Our Stories

We all hold stories. Good stories, hard stories, stories of faith and failure, stories of peace and pressure. These stories shape us, but sometimes it feels like they might break us. We create meaning from these stories. The meaning comes based on our age, our resources, the information we have at the time and the influence of those around us. If we have help, this meaning can be true and right. But sometimes we make sense of these stories all by ourselves…

I was on a run today and began to remember some old, hard stories, ones that held a lot of unknowns. When looking back, I noticed my most anxious times in life are held in places when the answers were not near or in sight. Places where I decided God was deaf or blind or cruel and I had to figure it all out. Atleast that is what my broken human brain decided in order to make sense of things.

We all have something that sends our bodies over or under or out of whack. If we paid attention a little more to those cues, those anxious cues, we might find a story there: A time when we didn’t know what to do or where to turn, a time when we felt confused or alone or ashamed, a time when no good answer was in sight and the waiting was hard…

I believe our bodies hold our stories and many times the meaning we try to make of this world and its pain, just isn’t grounded in truth. We try to make sense of the hard with our human minds, our human resources and with the humans around us. But that’s the problem, we are human. And as believers, we know humanity is broken. So have you ever considered, many of the stories we hold and their meaning are based on broken human understanding? So maybe, just maybe, we need to revisit these narratives through an eternal lens instead of our human one. Maybe we need some help.

I began to pray through these hard stories this morning, pray for an eternal perspective, pray to see the heavenly resources that were present, pray to see what God had placed in the unknown to support me during these hard spaces. I began to remember my grandmothers, biscuits in their kitchens and honeysuckles in their yards. I saw my mom braiding my hair and ironing my favorite striped dress as a child. I saw my church family and my dad’s strong hand on my shoulder. I saw my boys playing in the yard and my husband hugging them. I saw friends and neighbors. I began to remember all the stories of how I’ve been held and surrounded during the unknowns.

You see, the body holds ALL the stories, the hard ones and the good ones. We forget the good ones sometimes. And just as the stories of the unknown scare me, there are so many stories of how God sent many known things to me. I want to spend some time there, in what’s known, what’s true. I want to revisit some of those hard places with the mind of Christ instead of my broken one.

I want to access heaven’s eyes as I remember. How did heaven see my stories, my pain, my not-knowing?  Because you see, heaven knows. Heaven holds my savior and both my fathers, and a mighty angel army that fights for me and you. And those heaven-eyes are the ones I want to use when I approach something hard, don’t you?  I think there is something prideful about assuming my brain can interpret anything correctly without the help of the One who created it. So, that begs the question, what stories do I need to reconsider and maybe just surrender? What interpretations have I made that were formed when I had the mind of a child, or a confused teen, or an exhausted young mom? 

Jesus is good and strong and He knows it all and holds it all. He is full of wisdom and kindness. He created us and He was there in the midst of every story, the hard ones, the good ones, the ones that shaped us and the ones that might break us. He is also a great story teller. I wonder, are there some stories in us that He might tell a different way? I’ve come to know Him lately as a truth teller and someone I can trust. Maybe, just maybe, we could use His help, we could trust Him with these stories, to heal us in the hard ones, and to highlight the oh, so good ones. 

The Source of it all

We had just finished up a packed December Sunday. It was Sam’s birthday, we attended church, I did some laundry, Mack baked, we went back to church for an evening Christmas service and ended the night with a fire and a movie. Oh, and I curled my hair. Geez, I am tired just writing all of that. The kids were finally in bed, and I went to check on our elf, Ralph. He was sitting by the fire, getting ready to make a s’more. After making sure he was not going to melt, I noticed the heat from the fire we had lit earlier. I looked in the fireplace to make sure the embers were dying, and I could feel the warmth on my face. Something in my spirit told me to pause. I noticed the bright orange glow in the embers, the contrast of their color next to the gray ash, the texture in the wood, and I just sat for a sacred minute breathing in real heat. Nothing artificial. This was the real deal. I realized, I haven’t paused enough this season. It felt nice to just sit near the warmth for a moment. 

The movie we watched tonight was The Croods, a silly story about the survival of some cartoon cavemen. Cavemen, who had to light their own fires, and survived because of its heat. Nothing artificial for them, no heaters or blankets or fuzzy socks, just the real heat from a fire. This heat was a source that kept them alive.

During these quiet moments tonight, I thought on the sermon from the morning, a reminder of The Source, King Jesus, the ultimate reason we celebrate this holiday. I saw in my mind the candlelight service from earlier this evening, hundreds of candles lit against the dark sky in honor of Jesus. I realized I too felt like a caveman, tired and just surviving the season. I sat next to this real fire and breathed in its deep heat and my heart was flooded with gratitude for all the signs today pointing me towards Him.

It wasn’t lost on me that as this fire was on my left, my artificial Christmas tree was on my right, the beautiful flocked tree that I so desperately wanted last year. When I breathe deep next to it, I sneeze as the glitter and fake snow enter my nostrils. A real, hot fire on my left and a fake plastic tree on my right. This felt like a metaphor of the last few weeks of my life, stuck in the middle between the source of the season, Jesus, and the frantic, anxious place that the pressures of the holiday brings. The pressure to get it all done, have it look right, check off the lists, the lights, the cookies, the Santa pic, the Christmas cards…it makes it hard to breathe sometimes. But when I sit and ponder the birth of my Savior, the source of my survival, my heart can rest and my lungs fill up with peace and I am still. 

I haven’t taken the time to write in a while, and I recently asked God to open my eyes to stories right in front of me, good words that my soul needed. When I am rushed and stressed, I am not present and the words don’t seem to come. Today was different, the church services, the movie, and the fire seemed to all be screaming at me to wake up, to pay attention to the messages in front of me. 

Like the Croods, we all live as cavemen sometimes, just trying to survive, just trying to stay safe. The dad caveman says, “Never not be afraid” to his family a lot. Cavemen had to live that way, to stay warm and to stay fed and to stay alive. I think I’ve been living like a tired Christmas caveman, in survival mode, scanning for what’s not done, looking for the list, running at a frantic pace… 

Please understand, I love Christmas, I love all the traditions, the elf (well not so much), the wrapping, the music and movies. It’s one of my favorite times of year…but I don’t love the pressure I put on myself and I don’t love how I get tangled up and forget the source of it all. I don’t like my Christmas caveman brain. I don’t want to just survive this season. I don’t want it to feel forced and rushed with glitter and fake snow up my nose.

I want to move towards the real source of heat, my only means of survival. I don’t have to scan for anything out of place, because I know He holds it all in place for me. I want to breathe deep in the promise of that dirty manger. I want to lean into the sacrifice of Mary and Joseph, the risk they took and the faith they held. I want to feel the warmth that comes from acknowledging that my Jesus left His throne and said yes to this earth, and yes to you and me. 

As I finish writing, Mack comes downstairs. We talk about his week of baking and midterms, the fire comes back to life a bit, and this time I see blue in the flames. I notice the sound, the crackling of the wood, I hear the dryer upstairs, and I stare at my super tall, handsome son. I feel present and calm and I am thankful. I am thankful for this reminder today from church, a children’s movie, and a fire, that I don’t have to live like a caveman, I am not just surviving. I get to slow down, and breathe deep, and say Merry Christmas and most of all, thank you, sweet Jesus. 

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in HIM. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” ROM. 15:13