"Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." Proverbs 19:21. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28. "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Maya Angelou. "What you write on the pages reveals your mind. You'll discover your will and your won't, your desire and your disdain. You'll witness your excuses and your landslides." Michelle Bernard, Author of Beyond Words; finding fulfillment between the lines.
As some of you may know, I started this journey of blogging about two years ago. At the time, I was in the throes of a tremendous loss which had occurred the year before. I am not saying that I was questioning my faith, but it was a time that gave me pause to examine. The first stop on the inquiry train was "the abundant life." "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10. Was I experiencing it? I believed I was. However, there was a disconnect with what I was feeling. So, I looked more closely into it. Abundant life definition: "Abundant life" refers to life in its abounding fullness of joy and strength for spirit, soul and body. Now that is a tall order. My question was "Where I was on the scale of abundant life?" The answer that presented itself was, sometimes my life feels like I am experiencing the abundant life and then something or some things happen when this does not appear to bear itself out. How can that be? How can one or more than one experience wipe out the abundant life? It occurred to me that I needed to look at my life story and begin to track those times when life has indeed been abundant as a point of comparison so that I could understand what was the state of "abundant life" when trying times came.
Taking a journey without knowing the destination can be exhilarating or it can be frightening, but on some level this is what life presents. In the Scripture, Romans 8:28, we see that we have nothing to fear because God knows the journey we are on and he knows the destination. He has also let us know that it is going to be alright. Chronicling your journey does not take anything from it. It may even enhance the ability to appreciate the challenges along the way. What I am letting you in on is that I am laying bear my own life in front of me and taking a hard and honest look at the abundance and the perceived lack thereof in every given situation (that I can remember) and finding a way forward that will allow me to appreciate the abundance in all triumphs and in every setback. And, I am writing it down.
We have many famous people (e.g., Michelle Obama; I am reading her autobiography, "Becoming"; a great read by the way), who encourage us to "tell your story." Not that I question their sincerity in telling us to do this, but you have to admit that we are more curious about their story because of who they are. Our story may not be quite so exciting and may even be outright uninteresting. Although, Michelle Obama's life seemed pretty ordinary until it became extraordinary. "When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple. I wanted a house that had stairs in it--two floors for one family. I wanted for some reason a four-door station wagon instead of the two-door Buick that was my father's pride and joy." Michelle Obama. She has far exceeded her expectations. That is not why we are writing our story (of course; if you want to share it with the world, have at it). Our goal is to look at where we have come from and appreciate where we are going and what/who brought us here. Also, sharing our story can be healing as in the case of the late and wise, legendary Maya Angelou. Her life was so full of pain that she could no longer keep bottled up and that many can relate to, and we were (at least I know I was) able to see how one can overcome great personal tragedy and how faith can sustain you. Further, in the midst of it all, there was great success and humility and gratitude. (Are you seeing your life in any of this?).
First things first; God is sovereign and rules the universe; that includes us. (I know, sometimes we think we are in charge). However, He has given us free will and thus we can make plans. Just remain open to a loving God correcting your course (for your own good and for His glory). In the poem "The Master Weaver's Plan" (see below), we see that the plans that we have made may not come out the way we thought, but somehow in the end, it all came together or we know that it will. It is because our Creator knew us before we were born; He knows the plans that He has for our life, and He knew the choices we would make. We can trust the heart and the hand of God as it relates to the outcome.
The Master Weaver's Plan:
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me
I cannot choose the colors,
He weaveth steadily
Oft' times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside
Not 'til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why
The dark threads are as needed,
In the Weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
How does this jibe with telling our story? The fact is that each person has a unique story, but we share basic commonalities. We are not uniquely afflicted; we all experience the ups and downs that life brings and we all confront challenges in our own way and get through them in ways that can produce growth, faith and inspiration or not. And yes, accept it or not, God has a plan for your life. "Life is God's gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to God." A.R. Bernard. Bottom line: Maybe our story can help us or somebody else.
Are you bold enough to share your story? Or will it exit with you when you leave the planet? No pressure!!!
1. Story or Vignette? You choose. Let me tell you the difference between the two. Story: The account of past events in someone's life or in the evolution of something. Vignette: A short yet descriptive piece of writing that captures a brief period of time. When you write an autobiography (the story of your life as you remember it), you may encounter many experiences that you feel are best left unwritten. But, it is a complete, comprehensive (a landscape) view of the all the occurrences that have taken place in your life. It is then that you can apply the close up lens or the magnifying glass. If this sounds too scary or too real, then you can select to write vignettes; small slices of the events that have occurred throughout your life. Just remember, the goal is to be able to chronicle the journey, noting highs and lows and blessings and other. Transparency and honesty are required.
2. To Journal or not to Journal. In other words, write everything down. Why? If you are like me, the memory is not what it used to be. That's only one reason. More importantly, it is a record for you or for anyone you may chose to share this with, i.e., family member, the public, etc. Journaling is private and therefore you can be brutally honest about what you are writing. It is a portal to release pain and to rejoice in the mountains conquered throughout the journey and to revel in the exhilaration of making plans to go forward in faith and in love. It is a place where healing can begin. According to Author, Michelle Bernard, and Health and Fitness Expert (my personal trainer), "You have authority over the content you choose to include in your journal. No one will ever read your journal, so no one will judge it, score it or criticize it. Your words and emotions belong to you and you have a right to say and feel however you wish. You can write everything that is true, especially the truths that you're not able to tell other folks." I concur. If you want to turn this into a book, go for it. But, at least "to thine own self be true." Shakespeare. Your journal will provide enough information. What you decide to do with it is strictly up to you.
3. Live Your Dash - Don't Delay. We know the symbolism of the dash; it indicates that span between our birth and our departure. Not trying to bring you down; in fact, since you are reading this blog, you are in the land of the living and have a chance to abundantly fill in that space. Only look back to take a lesson from the past. That's it. Start thinking about your story; how did you get from back there to right now? Who helped you? What helped you? We get lost in forgotten details. All times were not bad. There have been times when you had a belly laugh and everything was looking good (I can remember a time when I wasn't even overweight). Yes, you have had some defeats, but you have also had some victories. Build on that; journal that. I get why a person may not be willing to step up and share (even to an audience of one); there is societal disapproval, rejection and our own personal shame. Beyond that, we don't want the world to know that we do not have it all together. At times we have no clue about anything. Sometimes we stumble into success or failure. To admit this is a fate worse than death to some people. Swallow that pride and understand that life is about more than that; more precious than that. Allow yourself to think for a moment that most of us have been where you are/were or worse. Move on.
If we can get over ourselves long enough, we will see that we all have similar experiences and our purpose for being here transcends these human frailties. Facing life head on with sincerity of mind and spirit enhances growth. We are not in the world alone and neither are we on our own. Learn to trust in God and have some faith in humanity. God's got you. Therein lies the abundant life. No, we do not always make the grade; welcome to the human experience. You can still make a difference. "The worth of our life will not be measured by what we have accumulated, but more by what we have given back." Make The Dash Count.
4. Write your story; share it. Somebody needs to hear it. You may even bless yourself. For me, I am tracking the evidence of the "abundant life" in my story. I must say that this is a brave undertaking, and I find myself a little squeamish when I reminisce about some events that I could leave out (I am not going to tell you what they are), but I have decided to be honest. God already knows the truth. Upon closer review I see that those are the times when I was shown grace and have come to understand that I was being guided by the hand of God even in the muddled choices I have made along the way. I have only just begun to write my story, and so far I am grateful that I am here to bear witness to the goodness and abundance in my life that I have overlooked. I am anxious to keep documenting. Try it.
Well, gotta dash! No time to waste; my journal awaits! God bless you and be safe.
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