Write a Good Story

If I have a hope, it’s that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you. (p.59, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

It’s interesting that in the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God. It’s as though God is saying, Write a good story, take somebody with you, and let Me help. (p. 246-247, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

Isn’t that great? That last line is my favorite.

Writing a good story has been on my mind a lot in the recent weeks, for two reasons:

  1. I just finished Donald Miller‘s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which is so good that you should really head on over to Amazon immediately to buy it. It is changing everything about the way I look at life.
  2. Everything in our lives has been changing anyway, because of moving. We are in this huge state of transitioning and starting over, so Ben and I have had many, many talks about how to start well. What do we want our story to be? How do we want this to look? What choices do we want to make which might not make sense to everyone else right now, but lead to the story we want to write, as a whole? Big questions, lots of ideas, a work in progress.

What I’m finding most often right now, is that “good” doesn’t have to be “big”. I think our culture teaches us that in order for something to be worthwhile, meaningful, and valuable, it needs to be big – big dreams, big ambition, big success.

But how often is it not the little things which really end up being the big things? The good things are the small, simple things.

If God chose to make every single sunset different and unique, just for the beauty of it, you’d think it means He’s into details. He seems to create for the pleasure of it. He made us to create, for the pleasure of it.

He also gave us the ability to experience flashes of joy from such simple things, we almost don’t notice it – flash, and then it’s gone.

But in a world with so much pain and suffering, I think the small flash is noteworthy – it gives us more joy to hang on and let it linger, and it tells us something about God’s view of size. Small flashes of joy, again and again and again, add up after awhile. He made it pretty easy for us to feel joy, but He often does so in the small things.

So basically, I’m learning about living a good life, writing a good story, and realizing that it’s found in the little things, in holding onto the quick flashes.

It’s the everyday stuff, like loving my family, going off on an adventure, and finding Jesus in all of it.

Now you should go buy Donald Miller’s book. 🙂

Bike Helmets, Tea Parties, and the Tisroc (May he live forever…)

Before Ben and I had kids, we thought we laughed often, and found many things to be enjoyable in the life we shared.

Then we had Anika, and we often wondered what in the world we ever laughed at before. She added so much joy and amusement to our lives that our previous existence seemed a little dull in comparison.

Now that we have Kaylia in our home, and we have two funny, silly, expressive and creative little girls running around, it feels like there is always something to laugh at, take pictures of, or secretly smile about as I turn away very quickly so that a serious girl with big eyes won’t know that all I want to do is burst out laughing.

And an Anika quote to end off with:

For those of you familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia, you might remember that in The Horse and His Boy, the king of Calormene is called “the Tisroc”, and every time someone says his name, they must also say, “may he live forever”.

Anika loves to take stories she knows well, and then add on to them and change them, so yesterday I happened to overhear a particularly gripping (and surprisingly violent!) sequel to The Horse and His Boy, in which the heroine shoots the Tisroc with her bow and arrow, and announces, “I KNEW he wouldn’t live forever!! And I just proved it!”

When We Share Our Stories

Do you ever think about how important it is to share your stories?

To tell other people, “On my own, I’m kind of a mess, but let me tell you about what Jesus has done in my life”?

We live in a culture where people share lots of things very openly – social media allows us to share the everyday details of life in a much more public way than ever before. But lots of those details end up being surface stuff.

Do you ever share the deeper stuff? I think that’s the stuff that needs to be shared a lot more than it is.

There’s a story in the Bible (Luke, to be exact) about a man who was possessed by demons. He was completely incapable of living a normal life – he ran around naked, broke chains with his unnatural strength, and lived in a graveyard.

But one day Jesus came along, wasn’t scared by him, and told the demons that they had to get out. They didn’t like that idea, so they came up with a different suggestion – they requested to be sent into a nearby herd of pigs. As a result, the pigs went crazy, and ran over the side of a cliff into the lake. End of demons.

The man was a big fan of Jesus after this, for obvious reasons. He wanted to follow Jesus wherever He was planning on going. You’d think that Jesus would be okay with that, seeing as He already had a bunch of men traveling with him. But Jesus said to him, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”

It was more important for the man to go home and tell his story than it was for him to go with Jesus. That was the role that Jesus wanted him to fill.

And then the very next story is the one about the woman who was bleeding for 12 years. She reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak, and was healed instantly.

When she touched Him, He stopped and asked, “Who touched me?” He knew that someone had been healed by touching His cloak. But being Jesus, wouldn’t He also have already known who it was?

I found it really interesting that Jesus made her step forward and publicly announce that she was healed. He made her tell her story to all the people there.

Some people boldly asked for healing, but this woman quietly reached out to touch Him as He walked by. The whole thing could have gone on unannounced. But Jesus stopped and asked her to identify herself.

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Why did He do that? In the presence of all the people…

I don’t know for sure what all of the reasons were behind it, but I do know that something happens to us when we share. When we tell people what Jesus has done for us.

There are times when I really don’t want to. It makes me look bad when I air my dirty laundry for everyone to see. There’s a part of me that is always, always afraid that people will look down on me, and think I’m pathetic, or maybe I’ll end up actually being the only person in the world who thinks such immature, selfish, sinful thoughts. And if I share the whole “Before and After” story, I’m afraid that people will get stuck on the “before” part, in which I look ugly, rather than the “after”, in which Jesus looks fantastic.

But guess what has happened almost every time I’ve chosen to be open and vulnerable? Someone else has been able to identify with my experience, or gotten the courage to open up too, or been encouraged to keep going when things are really hard.

Good things happen when we share our stories. But we have to be brave, and not listen to the part of us that’s afraid. We have to trust that if Jesus thinks it’s a good idea, then good things will come out of it.

Have you ever had a great experience that happened because you were willing to share your story?

In Conclusion…

Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared a few different stories with you of how God has surprised me and led me in a totally different direction than I was expecting.

I did this for the following reasons:

1) To write it down.
The Beth Moore study that I’m doing right now stresses how important it is to write down the things that God does in your life, so that you will remember, and so that your children will someday read it, and remember it, too.

2) To “build some alters”.
In the Old Testament, I love reading about all the times that people built alters in places where God did amazing things in their lives. They would build alters so that if they passed that spot again, they could see a physical reminder of God’s presence in their lives. They could show their children the alter, and tell the story all over again. Other people could see the alter, and know that something significant had happened there.

We do things a bit differently these days – you won’t find too many alters randomly appearing in the fields of Southern Manitoba. But we can still find other ways  of physically reminding ourselves of God’s presence in our lives.

3) To send out some encouragement.
I’ve learned long ago that even though people are all different, we still all struggle with a lot of similar things, like doubt, uncertainty, fear of the unknown. I’ve learned that when I can be honest and share about my experiences, so often there’s someone around who can relate, and suddenly we’re together, and don’t have to face that stuff on our own. And we feel a little more normal, just knowing that there’s somebody else going through the same thing. Or something similar.

And all this came at a good time
– there’s something in particular that I’m praying about a lot right now, and I have no idea how God is going to answer. Looking back and remembering has been a good reminder to me of God’s faithfulness. I know that He’s going to work in my life once again, even if I don’t know when or how.

Now, as much as I love blogging, sometimes it just feels like a one-way conversation. And right now, I really wish that I could hear other people’s stories of how God led them in a totally surprising direction. Normally that’s what that green “Leave a comment” is for, but I know that so far, people have been fairly shy in the comment area. And that’s okay. So maybe next time you see me in person, tell me a story?!

Chucking the Five-Year Plan

Last week, when I mentioned the fact that I used to be a girl with a plan, it got me thinking. And remembering.

Sometimes in the busyness of the here and now, we don’t always take time to look back, to remember, and to appreciate the view – the maze of events, and the twists and turns of the journey that God has used to bring us to now.

In the years that Ben and I have spent doing youth/camp ministry, I have loved every opportunity I’ve had to talk with young adults. I just love that age. I don’t even know why, exactly – maybe because they are in such a time of figuring things out – figuring out what they truly believe, and what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and whom they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

They’re so willing to get messy – to deal with the tough stuff. They are open and searching, and wanting to figure things out. They have so many questions, and so many areas of life that are unknown and unpredictable.

I guess I just love being around to help people work through the mess in any way I can.

Anyway, during those years of ministry, I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked how a person figures out what God’s will is for their life. That is such a huge question. The way we deal with it will affect us for the rest of our lives.

And I don’t think there is a neat, tidy, easy answer.

What I’ve ended up doing over and over again is to tell people exactly that.  Every person and every situation is different, and God speaks in different ways. There is no set of instructions or steps to follow that will give the same results every time.

I can’t give them answers, but I can pray with them, and share my story – the ways that God has led me, and how I continue to work my own way through the mess.

As I use that word “messy”, I’m realizing how negative it sounds. We often tend to see “mess” as a bad thing.

But “messy” can be good!

When it’s rained, and there are puddles and mud everywhere, I strongly encourage getting messy! When the snow is melting in the early spring, the air is so fresh, and everything is mud and running water, getting dirty is definitely necessary! Anika should come inside wet and muddy and dirty and messy when she’s been playing in all that. It’s what being a kid is all about. She’s exploring and reveling in God’s nature.

When I had a five-year plan, my life looked very neat and tidy…and it was boring. I was the one in control.

But God knows me better than I know myself – seeing as He made me.

And once I started to surrender everything over to Him, and to seek His will for my life, I began to discover that there was so much more to life than I had ever let myself imagine.

When I say that I continue to work through the mess, I mean that I am exploring, and reveling in God’s plan for my life.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share parts of my story here.

I think that when we share our stories, we realize that we’re not alone in the tough, confusing spots.

We can find out about the ways in which God has worked, and still is working, and it causes us to praise Him more.

It reminds us of what we already know, but it’s good to hear it again!

So, stay tuned for the Chucking of the Five-Year Plan!

labyrinth picture: Simon Garbutt, 8 Nov 2005

Anika’s Inspirational Quote for the Day:

(We’re reading a book about two homeless children in Morocco who meet a missionary who takes them in, and provides for their physical and spiritual needs. Now all of her stories acted out with her little dolls have to do with the characters from that book.)

“I want a clean heart. My joy will be like your joy. My hope will be like your hope. I will boast in the name of Jesus Christ. I want a clean new outfit. Then I will be a missionary.”

It went on a lot longer, but that was as much as I could get down on paper…