If you read Part 1 of this series, then you understand that Mark and I were on the cusp of some big decisions. Having been inspired to live our lives telling the best story possible, we had to figure out exactly what that would look like for us. Helping me to understand this concept of life as story was one of my favorite books of all time. Here is a quote:
“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”
― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
Suddenly things came into focus. We know what's important to us. In our family we have long valued:
To be intentional means to plot a course and be deliberate about going in that direction. It means not letting other shiny things distract you from what you want most. It takes discipline, delayed gratification, and sometimes long-term planning. There are many, many things we are completely laid back about. You should see our laundry room. No, actually, you shouldn't. Never mind.
Some things, though, we make certain that our family will or will not do, see, participate in, and experience. We want Petunia to be introduced to some things by certain ages, and we want to discuss and process milestones with her. We have had to leave margin in our finances because we wanted to support some good work going on in the world. If you are not intentional about these sorts of things, most of them don't come to pass. It's not good enough that life will happen to us and we react. We will happen to life.
We all have dear friends, and each of us in our family chooses time we will spend on social occasions with those we are blessed enough to have in our life. But we really enjoy spending a lot of time together as a family. I cannot be certain, but I imagine that our small family size helped lead to a tight-knit threesome that has so much fun together.
It was not our Plan A that Petunia would be an only child, though maybe all the time she spent with us instead of siblings is why she's so comfortable conversing with adults. Perhaps it's just Petunia's personality or some genetic trait that has always made her open to try anything: museums, sports games, long hikes, movies on the couch, anything!
Mark and I make each other laugh! He is one of the funniest people I know. Not many people at all get to see that side of him, but I love it. He lifts my bad moods! Our puns would make others groan in pain, but we get such a kick out of ourselves. We like to spend time together.
We travel for fun, education, and for perspective in this great big world. We travel to stay connected to friends and family who live far away, to have responsibility-free time together, and to serve others. We travel because we must. It's not optional in this family. If we are on this great big, colorful, diverse planet with so many things to do, see and experience, why wouldn't we go do, see and experiences as much of it as we can?
While the most important of them all, this one can be the most difficult because God's voice often comes through as a whisper amongst all the clanging noise vying for our attention. In our family we strive to listen and then follow where that whisper takes us. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes not. Sometimes we hear it, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we've ignored it. That's not the kind of family we want to be. I think God gives us a lot of leeway to make our choices. I do not feel like a course is preset so much as a direction is shown. And to both my delight and dismay, I've discovered that you only get enough direction for the next right step. You don't get the joy, or burden, of seeing down the whole path from the beginning.
So here were the elements of the story we wanted to tell with our lives. We intend to be a family who is intentional in their actions, who wants to spend a lot of time together, exploring the people and places of this world, all while listening to God's voice. These are our values.
Looking back over our years as a family, we had gotten to do a fair amount of each of those and I'm grateful. I, especially, had the privilege of serving in ministry with an incredible team that got to be part of and witness to God doing amazing things in the lives of hundreds of people. There were hard moments and beautiful moments, sometimes regarding the same story. I had meaningful work with people I respect and admire.
Even still I made the realization that, as a family, we were living out a lot of our most important values in the "leftover" time while the majority of our days and energy (physical, mental and emotional) were spent on a schedule that we had taken on instead of creating.
What if we could create a life that was built around our top family values? Now we had our DREAM!