Read Their Stories

I have this quote on my twitter bio that says “There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story.” Even though I love the quote, there are some days that I have a really hard time believing it.

When I look at my newsfeeds I see stories of hatred. I see stories of violence. I see stories of fear. Stories of sexism, homophobia, racism. It feels like people are screaming out stories of darkness with a megaphone, and it makes it so difficult for me to even begin to love them.

Some days I don’t even want to know their stories; I don’t even want to give them a chance. I don’t like the stories that I see from people, and it’s really, really hard to love them. I don’t like the stories I see in myself, and it’s really really hard to love myself.

But still I do believe that every story is important, now more than ever. We need to listen to each other and learn our stories … even the people we don’t like. Their stories matter. My story matters. Your story matters. In every fiber of my being I believe this to be true. Why? Because my God tells me so.

My God says that His story is so big that it can redeem our stories. He steps into our past and fills our world with grace. He is the only one who can take evil and turn it into something beautiful.

I think in this time I’m looking for hope … and what hope means right now is understanding that there is a greater story. There is something bigger than me. There needs to be a bigger narrative arch than what I can see at the present moment. Now more than ever we can’t give up.

Obama said yesterday in response to the shooting in Baton Rouge “It is so important that everyone, regardless of race or political party or profession … focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it even further.” And he’s exactly right. We don’t need more darkness. We don’t need more hate. What we need right now is to learn each other’s stories with empathy …. Even when we really don’t want to.

I think that stories, empathy, and love is the recipe for hope.

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Picture: Unsplash / Pixabay.com

XXI

One of my favorite pieces of writing is “i hope you feel the fireworks” by Jamie Tworkowski; I’ve mentioned it several times on this blog, yet it never seems to get old for me.

Last night, i hope you felt the fireworks. i hope you saw the wonder when skies filled up with color. And in the moment, i hope you were reminded that it’s possible, that beauty still happens. We don’t only live in books awake and dreams asleep. We are living our stories you and i, with dreams inside us undeniable, love to give and people to walk with. i hope for you what i hope for myself. i hope for you the hope to know it.

The Fourth of July is an emotional and meaningful time of year for me each time it comes around. Just three days before my birthday, the explosions act as a slideshow reminding me of all the beauty that has happened in the past year.

My birthday has been in so many locations in the past few years.

Four years ago training for music ministry in Guatemala.
Three years ago in my parent’s basement with a group of dear friends.
Two years ago on a rooftop in Sioux City.
Last year in the mountains of Colorado.
This year in western Michigan.

After so many summers of traveling and inconsistency, it has been amazing spending my time in one place. I’ve learned new roads, restaurants, coffee shops, faces, hearts, and stories. Grand Rapids has grabbed a piece of my heart, and each day I become more and more thankful that God led me out here for the summer.

A few days ago as I watched the fireworks, I was filled with gratitude. I’m grateful for the passing of time – that I’m not where I thought I’d be a year ago. I’m grateful for all of the heartache and growing that occurred in my twentieth year. It was the most painful and difficult year I’ve had so far, but I think it also was one of the most beautiful years I’ve ever had. It was that growing and stretching that brought me to where I am now, and I know it will continue to push me to where I’m going next.

You can launch fireworks off in the middle of the afternoon – as my neighbors like to do – but you don’t get to experience the beauty of them unless it is completely dark. I’m thankful for all the moments of darkness that provided the perfect canvas for fireworks in my life.

Tomorrow I turn twenty-one and I couldn’t be more excited – and no, it’s not for the reasons that you’d think.  I’m excited to start another year. I’m ready for new firework shows in my life. I’m ready to continue to see how the Lord continues to redeem my story.

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