Beginning again: Opening up our story.

We have lived overseas for more than a year. In that time, we have lived in two different apartments, we have been involved in language study both with a private teacher, language helpers, and language school. We have added baby #2 to our lives. We, my husband Tony and I, have gone through various stages of cultural adjustment and because of our unique roles overseas, we have gone through various stages at different times from one another. (Which I hope to explain in another post)

 

Somewhere in the stress of it all, I retreated from sharing our story. It’s not that I didn’t want to share – but I struggled with how to share, where to begin (or continue), and what exactly to share especially since we don’t know ‘with whom’ we are sharing it. But I suppose that’s the beauty of sharing in the vulnerable places – that somehow – one’s small little story can maybe encourage or validate someone else’s who you have never (or might never) meet.

 

My hope is to find a coherent way to share the last year of our lives with “you” whoever “you” might be (other than doting grandparents). And to be clear, I don’t want to share with you because I think our story is any more important than anyone else’s story nor any more special, but simply because we are storytellers at heart.  

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I believe we are storytellers at heart because every night, before my almost-three-year-old goes to sleep, he requests a story. Sometimes he is specific with my husband or I: “Tell a mama story. Tell a mountain story (Yosemite, that is). Tell… ”  And as I’ve told my son a story of how his Nana overcame her fear of heights and bravely hiked a really tall mountain around jagged cliffs and steep drops, he internalizes the story by then retelling the story as his own:   There was a mountain. I was scared but then, I was brave.” I may have left out the part of his {characteristically calm and loving} Nana’s story where she said, at the height of her fear and exhaustion, “D$%# this mountain!!!” 

 

I believe we are made for stories when I think of my dear friend Shannon‘s birthday party where she invited 30-40 of her friends – who were strangers to one another – and we told stories to one another. We laughed. We cried. We took risks in sharing vulnerable stories. And somehow, in the storytelling, we shifted from strangers to fellow sojourners who are trying to understand God, understand ourselves and one another – in light of a Greater Story. 

 

I believe I am a storyteller because as I take time from the daily grind of motherhood and cross-cultural life to journal or expose the stories of my heart, I find healing and relief from anxiety, uncertainty, ambiguity, and even, pain. It’s a beautiful, mysterious thing – to share stories.

 

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My friend Anne has written several books and talks about sharing her own story. A few years back, Anne’s friend gave her courage to open up about painful parts of her story when she gave her: “the gift of going second.” Anne and many other friends, have given me that same gift.

 

My husband Tony reminds me that sometimes we need to re-tell our story in a new way. We need to ‘re-write’ our story so we don’t get stuck in a past narrative when God is inviting us to a new, redeemed, healed story. As a couple, we have to give space for one another to re-write stories that may have become so familiar that we try to tell the other person’s story for them.

 

Perhaps, as we tell bits and pieces of our story – you will find courage to share your own. Invite someone out for coffee and exchange stories of adventure, pain, or disappointment. If you do, let me know what happens – both in your own heart and between you and whoever is blessed to hear your story. But promise me something, create a safe and sacred place for others to share their own stories with you.

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4 comments
  • Mary Dykstra - Beautiful Christen! So glad that our stories connected! Love and pray for you often!ReplyCancel

  • MOM - Beautifully shared from the heart, Christen. Thank you. Love you bunches!ReplyCancel

  • Leanne McFall - You are a beautiful writer.
    Can’t wait to hear more.
    LeanneReplyCancel

  • Elsie - beautifully written and great thoughts! Love sharing with, but more importantly, listening to girlfriends. It’s where healing happens, understanding is given, and relationships are found. And maybe most of all, where we learn about ourselves and our God-given roles in this crazy world!ReplyCancel

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