Stories that Change Generations

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I have always known I was a storyteller. From a very early age, I created worlds in my mind. I had an imagination that ran wild. My third grade teacher Mrs. Knollinger, called me a liar. That is what old school Catholic teachers were told to teach: the law; not the truth.

Thankfully my mother changed the narrative and enrolled me in a gifted English program that shaped me as a creative writer. I found an outlet for all the words running through my head. I’ve heard that some can see colors through music. I can hear and see words in everything and everyone around me. Not when they are talking or things are loud, but when they are not. You can millenial my 43-year-old self and call it an Enneagram Two response or call me an Empath, yet the truth is, I can see the emotions of those around me. Especially those left out.

For years I was told that this was not something to be used, but to be medicated. It was not acceptable to feel all the feelings. They needed boundaries and to be suppressed.

It wasn’t until recently I realized that our lives are telling the story we are supposed to tell. We have the gift of either shaming our story into silence or bravely hearing it.

I can hear stories whispered in the trees and I can hear stories cried out as the water hits my feet. I was born on the shores of Lake Michigan. So, perhaps the connection to God and nature is ingrained in me. When I was younger, I imagined the ocean was not merely salt water, but perhaps the tears of those who have gone before us, weeping for what we did to the earth. What we did to each other. Now that I am older, I believe it. The earth and the body hold our stories. The stories I see and create, give me a sense of belonging. Stories tell me that somehow I wasn’t a mistake. None of us were.

I have not always known that I was a mother. I didn’t feel like I fit into the skin motherhood embodied. In fact, if I am honest, I never wanted to be a mother. This is a truth that is not well accepted in the Christian community. Other girls I went to school with played “mommy” and wanted to go to college to get their Mrs. Degree. I wanted to be alone, join the Peace Corps, read Steinbeck, travel the world and maybe someday get married to a hippie.

I didn’t do any of these things. I became a mama at a very young age. Motherhood was my new story. This child became my whole world. And then I married Michael P. Keaton, polar opposite to a hippie. And instead of the Peace Corps, we moved into a home with 12 high school boys and peace was no longer in my vocabulary.

Something happened, though, when I became a mother. The story had changed and I was no longer sure what my purpose was. Where I belonged.

When my second daughter was 15, she stood in my room, bare shoulders and salty tears carrying the weight of the story that had been written for her. She did not write this. All control had been taken from her and there we were, frail and broken. Nothing made sense anymore. She stood in front of me that evening and silently asked that I see her. Believe her. Hold her. Fight for her. Weep with her. Grieve with her. Carry her. Stay with her.

Everything had been taken away from her. School. Friends. Faith. Hope. Childhood. Health. Dreams. Body. Dignity. Time. Truth. Life. Happiness. Safety.

Everything was gone.

And here I was, seeing her story. Hearing words not spoken. Understanding this is where I belonged.

Perhaps this is where we all belong. Not in the stories that the world sees and celebrates, but perhaps in the stories that will change generations.

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Sheli Massie

Sheli Massie

Sheli Massie is a story keeper, seeker of justice, healing and hope in a broken world. She believes in longer tables, unlocked doors and living a barefoot life. She and her husband live outside of Chicago with their five children and one grandlove. You can find her over on instagram, Redbud Writers, and her website.
Sheli Massie

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