Making Meaning in the Chaos

This month's theme on This is Thirty Four is CHANGE. Today, I'm talking about how unwanted change (read: the impending death of a loved one) and sitting at a table with eight men I'd never met caused me to make a few changes on this website. 

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In a few weeks, maybe days, my husband’s 88-year-old grandmother will leave this world and enter the gates of Heaven and into the arms of Jesus.

Kay Prentice is a strong woman who eloped at 18 with her high school sweetheart, Waller. She and Waller have been married for 70 years. He still calls her “baby” and tells her she’s beautiful. She still beams every time he gets close to her.

Their relationship survived war, financial hardship, long years of hard work (she owned a flower shop and he was a captain in the Oakland Police Department) and numerous illnesses. Together, they raised two boys—one became a lawyer and one an architect. Those boys had boys of their own and those boys (my husband and his cousins) now have boys of their own.

She is the matriarch in a family of men who run to greet her with a kiss when she comes in the door and who stand at the end of the driveway waving goodbye as she leaves.

Her impending death is not a surprise to anyone, and my husband’s family will emerge from the fire that is grief more bonded to one another than ever. I can say that with confidence because in addition to leaving behind her doting husband and family, Kay leaves an even greater legacy: She LOVED WELL and taught those around her how to do the same.

Success to Significance

Last Thursday, I was at an event full of local business leaders, sitting at a table with nine older men. The speaker posed this question: “What would it take for you to go from success to significance?” He asked everyone to share their thoughts with the people at their table.

Other than my husband, I didn’t know any of the men I was sitting with; but lately, something in me says “SPEAK UP” when I’m out of my comfort zone—especially around men. I am tired of letting them dominate the conversation. (#sorrynotsorry) So, I went first:

“For me, success to significance would mean being more intentional about the way I interact with my husband, my boys and my friends. I want to love them well and leave a legacy of love behind me. Significance would also mean extending my influence among my students and in the online community I’m building so that I can help others learn to live with intention and leave their own legacy.”

BOOM. MIC DROP.

I know I’m biased, but I saw the faces of the men around the table, and (minus my husband) they were clearly not expecting me to give that answer. As I listened to their answers, which were mostly all the same (focus less on their careers and more on their wives and kids), I realized that women have known for years what a lot of men are only starting to figure out:

IMPACTING THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND US IN A SIGNIFICANT, POSITIVE WAY IS FAR MORE FULFILLING THAN ANY WORLDLY SUCCESS COULD EVER BE.

That’s what my husband’s grandmother has known and modeled for the past 88 years, and that’s why I started This is Thirty Four. I believe you and I are created to make an impact on those around us; and I want to create a space for us to figure out what that looks like in each of our lives…TOGETHER.

What now?

It’s been over two months since This is Thirty Four officially launched. Every day, I feel a bit more clarity on the type of content that I want to produce here. Today, I’m ready to put a stake in the ground and further crystalize what This is Thirty Four is all about.

Here’s a preview:

At This is Thirty Four, we (I chose this pronoun because I’m dragging all of you along with me) are MAKING MEANING IN THE CHAOS.

Life is busy. Every day, hundreds of things clamor for our attention and threaten to distract us from what is really important. If we don’t know what’s most important to us—what type of legacy we want to leave—then we can’t prioritize our lives around those things. If we aren’t intentional about our thoughts, choices and actions, then society or someone else will tell us how to think, what to choose and when to act.

When I look at the last 34 years of my life, I see that the more chaotic seasons stemmed from an imbalance in one of these four areas:

Myself—my emotions, my spiritual walk, my health

Relationships- my marriage, my parenting, my friendships

Possessions – my finances, my focus on material things

Time- my over commitment and lack of margin in my schedule

If all, or even one, of these four areas of our lives are out of whack, we CANNOT live intentionally and the legacy we may end up leaving could be one of little consequence.  

So, what type of content can you expect to see on This is Thirty Four in the future?

More of the same…with a bit more focus on the four aforementioned categories.

I’ll still have a monthly theme, but those themes and the related posts will (mostly) fall into the self, relationships, possessions and/or time categories.

I’ll still be conducting interviews with awesome women who are doing amazing things related to the monthly theme or one of the those topics. Why? Because I am not an expert on, well, anything. By God’s grace, I’ve figured out how to do a few things well, and I’ll certainly be sharing some of that advice on here; but I also heavily rely on the advice of others to guide me along the journey that is life.

Finally, what do I need from you, the This is Thirty Four community? I NEED YOUR INPUT! What topics do YOU want to see more about on the blog? What are some of the things you struggle with related to self, relationships, possessions and time? Who do you look to for advice in those areas? Who would you like to hear from in a blog interview? (Bonus points if that person is not a mega star and I can actually get in touch with them.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We’re all in this thing called life together. It’s better if we lean on and learn from one another along the way. Thanks for sharing in my journey and sharing your journey with me. 

XX,

Jenn

 

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