and now has a life of its own. Sure, some of the characters are inspired by people I know, and at the beginning they were conglomerations of multiple personalities. But now they are their own people, and they’ve left behind their former confines. So don’t go into it thinking that you will recognize anyone (even yourself) because chances are, any character traits exhibited were merely inspired by a chance happening or small quirk I noticed along the way. Or, if you do recognize something or someone that resembles YOU, just shake it off and try to be flattered that you were such an interesting person that you worked your way into a piece of high art. (*snort*)
Take a look if you have some time on a quiet evening. I think you might enjoy it. Click on the link and then look on the right hand side of the page for “Read the Book” and click on that. I welcome your reactions, but try to find something nice to say before you dive into all the flaws you found, okay? Thanks so much for reading!
I’m working on a portion of a story that has a broomball team in it. Being set in Minnesota, one would HOPE it would include a broomball team, right? So I would love to get your reaction to some of the names I’m considering. I should give props to my brother, Nate, who came up with some of these (and more) suggestions. Now you tell me which name you’d be proud to wear on your back!
I’m going to put up a portion of a story I’m working on.
I am going to do it.
Any minute now.
I’m going to put it up, and anybody will be able to see it and comment on it or rip it to shreds or say anything about it that they want to. It won’t matter how much effort I put into it or how long it took me to do it or how painstakingly I tried to edit it. It will just be out there and for better or worse, you, Dear Reader, can think whatever you want to about it or about me.
It’ll be great.
Because if you write things only for yourself, you could really disconnect yourself from the rest of the world, all holed-up in your little writing corner (wouldn’t a writing corner be nice? *sigh*). What if you’ve got something people need to hear or a perspective that’s not being offered? You should probably help out the world by sharing your brilliance. Why not be bold about it? Put it out there into the ether and see what comes of it? Right. Bold. Brave. Take my own advice.
I think I need another cup of coffee.
But don’t worry, as soon as I get it, I’m going to come right back and put up a portion of that story and its gonna be great.
Just you wait.
Now where is that coffee mug?