Blue Like Jazz

Three Ingredients for a Meaningful Life

“I wanted my life to count for more. I wanted deeper relationships. I wanted to touch the hearts of others. And so I began my search for a meaningful life. These three things are helping me find my dream and live a more meaningful life.”

*this post is part of my #write31days series Dare to Dream: Finding Your Dream Again

Many years ago we had moved to a new town and were getting settled with our two young boys, then ages 2 and 6 months, and I was lonesome. I was a young mom and we had finally found a home church, but I was so unsure of myself. I was 26-year-old stay at home mom, and I had no idea who I was or who I was supposed to be. It seemed that all the other moms had it all together – always dressed to the nines, hair perfectly in place, kids sitting quietly at the pew. In the meantime, I had one kid is screaming in the nursery, and the other one yelling “My penis itches!” in the middle of prayer. So much for having it together.

To be truthful, I really didn’t want to be friends with the women who had it all together (at least I thought they had it all together). People who smile too much make me suspicious (you know, those people who smile even when they’re angry? I don’t trust them). I knew I could never measure up, and it would be too much pressure. But my heart longed for a friend, for grown-up conversation, for someone to share my heart with in these early days of mommyhood.

 

During those early days, I attended a funeral for a woman from church. I didn’t know her, but I was helping serve the meal afterwards, so I came early and attended the funeral. As I listened to family and friends review her life, I was struck not by what she had done or even who she was, but how she loved. I heard story after story about how she had loved her friends, shown up in times of need, and given of herself for others. Not for a salary, not for recognition, but just because of who she was. I thought long and hard after that funeral – what kind of friend am I? What will people say about me after I’m gone? Am I making an impact on the lives I touch, or am I just existing and surviving? I knew that I was just surviving. That I was waiting for life to come to me, I was waiting for people to invite me into their lives, but I wasn’t making an effort to love others. I wasn’t reaching out. And that day, I determined that

I wanted my life to count for more. I wanted deeper relationships. I wanted to touch the hearts of others.

That was almost thirty years ago, and I’m still learning every day what it means to love others.

If you have read any of my essays, you know I am a fan of author Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. And subsequently, I have fallen in love with Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. From his experiences living and observing others in Nazi concentration camps in WWII, Viktor Frankl developed many theories on man’s motivation to live a meaningful life. As he developed a framework of existential therapy called logotherapy, he theorizes that there are three “main avenues” which one must take to find meaning in life.

“The first is by creating a work or doing a deed. The second is by experiencing something or encountering someone; in other words, meaning can be found not only in work but also in love  . . . Most important, however, is the third avenue to meaning in life; even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by doing so change himself. He can turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, Postscript 1984, Viktor Frankl)

Donald Miller has utilized these lessons in his Storyline ministry, helping people live more meaningful lives, and more practically, developing a life plan. He applies Frankl’s work and explains it a little further, giving practical steps to finding your dream and living a meaningful life.

The three crucial ingredients in finding a meaningful life:

  1. Meaningful work or a project. Working towards something that is bigger than yourself that brings meaning not just to your life, but to your world. This is something that is unique to each individual. It may be what you do as a career, or it may be something apart from your regular job. Often this is something that only you can do, based on your unique life experience and your own special gifts and talents.
  2. A loving community. I am not talking about your 400 Facebook friends. These are friends that you live life with, who love you unconditionally. We were made to live in community. We need to surround ourselves with friends with whom we can share our heart on a regular basis. Friends who ‘get’ us. To live a meaningful life, we need to walk alongside friends who love us as we are but also encourage us to grow beyond who we are. These are the friends who will be gathered around your deathbed.
  3. Our suffering redeemed. Frankl states that we need a change in perspective on the suffering or tragedies that have occurred in our lives. Turning tragedies into triumphs is the key is survival and also learning from that pain, and using it for a greater purpose. To build a meaningful life, we can take those difficult times and not let them destroy us, but use them as a tool to build a better life.
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Living the Dream (or How Donald Miller’s Words and the Storyline Conference Shaped My Path) 

*please forgive my accidental post earlier. I was trying to save what I had written and accidentally pasted a text to our real estate agent. Yikes!

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I haven’t written in a while.
Quite a long while.

In the past six months the whole direction of my life has changed and I’m very excited to tell you the story. There has been an upheaval in our family, in our home, and in our hearts. 
I believe it all began a number of years ago when I read Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. It was a time in my spiritual walk where I was lost. Dissatisfied. Hungry for more. Blue Like  Jazz was the type of book one reads with a huge sigh of relief – finally someone had put into words how I was feeling. It made my heart come alive with hope. This book gave me the courage to think outside the box, to question, to tell myself it’s okay to be hungry for more – for truth, for love, for community. It started me on a path to being a more honest wife and mother. Let me to start becoming a more purposeful friend. And it gave me freedom as follower of Jesus that I didn’t know I was missing.

A few years later my son was in high school and was walking a troubled path. He had a lot of spiritual questions, as did I. I desperately wanted to find a way to connect with him and his small group of ragtag friends. And here Donald Miller played a part again. I had read his Searching For God Knows What, and thought maybe this would be a way to start a conversation with these kids. I talked to my son and he asked his friends, and to my shock they said they would be interested in a book study. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing for some cool college kid to come alongside and do a book study with this group of kids?” I prayed for days, for weeks, for months, to find the right person in my church of 6000 people – and it just wasn’t happening.

Then I felt this (horrible) nudging in my heart that maybe I’m supposed to lead this book study. NO. Just no! Dear God, I’m the MOM. These kids do not want to do a book study with their friend’s mom. But my son and his friends said yes. So there we met, week after week. Our little group included straight edge kids, drug using kids, atheist and agnostic kids, wounded Christian kids, bisexual kids, and a Jewish kid. I would love to tell you this study was a huge success and all of the kids opened their hearts to Jesus – but you know what? That didn’t happen. I learned to step away from being a mom and just listen to what my kid’s truth was – whether I wanted to hear it or not. I gave all the kids a safe place where they could say whatever they wanted, and I would listen. And that was okay. Actually, it was better than okay.

Fast forward to February, 2014, at the Storyline Conference in San Diego. I had already read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. This Donald Miller book helped me to start thinking of the story of my life in a very purposeful way. What kind of story did I want my life to tell? Who are the characters in my story? What can I do to build an even more beautiful story as a follower of Jesus? I was beside myself with excitement as I arrived at this conference with a few of my best friends. I don’t know if my friends quite knew with they were getting into. As a middle-aged stay-at-home mom for many years, the concept of dreaming and building a better story often felt out of my reach. But it had been building up for months in anticipation of this conference. And man, let me tell you – once I got there, my heart and my brain exploded!

Warning: once you open the floodgates of dreaming and creativity, especially if they have been closed for years, it is overwhelming and invigorating. And it’s also very difficult to shut off.

Starting with the incredible author Anne Lamott, the wheels of my heart and my head started turning. I soaked it in as I listened to amazing speaker after amazing speaker, each telling their beautiful story. I began to think and dream – I was hungry for community, I wanted our marriage and our family to be purposeful. I longed for for our home to be a safe haven, a healing place for broken people. And that is the beginning of our story.

This story involves a dream – born, shattered, and reborn. It’s the story of a broken marriage that was healed. It’s the story of the journey of a prodigal son and a wounded family that was restored. It’s the story of a family scattered across the globe to live out their dreams. It’s the dream of finding our tribe, learning to live in community, and welcoming everyone to our table. Every single one.


And right now it’s the story of a woman who needs to keep packing so that she can move across the country next week.

Please stay tuned. The story is unfolding, even as I write this.

Of Funerals, Friends, Fun, and Finding Community – part 1

October 6 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 6: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

If there is one thing that I know we all have in common, it is the desire for connection. Building and growing your community are essential for finding balance. We cannot be a community of one.

Whether you’re an extrovert and are energized by being with people, or an introvert and are drained by being with people and need alone time to refresh, we are made for connection. It looks different for each individual, but we are wired for community. Deep in our heart of hearts, we long for it.

Many years ago we had moved to a new town and were getting settled with our two young boys, then ages 2 and 6 months, and I was lonesome. I was a young mom and we had finally found a home church, but I was so unsure of myself. I was 26 year old stay at home mom, and I had no idea who I was or who I was supposed to be. It seemed that all the other moms had it all together – always dressed to the nines, hair perfectly in place, kids sitting quietly at the pew. In the meantime, I had one kid is screaming in the nursery, and the other one yelling “My penis itches!” in the middle of prayer. So much for having it together.

To be truthful, I really didn’t want to be friends with the women who had it all together (at least I thought they had it all together). People who smile too much make me suspicious (you know, those people who smile even when they’re angry? I don’t trust them). I knew I could never measure up, and it would be too much pressure. But my heart longed for a friend, for grown-up conversation, for someone to share my heart with in these early days of mommyhood.

So how do we find real, genuine people with whom we can share our hearts?

Here are the lessons I have learned on my journey:

1. Lessons from a funeral: Make it count.

During those early days, I attended a funeral for a woman from church. I didn’t know her, but I was helping serve the meal afterwards, so I came early and attended the funeral. As I listened to family and friends review her life, I was struck not by what she had done or even who she was, but how she loved. I heard story after story about how she had loved her friends, shown up in times of need, and given of herself for others. Not for a salary, not for recognition, but just because of who she was. I thought long and hard after that funeral – what kind of friend am I? What will people say about me after I’m gone? Am I making an impact on the lives I touch, or am I just existing and surviving? I knew that I was just surviving. That I was waiting for life to come to me, I was waiting for people to invite me into their lives, but I wasn’t making an effort to love others. I wasn’t reaching out. And that day, I determined that

I wanted my life to count for more. I wanted deeper relationships. I wanted to touch the hearts of others.

This was the beginning of being purposeful with my friendships.

 2. Looking for Clues:

I think I have refined this process as I’ve gotten older. When I’m looking for a kindred spirit, I look for clues, or ways that we are similar and might connect. My clues can be kind of eclectic, which I think sometimes makes it difficult for me to find a sister spirit to connect with. I look for commonalities that form a bond, and then I proceed from there.

You’re probably going to think I’m a bit crazy, but I feel compelled to share.

Some possible bonding points that I look for are (not necessarily in order – and remember, this is my list. Yours will look different): nursing, particularly hospice care; Disneyland; Doctor Who; people who love the book “Blue Like Jazz” ; people who have attended the Storyline conference; church people who aren’t afraid to swear sometimes; LOST fans (the ABC show); people involved in social justice and serving those in need; people who are working the 12-steps; ADD/ADHD (either in them or their children); women who read the Momastery blog; people who binge watch too much tv (and aren’t apologetic); moms who are not afraid to talk about their imperfect children, particularly the ones that are not on the path they had hoped for them; allies for the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) you remember the command – Love one another? Not ‘beat them over the head with your bible’; people who aren’t afraid to admit their flaws; people who can laugh at themselves but don’t mock others; people who like road trips and happy hour. (This list is just a start, but is not all inclusive).

I also have some clues that tell me that a person may not be a good choice to share my heart with (remember – this list is individual to me. You might have your own list: people who don’t own a tv and mention it often; people whose children are not perfect but they will never admit it, or worse yet, lie about it; people who mock others (especially publicly, like on Facebook); Christians who post bigoted or hateful posts on social media; people who smile all the time (as already mentioned); people who gossip (because they’re going to be talking about you next); people who can only speak in Christianese; married people who say they never fight; married people who constantly put each other down in public; people who Jesus-juke you on social media (for instance, if I post something from Disneyland like “Having fun at the Happiest Place on Earth” and they comment “Yes, that is the happiest place . . .  until we get to heaven!”)

Now I’m not saying that any of these things are deal-breakers. I’m just saying that I see those clues, I may be more likely to share or not share my heart with you. And sharing our hearts is the beginning of community.

 

So this post is getting too long, I’m going to have to continue tomorrow – in which I will write about testing the waters, the importance of our stories, purposeful friendships and building a chosen family, and my FAVORITE part, the importance of fun!

I’m sure that this post is going to alienate some of the lovely individuals who visited my page yesterday, In thinking about it, that’s kind of how I roll. I find that being a truth-teller and living life intensely, people will either love you, hate you, or tolerate you.

So this is my truth. I hope you will stick with me for the rest of Of Funerals, Friends, Fun, and Finding Community.