Thursday, January 24, 2019

Lessons About Connection: My Word for 2018

Some journeys take you exactly where you expect to go, but the best ones take you where you need to go.  Last year, I picked  "connection" as my word for 2018.  I knew I wanted to be more connected to God, my family, and my friends.  What I didn't know if how much being connected to God was the key to the rest. 
I thank Linda Stoll for a push in the right direction last winter and spring with her book club selections of Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton and later The Listening Life by Adam S. McHugh.  The books, her posts, and the discussion in the comments helped spur me to making some better choices.  Silence and listening well are two things I struggle with so I appreciated the challenge to take baby steps in improving.   Maybe I couldn't sit for 30 minutes in silence, but I could take a walk on the beach without my headphones.  I could be more comfortable with silence in my house and not feel the need to fill it with noise.  Maybe I won't ever be labeled a great listener, but I do understand better that prayer is not just talking but listening.  I am also more consciously aware when I start making conversations more about me.  Most importantly, both books pointed towards God and our need to listen to him, to spend time with him, and know him.

So what I have learned about connection.  


1. Connection with God is the Key to All Connection

This past year has been a good year in terms of growing in my knowledge and understanding of scripture.   This has helped me to know and understand God better.  When God is my anchor,  I come to the table less needy.  When I am rooted in the truths of scripture, I am able to see others' needs more clearly, and that life isn't all about me.   

It is not that all triggers will go away.  I still have relationships where old ways of doing things will want to creep in.  My emotions still try to hijack me.  The difference is that I am preventing hijacking more and I can take those thoughts captive to the Creator and put them side by side with the truth.   I then am able to let Him speak truth in life.  What a difference this makes!

2. Connection Takes Time

My husband and I hit our two year mark in West Africa last May.  It was like a switch flipped, and I suddenly felt more comfortable in this culture and even on our team.  A similar thing happened when we lived in Central Asia.  There are some relationships or situations where you feel instantly at home, and all is good.  Other times, it just takes time and persistence.  It requires inviting people over, being a part of daily life, and sometimes getting out of my comfort zone.

It is not only the length of time, but the frequency of trying to connect.  I am much more connected with my mom when I call her more often.  She would probably tell you I should call more often, but hopefully she would also tell you that, overall, I am doing better.  The same goes with my kids.  It has been wonderful having a scheduled weekly phone conversation, but I also love that we can message each other a quick "I am thinking of you" message or question about our weeks.  

If you ask me what my favorite year of marriage was, I would say this last year.  Why? Partly it is due to spending a lot of time together, but it also has to do with the quality of time.  Each evening we walk up and down the beach road after supper.  As we walk, we talk about our day, what we are reading, and whatever is on our minds.  It has been a great point of connection that has helped us continue those conversations at other times.  I love having a spouse with whom I can share not only my joys but also my struggles.

3.  True Connection Takes Vulnerability

Vulnerability could be just picking up the phone and making the invite.  It might be voicing my expectations for my time together with someone, or sharing how I feel about situation or issue.  

Vulnerability says I am not perfect, but I want you to be my friend still.  It says to the other person, we can grow together.  I can help you, and you can help me.  Sometimes it means saying a hard thing.  Other times it means saying a word of encouragement or getting out of my comfort zone.

4. You Have to Make Connection a Priority

This summer I was only going to be in Texas for a short time. I am so thankful for two good friends who carved out quality time to spend with me and even threw me an early 50th birthday party.  On another leg of my trip, I was able to spend a week and a half with my sis and see her new home.  I loved how I was able to spend time with her and the rest of her family. It had been over two years since we had been together so it was a gift to have time to reconnect.  On the fourth of July, many of my extended family in Iowa made it a priority to come to my mom's house for lunch.  It was so good to reconnect and catch up on their lives.

But most of all, I found making a connection a priority with my children.  Our sweet daughter gets up early on her Saturday mornings to talk to us our Saturday afternoon.  Our son stays up til midnight to talk to us during our morning.  Don't you love how it looks different for each child?  I am finding when we are physically together, it takes intentionality to have those deeper conversations.  It takes carving out time and seeing where each person is at.  This also takes different forms.  It might be taking a road trip or even chatting as we look for a wedding dress.

What are some lessons you have learned about connection? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

2018 was a good year.  This next year looks to be full of transitions which I will talk about in my next post.

1 comment:

Linda Stoll said...

Well, wow, TJ! What a lovely early morning Saturday surprise to find me here on your blog. What encouragement to hear that those two book open houses hit home for you.

Thank you for such grace, friend. I love your writing here on the importance of connection.

Bless you ...