The Gift of a Story ; Knoxville Family Shares Personal Narratives on Christmas

News Sentinel, December 24, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Gift of a Story ; Knoxville Family Shares Personal Narratives on Christmas


"I made up my mind...if we were actually going to do this Story Christmas, I was going to write the best story there ever was."

Jordan Brown

Lee University student

Dec. 16, 2014: I was walking upstairs to the kitchen when my brother, Jacob, stopped me and said, "We're not doing Christmas this year."

My heart sank as a sea of confusion swept over me. "What do you mean?" Jacob looked back down at the stairs. I could tell he was furious. "Talk to Mom."

It was true; Christmas at the Browns was perpetually doomed: we weren't doing presents. Even at the mature age of 17, I strongly believed Christmas was pointless without presents. What were our extended family members going to think?

Mom really wanted to tell stories instead of giving presents, and I secretly knew it was because we didn't have the money for it. We lived comfortably, but our family's financial situation seemed to oppressively hang over our heads. I felt like my parents were trying everything they could to hide their guilt by coming up with this storytelling stunt. Mass pandemonium, riots and revolts broke out all over the Brown household. I refused to discuss the "No Present Christmas" and found other activities to distract myself. We ceremonially threw away our Christmas lists.

There was another reason why we were telling stories this Christmas. Mom and Dad had been attending the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology under the direction of Dr. Dan Allender to experience and learn about the power of story. I knew it was bound to happen; they were going to come home one day and enforce a new custom in our house based on something edifying they had learned. It was finally happening. My parents had formed Gen225, a story-based ministry, two years earlier, and we were always learning something new about our emotions, brain chemicals and, sometimes, even unresolved hurt that was buried deep in the past. I wasn't the least surprised when they announced the "Story Christmas" news. From what little I knew about "Story Exploration," as they liked to call it, the beginning was grueling heart work. However, there was one thing I knew was true: Mom and Dad had been much happier lately.

I made up my mind...if we were actually going to do this Story Christmas, I was going to write the best story there ever was. I thought to myself, "What is something my family doesn't know about me?" I dug out a crumpled-up piece of paper from my desk. On it was a poem titled "The Princess Who Played House." I was proudest of this poem. I had written it at 15 years old during months of depression.

I sat on the edge of my bed and re-read the masterpiece. Tears sprung to my eyes. I decided to read this poem on Christmas morning partly because I didn't want to have to write something new and partly because I knew this would totally knock everyone's socks off.

On Christmas morning the Brown family household was in an uproar. Mom had said that story time was to be at 10 a.m. It was 10:45 and everyone was finishing up writing their stories. Jacob had expressed concern about his story earlier that morning. He came to me and said, "I'm a little nervous that Mom and Dad won't like my story. I feel kind of awkward about it." Josiah, the youngest, muttered, "Yeah, me too." I didn't really know what to say; I was nervous about my story too.

Finally, we all sat down in our pajamas in the living room with our freshly printed stories in hand. I got the feeling that no one really wanted to be there. We sat around the room in awkward silence for a moment, when finally, Mom said, "So...who wants to go first?"

Something came over me, and I reluctantly said, "I'll go." I looked down at my paper as I sat next to the half-lit, bare Christmas tree, and started reading. I got to the end of the poem and read,

"The Princess said in a tone, as sorrowful as could be,

'Who wouldn't think of Heaven when you've lived a life like me?'

I replied, 'It's not healthy, not right! …

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