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Stories. We all have them. I like to believe that when we’re born, God takes a leather-bound book full with blank pages, and writes our name on the front of it. And then he sits back and waits…and watches.

Watches to see what we will do with the stories we are given.

I’ve kept journals over the years. It sort of became an obsession of mine. I’d write everything down. The good, the bad, the ugly and the really hideously ugly. Then I became obsessed with reading them. Going back over every detail of my past, reliving it, cringing and wishing I could do a lot of it over.

It cost me. Not only to write down those words that sometimes conveyed dark days, but to read them back to myself. Because each time I did, I served up another side of guilt and forced myself to swallow it. Eventually I found some healing and I found the courage to get rid of those books. I didn’t need them anymore. But the stories remained.

The past is always there, lurking, waiting for the moment I stumble and fall and lose my way and then it looms large, steps from the shadows and laughs at my pitiful attempts to be a better person than I was yesterday. Or the day before. And it tries to tell me that tomorrow won’t be any better.

I have tried and I have failed and I have tried again. For someone with rejection issues, choosing to forge a career in the publishing business is slightly masochistic, I admit. I know people think I’m nuts. They don’t get it. A couple of books does not a career make, and an unknown future is questionable at best. I get it. But what they maybe fail to understand, is that for me, this matter of story, this art of forming words, fitting them together until they find their perfect place, this is not some fanciful time wasting practice. This is me breathing, taking hold of life for everything it’s worth, and choosing to speak up, speak out. This is me choosing to tell my story.

We’re all given a voice, and we’re all given a choice. How will we use what we’ve been given? Some will sing out, some will play, fingers flying over ivory keys as though their life depended on the very next note they touch. Others pick up paints and brushes and get lost in colors and depth of perspective, bleeding life into art. Still others sit for hours on end, tap tap tapping at black squares until the right words come. And even when they do, we don’t know that they are true. They must be tested, tried and tangled with over and over and over. And it’s hard. It hurts. When you choose to plumb the depths of your own soul, more often than not, you come up wanting.

Yet we are compelled to tell our stories. We count the cost of that choice. A nod toward sanity as it flies by in a fleeting farewell as we pick up our instruments again, reach for that brush, stare at that blinking cursor and wonder…where will it all end?

We don’t know and part of us doesn’t care, not really, because we are in the here and now, and we are speaking. We are telling our stories as best we can and it matters not where they land. Because we have released them, given them as our gift. We have paid the price every time, but it is worth it because even as we doubt and question and sometimes grab back what we give, we know we can’t not do this. This is life. Breath. Hope. Grace.

And, if we ask for it, peace.