Christmas

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

 

 

 

Single for the Holidays

True Confession: Last year I walked away from my Thanksgiving festivities with a very full tummy and a very heavy heart.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a lovely evening. Full of great conversation, laughter and gluten free fare. It’s just, somewhere between the front door and my car, the realization that I was a one person family hit me hard. There is a very good chance that I started my car, turned on Pandora Michael Buble Holiday mix and cried glistening tears as I made the trek home to my single bed. Which was in fact a giant California King. But that is beside the point. I have a flair for the dramatic and a tendency to turn up the burn when I want to wallow. And last Thanksgiving night, I wallowed. Sad little single girl.

Christmas left me the same hum of discontentment. After deeper reflection, prayer and a moment of clarity, I sat down (or possibly while driving) created a list of my very own Holiday Traditions that I would put into practice next year.

Well, the time has come. May I present to you:

Operation Create Thine Own Traditions 2016.

  1. October 1st: Decorate for Fall. Check. This may be more of a Maui thing but I miss the seasons and need to “create” them by decorating my house. I buy a yummy fall candle and set out tasteful white plastic pumpkins. I pull out my fall kitchen towels and a cute little stuffed owl door stopper with Welcome Fall emblazoned on his chest. It’s simple. It’s enough for me to feel like the season has changed

  2. November 20 (this Friday) I will decorate for Christmas. This is new. I travel for the holidays and last year I waited til after Thanksgiving to decorate. And then…didn’t. Why? In my sad little state, my inner Eeyore was like “Only three weeks til you leave. Why Bother?” So this Friday marks 4 weeks til I leave to go home, giving me a solid month of Christmas anticipatory joy in my own home. This is also when I will allow my self to overindulge in Christmas music. Which I LOVE!!

  3. Thanksgiving Day. After my single gal pity party last year, I decided I needed my own Turkey Day tradition. Up to this point I had only participated in other people’s traditions which fun but didn’t fulfill me. So this year, I’m going to watch memorable Thanksgiving episodes of my favorite shows while I prepare my dishes to take to the party. I’m not sure how I arrived at this except when I watch certain shows I am transported back in time to when I watched them the first time. Friends=college. Greys=fall in Colorado. West Wing=time with MJ. It’s a new tradition. We’ll see how it goes.

  4. Christmas Eve-The day hasn’t felt special to me in a long while. Maybe because I’m out of my element, at the mercy of others and therefore can’t create that rhythm I thrive on. So this year, I’m going to create a countdown to Christmas extravaganza for the only people in my extended family I can still have influence over-the nieces and nephew. A few years ago I did a New Years countdown that is still legendary in their minds. This year, I’m moving it to Christmas Eve Day with church that night being the big finale. I’m picturing minute-to-win-it meets Happy Birthday Jesus cake meets Pinterest. Outcome: TBD.

  5. Christmas Day: Last year, I saved all my Christmas cards to open on Christmas morning and it was really special. I felt like I was sharing my morning with the people I love. Far and away.  It also led to some sweet text conversations as I waited for the family to get their groove on so we could get to the good stuff. Hearing my 4 year old niece exclaim “Oh my nerves!” as she wrestled with the tape on her gifts was my highlight.

  6. New Years: Last year I volunteered at Passion, a gathering in Hotlanta for 18-26 year olds and loved every minute of it. This year, I’m going back for more. I get to part of the intercessor team who will cover the 72 hour event in constant prayer. I am a HUGE Louis (and Shelley) Giglio fan so getting to be a part of something like this is fills my love cup to overflowing. College kids falling deeper in love with Jesus and finding their purpose. Yes please.

SO . All that to say I’m really looking forward see what unfolds this holiday season. Navigating this time of year is tricky for EVERYONE who has breath in their lungs. Here is the course I’m charting. What’s yours?Whether your house is a party of one or fifteen, I’d love to know your tips, traditions and trade secrets.

How do you make the holidays meaningful in your home?

I hesitate to ask because nothing looks sadder on a blog than a question with no responses but I’m feeling brave. Brave single gal.

Love, Love, Love,

The Girl Who Lives in my Head

PS Check out my Awkward Christmas Cards for a laugh. And to learn more about me.