I felt the knot begin to form in the back of my throat as I read her words. I finished the email and called to Joey to come listen as I read her story to him. A new baby in central PA. Her birth story was different, but the symptoms were all too familiar. Amanda’s baby girl, Malaya was 19 days old and she too was diagnosed with MMIHS. She had found us through the MMIH website, linked to my blog, and read about Belle. After a few back and forth conversations, we arranged for Amanda and Bryn to come visit us.
Our meeting was such a blessing to us, and hopefully to them as well. The circumstances were unfortunate and something I would NEVER wish on anyone, however, it was a blessing to meet and talk with them. After hugs and quick introductions, we had dinner. Of course conversation was easy and sweet as we had so much to talk about. We cut dinner short (as we often do) to unhook TPN, then sat and had a nice long chat on the couch, listening to their birth story and answering questions about life with Belle. At 7:30 we headed up to Belle’s nursery to show them our evening routine and they filmed Joey mixing and hooking up TPN. It was a bit emotional and surreal to sit face to face to another young mom walking the same path that was still so fresh and so vivid in my mind.
When I went to bed that night, I lay awake thinking about how they were perfect strangers only days ago and from this day forward our stories will be intertwined. Stories have a way of bringing people together, even though they are sometimes difficult to share. I was reminded of a book I recently read by award winning singer and songwriter, Laura Story. She wrote the song “Blessings” about the blessings that she has experienced from walking a very painful journey with her husband who had a brain injury in his 20’s, only a few years after they were married. Never have I read a book that spoke to me on such a personal level. Her main argument is that Christians are called to share their stories that they might point to Christ, in both the good times and the bad.
She writes: ” People hear about the gospel from those who are living out the gospel. They are redeemed when we point to a redeemer. They can be saved when those of us who are saved point to a Savior. God wants to use YOUR story for the salvation of the nations…Not because of the greatness of your story but because of the greatness of your God.-Laura Story
NOT MY STORY
Being open about what you have experienced in your past or what you are currently going through is no easy task. There are many obstacles, but three specific ones stick out to me as some of the most common and difficult to overcome.
*My story is not exciting.
*My story is too personal.
*My story isn’t finished.
All of those are legitimate hurdles (excuses….ahem) to sharing your story, except for one problem.They all focus on “ME.” The times I struggle to share my story is when I think I’m the main character.
If I’m afraid it’s not exciting enough, then I’m worried about what others think of me more than I am concerned with actually helping hurting people around me. What if no one reads it? What if it doesn’t get any “likes” or “loves” or “comments?” Those fears might refer to blogging, writing a book, or speaking to a crowd, but what if God is asking you just to share your (HIS) story with one person, your neighbor, your coworker, your spouse? Have you missed opportunities to reach out to someone else because you were too afraid your own story wasn’t interesting enough?
When I worry that what I have to share is too personal, I’m focusing more on other people’s judgements and my own reputation. Now I’ll be honest, I struggle with this one because I truly do think TMI (too much information) is a real thing and I often read social media rants and think, “I didn’t need to know that.” I’m sure many people read my writing and think I share way too much detail about Belle’s life, my faith, my family, etc. This is an area I have done a lot of soul searching in and I attempt to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as well as my husband’s discernment. I often ask him if he is okay with me sharing something, pray about what God wants me to share, and try to consider how Belle might feel when she is a teenager or young woman. For example, I will share updates on her general progress, but I will not share the details of all of her medical needs and care out of respect for her. Perhaps you fear you have too many skeletons in the closet. What will people think if they know? You’ve worked so hard to create this glamorous reputation to let people know the truth about the roads you’ve been down, the struggles you’ve encountered, the sin that tempts you. We can paint a picture perfect life. Social media is the perfect outlet for letting others see our smiling faces, perfect families, and exciting travel experiences. The thing is, I can’t remember ever reading about someone’s luxurious vacation to the Bahamas that changed my life (but seriously…nothing against the Bahamas). With that said, I think it is a great idea to seek guidance when sharing personal details about your life. Always consider the time, place, circumstances, and audience and be willing to take advice from others when it’s too much, not enough, or just enough.
Finally, if I’m stalling at sharing my story because I don’t think it’s finished yet, then I’m trying to write my own story by giving it a happy ending. As a society, we tend to think stories (books, movies, television shows, etc.) must be tied-up with a shiny bow like a gift under the Christmas tree. Movies aren’t real life though. Sometimes our stories don’t have happy endings. Sometimes we don’t even know what the ending looks like yet. I can’t even begin to imagine what Belle’s story will be. I shouldn’t even try because it often leads to worry. But using the fact that our story isn’t done or wrapped up as an excuse not to share with others what God has done in our life is just us not allowing God to meet and use us right where we are. Everyone wants a happily ever after, but often, it’s the ugliest, messiest, saddest, least wrapped-up stories that touch people’s lives the most and end up being the most beautiful.
Only when I realize that I’m a supporting character do I realize that these barriers are only mere excuses from carrying out God’s purpose and mission for our lives.
The Rest of the Story
Five days after Amanda and Bryn came to our home Joey, Jonah, Belle, and I met up with Brandon, Sarah and Ava Turman at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The Turmans live in Dallas, but Ava, like her “little sisters” Malaya and Belle, also has MMIH and she is on the transplant list at CHP. This meeting was an emotional time for me. Ava’s was the first real story I found after Belle was diagnosed and Sarah has been my friend and mentor every step of the way. Seeing Ava’s face on the screen gave me hope, but seeing her in person, watching her play with Jonah and hold Belle, that gave me a joy I can’t even begin to describe.
Because Sarah shared her story, I found her and I was able to find hope that maybe my baby would live longer than a few months. Because I shared my story, Amanda and Bryn were able to sit down with Joey and I, face to face and have a true heart to heart with people who truly understood what they are going through each day. We were able to do training with them so they hopefully won’t experience some of the same very scary nights Joey and I did those first couple of weeks home.
I choose to share my story because it isn’t really my story. It’s God’s story. The real story of every minute of every day is this: God created the world, sin entered the world, Christ redeemed the world, God draws the world, and finally, (in a future chapter), Christ returns to the world. And on one very short page in this story of humanity, you’ll find the Bispings, a family who struggled to continually follow their maker in the midst of the ups and downs of life. It’s His story, not mine.
Now what about you? What’s your story? Maybe it’s not even a difficult situation but a talent. I recently read of a group of cosmetologists sharing their gifts by holding a “hair cutting” fundraiser for a friend with all proceeds going to help her. What a cool idea. What gift or talent do you have that needs shared with someone else? What have you beat or lived through, and come out of, that has made you the person you are today? Who can you pull along with your tale of hope? What experience have you had that might bless another person? Who needs you to pull up a chair next to her, give her a hug, and remind her she isn’t alone?
I was skeptical of sharing our story. Too worried it wasn’t gripping enough, too scared people would know about our “baggage.” Too worried that I might share about all the miracles God is doing in Belle’s life, but then her story ends too soon. What would people think then? Our story isn’t finished yet. Do we keep this private? Do we keep it to ourselves or let others in? God made the answer clear to me one afternoon months ago when I heard my son singing an all too familiar song while he was playing by himself in his playroom. I never sang this song to him, and I’m honestly not sure where he heard it. I’m guessing maybe it was his daycare or at church, but I know it wasn’t from me.
“This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out,
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine till Jesus comes,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
And with his single index finger in the air and singing only to himself, I was reminded that there is an important Biblical command behind those lyrics.
Matthew 5:16- “In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”
It’s HIS story, written through the lives of HIS people, and to draw an unbelieving world to HIM, that HE might get the glory.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.