story

It’s Okay To Leave at Intermission

When we moved to Louisville from the Pacific Northwest, there were lots of things we left behind – friends, family, real mountains, being close to the ocean, I could go on and on. To compensate for our losses, we bought season tickets to local Broadway productions. Cinderella, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera.

Tonight’s performance was Dirty Dancing. At first I was going to take a friend (except that I’m new in town and haven’t met that many yet). Then I realized it was my only night at home with my husband. Although he wasn’t thrilled about going, he decided to be my date so we could have a night out together.

I had just started working a new job, and it’s night shift, so after being out almost every night for two weeks, I was exhausted. I thought about selling the tickets at the last minute, but decided against it.

Now I’m not the world’s biggest Dirty Dancing fan, but I thought it would be fun and an excuse to get out of the house. So my husband and I got dressed up, went to dinner, then headed downtown to see the play.

Soon after it started, I knew it was a bomb. The acting was flat, the scenery boring, and the dancing was only marginally good. I kept hoping it would improve, but no. And then, the woman behind us to the left (you know the one – the lady who laughs too loud, even when the jokes are a hundred miles from funny?) started singing with all of the songs. Singing. Out loud. And, oh, I forgot the chair kicking.

I wanted to run screaming. How could I trade a lovely night on the couch eating ice cream with bourbon sauce and watching Scandal for a team of awkward thespians attempting to stir the nostalgia in our hearts over a 1987 B movie? I could tell my husband felt the same – I could sense his eye rolling, hear his exasperated sighs, and watch as he glanced back at Miss Singing-Laughing-Kickingpants. How long could this torture continue? I tried to gauge where we were in the story. We were long past halfway through. Oh no, no intermission? Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

No, we were not having the time of our lives.

And then, miracle of miracles, INTERMISSION. Thoughts ran through my head. “These tickets are worth over $50 each.” “We’re already here, we might as well stay.” “I should have sold these while I had the chance!” And really, that’s about all I’ve got. I looked at my husband, gave the stink eye to our friend in the row behind us, and scooted our way past the long row of other people’s knees and never looked back.

No one puts baby in a corner.

Reflecting on this evening in light of my life as a story – there have been times, many times, where I’ve been sorely disappointed in the story I was living. What I really thought would be a glitzy, well-choreographed production complete with a full orchestra often turned out to be an awkward and flat performance, portrayed by an actor (myself) who appeared just as bored as the audience. NO ONE wants to watch that show.

Sometimes, when you realize the show is a bomb, you choose to not stay for the end of the show. It doesn’t matter what you paid for the tickets or what others around you may think.

The story is just not good.

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and leave at intermission.

Here are some examples of my own story where I “left at intermission.”

  • I once had a job that I hated. Every Sunday afternoon I would start to get anxious, because I knew Monday was just around the corner. Every week day I awoke with a pit in my stomach having to face another day. I was so relieved when I was able to leave that job. I could have stayed there and had a long career, but my soul would have died.
  • Early in our marriage, we wore masks of contentment, but underneath was bitterness and contempt. Our marriage was broken and empty. I had never been so alone. We both walked out at intermission – however, we walked out together on the horrible story we were telling. We did some rewriting and revised the story, and Thank You, Jesus, we are still married today.
  • When I tried to reconcile with someone who had deeply hurt me and scarred my soul, they not only refused to take responsibility, but tried to place the responsibility on my shoulders. Sorry. No. That show is over. No second act to follow.
  • As a middle-aged women facing an empty nest, my job as a hospice nurse had become my source of significance. I had a hard time knowing who I was apart from that, and certainly didn’t dare to dream about such silly things as writing. But something more was calling me. I’m still not sure exactly what the second act will be, but I left behind the stagnant first act and started dreaming again.

Are you stuck in the middle of a bad, or worse yet boring, first act? What is keeping you at the play? Do you have the courage to leave at intermission so you can be free to live a great and meaningful second act?

And here I am, beginning to live my dream, learning to write again. Many thanks to you, dear Reader

And I owe it all to you . . .

The rest of this #write31days series, Date to Dream- Finding Your Dream (Again) can be found here

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The Next Step (in Attaching Meaning to Our Suffering)

What would the world be missing if you did not tell your beautiful story?

This is part two of exploring the importance attaching meaning to our suffering. In Attaching Meaning to Our Suffering – the Most Important Step, I described a process that I went through in leadership training in which we looked at the significant events and experiences in our lives, positive and negative, and then thought about the lessons which learned from these events. We shared our stories with one another, and learned there is power in sharing your story.

The last part of the exercise was the most important. We were asked to look again at the quilt that represented the story of our lives . We were then given more squares of all colors. Drawing from the story of our lives, we were asked to take the lessons we learned from each event and circumstance, whether we considered it positive or negative. We considered those lessons and what they might mean in the overall purpose for our lives. We took those last quilt squares and brainstormed what interests, projects, careers, or ministries might be born from the story of our lives so far. We were asked to fill up the last few rows of the quilt.

Some examples from my quilt:

  • I suffered multiple miscarriages early in our marriage. That gave me a heart for women who have had miscarriages and are dealing with infertility. In general, it also gave me a heart for people who are hurting. This translated into working with our support group for moms at church and eventually into my job as a hospice nurse.
  • We had some serious struggles early in our marriage and came very close to divorcing. As a result, we have shared our story numerous times in public and in private, so that couples going through difficult times would know they are not alone, and also to help them have hope that marriages can be healed even when it seems like things are hopeless.
  • My younger sister died in a car accident when I was newly married. She was 19 years old, four years younger than myself. As an adult, I missed having a sister to share my life with, to be an aunt to my children. I think that this made me much more purposeful in my friendships with other women, and I gathered a circle of women friends who were like sisters. Once again, this loss of life also prepared me for becoming a hospice nurse.
  • Maybe you experienced some sort of abuse as a child. That experience might move you to learn how to be a better parent and do things differently. Or you may be the person who can easily pick out hurting kids, and you make it a point come alongside them to provide encouragement and a safe place. You may choose a career such as nursing, counseling, or social work, to help others who have been abused to find hope and healing.

Those are just a few examples of how reframing those negative events helps to give those moments or seasons of suffering meaning and purpose. This does not mean denying the pain or hurt that resulted from negative events or circumstances. It simply involves searching out a reason for the suffering and gleaning any lessons that might be learned. Redeeming our suffering by attaching meaning to it is a crucial step in finding your dream (again).

It becomes increasingly clear that events and circumstances in our lives are connected, even though it might not be obvious at first. This exercise helps to put all of the pieces together to tell the story of our lives – where you have been and, more importantly, where you are going.

What would the world be missing if you did not tell your beautiful story?

Ali Eminov "Girls of Sudam" The Quilted Conscience Project

Ali Eminov “Girls of Sudam” The Quilted Conscience Project

 

Your Life as A Story

In previous posts we talked about defining our life’s dream (or purpose) as a pursuit of pleasure versus a search for deeper meaning.

I love the word picture of one’s life as a story.

Every story has a cast of characters and a plot line. Every story has a message.

If your life is a story, who are the characters that play a role in your story? What is the plot or message of your story? Is your story heading where you want it to be heading? Is your story a search for pleasure or a search for deeper meaning? If your life is not the story you long to be telling, what needs change? This series will help us look at how to live a better story.
Author Donald Miller talks about this concept in his book “A Million Miles in A Thousand Years”. When his book “Blue Like Jazz” was made into a movie, he literally had to think of his life as a story. He shares the lessons he learned as he talks about how to live a better story. His business, Storyline, has an upcoming conference to help people live a better story and develop a life plan. You can find out more about the Storyline Conference here.

I love this illustration.

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”

Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Today’s questions:

Think about the story you are living: the characters, the plot line, the central theme, the direction you are heading.

Are you living the story you want to be living?

If not, what might need to change?

Join the conversation on our Facebook page, or send me a message below

WORD. What is Yours This Year?

In recent years many people have set aside the tradition of setting a New Year’s resolution. You know, commitments like lose weight, volunteer, quit smoking, go back to school, pay off debt – those well-intentioned ideas that are often abandoned by Valentine’s Day, if not earlier? A Forbes article last year stated that “just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions”. Those odds aren’t great.

It’s not that we can’t change. It’s that true transformation doesn’t come from changing a certain behavior.

True and lasting change requires a change INSIDE – a refocusing, and change of heart from the inside out.

One way to refocus is to choose one word or phrase for the year, and allow that to be your focus, or life theme for the next 12 months. Here are some questions that can help you choose your focus:

  • What kind of person do I want to become?

  • In which area of my life do I want to grow?

  • What are some negative themes of the past year that I would like to change?

  • What are my dreams and goals for the upcoming year?

  • How are my personal relationships? Do I have deep friendships? How can I grow in this area?

After some self-evaluation, see if there is a common theme. The word or phrase you choose could be for yourself personally, or it could be a theme for your whole family. Think about how you can apply this theme to every area of your life – relationships, work, goals, family, priorities. It will take some self-reflection, but after a while you will find a word that feels right.

Let this one word or phrase be your focus for the coming year, a filter for making decisions, planning for growth and change, and building relationships.

Some examples Life Themes and how it might apply to different areas:

  • Giving: a theme of giving might inspire a purging of extra ‘stuff’ to give to those in need; giving of more time to friends and family; being consistent in giving to charities
  • Healing: this theme might include mending broken relationships; improved self-care and healthy habits; taking a class or seeing a counselor to heal past hurts; providing a safe home environment for broken people to heal
  • Dream: this might start by simply allowing yourself to dream; perhaps setting some ‘bucket list’ goals; writing that book that has always been inside you; pursuing your dream job

Of course, these are just a few examples. The possibilities are endless.

What is your word, and how do you see that shaping this coming year? Please SHARE your word and your thoughts here -you might inpire someone else!

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Here are a couple of sites to help you get started:

oneword365.c0m

myoneword.org