Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thoughts on my stories and God's stories

I'm in the midst of NaNoWriMo (November is National Novel Writing Month - a challenge to write at least a 150 page novel in 30 days). This is my sixth year taking on this challenge, and every year I find incredible inspiration in the whole process of seeing ideas come to life. I'm on the homestretch of my 4th novel* right now.

But I've a hit a wall the past few days. The ideas reached a shining peak, then  burnt themselves out.  When I went for my walk this morning (loving an early day off for Thanksgiving) I asked God for a little inspiration. Wonderful things sometimes come to me while walking and I just needed a single image or snippet of dialogue to get me going again with my story.

God gave me something much bigger than I was expecting. Three things, actually.

It was such an epiphany at the time, but now that I sit down a few hours later to try to capture it in words, I don't feel up to the task.** But here goes:

The first thing:

I have always loved stories - reading others' stories and making up my own stories. I encourage my kids to make up stories, too, I love their imagination.  I love fairytales and myths and fantasies but I also love real life stories too. I just never think my own real life stories are exciting enough to share. But during my walk, the first thing I felt God prompting me about was to write little pieces of my life into little stories or vignettes; maybe as a Christmas gift to my family?

The gift of a story from someone in my family is pure gold to me. When Blaze and Dreamer wrote and illustrated their own little Christmas stories  a couple years ago as gifts to their grandparents, I almost wanted to keep them for myself. Blaze wrote about a horse that had no friends until Santa came along needing help with his sleigh, and turned the horse into a flying horse. Dreamer wrote about a Christmas zebra.

I warned Grandma and Grandpa that they had BETTER not lose those precious stories or, heaven forbid, ever throw them away!

For this upcoming Christmas I will try to encourage my kids to write real-life stories for gifts this year, as I attempt to find some interesting things from my past for stories to share, too.   I think our adventures in Estes Park this fall with Grandma H would make a great story for the kids to tell (but part of the fun of letting your kids loose with stories is seeing what surprising ideas or memories they come up with).

The second thing:

This is the harder part to put into words, because the things of God are mysterious; His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. But He is also the original creative genius and I marvel at the insights He sometimes helps me see.

See, as I was thinking about how one of my most treasured things in this life is sharing stories, both fantasy and real, with my loved ones,  I suddenly got a glimpse of how God wants to share his story with us, and wants us to share our stories with Him. The Bible is the Word of God and it's full of his stories, his interactions with people He loved. The stories of King David are some of my favorites. Job's story haunts me with his pain, and thrills me with his encounter  at the end. Another favorite story is the Prodigal Son. When I first realized that this story is an allegory of God's love for us, his wayward children, I was awed and humbled.

I don't think God stopped telling his stories at the end of Revelation. The stories in the Bible are the universal stories for us all, and our operating instructions, a manual for living life to the fullest as we were created, intended to live. But God also gives us our personal stories, our testimonies of His love in our lives.  Even if they are never written on paper, they are written on our hearts, and His.

The third thing:

As I was thinking about how God longs to shares his stories with us, and for us to share our stories with Him, and how He longs for us to realize that His stories and ours are intertwined... it also occurred to me that all too often we aren't interested in His stories.

One of the biggest insecurities of a writer is: if I write this thing - will anyone read it? Or if they do start to read it, will they scoff and say "this is drivel. Nonsense. Not worth my time."

People say that all the time about God's Word. "Not worth my time." "Out-dated." "Not genuine." I myself said such things for many years, until I was saved.

God longs for a relationship with us. He longs to be part of our story.  I have a teenage stepdaughter who has "outgrown" us - her family - she longs to be off on her own. She is no longer interested in sharing her story with us, or hearing our stories, or seeing how they might be connected (except in a very marginal way). The same thing happened to me as a teenager and into my early twenties. I wanted to live my own story apart from my family and my Christian roots.  I headed off on my own, like the prodigal son.

I think God designed it for parents to experience that same story that He so often experiences with us:  our children leaving us, as our nearly eighteen year old is getting ready to leave us, belittling our values and advice.  We must let them go; we must honor their free will, as God honors our own.  Almost all stories have a journey of discovery in them, whether it's an actual journey across miles, or an internal journey across the heart.

I know this is getting really deep. I'm not even sure if it's even really connected with "stories" anymore. But the way God connected it for me this morning during my walk was sad and beautiful and hopeful all at the same time: just like stories are - with their dark moments and their high moments. I just had to take the time to try to capture it in words - me sharing my story back to God.

*My forth novel is born from my love of Stars Wars and a subconscious desire to switch Luke's and Leia’s places.  What if, instead of a farm boy, it's a  farm girl who gets swept up into galactic adventures and saves the day? Even more, what if its not a farm girl from a galaxy far, far away but an ordinary girl in the middle of suburban America who doesn’t have a clue of the epic galactic story she’s about to star in? (working title: Startripped).

** The first rule I've learned as a writer is that when I don't know what to say or how to say it, when it seems like I can never capture a feeling or experience with mere words - I just start typing one word after another. It's never perfect but it's always worthwhile. Sometimes the words surprise me.

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