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Creating Meaningful Connection

By Jessica Allen | Marriage

Apr 11
connection relationships

We entered Team Sports World last year in our little guy’s introduction to tee-ball. Jack was on cloud nine – this was the sport he played all the way through high school (he was a catcher) and the actual organization he played with too. It was nostalgic and special. Our nephews were also playing so it became a true family affair and opportunity for connection at the ballpark several times each week.

Jack had decided to watch and help for a year before jumping in to coach. However, they were short on managers and coaches. So he responded to the request and never looked back. Truthfully, coaching our children’s teams was one of his dreams when he made the choice to become self-employed and there was no reason not to say yes.  He’s absolutely in his element there.  It’s neat to watch him engaged in an activity that makes time stand still.  Where he can be his most heartfully present pouring into little people.

Jack and I were still not in a great place that first season. The combination of the tension between us (and our families) and my intentional effort not to steal his thunder created a situation where I snuck in at the last minute and mostly kept to myself. I didn’t get to know the parents well or even offer to help much with the team. It felt incredibly awkward and unnatural but just about everything in our life felt that way at that point in time. We have some sweet pictures and special memories from that teeball year but most of them were primarily between Jack and Jackson.

I recall that whole season – baseball season and life in general – was marked by anxiety and loneliness. A valued mentor of mine shared with me that I acted like a nervous cat. Charming. I realize now that my anxiety was a direct result of loneliness. We are not intended to be solitary; we need each other.

What really keeps us from connecting?

Fear
Shame
Insecurity
Pride
Envy

Wow, that’s a winning list. When I reflect on my emotional health at that time, I was wracked with all of those negative emotions. I consider myself fairly emotionally aware and competent so it’s humbling to look back on how far I had sunk.

All about me is hard

A valued concept I’ve learned and embraced is the idea that “all about others is easy, all about me is hard.” Strange enough, when we focus on our own pit of despair, we start decorating it. Adding pictures, a nice carpet, and before we know it we’re loving living there. We dig the pit ourselves and then if we’re not careful we sentence ourselves to a lifetime down inside it wallowing in our own misery.

We get so afraid we’re going to be “found out” – that we don’t have it all together, that we don’t have all the answers, that people will define us by our mistakes and failures. The truth is that everyone else is so wrapped up in their own inner dialogue on the same topic that I guarantee you nobody is taking the time to pick us to pieces.

The good news is that the cure for all these yucky feelings is connection with other great people!

All about others is way more fun

I tried an experiment in November 2015. Many people in my life were part of it and didn’t even know. I set my intent to create 30 “reach-outs” that month, one person each day, people I admired and desired to emulate in important areas. People who were the kind of wives and mothers I wanted to be, the kind of business leaders I wanted to be, the kind of spiritual leaders I wanted to be, the kind of scholars and learners I wanted to be. I picked up the phone and summoned 20 seconds of courage to ask these people for an hour of their time simply to connect. No agenda, just to engage in a meaningful conversation and learn from them.

The experiment

I ripped a sheet of notebook paper out of a spiral, labeled it “30 Reach-Outs,” numbered it 1-30, and taped it to my fridge. Each day I wrote one person’s name by a number and noted the day and time of our meeting. I promised myself I wouldn’t stop until I had filled every line and that I would not allow the month to pass by without completing the goal.

What happened was beyond anything I could have predicted. The “no-coincidences” stories that came out of it, divine connections that linked total strangers, opportunities that arose, and how full my mind and heart became were all surprises that I still reflect upon close to 3 years later. I was over-caffeinated and overjoyed. I had never felt more connected, inspired, humbled, and excited about what I was experiencing.

When the whole thing was over on December 1, 2015, I wrote about it – a rough, diary-esque account of the experience. Check out a little excerpt here. Thank you to each wonderful person who met with me. They had no idea they were part of a crazy experiment. I’m most thankful that they each brought their raw and real selves to the table. It was a breath of fresh and healing air for me.

The need for connection

When I get lonely, or those Rotten 5 emotions sneak in, my go-to is prayer and connection. I have to intentionally make myself stop decorating my pit.  And then I put myself in the space of people who challenge me to be better.

Since Jack and I have started our marriage 2.0 (yes we call it that), we’ve cultivated some amazing connections within our church music ministry, marriage group, worship community, our neighborhood, the baseball world, and new friends. We’ve prayed that we would be a couple who reaches out and cares for others.  And we’ve sought meaningful connection with each other and in great relationships. God is faithful – he keeps delivering.

This current baseball season has been a completely different experience. We’ve been so blessed to connect with amazing families – people who love the Lord, hold strong and similar values in their homes, love to eat good food, thoughtfully care and pray for us, and love our children. It’s been wonderful to bring my whole self to these relationships. People are amazing. When you invite them to do so, they’ll enhance your life more than you can imagine.

HP,

J

Reading list

Quit reading and make a connection!  Summon 20 seconds of courage to invite someone awesome to meet you for coffee.

About the Author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.

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