Storyline

The Importance of Stories: Part 3 of Finding Community

October 8, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 8: 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. 
 

 Being in community with others helps bring balance to our lives. Sharing our stories helps us develop community.

I was just looking over my notes from the Storyline Conference I attended in San Diego last February. Donald Miller has been one of my favorite authors since I first read Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. But it was his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that really made an impact on my life. In the book he compares the making of a movie about his life to the story that we are writing in our own lives.

Are you living the story you want to live?

Is your story purposeful?

If not, what needs to change in your life to write a better story?

Here are some quotes that I wrote down (I think it was during Donald Miller’s opening talk).

Jesus is calling us into meaning. God didn’t create us to live in reaction (to the things happening around us) but to be co-creators of a meaningful life (with Him). God gave you a blank book. Together, are you writing a meaningful story?

And my favorite

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your beautiful story? 

As a hospice nurse, I see the value of stories every day. The stories I carry of the patients that I have cared for make me a better nurse. The story I lived with one ALS patient and his family will make me an even better nurse when caring for my next ALS patient. When I meet with a family whose loved one has just been told they have weeks to live, they have a need to share their story. When I meet with dying patients, life review and sharing their stories is some of the important work that people do at the end of life.

Sharing our stories as we build friendships is also important, but it should be a give and take. You share part of yours, I will share part of mine. And piece by piece, the picture on the puzzle becomes clear.

And believe me, EVERYONE has a story.

Why it’s important to share your story:

Sharing your heart with someone, telling them your story, is how we get to know one another. Beyond just the “How are you doing today?” “Oh, fine, how are you?” To be brave enough to tell your story is to take off the mask and show where you came from, how you have grown, who you are now, and who you hope to be. That is the beginning of a reciprocal, heart-to-heart friendship.

Why it’s important to listen to another person’s story:

Of course there is the obvious, because that is how you get to know them. But it goes much deeper than that. When someone shares part of their story, they are giving you a little piece of themselves. If you are flippant or callous, or even if you just aren’t fully present, they may not share again with you. If we treat the gift of their story with an open heart, a present being, and hands of gentle grace no matter what they tell us, we build trust, which paves the way for friendship and deeper community.

Why EVERYONE’S story is important:

I have learned in the past few years that if I have an instant dislike for someone, or if they rub me the wrong way, one of the most important (and difficult) things to do is to take time to learn their story. In the past I would be more likely to just avoid difficult people, especially people who seem purposely cruel or who treat others poorly. But I found that as I took time to listen to them, to ask questions, to spend time with them, little by little, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, they would give me bits of their story. (Trust is very hard for difficult people). And as I started putting the puzzle of their story together, it helped me to love them more. As they shared ever so cautiously about the pain in their lives, it helped me to understand their anger, or their refusal to help others, or their habit of lashing out. From there, even if I don’t like their behavior or the way they treat others, I can try to understand where they are coming from.

Hearing the stories of difficult people helps me to give them the gift of grace.

So, what kind of story are you writing?

What do you need to change to write a better story?

With whom will you share a piece of your story this week?

Who’s story will you listen to this week?

Tell me your beautiful story

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.

 

31 Days in My Search for Balance: body, mind, and soul

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. 

 I’m calling this series 31 Days of My Search For Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. I have accepted this writing challenge as a step out of my comfort zone, so put on your seat belt, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride . . .

So I’m showing up. It’s scary, and I feel nervous and vulnerable, a little naked. But I’m here.

As a woman of fifty (how the hell did that happen?) who has only recently returned to writing, accepting a 31 day writing challenge is terrifying. I just spent two hours trying to figure out what a ‘linky’ is and how to get it right. I may or may not have figured it out. I changed the theme of my blog because I wasn’t happy with the previous one, or the one before that, or the one before that, and I thought that if there is even a remote chance that more people will be reading this it should at least be pleasing to the eye. At least more pleasing than it was 10 minutes ago.

I loved to write when I was a child and a teenager. English was the only subject I LOVED in high school. The one time I tried pot  to English out behind the backstop in between 2nd and 3rd period, I returned to class to write a paper. At the end of class, I went to proofread my paper and realized I had forgotten to write about half of the sentences, so I never tried pot again. Because I loved writing that much. (And it made me cough more than cigarettes, which I started in the fourth grade but quit the summer of sixth grade after I smoked so many that I vomited in the middle of a movie theater. Yep, I’ve always been classy.)

I stopped writing creatively as I got older. In the past 15 years I’ve only written journals, nursing care plans, and APA style research papers. About 8 months ago I attended the Storyline conference, where I learned about living a better story. Learning about living a better story led to dreaming, and somehow dreaming led to writing. It was an unexpected joy, and it feels really good. I am ever so rusty, but I’m working out the kinks, blowing off the dust, and whatever other mixed metaphor you can think of.

I feel like I’ve found my heart again.

I accepted this writing challenge to step out of my comfort zone, and well, challenge myself a bit. While others have been preparing for this challenge for months, I just found out about this challenge on Day 1, so I am playing catch up (this is acutally Day 2). I have been writing about my search for balance, so this is a continuation of that journey, but now with a daily deadline.  Pppppffffttttt. It makes me anxious to think about, but I hope you (and by you, I mean my husband and my two best friends who read this and encourage me consistently, and anyone else who happens along) will find this a time to think about your life and heart as I search through the chaos that is life, trying to find balance.

Hello friends (and Craig), and thanks for joining me! And if we haven’t met, you can read more about me here.

And did I say thanks for joining me? I really mean that, so it’s worth saying twice.

Guess What? I AM A WRITER

*credit- creative commons - David Turnbull

*credit- creative commons – David Turnbull

I am a writer.

This weekend, a friend referred to me as ‘a writer’. Today, a trusted friend asked me what I plan to do with my writing. I didn’t even know they were aware that I was writing. Yesterday I was challenged to answer the question, “What are you? REALLY – what are you?”. I had to think a while, but I was finally able to write it. There it was – in black and white.

I am a writer.

I cannot tell you how exhilarating and frightening it is to type that statement. It also fills my soul with a sense of freedom that defies description.

Last winter, I attended the Storyline Conference in San Diego. Storyline is designed to help people ‘learn to live a better story’. I went there looking for some spiritual clarity. However, I was blindsided by something much bigger – the possibility of a dream.

Me and my middle son

Me and my middle son

If you are one of the artsy, creative twenty- to thirty-somethings in a scarf or a beany that attended this conference, being blindsided by a dream may sound silly to you. You are in the midst of the prime ‘dreaming’ time of your lives. But my three middle aged friends and I (sorry ladies, but it’s true!) – we were definitely in the minority of those attending. Over 40, long finished college, in the midst of our careers, with our kids grown and, um, the age of those in the scarves and beanies.

The speakers and their stories were amazing, inspiring, and touching. Each speaker brought a new perspective, and each story awakened my heart just a little more. It started as a spark, and soon grew into a wildfire.

My search for spiritual clarity was highjacked by a dream – the first surprise was that I could actually still have a dream. The second surprise, and I think my friends would agree, was that we had forgotten how to dream. We spent the last 20-30 years dreaming for others – searching for a partner, building a life with our spouse, raising our children, volunteering at church/school, finding a job/career. So many dreams for others, but often setting aside our own dreams. And in that setting aside, often forgetting how to dream for ourselves. Sometimes those dreams would surface, only to be pushed aside by life. I suppose I should say we allowed those dreams to be pushed aside, but it was not always a conscious decision.

Storyline was the beginning of change for me. I am still not even sure exactly what that means, because the change continues today.One dream turned into another and another, and soon my mind and heart were full. My dream, or dreams, are growing, changing, evolving. I am working on clarifying and refining those dreams. But one thing I know for sure – a dream that had been buried long ago has surfaced. My dream of writing. I wrote a lot when I was younger, but it slowly was replaced by toddlers, carpool, soccer practice, more carpool, and then nursing school and building a career while I watched my three boys grow into young men.

So I started writing again. I’m far from perfect, and that’s okay. My spelling and grammar are rusty, and I was tempted to start studying, or take a class, or just practice on my own, but instead I decided to jump in with both feet, so I started a blog about something I am passionate about – end of life care. I knew nothing about blogs, but I am slowly learning. It was scary, but also intoxicating. I felt like I was home again.

I am a writer, and I have valuable stories to tell. I’m a wanderer, and I love to travel. I am a wife of thirty years, mother of three college age sons, and hospice nurse. I believe that my stories can help heal the hearts of those who are hurting. I can tell them that they are not alone. I can encourage those who feel that their marriage is broken beyond repair, because I’ve been there, and have come out the other side. I can walk with those broken hearts whose children are prodigals, and I can tell you that there is hope even if things don’t end up the way we think they should. I can tell the story of the healing journey of a grown-ass woman who beomes 8 years old again when her parents are hurtful because she believes the lie “I must have the approval of certain others in order to feel good about myself”. I can stand with those disenfranchised church people who are middle-aged or empty-nesters (gahhhhh, I hate both of those terms) who, just as twenty- and thirty-somethings, long for the people of God to be known for great love, kindness, justice, forgiveness, inclusion, and grace rather intolerance and elitism.

together

*Credit: Creative Commons – Valerle Everett

I will tell the story of my beautiful, holy mess,

so I can stand with those who feel they are standing alone.

 

I am a writer.