Simplified Stories

I remember thinking, as Mrs. Dunn told her stories of childhood: “How could all that have happened in one childhood?”

But as I get older, I realize that a few years can carry a lot of stories and that the only reason why every person isn’t just as confused about my life as I was about hers is that I simplify my stories. We all simplify our stories.

Take Agape Christian Academy.

If I were to mention that I attended that school for two and a half years, most of my friends would be confused.

Hadn’t I been homeschooled all the way through?

Yes. Sorta. Maybe. That’s what I tell everyone.

But not exactly.

I was schooled under my mother’s tuteledge from “preschool” through sixth grade and from the second semester of ninth grade through 12th grade.

From seventh grade through the first semester of ninth grade, I attended “Agape Christian Academy” – a non-certified private school run under the same law that governed homeschooling in Nebraska.

A groups of a half dozen or so women, under the direction of Mrs. Dunn, taught the sixty or a hundred K-12 students using typical homeschool curriculum: Saxon for math and Abeka for most other classes.

I generally say that I learned little from my time at Agape, that it was an academically unfruitful time in my life. This also is not technically true. Under Mrs. Ebert, I honed English grammar to a point. She is undoubtedly at least partly responsible for the perfect writing score I got on the PSAT. Mrs. Fahlberg taught me typing on an old electric typewriter. I doubt I’d have the typing discipline I have today if it weren’t for her. And I learned algebra, thanks to Saxon’s self-led approach.

So I did learn a bit academically–but I also wasted hours and hours on non-academic pursuits.

Morning “chapel” time was scheduled to be an hour and a half long, but since “we don’t schedule the Holy Spirit”, it often ran quite a bit longer. Chapel was mostly unstructured, consisting of Scripture readings, praying in tongues, singing the “blood songs”, and listening to Mrs. Dunn preach or prophesy (or maybe tell stories?)

That’s where I heard those stories that made me wonder. She told of her childhood, of her education, of her marriage and life–and I was often confused by what seemed like a disparate set of stories. How did she fit that into the fifty-some-odd years she’d lived by that point? (I’m only guessing at her age-she may well have been older, but probably not younger.)

Now, with just a little less than 29 years under my own belt, I understand completely. We summarize our lives by simplifying our stories, but all of us, were we to start writing down the details, would have books and books and books worth of stories.

It’s only when we have opportunity to hear many of people’s different stories that we realize just how full their lives have been, only when we take the time to jot down many of our own stories that we realize how full our own lives have been.

And then we start to wonder how many stories we’re missing out on by being content with the simplified stories we hear on first meetings.

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