“We feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories.” Brene Brown

 “Story –  report of connected events, real or imaginary, presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, or still or moving images, or both. A report of something that has happened.”

“Chapter – a distinctive period in history or in a person’s life.”

I have been thinking a lot recently about stories over the last few months.

I love stories. I love hearing people’s stories. Nothing gives me more life than real, honest stories – I could sit for hours listening to people’s stories. One of my favourite things is making new friends who bring with them the promise of new stories. I have a habit of asking a lot of questions, but I like the details. As a friend recently said to me they have learnt to give me my heart and guts otherwise they are just faced with more questions.

The details of love and loss, of the different characters, of experiences, of travels, the colour, the tears and the laughter, the food, the emotions, the words – the richness that makes up each and every one of those precious stories.

That actually not one of us could tell our story briefly or succinctly because our stories have so many facets, so many seasons, so many different parts to them. And therein lies the beauty.

This is what I have been reflecting on:

  1. Being brave in telling our stories.

“Owning your story is the bravest thing you will ever do.” Brene Brown – Sorry I love Brene – but not really sorry at all – she is amazing and if you haven’t read any of her books you need to!

Our stories, in all their fullness take time to tell and often trust to tell the harder parts – those parts that we hold close, deep and dear – those parts that require vulnerability, that can be a whole lot scary to share.

We need to hear each other’s stories. As another of my favourite’s CS Lewis puts it so well “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

One of the reasons I have been thinking about stories so much recently is that I have come to the end of a very precious season in my life in the last few months and I have been reflecting on my story and the part that particular season has played in the overall story. I have been thinking about each  people that has played a significant part in this season and why those relationships have been so important to me and one word was consistent for each person – HONESTY. They have being willing to listen to my story, in all its gory detail and have still loved me, they have trusted me with their stories, they have wanted to be part of my story and given me the privilege of being part of theirs.

So please keep telling your story, because it will be an amazing story, and it is a story worth hearing and a story not ended, a story with so much more to be written. Celebrate your story, celebrate each person who is part of your story – thank them, be thankful for them, enjoy them. Celebrate the experiences, big and small, the exciting and the normal, the boring, celebrate the memories – the good and bad because they are all such precious parts of your story. Celebrate who God has made you to be, because you will be such a blessing to so many people around you, you give so much.

  1. We need to listen to other people’s stories. It is so important not to get so tied up in our own stories that we don’t listen to other people’s. People need to be heard and need to be given safe spaces to tell their stories and to find acceptance whatever those stories may be.

Being brave with our stories, of telling them and of listening to them helps us and others to heal, to overcome, they become a place of encouragement, a place where you hear the words “you are not alone in this”, a place that pushes us forward with love towards healing restoration and all the “more” there is to be had.

The other day I text one of my closest friends, in the middle of the working day, because I was having a minor stress and I needed to say it out loud. I knew they would help me find perspective. I had told them about the particular situation a few months before but had not expected them to remember but their response showed me that they had heard me the first time round and had listened and remembered the detail. In that moment I felt cared for because I had been listened to, I had been heard – that they cared enough to remember the details of my life I had shared. So in all the stress which the minute I had shared it and bought it into the light had quickly reduced the overwhelming feeling that I came away with was that I had been heard and I mattered enough to be heard. What a precious gift to give to someone.

Some of us will be better at listening than others because we are all so different, and for some it comes more naturally than others, but it’s a discipline to listen and to listen well and its such an important discipline to develop because it brings such power with it – it tells people they precious, that they matter and I think it brings the power to transform with it, as it encourages vulnerability and trust.

Who do we need to listen to today? Where do we need to slow down and make time to connect and be present? What can be put to one side to allow relationship to come first?  Life is flipping short – I do not quite understand how I am entering my fifth decade because surely I am still in my 20s but the reality is that time is going by fast and I desperately want my time to be about connection, relationship and loving and listening well.

  1. All our stories are made up of chapters and each of those chapters have chapters within them. Some of those chapters are painful and rubbish, some we would rather shut the page on, other chapters we would stay in if we had the choice but the page turns and we have very little control over it. Often we don’t get to chose when one chapter ends and another starts. If we did I would have definitely stayed in my last chapter a little longer.

As I reached the end of this particularly significant and special season of my life I have been reflecting, and looking back at all that has happened, all that has changed, and all that I have gained and learnt during this particular time.  I know with absolutely certainty that this is the right time to close this chapter but I guess there is no promise that the right thing is always an easy thing.

If I am being honest I felt scared of closing the door – it is a season that has bought healing, it has been full of love and it has been a safe place. I wasn’t sure what life looked like without those people, that place, that community but I know God was asking me to step out. As I made the final decision to close the door I had on a loop in my head the words of the Rend Collective song which says “letting go and trusting when I cannot see.” Trusting that where he was asking me to let go, to let go of things that are painful to let go of, he has other things waiting for me.

I also knew I wanted more, more adventures, more of the new and deep down I know I couldn’t have those things without letting go, that those things are only going to come by stepping out of the safe places, the comfort zones, into the unknown, trusting that he will catch me, trusting that he is and has the more.

Already in a few short months I have seen that because he called me out and I followed that call his favour has followed – he has bought peace, made the adjustment easy for me and protected those oh so precious relationships that I was so scared of losing, as well as giving me such life giving new ones.

I have also known those chapters were I was desperate for the page to turn, where grief and loss seemed to go on and on, where it took too much time and where I just wanted it to end. The more I see and the more I hear the less I understand, and certainly I have no answers for those chapters but what I do know with absolute certainty is that those chapters are never wasted, I am convinced when one day we get to see the whole picture we will see the precious parts those hard times have played in our stories, we will see the beautiful sub-chapters that formed part of those painful chapters, we will see the beautiful and the painful woven together and the ways it shaped us and others.

So here is to telling more stories, to falling in love with listening to stories more and to celebrating all stories in the different shapes and sizes they come.

Thank you God for stories, for the richness and variety of all our stories, may we learn to embrace and celebrate our stories and those of others so much more and thank you for all the chapters of our stories still to come, may we see the adventures in them and thank you that you are there threaded into each of our stories whether we see you or not.