rise and walk the storyline

Written by Kelli Woodford

Kelli Woodford hopes never to recover from the Mighty Mercy she has been shown. Although her life is now filled with more diapers than she’d like to count, she carves time out to write about finding God in the simple and the frustrating at Chronicles of Grace (http://jasonandkelliwoodford.blogspot.com/).

April 15, 2013

story

[serialposts]I’ve been a writer all my life.

Now, I haven’t always written, but I’ve always thought in story. Just ask my friends. Especially in the early stages of our friendship, the time when you share your back story and I share mine. And share mine. And share mine. And when you wonder secretly if I’m ever going to stop talking.

When I was in high school I had this amazing friend who also happened to be my mom. She would listen to me. Not just listen, yeah . . . uh huh . . . okay (when is she gonna shut up?). Not listen like my boyfriends who I could catch whistling “a little less talk and a lot more action” under their breath when a dark night and starry ride opened my lips and heart. But really listen.

And here’s the thing – I thought I was really interesting.

But then I grew up.

People starting coming into my life who were not as interested in my stories, in fact, they didn’t even pretend to be. So I sorta stopped telling them.

I began to talk about what they found interesting. Recipes. Politics. Job interviews. Vehicle registration. Biblical interpretation. Insurance quotes. Spatial organizers. Cloth diapers. But I never liked it. Unless I could catch the hem of the story garment, somehow woven through these bloodless conversations. If I could find a character, however stagnant, however hidden, within the conversation, my imagination would catch fire and my eyes would burn tears and I would know that life – the real live, living part of it – was less about math for me and more about art. The art of story.

We read Frankenstein in eleventh grade. The teacher was this little tiny blond woman with big hair, like a swollen halo surrounding her pretty delicate features. She would walk fast through the cafeteria, fast enough that her halo would wiggle and jolt back and forth, always fluffed but with not quite enough hairspray to withstand all the shaking. She had an easy grin and understanding eyes, but it was her hair that I remember the most.

And I sat in my metal chair, shifting to find that elusive most-comfortable position, elbows resting on the pine-veneer table top. There was always that mysterious crusty edge along the side of the desk which made me wonder why the student before me hadn’t used a tissue. We would laugh and joke as kids do when they enter a classroom. Until. She would step up before the blackboard, climb astride an empty chair in the first row, and crack the book. I would catch my breath. The others would roll their eyes and mutter something about a stupid story, but not me. I would watch her eyes light up, toss of that wild hair, and she would be off. Story after story. Reading Mary Shelly’s fascinating tale with such animation, such passion, that I began to believe it somewhere deep down into my Doc Martens, I had story in my blood, too.

That was my first clue that I was different.

Because once, I unglued my gaze from my teacher’s enthusiastic diction only to glance across the aisle and see my classmate sleeping. Head on desk, slumped into folded arms, and the tinniest bit of drool just oozing out around his mouth. I turned away in quiet shock. (But never wondered again at that crusty stuff along the edge of the pine-veneer.) He was not hanging on her every word? What, I ask you, what on earth could be more riveting than classic literature . . . ?

So not everyone loves this.

And this was news to me.

It’s not anymore. I try, really, I do, not to spin a yarn in response to every question you ask me. But it’s all just so interesting. And the facts about which you inquired, they just connect to this part here and that part there, and don’t you just hear the mysteries of life revealed in the poignant climax of this part . . . ?

So I began to write it down.

And it was good for me.

I began to sense things peeking through the thin veneer of the story pouring out of my fingertips that had more appeal than drool on a desk. Because don’t stories, with their way of coming in slant, convey things to the human heart that we are impoverished to find words to address directly? They are eternal truths, life’s deepest, and perhaps most wordless enigmas. Things that breach all the flimsy walls humanity tries to erect. Rumors of the wellspring of joy and sorrow, where solidarity is perhaps fleetingly tangible. And they could only be glimpsed through an encounter with a story alive. I began to notice the things that made my heart beat faster. I began to explore why it was that a lump formed in my throat, or I snorted in laughter erupting. I let the tears in my eyes talk to me. And I didn’t talk back. Didn’t hold back.

I let the story rise. I bid it stand and walk.

This, I think, more than anything has been the rise to walk in newness of life pronounced at my baptism. It has felt like a homecoming, like a fulfillment of a dream. Giving voice to the story within has awakened me to the one being written in all my days, whether tearful or joyful.

It has brought me face to face with the Risen One, the Living Christ, who still holds the pen.


In April, our writers are sharing stories on the theme Rise, telling everyday tales of awakening to the mystery of the resurrection during Eastertide.  Together, we’ll celebrate and ponder the message of Christ through the lens of our unique perspectives. And we’re giving away one copy of Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg to a lucky person who comments – one every Monday in April. Winners will be announced every Tuesday morning here.

Then on Monday, April 29, join us in welcoming our guest writer, Margaret Feinberg, popular Bible teacher, speaker and author, and link up your own story on the prompt Rise.  One story will be selected from the collection and featured here on Bible Dude. It could be yours.

 

40 Comments

  1. Dave Vander Laan

    I’ve always enjoyed the subversive manner in which stories work as they engage and reveal.

    Thank you for this, Kelli.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      i think you said that better in one sentence than i did in 800 words.
      thanks, Dave.

      Reply
  2. Marilyn Yocum

    I love how you came to see your own wiring, and to own it! “I began to explore why it was that a lump formed in my throat…I let the story rise. I bid it stand and walk.” This is so key in the creative process, recognizing your radar has picked up something, and to explore it rather than dismiss it, to go with it. Enjoyed this post!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      thank you, Marilyn. i think you are right. to recognize the inner promptings is key: “all serious daring starts within.” (Eudora Welty). blessed by your words.

      Reply
  3. Lisa Easterling

    Oh, how this is me. It was fifth grade for me, that meeting with story that set my heart ablaze to never stop burning. I pass a man on a bicycle and before I’ve gone another full block I’ve dreamed him a life and a past and fears and hopes and why he’s in that very spot. I can’t help myself. And yes, along the way sometimes I forget that I am a born storyteller and that story pulses in my veins and I let the busyness of life choke all the dream out. Somehow I always find my way back home to story, usually through people like you who are wide-eyed with wonder and eager to remind me that we are connected here in this big Story together. I love you for that.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      yup. kindred spirits for sure, Lisa. love your example about the man on a bike. that’s totally the way it is for me, too. thanks for reading.

      Reply
  4. Holly

    Oh Kelli, yes! All of it, from the mom who listened to the rapt attention to all things wordy and EVEN the Doc Martens–I get this.

    And this:

    “Because don’t stories, with their way of coming in slant, convey things to the human heart that we are impoverished to find words to address directly?”

    I know that there is a Victor Hugo quote that says that this is what music can do but I do believe you are right, too. The writing… the stringing of words and wonder and wishing…all of this swirls with a cosmic flare and becomes what we didn’t even know we had in us. And that is the miracle of story.
    So thankful that you have let it rise in you. So.Very.Thankful.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      i *knew* you’d get the Doc Martens bit.
      just wait. you’ll meet me in a few days. “wordy” is an understatement. 🙂
      thanks for being here, my dear.

      Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Holly, your name was chosen as the winner of the book. Email me at [email protected] with your address so I can send you a copy of Wonderstruck. Congrats!

      Reply
  5. Esther Emery

    I love this. The story reminds me of an early date with my husband when we watched West Side Story. At the end I was sobbing and enthralled and super happy, and I looked over and he was asleep!!! Not everyone loves this! But you do. Thanks for telling your story here.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      baahaha! totally get this, Esther. happens to me every time. i’d love to listen to “Maria” with our arms linked, friend. save the date. 😉

      Reply
  6. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Oh.

    Oh.

    I feel this swelling in my chest. And I’m almost speechless. I am thinking you’ve unlocked the mystery of my too-long answers to simple question–what I’ve always thought of as babble.

    Oh. I can’t breathe.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      Sheila, you are so kind. thank you for reading and for your luscious comment. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Beth Steffaniak

    Are you planning to write “your story” someday, Kelli? I see the the amazing storyteller in you and want to know more about your story–all of it. I’m so glad you’ve given us a deeper, longer look into your life and heart recently. You truly are unique, my friend. Such a rare gem!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      thank you for being here, friend, and for your constant voice of encouragement in my life.
      “my story”? someday? maybe.
      just maybe. (eyes twinkle)

      Reply
  8. Lorretta Stembridge

    BINGO! It was humbling to learn that not everyone thinks in “story” like us…and that it’s a gift when you do. I remember my frustration, dismay and deliverance into the thrill of writing for REALS…because story is everywhere!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      yes, ma’am. you said it: everywhere.
      thank you for reading, Lorretta.

      Reply
  9. nananette

    Now that you ‘grew up’ and have found your voice through love of writing I am intrigued to hear more of what you have to offer. I love to find story in the mundane of life; I believe relationship settles best in the give and take of such sharing. Here’s to more standing and walking together with you. I will be checking in on your blog soon!

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      to walking together. indeed.
      sharing and letting relationships grow and story rise. amen.

      Reply
  10. Jennifer Mays

    Kelli, I do most of my writing while in the check out line at Wal-Mart. The words, they rattle around in my head, and occasionally make it to paper. I used the think I was odd for writing the things around me. Now I’m thinking perhaps I’m not so odd after all? And I have just a few simple but honest words for you: I love reading everything you write. Everything! You have such a gifting…thank you for sharing it.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      yes! Wal-Mart provides rich fodder for an active imagination, doesn’t it? i’m usually in tears by the check out line. i cry for the beauty as well as the tragedy. and everything in between.
      thank you, Jennifer, for this generous compliment. touched.

      Reply
  11. Nikki

    Just when I thought I couldn’t love you more, Kelli…
    May I always let Him hold the pen…

    thank you for sharing your heart. I see Him.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      thanks, Nikki. for loving me more and for reading Jesus in my stuttering words.

      Reply
  12. Guest

    Kelli-

    Reply
  13. Courtney Creates

    Kelli- I remember that same teacher. She was one of my favorites and always inspired my best writing. She would hand our papers back out and whisper to me that it was some of the best writing she had seen. This would inspire me to try even harder the next time. If only I was as inspiring in my own teaching practice. I remember the hair, the fast walking, the sitting in desks….you painted such a perfect picture 🙂 I don’t believe I have written anything since that could rival what she could bring out of me. Just loved her. Thanks for the memory!

    Courtney Milburn

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      Courtney!! WOW!
      what a pleasure to have you here! you really *do* know her, don’t you? i wish i could send her this. wish she could know how many lives she touched. (b/c i’m sure she had many a day when all she saw were the droolers. [sigh] . . . don’t we all?)
      thank you for reading, my dear, old friend. this means so much to me. 🙂

      Reply
  14. tammy@if meadows speak

    For me it was poetry and painting. But oh how I’ve poo-pooed the story and art. And this, this, THIS little masterpiece of a post, is the nail on the head. Yes it is.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      why, thank you, Tammy.
      funny, i think, how one person’s rather subjective experience can bleed into a whole mess of lives and make us all feel like linking arms.
      i guess that’s part of the power of the narrative voice.
      (but i’m with you – i like poetry, too.)

      Reply
  15. Duane Scott

    Kelli,

    Ramble on, sister. Because this is absolutely beautiful.

    Reply
  16. Duane Scott

    Kelli,

    Ramble on, sister. Because this is absolutely beautiful.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      ah, Duane. good to see you here, friend.
      i appreciate your kind words, especially coming from someone else with story in their blood.

      Reply
  17. Nacole Simmons

    So sorry I’m just now getting here–Oh gosh, Kelli, exactly what Sheila said. Yes, exactly. And this: “I had story in my blood, too.

    That was my first clue that I was different.”

    Everything written here, is my story almost word for word. I always felt so weird in school, you know? The dreamer, the writer, the artist. The dreamer is the part that really stands out, the part that made me so different, left me in shadows while everyone else jolted on ahead. Thank you for this, friend.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      i think we will discover many things we have in common this weekend, Nacole. banking on it and counting down. 🙂
      thank you for reading, and for ‘getting it.’

      Reply
  18. Laura Boggess

    Yes, I’m in the club! Tolkien had a word–eucatastrophe–for the way a story can speak the Gospel into our lives. I think that’s it–the stories prime our heart for the Greatest Story and our place in it. That thought just fills me with wonder. And makes me love story even more.

    Reply
  19. Kris Camealy

    oh, Kelli, yes, to have story in our blood. I loved every literature class I ever took growing up. I am so thankful you are letting the story rise. your stories bless me.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      kisses and hugs to you, Kris. i’m glad we are friends.

      Reply
  20. A Lady in France

    I ended up reading Heather of the EO, which led me to you, which led me here.

    Growing up, I was always the one who said, “and then what happened? what happened next?” as people got frustrated “the story’s over Jen!”

    Now I understand it – I’m a writer, and that’s why. It used to be that the Bible was marvelous as it was without digging further. Now I find the words are not enough on the flat level, the story has to come to life – more layers have to be dug up. The great thing about the Bible is, there are always more and more and more layers.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      yes. “more and more layers” is a good way to put it.
      a story still being written in all our lives. amen.
      thanks for being here.

      Reply

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rise and walk the storyline

by Kelli Woodford time to read: 5 min
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