dear November // day 7 (storyteller and word vomit)

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(when your handwriting gets bigger because tRUTH.)

dear November.

I’m shaking.

I’m not sure if it’s because I had coffee a few hours ago and haven’t been active for three of them, or because I just sat in on the most rapid-fire, intense, writing intensive I have ever heard in my life. Hannah Brencher KILLED it. she’s the reason I started blogging in the first place, but she’s the reason why I am inspired tonight.

I signed up for her class a few weeks ago. it was expensive for a college kid’s budget, but I knew it was going to be worth it anyway. so I signed up for it.

and I am so freaking glad I did.

/ / /

I don’t usually tell this part of my story, not because of any form of shame or embarrassment, but because I don’t really think to talk about it. I don’t know why, because in reality it’s such an innate part of who I am. why don’t I talk about the thing that keeps me most passionate in life?

I am a storyteller.

for me, that carries heavier significance than just “I’m a writer.”

saying I’m a writer is a start, but I’ve felt the need to take it a step further.

I tell stories. I tell the stories of my life, my brokenness, my messy world. I tell the stories of people, of equal brokenness but equal redemption and healing.

I’ve been telling since before I could form words, which is why I think it’s important I identify myself first with storyteller, and then writer.

hello.

before I even really knew words, I was making up stories.

I think that says something about the human race in general, how in our younger and more vulnerable, filter-free worlds, we create stories in our minds and act them out (because we don’t have words to show them at that time). we draw pictures. we act. we speak.

and then the words come.

so for me, being a storyteller looks like looking up first, and then writing about it.

one of Hannah’s most powerful points in her intensive was:

Do you look up and see the person in the elevator next to you?

this takes me back to a point I’ve made in earlier posts, where I’ve talked about the concept of looking up, above myself and my self-centeredness and my worries and my shame, and I see other people and their selves and their worries and their shame, because we’re all shameful creatures. we all carry guilt. we all have insecurities that follow us around and tell us we aren’t good enough or brave enough or beautiful enough, that we don’t have what it takes to do the thing we want to do most.

but what makes it worse is when we don’t take the time to look up and see those people who are struggling to see the beauty in themselves.

did you know that if you take your eyes off yourself and help someone else first, you’ll start to feel better?

I’ve struggled with really dark depression for the last few weeks now. this week has been surprisingly (and refreshingly) good, and I’m thankful for a moment to breathe in the storm. I know more hell is coming, but these moments are times to build up my character and my trust in God, not to waste time just because I “feel good.”

anyways, when I begin to look up and help someone else out and speak into their hearts, that actually will make me feel better.

crazy, right?

example.

I was scheduled for a meeting with someone. the details are unimportant, and I’m also trying to protect their identity. but essentially, I was scheduled to meet up with this person because I had a lot on my heart I needed to get off and needed advice and guidance. so I went.

and instead of being spoken into, I wound up listening to the person talk for several minutes with all the intensity and brokenness of a person who is seeking and searching, just like I am.

and in that moment, I realized how beautiful of a place I was in.

here I was, broken and confused and seeking guidance, but the very person I had went to see was broken and confused and seeking guidance too. they understood where I was, more so than I could have ever thought.

I know God orchestrated that moment not really for me, but for them.

I think sometimes, we think we’re going to be walking into a moment for us, when in reality that moment was all along theirs. 

yes, I was walking into this situation with myself in mind, but I could have just as easily redirected the conversation to keep it on myself and my worries and my brokenness. 

but I think it’s all the more powerful when we look up and whisper the truth people need to hear, and then we realize that is the truth we need to hear too. it’s like we’re simultaneously helping them and helping ourself.

and it’s scary to think I would have missed that if I hadn’t looked up.

another thing about that is that if I wasn’t struggling, I wouldn’t have had that conversation in the first place.

I think there’s something about our struggles that make us more understanding. 

I get that struggles can do one of two things: they can isolate us, or they can turn us into vessels where we are broken and trying to find ourselves in the madness of the masses, but where light is shining through and we are becoming beacons of breath and life for someone who desperately needs us.

take your eyes off of you.

/ / /

realize that your struggle may be your greatest strength // hannah brencher.

I said that the elevator quote was Hannah’s most intense point, but I think the beauty of the struggle is even greater.

when you realize this limp that you have – your depression, your anger issue, your insecurity, your heartbreak, your messiness – can be a propeller for greater good if you allow it. the limp can become your weakness, but it can also be your greatest strength once you speak out about it.

that’s why I write.

yes, I write for myself because it is therapeutic and healing, but I also write because I know what I’m feeling is not limited to me. there are people who are hurting over deeper crap than I’ve ever felt before, but perhaps if I just speak up about my shit, someone else will have the courage to speak up about theirs, yeah? 

and that’s the thing about storytellers: when we have the courage to tell our story, we spur someone else on to tell theirs.

and I’m not just saying this about writers.

again, that’s why I don’t first and foremost identify myself as a writer, because I know I have a gift of words and writing – I know this is a field I need and must stay in for the rest of my life. but it’s because I tell my story and I tell other peoples stories, and then I enable someone else the freedom to speak up about their heartbreak and their messes.

it’s a domino effect.

/ / /

be your own brave. // hb.

another beautiful reminder from the beautiful hb.

for those of you who read my first blog post ever, you’ll be reminded it was called “I Gave My Story Away”. essentially, I wore a Giving Key for about eight months, from January until August of 2015. it said “end it” on the back, symbolizing ending the sex trafficking slavery movement in the world. but the key was more than that. the key represented my story. and one day, eight months into wearing the chain, after giving up on ever finding someone to give it to, I found someone. I gave my story away. because with that key, my story was attached to it. I experienced eight months of ups and downs that I still don’t talk about freely, but that night, the person heard my story in full and saw where I was, and then they in turn shared their story as well. and I knew they were the person meant to carry my story forward.

I told them as I gave the key to them, “you have to pass this on at some point. you have to pass on your story. don’t just let it sit there.”

and I think that’s important. don’t keep these words to yourself. and I’m not saying start a blog or write a novel or anything like that, but you have gifts too, you know. you have a network, you have connections. you have a following of people on your social media sites who need you. 

they need your story. 

I’ve been praying about getting another key because I’ve entered a new chapter, a new story. that old story is gone – I passed it on to someone, and now they will get to pass their story on, stacked on top of mine, to someone else. but the Giving Keys allow you to custom-make the word that you want on the key. I want another key (I freaking miss holding on to my old one, tbh), but I want a word that’s significant to me, not just the end it movement.

I found the word.

finally.

I’d been praying for several months. I went through: endure, grace, hope, be, keep going. 

I don’t even remember the others. I was convinced for a while the word would be “endure”, and I still like that word. but there’s one that drives deeper.

brave.

it now encompasses much more significance, and not just because Hannah Brencher said it.

there is a song.

it’s called “You Make Me Brave” and it’s by Bethel Music. freaking love this song. what’s ironic about it is this: first, I remember listening to this song during the winter time, when I was facing my own kind of storm, and I remember passionately singing this song but never feeling like it sat right with me. I felt like I was failing the lyrics.

how that is possible, I don’t even know. the words were great but I knew I wasn’t being brave. I wasn’t doing what I needed to do.

and then came 11.3.15. then came the day I decided to get baptized, not because I had been baptized before and felt I needed to rededicate my life to Christ, but because it marked a milestone for me for when I chose based on my decision to follow Christ. that I had a story. and that I was choosing to accept the role as storyteller, to step into the role of being a beacon in order to shine a light on those in the midst of their own storms.

and the first song the church played on the night I was going to get baptized was You Make Me Brave. the drum intro started and I got chills, feeling the significance of that moment. and then suddenly, the words made sense. after literally eleven months of knowing this song, I got it.

Because of Love, wave after wave crashes over me…for You make me brave.

there are so many other beautiful lines, but this was the line that slapped me in the face and metaphorically brought me to my knees.

I’ve decided I want a dog someday, and I want to name it Alaska. not because it’s based off of my favorite book by John Green, but because of what the name means.

the name Alaska means: that which the sea breaks against.

oh.

my.

I’ve referred to this past winter as my great storm. even in January, walking into the new year, I sensed a storm was coming, and I imagined myself stepping out into these waves and the water drowning me. I was dreading it. but I walked towards it anyway. I walked towards the storm (more on that topic in a little bit).

and just like the great song Oceans by Hillsong says,

“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail. But there I find You in the mystery of oceans deep, my faith will stand…. Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You never fail and You won’t stop now.”

literally can I just take this and tattoo it all over my body because every single word of this is what describes 2015 for me. it’s sucked. this year has nearly defeated me, and there have been monumental moments where I was convinced I couldn’t continue. but just like the name Alaska says, just like the song You Make Me Brave, just like Oceans, they all say the same thing:

I am a vessel that which the sea breaks against, standing strong against the waves and the storm because His grace abounds in deep waters and He makes me brave.

boom, drops mic, the end.

nothing else has to be said.

/ / /

my last point, and this will end my 2000+ blog post (which also, just for an entertaining fyi, I’ve been typing nonstop and haven’t stopped since I started I think like 45 minutes ago…).

my spirit animal.

I have discovered my spirit animal, and sorry Hannah, I don’t mean to steal yours. but it was too perfect, and it’s too applicable to my life right now to not use it.

my spirit animal is:

a buffalo.

according to Hannah (and I’m only saying this because she said it first, and I’ve never heard buffalos talked about this way), buffalos will see storms coming. and they know that the storm will be hard, and it will hit them and probably defeat them. but instead of standing there and letting it hit them, they run. 

not away.

hello.

they run into the storm. 

they run straight for it, knowing it will be easier to hit the storm at the same speed it’s coming at them than to be stagnant and say, “I’m not brave enough to face this. I can’t do this. this is too hard.”

no, they get their asses off the ground and charge full-speed into the storm.

hence. my spirit animal.

/ / /

at this point, this letter is too long to go back and edit. but November, hello, you have inspired me. you have reminded me that I have a story and that my story needs to be heard.

you have reminded me to be brave. 

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