Tell Your Story

Seth Godin, some time back, said, “It happens around the edges.”

Meaning that life happens while we’re waiting for EVENTS.

man thinkingI’m certain you’ve noticed how the moments that make up your life aren’t the magical moments when the tree lights come on, the birthday candles go out, or even the moment the flash goes off. Life, the life we remember, the part that makes us who we are happens around the edges of those timely, important, and critical events of our existence.

With someone or alone, the moment we remember most likely isn’t the one we planned for, but more often is the one we didn’t plan to remember at all. Sometimes, it’s the one we wish we could forget, and other times, it’s the one we pray we will never forget.

When I look back over my life, the moments that have made me who I am today, are moments that most other people don’t even know existed. They’re the ones that set me up for failure, or success, and in that single blessed moment, I already knew which was which – but most likely didn’t make the right choice.

I remember one afternoon, my husband handed me the weed burner and told me to call one of the hired men and have him come help me burn out the corrals. They’d been vacant for several years and tumble weeds had filled them up fence-top high, filling the inside of the sheds, and binding up the fence rows. I mentioned that I’d never burned weeds before. I even reminded him that I was seven months pregnant and not moving so fast as I should be to do such a task, and pointed out that the girls would be there all afternoon and I needed to keep an eye on them. He responded that we could only afford to hire one man to help me with that project, and to get started while I waited for him to arrive.

I started the weeds in the corral nearest the house on fire, since the wind was blowing somewhat away from the house, and there wasn’t much of it. I figured the pasture wouldn’t burn, because it was bare. Safe direction, right?

An hour in, the weeds were smoldering and the hired hand hadn’t yet made it to the site. The girls had fallen asleep in the back seat of the car, and everything was still going good. I lit the weeds in the shed on fire, and watched the flames leap high through the metal that covered the roof, some random twigs caught fire, but went out shortly after, and still the fire was contained within the corrals.

Two hours in, the fence on the downwind side of the corral was still standing, scorched a bit, but not burning, and the weeds growing around the edge of the pasture had started to smolder and go down in big blackened tangled masses. I watched as the smolder crept into the edge of the pasture and most of it smothered out on the greener buffalo grasses that grew low to the ground. The barbed wire cattle fence along the north end of the property had captured blowing tumble weeds and a small portion of the fire caught there, grew up in high flames, and smothered low to smolder in the fence row.

With more than five acres charred black from the burn, and low smoldering fires along the edge burning out, I noticed clouds building on the horizon, and felt the first sprinkles of rain.

The hired man still hadn’t appeared, but with the rain drops, the smoldering edges sending up dark gray steam, and most of the fire gone out, I felt safe to step away from the fire for a moment and check on the girls, before I went inside to grab a bottle of water for my parched throat. I took time for a potty break, grabbed the water and heard the door slam against the wall, as the wind picked up. Outside, the hired man was just arriving in his old pick up truck and he looked out at the flames shooting against the wind on the downward side of the burn.

“Let’s get that out!” I screamed, realizing if it picked up with the wind, we’d be caught in a back fire.

In those few minutes while I was inside, the wind had stirred up the smoldering embers and scattered them across the prairie, igniting more than thirty small fires over the closest 20 acres of the half section of ground. I don’t know if it was the horrifying scream of my six year old daughter, pointing at her toddler sister walking toward the closest fire, or the realization that there were only two of us, and we had no access to water to put the fires out, but something sent me scrambling for the house, the phone, and the fire department.

By the time they arrived less than five minutes later, much of the top forty acres was charred, burned, and smoldering as the sprinkling rain became a torrential sheet of water splattering across the burned buffalo grasses.

The fire chief asked if I’d gotten a burn permit, and I said, I didn’t know I needed one. He said, my husband should have taken care of that before he told me to burn, and he’d check on it the next day. He patted me on the back, and walked away.

The reason that moment stands out in my mind may not be as important as the lesson I learned. When someone tells you to do something that you wouldn’t normally do, and the instinct in your gut says, “No.” Listen to your gut, no matter how much the other person wants the job done. Your gut, your conscience, will guide you straighter than any other single person, when your life, and your children’s lives are in danger. Trust your own instincts.

I’m a believer in prayer, and I know that God protected us from those flames that day, and helped me to get the job done, and I firmly believe God put the fire out, although the firemen did show up, and there was no trouble. I give God the glory for that event not becoming a disaster.

Again, those moments you most remember, and the ones that most vividly frame your existence, are moments when you knew you were choosing the right, or the wrong choice, when you made it – before you made the choice.

Yeah, I knew.

And that story defines many future events in my life.

Those are the stories you must include in your book. The stories that define who you are, built your character, and confirm your accomplishments in this world.

How many of those stories do you remember, and would they benefit others, if you shared them?

Life happens around the edges. That certainly would not make the list of ‘top events’ in my life, but that memory created in me a standard, a value, a choice of character, defining the rest of my life. Writing that into my book, will help others to know what choices to make, how to define their choices, and maybe more importantly… those who read it will recognize that it’s okay to say NO to those who demand you do more than you’re ready or willing to do, because they want it done. Sometimes, you make a better choice when you acknowledge that other people don’t always have your best interests in mind when they’re demanding you do something on their time table.

Is there a story in your life that could make a difference for someone else?

Every day lives include life changing events. Let’s share yours.

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