Mar 30, 2015

Not My Story...

I've mentioned in passing that I'm a fan of Donald Miller's writings, and in particular I enjoy his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which is all about looking at life as one big story, and the implications such a viewpoint brings.

I definitely recommend the book as a whole to most anyone. The first thing it did for me was to re-frame my views on conflict and difficult/sad times. I have a tendency to avoid such things like the plague because they're not pleasant, and who would deliberately and willingly embrace unpleasant things? But of course if you think of all the best stories you see that struggle is sort of part of the deal. Without something to overcome you end up with a bland story. So now, while I am still not big on conflict and struggle, I think about how I would want my story to read in dealing with them, and that makes me feel a little braver.

I think maybe the most powerful aspect, though, has been the concept of "Not My Story." I don't remember if Miller even distinguished it in his book, but it's been huge for me. There's a saying/meme making the rounds on Facebook that goes something like, "Not my circus, not my monkeys," which I LOVE as far as staying out of situations I simply don't need to involve myself in. It doesn't work on my own kids because it turns out they are, in fact, my circus and my monkeys, but it works great when I get an impulse to respond to OPINIONS and DRAMA on the internet and I need a little sanity check.

"Not My Story" goes a little further for me, though. It reminds me that my own story is the only one I am writing, the only one I need to worry about. My wheels have a tendency to spin a little fast in the "How-does-this-apply-to-my-life" Department. "Not My Story" slows the wheels a little, and frees me to see the beauty in and appreciate others' stories for what they are, rather than reading more into them than what is there. "Not My Story" keeps me a little less defensive and a little less prideful (and a lot less neurotic).

"Not My Story" reminds me that I get to choose how I do stuff ('cuz I'm a grown-up, dangit), and if I'm not feeling otherwise prompted by God, then I can relax and keep doing what I'm doing. And it's not that God doesn't prompt, either. In fact, when I do relax a little, I seem to pick up on God's promptings a little easier, sometimes even in conjunction with the very stories I'd otherwise be feeling defensive about. Which is weird, but whatevs. "Not My Story" frees me to appreciate the beauty in my own story, and to see the truth of what is there, rather than trying to forcefully manufacture what isn't.

"Not My Story" even works on my own circus, and my own monkeys. The Cat Daddy and I marvel at how the kids' worlds have expanded as they've grown and gone to classes, playgroups, and school. They have their own worlds separate from us, and their own stories which are of course intertwined with ours, and yet still distinctly theirs. It actually blows my mind a little sometimes, wrapping my head around that one. "Not My Story" helps me toe the line a little when I'm not sure how much to interferevene. I get it right for moments at a time, even. Moments!

There are so many principles and stuff we church kids learn along the way, that can be kind of hard to decode sometimes. For me, "Not My Story" puts sturdy walking shoes on "Don't compare yourself with others," without putting unnecessary distance between myself and others through dismissal or defensiveness. There's even a verse about it (Galatians 6:4, NLT).

So next time you are feeling condemned or less-than, or that someone is living their story at you, remember yours is the only story you're writing, and you get a lot of say-so in how it goes. At least your part of it, anyway. And your story has a lot of its own beauty to be discovered. Hopefully that is comforting to you. It is for me...

Mar 22, 2015

Boston, Baby...

I have a story to tell, kids.

Today's story is about Massachusetts, and how God works things out in wonderful ways sometimes. Not every time; but sometimes he arranges things in ways that make me giggle just a little bit.

It begins with the springtime, and this springtime is particularly exciting because we and friends around us are finding out our follow-on assignments; that is, where we are headed after this year of ACSC.

We had heard rumors of Florida. It's perhaps a little indulgent, but we thought about beaches, and relative proximity to some dear friends (and Disney World), and seafood, and investing in swimsuits and boogie boards instead of the snow gear and sleds we've accumulated in 4 of our 6 locations over the past 14 years.

The thing about rumors, though, is that you have to be careful how much stock you put in them. I mean in the military life, even official stuff that's in writing can change, so rumors have to be taken with a boulder-sized grain of salt. So we didn't sell any of our snow boots or anything, which is good, because when the assignment came through it was Massachusetts instead of Florida.

To begin with, I was surprised. I had known that Massachusetts was a possibility, but I didn't expect us to get sent there for many reasons (which have varying bases in reality). My brain had to make a bit of a paradigm shift from tropical drinks to shoveling snow, but the thing about that is that I was going from an imagined potential reality to a familiar and true one. What's more, it was going to a familiar and true reality that carries a wealth of fond memories for us. So as the day wore on and I started thinking snow pants instead of tankinis, I also got to think about dear friends and places we have missed for several years now. I got to send messages to a couple of said friends, one of whom immediately texted back "DON'T TEASE ME!!!" because we have a lot of trust and mutual respect, and have maybe been known to tease each other when important info is on the line.

It was when we got to tell the kids that really started the wheels turning. His Highness was born in Massachusetts, after all, and it turns out that for all the possibilities and excitement about beaches, he was even more excited to return to his birthplace. The younger kids haven't been there yet, but as we began to tell them of the sights and activities we had enjoyed, they (and we) got more and more excited as well.

It is also true that every place has its downsides. On the day we found out our assignment, it was 60 or so degrees in Alabama, but I believe there were something like a zillion feet of snow on the ground in the greater Boston area. This winter has been record-breaking (over 108" of snow this season), and maddening, and really unpleasant from all I can gather. Their winter days are really short, and really dark, and sunshine isn't guaranteed any time of year. So there's that.

But there is also SUCH beauty. There are the green summers, and the vibrant autumn leaves, the amazing amount of history in the area, and pretty much the coolest little-big-city ever. And (most) people there know how to use traffic circles. Plus, we're moving in the summer, so we will arrive to the best of all the things. We have a lot to look forward to.

Amid this swirl of memory and emotion, I began to think about work. I've been doing a mostly stay-at-home gig ever since we moved from Mass, and it's an interesting thing because in recent months I've started to sort of wonder and dream about what the next few years might hold for me career-wise. It hasn't kept me up at night or anything, but just a light "Hmmmm, I wonder..." on the back burner. Well long story short, Tiny E heads to preschool this year and while it's not the exact timing I'd have chosen, it's a really good set-up for me to return to work part-time with my same company (fortunately, they feel the same way).

So that's what I mean today, when I say that God works things out in weird and wonderful ways sometimes. I had a half-thought, but he already had things worked out in a way that will be an easier-than-usual transition for us. He decided that the next thing would be to send us back to a place we've already known and loved. And he doesn't always do things this way, so I've decided to see it as a gift, even though it will mean buggy summers, and snow, and dark mornings, and winter dates with the treadmill (but now there are PODCASTS!).

I see it as a gift that I get to feel truly excited about this move. Moving has so many different feelings that go with it, so it's a gift to know (at least somewhat) what you're getting into, and to feel excited about it.

In the meantime, we have an entire springtime season to enjoy in lovely Montgomery, and a lot of life happens in a season, so we have a lot to do before we head north. So carry on, friends. Carry on...