Do you have a story to tell?
How is the world lockdown changing your story?
One thing’s for sure. We are all attaching ourselves to one another’s stories in a way we’ve never experienced before. The images highlighted in my mind are of Italians singing their stories from their balconies. Here in the UK, people stand outside to applaud the health care workers and their stories of self-sacrifice on the frontline. Then, there are the heartbreaking stories of lost loved ones and the separations without a final farewell.
We have learned to Zoom and take our stories online because, however isolated we may be, we need to tell our stories to each other. We are sad, heartbroken, and missing the forward movement of life.
More than ever, our stories matter.
I want to tell you about Leslie Leyland Fields’ new book, Your Story Matters–Finding, Writing, and Living the Truth of Your Life. This book is the culmination of years of teaching writing workshops around the world. Leslie is an award-winning writer herself who also has a heart for other people’s stories.
I had the privilege of attending one of Leslie’s workshops last year and the experience changed not only my perception of my writing, but myself. Leslie is the real deal. I’ve never met a writer who was so passionate about pouring herself into other people with the bonding power of language.
Leslie has her own remarkable story. She is married to an Alaskan fisherman and lives on a sparsely populated island. That is where she is isolated right now. Her most important book has just been published and instead of her launch, she is in lockdown on a small island in Alaska.
Isn’t this our story as well? None of us are where we want to be. I want to be with my Babe in California as she finishes her college life in two weeks without a graduation, no Mom or Dad to celebrate her achievement, just a solitary pack-up-and-launch into adulthood. Meanwhile, Earth Son in Jerusalem has a fever. Is it COVID-19? For the first time, I can’t be with either of my children, and it is so hard.
I am inspired by another story, one that has stayed with me for many years. In the English Peak District of Derbyshire, there is a small village called Eyam (ee-yum). In 1665, the Bubonic Plague arrived in a parcel from London. A tailor had ordered some patterns, made from wool, and they were infested with plague-carrying fleas. It wasn’t long before the entire village was infected and dying. What set Eyam apart from any other plague-stricken community was their decision to quarantine so the disease wouldn’t spread. Nobody could leave the village or come in. The plague wiped out almost the entire village, but their self-containment kept the disease from ravaging the rest of Derbyshire.
I first learned about the story of Eyam through the novel, A Parcel of Patterns (1983), written by Cambridge-based author Jill Paton Walsh. Beautifully written, the book transcends its Young Adult categorisation. The story revolves around Mall, a young woman who lives in Eyam, and her beloved, a shepherd whom she hopes to marry. When the plague arrives in the parcel of patterns, Mall becomes quarantined and separated from her fiancee who lives outside the village. She makes him promise to stay away, which he does until he learns Mall herself is sick.
Mall survives the tragedy of her village. But she doesn’t know how to move on from grief and rebuild her life until she is given a book in which to write her story. In writing, Mall finds healing for her heart and the ability to choose a new beginning for herself. Her story becomes a different “parcel of patterns” in which words bring life.
This is what Leslie Leyland Fields’ book Your Story Matters is all about, helping you find the pattern of your story and a way to bring it to life. She isn’t letting lockdown on an island in Alaska defeat her. She is offering a free 10-week course based on her book starting next Tuesday, the 21st April. All you need is the book which is available on amazon.com. Further details can be found on her website leslieleylandfields.com
How are you marking the passing of time in isolation? Why not begin writing your own story and sign up for Leslie’s workshop? Keep a journal of thoughts, responses to books you’re reading, memories revisited. Does the past loom larger in your mind, the longing for former things?
Consider Isaiah 43:19–“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
We dwell on the past when the streams dry up and we flounder in the desert. Our story matters because it’s the key to unlocking fresh streams. Telling is a way of forgetting the things of the past that hold us back.
God wants to do a new thing in you. Perhaps He will do it through your story.
I’d love to know what stories or books are bringing fresh streams to you right now?