{ story }

    noun  |  sto·ry  |  \ˈstȯr-ē\

    plural stories

    • a :  an account of incidents or events
    • b :  a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question
    • :  the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work

    credit: merriam-webster dictionary online

    Stories. We tell them. We write them. We present them. We live them. They are everywhere, communicated to and through us in more ways than we can fathom. Whether in spoken or written forms or in pictures or experiences, we find them, capture them, encapsulate and guard them.

    Stories. We learn from them. About the human and the divine, the temporal and the eternal, worlds real and imagined, our communities, schools, friends, families. We learn from them about ourselves, and we use them to share that knowledge with others.

    Stories help us make sense of our human experience, both collectively and individually; they are ultimately how we differentiate and frame what is real and what is not. But how do we make sense of our stories? After all, a story is nothing but a collection of words or images or experiences strung together in a jumbled mess that is somehow supposed to communicate a meaningful message or a framework for living. But how do we know what the message is? What is the cypher key that guides our assumptions, associations, and interpretations of all the jumbled messes?

    The answer to that question depends on the form or medium being used to present the story. In oral storytelling, vocal tones and intonations infuse order, rhythm, utterance, silence, and emotion into the jumble of words, and from those we can understand what the storyteller is trying to convey.

    { punctuation }

      noun  |  punc·tu·a·tion |  \ˌpəŋk-chə-ˈwā-shən\

      • a : the act or practice of inserting standardized marks or signs in written matter to clarify the meaning and separate structural units
      • b : something that contrasts or accentuates

      credit: merriam-webster dictionary online

      On the written page, we use punctuation to translate those vocal tones and intonations and infuse those life-filled vocal cyphers into lifeless, voiceless print. Periods, commas, semicolons, ampersands, dashes, and the myriad little jots and tittles and marks: we would have a very hard time coming to any conclusions without them! They give us forms and molds in which to fit the jumbled words and phrases. They provide us with a system for ordering it all into intelligible thoughts, ideas, and patterns that can then be grouped and sorted and processed until we can finally drink deeply of their meaning.

      What about when the story is being written on the page of a human life using the characters of experience and circumstance and relationship? They are multi-layered, complex, ambiguous, vague, every-changing languages; how do we infuse order into—and derive understanding and meaning from—that jumbled mess that is a life?

      I don’t know about you, but I am in a season of learning how to do just that, of learning how to punctuate the stories that have been and continue to be written on the pages of my life. What is the source of my system for marking and ordering the jumbled chaos in and around me?

      { faith }

        noun  |  \ˈfāth\

        • a : strong belief or trust in someone or something
        • b : belief and trust in and loyalty to God: strong religious feelings or beliefs : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
        • : a system of religious beliefs

        credit: merriam-webster dictionary online

        Leave it to the grammar nerd to compare faith in God to punctuation, right? Trust me, I’ve expressed the same skepticism myself: “What in the world can English grammar have to show me about life and faith?” It is the same question we all asked in math class: “How in the world will I use this in real life, in the real world one day?” I didn’t think knowing how to solve for unknown variables had much practical application, either, but then I wanted to figure out what grade I needed on a college final to pass the class or how much the tax would be for a wish-list item so I could save up enough to buy it.

        Punctuation and faith work together in practical ways too! They serve essentially the same purpose. Punctuation provides us with a way of identifying and differentiating the basic building blocks of language so that we can order them, and thereby interpret them, so as to arrive at an accurate understanding of the communication being offered.

        Faith does the same thing. It provide us with a system of beliefs and standards by which we can understand the basic building blocks of a meaningful life. Then when we have to make sense of experiences and circumstances that are beyond our comprehension, we have tools and standards and starting points for breaking those things down into manageable pieces of life information for making decisions and gaining understanding. Just as periods tell us when something is a statement, or semicolons tells us that two thoughts are somehow (though maybe not obviously) related, or em dashes call clarifying information to our attention, our faith in God and His Word helps us figure out when a pause is needed (a comma) or when an emphatic declaration should be heeded (an exclamation point) or that the the bend in the road isn’t an ending after all (a semicolon instead of a period). Being able to decipher the order and rhythm, the need for utterance or silence, the moment to stop, to slow down, or to rush onward without looking back, helps us to sift through it all and respond to the revelations we discover in the process.

        There is meaning in the chaos. There are stories to be experienced, enjoyed, and shared. This blog is just one gal’s effort to do exactly that: to punctuate her story one faith-mark at a time.