Why do we tell stories? This question, highlighted in a favorite book, The Spirituality of Imperfection – I brought to read on our trip to see Katy, my niece, play in The Handicapped Basketball Tournament at The University of Illinois – intrigues! It lies open to chapters on gratitude and humility that beckon me to read before writing the stories stirring in my heart. So, I ponder the experiences my sister and I have been a part of, not just witnessed, the past few days while watching snow pour from the Illinois sky on Valentine’s Day. I feel humbled.
Snow changes plans, especially for two sisters with no desire to drive in snow. Therefore, we are spending Valentine’s Day in our motel with the blessing of a beautiful snowfall and below zero temperatures with wind chill. It’s basically a white out, which I have never experienced. There are many things I have experienced on this trip that have taught me the blessings of humility, handicaps, and heroism in ways I never imagined. Writing about them in my journal throughout the week has seeded many special stories I anticipate sharing in His timing.
Being stuck in a motel during a snowstorm, with my little sister in Illinois, was not on docket for Valentine’s Day. When weather reports started swarming, as snowflakes are today, I was on the edge of panic attack. Being away from home and wondering if everything is okay – with the things we are responsible for – can become a heavy burden. My sister was cool and collected; not me! I wanted a plan in place that promised we would be home as planned. Even that sentence shows foolishness, for our heavenly Father, not us, is in control. So, I settled down, gave Him the reins, and enjoyed blessings galore while spending Valentine’s Day with my sister.
The dog eared page of the book beside me reveals a circled sentence dear to my heart, “And that is why we tell stories.” So, I picked up my book and plowed through the chapter on ‘Gratitude” again while paying attention to my notes in the margins. Underlined treasures included, “Thinking is a kind of thanking. In thinking we accept the gift of existence. In accepting ourselves, we become ourselves. As released, we gratefully enter into the play of which we are already a part. Thinking as thanking means loving.”
“Gratitude is heaven itself. Only the grateful are truly able to receive. Insight shows this doesn’t apply to material things but to spiritual realities of release, serenity, miracles, tolerance, friendship, community, and LOVE.”
An attitude of gratitude opens our lives to gifts we would never open if stuck in a place where pride, ungratefulness, or selfish desires thrive. When we are grateful, we can receive. The truth that attitudes can be spiritual as well as physical is one often ignored until it’s too late and we wonder what went wrong in our world of more blessings than can be counted. Greediness can keep us from receiving and even set us up for loss.
Are we happily writing our stories or stuck in miserable situations stirred as I kept reading.
“Gratitude’s opposite is greed, the vision that everything is to be ‘gotten’. Greed and misery go hand in hand. Misery flaunts the belief that we are in control and anything we have, we deserve. It consumes with get, get, get, acquire more, win more, own more, have more! Those who lack gratitude’s vision do not possess things; things possess then.”
Misery destroys happiness. “Happiness – the joy of living – comes in the experience of gratitude that flows from one’s life as reality, a gift given freely and spontaneously. Such a vision removes self from the center, thus healing self-centeredness by revealing the folly of the illusion of control”
Sitting cross legged on my bed, I slowly stretch and savor the truths from my readings and experiences on this trip. It was meant for me to come, to be snowed in, to re-read and write about humility and gratitude gracing our stories on this day of love celebrated from sea to shining sea. I write with wonder of what has gone wrong in our nation. We live in a land where blessings flow greater and grander as greed cripples gratitude. Can the truths of ‘one nation under God’ be restored? Yes, they can! When gratitude for blessings and honor for God ring true in hearts and homes, change can come. When we are willing to share our stories, others can be blessed and pay it forward. We can be happy even when heartaches and handicaps threaten to take our sunshine away. We make the choices to rise up and be restored!
This season of my life fills my cup to overflowing with so much happiness and so many stories of love and gratitude. I am deeply grateful to each of you who read my stories. Actually, they are not my stories; He sends them to me. I just enjoy living ‘em out loud in love and writing about them. I love to tell the stories of Jesus and His love.
This last paragraph answers the question of why we tell our stories.
“No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.
We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.
…And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
And that is why we tell our stories.”
Let us never hold back when we have a story to tell that can bring people closer to Christ and help them appreciate life’s blessings.
Becky Spell Vann is a long-time columnist for the Sampson Independent’s Faith & Family section and owner of the outreach ministry Tim’s Gift.