Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
It’s Sunday afternoon, and water fell from the heavens into California for an hour this afternoon. I have a tobacco candle burning on the side table, and the house is quiet. The family room, back near the kitchen (where I am not) is a crazy mess. Yesterday Justin and I started taking canvases off the walls and rearranging furniture, and there’s laundry on the couch from the boys’ Sunday-morning dive to find their favorite shorts to wear to church. I am ignoring the dishes in the kitchen sink. And the room remains in disarray, with a short wooden cabinet housing Justin’s fly supplies – tiny hooks and fuzzy colorful bits of fabric and string – sitting in the strangest of places, cock-eyed right next to the kitchen island. I am choosing to ignore the crazy and sit for a few moments on this Sunday, instead.
So I retreat to the living room, my feet up on our old pine bench, my dog underneath my legs, trying to read a book. Oliver, our middle son, runs over from the mess of the other room, every few minutes, to test out a joke or a brain trick he’s just learned. He laughs. I am answering each joke, each question, the opposite from what he expects, he tells me. I either say the wrong thing, or I move in a crazy way. He cracks me up. I need this quiet, but I need this boy’s smile, too.
Sitting here, with a book now at my side, watching my boy running back and forth, gets me thinking about story – the impact of another person’s life on our own. For stories are more than just words, aren’t they? They are the choices we make and the experiences that shape us.
You don’t have to write down your story to be a storyteller. You don’t need to speak this story of yours aloud – always in words – for the story to shine wide and loud.
This boy of mine, his silly antics, his loving hugs, are shaping me. It makes me think that each of us are taking in each other’s stories just by living our own. With whom we spend our time, our life, is affecting how we perceive the world. Thus, these experiences with other people are shaping the way we live – and live out – our own story.
Sometimes we are learning the stories through books, through words someone typed up. And sometimes we are learning them from what someone told us – her sentence, his explanation – weaving together meaning we tuck in tight and keep.
But for a story to be taken in by another person, it needs to be shared somehow, through the sharing of a life, and not necessarily through words. For a story to be told, we need to be among people. We need to live alongside one another. How you live and what you say with your actions – what you say and don’t say, what you do and don’t do – is the telling of story that shapes the listener too.
Consider what story you write with your life.
We sense the Holy Spirit through our collecting and writing – our living. These are the stories of the body of Christ, the children of God.
The light is golden now outside the window. It filters through the the tall redwood branches of my neighbors’s front yard. It blankets, this light, covering the green and the amber leaves of the flowering plum trees beneath the majestic redwood’s trunk. And it is gone, this light, as quickly as it came. And now there is a leaf falling, like a butterfly fluttering to earth. And an airplane is breaking sound barriers overhead. And I need to get up now and fetch Abby from her playdate.
Justin is about to come in the door, too, with Jackson, who was playing lacrosse. And I sit here a moment longer and am grateful for this story. The story of a daughter among many daughters who craves quiet and community.
I would have no story to write if community wasn’t whispered into my heart.
There it is. There is the story. The story of a girl and her Father and her boy and his father, and the children of God, the church, all collected and watching each other live out these lives of trial and hardship and joy and beauty. All story. All pages of hope and light in this larger story God is telling. I want to keep writing. And noticing. For how we live and we share our story affects the story of everyone around us.
Don’t you think?
Live it out, dear one. Live this story of yours with confidence and glory. You are made to write one uniquely and so, so beautiful.
Live with courage, so your story can be told through your pure living of it – and the other people taking it in.
Let us notice you. Let us read your story.
Let us understand our own story better by walking alongside you and learning how our stories are similar and true and different too.
We need stories that stir us, examples of living that are raw and honest. We need stories that don’t run from truth, that are unafraid to reveal the dark corners, let God’s light illuminate the shadows where we feel no light could shine.
Whose stories shape you? How are you telling yours? Who is reading your story right now?
Remember, it is not just in words through which your life speaks. Go out this day, brave one. Be stunningly you. Notice who is around you, who is influencing your story and how you are influencing theirs. There is a story you get to tell, with the Holy Spirit in you – a story all your own. But you don’t do it alone.
Consider how you are shaping the people around you, and how they are shaping you. Ask God how He wants to help you write your story – how, this day, the choices that make up your story can be products of the Spirit – love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is the story – your unique and true story, with the stamp of the Holy Spirit on you. That’s the story we want written. That’s the story the community around us needs to read.
Help us tell a good story this day, God.
And I wrap my gray scarf around my neck, pull on my boots, and go out to pick up my daughter across town.
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com