“Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we might grow in wisdom.”
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we might grow in wisdom.”
I loved watching my daughter on the beach on a cold Spring day. She had decided she wouldn’t try to brave the cold waters, so she just dipped her little toes in, danced in the sand, and amused herself by keeping the waves from coming up to her rolled up jeans. Her brothers on the other hand, would have nothing to do with merely dipping their toes in. Determined to not waste a day at the ocean, they were prepared for swimming and were crashing the waves, getting fully immersed in the rough ocean waters, no matter how cold they were! They were definitely “All in!”
I was with my daughter on this one as I stood back and enjoyed the view with my toes in the sand, but my jeans only up past my ankles. I loved watching the two different approaches, and laughed at the picture of the boys throwing caution to the wind, jumping in with wild abandon There’s a definite place in life for wild abandonment, total surrender, and being “All In”, that’s for sure! It’s a picture I’ve thought of quite a bit lately.
You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about total surrender lately. A dear friend passed away, and she as she faced the end of her life, she was very intentional about making the most of her moments. Her priorities were direct and clear. She was “all in” with loving well, sharing the love of Christ with others, and saying the words that she felt needed to be said. (I was the recipient of some of these direct words as she spoke to me on how to best ‘get in there’ with a son of mine who was struggling, and trust me, I took it to heart.) She didn’t dance around subjects, for there was no time for that. She loved well and spoke clearly, laughed whole-heartedly, and grieved deeply.She was honest. She knew her days were numbered, and her darkest cloud had the silver-lining of a precious gift to those around her as she chose to make the most of her days, knowing that they were few.
So, it has me thinking. Actually it not only has me thinking, I’m sitting here smiling as I say, some things are changing in my life. I have some ‘built-in’ excuses, like juggling a large family with a full-time demanding (more emotional than physical) job and a husband who, well, let’s just say, who stretches me a bit! (Totally love the man, but I tell ya, life is always quite full when he’s in the picture!) So, when I make excuses about not getting things done, well, they can be externally justified. Justified, but not to my benefit or the benefit of those around me. Honestly, (here comes the confession part), I waste a lot of time. Quite a bit. I’ve only realized that in recent years, but only in the past month have I truly started making changes. My friend’s numbered days make me much more aware of my passing moments. So, I’m cutting some of the fluff…and loving it!
So here’s the thing about being “All-in”. I want to live without the regrets of ‘what could’ve been’. I want to send the cards when I’m thinking of others, to share the gospel and love of Christ in a way that flows out of my spending time with Him. I want to share the “stuff” that sits around and is wasted. I want to be strategic in caring for those in my world, my home, my community, my realm. So much of that will only get done as I get more strategic and organized with my time and determine to jump in with the same tenacity and joy with which my kids jumped into the very, very cold rushing waves of water in the Atlantic Ocean on that cold Spring Day. They got used to the water quickly and made the most of their time, for sure, and it was a day well spent. I want to have a life well-lived, and as I pray and ask God to direct my steps, I must first determine to be obedient to follow where He leads. And sometimes before I can truly see, or truly be “all there”, I need to free myself from the stuff, the time-stealers and distractions.
So that’s what I’m working on. Being “All in!” And here’s one last visual for you: When I was younger, oh, how I used to draw out the process of ‘getting used’ to cold water in a swimming pool. I’d dip my toes in, then come the ankles, knees, etc. I probably wasted lots of time being freezing cold when I could’ve just jumped in, and gotten used to the water in matter of 30 seconds rather than 5 minutes of torture! So, I’m thinking on that analogy as I try to jump in to my tasks of reorganizing my life a bit to be not more effective like some little efficiency robot, but to be more intentional like a believer in Christ who loves well and makes the most of their days. Because like my dear friend showed us in her last months, days, and moments on earth, Moments Matter. Each and every one. So, here’s to being ‘all in!’
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.… ” Philippians 2: 14-16
Post was in response to prompt for “A Week of…Sea and Sand”
To wait awhile longer
To not move forward or backward, but to stay for a bit because you don’t desire the moment to end.
Sometimes endings are truly endings, changes that you know are coming, and in lingering a bit, we try to heed off the inevitable.
I’ve had so many moments of ‘lingering’ in my lifetime. There are moments that I’ve wanted to stretch out and make last, savoring every solitary instant. Some of the moments that bring a smile to my face are singing in the quiet of night to a baby sound asleep in my arms after a long day, sharing a walk or coffee or conversation with a friend, driving in the car the long way home with the windows down signing a song at the top of my lungs. I’ve savored the last kiss or hug from my husband before saying goodbye, and I’ve so enjoyed the moments with my children, getting to really hear, enjoy, appreciate the individuals they are. I’ve so loved singing, and reading a good book or scripture and having that “A-ha” moment when I totally get something I didn’t get. I love singing with my dear friends, taking long walks with a loved one and my camera, sitting on the deck in the sunshine after a long day. Yes, these are moments that I want to linger…
There are countless moments that we want to linger on… and on and on. But one of the moments that I so did not want to let go was just a few weeks ago. Oh, how I wanted those moments to linger…
She was a vibrant, beautiful, precious friend, and in recent months, it became apparent that the cancer she had been fighting was winning the battle. Although she was in so much pain, she was kind and caring, and so focused on those around her. She was present, all-there, savoring the moment, no matter how hard. And those around her, well, we wanted to linger and stay on, and take in those moments so precious. Even her little dog Chelsea was always at her side, as seen in the above photo.
Her name is Janet. I’ve written about her before. We sang together in a trio for years. She was the well dressed beautiful one who could pick out harmonies in a heartbeat and had a beautiful voice. She was a perfectionist with our songs, and well, I challenged her with that one. Don’t get me wrong. I love to sing. Singing is one of the great joys in my life. But I’m so not a natural with the harmonizing bit. There are some songs that I can hear the harmonies right away. But there are some that I so cannot. Poor Janet’s ears have been stretched a time or too as I tried to find some of the harmonies. And she was so patient with me. I got the chance to thank her for that a few weeks ago. I said, “Janet, I know it wasn’t easy, but thank you for being so patient with me during our practices through the years.” She smiled and honestly said, “It wasn’t easy…” We laughed. I know it wasn’t easy. But she did it. And now, that’s a permanent part of her legacy. Janet loved well.
Cheryl, Janet, and I sang together for over 15 years. It was more than singing. We worshipped the God we adored and sought to minister to women through word and song. We laughed, prayed, sang, shared, and pondered so many things together. These two women were like sisters to me. Our time together has been one of the great treasures in my life.
So, when the time came to say goodbye, truly say goodbye, to Janet, well, we wanted to linger and linger. Cheryl and I went to spend time with her on a Sunday morning. Her family was there, and she was resting quietly, but very present, very aware that we were there. We sang some of her favorite songs. I shared a song with her that I had written for her the night before. (Later sang it at her funeral. It’s called, “Be There “) And although Cheryl and I came not wanting to overstay our welcome at a very difficult time for the family, we stayed for hours, and did not want to leave. I really wasn’t ready to leave. It was that knowing that these would most likely be the last moments we’d share on this side of Heaven. So we lingered for awhile, prayed, shared, wept, and kissed our dear friend good bye, and left.
Within five days, we were sharing, singing, crying, at her funeral. She had lingered for a day more, and had passed away on Tuesday.
What makes us want to linger with those we love? Acceptance. Laughter. A knowing, an understanding that you are known and enjoyed. A hope that is held on to. An “I’m in it with you” attitude. A faith, belief that is shared. A cup of coffee, a comfortable couch, a good song all make you want to linger….but the essence…the heart of it all is the presence of those we love. And that goes for the Presence of our Great God as well. What a gift it is to be able to linger in His Presence…He knows all that we have seen through the day, through our lives. His Presence fills, encourages, sustains, directs, knows, strengthens, enlightens.
And you know, when things change, when we have to say the goodbyes to friends, dreams, circumstances, children, family members we love, well I’m so thankful that we can always linger, always linger on in the Presence of the Lord. He’s not going anywhere…and no matter the circumstance, it is ours to choose to linger in the Presence of the One who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
Janet lingered awhile…she fought valiantly and bravely against cancer. But her fight is over. And I’m thankful in one sense that her painful battle is over. I’m so thankful for the legacy she left, and that she finished well. Sometimes love means lingering. Sometimes love means letting go. When Janet was told that chemo was no longer an option, the fight she had been fighting for so long was over. She had done what she could, and now, she was letting go. Lingering on this side of Heaven for just two short weeks after being told no more chemo, and then passing on. She lived well. She died well. We all learned from her about holding on and fighting, and then, when the time had come, letting go.
Now, those of us left behind are struggling with the letting go. It sure isn’t easy, for there’s a great void left in Janet’s absence. But how amazing it is that lingering in the Presence of One we love makes all the difference. God is so present, and covers the ache with a peace that is deep and wide and all encompassing. Amazing how grief and joy can walk hand in hand… What a gift that the ache of grief can propel us into the Presence and make us realize our need to linger awhile with the only One who can truly meet the deepest needs. And what a gift that absence can make us truly long for connection. Absence, a void of one lost makes us see how incredibly valuable our relationships are. Absence can make us want to linger awhile more with those we love. Linger on friends! Savor the moments, for moments so matter. In the end, how we spend them makes all the difference in the world, one moment at a time.
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11
Everyday I go the back way home. The route consists of winding roads and views of distant mountains, of creeks meandering through fields and cows quietly grazing. From the time I pass through the last traffic light to the time I get home, the views help me decompress a bit. There’s usually a ‘grande finale’ of sorts as I turn onto my road. There is a field on the corner that changes daily depending on the weather, the crop being harvested, or the time of day or night. I love the way the wide open spaces make the view all the more beautiful, like an evolving masterpiece right before my eyes.
More and more in my life I am seeing the need to step back and take in the views around me.
I work with students who have a wide variety of intense needs. Some have deficits in their ability to learn and perform academically. Others have some serious emotional needs which translate into some difficult days of trying to help them cope and adapt to life in the school setting. As the schools are dealing with budget cuts and greater demands, seems as though there’s a daily urgency about one thing or another. I love my job, but some days, that urgency to feel like there’s always so much more to be done than can be done can get to be a bit overwhelming.
That’s part of the reason why I am so aware of my need to just step back and breathe in. With my students, I’ve learned that reacting precipitates big storms…and time and space can do wonders for grabbing a bit of perspective in the midst of a crazy moment. Stepping back, listening, thinking, and just not feeling the pressure to momentarily respond with all of the right answers can make all the difference in arriving at a good place for all parties involved.
When I was a young mom, I so felt the need to have all the right answers. I also believed that things had to be handled RIGHT THEN. I know with little ones, they need to associate the behavior with the consequence, so it’s important to respond swiftly. But as children get older, think time can be a good thing and wonderful teaching tool. So often I would put pressure on myself to come up with a plan or a consequence quickly, rather than taking time to let the conscience work a bit in my own children, and then respond once I had thought things through. I sometimes drew lines in the sand that I wish I hadn’t drawn, and a little bit of ‘think time’ could have made all the difference in the world.
In the work place, in marriage, in family situations, I’m learning to step back. I’m learning to look and listen more intently. I need wisdom and to pray things through before immediately responding to some of the things that are right there. And in this instantaneous, fast, get it right now society, my students and my own children can benefit from having some time to reflect on things. We need to teach our children to think, to reflect rather than merely reacting and responding without processing things first. Equipping them to be reflective responders rather than knee-jerk reactors will be a tool that will be a gift to them and those around them in a world that is so in need of those who are not reactionary.
So here’s the thing. I’m learning. But more than anything, I’m learning to not put pressure on myself to respond with all of the right answers at any given moment. I was so 20 for so long! But I’m so aware that I do not have all of the right answers now. And that is so okay. Being a mom to my very different kids has taught me that, not to mention being the wife to my oh-so-opposite-of-me husband! (Yep, I could write books on that one!) I so don’t have all the answers and I never will. But, thankfully, I know Who does. Amen to that. I just need to take a step back and ask Him to help me in the minutes and moments that I’m in.
So, stepping back is a good thing. Just as seeing the wide open spaces of the field allow me to enjoy the beauty, stepping back to get perspective can help me to enter into the moment in a whole different way. Things are not always as urgent as they seem and we need to remind ourselves of that. It’s so ironic. Taking a step back can help me to be totally present and be “all-in” in a whole different way! I love that. Amazing how when you don’t feel the pressure to know it all, you can look others in the eyes and take it all in in a whole different way. So ironically, stepping back often allows me to be going all in in a whole different way. Here’s to being “all-in” by stepping back. Enjoy the views because moments matter…
I love that God’s ways are simple. Here are a few verses on wisdom.
“Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere/” (James 3:17)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
When it all comes down to it, we are all
just passing through…
Enjoy the journey..