I’d never taught with laryngitis before, and it was enlightening, because in losing my voice, I realized what an important tool it has been to me in the communication of content and the conveyance of mood and emotion. A class on parenting is nothing without a few accounts of real life encounters, and even though my delivery was weak and croaking, I sensed students leaning in, listening hard to the stories I was sharing from the crucible of our parenting life here on this country hill in Maine.
That awkward teaching experience coincided with my reading of Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing, and Living the Truth of Your Life by Leslie Leyland Fields, and as she described the holy wrestling that accompanied the compiling and the sharing of her own story, her words connected on a deep and very practical level. Fields has been laying down one word after another for most of her adult life, and in the past several years she has developed and led a writer’s workshop, set against the rugged backdrop of her home in Kodiak, Alaska. Glimpses of interactions from past years’ workshops, suggested exercises accompanied by examples from the work of her students, and practical tips about the writing and publishing processes make the book a master class for aspiring writers honing their craft, but it’s also a valuable resource for the family remember-ers among us who embrace the significance of daily life and then curate stories for future generations so that nothing important falls through the cracks.
Our Truest Words
When we write, we join God in the sacred act of paying attention. A right response to this privilege then, is to record what we’ve seen, to share “the truest words we can find” with the world–or with our own precious people. (5) Pinning a memory to the page illuminates and clarifies the lived experience, and the words we select in the process shine a light into the event, revealing the presence of God where before he may have gone unseen. Writing from where we stand and then letting the words find their home is our offering toward God’s solo work of redemption.
Doesn’t our story deserve the truest, clearest, brightest words we can find?” (174)
Our Stories Overlap
In my parenting class, I saw relief pass over the faces of my students as my husband and I admitted to the oversights and downright misfires in our journey with four rowdy sons. Your story will also be a mirror–or a cold drink of water–to your audience. Furthermore, your courageous risk may be the needful push or the kind invitation that leads someone else to dare to share her story! Fields writes within and heartily recommends “a triangular community” of shared stories in which “we’re drawn into the presence and the hearts of one another, and together, we’re drawn closer to God.” (80)
The Spirit of God guides us as we choose words that put flesh on the bones of our life history. First, paying attention to our lives, and then constructing our story scene by scene, we become aware that writing and story telling are true spiritual work, and, like all spiritual work, they are messy and defy our attempts at control. Even so, you can start today by remembering Moses’s words to God’s people in his farewell address:
Don’t forget the things which you have seen with your own eyes.”
Because Moses followed his own advice, we have the first five books of the Bible.
I wonder what treasures will result from your faithful living, remembering, and reporting of the story God has entrusted to you?
Many thanks to NavPress for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Grace and peace to you,
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