Story: A manifesto

I have a story.

My story is not too small.

My story doesn’t have to be earth-shatteringly big to be meaningful.

I am NOT the author of my story.

I am BOTH the protagonist and the antagonist OF MY OWN STORY.

I am the only person with the power to tell my story.

God is bigger than my story–ALWAYS.

HE is the author of my story.

My story matters because HIS story of mercy, and Grace, and redemption matters.

I am but a part of HIS story.

Together, WE are parts of HIS story.

The scenes of my story that intertwine with your story are what broaden the reach of HIS story.

My story is worth telling–not because I wrote it, but because HE has REDEEMED it.

My story is not too small.

I have a story.

—-

YOU have a story.

Your story is not too small.

Your story is not too big.

You are NOT the author of your story.

You are both the protagonist and the antagonist OF YOUR OWN STORY.

You are the only person with the power to tell your story.

God is bigger than your story–ALWAYS.

HE is the author of your story.

Your story matters because HIS STORY of mercy, and Grace, and redemption matters.

YOU are part of HIS STORY.

Together, WE are parts of HIS story.

The scenes of your story that intertwine with my story are what broaden the reach of HIS story.

YOUR story is worth telling–not because you wrote it, but because HE has REDEEMED IT.

Your story is not too small.

Your story is not too big.

You have a story.
Let’s tell our stories.

                                     ~*~

“You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the culmination of super and natural. You are more than dust an bones. You are spirit and image of God.”-Shauna Niequist, Savor

I stumbled upon this quote Saturday afternoon in Barnes and Noble. As I picked up Savor, the pages fell open to this very quote. It was all the confirmation I needed. See, the night before, as I was writing a blog post, I was overtaken by the lies of the enemy that I have no story worth telling. So I texted a friend to talk out those voices. She replied that Satan would love nothing more than  for me to shut down my computer and keep my story locked away, out of the reach of those it is meant to be heard by. So I kept writing. But I didn’t publish the post I’d been writing. I sat on it. Until I read the quote above.

Then, last night, as I sat at my deak, mulling over the connections and blessings the last week have brought forth, the words that became my Story Manifesto poured forth. I have a story. You have a story. Let’s not be afraid to tell our stories.

Daring Greatly: Exploring Scarcity Culture and Vulnerability in Children’s Literature

One of the many things I love about #the4500 is the abundance of book recommendations I’ve picked up over the last six months. I’ve read more books this year than I have in a long time—and have an ever-growing list of titles that is waiting in the wings.

After For the Love, there is one book that stood out to me as it kept being mentioned from the very beginnings of the group’s formation: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Anna (tweeter-extraordinaire who coined #the4500) proudly “pushes it like crack” to everyone who will listen—and now I understand why. I haven’t quite finished it yet, but already, its foundational truths of how we have to show up and engage with every part of our lives—not just the pretty parts—are already embedded in my thoughts.

I won’t lie—it’s not an easy book to read; if you really dig in and get real with yourself, there’s a lot of soul-searching questions and statements to delve into. For the first three chapters (and the introduction), I felt like I was being sucker-punched in the face with everything I was doing wrong in regard to showing up and living authentically. Granted, I already knew I wasn’t doing so before I even started the book but it cut a lot deeper to give my behaviors a name.

Last week, I chatted briefly (sort of) with Anna about what I’d read so far, but up to that point, I’d kept most of my thoughts in my head—true introvert style. And other than how I applied Brown’s theories and research to my own actions, I hadn’t made any other connections with the outside world (very uncharacteristic for me because once you’ve taken Literary Theory with Dr. Cathy Sepko, you will never again read a text without making as many connections with the outer world as possible).

But the afternoon after Anna and I talked, my co-teacher was reading a book (Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White) to our students. I was sitting in the corner of the room, listening and monitoring the littles. On the first page was the sentence, “When she was a little girl, money had been scarce.” As soon as I heard the word ‘scarce,’ I immediately thought of Brown’s belief that a culture of scarcity is the root of our society’s fear of vulnerability. (Let me stop here to say that I didn’t actually realize what I was doing until later in the book when I started thinking of strategies of vulnerability the character [Rebecca Estelle] was employing. I realize it’s ridiculous, yet there I was, applying this theory to children’s literature.)

According to Brown, scarcity “thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack.” In the story, Rebecca Estelle is a woman who plants a garden every spring, growing “a little bit of everything—except pumpkins. Rebecca Estelle hated pumpkins!” She hated them because, as a child, money was lacking and her family ate pumpkin in all its possible forms: baked, steamed, stewed, mashed, rotten, boiled, etc. She “decided she would never eat pumpkins again. Or even look at one.” By applying Brown’s theory, one could say that Rebecca Estelle carried the shame of lack (in this case, a lack of money) from her childhood. Because pumpkins were tied closely with that shame, she just avoided them altogether—bringing us to one of Brown’s three main vulnerability shields: numbing.

Rebecca Estelle was faced with her avoidance of engaging with her long-held shame when a pumpkin truck passed by her house one day. She refused to even look at the truck; “she turned her back and concentrated on picking up the last fallen leaf.” In this act, Rebecca Estelle practices the vulnerability shield of numbing, which Brown defines as “the embrace of whatever deadens the pain of discomfort and pain.” And she continues this practice well into the story, because as the truck passed by, a pumpkin fell off and splattered in Rebecca Estelle’s yard. So, with shovel in hand, she responded with avoidance, and buried that pumpkin:

“Well, I won’t touch it.”

“And I won’t look at it.”

“I won’t think about that pumpkin ever again,” she declared.

“I will ignore them and they will die.”

You can probably guess what happened. That pumpkin grew the next fall. And grew. And grew. Into MANY pumpkins. The very thing Rebecca Estelle was trying to avoid? Well, it grew until she couldn’t avoid it any longer. It overwhelmed her.

Since this is a children’s book, the plot moves quickly from this point. Rebecca Estelle becomes determined to get rid of the pumpkins, but in doing so, she begins to open herself to vulnerability: “She thought and she thought. Her mind went back to all the pumpkins she had eaten as a young girl, when pumpkins were the only food her family had… ‘Some people might need these pumpkins…We’ll give them away.’” So she starts baking—pies, muffins, tarts, cakes, bread, pudding, cookies—pumpkin everything. She carved jack-o-lanterns to draw the attention of the townspeople. She begins to re-engage with that part of her life. She began “to exhibit the courage to show up and let [her]self be seen.”

Once Rebecca Estelle lowered the shield that protected her from her shame and showed up for her own life, the door opened, allowing the townspeople in—and in they came, “young and old, everyone in town came.” And Rebecca Estelle was able to give out of her abundance, because “there [was] plenty.” She began to dare greatly by “engaging with [her] vulnerability.

Aren’t we just like Rebecca Estelle? Affected by experiences long after they’re worthy of our attention? Caught up in avoiding the not-so-pleasant emotions we face? Fearing what will happen if we just let them go? What would happen if we could truly embrace vulnerability and show up for our own lives? Maybe it would make us more authentic not only with ourselves, but with those around us too.

~

Playlist: You Make Me Brave, Bethel Music & Amanda Cook

 Letting Go, Steffany Gretzinger

#the4500: An Introduction

First things first: just over two years ago I hit a wall. A declaration over and rejection of what I perceived to be my calling/my ambition/my whatever-you-want-to-call-it and a wasted/missed opportunity resulted in my disengagement with almost everything around me. It’s all water under the bridge now, and a long, hard story that doesn’t need to be told here (yet). But the reality that it happened is important in preceding this post.

Before this period, I wrote a lot. I read a lot. After this, I stopped—reading voraciously, stopped blogging, stopped journaling.  My last blog was posted in December of 2013. I haven’t really written since then. Until earlier this year, the emotion was too raw, the rejection too near, the questions too unresolved. But I began to feel the bubble of the unwritten words that filled my heart. The stories I needed to tell, the declaration I needed to put forth. For a writer, the burden of an untold story is heavy. Add an ISFJ personality into the mix, and it’s a nightmare. Too many thoughts in one’s head at once are overwhelming—and writing has always been my processing outlet.

November 2014-March 2015 were hard months for me because I was faced with a dear friend’s second battle with pancreatic cancer. In ways that were far beyond my capacity, I was called to come alongside her and her family during that time. For the first time in those two years, I began to let myself show up and feel life again.

In early March, as I felt the stir to begin recording my story again, I stumbled upon a launch team application for Jen Hatmaker‘s  forthcoming book, For the Love. Initially, I dismissed it, but it kept hanging around the edges of my mind. So, on the day before the application deadline,  I applied. An excuse to write regularly by reviewing the book and putting the word out? Sure, why not?

But I wasn’t the only one jumping in that boat—there were 5,000 people (mostly women and a few brave men). Yes. 5,000. Jen’s team issued an email to the 4500 of us who didn’t make the cut and included four chapters of the book to preview.

So here were the rest of us: the un-chosen, the rejected, and the unpicked. But not for long.

There was this tweet:

Then a hashtag robbery that turned into a Facebook group.
Thus, #the4500 was born.

What began as a “no” from the launch team application became a redemption story in the making, even today. One woman (Anna) created a #hashtag and another woman (Tracy) created a Facebook group for those of us who didn’t make the cut.

I must say, when I stumbled across Anna’s tweet on Twitter, I was amused. When I found the FB group and dared to request to join, I was wary. An online community of strangers? And they were pouring their hearts out to one another—about EVERYTHING under the sun??? They were creating new ministries, writers groups, organizing meet-ups around the country??? Umm, thanks, but no—I’ll just be over here on the fringes, writing a book review or two, tweeting about the book—but that’s it.

And so, I lurked. For months. Posting a comment here and there, but never really committing myself to these strangers. Until last week. I dreamed of a #the4500 conference, of meeting the faces behind the names in the group, of having heartfelt conversations. So I posted about it the group, and it set off a series of connections that blows my mind a week later. It’s a story for its own post, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

This apparent rejection from the launch team in March has morphed into something so rare in today’s comparison culture: a group of 1300 women sharing struggles, celebrating successes, laughing together, praying over one another—without judgment, without comparison, without exclusion. It has been such a blessing.

I’m proud to be a part of this ever-evolving sisterhood.

~*~

 

Autumn’s Arrival

It’s Fall.

Autumn.

A new season. 

Isn’t it interesting when the changing of a season actually coincides with new seasons of our lives?

(And the creation of a new blog because you’re locked out of your previous one. Grr.)

I’m finding myself there today…

anticipating the growth of new friendships

as the leaves go dormant for winter;

celebrating the domino effect of God-breathed events over close-held prayers

as the leaves begin to blaze radiant and descend their lofty perches.

The air is crisp,

with more than a hint of expectancy drifting along for the ride.

And, for a change, I’m attempting to drift with it,

without the usual anxiety, excuses, foreboding, etc.

that comes when newness is on the horizon.

Playlist: Rend Collective, The Artist