Living a good story in the chaos
Well, it still is. I’m in the middle of a story, and I hope it’s a good one. All our family’s possessions are in a moving truck, waiting for a journey to Oregon. We don’t have a house yet, but we do have a goal, and by the end of the month, we’ll be living in a new town. It feels like we’re in a good story — that is, if good stories often have struggle, adventure, and the unknown as part of their plots. I think they do. So I’m probably in a good story.
It sounds like many of you are in one, too — or at least, you’re taking steps to make your life a good story.
But there’s a general message I also hear from the readers here, and it’s something akin to feeling stuck. That you want to be in a good story, to start a good story, but your current life stage doesn’t allow it. It’s trapping you from hiking the Serengeti or feeding the poor in Calcutta or attending Fashion Week in Bryant Park, so you’re, unfortunately, unable to live out a good story.
I’m exaggerating, of course. And I do understand. It’s hard to feel like you’re living a good story when you change ten diapers a day, have overdue library books, and spend your days at the neighborhood pool.
But may I humbly suggest something? I’m right there with you — I have three kids under 6, I work from home, we’re homeschooling, and my days are spent making dinner and doing laundry — and I feel like I’m in a good story. So I think you could be in one, too.
Let me tell you why.
There’s a goal in mind, and we’re working towards it.
A good story isn’t the absence of chaos. It’s living well right in the thick of it, and having a goal you can see.
Kyle and I have deliberately decided what we’re about. We made a family purpose statement together (questions and ideas for creating one are in chapter 4 of my book), but more than that, we talk all the time about who we are and what we’re doing.
Donald Miller’s A Million Miles has really got me thinking this past week (I finished it, by the way), and I like what he says here:
“‘You know,’ I said, ‘a story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling the people around us what we think is important.'”
What are my actions saying about what I think is important? I want to become more intentional about my actions reflecting my priorities.
Here’s an example. Kyle and I want our family to be available to live wherever, whenever. It’s part of our personality, and we feel like it’s part of the calling God has on our lives. So we very intentionally don’t have debt (we paid it off awhile ago), we don’t pile up “things,” and we place a high value that the home we live in work for us as a family — not too big, and in a location that allows us to act out our calling effectively. It’s why we’re moving to Bend, actually.
We also don’t watch much TV, because we find that it really waters down our motivation, our perspective on life, and our time stewardship. It makes us want things that aren’t part of our bigger goals. Miller says:
“Half the commercials on television are selling us something that will make life easier. Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.”
Having a goal helps us make choices that free us. The goals don’t chain us.
Our big goal is outside ourselves.
Our family’s goal also doesn’t only benefit ourselves. Serving fuels us, as it does with most everybody else, I think. Living for something and Someone other than me is what gets me out of bed in the morning, what makes life worth living.
If my only goal in life were to set foot on all seven continents, for example, or to have a net worth of a million dollars, I think I’d despair. It would ultimately make me ask, “What’s the point?”
Ultimately, our goal is also realistic.
We’re not telling ourselves that we will single-handedly be able to cure cancer, because that’s just not possible. We just want to play our small part in the Bigger Story the Writer is scribbling.
In case you’re wondering, our goal is to serve people-who-serve with hospitality and care. We lived overseas for several years in full-time, cross-cultural ministry, and we know first-hand how hard it is. We are now passionate about taking care of those people God is calling to the really difficult places. We want to do our part to help them thrive.
This involves clean towels, a hot meal, playing with their kids, and letting them sleep in. It’s providing them a place to rest, recuperate, and rejuvenate. It’s also listening to their stories.
These are the reasons I feel like I’m living a good story amidst the diapers. Because we have a goal that we’re working towards, it’s bigger than ourselves, and it’s do-able.
I don’t despair that my life is sticky and chaotic. It’s ultimately about a Bigger Story.
More about living out a good story next week.
What’s the goal of your story?
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