“Change your story.”
Our speaker addressed us from the front of the room. She wasn’t condescending or harsh. Her tone was gentle and encouraging.
Change my story.
I sat there thinking, wow, I actually can. I can change how my story reads from this point on. The ending hasn’t been written yet.
There’s a lot you probably don’t know about my story thus far. You probably don’t know …
that I competed in piano and voice throughout my school career, winning several awards
that I had several lead and supporting roles in college musicals, comedies, and dramas, including Shakespeare
that I traveled the globe for mission trips, work, performances, and vacations seeing thirteen countries so far
that I once lived on an Native-American reservation in the mountains of Washington state
that I grew up with a close family that looked something like a combination of The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie
that I grew up with one great grandma and all my grandparents until I was a career girl before any of them passed away
that my only goal in high school was to make the upper 10%. They made the cutoff at the student who was ranked #32 and I was student #33
that I started college on a pre-med track and “Intro to Chem” changed my mind. Immediately. (And now, blood makes me totally queasy so it’s all good.)
that I once got so emotionally low, I actually considered suicide as relief … but chose counseling instead and experienced a tremendous fresh start with God and a new life in Nashville
that I had the honor of coaching a state championship high school tennis team
that I’ve enjoyed photography since I was ten years old
that one of my photographs won a purple ribbon at the Kansas State Fair and was selected to be in a 4-H exhibit in D.C., resulting in Kodak buying the negative of my photo
that I went on a blind date to Europe
that I scored the music for an independent film
that I constantly battle with emotional eating, struggling with inadequacy and shame
that I still get nervous every single time I have to get in front of people even though I love doing it
There are many parts of my story I would never change. I don’t want to. Everything I listed above (and that's only part of my story) contributes to the person I am, the victories and highlights, the struggles and failures. Especially the struggles and failures.
The way we respond to our fears and flaws reveals our true character. What we take away from those events also shapes us into our future selves, creating belief systems that may or may not be true. Some of those struggles (and beliefs) last for a long time. I’ve found myself wondering if I’m destined to live with my emotional eating battle for the rest of my life and that thought makes me tired.
That’s when I remember the speaker at our women’s retreat. “Change your story.”
I am not a powerless victim. My choices make a difference. I have to remind myself daily (and usually more than once) that the battles and choices I face don’t have to be managed alone. God is always with me, ready to help, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal me. My friends and family support me and cheer for me. I have the ability to make better choices every day, developing better habits. And if that isn't enough, I have the option of enlisting professional help to equip me with better tools for managing myself.
And because I believe in God’s forgiveness and redemption, I am able to face twisted thinking and heart-wounds from years ago, and make peace with my fears, replacing lies I’ve believed about myself (and even God) with the truth.
Years from now, I would love to know that my story will be like one of my favorite movies. My cherished stories always portray a flawed character who fails on an epic scale and still manages to fight back and overcome. If I’m going to spend any time with a book or movie, a redemption theme is truly satisfying.
I like “Princess Diaries” more than Cinderella. The idea of being a quirky, flawed, creative, fun girl who learns she’s more . . . that appeals to me. In the movie, Mia chooses to be true to who she is and becomes more, growing into her true identity as a leader. She doesn’t give up her personality or quirkiness. Instead, she embraces a greater vision for her life, realizing she can impact others for good. This scene always kills me. (*sniff* I need to watch the whole thing again.)
I know my girls and grandchildren watch me. They are learning messages I never say out loud. My hope is that they’ll watch my life and see an unfolding story that tells them that redemption is real, forgiveness makes all the difference, and that failure isn’t fatal.
Any day, every day, is a good day to change your story, even just a little bit.
May we all have the courage, the tenacity, and the vision to press on, changing our stories a little bit more today. Because our stories aren't over yet.