Sunday, June 26, 2011

Creating Summer Memories Storyteller Style

I have been having such an amazing summer thus far. It has been incredibly busy, with lots of travel and more shows in a week than I've ever done before, and yet there have been so many beautiful moments that have caused me to stop and say, "Wow! How lucky am I? Is it really possible that I'm earning a living at something that I love so much?"

How can I describe how great it is to see a parent pull out their camera with a huge smile on their face as they try to capture the special moment when their child is standing next to me, dressed as a parrot or ram or some other crazy character from one of my stories, and to know that I am helping to create a memory for this family? Something that they will smile or laugh about or share with others. . .

What words can I find to express how much it means to me, at the end of a long day of three shows, to have a parent come up to me and say that her and her daughter were at last year's show and that when they saw that I was returning to their library system, they made a point of finding a show they could attend before their summer trip to India? And not only that, but inviting the daughter's friend to come with them -- an outgoing friend who ended up playing an important part in the show when I had a very shy audience.

Speaking of shy audiences, in the last week, I had quite a few of those, more than usual. These are the audiences who are interested in the story but aren't much interested in getting involved and playing the parts. This is in contrast to the audiences I get where every hand is raised and I wish I had more parts to go around. The shy audiences can pose a challenge, especially when it's a small crowd and everyone is shy. That was the case at one of my shows on Saturday. But imagine my delight when the parents of one of the young children quickly jumped at my request for volunteers and dove into their characters with reckless abandon! The father even had to be called upon to play two different parts. In all of it, the look of delight on their daughter's face as she watched her parents pretend to be dogs, roosters and rams, was priceless.

I am a storyteller. A maker of memories. A bringer-together of families and peoples. A humorist. An improv artist. A bridge builder. A storyteller.

Lewis Carroll described stories as "love gifts." I could not agree more. Every time I tell a story I am grateful for the relationship it creates between me and the audience. Sometimes it's a relationship that lasts beyond those 30-45 minutes and extends to a year or two years from now when the same people come back to see me tell again. Or maybe it extends in other ways through a ripple effect that I know nothing about but that is very real all the same. I certainly hope so. Nonetheless, I am mindful of and thankful for the opportunities to meet wonderful people whom I would never have the chance to meet if it were not for my vocation as a storyteller.

It's funny because when I started World of Difference Ltd three years ago, I never intended to do it on my own. I enjoy working with people and feeding off the synergy that collaborative energies bring. And so that has been one of the biggest challenges for me in working solo. However, now, as the Lord has opened so many doors for me to perform, I realize that He has given me the desire of my heart by bringing wonderful people into my life at each place I go with World of Difference. Some of these people are now my biggest encouragers -- and their support has meant the world to me!

I can't even tell you how many times I wanted to give up when times got tough or things moved slower than I thought they should. How many times it seemed that something else, anything else, would be a better, wiser idea for a job. But somehow (with lots of support) I stuck it out, and that makes the many beautiful memories I'm creating this summer all the sweeter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Time to Get Better

Can't believe it's been over a month since my last post. Admittedly, I say that way too much. I guess it's just the crazy rhythms of life, and no matter how much I attempt to become a more regular blogger, I can't seem to make it happen.

At any rate, I thought I'd share a few of my most recent realizations/revelations over the last month or so.

First of all, I got sick a little over a week ago. It happened just in time for the beginning of my jam-packed summer tour. And it just so happened that my first weeks were filled with lots of travel. I'm pretty sure many of the people behind me on the road thought I was a drunk driver, because let's just say, that blowing your nose while on the road does not make it all that easy to keep a straight course. I have blown through lots of boxes of tissue, and am still at it, but thankfully, have managed to have the strength and stamina needed for each of my shows.

But praise the Lord, I managed to get the worst part of the sickness, (the first few days when my head was throbbing and my body achy and exhausted) over with before I had to hit the road. It's funny though because when you are sick, you tend to evaluate things differently.

On any regular day where I have my health, I'm pretty absorbed by productivity. Is the kitchen clean? The laundry done? Have I responded to those emails? Made those phone calls? Did I get my run or other exercise in for the day? Have I made dinner? Drummed up some new business? Worked on a new show? Edited a few pages in my existing book or written a few lines for my new one? If the answer is no to more than a few of those questions, then, well, I would probably tend to consider it an unproductive day, and I'd probably be frustrated with myself.

But when I'm sick, I could care less about most of these things. All that matters is getting well. And if I have to lay in a bed sleeping and watching TV all day (something I NEVER do), then so be it! It has to be done so I can get better.

Somewhere while I was laying in that bed trying to recover, feeling free from so much of the guilt that would normally plague me at not having accomplished what I think I should have for the day, I think I learned a very spiritual lesson. It occurred to me that maybe that what God requires of me on a daily basis is not productivity so much as getting better -- daily trying to become better, not in a physical sense but a spiritual one. And the only way that can happen is through getting closer to God and becoming more like Him.

It's easy to do a lot of things and think I am being productive, but maybe I'm just fooling myself. Maybe I'm not getting anywhere nearer to my goal of being conformed to the likeness of Christ, maybe I'm just "doing stuff." Maybe I need to stop, and let the dishes sit in the sink and the emails get behind a day or two, so I can be in His presence and just allow my time with Him to make me better.

I have always seen my times of sickness as God's way of telling me to slow down. But once I've slowed down and recovered, it's easy to just pick up where I left off and speed up again. I've got a jam-packed summer, and yet somewhere in the middle of that, I'm trying to avoid that temptation to make productivity my goal. Life is certainly about more than my to-do list, but sometimes it takes something to slow you down to remind you of that.