Mark 4:33-34 “With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots." (MSG)

I remember one of my first journals. We called them a diary in the 1960's. It had a lock on it and I carefully hid the key to make certain that my sister couldn't sneak in and read my private thoughts. My notes included who liked me and who I liked back. I don't recall any further substantive narrative because how I fit in seemed to be my sole focus for breathing and living.

It was heartbreaking when others didn't like me and my diary described my heavy heart and the pages had tear stains from the times I felt rejected by the popular crowd. As an overweight child, I was hard on myself and the mirror into which my reflection peered back was never pretty.  Being called "Carole the barrel" continually riveted nails painfully into my heart and I suffered for many years with very low self esteem.

My story was just beginning. My parents loved me unconditionally. They reassured me that Jesus loved me unconditionally too. I believed that sometimes. Other times, I turned and ran the other way into the open arms of rejection that welcomed me and grasped its ugly claws of shame deep into my soul.

I remembered the Jesus stories that I learned as a young girl in Sunday School and at home. I heard the stories over and over and over. The Woman at the Well, Jonah and the Whale, Joseph's Coat of Many Colors, Daniel and the Lion's Den, David and Goliath, The Prodigal Son, Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego in the Firey Furnace (the one that Mama always said was "shake the bed, make the bed, and into bed we go" so we could remember the three guys names), and many more. My favorites were always the ones about women, of course.

But they were just stories. What did those stories have to do with me? I rebelled and quit reading the stories. I relied on other stories from the world around me. I left the church after my divorce because I was certain that I was like the Samaritan Woman who would live out my life on the fringes of society. My life was a tangled mess and I could not sort through the mire.

I left God, but God never left me. The stories were engrained in my soul. As I journey through life, my story changes. I've had my share of pain, loss, sorrow, and grief, but more importantly, I've reaped my share of joy, laughter, love, and security. Stories give me form. I hold onto the end of the story of the Samaritan Woman who was forgiven and embraced and find reassurance in the threads of her life journey.

Recently, a friend told me that I was beautiful. Another told me that she loves my laugh and that it's contagious. Another reminds me to continue telling my stories because he finds hope and reassurance there.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for unraveling my stories and untying the knots of my soul. Thank you that you love me just as I am. Thank you for giving me a story. But most of all, thank you for the stories you gave me from your birth to the cross. Help me to continue telling your stories. Amen.

Carole Schumacher

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