Dreamer’s Manifesto

“The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don’t know my story…” — Maya Angelou

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When you know in the deepest recesses of your heart that God has created you, called you, and commissioned you for more {the stuff dreams are made of} you will encounter many people on this thrilling adventure who will try to convince you otherwise.

People will try to thwart your dreams. Lean into your dreams.
People will try to convince you to stop. Press on.
People will say good bye. Let them go.
People will say mean things about you. Know His truth about you.
People will try to justify their actions. Speak truth.
People will hurt you. Forgive them to set you free.
People will slander your name. Know who you belong to. 
People will make you question your choices. Stand firm.
People will not understand your motives. Remember your vision.
People will be jealous. Work harder.
People will knock you down. Get up.
People will try to sell you short. Stand tall.
People will doubt you. Never doubt Who you believe in and the purpose for which He made you.

They will try to convince you of many things that are contrary to what you know. They will attempt to destroy your destiny, the very reason blood pulses through your veins. God’s vision for your life is what helps you continue walking when you want to collapse. Vision is what gives you reason to get up one more time. It sustains you, energizes you, and realigns you.

Never, not for one minute, give them any space in your mind. Don’t allow their cruel words to take root in your soul. For something is already growing there. Your dream, your vision, your very life. And these people are like weeds who will eventually choke the life out of your dream…if you let them.

No matter what or who comes your way, never forget who made you, who you are, and where you are headed. It will not be easy, but it will be the only thing that will give you rest for your soul. To know that you fought and won, bloodied and bruised, but valiant. Don’t ever let anyone take that from you. Your very destiny depends on it.

There will be few on your journey who will help you with weed control. They will be your team mates, your tribe. You may already know who some of these individuals are. If not, don’t pick them. Wait for God to show you who they are. He will. I promise. When the time is right, you will see your team forming.

Some people will love you. Love them more.
Some people will respect you. Respect them too.
Some people will offer to help you. Let them.
Some people will be very generous. Pay it forward.
Some people will show you the way. Mentor others around you.  

While you wait, love others. Serve others. Give of yourself. Be grateful for what and who you have in your life. Be mindful of the seeds you sow. Plant, water, and tend your land. You will harvest in due season.

You will begin to believe what they are saying about you. Memorize His truth about you.
You will want to isolate from others. Build a team.
You will doubt what you heard Him say. Trust His word.
You will question your choices. Remember you are chosen.
You will feel like an idiot. Look at all giants who came before you.
You will want to give up. Keep your eyes on the prize.

And the prize my friend, bigger than any dream you could ever dream, is obedience. Full throttle, wide-eyed, bigger than life obedience to the One who made you for this very moment. What God told you in the dark, bring forth into the light.

He will never leave you.
He believes in you. 
He created you for greatness in His Kingdom.
He knows you and loves you.
He is cheering you on.
He is your prize and you are His beloved.

I believe in you. I know you can do it. What or who are you waiting for? Today is the best day to start living your dream. Today. Right now. Get up and do one thing right now that will allow that light inside you to shine bright.

You won’t regret what you did, you will regret what you didn’t do.

Shine on, beloved. Shine.

 

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” — Maya Angelou

Let’s Drop our Stones, OK?

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I mostly blog about my kids, things God is teaching me, good books, and normally warm and fuzzy stories that always have a happy ending. But, my heart hurts today. And I’ve been challenged to write where it hurts. I don’t want comments or responses telling me that it’s going to all be okay. I know it will, but for now, for today, I just want to feel it. To write where it hurts.

Do you remember that old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”? I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Edith Creech saying that many times over the course of 9 months to a group of 6 and 7 year olds.

Kids can be mean to each other. So can adults.

Kids say things without thinking them through. So do adults.

Kids don’t usually have a filter. Neither do some adults.

Kids say mean things to each other because they don’t understand the other kids. So do adults.

When kids say mean things, it hurts. When adults say mean things, it hurts, too. I know because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve said mean things that I later regretted saying. I am grateful that others have given me grace. Even as I typed this today, I emailed a friend to apologize for words I said years ago. Grace given, grace received. 

I’ve been the recipient of mean things. It hurts just as much as an adult as it did when I was a kindergartener and got called boy names by two classmates on the playground the entire year because I had short hair. Or when I was called fat back because I was over weight or “big-boned” as child. The wounds may heal, but the scars remain. 

Kids said all of the things above to me. But what do you do when adults play the same games? How do you respond? What makes us as adults judge and hurt other adults? Other crayons in the same box. Other players on the same team. We are all in this together. When one of our family members falls down, we don’t stomp on them and chant negative things over them. 

We help them. We offer to meet with them over coffee to understand them better. We love them even if they are not just like us or believe the same things as us.

WE LOVE THEM. RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR GREAT BIG MESS.

Love. Grace. Mercy. Understanding. Respect.

Not hate. Not judgement. Not condemnation.

Truth in love.

There is a time for right and wrong. There is a time for black and white. But all the time is the time for love. If you can’t reach out in love and understanding first, no one will ever listen to your rules later.

Start with love. Extend grace. Offer peace. Drop our stones…those of us who have no sin in our lives can keep holding on to them. But, I pray. Oh how I pray we can all drop our stones and choose to love.

Beautiful things often start with broken jagged pieces. My heart is heavy today, but not broken. I am whole in Him. He makes all things new in His time. 

Lord God, help us to see others the way You see them. Help us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). Help us to love others first. To offer grace, peace, gentleness, and understanding before we get out our red pens. You have written that love is the greatest out of faith, hope, and love. As we walk in community with each other, help us to walk in humility and share truth in love.  There is a time for everything. May we begin with the greatest of these things: LOVE!

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthian 13:12-13

 

307,138

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Oh the miles you went.

You carried a young lady to get her masters at ECU.

Then to her first post college job in RTP.

And lastly to her second job in North Raleigh.

Then, that little bit older and pregnant stay-at-home mom traded you for her husband’s Z71 because you got better gas mileage than his red gas guzzler.

You escorted him to work in RTP for 8 long years.

I bet you could make that trip to Davis Drive blindfolded with no driver.

You never gave us any problems.

Just general maintenance over the 14 years and you’ve carried us 307,138 miles.

“Yota” was your nickname and you were a fantastic machine.

We loved you so much that we bought one of your relatives today.

She doesn’t have a name yet, but she has traveled just over 150 miles .

And I can only imagine the miles she’ll take us for many years to come.

Thank you, “Yota”. You served us well.

Anthonynew.old.camry

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Out with the old and in with the new. We test drove other vehicles over the past few months and none of them drove like “Yota”. We bought another member of the family today.

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I am so happy for my husband who never complained about driving a 14-year-old car. She was part of our family for almost as long as we’ve been married.

The only problem we have is that our new Camry is nameless. Sean suggested “Speedy” and Callie suggested “Penguinny”. However, dad didn’t nibble on either offer. Any suggestions you have will be thoughtfully considered!

 

If you ever need a new or new to you vehicle, consider Go Automotive in Clinton, NC. We’ve purchased two vehicles from them in the past 6 years and they were first class both times. Tell them Anthony sent you! 

 

 

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37 is the new….

….37.

Yep, that’s all. Just a number. I am so thrilled to have had another year to live that I don’t mind the numbers going up. Although they are moving up much faster than they did when I was a little younger.

To celebrate, Anthony and I went out for dinner and shopping. We talked for hours without interruptions. I asked him during one of our discussions to name some quirky things about me. His response was a grin and this statement: “Tell me when to stop.” Love him.

Here are 37 little quirky things you’ve always wanted to know about me:

1. I have never been to Disney World. On the list to do soon. 

2. I prefer salty over sweet.

3. I wish I had never quit taking piano lessons as a child.

4. I am glad I took up art as a big kid.

5. I want to learn how to really play the guitar, not just the few chords I know.

6. I am deathly afraid of heights.

7. I don’t trust easily, but if I let you in, you are a keeper for life.

8. I love floss. A little too much.

9. I like to be organized. But, I am a terrible organizer.

10. Cal Ripken was my childhood idol.

11. I prefer the beach over the mountains.

12. I am more of an introvert than most people think. I need my alone time.

13. Being bored is something that I rarely ever experience.

14. My Starbucks tea order is probably more confusing than your Starbucks drink of choice.

15. My current food obsession is sunflower seed butter.

16. I’d rather you buy me something to use in my kitchen than flowers.

17. My favorite smell is almond extract.

18. I have issues with socks. They have to fit just right.

19. I really don’t like sharing a cup or drinking behind anyone. If you have ever shared my drink, then I really, really love you. Or I didn’t drink anymore of it.

20. I don’t like feet. At all.

21. If I could be an animal, I would be an eagle.

22. Office supply stores = kid in a candy store.

23. Crayons. Yeah, I like ’em.

24. I like even numbers. I think in twos.

25. Whenever I shoot hoops, I always have to end on made shot. Started this habit as a child.

26. Snuggle time just before bedtime is my favorite time of the day.

27. If you buy me a book, you will be my best friend for life.

28. Finding a good deal on something I need is like chocolate to a “chocoholic”. I rarely ever pay full price for anything.

29. I have a secret hidden desire to compete on “Chopped”.

30. I don’t like ice cream.

31. If my hands are sticky, it will cause me high anxiety until I can wash them.

32. Emerald green is my favorite color, but army green is my least favorite color.

33. I have an issue with dull pencils. I like my pencils really sharp.

34. I have more empty notebooks than the average Staples or Office Max.

35. I have very firm convictions for me, but I never force them on others.

36. I am a little anal about my kitchen pantry.

37. I like lists. A lot. And this one was a lot of fun!!!

 

Number 36 was an interesting year of life for me. Lots of changes and all good in the end. Number 37 looks to be a banner year in many ways. I am hoping and trusting for many more years to fully live with those I love.  

 

 

Dear 5-year-old Sean: Finding Your Voice

Sean,

When you arrived almost exactly 5 years ago, you changed me. It was nothing you did or said. Nothing that I was expecting, nor desiring. But, I changed.

I didn’t grow up with a brother. I didn’t know what it was like to have a little boy in the house. Little girls don’t pee on you when you change their diaper. I was warned, but it still didn’t prepare me.

I knew things would be different, but there are some things you can’t prepare for.

Like falling in love with another little man. Your daddy has my heart, but boy do you know how to pull on my heart-strings. You play chords my heart has never known. With your little smile and that way you tilt your head to the side when you want something. The way your eyes get so big they just might pop. When you shower me with kisses and you tell me to never become a grandmother because that means you won’t be my little boy anymore.

Yes. Those things. Secrets my heart never knew until you.

When we brought you home, your sister was also captivated by your sweet charm. You were so quiet unless you wanted to nurse. Then I was concerned my neighbors may call the police for a disturbance next door. You knew exactly how to ask for what you wanted.

Until you realized that you were different. That your words didn’t sound like other people’s words. I remember the look in your eyes.

I knew, too. I knew something was different. You were becoming painfully shy. You clung to mama’s leg like it was your oxygen tank. You needed me for many reasons, but most of all, I believe you needed me to be your translator.

You would say something and without fail, the person you were talking to would look up at me for help. With awkward looks on their faces because you have always been tall for your age, they would want help. They couldn’t understand you and were thinking you were much older than you really were. But, I understood you. I knew what you were trying to say. I would feel bad for you and translate almost without delay. And this created your dependence on me…but, it made me mad. I wanted other people to understand you.

Because I believe God has given you an amazing and powerful voice. He named you. He called you. And I believe He placed within you the ability to reach others with of all things, your voice.

I wasn’t mad at the other folks for looking at me to translate for them. I was mad at the fact you had a lot to say and were becoming painfully shy. To the point of avoiding others.

I knew your speech was delayed. I knew you talked way too fast. When your 3-yr-old preschool teacher came to me with her concerns after about 2 weeks of preschool, I was relieved to know that it wasn’t just me. Someone else had noticed. And she was brave enough to come to me. For that I will ever be grateful.

Soon after, you started seeing Ms. Renee, your speech language pathologist. She is an angel. Sent straight from God. She is also now a dear friend to our family. When she tested you, you ranked in the lowest of lows for your age. Again, I knew, but I also knew you were made to use your voice. I knew this would be the beginning of a journey for our whole family.

Today, almost 1.5 years later, your speech is drastically improved. You still talk way too fast, like your mother, but you have a voice!! A powerful voice! And you are not afraid to use it with confidence and courage. You speak to complete strangers now. You joke around. You pray all the time without even thinking about who might be listening.

When I hear your sweet and courageous voice and the faith in your words as you pray, tears always fill the corners of my eyes.

Your favorite passage in Scripture is Exodus chapter 3, Moses and the burning bush. Little do you know, Sean, but Moses was afraid to use his voice, too. There is no irony in this for me. Listen closely to your Lord and your God:

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:10-13

Sean, you have been given a beautiful voice. One that is full of compassion. You give grace. Pray without ceasing. And love without discrimination. I pray that you will always go in the name of the Lord. He will help you speak and will teach you what to say. May you not be like Moses in this passage, but may you say, “Yes, Lord. You will show me the way and tell me what to say.”

As you continue to grow and become a young man, I pray God will be your translator, your sword, and your shield. And I will always and forever be your biggest cheerleader.

Happy 5th birthday, little buddy. Continue to live out loud and never doubt that your voice is beautiful, powerful, and important.

Love you today and always,

Mama

 

 

Christmas Came Early…See What I Unwrapped

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. ~ St. Agustine

2012 has been a year of change, transition, renewal, and hope.

Hope. Yes, the only thing leftover when you have done everything you thought possible. Looking backwards at January 1st, 2012, I would have never predicted the happenings of 2012. The year did not go as planned. But, in many ways, it ended up much better than the forecast I had in mind.

Christmas came early for me this year. Some very special people in my life experienced some awful and amazing things. I am sharing 3 of their stories with you over the next three days. Their stories were chapters in my life this year. And God allowed me to unwrap 3 Christmas presents early.

No present under the tree could quite compare with what He has blessed me with already. Not even the Vitamix that is wrapped and waiting for the three recipes I have ready to make  for our Christmas morning brunch.

Let me reveal the first of three amazing gifts:

I blogged about the first gift back in March. At the time, it was not a gift. It felt more like a very, very bad nightmare. Here is a quote from my post in March:

“Cancer is a VERY bad thing. But, God is VERY big and He is bigger than anything that ever happens to any of us. I can’t see the end. He can. I can’t see through to the other side. He can. He is using and will continue to allow Allison’s life and faith to be a lighthouse, a beacon of hope to a lost and dying world.”

I am sure many of you remember this post, because it was one of my most read postings of 2012. I know many of you prayed for my friend, Allison. I was humbled by your faith and prayers. Your faith strengthened my own faith. Iron sharpening iron. Thank you seems like not enough.

I have an update. And it is HUGE. Allison found out on December 7th that she is CANCER FREE!! Here is a portion of her FB post the following day:

“Yesterday I heard the words that I have longed to hear since last March – CANCER-FREE!!!!!!!!!!  I am officially in remission!!!!!!!!! Still will have to be closely monitored for the next 3 years with scans every 3 months but so thankful for every little blessing in my life. Thankful for all the prayers and support from family and friends!!!! I feel truly blessed. 2 Timothy 4: 7 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Here’s to a wonderful weekend!!!!!!!!!!”

Thank you, God.

Thank you, Allison.

Thank YOU, for praying and believing.

Allison has fought the good fight this year. I have watched her. My walk with God is stronger because of watching her journey. She has been of  one mind since day one. She has had faith in God…that He would heal her. I know her fight has not been easy. I know she has endured much. But, I also know that she never wavered in her very public fight. I am SO very proud of her. She has no idea the impact of her journey in my own life. One day I hope to share it with her. Her life and faith have been a lighthouse for me. Pointing me back to Him.

When I read her Facebook post on December 8th, I cried tears of joy and lifted God’s name in praise.

A gift money can’t buy. The very best kind.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I blog about the second of three gifts that I have unwrapped early this Christmas. You will hear about a person in my life who was able to solve a mystery after 33 years of patient enduring. You won’t want to miss it!

Mary Knows

I am linking up today with Jane at Girl Meets Paper. Every Monday, she hosts a link-up called “Monday Morning Meditations” and I am honored to link up with her today. Here are the formalities from Jane:

Simply choose ONE of the following:

  • reflect on the passage and share a story or example from your life that exemplifies the truth of that passage
  • write a devotional of sorts, providing a more theological perspective on the selection
  • post a photo that you think captures the heart of the message
THEN…
  1. Link up here (follow the button directions below)
  2. AND…visit the blogger who linked up ahead of you!! A must! Since the point of this linky-party is to encourage one another, we must visit and read each other’s posts!”

Here is the passage for today:

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “…And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”Luke 2:34a, 35b  (NIV)

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One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary, Did You Know?” In her honor as the mother of Jesus, the Child of Light, I wrote her a letter:

Mary,

I feel as if I am writing to someone who understands my mother’s heart. I have so many questions, as I am sure that you did as well over 2.000 years ago. You were just an ordinary village girl. I am just an ordinary girl from eastern NC. Nothing extraordinary, just living life and trying to make sense of it all.

But, Mary, your faith made you extraordinary. Supernatural. Set apart. That’s what makes me and you very different. My faith feels very small sometimes and I doubt and worry and fret. You were highly favored. Chosen. The Lord was with thee. You were blessed among women. You knew no man, yet you carried, labored, and gave birth to the Messiah. The Child of Light. The Savior of the world.

Mary, did you know? Were you afraid when Gabriel appeared to you and told you to “fear not”? How did you say and mean “be unto me according to thy word?” Were you afraid of what the townspeople would say about you?

What about Joseph? Were you afraid of his reaction? And when you were pregnant, did you know? Did you know that your baby, growing inside of you would grow up to be Jesus, the Messiah?

When the pains of labor were peaking at the inn, what were you thinking and feeling? When you heard Him cry for the first time, did you cry? When you watched Him fall asleep after nursing at your breast, did you know?

What was Jesus like when He was a toddler and learning to walk and talk? What was His first word? What was His favorite food as a child? Who were His friends? What was His favorite color? What games did He like to play?

Mary, did you know what the future would hold as you watched your baby boy grow up into a young man? Did you know the very hands that held yours, played peekaboo, drew in the sand, stroked your hair, learned carpentry from His father, Joseph, would be pierced and scarred as He hung on a wooden cross?

Did you know one day you would watch your Son die a heinous death that He did not deserve? What was it like to watch your son breathe His last breath?

But, Mary, what was it like to see the empty tomb?! Mary, the mother Mary who knows my mother’s heart, the Christ-child had risen!! The sting of death was overcome by the same hands who bore our sin and shame. The same hands that hold the whole world today.

Mary, you knew.

You knew and you lived with that knowledge every single day as you watched your baby boy grow up to become fully man. You knew He would change the world. Yet, you loved Him as your son. You knew He would deliver all of us from our sin and shame but that He had to die in order to accomplish His Father’s will.

Mary, you knew.

And you didn’t try to stop it. Your last recorded words were: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” John 2:5. You were referencing Jesus.

You knew.

You kissed the face of God. By faith. Your faith made you extraordinary. Highly favored. Your example is one that I aim to emulate.

By faith. Baby Jesus was born.

By faith. Stones have rolled away.

Thank you, Mary. Your faith has given me a path to follow this Advent season. Happy birthday to your son, Jesus!

In faith, your sister and fellow mother, Lizzie

May I pray for you? Lord, what an example we have in Mary, the mother of Jesus. Knowing the truth all along, she chose to be obedient unto death. Knowing that a sword would pierce her own soul, she chose to follow you. God, give us the strength to endure until the last hour. You know our last hour, Father. We do not. Recent events have shown us that none of us know what tomorrow holds. Help us to know the Holder of all our tomorrows more intimately. Help us to walk by faith trusting all of our tomorrows to Him. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Little Children

God has blessed me with two of them. And there are so many more children that I love.

How can you not love them?

Innocent, full of life, joyful, bright-eyed, generous, pure.

Limitless potential in pint-sized bodies.

Jesus said, “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” (Matthew 19:14, The Message)

Truly tonight, God’s Kingdom is fuller and more joyous as 20 sweet souls departed our presence to be with Him.

I have been waiting for them to come. Words. But, they haven’t. Only tears. I catch myself thinking about their little faces and the women whose last heartbeats were spent with them. Doing their job. Protecting their students. To the point of sacrificial death.

And I involuntarily clutch my chest. It is too difficult to understand. My head and heart can’t seem to connect the dots. All stars with no constellation in sight.

In years past, I have helped people who have experienced extreme trauma. As a counselor or debriefer, you hear much and see much through the eyes of fellow human beings. They share their souls with you. Holy ground.

By far, one of the worst traumatic things to experience is the loss of a child. An innocent, energizing, and exuberant child.

On Friday morning, in Newtown, CT, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 students and 6 faculty members were brutally murdered. Christmas presents waiting to be ripped open by 6 and 7-year-olds will sit untouched. Lunchboxes filled with food and notes from moms and dads, were never eaten. Bicycles waiting for the next cul-de-sac adventure will stay in the garage. Beds still tussled from a good nights sleep, will be empty tonight.

I cannot fathom the pain. The depth of heartache. When I look at my two babies…my God, they were just babies…my heart hurts for those who remain to mourn their loss.

Lives vanished. Dreams stolen. Hearts broken. Souls delivered.

Their families will never be the same. Newtown, CT will never be the same. Normal has been shattered.

The shards that remain will inflict pain for years to come as birthdays, holidays, vacations, graduations, weddings, and daily reminders drive the shards a little deeper, inflicting soul pain that lingers for years.

You never get over someone dying. Life will be different forever. New normals take place of what was normal before.

How do you endure the unendurable?

I know I can’t do it alone. There are no easy answers. It doesn’t make sense.

I have to trust by faith that these precious souls are pain-free, full of joy, and dancing upon streets of gold. There is no other way that I can make sense of such senseless tragedy.

I still don’t have words. The writer in me is struggling to find a way to honor the lives lost:

Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay,  Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu. Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin WheelerAllison N. Wyatt, Dawn Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach, Rachel Davino, Victoria Soto,  Lauren Rousseau, and Anne Marie Murphy.

I have to trust that they have not been lost, but they have been found. Way to soon, but found none the less. It doesn’t take away my heartache. It doesn’t make the loss any easier to reconcile. But, it does offer me a sliver of hope. A small crack that offers a ray of light amongst the shards of broken lives and dreams. A chance to focus my thoughts on the unseen, not the seen.

May their souls rest in peace. May we live each day as it were going to be our last. Honoring God and each other. Don’t wait to live. Today. Today is the best day to live.

The Power of Story

 

Story. What do you think of when you hear the word story?

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.” Maya Angelou

For me, it conjures up faces. Faces of so many precious people. Strangers, family, friends, writers, children, neighbors, and waitresses.

This past weekend at Allume, I was showered with dozens of stories from other fascinating bloggers. And I am still overflowing with compassion and admiration for all of them.

What makes them different from you? One thing. They write/type/blog the stories of their lives and in doing so are able to help so many others who have turned similar pages in life.

What’s your story? What have you experienced that makes you who you are today?

We all have a story, actually many stories. And all of these stories compiled together reflect our lives. One of the most amazing and humbling gifts that God gives me often is the privilege of listening to other people’s stories.

If you know someone’s story, all prejudices and presumptions and judgments fall by the wayside. It is really, really hard to hate or dislike someone who is very similar to you. Someone who has also turned some of the same pages in her or his book of life. You and the story-teller soon realize that you have common themes and that you may have even played the same character during a very similar time in your life.

You see, sharing our stories is what connects us. Binds our hearts together and bridges differences of opinion. Instead of judging someone for who they are going to vote for in a few weeks, ask them what led them to make their decision. Instead of presuming you know why your neighbor’s son was kicked out of school, ask your neighbor if she needs anything or if you can pray with her.

Don’t build walls. Build into other people. Choose grace instead of concrete. Love instead of fear. I heard this very theme stated in so many different dialects and passions this past weekend.

On our way home from the Allume Conference in Harrisburg, PA, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

Our waitress was a precious lady. So sweet and generous with Callie and Sean. She asked how old they were and after I told her we had the following conversation:

“You are so kind to my children. You must have children and grandchildren of your own,” I shared.

“Yes, I have 6 children,” she responded.

“No way! You look amazing!” I exclaimed.

She looked down at the coffee laden tray in her hands and stopped for a moment. I didn’t know if she was bashful and not able to accept the compliment that spewed forth from my mouth or if she was pondering what to say. Probably both.

“Well, thank you, but I have not always looked this way,” she shared shyly.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I used to weigh 310 pounds.”

I put my hand over my mouth as tears formed in the corners of my eyes waiting for me to blink so they could be released.

“Wow. You have worked so very hard,” I finally responded. Having been overweight and weighing over 210 pounds myself, I could instantly feel her shame and pride all at the same time.

“I had gastric bypass 5 years ago and lost 185 pounds. I weigh around 125 pounds now.”

Everything in me wanted to jump up from the table and hug her as my tears found freedom. I had a hard time containing myself because I knew part of her story. I knew it deep in the core of my being.

But, I refrained. And complimented her again with, “I am so proud of you. You have indeed worked hard.”

“Well, it wasn’t easy and I was very sick for the first 6 months, but I knew I had to do it for me. I was in a very abusive marriage and the only thing I could control in my life was the food I put in my mouth. So I put a lot of food in my mouth!”

We shared a chuckle and she asked if I needed more coffee. Our conversation ended, but I knew that we had been knitted together in a way that only the Author of our stories, our lives could possibly do.

When she came back to the table in a few minutes, we continued talking:

“I am curious. What was the most difficult part of the journey for you?”

She replied with, “To be honest, being treated differently now that I am thin. People are so mean and they treat fat people with so much prejudice and hatred. I am treated so much better as a thin woman than I was as a fat woman. And the sad part is that I am the same woman on the inside at 125 pounds as I was at 310 pounds. The only thing that changed was my appearance. It hurts and angers me that people can be so harsh. I see it here at work. People stare at the overweight guests like they shouldn’t be eating at all. It is really sad. I want other people to know that fat people are just like them on the inside.”

“I know what you mean. I used to be overweight, too. I lost over 70 pounds about 15 years ago. And, you are so right. People do treat you differently when you are overweight,” I said with a heavy heart. I did know exactly what she meant. Again our stories blended into one.

Anthony and the kids went to pay and I lingered near the kitchen door. I asked one of the waiters if he would get our waitress for me. He did and when she came around the corner, I smiled and she returned my smile with grace.

“May I give you a hug?” I asked.

Her response was in a universal language that all of us understand. A bear hug. She didn’t have to say yes, because she knew that we both knew and understood.

When you invest in others’ lives, there is often little applause. But the payment I received today in the exchange of a hug and mutual understanding was worth far more than any applause.

 

This STORY is the first in a series of posts about stories. I believe that everyone has a story, multiple stories. And I want to help them share their stories in a way that honors them by maintaining their confidentiality, yet sets them free from the agony that results when you don’t share your story. Not everyone is a writer, but everyone has a story. And I am inspired to help those people share it right here on my blog. Lastly, I want to extend a warm invite to YOU. If you have a story you want to share, please let me know. I would be honored to share your story in a future blog post and the life lesson you would want to share with others. Your name would never be mentioned in the blog post and your confidentiality would be certain. If you are interested, please email me at branch626@aol.com.