I’m on the downhill slope in life.  I could almost hear massive calendar pages turning today, the 1st of January.  Initially, I cringed with a flicker of panic. I might not live long enough to write everything I want to write! There’s so much more I want to do!DSC_0035-1

Then I caught my self and remembered my resolution:        No more striving to do it right. No more yardstick in my mind when I get in bed at night, measuring my day, my words, my actions, or lack thereof– always finding myself wanting. No more (pitiful) efforts toward House Beautiful (I’d already given up on the yard) or photo-ready outfits.

No more turning dreams into bullet-point goals that I use to beat myself up when I don‘t reach them, when “life gets in the way.”

No more waiting to live when I am well, or stronger, get it all right, or finally get all my piles sorted and my mom’s boxes emptied in the attic.

My resolution for 2019 is to live right now. Invest in this moment, because it really is all I have.

(Anyone figured any other way?)

I learned as a child to postpone my life and not feel emotions. I’ve been on a long journey to being wholly present.  I’m waking up to really living and want to make the moments count.

If this hasn’t been an issue for you, perhaps you are tempted to stop reading.

But I find many around me struggling for other reasons. We have so much motion, activity, so much noise in our world. So much interaction with screens in place of in-the-flesh people.

Our culture is simmering us, slowly, in a pot of our own making.

Well, this frog is jumping out.

Recently, at just the right time, my daughter handed me a copy of Present Over Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful way of Living, Zondervan, by Shauna Niequist.

I’m savoring every page.

Present over perfect living is real over image, connection over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn’t need to be zhuzzed up and fancy in order to be wonderful.

Sink deeply into the world as it stands. Breathe in the smell of rain and scuff of leaves as they scrape across driveways on windy nights. This is where life is, not in some imaginary, photo-shopped dreamland. Here. Now. You, just as you are. Me, just as I am. This world, just as it is. This is the good stuff. This is the best stuff there is. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-eyed, open-souled present.” p130

No more lists of changes for 2019.

I’m singing along with Marcia Ramirez: There’s a Reason

I’m letting go of trying to be in control. There’s a reason He is God and I am not. And I’m so glad!

 

with grandsElysse loves lifeJT1_0281Jeremiah badmittonJT1_0370So I’ll simply love on my family, enjoy my dog, relish friendships, bask in worship and beautiful music, and relax into soft Florida breezes.

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And I’ll have more tea parties, with fine china.

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How about you? Where does 2019 find you?

Not exactly ringing in the new year

I have always enjoyed turning the page at the beginning of a new month, and putting up new calendars at the first of the year. This year, not so much. After my mother’s requiem, my older brother declared, “Well, now you’re the matriarch of the family.” Yikes! Besides feeling like a heavy mantel, it emphasized the reality — I was no longer a daughter. I’m a senior member of the oldest generation in our family. Those thoughts focused the limited time I have left, wiping away my childish view that life would keep going, would get better if I just waited long enough. Then recently I had to deal with Social Security’s life expectancy tables, which hit between the eyes. Even in the best of circumstances, my days on earth are very limited. All that makes “redeem the times” echo in my thoughts, like a jingle you can’t get out of your head.

Old family clock w Eph 5 16_17

That’s just darn depressing.

At first, it was as if a shadow had passed over me.

Then I heard a snippet of a sermon on the radio. Tony Evans said, “We are either walking from life into death. Or we’re walking from death into life.”

Reality burned the fog off as I remembered I am follower of Jesus, so this world isn’t my home.

Given the shape it’s in right now, what a relief!

Like my mother and brother before me, when I leave this world I will really begin to live for the first time. This life is just a preamble, a preparation, barely a glimpse, at its very best, of all to come.

But another cloud hovered, an anxiety-filled urgency about all the things undone or unfinished: the books I’ve written and am editing and preparing for publication, the one not completed, and all the others waiting a turn in the wings of my mind, all sorts of projects I’d like to accomplish, and I want to enjoy way more time with my family. I love watching my children grow, seeing their personalities mature and flourish. I want to see my grandchildren, all nine of them, grow up, to dance at their weddings, and even hold a few great-grand-babies. Most important, I’d like to see them all secure in their eternal future. Walking from death into life.

And I’d love more dinners, lunches, reunions, games or hugs with other family members spread all over the world.

And more chats with friends, sharing in Bible studies, more songs to sing, not to mention beaches to walk and waves to ride . . .

I better stop here. You have the idea.

This goes way beyond seizing the day, and making the most of every moment. Like the lavender essential oil I diffuse into the air around me, I want to infuse every waking moment with eternal meaning.

Since my desk faces the opening into the kitchen, my first question after typing that was: eternal meaning when I burn the roast, or clean doggie footprints from the freshly mopped floor? Eternity in peeling squash or running the blender? Moving wet clothes from washer to dryer?

Yes. I think it calls for a combination of two mindsets.

Intentionalality — being completely present with whatever I am doing (which is rare for me, especially when doing mundane tasks)

Gratitude — giving thanks as I take this breath. For being able to move my fingers. Stand on legs that can support me and allow me to walk. Eyes to see the reddened almond leaves flutter in today’s cold sunlight, knowing they will be gone after almost-freezing temperatures tonight. (Yes, that’s severe winter weather here on the Florida Gulf coast.)

Some may have stopped reading by now, or you shake your head, wondering how I arrived this far in life without figuring that out. Some of you actually live that way. You inspire me.

Others, those who have grown up shape-shifting or mind-shifting to avoid dysfunction, pain, fear or chaos, understand what a challenge present-living can be.

I’ve hit on gratitude and more purposeful living before, but this is another layer deeper. This lap around Mt Sinai is closer to the top, higher, and the view is clearer, further.

I don’t feel like I’ve expressed what I’m experiencing well, but I am hoping to live it well.

So teach us to number our days, That we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Tell me, what comes into focus for you when you number your days?

All things new, from whatever we bring to the table

My youngest daughter, YD, is asking me to write the story of my life. Why would anyone want to read all that depressing stuff? She says it could give hope to women going through dark valleys right now, to see how I have prevailed, how God has made goodness from my brokenness. I wasn’t convinced, until this past week, when I began a memory t-shirt quilt with my oldest daughter for my grandson’s birthday. OD had collected t-shirts spanning most of his life. We sorted through the shirts, looking for striking colors, interesting designs and logos, and outstanding memories.

I was uneasy cutting up perfectly good t-shirts. (I’m from the waste-not-want-not family. Of course, I saved the left-overs for rags.)

scraps from t shirts

Through most of my early life, I felt like those left-overs.

Torn, missing pieces, needing the impossible to be whole.

 

When we had enough, we cut and prepped the blocks, then lay them out to plan the design.

OD arranging blocks cropped
OD arranging blocks

As I cut and stitched, I felt the Lord showing me how he has snipped and stitched in my life, pressing and pinning and joining, during times I couldn’t feel his presence. Sometimes, only the pain.

But he was always there.

Always working.

Always creating.

After I sewed the blocks together the back was a mess.  Only threads and rough edges of seams, only snatches of color showing through.

quilt back
Quilt back

quilt back close up

I’m not a perfect quilter, by any means. But when I turned the fabric over, all those pieces of my grandson’s life came together, making what I hope he will enjoy.

I’d taken snippets of his life and stitched them together to make something altogether different. Cast-off shirts had become a beautiful quilt for his new room.

Quilt for Alex
Finished quilt

I cannot ignore the lesson whispered along with the whir of the sewing machine.

God is the perfect Creator, and his finished product, when I arrive before him in heaven, will be beautiful and whole. But even now, I bear the marks of the Creator, snatches of beauty, areas where I can bring blessing and love to others.

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter I:3-5 MSG 

I guess YD is right. I need to share it. Even those of us with memories we’d rather keep buried have a Creator ready to work us into something beautiful to bless those around us, as long as we’ll allow him to work. As long as we are willing to take up new thought patterns, trusting him with our lives.

Have you found that to be true for you?

Or do you think it’s better to let some things stay buried?