Author Archives: Bethany

Why I write my stories

I flopped onto the hotel bed. My mom and I were in Michigan for my uncle’s funeral, and I was talking to her about blogging. “I’m only nineteen. Who I am and what I believe is changing so fast that I can’t keep track of it. How am I supposed to write in the middle of that?”

Silence hung between us and my mom waited for me to finish my tirade. “I feel like all I have now is stories.” She looked at me from across the rom. “I’m not even sure I know what they mean anymore. All I know to do is tell them.”

Last month, I read Speak by Nish Weiseth. That little green book changed the way I understand stories.

The power of story becomes evident when, as we share, another’s eyes light up and they say, ‘You too? Me too!’” –Nish Weiseth

If you want to know the truth of it, writing scares me right now. It has all summer. This was the summer that Susanna and I started crafting the story of the year in the black dress. With every word that’s spilled onto the page, I’ve wondered who I think I am to be telling this story in a book.

But I keep remembering the words of so many others that have made me want to shout, “Me too!” Brave folks have gone before me and let me find myself in their stories. I am who I am because they had the courage to speak.

A while ago, Rachel Held Evans was talking about why she writes. I don’t remember the exact context, but she said that she writes so that others will know that they’re not alone.

Others have gone before me, and others will come after me. There’s nothing special about me and my story, other than the fact that it’s mine. I’m going to own it. I’ll keep showing up at the keyboard and pounding out the words.

Why?

Because you are not alone.

None of us are.

I’ve given up on trying to tell you what these stories mean. All I can do is offer them. I hope that somehow, in my stories, you find yours. And when you do, I hope you’ll tell it to us.

We need you.

We need your stories.

Songs of Defiance

photoI leaned my head against the airplane wall. It’d only been a week since my mom called me to tell me that my uncle passed away, and now I was on a plane back to Nashville after his funeral. The loss was just beginning to sink in and I fought off tears. When they insisted on coming, I turned toward the window so no one would see me cry. Dew drops chased each other down the glass and the rosy fingers of dawn reached their way across the sky.

The weekend had been dreary. As I watched the sun rise over the Detroit airport, I wondered if maybe there was hope on the other side after all. Our loss as a family wasn’t the only thing casting a shadow, though.

That weekend, some health problems I’d dealt with previously flared up. The best I’d been able to do was manage the pain, and I was tired of feeling so tired. I was still adjusting to a new school year and all the details were overwhelming. On top of all that, it seemed like all I had to do was scroll through twitter and read a few headlines to feel like the whole world was coming apart at the seams.

An hour later, we were descending into Nashville. The clouds hung thick. As I watched out the window, I felt lost. The world had disappeared into grey oblivion and I wondered if we were really moving at all. Then the layers of clouds peeled apart and a sliver of sunrise broke through.

It reminded me of a scene from The Return of the King. Sam and Frodo had almost completed their quest and as Frodo slept, Sam kept watch. He looked across the sky and, for the first time in a long time, he saw a light beyond the shadow

…Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance, rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself… [J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King]

I thought about Sam’s song. It may have been defiance, but it was the song that found Frodo. Without it, the story would have ended there. Sometimes, that’s how we make our way through the shadow and to the hope. We can’t see the end of the shadow, but we shake our fists at the darkness all the same.

Later that morning, my friends and I were in church. The service ended with a hymn. I tried to sing, but the words just wouldn’t come.

It is well, it is well with my soul

I was worn thin. I didn’t have much energy left for hope, but finally, somewhere in the second verse, I found my voice. I’m not sure how much I really believed it. Still, in defiance, I sang. As we left, I thought about the verse we didn’t sing that morning.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Even so.

One day, we’ll see the end of this shadow and the hope beyond it. Until then, I’ll raise my voice and sing a song of defiance. I’ll keep looking for the slivers of light beyond the shadow.

In truth, this month has been equal parts difficult and beautiful, and I am grateful for both.

Some days feel heavy, but the shadow is not the end of the story.

Yes, we have lost much, but the darkness will not win.

in the end, the shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.

Moving

I may be absent in these parts for the next few weeks. I’m heading into year two. This week I pack my entire life into boxes and move three states for the third time in a year. I’ll be back soon, though. :)

Grace in the Process

Last week I sat on the front porch and watched a lizard extract himself from his old skin. He wiggled with a familiar agitation. Twisting around, he pulled sections of paper-thin skin off his back with his mouth.

But in his frenzy, there was rhythm. This was a process—one that he probably knew well by then. It was the most natural thing in the world, this shedding of the old self to make room for the new.

I’m standing at the brink of another year. Most days I just don’t know. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, or how to make it work, or where to put all of the pieces that are the last year in this puzzle of mine.

I’ve been sorting through all the papers from last year to get ready for this one. In all the mess, I found part of a speech I wrote last fall. The assignment was a ceremonial speech, and one of my attempts was a eulogy to the girl I used to be.

Even then, the old was giving way to the new.

I don’t always know how to make sense of all that was then and all that is now. I know that there is a place for the two to meet, but I haven’t found it yet. So I move back and forth, agitated. I try to shake this old skin. I just want it to be over with already, to be new and different and not somewhere in the middle.

Somehow, though, it is in the process that I find grace. It is good and right, this shedding of the old and becoming the new. Perhaps it is, after all, the most natural thing in the world.

Pain and Justice

“So how was your trip?”

Quite a few people have asked me that this week and I still don’t know how to answer. I’ve managed to say something about just how beautiful it all was, but even after three weeks back home I don’t know how to talk about all the things I saw. I barely know how to think about them.


It is one thing, I have learned, to go to another place and meet people you understand to be vulnerable. You can stand there and keep your emotions out of it and look at facts and figures and ask why.

But that is not what transforms.

It is another thing entirely to stand with them in light of your own vulnerability, to understand where you hurt and how those things mean you aren’t nearly as different as you once thought.


Our Sunday School group talked about suffering yesterday. The understanding we came to is that we can only comfort others in suffering when we know what it is to suffer.


So yes, the trip was beautiful. We saw God redeeming in incredible ways. And as we worshipped alongside those we’d come to meet and learn about, I began to understand the power of vulnerability.

In worship, they invited Christ into the vulnerable places they’d shared with us. In some strange way, though, they also invited him into the places we were vulnerable. It’s only as we began to understand our own pain that we were able to understand what justice really is.


It’s easy to go out and try to save the world. It’s much, much more difficult to go and hurt with others, to let their pain touch yours, and to let God redeem both.

Until we do, though, we’re the ones who miss out.