Writing Butterflies and Brokenness {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 11}

I combed through gritty words and searched for my own like a beachcomber after high tide. I pictured this particular shell opening up to look like a butterfly with wings spread. I imagined the swish of the surf, like young love, and then straight away came the weight of the cargo ships in bay. If I was going to write authentically in response to this part of Gift from the Sea for my summer book club, I had to write about the days of swollen eyes and headaches and doubt.

I would have rather taken the whole experience, tied a rock around it and thrown it out to sea, but something told me I had to write it down. I had to write my brokenness. Maybe sharing about a confusing and embarrassingly immature time in my life could help some other young woman choose true love over fear, just as a mentor’s wise words had helped me.

We don’t want to hide behind the happy highlight reel or go around looking like a 50s sitcom star vacuuming in a dress and pearls, but neither do we want to be the girl without a filter, spewing teenage angst on our readers.

Before I went to Influence, I weighed in with other attendees on Nish Weiseth’s final preparations for her talk “Blogging Dangerously,” asking how we can decide what’s appropriate, how we can discern the difference between just trying to be edgy to get attention and writing something hard or thought-provoking that could really make a difference.

Sometimes, in order to speak authentically on an issue or experience, and to let people know they’re not alone, we have to write outside the lines and share stories of our own failure or brokenness. But even when we write dangerously, we need to do so with some sense of caution.

Nish wisely encouraged us to begin with praying about our idea, asking our Counselor for wisdom. Why share this particular story? Is the risk of conflict or misunderstanding worth it? Next, we ask permission from others who may be affected by the story. How do your people feel about it? The trust and security in our closest relationships should always come before any supposed benefit for our wider circle of readers.

It took me a whole day to edit “The Butterfly Effect”. I shared it with my husband and had him redline anything that made him uncomfortable. I shared it with my mom who had prayed me through the drama to begin with. She did some more redlining. They became the filter I needed when emotion had clouded mine.

Finally, when I had permission to publish the piece, I wondered if readers would make false assumptions about the validity of my relationship or make judgments about my emotional stability. Yet, I felt the risk was worth the possibility of reminding people like me that strong love is based on trust and that while the butterfly sensations of different phases are not illusion, neither are they are a fit foundation for relationship.

That day after I’d put my story out into blog world, I followed a random string of links and comments and more links that led me to three other blog posts covering similar issues. I felt a camaraderie in my writing when I had just hours ago felt odd and alone. Here was a little group of us synchronized by the Spirit to put this truth into the blogosphere that particular day…to challenge those who mistakenly believe that romantic feeling is the substance of relationship, when it is really just an accessory like a seashell on a shelf.

{How do you decide what sensitive topics and personal struggles are publishable? What stories of others’ weakness, failure or brokenness have ministered to you? What stories have you shared from your own life and what has been the result?}

This is Day 11 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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Danger Is Not My Middle Name

Danger is not my middle name. Mine rings of safety– ”Lee,” the one whose feet tread nice and slow through grassy meadows. I am the cautious firstborn who once trembled at the thought of removing the Huffy training wheels, who accidentally did the splits the first (and last) time I put on roller blades, who waited to get a driver’s license until age 17, who turns my knuckles white holding onto the assist handle when I’m riding in the passenger seat of the car.

Last weekend on a trip to Phoenix, when my baby brother and I were set to go fetch some late night dinner for the family, I pictured us getting in the car, clicking our seat belts and closing ourselves in behind thick steel doors. Instead, he handed me a helmet and backed the Vespa out of the garage. The scooter? On real roads? With no seatbelt? He patted the seat. I gulped down a breath.

I thought of the story of Eleanor Roosevelt on my shelf back home, the once timid First Lady who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I remembered the black and white sketches of her sneaking away from the safety of the Secret Service and putting on her driving gloves…and then flying co-pilot under cover of night with her friend Amelia.

You’ve got to live a little. I exhaled, then saddled up and circled my arms around my little brother, trying not to squeeze too hard. We were off. Strands of hair rushed behind me, flapping like a little European scarf. The super moon was rising high, spotlighting our path. I couldn’t keep the corners of my mouth from rising with it.

We grazed the perimeter of farm-land, felt the pockets of cool air where well-watered crops breathed the heat of day away. We leaned around corners and righted ourselves. Cars zoomed past. Our tires jolted over a bump and I cheered that I was still on board.

By the end of my 30-minute vacation from my safe, comfy, no-risk life, I almost felt I could drive the thing myself. We had gone to the restaurant and back…and I lived. I took off the helmet and pulled my fingers through tangled hair.

Inside the door of the house, I watched as my baby brother’s baby was passed from person to person. In full newborn trust, he went with the flow, not flinching at the movement. And I’m guessing that trend will continue for little Charles Danger Cross. With his risk-taker dad and his adventuresome moniker along for the ride, he may well opt out of the usual firstborn sense of caution. Still, I can’t help but cuddle him careful…even if Danger is his middle name.