How To Do A Story Circle
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to it telling me who I am”
Our lives are layered stories—some of our stories are simple and gentle, some of them are complicated and piercing. Some of our story has unfolded slowly, like layers of careful paint drying on a canvas and some of our story has come to us in an instant, through inbreakings of deep joy or pain or change.
It's no wonder that the incarnated God, Jesus, is also and first called the Word. For only through our ability to communicate do we discover what it means to be human and what it means to know God. We need the Logos to know our stories, just as we need Jesus to know how to interpret our stories in light of God’s loving intention for humanity.
We’ve been talking lately at Kaleid about our passion…how it grows up from our wounds and how, when it is re-connected to the One who is most passionate about us, it becomes ready for a world that needs what we can share: a courage, a depth, and a strength of commitment that has been remade by Love.
Our passion reveals where we join God’s story, and the priorities of God we tend to amplify in the world.
Last week we shared that a way we can allow our wounds to be healed and our passions to be purified is the practice of “attunement,” which is “looking at God, looking at us, in love.”
When we are together in Foundations classes at Kaleid, we do an exercise called a “Story Circle” that helps us to pay attention to formative aspects of our stories and intentionally bring them before God’s gaze so that they can begin to be healed and so that our connected passions can be revealed. We’d like to share it with you today.
Beginning to recognize and act more freely out of our passions, knowing their connection to God’s story, frees us from working in ways that are guilt-driven, burnout-inducing, and numbing so that we can work in the world from our heart, fueled by the energy of God’s love that has been poured into us.
Here’s how a Story Circle works…
It’s helpful to know that there are layers to our stories.
First there is my story, or the thing that happened to me.
Second, there are the stories I tell myself because of that event or experience.
Third, there are healing stories that both I and the world need to hear.
Finally, there is God’s big story of reconciliation and redemption, into which my healing story fits as I live my passions.
Here is the Story Circle diagram that we use. You can locate each layer of our stories on the picture.
To show you how we use the exercise, we are sharing two examples with you from two of the three Kaleid team members. The first is Liz’s circle. Liz moved a lot as a young girl, and her moves often meant a shift from scarcity to abundance or vice versa. The second is from Karen, who spent a lot of her childhood getting in trouble for making messes.
Take some time to study each to see how the layers unfold…first the event or trend…then the hard stories that each woman told themselves to make meaning of their experience…then the healing message that attunement to God’s love has helped to generate…and finally the work that the two women are passionate about because of their heart to share the stories that the world needs to hear with others.
You can see around the edges in each image how attunement to God’s love has re-fashioned the stories that they are believing and healing their wounds, even as they continue to grapple with them.
Liz's Story Circle
Karen’s Story Circle
These story circles are like the flowers of our lives. Some of us will be able to notice and name fully-flowered circles, places we have explored, known, walked through, and experienced healing.
Some of us will find that we can only name a pain or a hurt and that the unfurling of the outer layers of the flower needs time and care…the light and grace of God…to open it up and allow it to heal and take shape in the world.
We actually all have whole gardens of these flowers in our hearts and lives. Some of our heart-flowers open easily, while others are painful and need the help of a professional care-giver to tend to us as we learn to attune to God’s love in deeply wounded places.
No matter our garden, no matter the flowers that remain tightly closed or fully open, the daily practice of lifting our gaze to the face of the One who made us and knows us and loves us…the one who made us in love, by love, and for love…will make safe space for the gentle, coaxing work of the Spirit to allow the blooms to open in their time.
You are always welcome at the Kaleid Contemplative Circles (the place where we practice attunement together), and you are especially welcome to join us for the Easter Silent Retreat on May 1. It will be a beautiful day of looking at God, who is always looking at us.
Set aside some time to do a Story Circle for yourself. Answer the following questions as you fill in circles on a page in your journal.
What is an experience or wound that was hard for you as a child? (My Story)
What did you come to believe about yourself, others, or the world because of that experience? (The Stories I Tell Myself)
If your experience could be fully redeemed in your heart, what story would God want to tell you about it instead? (The Stories I and the World Need to Hear)
Can you see that you have passionately applied yourself to a problem, and issue, or a task because of this storyline in your life? (Joining God’s Story)
Are there new stories that God has conveyed to you as you have learned to trustingly receive God’s love? (God’s Story)
As you close your time, picture an infant gazing into a parent’s eyes, safe and expectant. Whatever your story work brought up for you, take time to hold it before God in that same way, using Psalm 131 to attune to God and to see yourself and God in this trusting, loving way.
We are grateful for you,
The Kaleid Team
Quote: Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2000), 3.