Debbie was the first one to notice what made our recent weekend meeting special: everyone attending our Grafted Life Council Meeting was also there for our very first one 9 years ago. The make-up and number of both our staff and council has varied over the years, but this meeting brought the original gang back together to offer their observations and wisdom for Grafted Life’s future.
As Debbie and I considered this fact, an idea came to me: “We should do a life map of Grafted Life!”
A life map is a self-reflection tool that individuals create to help them grasp the arc of their life story. You can use a life map to gain an overview of your life or to focus just on specific themes, like one’s hardships, joys or dreams. At Grafted Life, we include a life mapping tool called a Heart History in our second semester of Life with God: The History of the Heart to help participants note times in their lives when they acted autonomously or in dependence upon God.
More than just a timeline of important events, a life map makes note of specific memories that come to mind in any random order. This allows each piece of the map to potentially hold some kind of emotional significance. Once a sufficient number of memories have been complied, only then does the person place them in chronological order.
While the process may sound simple, the insights it surfaces can be profound. Distinct life seasons and their catalysts often come into awareness, as does God’s activity and His previously unseen intentions for us and invitations to us. Additionally, a life map can be a way for a person to start to understand what their story has been and what it might become in the future.
Before we considered doing the life map with Grafted Life, it had never occurred to me that a life map could also be a powerful exercise for an organization or group. But, like a person, each community has its own life story. Who better to try this idea with than the same eight people who have been with us since the very beginning?
So, we set aside a couple of hours during the council meeting for everyone present to share specific memories, events and experiences that came to mind as they looked back over their history with Grafted Life Ministries. I wrote down key words for each memory on a sticky note and placed it randomly on the big blank poster we’d hung on the wall.
Soon, one memory sparked another and another. We thought about our origins, our build up, our accomplishments, and the unexpected twists and turns along the way. We laughed; we sighed; we cringed. We remembered together. The life map process gave us a safe space to talk about some things that we hadn’t mentioned in years, particularly some painful times that now could be spoken about in honesty and trust.
Once the poster was full of sticky notes, the group helped me as I arranged the notes in chronological order. As I did that, I rewrote the painful memories on a different color of sticky note, replacing them in the list. As we continued to look at the map, patterns started to emerge. Causes and effects that we had never considered came to light. And God’s ultimately good intentions also started to reveal themselves:
- “You know, if this painful thing hadn’t happened, we probably wouldn’t have gone in this fruitful direction.”
- “Isn’t it interesting that some significant memories of how we started happened much earlier than our official incorporation?”
- “I never want to live through that again, but it’s clear that God was readying us for what came after.”
- “Notice how when this person shows up in our story, it’s always at just the right time for us to turn our attention to these important subjects?”
As we ended, we all had a stronger sense of what Grafted Life’s journey has been, how it has changed us, how God has been leading, and how His work laid the groundwork for our present and our future. It also led us to a deeper appreciation of each other and of each person who has contributed to our story. The only way we could end this exercise was to worship God together for who He is and all that He has done for us.
We are very grateful for what we learned about Grafted Life through this life mapping process. We highly recommend that you try this exercise with any organization or group that you’ve journeyed with over time. If you do, may God bless you as richly as He blessed us!
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