So....why the title, "Living Story?" Well....there's a story in that - here goes.....
When I was in college earning my degree in music education, my dear friend and roommate, also a music ed major, and I went and got tattoos together in the same spot - the small of the back. You know....a "tramp stamp" as they're called. She got inked with a drawing of a treble clef and some musical notes that she had drawn herself. I got one of the Japanese Kanji character meaning "singer." At the time, this was how I identified myself. I was a singer. I lived and breathed music. I loved it. I studied it. I was good at it. I won numerous competitions and awards for my singing. If you had asked me then, "Who are you?" I would have replied with, "I am a singer." In effect, I had consciously and literally branded myself with that identity.
Fast forward several years....maybe about 3 or 4, post-college. I was at some event (which one, I can't recall) with a large group of people. I was seated, and seated behind me was a friend who just happened to know Japanese. Now, she didn't just study Japanese. She is Japanese. She was born there, and raised there for a time. So anyway, she's sitting behind me, and notices my tattoo when I lean forward. Then I hear her say "Oh, that means 'story.....story or conversation.'" Umm....excuse me? I think I went into shock for just a second when I heard that. This thing, this brand that I had given myself as a definition of who I was......meant...something else?! This is the paramount fear of getting a permanent marking on your body in a foreign language!
I thought back to that day years ago at the tattoo shop. I had chosen the image for my tattoo from a sheet with 9 or 12 Kanji characters on it, neatly arranged in columns with their meaning written below them. I pointed out to the tattoo artist which one I wanted. My best guess, is that instead of giving me the character above the word "singer," he had given me the character below it......"story." All these years, I thought my tattoo meant something it didn't.
Coming to terms with this new reality, I realized.....I wasn't upset about the tattoo not saying what I thought it had. This tattoo was not the one I had chosen......but I loved it even more when I found out what it truly meant! I realized something. Singing is what I do, it's not who I am. Is it a big part who I am? Sure - but it's not the whole of me.....not by far. I realized that I don't fit into a box, and I don't have to. I don't have to define myself, I just have to BE myself, and myself is many different things. So I pondered this newfound knowledge......story. I loved it so much more because I realized that I AM a story....a living, breathing story. There are many facets to my life, and, like a written story, the settings and characters change and grow and develop. I am not one dimensional, I am multi-faceted.
Then I looked at this from my perspective as a Christian. If I'm going to define myself as any one thing, I should define myself as a child of God. That is the one thing about me and about all of us that is a sovereign, undeniable truth. I thought about how God had created me......knowing me from before I was a seed in my mother's womb. How his perfect plan had been in place from the beginning of our perception of time, and how my story is a part of his master plan. I once heard a priest compare God to a master weaver, weaving a beautiful tapestry on a loom. Us? We're the threads. We don't know what the whole tapestry looks like....all we know is our thread. But in the process of being woven with others......relationships started, ended, frienships forged, families created.......therein, we discover our story. And you know what I've come to find? It's not always what we think it is or what we think it should be. It is what God has willed.
Looking at my life, my story, in this way.......has changed me. Just think of what we do when we first meet someone or are trying to get to know them. We say, "Oh, hello (insert name here), so....what do you do?" Immediately, we go to what a person does to help us shape our view ....our definition of who that person is. What if we were to ask, "Oh, hello, what's your story?" As in, how did you come to this point in life? I think that if we truly want to know a person, it should be more important to know their story than to know what they do from 9-5.
So I began to search within myself.... Do I want to do one thing, and be really good at that one thing, or do I want to wear all the hats I was designed to wear? Am I seeking God's will for my life, or my own? I have free will, but am I asking for his guidance in choosing paths, or am I doing what only I think is best. I became so much more excited to see what God had in store when I looked at my life as clay in his hands......as a blank canvas before his brush. And there is freedom in that.....freedom, and joy. So.....am I a singer? Yes. Most people who know me would probably say this of me, and it is a huge part of who I am. But it is not all. I'm a wife. A mother. A sister. A daughter. A teacher. A leader. A friend. A listener. An advocate.
I have a tradition that I started many years ago: Every year, on my birthday, I read Psalm 139. It has always been one of my favorite Psalms, but always seems to have a little extra meaning on my birthday. In that Psalm, my bible tells me that God is familiar with all my ways. That I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." It tells me that my story....isn't just mine to write. It tells me that my story....is an act of God....and I can't wait to see what happens next.