What Is Your Story?

August 12, 2014
Lifelong Formation

Today’s guest blogger is Cindy Spencer, Faith Formation Hub: Children and Family Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. She also serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council.

Developing a Spiritual Practice of Presence

family poloroidsI have to confess that one of my favorite parts of checking Facebook is seeing the pictures people post. Yes, even the pictures of their meals!

You see, I love the stories pictures tell, through their framing, through the miscellaneous details that appear on the sidelines, from their interaction with other pictures, and with the commentary often posted alongside them. My favorite blogs, the ones I check every day, are often populated with pictures that bring a particular focus to the words of the author.

I love taking pictures, too, and recording them in our family photo albums – paying attention to the ways in which the pictures work together to tell a story, reliving the days as I build the page, enjoying the albums again and again with my children, and loving when I catch them looking through the albums on their own. I’ll admit that I adore a good art photo. But my very favorite photos are the ones that show a slice of everyday life, ones that invite me into a moment, a story, ones that invite me to pay attention, both to the photo at hand, and to the moments of my own life.

Several years ago my family drove down Canyon Road from Ellensburg to Yakima, on a trip to visit my parents who were living on a small hobby farm outside of Selah, Washington. Canyon Road is an alternate to I-84, and follows the Yakima River down a deep gorge, providing beautiful views along the way. Hailey, about 10 at the time, was lamenting that we didn’t have a camera, with which to capture the views, when she suddenly had the idea that she could take pictures “in her minds’ eye,”  by framing the scene with her hands, focusing with her eyes and brain, and making a clicking sound as she “captured” the shot.  Soon she and her younger brother were happily taking pictures, and making memories. They were convinced that these pictures were burned into their brains, and they practiced recalling them – flipping through the scrapbooks they had created in their minds.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this story, and wondering if Hailey’s “minds-eye camera” might be a useful tool as I seek to develop the spiritual practice of being present. I don’t know about you, but I long to be more present to my own life, sensing that in doing so, I will be more attentive to the ways in which God is leading and moving.  

I’m also aware that faith formation happens in these small moments, in the interplay of my story with God’s story and the ways in which the stories are allowed to inform each other. But instead of being attentive to my own formation, I often have the feeling that my life is moving too quickly, out of my control, and that I bounce from responsibility to activity to dinner to exhaustion to sleep, only to rise and do it again the next day.

So I’m looking for opportunities throughout the day to take a picture, but not with my camera, and not with the intent of filling another album for the family shelf (alas, I’m more than a year behind on that project!), but to file away in the scrapbook in my brain, ready to pull out to place alongside the stories that I see and hear from others, alongside  the scripture that I encounter in worship and study, alongside the news as I listen to NPR on my way home from work.

What pictures are you taking? What stories do you tell yourself?  How are you present to your own life and formation?