tribe

Unsettled. And It’s a Good Thing

Please excuse this stream of consciousness – it’s the middle of the night and I am processing.

I am unsettled.

It’s 2:30 am and I am lying in bed in a hotel in Chicago. Having worked Tuesday night, I went home and slept two and a half hours, then hopped in my car and drove the long and boring five-hour drive from Louisville to Chicago. I was able to get to bed early in preparation for the conference tomorrow, but I woke up at 2am. My sleep is off, my brain won’t shut down, and my heart is unsettled. I am living another part of my dream – when we sold our house and moved to Louisville, I told my husband one of my dreams was to attend the Storyline conference again, this time from the perspective of a writer. So I signed up for the whole works – dinner with Don Miller, the full conference experience, and an extra day with a workshop on how to tell a better story.

Since the first time I attend this conference (almost two years ago), so much has changed. I’ve seen old dreams die, and new dreams come true. I started two blogs, I have started writing again, and we have moved across the country, far from our friends and family, and are slowly building a new community. In preparing my heart for this conference, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past years, particularly since the last conference.

Before that conference nineteen months ago, there were seeds planted in my heart. The speakers I heard and the things I learned watered and nurtured those seeds and I saw them sprout and start to grow.  My dream of retiring and becoming part of a close neighborhood community was reborn into a dream of buying an old house in downtown Vancouver where people could come, gather around the table, or sit with a cup of coffee and talk about life in a safe place. That dream died, or at least changed. We left our family and friends and moved 2300 miles away. We now have the house and the table is waiting for guests, but we are tasked with bravely building a new community from scratch in a city where we knew no one. Those seeds were planted, and it has been amazing to see them grow and change.

This year, I feel I am getting ready to harvest some of those dreams. As with the last conference, seeds were planted long before I got here.

And as I am typing this, I feel the tension of a new dream being born. And that scares me, but it’s also thrilling. And scary. And even more scary.

I feel big changes coming. Haven’t I had enough big changes this year?

In getting my heart ready for this conference, I looked again at the “Creating a Life Plan” curriculum from Storyline. I love this exercise – I would like to take the whole world through it! After writing my positive and negative turns and plotting them on a timeline, the theme was so evident. Through childhood, restless youth, and  a broken and restored marriage. Through miscarriages and infertility, the loss and restoration of a prodigal son, and through the season of empty nest. As a wounded member of the church and the Church, and now with this move and huge life change – it is evident.

He rescues and restores us from a hopeless place.

That is so evident as the theme of my life in this season. And I know God is going to use our story, as he has in the past, to bring hope to those who feel hopeless. To bring light in the darkness of despair. To help those who are so blinded with the inconsistencies of what they see in the Christians who are so engaged in political and moral self-righteousness that they have forgotten the core of Christianity – Love one another – I want to help shine the light. And I know this is part of my story. But here I am. Unsettled again. Feeling the labor pains of a new dream being born.

The next part of Creating a Life Plan involved looking at the roles in your life, and defining them, then setting a goal or ambition for each role. This, along with identifying a theme of your life, is meant to help provide a focus and a filter. Aside from my role as a spiritual being, the five roles I identified were: Wife, Family member (broad, I know, but it includes mom, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, and niece), Friend, Neighbor (includes my immediate physical neighborhood as well as work and extended family), and Creative (writer, etc). Narrowing these roles and identifying goals for each helped to confirm the message that has been poking at my heart.

I don’t remember when, but in the past year or so I read about the wife of a prominent worship leader and author who had been a popular Christian blogger and I believe a speaker as well. She had multitudes of followers on social media, but after some events in her life, decided to leave it all behind. She closed her popular blog and basically left social media to focus on her community. Not her community of followers, but her actual physical community – her family, her friends, her church. Something about this really appealed to me.

Then recently I was listening to author Shauna Niequist speak about something similar. She is a popular Christian author and speaker, but she felt that things had become unbalanced. She decided to reevaluate her time and energy, and to keep her family and her close community a priority, even if that meant disappointing her larger community (social media, and her agent). Basically she said – if I am not as loving and present with my people as I am on stage or with my social media community, what good is that? I am not explaining it clearly (thank you, sleep deprivation), but hearing her talk about her change in priorities only served to confirm what has been on my heart.

I want to love my people better.

And to do that, I am thinking I need to close my circle.

By that, I mean concentrating on my five roles, and my goals in each of those roles, and letting everything else go.

What will that look like? I don’t know, but I am getting some clues. I think it is going to mean a big change in social media. I love keeping in contact with friends, co-workers, and family from back home. But how much of my energy is going to maintaining a relationship with friends from high school or people I worked with ten years ago. I enjoy that, but in terms of a greater purpose, what does that mean. Not to mention the time I spend on social media. If I want to concentrate on my ‘small circle’ and really love them well, what will that mean? How will things change? Am I spending more time reading an ex-co-worker’s blog or being part of a Facebook group of 10,000 dreamers than I am loving my next door neighbor who had surgery yesterday, or practically loving my sons who are living in all corners or the world, or writing a card or letter to my brother on his anniversary, or finding time across the miles and time changes to talk to my best friend on the phone? Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that my co-worker’s blog or Facebook group are not good things. But are they the BEST things at this time in my life? I do not want to sacrifice best things to good things.

With limited resources of time and energy, how can I best build and love my tribe, my people, my small circle?

And if I am looking to focus on my small circle, what does this mean for my dream to write?

I don’t know that answer. But I have a feeling I will get closer to the answer this weekend. Unsettled is a good thing.

 

 

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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.