Monday, January 26, 2015

The Stories You Tell Again and Again

Today I teach the Advanced Writing students about writing their "Signature Stories" for their professional development. It's such a fun and meaningful assignment. We look at the key stories that have shaped our ideas about work and adulthood.

They choose one life story, and they craft the tale in five pages of vivid verbs, varied sentence patterns, sensory detail, dialogue, and tension. We talk about how to present an unanswered question that promises a delayed revelation. We talk about creating mood and mystery. We talk about important characters in our stories.

We talk about why this story must be told.

I tell them a few of my own Signature Stories like the Neighborhood Fitness Group, my decision to write a daily blog, the day I became a teacher, or the day I knew I was meant for graduate school.

I have sets of stories about overcoming, about finding love, about parenting, and about learning. At my age, I've collected cautionary tales, adventure stories, and even my own ghost stories.

Life is story. We tell the story, and we pass on wisdom, warning, insight, or just a good, hearty laugh. We tell stories because we testify in front of these witnesses who acknowledge the meaning and beauty of this one little life that has seen what nobody else has seen, in the way that it saw it, with the people it knows, in the exact location it lived.

Oh, life is wonderful, mysterious, and so rich. I can't wait to read all of the stories these brilliant students will write.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"We know how to spend time together."

Today a younger couple came to our home after church and brought lunch for everybody. After trying unsuccessfully to set up a date night or mid-week lunches, the couple joked that they knew an irresistible way to spend time together.

"We'll show up, and you don't have to do anything," they had said. "And you have to eat lunch, right?"

That statement was balm to my tired mother's soul. I wanted to spend time with them, but they were right that arranging a night out or a work week lunch felt overwhelming. Shopping and cooking a nice meal for friends felt overwhelming. Everything felt overwhelming. 

But when this couple showed up at the door with a whole spread--including an appetizer and dessert--nothing felt overwhelming. I felt so loved and peaceful. 

We had the best time. No babysitters, no cooking or cleaning, no juggling schedules--it was perfect.

I wish I had thought to bless older couples with children in this way when I was younger. This couple said, "We will fit into your schedule however we can!" 

This attitude felt so selfless and loving.
They took care of us as a couple and as parents who just had a lot going on, and they didn't make me feel bad about all the ways I was too tired to give or reach out. 

This has been a truly blessed and delicious Sabbath.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

For the Past Three Days

For the past three afternoons, I've walked in this setting, across this landscape.

I've seen the tracks of rabbits. I've seen three hawks circling in the sky, their cries piercing the silence until they perch quietly on the snow-burdened tops of the trees.

As my children sled on the great hill, I part the curtain of evergreen trees and enter into the deep, icy woods.

Later, I think about that hawk's beautiful cry and the tracks of animals. I think about their secret winter lives.

I'll go back throughout the winter, listening and watching.