Hello! I’m still taking a break from the blog, but I wanted to pop in to tell you about an awesome book. Have you ever wanted to tell your story, but maybe you weren’t sure how to get started?
Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing, and Living the Truth of Your Life by Leslie Leyland Fields was not something I had planned on reading and working through. But somehow I found myself doing that very thing…and loving it. My paperback copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and underlined. I bought four more copies that I’ve given away to friends. I even have a Kindle version for when I want to lighten my load. I’ve also read the first three chapters aloud to my grandma over the phone, which always ends with me listening to her retell her own stories because she gets inspired. I’ve enjoyed this book that much, my friends!
I’m going to leave the information here for Your Story Matters, but if you’re interested in my thoughts about this book feel free to keep reading on. 🙂
When this book caught my eye, I paused in my scrolling on Facebook and glared at it.
Your Story Matters, I read. Hmmm…I don’t know about that, I thought.
At that point, I was pretty sure my story didn’t matter. I’d been writing (or at least trying to write), but it just didn’t seem like I was getting anywhere. So when I saw this book cover I looked into it a little more. Honestly, don’t many of us hide a little hope in our heart that our stories do matter? To someone? To anyone?
As I found more info, I saw that Leslie Leyland Fields is a writing teacher. Okay, this is good, I thought. I don’t really feel like writing about myself—that’s always a struggle—but maybe through this book I could learn how to be a better writer since she’s a writing teacher. After all, it said right there on the back cover that it’s a “practical guide” that will lead me “step by step”. Maybe if I learned to write better, I thought to myself, then more people might want to read what I write. I decided to buy the book.
While waiting for the book to arrive in the mail, I discovered that the author herself was going to offer a Zoom class for Your Story Matters. This was at the height of the COVID quarantine, so she would be “meeting” us from a small island in Alaska. Before I knew it, I found myself in that live Zoom class beginning in April. Each week, I excitedly tore myself away from my own online class that I taught for a lunch break session with Leslie along with nearly a thousand other participants.
From rookie writers to the more experienced, we all stared at the screen to see a petite, vibrant woman with a heart bigger than the ocean standing in her own home giving us not only her wisdom on writing stories, but her authentic self, as well. There were moments when we watched on the edge of our seats: when the call came in to update her regarding a joyous family event, the moment when we felt along with her the sting of technology woes, and always the beautiful show of respect and care that she gave to everyone who shared their stories. It was the best part of each week for me that doomy 2020 spring. It was one of the things that kept me going. A dash of joy in a season of darkness.
After the spring class ended, I signed up for the next Your Story Matters experience: a journey through the book’s companion DVD which features Leslie along with Ann Voskamp. It also included an opportunity to be part of a small private group on Facebook where we could share our “homework” and get feedback from Leslie. I never had a writing community before so that was scary but amazing, and what an encourager Leslie is! Her enthusiasm and gentle suggestions were just what this discouraged, perfectionist soul needed. So this summer, I’ve been diving in even more, trying to hone and work on the stories that have shaped my life. I’m pretty slow at it, trying to fit writing time in when I’m not exhausted and overwhelmed by my job, but I am ever so grateful for the experience.
Even before the first class, I was hooked by the Intro in the book. Passages like this one took my breath away because they reached parts of my heart that I thought no one else understood:
“No matter what country we live in, no matter our neighborhood, our politics, our religion, our age, no matter even our shared pursuit of God, we risk passing like strange ships in the long night. Time, busyness, the speed of life will keep us apart unless we braid word around word from our own passage, then toss it out, coiled, shimmering, toward the hands on the other deck open, waiting to catch, to coil, and secure the two ships together, hull to hull. Don’t we all sail the same turbulent waters? Aren’t we longing to stop for awhile, to not be alone on the high seas?….But we have this chance now to stop. We’re stopping to ask the questions we did not know to ask. We’re stopping to find the difficult and beautiful truths of our lives.”
I feel like I’m passing all kinds of ships in the night, every night. So busy we are. So busy. But it’s in taking the time to share our stories that we learn to be better people. To be more compassionate people. To be more understanding people who might be able to show a little more grace to each other.
I loved reading the stories that the people in my group wrote. There were many moments when I would read their stories and my reaction was “Oh yeah, I have felt that, too!” or “I’ve been through that, too!”. There were times when a story was shared that caused me to see things in a different light. There were times when a story broadened my lens to put less focus on myself and more on the lives and feelings of others. And the best thing was that none of us were professionals at this–just regular people diving in to share the worth we found from our memories no matter how messy they were.
I’ve been humbled by this experience, too. My writing goals have changed, and I still have a ways to go. Certainly I am no great writer, but I’m learning it is not so much about the writing…it’s about the story. I can’t let the anxiety of getting all the words right keep me from telling the story. Because of that, I feel like the pressure to produce some great thing has been lifted. So now, I’m just content in writing to remember, writing to try to understand…and most of all, praying that God will give me even just a little glimpse into His purpose behind each story I recall.
What I’ve discovered with Your Story Matters is that truly our stories do matter. They do! I believed that I was no one special. That what I had to say was so small in comparison to greater people who have accomplished greater things. But the truth is that each one of us is here, and each one of us has stories to tell that are important! They mean something. Even if there is no one to read my stories, even if I write them and do nothing with them, my soul is starting to feel so much lighter for telling it. Telling the story gives moments from our lives a place to heal, a place to share the joy, or a place to rest.
Maybe someday I’ll do something with the stories I write, but for now I’m content in experiencing the discovery that comes from the writing. Discoveries not just about myself, but about the people I love and the people who have influenced me. Discoveries such as remembering that God is truly present in every heartbeat, whether it’s slow and steady or racing with fear and anxiety. Discoveries that seem to allow me to understand better, to forgive big, and to love more.
I know you have a story. And, yes…without a doubt your story matters, too.
Photo by Negative Space
“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.“