Monday, April 30, 2012

Unexpected Story

Do you read Donald Miller's blog? Or have you read his book, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years"? (It's about how Donald Miller learned to tell a better story with his life.)
This week, his blog post was this:
"Ask yourself before your next major decision “If I were a character in a story, what decision would make the story more interesting?”
You’ll be surprised at how differently you feel about the decision. You’ll weigh safety over excitement, risk over comfort. You’ll likely decide to love people more, quit your job, bring home roses, leap off the cliff into the water and so on. Great characters in exciting stories don’t sit around on the couch playing it safe. They get up, move, try, fail and risk it all again.
Living a great story costs something. People who live great stories know failure isn’t a judgment, it’s an education.
In North America, the stories we are living are boring. And people are suffering the emotional consequences of the American dream. They hate their lives. We live vicariously through television shows and gossip magazines because our lives are insufferably meaningless.
Whatever will work in a story will work in life, too. After all, we are each living a story. If our story is boring, it’s because we’ve chosen a safe route.
What if your life could be as inspiring and as interesting as the shows we watch on television?
So, today, ask yourself “If I were a character in a story, what could I do right now to make my story interesting?”
And then do it. Why? Because you are a character in a story. You always have been.
The American dream got hijacked. It’s time to take it back. Lets turn off the television and start living a better story today."

So I read that, then I sent an email that said, "Thankyouthankyouthankyou. I am overwhelmed (and frightened) by your offer. Being an introvert, this scares me. But I'm sensing God's hand in this special unexpected opportunity."
What was this unexpected opportunity? Who did I send that email to? Well let me tell you about an email I got last week: 
"My husband works as a property manager at a private Christian Retreat. I work part time for him as needed. This Retreat is on 14 acres of private property on the ocean. It is a summer residence with a guest house for 14 people, tennis courts, pool, hot tub, a chapel and prayer gardens with ponds and a waterfall throughout the acreage. The owner knows of Arrow Leadersip through Leighton FordThe Retreat is private and by invitation only. 
I saw your blog about your job at Arrow ending soon and it stuck with me. I read that your job is ending on May 1st and you don't have anything lined up yet. I was wanting to offer you an invitation to come and stay at the Retreat for 4 or 5 days on your own to rest and reflect on the changes in your life. We spoke to the owner and explained your situation to him. He said you would be welcome to visit. If you would like to come and help me a bit cleaning up in the prayer gardens, there would be no charge. You could have breakfast on your own at the Retreat  and have dinners with us at our house. 

I realize that you barely know me but I hope you think about this invitation and take some time out on your
own to reflect and contemplate your future plans. You would find a sense of peace here as well as many beautiful photo opportunities."

 I originally was going to say no, because, (according to my kids, I always say no first) but in this case, it was because, obviously, the whole eating dinner with strangers thing was freakin me out. Seriously. BUT THEN I READ DONALD MILLER'S POST. And I knew that my "story" would be more interesting if I went. And besides, it totally felt like a God thing. Scratch that, it totally IS a God thing. 
BUT (don't mind me while I think out loud here) what if? What if this whole "live your life as an exciting story" thing is not really what God has in mind for us all? 
A couple of years ago, I had this dream/idea/thought. I can't remember if I was awake or asleep when it occurred to me, but I remember telling two friends about it, because it was SO NOT ME. 
In it, I took a year "off" to travel/explore and do a series of short term mission trips mostly by myself. (Eat, Pray, Love, Menno Style.) For whatever reason, I was not working. I didn't have a house to worry about. And Drew wasn't in school. I couldn't imagine ever being so un-tethered, so I let the idea simmer on the back burner of my brain. Where it has stayed, undeveloped, but not totally forgotten for years.
While in Palm Springs last month, I mentioned to Karm and Sandra that I was pretty sure I wouldn't have a job when I got back home. (But I also thought my dad would be gone, so what did I really know?) As we talked about my next steps, my 'year off' memory came back, and I realized, that all the pieces were coming together. My house needs to be sold. My boy is graduating at the end of May. I am without employment. 
What happens if I say to God, "Hey? OK. Looks like I'm available. Where do you want me to go? Help build homes with Habitat in Hawaii? Cuddle orphaned newborns in Thailand? Offer my skills (as untraditionally missions-oriented as they are) to MBMSI? God? I know how to use a laptop and a camera. Where in the world do you want me to go? Europe would be cool ..."
and what if His answer is, "Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. I could use you in Surrey. You know how to use a spoon, right? I'd like you to feed your dad."
What if God's plan for us isn't always to have the exciting story? 
What if sometimes God just needs His people to stop with the headline stories and instead buckle down and be the ones who keep things going? Maybe we need to be the folks who don't chase the big lives and instead love those He has entrusted to our care? Maybe the world needs to see Christians do the boring things with grace and love? Maybe those of us who serve a humble King, need to be the ones who stay home and spoon-feed our dads?
I don't know.

Donald Miller probably wouldn't be supportive. He would likely call that a boring life. Same thing, day after day. And then you'd come home and veg on the couch, because, I can say, from experience, that visiting/caring for a failing parent is exhausting. Mostly mentally and emotionally. But still. There's not much left on days I visit my dad. Maybe it will get easier? Maybe it won't tug so hard on my heartstrings?
Maybe me taking off for 4 days for a retreat is just totally selfish? Yeah, I'll probably get some great photos. And, yeah, I'll make some new friends. And uh huh, I'll have blog material for a few days. And maybe I'll hear from God. But what about my responsibilities?  After all, I am a first-born. 

Speaking of blog material, I got a blog comment recently, again, from an anonymous person that is rattling my cage: you should join every self help, addictions group so you can talk more about yourself and say how cool you are for going to those groups.
First of all, I'm not bragging about myself when I mention I've been to a parent's support group meeting. I'm not sure in what world going to addictions meetings is cool. Most everyone who reads this blog, I'm assuming, would know why it took me a year to mention it. So much emotion attached to that whole storyline in which I am not even a main character. Just a minor player in the whole scheme of things, who is simply reporting on the Good Things He Hath Done. 
Does the commenter think I'm hanging out in care homes and acute care wards in hospitals nowadays because I needed a new storyline to talk about?  Do I blog so that I can tell everyone how cool I am because sitting in hospital rooms while every man in that room is shitting himself, is cool? Seriously? Or is that not cool? Addiction meetings are cool? Hospital rooms are not? 
Which takes me back to the LIVING YOUR LIFE AS A STORY business. And you can see why my brain is tired, no? I OVERTHINK EVERYTHING. 
Why do I blog about my life?
Because, and this just occurred to me this instant... because there are God-stories that need to be told. 
I am a divorced woman. I thought my life was over when he left. I had nightmares of living in poverty, with greasy hair, bad skin, missing teeth, no furniture, on welfare, with sons who were dropouts, on drugs and in prison. 
God had a different life in mind for me. It has been a good one. And for His sake, and for His glory, I thought I'd record here, on this blog, just what God's been up to. I'm doing this so that other divorced moms can have a hope. But I'm also doing this for my kids. Even though they vehemently claim they never read my blog, maybe someday their daughters will. 
I was reading in the Old Testament recently about telling your children how God has led your family. Tell them your family's God-stories over and over, so they know them. (In Deuteronomy 11, the children of Isreal are told to tell their children AND WRITE IT DOWN - how God saved them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to the promised land.) Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
I don't have doorframes to write out stories onto, but I do have this blog. And this is where my kin can look to find out how God looked after this divorced momma. (True, they will find a whole lot of other stuff too. But buried in amongst all my rants are the God-stories of my life.)
Where are your family's God-stories recorded? Are you talking about them? Is someone telling your children's children what God has done for YOU? Are they written on your doorpost?


Three things I'm thankful for:
1. Late night fb chat with Clint. 
2. Drew and Danica finished their "TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY" day-long date here by watching Dumbo on DVD. 
3. I have someone coming to help me weed my gardens tomorrow. Praise God. I hate weeding. 



Anonymous said...

Jane, so happy for this oppotunity for you to get away. What a blessing. ALso, I can't beleive what some people will say...sounds like they have a corn cob up their butt. I am so very glad you blog. I have been encouraged so very many times. I have laughed and cried and learned a ton from you. It has been so cool to watch God answer prayer in so many ways. Your blog makes my morning. Thanks again for the insight and wisdom today. I need to get out there and live life.
Love Marj

Anonymous said...

Hokey dinah, Jane, did your post ever speak to me on a bunch of different levels. We don't know each other, but for the last few years, you have been one of my best friends. (How "safe" is that - being best friends with someone who doesn't know you?! It couldn't possibly be any safer!) It's crazy, but for the past years, God has continually brought you to my mind to pray for you. It gives me hope and comfort that I, too, have strangers praying for me! Since you seem to be comfortable with the completely quirky and bizarre way that our God works, I will just step right into to that foray, and share with you another crazy crazy. That email that the stranger retreat center woman sent you.... God gave me almost that exact picture of you as I was recently praying for you. You were in a beautiful, relaxing place - a place where God needed you to be so you could slow down and be still and thus be certain you were hearing Him. As I was reading your post this morning, my head and heart kept shouting, "Go! Go!" It sounds weird and freaky - but that's usually how He works. Our God is anything but safe. We have made Him safe, but we are sinners and like to do stuff that is easy and doesn't require much of ourselves. He is definitely not into safe. Another thought that I had (and I am heavily influenced by Donald Miller - I gravitate to 'safe' and often have to 'channel my inner Miller'!) Those of us that God calls to do what some call the boring or mundane tasks, He also gives the excitement and desire to do those tasks. If He's not calling you to the boring, be free of it. It just means He's calling someone else to it, and they will thrive while doing it. My world would be perceived by some as hideously mundane, but I rise with joy at the thought of the day ahead. So, Sister and Beloved Best Friend (who can never take offence to my forthrightness, because you don't know me!! Win-Win!,) walk out the path He is preparing for you. He is Good and He is Fun and He is Never Safe and He Knows and He Loves.

raych said...

Ok so, once I was blogging about how Joel and I have no money because we have no jobs, and someone commented anonymously about how she couldn't imagine not working, because she and her husband both worked so hard all day and then came home exhausted, and the subtext was that we were lazy lazies for not having jobs, and she posted ANONYMOUSLY and I was SO ANGRY because I couldn't email her and be like, I am eight months pregnant and my husband is a med student so it's not like we're free-loading hobos. But I felt like I had to justify myself to her and I COULDN'T, that was the worst part. Not that some idiot was commenting on my blog.


Anonymous said...

Well, I never have the troll problem because if there's a hater on my blog, they have been invited to be there and can easily get booted...but I often think that I wish my blog could be open because I see how yours reaches and touches a lot of people - people who know you and people who don't. My voice feels somewhat stifled on a locked blog, but the flip side is I can be honest without worrying the wrong person is reading it.
Bless those who persecute you, even the trolls.
I was reading comments about the new Nike thing where there's a chip in your shoe that records exercise data that you can access with your ipod/iphone etc and man, THOSE people were serious haters.
Now I'm just blabbing.
Have a good day Jane. Keep your chin up and know that God really does have good things in store for you and your dad and your mom and your boys.
Love September