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You get to write the story

"You get to write the story."

The first time I said it this week was via text message to a boy in despair. You get to write it. You're the hero of your story, and you get to decide how it unfolds. He wasn't buying it.

The second time, it was a whisper into a little girl's ears. It's your story, and you get to be the hero in it. Tears rolled down her face.

"This is not the way I'd write this story," she said. "I don't want to have a chapter like this one."

OK. Good point. This little girl is watching her big brother, her sister-in-law and the niece who is also her best friend move across the country. At the same time, her grandmother is dying. She wants a new book.

Together, as a family, we are learning that the story of our lives is kind of like a MadLib book. Remember those? The sketch of the narrative is roughed out for you, but there are blanks to fill. You choose the noun or verb or adverb when prompted, and the way you choose determines the final story. These are crucial lessons as my children grow into adulthood. Choose well what you put in the blanks; the story depends on your choices.

It's not entirely true that we are masters of our fate or authors of our stories. It is true that we have to live what life asks us to live. Into every life, God allows sorrows as well as joys. He lets us carry the crosses of illness and grief and disappointment. They are part and parcel of ordinary life. That is "skeleton," the rough sketch of the story.

We choose how to fill in the blanks. We hold the pen that will move across the paper and determine the direction of our days. No other person alive holds our pens; each one is specific to the person who wields it. The pen writes on our minds, to be sure, but more importantly, it writes on our hearts and our souls. It's there that the story is truly authored. We write the soul story.

A soul story isn't a resume or an itinerary or a ledger. Our true stories aren't told on our pay stubs or our business cards. Our true stories are told in the daily decisions to live lives of complete trust in our Creator. Want to know what to write in the blanks? Want the secret to surviving the grief and turning the page to find joy? Ask God how He wants you to fill in the blanks.

Remember that everything that happens is allowed by God, and in that same recognition, remember that He gives sufficient grace. If you are 7 years old, that means you tell yourself that God knows you're sad and He's sad with you. You can fill in the blanks of your story with words of affirmation, little reminders of His love for you. You can lift your head and wipe your tears and look forward with hope to see how He fills the hole you feel.

You write the soul story. You can fill in the blanks with bitterness and anger. No doubt there are such words that will fit there. Or, you can fill the blanks with grace - His grace. If you let Him, He'll offer you all the right words to fill in the blanks and make you whole.

Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016