Hey, today we are at the 76% mark of this project and I have been eagerly waiting for a week to share this essay by my friend Kelsey who I am about to introduce to you. She gave me the choice of 3 essays and I felt the one youa re about to read most aligned with this blog, but also left me extremely encouraged. I both had a beaming smile and cried as I read her beautifully written reflection. You are going to love and be amazed by it.
Kelsey is a faith-filled, funny and extremely intelligent adventurer. I think what makes Kelsey so amazing is how she has allowed her adventures to shape her to have a huge heart for others. I’m impressed by how her sense of humor seems void of cynicism. I think in being smart, she also maintains a high value for walking in humility, and in all these things she reflects Christ through her life. Furthermore, she has a knack for storytelling and I’m excited for you to be able to glean from her reflection here:
I love to read and lose myself in a good story. Reading a book is the perfect hobby because I cannot multitask. I have to pay full attention to the book and it quiets my brain in a way few things do. I primarily read on my kindle and there’s something I noticed that I don’t think I would have realized just by reading physical books. Almost every book falls apart at the 80% mark. The story that you were invested in and had watched build towards something gets unraveled around 80% before it’s put back together again. This especially drives me crazy when it’s a rom-com book and the couple breaks up over a little miscommunication. They always get back together in the end, but there needs to be that last tension point in the plot. It still annoys me when I get to it, but at least now I expect it and so don’t feel it as deeply.
I’ve started to notice the same thing happens in real life. Makes sense since common plot structures have to come from somewhere. The story we’ve been building toward falls apart at 80%. But in real life, you don’t know that you’re only 20% from the end. So there isn’t the urgency to keep going and just push through to get to the resolution. It’s easy to think you just got it wrong and were building a storyline that wasn’t tenable. But if we could see the whole story, we’d know to put our heads down and keep moving forward.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we read the Bible from the perspective of knowing how the story ends. We can’t really see how messy the people feel in the middle because we know how it ends. It’s hard to really feel the weight and doubt of that moment. This is especially evident in the story of Joseph. He is thrown in prison and then God enables him to interpret the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. The latter is killed and the former returns to Pharaoh’s court. The cupbearer completely forgets about Joseph though and Genesis 41 starts with “When two full years had passed…” Those six words are painful if I really think about them. Joseph had no clue how the story was going to shake out. He had dreams from God when he was younger, but he had a million false starts and was quite literally forgotten in a dungeon. And it seemed like there might be some forward movement with interpreting the dreams, but then nothing for two full years. Now that I can resonate with. That is an extremely painful and lonely place to be. The story we’d been building towards seems to fall apart at 80%.
Several years ago, a shelf in my parent’s garage broke and the boxes that were up there fell down and spilled their contents everywhere. My siblings and I were tasked with cleaning it up and repacking the boxes. My mom later regretted that because we found a couple of her letters from college. One was from her guy friend that said he wished Keith (my dad) would stop playing his little games. I don’t know the frat guy version of my dad. Playing little games? Dad, rude. And the other letter was one my mom wrote my dad after he broke up with her seemingly out of the blue. My parents met in high school and went on their first date when they were sixteen. My mom followed my dad to Baylor and then after they’d been together for three years, he broke up with her. My mom was devastated and wrote this letter to my dad with no intent to ever send it. I’ve done the same and written letters to guys that I will never, ever send. It’s helpful to get it all out of your head.
This spring, I was devastated when something didn’t work out the way I thought it was heading. And I remembered that I had taken pictures of the letter my mom wrote my dad after he dumped her. I went back through my photos and found the letter. And I read it and finally fully felt how my mom was feeling. She was blindsided and felt lied to and led on. She was despondent and couldn’t picture her life without my dad and had no clue how the story was going to play out. And as I read the letter, I kept thinking about how if only 19-year-old Laurie could get a glimpse of her life now, she wouldn’t have despaired so much. When I read the letter, this is what my mom’s life looked like: she had been married to my dad for over forty years and raised six kids. The entire family was meeting up in a week in Durham to celebrate their youngest kid graduating from Duke. They were about to pass a major milestone of putting all six kids through college. Their five oldest kids went to Baylor and Trent, our black sheep/blue devil, went to Duke. Half of their kids had graduate degrees. Their first grandchild was on the way and two kids were engaged and planning weddings. Their kids are each other’s best friends and choose to travel the world together. If my mom could see a glimpse of her 2022 when she wrote the letter in 1978, she would not have been so utterly dejected. Obviously, it’s good and right to be present and feel the pain of the moment. But the story is not over. And it will work out. And hope is a beautiful thing to hold onto.
I know I shouldn’t have this letter my mom wrote my dad, but I do. It’s gutsy and honest and raw. It’s painful to read, but I can only read it through the lens of being their daughter and knowing how the story worked out. I’m smack dab in the messy middle of my own life. I have no clue how it’s all going to work out. It’s painful and raw and I’m upset. But I see all those same emotions in my mom’s letter and I also see how the story was redeemed and resolved. I’m at the 80% mark where it feels like it’s all fallen apart. But the only option is to trust and keep going. The messy middle implies an ending and a resolution. And I fully believe that God writes the best stories. And in my life, I have found over and over that redemption is so much better than perfection.