Today, we begin a new journey here, a writing community called #TellHisStory.
I believe in the power of story, because Jesus believed in the power of story.
Each Wednesday, I will share a story — a tale from my own life — that grafts into the greater story of God at work in the world. And I invite you to do the same, by linking up below:
(Subscribers: If you want to share your stories, you will need to click through here to link your blog or to share your story in the comments):
I stood at the feet of a dying farmer, his crooked toes peeking out from under the white sheet of a hospice bed. These were the feet that carried one man through our family’s farm fields and through Vietnam jungles and straight into foxholes. They carried him down a carpeted aisle toward his bride, and into hospital delivery rooms three times – once for the boy who would grow up to be my husband.
In that one moment in a hospice house, with the January sun slanting in through the glass pane, I reached for my father-in-law’s foot. It seems silly now, perhaps, but there you have it : I wanted to hold on to something. I grieved, and I held on, to grieve a good man, a fine farmer, and a thousand moments he would never see.
He was the only one who ever called me Jenny.
I had to grieve every mud-pie tea party he’d never have with our daughters, and those stories we’d never hear again, and his awful jokes, and the sad truth that he wouldn’t be there for the milestones.
It was time to let go — to let him go. But I’ve always been stubborn about holding on too tight, too long.
I held onto one dying man’s foot a while longer.
It was my husband, firstborn of the children, who leaned over his Dad’s chest, with all of us gathered around. My farmer-husband leaned in close and spoke really loud, because he wanted his Dad to know: “It’s OK Dad, you can go. You can go now. We want you to go…”
The firstborn rubbed his father’s arm, and this palpable longing for Heaven wrapped itself around a son’s next words–
“Dad … Dad, I wish I could see what you’re seeing now. I … I wish I could see it.”
And just like that, in a room with the curtains opened and light streaming in, the old farmer slipped out of his skin and left us for Home.
That was four years ago, and every year at the beginning of Lent, I remember the moment vividly – the slow letting-go of a precious life. Except that it wasn’t slow, now that I think about it. It went so terribly and unfairly fast.
Like a vapor. That’s how the Bible compares our lives. Vapor-like.
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Those are the words Pastor Rich will say tonight when he puts an ashen cross on my forehead.
And in that moment, I suspect that I will think about all the big and little letting-go’s that are required of us. And I suppose I will think about my father-in-law. And I will think about how hard life can be sometimes, on this side where goodbyes and doubts and regrets consume.
Today we begin a Lenten journey toward the cross, we begin our very own letting go, a slipping out of our little selves. And though we may not die a physical death this year, we may just die a thousand little deaths along the way.
But that would require some letting go.
I need to die again today – a different kind of death.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~ Matthew 10:39
This Lent, I’ve got nothing to lose. And I’ve got a lot to lose — a lot that I need to lose.
Dear God, Help us, because we really do want to give up, to put our hands up, and to woman-up to the call You’ve placed on our lives:
I want to give up on not-enough and my compulsion for man’s approval and that one question ringing in my ears: “What will people think of you?”
I want to give up on the inner critic that bruises, and the mirror that accuses, and the mental playback that oozes with bad history.
I want to give up on mediocrity and the notion of merely surviving, in exchange for more of abundant, life-giving You.
I want to give up on anything that tells me that my one life doesn’t matter much — or the reverse: that’s it somehow all up to me.
I want to give up on my own selfish plans, my penchant for self-criticism and my silly notions about pleasing God.
For Lent, I want to give up me, and give in to God.
I had lunch today with my friend, Vicki, and we leaned in close, right over our soup bowls. We talked about that coming day, that One Great Day, when we will fall at His feet. Jesus will tuck our loose strands behind our ears, cup our chins in His hands, and see our empty hands, empty of all that we held.
Our small words over soup-bowls felt big – like they were wound around this palpable longing for Heaven. And I remembered it again, just then, how the son leaned over his father and bid him, “Go!”:
“Dad … Dad, I wish I could see what you’re seeing now. I wish I could see it.”
And the son let go. And the old farmer let go.
And I want to let go.
As a part of #TellHisStory, an author, editor, poet or other writer will join me right here each week, to encourage those of you who are writers or storytellers. First up: Billy Coffey. I’m thrilled to have Billy here. Long, long ago, Billy and I became blogging friends, and for a stretch there, I think he was the only visitor in my comment box. It’s been a joy to watch Billy’s writing career soar, high and unto the Glory of God! Meet Billy …
#TellHisStory Weekly Writer's Tip
A Writer's Purpose by Author Billy Coffey
In many ways the difference between a good writer and a great one depends on this one principle—how well you understand what it is you’re doing every time you sit with pen and paper.
I don’t mean how to structure a plot or draw a well-rounded character. I don’t mean specific nouns or active verbs. Those are the muscles of writing and can be learned and exercised well enough. No, I mean the bones of what you do. I mean your purpose.
It says much for the power of writing that God did not wave His hands to fashion creation. He used words instead, three of them over and over. Let there be, He said, thereby turning work into art and us into story. As a writer, that is your purpose. To continue His art. To add to His creation.
What you’re doing is volunteering to stand in the breach of shadow and sun and hold a mirror to the dark places of the world. It is to shine God’s light such that your words do not tell the world how we are all different, but how we are all the same.
ABOUT BILLY: I’m a writer of two novels, Snow Day (2010) and Paper Angels (2011), with two more on the way by Thomas Nelson. That may make me sound smart and/or wise. Neither is particularly applicable. I count that as a blessing, because the great thing about wandering around in the fog is you never know what you might run into.
So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God. From now through Easter, I encourage you to consider stories that center around our Lenten journey, as we move toward the cross and resurrection of our Savior. (However, you are free to share any story that God is speaking into your life this week.)
To participate in the #TellHisStory linkup, simply:
1. Write your #TellHisStory post, from your heart, straight onto your blog. A #TellHisStory is any story that connects YOUR STORY into the story of God. What story is God telling in your life this week? (Optional Writer’s prompt this week through Easter: The Lenten Journey.)
2. Link here and invite friends to join in by posting the #TellHisStory badge on your post.
3. Copy the permalink of your post.
4. Using the linky tool, paste your link in.
5. Find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment.
6. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.
Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!