“You’ve got an interesting perspective, and everyone has a story to tell.”
“I think you can do it. There would be a lot of people to support you.”
These are things friends say to each other. I have lots of friends, and I’m not meaning Facebook friends. I’ve been collecting friendships for about thirteen years now, and each relationship becomes more cherished, more necessary as time passes. I don’t have much time for keeping in touch. Phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook messages – all these ways to make communicating convenient – don’t seem to help me in my desires to remain connected to my many friends. The times we do manage to talk are treasured moments, often sacred, and sometimes life-changing.
Life is changing for me. I’m poised on the edge of something and the stage curtain is slowly becoming translucent as light dawns behind it. I’m getting some idea of what it is God is moving me towards, but it’s a process. Two major steps in the process occurred this month.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet a remarkable woman, Cheryl Bear. She is a Canadian Aboriginal woman from British Columbia, holds a doctoral degree, is an award-winning recording artist, and is in demand internationally as a speaker. Cheryl spent time at our church as the speaker at our provincial conference. She spends her time building bridges between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples, telling stories to help one group understand another’s perspective. I also discovered, in my brief conversation with Cheryl, that she and her husband have six children between them. Her life story (the little bit I heard) was incredible.
Two weekends ago I was deeply privileged to participate in Mennonite Church Canada’s Prairie Winds Worship Retreat at Camp Shekinah in Saskatchewan. I met and conversed with many highly educated, highly articulate people. I spent time listening to and talking about theology, ideas, music, books, and writing. I knew only a handful of people out of the hundred or more that attended, but I felt validated and loved for who I am. And I got to attend sans children!
These two experience have been the final impetus in a general direction my life has been travelling. Since I was eighteen, I’ve received steady and unwavering encouragement from the friends and acquaintances I’ve made. The encouragement has been to keep writing, to go to school. I have a plethora of excuses, of course. Dealing with depression was just the first one. The rest run something like this:
But I’ve got four kids! How am I supposed to care for my family if I’m in school? How do I homeschool my children if I’m going to school? Where will we get the money from? What about my husband’s life? He’d like to do what he wants, too. What if we have to move for me to go to school? I can’t handle more than one thing at a time and do either one well. I don’t have anything to contribute to any conversations because I’m not educated enough and I’ll expose my ignorance if I say anything. No one wants to hear me anyway since others have said it all before me, and better too.
So, after years of experiences and encouragement from others, I finally reached several conclusions.
- I write because I have a story to tell. Stories are vitally important to humanity’s well-being because a story allows the listener into the teller’s life. Hearing another person’s story broadens the listener’s experience and breeds compassion where before there were only stereotypes.
- If I tell my stories, even if they are not the best-spoken, the wisest, the funniest, or the best-written, my life is impacting someone else’s. I am using my God-given life for something useful and purposeful in God’s kingdom.
- I need to go to school. Now. A story well-told is more effective and meaningful, and I need to learn more about how to write well.
- I love theology, as long as it’s practical stuff, useful for encouraging the people of God. I need to go to school for more of that too.