Confession time. Its only week 2 and I’ve already broken most of my New Years resolutions. Sneakily snaffled some chocolate. Casually crunched the crisps. Even caught myself counting Fitbit steps while munching Haribo. How predictably predictable. Fresh starts are easy. It’s the keeping on keeping on which is anything but.
We discovered recently that the Stansfield family motto is ‘Know Thyself’. Ben and I often turn to each other now and mockingly say ‘Know Thyself Stansfield’ (in the voice of Brian Blessed) if we feel the other needs a reality check. I feel that I now, after 43 years on this earth, know myself well enough to admit that I definitely need companions on a road to creating new habits or rhythms. This is why I selfishly invited you to join me on this journey, and hope to share the ride with my weekly life group too. I long to go beyond lone ranger resolutions towards collective linked arms reimagining.
‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’
The book which I’ll be basing this blog-a-thon on – ‘Belonging and Becoming’ by Mark and Lisa Scrandrette – takes a cheeky – access all areas – reality check on our family life and dares us to ask awkward questions. Not ‘what’ do we want to ‘do’ this year? But ‘who’ do we want to ‘become’? Who have we actually become? And is there a gap between the two?
There is SO much to unpack in this book that we will be meandering through it, feeling free to stop and smell the roses along the way, for fear of missing some of the beauty along the path. The book begins by exploring how a thriving family lives from a vision. This makes me picture one of my heroes, Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s every move is defined by her all consuming desire to reach the Wizard of Oz so he can work his magic and get her back home.
She envisions what he will be like and what he will do for her, and this propels her every step of the way. She enthusiastically and infectiously shares that vision with her motley crew of needy travel companions, which transforms their despondency into delight, and sighing into singing. Dorothy’s passion infects them with a shared sense of purpose to ‘follow the yellow brick road’ in order to reach the Emerald City, even if it takes them through evil forests, under flying monkeys and facing ‘I’ll get you my pretty’ threats from the Wicked Witch of the West.
They are totally terrified (and when I watched it as a young girl so was I – having to hide behind a cushion) when going through the deep dark woods, about being attacked by ‘Lions, and Tigers and Bears. OH MY!’ As a grown up I now find it chilling that their most potent threat comes not in the deep dark shadows, but in the bright, warm sunshine of the enchanted poppy field, where the sweet fragrance lulls them into a lethal state of listlessness. Why do I find this so disturbing? I think it’s because it really resonates with some seasons of my life where I know I’ve been in a state of slumber, having lost my focus, and lost my sense of purpose – kind of forgetting what path I was meant to be following, and happy to settle for what was right in front of me. Which was actually intoxicatingly toxic and ever so softly suffocating my soul.
It’s Dorothy’s vision of the Emerald City which is the life saving wake up call they urgently need to drag themselves out of the comfort of the poppies, and back onto the road. Even in the face of the disappointment of the Wizard not living up to their expectations, these travelling companions are a wonderful picture of what family can be, where each one finds belonging, shares a deep sense of purpose, and helps each other to become courageous, loving and wise, discovering their purpose and a true sense of ‘home’. (with the odd squabble and arguments about shortcuts along the way)
What are the threats that you were most afraid of when you first started out on your journey together as a family? Have those turned out to be less or more potent than you feared?
Have you ever been, or feel you are still, in an intoxicating field of poppies season of life, where you lost your focus, became comfortable with the way things were, and were in such a state of slumber that you almost forgot what the intended destination was?
Have you experienced God giving you a much needed wake up call to ensure that the good didn’t become the enemy of the best along your journey? Did you welcome that wake up call at the time? How did it make you feel?
When Ben and I first met we had a very strong sense of shared purpose, as we met doing the same job for the same charity and so had a lot of similar passions and desires for the future. Before our boys were born it was all quite easy to make decisions, but becoming parents made life so much more complicated. Having a sick child gave me anxiety about travelling far from a hospital. Having ageing parents made us more aware of time spent away from family. Decisions became harder, and at times the competing priorities, demands, expectations and desires of ‘The Good Life’ versus the Kingdom Life left us in a tailspin.
We’ve found it so transformative to stop and reflect on where we are at, and to carve out time and space to invite God again to re-envision us with who we are to become and what our purpose is. One of the best things which our friends recommended we do was to go on a guided day retreat together where the whole focus was looking back over your journey, and praying into your future with others who were at a similar crossroads in life. He has often had to jolt us awake out of our comfort zones to get our attention, (which we didn’t welcome at the time), but it’s given us fresh eyes to see how our choices were steering us way off course from who He longed for us to be.
Mark and Lisa Scandrette describe the vision they had for their shared life together, when they first met. ‘We imagined a household of laughter, fun and deep connections. We wanted an awareness of divine purpose and presence to permeate our lives and shape our decisions. We envisioned doing meaningful work together, using our gifts to serve. We hoped to open our lives to others, especially to those who struggle and suffer. And we desired to live gratefully, creatively and sustainably.’
They go on to say ‘the revelation of Jesus opened up new horizons for what it meant to be human and consequently new possibilities for families. Jesus described this as the reality of the kingdom of God, or a life of shalom, wholeness or harmony under God’s care. It’s the kind of life we were created for, in which we find our truest identity as God’s beloved children, learn to work as agents of healing, act from a sense of abundance and trust, relate to one another from a greater source of love, and experience peace and power in the midst of the stresses and struggles of life.’
What words would you use to describe the thriving you desire for your family?
Have you ever had a vivid vision which excited you and propelled you in a certain direction?
Do you feel you are living out that vision now or has your life taken you on a diversion?
Have you felt conflicting desires or demands have created a gap between where you envisioned you would be as a family in this stage of life and the reality of how things are? What are those conflicting or competing expectations or demands?
Can we carve out some time this week to pray that God, who is ‘the lifter of my head’ would give us a fresh vision for who He wants us to become this year?