When Stories Are Food for the Soul

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tasha-burgoyne-stories3By Tasha Burgoyne | Twitter: @tashajunb

They say children become readers on the laps of reading parents. Storytellers, however, are made by much more.

The daughter of a Korean immigrant mother and a white American father, my early childhood was caught between the duality of assimilation and the weight of cultures colliding. My dad read me bedtime stories when he could and sometimes invented his own amazing stories, but by the time I started elementary school, I was slow to pick up reading.

I can vividly remember staring down at pages full of jumbled lines and shapes: the letters made no sense to me as they formed words. I was put into the lowest reading group in first grade, and yet, what couldn’t be seen beyond my lack of reading skill in the beginning, was how hungry I was for stories. Eventually I caught up in school, mastering letters on the page and tests for comprehension, but those skills and tools weren’t why I learned to love stories.

I didn’t meet Corduroy the Bear or imagine my foot fitting perfectly in glass slippers with my mother’s voice. Instead of sitting in her lap and watching her hands turn pages, I learned to listen to her stories in the kitchen.

The kitchen is where my mother chased after her own childhood stories and where she told them. It was there, standing over the steam of fresh, hot rice, white and perfect as a first snow, where she would recount how she had lost her parents, and the adventures and hardships of living with her aunt’s family. She had been given the responsibility as eldest to count and divide the rice they had among her little brother and cousins, grain by grain. By the time she got to her own bowl, there was never enough.

As she told me stories, she didn’t just play the part of a character for effect: I heard the crack in her voice as she remembered living that page and paused to hold back tears. I watched her fold rice over and over again: the full spoon a tangible measure of her felt gratitude and relief, because now, there was enough. I tasted her longing in every mouthful of butter rice that I stuffed in my mouth as an after school snack. I understood without words to describe it, that she had come from so little, but now fed me so much.

Years later, when I met Jesus and began to know the legacy of stories he left for me, I saw my mother’s legacy of stories in a new light. When Jesus spoke of those having little, I imagined my mom counting rice grains and dividing them up for her family as a young girl. I knew then that she had not been forgotten.

When Jesus paid attention to the outcast and was the foreigner, I knew we weren’t alone in the ways our family felt different–-both in our home country and my mom’s birth country.

When he felt the touch of a bleeding woman and healed her with dignity, he asked me for my most shameful, embarrassing pages to be brought into his light and his tenderness.

When he didn’t pass over the slow and the fearful, and instead chose to use weakness and doubt to display his power, I knew I, too, had a place and purpose in his story and my own.

As the Master Storyteller, Jesus’ stories have nourished and are still nourishing the hidden wastelands of my soul.

All I can do in return is to tremble and break my own treasure jar full of stories, pouring them in pieces like grains of rice at his feet.

My mother fed me rice and stories. Her stories live in me. As her daughter and as a daughter of the King, I have become a storyteller, hungry to tell stories of the redeemed.

 

About Tasha:

tasha-b-pictureTasha is a wife, a mama, a hapa and a french fries connoisseur. She’s a writer and a dreamer, a coffee-drinker and a kimchi-eater. She was made to walk where cultures collide on both dirt roads and carefully placed cobblestone streets. Jesus is her heartbeat. She blogs at
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