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.

Don’t want to miss a post? Be sure and follow via email on the homepage sidebar or click “Get the Message” on the main menu.

Comfort Food for the Trampled Soul

We pull our chopsticks from their wax paper wrappers, snap them apart and graze them against one another, like twigs starting a fire or iron sharpening iron, to smooth out the splinters while our food steams and cooks in the kitchen.

I turn the English and pinying side of the menu over to the real menu, the one my friend reads. I search the code for familiar symbols. She points to the boxes, lines and curves that she’s just spoken softly for our waitress, and teaches me how to recognize the characters. I keep up the work on the chopsticks while I practice my Chinese. Curls of wood settle on the worn table. I flip the menu over to my cheat sheet and then back again to study the hanzi.

First, the waitress brings out a plate of snow peas. Then, another of stir-fried eggs and tomatoes. And my friend tells me how her grandparents made this for her in the countryside where she spent her girlhood sick in bed.

I lean closer to hear her faint voice. I focus my eyes on her mouth, reading her lips as she ekes out the words from her trampled soul. She winces always, as if something is coming right for her, and now I’m starting to understand why. Her parents had sent her away, their one child a disappointment on the Darwinian scale, barely surviving, unfit.

I look out the door of the restaurant at the wooden crate, a rickety step upholstered in red carpet. Yarny fibers collapse under the load of automobile crud, spittle and vegetable scraps. I hear her meaning through the language gap. She bends under her own load, wondering if she’s born to be trodden underfoot.

We dig our chopsticks into the comfort food and scrape it into our bowls, onto soft beds of white rice. Her words come out quiet like a prayer filtered into a feathery pillow.

“But when I see the film,” she recalls scenes from the movie based on Luke’s telling of Jesus’ ministry, “how He loves the sick…I am very surprised- very surprised!”

I lay my chopsticks across the rice bowl. I picture my friend laying down on her cot in the countryside, mostly dead like Jairus’ daughter, except my friend didn’t have a daddy calling out to Jesus for her.

But Jesus, He who laid down his own life to raise her up, He found her nonetheless.

Here she is across the table telling me about Him with her round face like the moon reflecting some distant glory. She clasps her hands over her heart. And I have to do the like. I bring my hand first to rest on my chest and then to cover my mouth. I want to say His name out loud in the middle of this place that is scared of Him. If only they knew His meekness, quietness, how He changes the diagnosis with a gentle touch.

“He sees you,” I tell her, “He knows your need.” She  feels this already and opens her eyes, not wincing like before.

We put our smoothed-out chopsticks to work. Ginger and sesame oil trickle from our comfort food, hit the taste buds and slide to the core, nourishing. She is quickened, suddenly feeling her worth under the care of our Great Physician.

 

{Happy Chinese New Year! Below is an authentic recipe for Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes. A friend in China taught me how to make this simply delicious comfort food the way her family makes it at home.}

Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes

6 eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
olive oil
1/2 inch of fresh ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, chopped
sea salt
scallions (optional)
ripe red tomato, roughly chopped

Beat the eggs with sesame oil or water and season with a dash or two of sea salt.
In frying pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.
Stir-fry ginger, garlic, salt and scallions in oil for about a minute, being careful not to burn.
Add tomatoes and stir-fry for about a minute.
Pour egg mixture in and stir until the eggs set.

Serve over rice. We use germinated brown rice when my hubby’s not home and white Basmati rice when he is. :) Serve alongside sauteed garlic green beans or stir-fried broccoli or bok choi.