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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.

 

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Why Church Breaks My Heart

October 5, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 5: 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. 
 

Craig and I visited a church this morning, and we just couldn’t stay.

It breaks my heart, because I really want to find a church. Not a ‘church’ but a community of believers.

I am pondering what the ‘church’ is and how it has come to be the way it is. I am so uncomfortable with the programming aspect and business model of today’s American church, with the pedestal of one man leading the masses (we have seen recently how dangerous that can be and how many people can be damaged), and the ‘put on a show’ mentality. I can’t hear another 3 Steps to Improve Your Relationship With God (week after week after week). I am not saying that if this is what your church home is like that it’s wrong, I don’t know what is wrong in this picture, I just know that it’s not right for me.

It’s not that I don’t need words from wise teachers about how to grow as a follower of Christ. It just feels so formulated. It does not reach my heart. I know that church isn’t all about me and what I can gain from it. But I also believe that it should be a place that furthers your relationship with God? I love worship music and singing and even hymns, but why does every week have to be a concert? It so often feels like a showcase for musical talent rather than a group of people lifting their voices to worship God together. I would much rather go to Beer and Hymns at the pub. (I know many people who are feeling this way right now, and I hope we can find an answer. But I’d like to speak to those of you who are Christians and are reading this and cannot understand how I could feel this way. If you feel led to tell me about your wonderful church and how it’s different, or how I need to change my attitude because it’s not all about me, I ask you to have grace. Maybe before you give me advice or quote a scripture at me, please try to just listen to what I have to say, and maybe sit with it for a while.)

In my search for balance, one of the areas that troubles me the most is my longing for a spiritual community. The longing doesn’t trouble me, but the inability to find one is heartbreaking.

This has always been a challenge for my husband and me. But whenever we have moved to a new area, we have always seemed to find a place to land where we can grow and serve and learn and raise our kids. In last few years, that has all changed. I don’t know if it’s our station in life or just where our spiritual journey has taken us, but nothing seems to be a good fit. It took my husband a little longer to get to that realization than I did, because he is a very disciplined and routine type of man. But that is his story.

So I sat in this sweet little church, with lovely people, with talented musicians leading worship, and

I WANTED to want to be there. I wanted to find a safe place, a safe community. I tried to sit with my unsettled heart. Give it time. Don’t judge.

But I couldn’t stay. My eyes filled with tears, and my heart ached. I want a home, a safe place, a church family. And this was not it.  So we left and I sat in the car and cried all the way home.  The tears are streaming down my face as I write this. (The service started at 10, we left at 10:30, and I am just finishing this post at 11:30).

SO – what now? We’ve been asking ourselves this question for months, years. Here is the picture that makes my heart sing:

Maybe church looks like having a meal together around a large table, and breaking bread together. Maybe church looks like welcoming everyone to the table.

When I say everyone, I mean everyone (young, old, rich, poor, black, white, purple, straight, gay, transgender, religious or not religious). In my heart I see these people gathering together, sharing life, and talking about what God is doing in our lives. That might mean looking at the Bible, listening to a wise teacher, hearing from the couple whose marraige was broken but has been restored, or having the ten-year old who just learned how to not be a bully share her story.

It would look like a small community who meets regularly (whatever that means) looking at our community, our neighborhoods, our circles of influence, and helping where help is needed. Skin in the game, real helping. Not just talking, but doing. Feet on the ground, and hand dirty.

It would might looking beyond ourselves and being Jesus in our community.

Maybe it looks like buying groceries for the single mom, or taking her kids for the night so she can have a break. Or supporting families with foster kids. Or working at the soup kitchen, or homeless shelter, or volunteering with hospice to sit with dying patients. Or mowing your neighbors lawn. Or having a neighborhood breakfast in a low income neighborhood who may not get a hot breakfast unless it’s supplied by their school.

It might look like having Beer and Bible study with college kids. It might look like turning my home into a boarding house with a large community room and creating a safe place for people to land.

I really don’t know what it would look like. I’m just dreaming. I wish I knew what it should look like, and more than that, I wish I knew where to find it in my little community of Vancouver, Washington.

Until then, maybe I will head to Portland and try Beer and Hymns.

Disclaimer:  I have gone to church all my life, every Sunday (morning and evening) and midweek and weekend activities. I have been a Sunday school teacher, a youth group leader, a small group leader, and was a leader in women’s ministries for years. My husband was raised in the church. My kids were raised in the church. There is a lot I loved about those years, and they helped shape who I am today (good and bad). But my heart longs for something more, something different. I don’t even know what that means, and I don’t want to say that those still participating in church as it is are wrong. It’s just not the right fit for me. I have hesitated to write about this are because it makes me feel especially vulnerable, but I think today is the day.