I’ve had many life-altering events. I’m sure you have, too.
They arrive in various packages. Some are wrapped in shiny ribbon. Others, in sorrow, pain, dysfunction.
Some, we expect; we’re forewarned of, or anticipating even. Others blindside us and we’re down before we realize what happened. Sometimes, the alter-of-life is the loss of a dream, or the acceptance of a reality.
I have found that most often, when we experience these events in our lives, it’s a request to stop. To smell the roses, if you will. Live in the present. Breathe in the moment. Just be.
This has been a constant area of struggle in my life, for as long as I can remember. I clearly remember a moment in high school, where I told my school counselor that I desired a corporate career that was fast paced and competitive, because “I thrive on stress.” Laughable! Especially considering that a year later, I had a near nervous breakdown over Life.
I used to live in constant stress, panic, and uncertainty… and did for a very long time. It eventually became my comfort zone. I didn’t know how to not live there. How not to regret the past, worry about the future, wish for a different “now”…. be still.
I just erased an entire post full of various happenings in our lives, which have all helped remind us to live in the now.
It was humiliating, this post. Event after life-altering event. Big, heavy stuff. After each major event, we promised to savor the Now. And we would, for a varying period of time. We would become determined to take these gifts and be mindful of God’s blessings, to slow down and just live. Except that when things got really rough financially, or in ministry, or life in general got too crazy, we stepped back into our normal. Back into that comfort zone of uncertainty, where it was easier to worry and panic and screw it all up than it was to figure out how to change it, or how to move forward.
The jest of it is, we weren’t allowing ourselves to fully trust God.
What’s that, you ask? Oh yes, we have been in full time ministry for several years. And yes, He has proven Himself to us time after time, and then again and again.
We are human, you and I. Our culture says GO! DO! MORE! YES! It’s hard not to get completely wrapped up in all of the madness of this circus life. Actually, it’s so super easy. Sometimes, we happen upon the crazy train of life by default, and other times we hop right on that baby because it looks like so much fun. Or because we need to keep up with those Jones’. Or because we simply know no better.
It took our family surviving a devastating tornado, and me being diagnosed with a [possible] lifelong illness for us to finally get it.
These events are both recent, friends… like, within the last five years. And again, these events are two on a list of many. People who know us are prone to comment about the number of such events that occur in our lives. Humiliating. Why are there so many? I don’t know, but I try not to dwell on that (remember my post on guilt last week?).
Not long after the tornado, a pastor visited our Sunday worship service, being held in a temporary building, and he said he had “a word” for me. He didn’t understand it, and didn’t want to share it, but said he felt strongly that he was supposed to. Mind you, this man did not know me. We had met mere minutes earlier, after sharing our story (we’d lost many of our “things”, were living in a travel trailer, and our then 5 year old son was dealing with major repercussions from the storm. Still, we were beyond blessed).
He said, “You are a travailer and a teacher.”
[insert blank stare]
T-riffic. THIS is my life? Are you telling me that God actually CHOSE for me to go through all the crap we’ve been through?! And there will be more?! What the heck? This cannot be right! There’s got to be a mistake! TAKE IT BACK, YOU!
(Sorry if you’re offended here… I was a bit taken back… these were honest thoughts)
I stood there, tears streaming down my cheeks like Niagara. Whoa. He felt bad; he knew it was heavy… he fought even saying it out loud. I think I was in shock for awhile. But it turned me to God. Like never before. I didn’t understand, but I knew that God did. I knew my answers would be found in Him. And while I wasn’t certain I believed that He had put many of those events on my back, I knew that He was calling me to something far greater than I thought I already knew.
God was calling me to take all of the life-altering events, those wrapped in shiny ribbons and those wrapped in sorrow, confusion, hurt, pain, dysfunction, busyness, all of the moments of travail, and not only learn from them, but teach through them.
I knew that, although I’d wanted to sucker punch this man (who was about four times my size… I would have SO broken my hand), he had been used by God in that moment. Instead of punching him, I hugged him the next time I saw him. I thanked him.
God had been trying to show this to me for so long, and oh my goodness, why do we not listen?!?! Humans!
It was very apparent to me this time last year, that God was calling me to live. To really live. To savor. To see His beauty and grace all around us. To recognize a teachable moment. To rise up to the challenge that He had called me to in this life. I knew that my word for 2015 was Live. And I knew that He wanted me to teach others how to do the same. Friend, you are not alone.
To be completely honest with you, I’m still working on it. I’m so far from perfect, you guys. I most often feel like we live on the crazy train. But when I forget to slow down and fully live in the now, I’m surrendered enough to hear His gentle nudge that says, “Hey, just be still.” And I do.
It’s lovely. It’s refreshing to recognize where to draw that line. To know when to say No. To know when to retreat. When to shelter, and when to let go.
I don’t always get this right. But acknowledging when we don’t get it right is a great step forward for recovering Busy addicts such as myself. We then allow His grace to pick us up, and we trust Him to help us try a little harder the next time. To stop. Savor. Live.
Do I ever question the past, or worry about what possible shift in dynamic might happen tomorrow or the next day? Sometimes, yes. Of course. But I don’t dwell there. Why? Because His word says this:
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 (MSG)
I believe His word to be true. I trust Him. He has carried me through much, and He will carry me again. He’s a good Daddy! And it is for Him, that I choose to LIVE!
I carry this quote on my sleeve, where it serves as a reminder:
Wherever you are, be all there. -Jim Elliot
I choose to host wild dance parties in my kitchen with my kids while the pot boils over. I choose to stop and pick flowers. To watch my daughter’s nine millionth cartwheel, even though we’re running late. To listen to the same joke for the thousandth time from my son. To really listen to and engage in silliness with my teenage daughter. To gaze into my husband’s eyes. To laugh. Play. Love. Dream. Linger. Serve. To relish all of the sweet goodness that this beautiful life has to offer.
Choose this with me. Let’s live today!
I’m honored to be linking up on Suzie Eller’s #livefreeThursday today! Join us! It’s a bunch of brave women talking about life and how to fully #liveinthenow. You’re in good company here, whatever you are walking through right now.