Hard Times – The Understory and Next Theme

Brittany Sky gave a moving understory to our 2016 November theme “Hard Times.” 

Life can be very hard at times.

We’ve:

  1. Been wrongly accused as “Mommy” at the worst possible time.
  2. Lost our best friend, Tiger the dog, and watched our grandfather lose his memory to 41-hard-timesdementia.
  3. Received life changing information: our little brother diagnosed with leukemia. And we wait for more life changing news.
  4. Been banned from seeing our sister Lulu after she was burned by a caregiver, and told our absence was God’s will.
  5. Our arm candy, Carol, is saddled with a sociopath named MS.
  6. Become addicted to self-harm after being bullied as our mother faced ovarian cancer and lost.
  7. Learned that interracial relationships are hard and it is way too easy to slip back into white America.
  8. Left our husband, flown 2000 miles to Nashville with three children in the middle of a snow storm, and got stranded at the airport.
  9. Struggled with our depression, nearly losing our lives to it.

But, we are not alone.

We’ve seen community in:

  1. Jellyfish exhibits and Oreos.
  2. Grandfathers who hold us, kiss our foreheads, and recognize us in our tears.
  3. Mothers and fathers who hold our hands, pushing through our uncomfortable feelings.
  4. Having Lulu, our conviction it’s not God’s will, and it’s all going to be okay.
  5. Loving partners and strength training. It gives us joy and strong marriages.
  6. Teachers who notice and know us, and our own strength to stay sober three years.
  7. Coming out about our own white privilege on stage.
  8. Airport angels who opened up their homes and became friends.
  9. The beautiful, boundless love of family.

Thanks to all our storytellers–David, Christy, Michael, Amy, Sergio, Deepak, Lauren, Michelle, and Drew. Join us December 12 for our final 2016 event, “Holidays.” If you’ve got a story, let us know here!

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Whoops – The Understory

Tenx9 storytelling veteran Brittany Sky gave the understory a go at January 2016’s night “Whoops.” She nailed it. 

Nashville, tonight we said whoops when sleep deprivation and a train ride with big-spoon Borat led to an epic nap in the Sistine Chapel.

We said whoops when being forced to finish our peas and parsnips in England led to a 30-Whoopssemi-famous star of a mother cleaning vomit out of the carpet.

We said whoops when Beasley Sweetheart Pageant revivals led to denial, dresses, social anxiety, dancing to Tina Turner at a Baptist school, and very big confident answers.

We said whoops when searching for common ground with a left-handed math partner led to the realization that you should make sure your left-handed friend has a right hand.

We said whoops when the understudy Bob led the marching band right into chaos during our senior year…the best of times.

We said whoops when working at Sprocket meant getting a bad ass call-sign based on your life story of out running a distant relative of a raptor and forever being called “Emu.”

We said whoops when were in the “race with the devil” to create the “song of our people” when the realization that “this is not the men’s room” dawns.

We said whoops when the gray and black aura of our father accidentally got whacked by a lead pipe between the eyes and everything changed for the better.

We said whoops when kneeling in prayers of confession lead to pure farts.


Thanks to Michael B., Rob, Darcie, Paulina, Christy, Rebecca, Jeff, Lizzy, and Tony for their stories!

Join us next time for another free night of true personal stories. Our theme is “Alone.” Submit your story idea here! RSVP on Facebook here!

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Brittany Sky Stanley – Coffee and Holy Sites

Tenx9 first-timer Brittany Sky Stanley tells of her first trip to Israel and the West Bank with her grad program, and how coffee helped her not miss the day, but unfortunately, didn’t keep her from missing an important site. 

Ehjhjsdhfajkbflkax. It cannot be time to wake up. What time is it? 6am. That makes it, what? I don’t know, like 2am at home? Ughhhhhhhhhhhh. I have never experienced jet lag before, but this has to be it.

“Good morning, Roomie!” she says. She’s already showered, and is already smiling. I try to smile back and try really hard not to tell her to leave me alone.

I walk into our tiny bathroom. I look in the mirror. I am in Bethlehem. I look all right enough for that. I need coffee.

I put on pants and my hiking boots, throw my hair into a knot on the top of my head, and climb the stairs to the dining room. Where is the coffee? All I see is hot water. This day cannot happen without coffee. This trip will be ruined if I don’t find the coffee!

I watch as another tourist walks up to the hot water pot. He pours the water into his cup and spoons in these grainy brown looking things. Oh no. It’s instant. I know that I can feel melodramatic in the mornings, but this cannot be happening. I pour in the instant “coffee” and add a lot of cream and sugar.

I walk over to the table where the other students from my seminary are sitting. I know no one. I try to absorb all the energy I can from my cup of “coffee.” It’s already a struggle to force myself to make new friends but at 2am, I mean 6, it’s harder.

“What’s good? The eggs?” I ask the girl to my right. She has yogurt and bell peppers and a chocolate croissant on her plate. I could go for a chocolate croissant. This is the first day of vacation after all.

I grab a croissant and sit down at the other end of the table. I pull out my itinerary. I already know that I am going to the Church of the Nativity, Masada, and the Dead Sea today. I have had this itinerary memorized for weeks, but it makes me feel less alone to read.

I have been waiting my whole life to be here in this land deemed holy. I have had a great pull in the pit of my stomach for as long as I can remember to walk in the places that Jesus walked. I want to know why this place was the birth place of so much—of God, of community, of peace. I want to see what Jesus saw that inspired him to teach others to love each other. I want to find some strength to keep going.

Dr. Yeo, the New Testament professor from my school, walks into the dining room. He smiles at me and tells our group it is time to get on the bus. I grab my backpack and walk outside. It is beautiful here. It smells differently than home does. The sun even seems to shine differently. I walk up the steps of the bus and find a seat close to the front.

We drive to a parking lot that is five minutes from our hotel. We unload and make our way to the church. It is only fitting that we are in Bethlehem today. It’s Christmastide. Of all the places I have looked forward to, this was certainly one of them. This is the historic site of Jesus’s birth. This is the church built on top of the cave that housed the animals that provided the manger for Mary to lay her baby in. This is the place where so much began.

We walk up to the door of the church. The door is only as tall as my legs. Everyone bends way down to walk inside. I smash my head into the top of the doorframe. Awesome. All of these people are certainly going to want to be friends with me these next two weeks. I should have had more coffee.

I get inside.

Whoa.

I notice first the giant pillars. Everything is made of stone! This place is incredible. The craftsmanship! Dr. Yeo waves me over. The floor is opened up to another floor below. The floor below is the original church floor. Augustine’s mother, Helena, had this church built here to preserve this holy site. The original floor is impressive. It’s made of the tiniest mosaic tiles. Who had the patience to lay a whole floor like this?

I wander around the church. We have been told to be quiet. The third mass service of the day is going on in the holy cave below. When they are finished, we will be invited to line up. That line will lead us right to the holy manger.

There are gold and silver incense burners hanging up everywhere. There are beautiful icons everywhere. I wonder how many people have prayed to these holy images. I wonder how much money could be made off of them and used to feed the poor outside of the church.

I find an icon of the holy mother Mary up high in a corner. I assume the role of Patrick Swayze and I say the obligatory Dirty Dancing line, “Nobody puts baby in the corner,” and walk toward the prayer candles.

Dr. Yeo waves all of the students toward him. I walk to the group, even though I am not quite finished praying.

“We are going to go down into Jerome’s Cave for a mass service lead by our own Father Kermit!” he enthusiastically tell us. I suppose that’s neat. The three Catholics who joined our group will surely be glad to celebrate mass, but the other 16 of us are United Methodists. It will be cool to go to the traditional site of Jerome’s Cave–the place where the bible was originally translated into Latin. That’s a pretty important place too, I guess.

We walk the steps down into Jerome’s cave. There is a beautiful altar. The Catholics set out their wine and bread and proceed to lead us through a service. 45 minute later the priest blesses the elements, drinks the whole glass of wine, and shares bread with the three Catholics who chose the right denomination to be affiliated with. I am getting restless. And sleepy, and I really want another cup of coffee, even if it has to be instant.

They wrap up the service and we walk back up to the main level of the church. I make a beeline to the back of the now incredibly long line to baby Jesus’s manger. Dr. Yeo waves us all back toward him. I hope this means he has special connections and we will get to fast track to the front of the line.

The look on his face tells me this is not going to be good news. “We have to go,” he tells us. “The mass service took a little longer than we were originally planning, and we have too many other things to do today. It’s not a big deal. You can find pictures of the cave online…”

He keeps talking. I refuse to listen. Are you serious? This is the holy land! This is Jesus’s birthplace! This is the manger! This is the beginning! If I am not careful my anger is going to spill out in the form of tears. I take a deep breath and look at my teacher.

“Dr. Yeo,” I say cautiously, “That’s not very fair. I may never get to come back to the Holy Land.”

He looks at me with sadness in his eyes. I know I am going to miss it. I follow the rest of the group out to the bus. It is time to go to Masada.