Month: June 2016

What Makes A Really Great Story?

I’m kind of in the process of writing a book. A novel.

I say kind of because it feels a little like playing house.

So no one hold their breath.

I’ve never considered myself a writer.Especially not a storyteller.

I have friends that weave stories in their daydreams and always seemed lost in plot. Haha. See what I did there? Imagining characters and creating their stories while they drive, sit at work or space out while you are talking. It’s in their DNA. Crafting stories.

It is definitely not in my DNA. I am a consumer of story. I love to read. I love fiction and real life stories. I am always amazed at people’s creativity. And God’s. He writes really beautiful stories. And empowers others to as well.

Well, when I decided to go to the Writer’s Conference with Andrea, I started praying for a story. Just one. That might someday turn into a book. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much. But then as I was taking out my trash one night, God whispered an idea in my ear. And I’ve been toying with it ever since.

At the conference, I met a lovely lady named Nancy. I was immediately drawn to her. She struck me as vivacious, inviting and wise.

The conference was very stressful for me.

From the moment I got in the van, I had to come to terms with the fact that I might possibly be a writer. And if I was willing to be honest with myself, that I have dreamed of writing since I was small. But the desire to write was so precious and fragile that I had locked it away in a treasure box in my soul. Tucked away safely. Where moth and rust and criticism and failure could not touch it.

And at the conference I felt like God was giving me a choice. To open the box and give the dream to Him. Or keep it safely tucked away.

I left the conference with it safely tucked away. I’m not a writer. I’m a blogger. And I love blogging.

But late at night, I would listen to the sessions from the conference on my phone. Laying safely in my bed, I listened to author after fiction author talk about their process. And I realized that I wanted to learn more. About writing. A Fiction. Book.

So I’ve started a program. With my new friend Nancy Rue. To learn the craft of storytelling. For those who don’t dream in stories. But feel like they might have a story to tell.

What hooked me was when she used this verse from Psalm 48 in her workshop.

Circle Zion, take her measure,
    count her fortress peaks,
Gaze long at her sloping bulwark,
    climb her citadel heights—
Then you can tell the next generation
    detail by detail the story of God,
Our God forever,
    who guides us till the end of time. 

So anyway.

I’ve started learning about what makes a really great story. And it is blowing my mind. The crazy thing is we all learned (and possibly forgot) this structure in school.

Every story starts with the hero/heroine living their everyday life.

Then, there is an inciting incident that propels the story into motion.

Here’s what I didn’t know.

There is a question that drives every story. It is hidden in the heart of every hero/heroine. That leads and guides every choice they make. And the question varies from story to story. Hero to heroine. But it must be answered for the story to find resolution.

Doesn’t that sound like life? We all having a driving need. A hidden question. That we ask God over and over and over. And I’m convinced it different for each of us. There are themes and similar desires. But the way we phrase it is so personal.

And our lives are a beautiful story where God graciously answers the question of our soul, over and over.

The other thing I’m learning in my class is that in order to have a really great story, your hero/heroine has to be flawed. And real. With hopes, dreams, desires and fears.

And in order to truly tell their story, they will have to face their fears. You have to put them in situations that bring them to their knees.

Well. All of this knowledge has been rocking my spiritual world.

Because in my youth, I thought the Christian life was about getting it “right”. Trying to make the right choices, do the right thing, follow God without error or deviance from his path/will. And I believed that if done “right”, you could live a life free of pain, sorrow or heartache. I now see how this contradicts scripture.

But at 22, if I were the author of my story, here is how I would have written it:

There once was a girl named Leslie. She grew up in a loving home and met Jesus at an early age. Her childhood was filled with love and laughter. She had lots of friends and they never had any conflict. She went to college where she discovered her life’s calling-sharing Jesus with kids through the mission of Young Life. She married a man who shared her life’s passion and together they served the Lord wholeheartedly. Leading people to the feet of Jesus.  They never fought, experienced zero heartache and no tragedy ever touched their world. They had four lovely children who all grew up, safe and sound. Their children all fell in love with Jesus at an early age and followed Him all the days of their lives. And everyone died peacefully at a ripe old age.

But that is not the story of my life.

And that used to bring me great sadness. And shame. And a sense that I had somehow failed God. Because how could this be the story he wanted my life to tell.

And yet, the more I learn about what makes really great stories, the more I see my life through a gracious lens. The lens of love. And my life tells a beautiful story.

I can see the inciting incidences that have shaped my journey.

-In middle school, when I felt like the world ended when my friends stopped talking to me

-In college, when I had a car accident with a Young Life girl in the car

-In ministry, when I didn’t know how to talk to men in authority so I bailed  instead of learning a new skill

-In marriage, when the person I loved chose not to love me

-In divorce, when the church I expected to bench me, invited me to partner with them in ministry

-In Young Life, when God sent key people to heal old wounds and invite me back to a ministry that is in my DNA.

-In teaching, where God called me to a job that is as challenging as it is fulfilling which is where I love to live.

Each one of these incidents, has forced me to face my fears. They have driven me to my knees. They have broken me. And forced me to cry out the same question over and over. Which comes from my hidden need. And God in his kindness, has answered it every time. Not always how I would have preferred. Because He sees the bigger picture. And has the greater story in mind.

I could write about this forever. But I have to stop somewhere.

One last thing that amazes me about our lives, is all the sub-plots. And how there are multiple stories that are being written as we live on this earth. And how God is actively at work in each one. And His timing is perfect.

Look at your life.

What have been inciting incidents?

Have you allowed them to drive you to your knees? Are you in a season where you need God to answer that driving question that rattles in your soul? Again? Is whatever you are walking through an opportunity to face your fears? Perhaps it isn’t a punishment or a result of failure. But perhaps the Author of Life wants to being you freedom. Resolution. Redemption. In that area of your life.

Something Wanda Beth said recently stuck with me,”Answered/unanswered prayer has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love for you and everything to do with his plans and purposes for your life.”

Still chewing on that one.

 

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

 

 

 

Picking up where we last left off

I just had the best 24 hours*.

My dear friend from high school, Mary Kay, flew over to Maui for the night. She and her hubby have been in the islands celebrating 15 years of marriage. She took the time to get on a plane, rent a car and drive to see me. It was not an easy “I’m just passing through” kind of visit. It took effort and intention.

The Girl Who Lives in my Head MK.Les

Now MK and I have not seen each other since sophomore year of college. Christmas cards and an occasional Facebook message have been our only touch points for the past 18 years.

And yet from the moment she knocked on my door, it was as if nothing had changed.

We picked up from where we left off and continued the conversation of our souls.

It was so sweet. So life giving. And refreshing.

She and her husband, Danny, are living a beautiful life of intention. They have made their home in the inner-city with a community of like mind believers, who don’t want to just talk about change but actually do the work that is required to bring it about. Which is really, really hard. And messy. And painful at times. But so worth while. And they are doing it well. Hand in hand with the Father. And each other.

The Girl Who Lives In My Head MK fam

What I loved about our time was there was no pretension. We got raw and real and vulnerable. Because as amazing as life is-no one leaves this world unscathed. And living a life of intention is painful. And takes work. And battling our demons. But I also believe it is what sets us free to experience the abundant life that Jesus promises. Life to the full, comes from emptying ourselves. And being willing to be broken and poured out. Finding that balance of intimacy and service.

I’m so grateful for good friends. Unexpected moments. And deep connection.

It makes me look forward to Heaven all the more.

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives In My Head

*P.S. Thankfully we live in a world where the are a lot of bests. Because I also just had the best week at Woodleaf, a Young Life camp in California. But that is not what this post is about.

 

To Prague, With Love

I’m laying on my sofa, “recovering” from ACL surgery and reminiscing.

Indulge me, if you will.

Last Summer, I fell in love. It was totally unexpected. I wasn’t looking for it. It just happened out of the blue. People had warned me it might happen. And they were totally right.

http://www.idylladmin.com/8/498_prague20150803.jpg

I fell in love with Prague.

http://www.pragueczechtravel.com/images/prague_banner.jpg
If Rome is like lasagna, with layers and layers of history built on top of each other, then Prague is like an onion, sliced in half.

Where buildings from different centuries stand side by side. Telling their stories.

And it is stunning.

http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1782474/thumbs/o-PRAGUE-900.jpg?1
Charles Bridge morning

Not only because of it’s beauty.

But also because of it’s history.

The people. Their story. Of Freedom. And Oppression.  And what it means to stand up for what you believe. And be martyred for it.

I went to visit my friends Marek, Cori and Te’a.

To Prague with love Tyl Family

They are Christ followers who moved back to Marek’s homeland to help grow a church. Talk about kind, generous and welcoming. I had such a marvelous time visiting with them.

Now, I’m a huge history buff and love to take tours to learn all about what I am seeing. In Rome, Heidi and I hit up every tour imaginable. We learned all about the buildings and the history of the city. I totally geeked out.

pano

Prague, was different. Instead of learning the history of the city, I got to hear her heart. We didn’t take any tours.* We just walked the city. Saw her sights. And as we walked,  Marek shared the story of his people. And I fell in love.

To Prague with Love night

Like any powerful story, there are multiple narratives that are woven together as the story unfolds. During my time with the Tyls, there were two plot lines that really moved me about the Czech people.

The Bread and the Wine. 

I grew up in the South and my church history is spotty at best. The whole Armenian vs tulip thing is new to me. (For the record it is Arminianism but I just learned how to spell it during this post). So when I got hired to teach Ancient Civilizations which includes the Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation, I had to do a little tons of research to bring me up to speed.

 I learned about the struggle for power between the Church and Kings. And how corrupt everything had become. How the Black Death leveled the playing ground, eliminating the feudal system and  began shifting the power back to the people. I learned about Martin Luther and his contribution to the Reformation. And how the printing press gave the people access to the Word of God which allowed them to read God’s story for themselves. How the hymns were designed to teach theology, not neccesarily worship.

But one name I skipped over in my research was this guy. Jan Huss.

jan huss

He is credited with being one of the first reformers. He lived 1oo years before Martin Luther guys. According to Marek (and history), he was a Czech priest who questioned the corruption of the church. If you have ever watched “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”and wondered, “What the heck?!?” about the priest…so did Jan Huss. And he was very verbal about his concerns. He stood up and spoke out against many things.

One of his big issues had to do with communion and the cup. Or the blood to be more specific.

At that time in church history, only the priests could participate in the drinking of the cup during communion. The people could have the bread and remember. But not they could not drink the wine. He was deeply bothered by this because the teaching of the Church contradicted the teaching of Christ. He felt all adult believers should have access to the Body and the Blood as they remembered what Christ has done for them on the Cross. Not just the elite.

So the Church invited him to Rome to discuss his concerns. And burned him at the stake for his convictions. Enter the Hussites. Those convictions led to war, reformation, opression and freedom.

I wish Lin Manuel Miranda would set the their story to music.

One of my most treasured moments during my time in Prague was sitting at a church service, watching a line of Czech believers share communion, where both the Body and the Blood were accessible to all. It may not seem like a big deal, but for me it was a Holy moment. This is the church the Tyls are helping grow. Ta Cesta.

To Prague with Love Church

According to a recent poll, only 19% of the Czech people believe there is a God.

to prague with love tyl fam

That is why my friends moved home. To share the life and freedom that is found in a restored relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

Free from religion. And rules. And corruption.

Rich in connection. Meaning. And purpose.

Ok. My knee is starting to throb. I’ll share the second part of the story tomorrow.

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in My Head

 

*This is a lie. We did tour one castle. Where the guide spoke in Czech. Cori and I acted like ugly Americans by taking photos on the sly. Even though we didn’t pay for the privilege. We may or may not have embarrassed Marek with our antics.

to prague with love castle

Here is one of our contraband photos. I have no clue it’s signifigance. Only that I took it while hiding my phone from a very stern.