Contemplating the Story

My love for stories started at a very young age.  Because I had limited vision, I enjoyed being read to, and I had my favorite children’s books.  My parents have told me that I even had some of those storybooks memorized, and I would make it known if a page or even a word was missed.

My love for stories carried me into elementary school.  I would staple pages of scrap paper together to create little booklets, and I would write to my heart’s content.  In my third grade year, I won the Young Author’s contest, and worked through the process of printing and piecing together pages that would later be bound into a ring-bound laminated book.  I needed help drawing the pictures, but the story was mine.

In sixth grade, I met my two best friends, and we spent lunch period and recess dreaming up ideas for our books.  Yes, I said books.  Before I had completed the eighth grade, we had finished three children’s books in a series.  Our book making came to an end when I entered high school and one of our team members moved away.  That left our illustrator to work on our books as she pleased, but we had no drive to continue on without the three of us working together.

I would go on to write short stories and novellas throughout high school and college, but nothing ever compared to three best friends writing and dreaming together.  The truth is, a season of writing and creativity had come to an end; it was time to move forward.  But it was far from easy.  Sometimes, I would look at something that I had written on my own and think it was awful.  I missed writing with my friends, and as a result, my stories changed— no longer little-girl fantasies with fabricated creatures but real-life teenage drama, heartbreak, and triumph.

In a way, my stories became a journal of sorts.  Sometime during my middle school years, I stopped keeping a diary.  I was the oldest of three sisters, and I didn’t want prying eyes reading my private words.  So my journal became the story I was writing.  If I was happy on a particular day, my characters were happy and successful.  If I was having a bad day and the tears were flowing, chances are, my characters would be crying as well.

If I wasn’t careful, the stories became my life.  I carried the plot with me as I walked to my next class or while I exercised at the Rec. Center.  Sometimes, I was so immersed in the story that my daydreams almost felt real as I plotted out the storyline in my head.

It didn’t take me long to realize that perhaps I was making up for a lack of excitement in my own life.  I was raised in a nurturing Christian home, so my growing-up years were quite sheltered.  I spent three years at a private school as well, and this only added to the quiet, almost uneventful days that stretched before me.  I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school, so quite often I would come home after school, do my homework, and go to bed.  My life was predictable, and God protected my young heart from a great deal of pain and tragedy.

It wasn’t until I went to college that I began to understand a different type of story: the personal testimony.  At chapel and other special events, I would often hear dramatic recollections of dark and challenging circumstances that later led to accepting Christ as Savior.  The stories were poignant and heartfelt, and it didn’t take long for someone in the audience to start crying— usually it was me.  The stories were true and they were gripping.

And I felt guilty.  Oh, to have a story to tell like that.  My life is so boring!

But then I had to stop for a moment and retract my statement.  Yes, my life has been quiet and relatively drama-free, and I’m grateful for that.  My heart hurts for those who have experienced pain so deep that the world practically crumbles around them.  I was there for a season— eighteen months of physical and emotional pain that in the end drew me closer to the Lord and into a new phase of life.

Interestingly, in those eighteen months, I found a story to tell.  I was suddenly one of those people talking about a trying set of circumstances and recounting God’s grace in the midst of it all.  But I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my story until all of the loose ends were tied up: my breathing under control, my voice clear enough to sing and speak, my heart feeling decently prepared to dig deep enough to recount my struggles.  I felt like I needed to have it all together, never stopping to realize that I could have been just as effective in the midst of it all.

I met someone about a year following that eighteen-month period, and she quickly recounted to me that she had no inkling of my struggles— that is, until I sat down to tell her everything.  Talk about a weighty lunch discussion!  That’s when I came to the realization that our stories are no good all bottled up.  We may think we need to wait for the perfect moment to share— perhaps that tearful moment under the lights while hundreds of eager listeners hang on every word.  But what about the here and now— the stories that make up our everyday lives?  Don’t those stories have a purpose?  Shouldn’t they be shared

This past week, I attended three funerals for faithful church members who had passed away.  Then I got the shocking news that a friend had passed away unexpectedly.  I found myself immersed in stories as a result— obituaries sharing abbreviated life stories that practically glowed with praise for the one who was now gone; Facebook posts that included photos that marked happier times; stories that started with “I remember when…”

It got me thinking about my purpose for writing here at “Cassie Contemplates…”  I started this blog shortly after coming through my eighteen-month health struggle.  I was going to use this site as a platform to share the lessons I had learned and how I had grown emotionally and spiritually.  But little by little, I realized it had developed into something far different.  I began to share stories in-the-moment— little snapshots of my daily life with a hint of something deeper to contemplate in the process.  I know not every story will resonate with every single person, but I feel there is no better thing for me to do than to share the stories God has given to me.

Why wait until the struggle is past, the kinks are all ironed out, or the obituary is written?  Why not share my story now while the details are fresh and the colors are vibrant, before hazy memories cloud the overall storyline?

What about you?  Do you have a story to tell?  Will you go out and share it with those around you?  You don’t have to start a blog or take to the Internet.  It could be as simple as walking next door to your co-worker’s cubicle or the neighbor who lives nearby.  Just talk, share, and create memories with the ones you love.  I know firsthand that it isn’t always easy to unburden oneself to others; it takes a great deal of courage to let our walls down and commit to life with others.  But in the end, the extra effort is worth it, because somewhere out there, someone needs to hear our story.  It is our stories that connect us, and your story may be just what someone else needs to move forward.  So tell your story; don’t hold back.