Author Archives: jennifer

Bucket of Awesome

In order to accomplish my goals in 2017 and be who I want to be, I realized that I need to re-write part of my story.  By re-write, I mean that I am the storyteller of my life.  And like every truly good book that we read, parts of our personal stories will need revision in order to capture what is essential for the rest of the story to progress and unfold.

Sometimes we get stuck in the details of these stories and forget their role in propelling us forward.   We might make the mistake of letting someone else tell the story and allow their words to make us merely a supporting actor or even a victim.  When our voice is strained or tired, or the plot seems messy, we might be tempted to conclude that it’s unimportant and quit talking.  That may be part of the journey but it’s not the main idea.  The truth is that each of us lives an amazing, individual, never-to-be-duplicated life full of highs and lows, and it is absolutely worth telling.  Worth telling it well.  When we craft a dead-end version, we need to go back, re-examine, and revise it so our story, the one in which we are both the voice and the hero, can lift and teach and triumph.

I believe that with all my heart.  I will also be the first to admit I’ve been stuck in a dead-end chapter of my story, and it needed to be re-written desperately.

With this goal in my mind, imagine my delight when Kathryn Thompson, author of Drops of Awesome, sent me an email about her newest book, Buckets of Awesome.  Let me tell you, it is awesome!  I’ve been a fan of Kathryn’s message for a long time.  I’ve posted about it here and here.  But I really love what she’s done with this book.

Bucket of Awesome is a journaling tool filled with specific prompts to wander through your life history and write about it in positive ways.  Some parts may be easy; others hard.  You can skip the prompts that don’t trigger anything for you and focus on the ones that do.  Her message is this:  We are writing our life story whether we realize it or not.  We can write it in ways that recognize and honor the good or we can dwell on the negative.  The option we choose is powerful and has long lasting effects on us and others.  So why not tell the story that is awesome?!

Robert Atkinson wrote, “There is a power in storytelling that can transform our lives.  Traditional stories, myths, and fairy tales hold this power.  The stories we tell of our own lives carry this transforming power, too.  In the process of telling our life stories, we discover that we are more sacred beings than we are human beings, that the most powerful life story expresses the struggle of [our] soul.” (quoted in Dare Dream Do by Whitney Clayton, p. 16)

I love that Kathryn has created a tool to assist us in transforming our own lives by examining the stories we’ve collected about ourselves.  In my reading of the book, I read through all of it and then went back and lingered in the section about Resilience and Struggle.  Why?  Because the last two years of my life have been all about challenges.  I know that in the struggle of those years I have experienced some beautiful things but I’ve often chosen the story about how hard it was.  If I want to craft a narrative that predicts a brighter future, I need to do some re-writing.  Not a re-write that pretends the hard times didn’t happen, or that depicts them as something they weren’t.  Revised in a way that includes the fact that I haven’t quit, that I’m still standing, that I’ve learned some important things, and that I can do hard things and still find happiness.  So that’s where I’m journaling right now.  I need the most recent section of my life story to be powerful enough to predict a brighter future.

One of the sweetest blessings of challenging years is connecting with others in their challenges.  I listen differently to them now, and feel more deeply what they’re going through.  These friends amaze me as they fight through their trials.  I love their stories.  They give me courage.

Kathryn writes, “Never stop telling your story, and always be conscious of how you tell it.  Ask yourself, ‘What stories can I tell that will be the most helpful and productive in my future life?  What backstory do I want my future superhero self to have?’  Write that.  Focus on that…. Your life will be beautiful.  Choose to see it for what it truly is.”  (Bucket of Awesome, p.167)

What can you do to find your voice and use it?  What story can you share that will lift someone else?  What story needs revision so it no longer drags you down?  What dream is your current story propelling you towards?  I highly recommend using Bucket of Awesome to get yourself started.  You matter, and so do your stories.

Jennifer

Dreaming of a Brighter Future

A couple of years ago I was sitting on a beach watching my children play in the sand and the sea when I began reading the book Dare, Dream, Do by Whitney Johnson.  I was hungry, but not completely ready, for the invitation.

I started the book, made it to the middle, and restarted it several times before I finally finished it last year.  My halting reading had nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the content, and everything to do with me.

Whitney writes in the first paragraph of Part One that dreaming is an inalienable right, something we naturally understand as children.  “Unfortunately, as adults we often put our dearest dreams away, as life hands us unexpected challenges or circumstances and the harsh realities of economic necessity whittle away at our energy and our hopes.  Dreaming truly becomes a dare.” (Dare Dream Do, p.7)

This was me.  I was living the dream of being a wife and mother, but in living it I was totally exhausted. The murkiness of motherhood had drained me of energy and aspirations, and I was also running low on hope.  Having reached the point that I no longer believed any of my “big” dreams were possible, I traded them instead for “little” dreams.  But they weren’t really dreams, just small accomplishments that I could count on, like making my next quilt.  I was happy to be a mother, happy to watch my children grow, and busy with all kinds of good things.  Keeping a family of ten running is a massive undertaking and hard as I tried, there seemed to always be something I forgot or didn’t do well enough.  Sleep deprivation had gone on for so many years that I no longer remembered what it felt like to be rested and my biggest dream at the time was to have just one morning when I woke up feeling like I’d had sufficient sleep.  Life was really good, but in my head it was really hard.

I had no idea how much harder it was about to get.

Thus began a series of events and experiences that challenged me like nothing else could.  As mothers often do, I sometimes couldn’t tell where I ended and where my family began.  This fuzzy line led to questions like, can I still be a good mother if my child struggles?  If he/she fails?  Can I be happy if others make choices that break my heart?  We also experienced the usual adversities of life, but they felt like they came in such quick succession that we were often left reeling.  Things like failed transmissions, flooded basements, you name it, it broke.  I had days when I was lost in sadness.  There were other days when I felt full of hope and purpose.  I learned more patience.  I learned what it means not to give up on someone.  I learned not to judge.  I learned to treasure my loved ones.

As 2016 drew to an end, I knew that circumstances would stay much the same going into a third year.  But I also have children who are growing up.  My daughter will finish high school and leave for college this year.  My youngest will turn eight and be baptized.  We have some wonderful highlights ahead.  So something needed to change, and that was me.  Whatever else changes or doesn’t change in 2017, whatever battles I have to face, this will be a happy year for me.  I will love and support and sacrifice and do everything in my power to assist, but I won’t let our problems define me for another year.

Deciding it and doing it aren’t the same thing.  So I’m learning.

Whitney Clayton also wrote, “Dreaming is essential to making meaning of our lives — dreaming lifts us out of what has happened in what is often an confusing, messy, and painful past so that we can craft a narrative that predicts a brighter future.” (Dare Dream Do, p. 20)

A narrative that predicts a brighter future.

I read that phrase and thought, “I could sure use that!”  Could you?

I’m writing one.  Which means I’m revising the story I’ve been telling myself and I’m trying to start dreaming again.  Imagine my smile when a tool for doing it dropped right into my lap.  I’ll share what it is tomorrow!

 

Dream On, Dream Big! – a finished quilt

Two years ago I returned to Gig Harbor, Washington to honor my dear friend Wes at his memorial service.  I came home needing to do something to honor his memory, something I could have in my home that would help me smile and think of him when I saw it.  This quilt is it, and it’s finally finished.

You see, Wes LOVED the color orange.  His house was orange, his truck was orange.  His son described his love for the color as taking on almost a sacred allegiance – righteous orange.  I’ll never forget how hard we worked to get him to attend church, and yet every Sunday came and went with him failing to appear.  Then one Sunday I awoke with a start early in the morning, suddenly knowing what to do to get him to come.  I woke my companion and told her to get dressed while I scavenged our apartment for an orange piece of paper.  On that paper, in my best handwriting (I actually have really nice handwriting, so I could pull it off) I designed an invitation to church that resembled a very formal wedding invitation.  Except, of course, that I have yet to receive a wedding invitation that’s solid orange!  We jumped in the car and tiptoed up the steps to his door, the paper and tape in hand.  As quickly as possible I taped the paper to his window, so he could read it from inside the home as soon as he entered the room.  We turned and raced down the stairs, and were pulling out of his driveway when he appeared at the window.

He came to church!  When we walked in he was sitting there as if he did it every week.  I said hello to him and he said to me, “I only came because it was orange.”  I laughed and replied, “I know.  That’s why it was orange.”  It was definitely the strangest way I ever got someone to church, but what matters is that he never stopped coming.  He stayed for all the right reasons and impacted so many lives.

As I sat on the stand at his memorial, tears sprang to my eyes as I watched people file into the room.  So many of them wearing orange!   It was a happy way to remember one of the funny things that made him who he was.

The Kona mango fabric is a perfect reminder of Wes.  Combining it with my Dream On charm squares also felt fitting, as Wes had high expectations for me.  You see, he thought I was awesome (typical for someone to feel that way about their missionary), and although I’m pretty firmly grounded in how regular I am, it’s nice to remember that people believe in you.  Wes believed I was capable of great things.

These feelings come flooding back when I look at this quilt.

Perhaps even more than that, I felt a distinct feeling of a reciprocation of gifts taking place the  weekend of his funeral.  Twenty years ago he wrote a letter about me that resulted in unique experiences.  Now it was my turn to go back to honor him and to tell a story that really, no one else could tell the same way.  I’d known in my heart for about 10 years that I would need to do it.  But in the timing of his passing, he also gave me the gift of going back, of reconnecting with people I love, and in doing so, being a little more prepared for things just around the bend in my own life.  I’m just beginning to understand the eternal significance of what took place way back in 1995 and how pivotal it was in my life.

Going back re-activated my name.  It re-activated some dreams I’d sort of left behind in the gritty mess of motherhood.  It re-awakened things in me.  Mostly it filled me with love and light.

This quilt has become my dreaming quilt.  The soft vintage sheet on the back makes it perfect to wrap up in, and I often choose it in the mornings when I’m reviewing goals, pondering dreams, and making plans.  It’s a link to a precious time in my past and a reminder to look with optimism toward the future – both things I sometimes forget in the daily mess of family life.

It doesn’t hurt that the quilt itself makes me smile.  The mango color, the vintage florals, the beautiful quilting… I love it.  That it inspires me to remember and to dream big dreams is icing on the cake.

Life is good.  Really, really good.
Jennifer

 

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