What Is Truly Important?

 

apples

That apple looks so good. So juicy. Absolutely delicious, and I realize I am hungry.

The things. The busyness. The to do list. Being best. Being needed. Going to the next level. Obtaining the prize…and what does that look like anyway? I’m not sure. I just know I want it.

The fruit dangled in front of me now isn’t so different from that time long ago. “You should have it”, the Deceiver says. “After all, you deserve it”. Blinded by what I believe I need in order to be successful in this life. To be happy. To be fulfilled. I bite hard, looking for the perfection that doesn’t exist.

“But the thing about apples is that we’re always biting off more than we can chew. It is hard to see which bites might nourish and which might cause us to choke”. -Erin Loechner in Chasing Slow p.130

This book is causing me to reevaluate. To realign. To get to what truly matters. Let me tell you, Erin’s words pierce me, much like a skilled archer, whose arrow splits the apple in half and then goes… straight to my heart.

Chasing slow is not just about efficiency, or about finding more time in the urgency of the day to day, but also to slow down and instead consider what is important for eternity.

The dictionary defines important as “of great significance or value; likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being”. This morning I find myself pondering….What is truly important? How can I live my life well?

 

 

Life Is More Enjoyable

Why is it when I long to slow down, the rest of the world seems to speed up? Do I really want to jump on this merry-go-round that spins me until I feel sick? Faster and faster until I have to get off….

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As a young adult, I used to think I had to be where the action was. The real party didn’t even start until late….and I had to stay up to enjoy it. Life was meant to stay busy. Do things. Stay up. Stay out. Stay moving. Life, with all of its ups and downs, has certainly changed that perspective.

There is so much more to see and experience when I slow down to savor the moments. Slowing is not boring, nor is it always easy, but it sure does make life more enjoyable.

  • Shadows of sunlight in the early evening
  • Summer sunsets
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Bubbles
  • Laughter with my husband
  • Freshly wiped down counters
  • The smell of lavender
  • Cats purring
  • Giving the dog belly rubs
  • A new phone case
  • Checking things off my to do list
  • Sipping tea
  • Emailing family
  • Bare feet
  • Purple nail polish
  • Darkness at 9 pm (which means Fall is on the way!)
  • Grown children that hug and say I love you
  • Help with dinner
  • Folded blankets
  • The warm glow of salt lamps
  • The smell of freshly cut grass

I’ll Just Take It Slow

“…..I later learned that thinking about living is not the same as living” 

Erin Loechner’s words hit me like a ton of bricks.

sun

How many times have I said (or at least thought to myself) life would be better if. If I finished my graduate degree. If I did some serious deep cleaning. If I got rid of stuff. If I lost weight. If I’d faithfully exercise. If I got a new haircut. Ate whole food. Read more classics. Kept in touch more. If I was a better parent. Friend. Daughter. Wife.

Always those ifs. Draining me. Causing anxiety and stress. Doubting. It is the ifs that will surely kill me.

But, I want to live. I want to live my life slowly and intentionally with purpose.

I want to live in the messy and broken and still see the beauty. I want to be more aware of the gift of time so that I don’t take precious moments for granted….and aren’t they all precious? I want to learn more and read more and highlight the good stuff. I want to be less in a space where I can breathe. I want to live in a house full of love even if my closet looks like a bomb dropped in it and the counters aren’t always clean. I want to live and be healthy because I know I’d feel better and be stronger, not because the numbers on a scale or the ingredients on a package tell me who I am….or Whose I am. I want to live and have fun whether my hair is short or long, lavender, blond, or a golden brown….because the great thing about hair, it always grows back. I want to reach out to family and friends while I still can. Share laughter. And tears. And inside jokes and out of the box thinking, and I love you’s.

A life well lived doesn’t require perfection.

So, I’ll just take it slow.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

 

Saying Goodbye…

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This Saturday in early August started out rather cool and breezy. A robin’s egg blue sky, with white fluffy clouds. The sun was shining and the humidity was low. My husband and I were taking out grandson back to the airport. He had been visiting with us these past two weeks from Texas. At fourteen, he is a big boy, but he has an even bigger heart. He told us he had fun and he would miss us. He confided, “Grandma, don’t tell me goodbye, just say ‘bye…..because goodbye makes me think it is forever”. Sweet, sweet boy.

He is right, sometimes goodbye can be for forever. Well, goodbye isn’t always for forever (and in his case, it is not!)….but, sometimes it is. Sometimes… it… is…

Goodbye. It is a hard word to say. It often gets stuck in the throat. Letting go is never easy. Oh, sure. There are times when saying goodbye is the only real answer, but even when I know goodbye is good, it still is hard.

*Saying goodbye to habits that took years to form. Habits I was comfortable with holding on to, even after they no longer served a purpose.

*Saying goodbye to stuff. Too much stuff. Clothes I will never wear again. Books and magazines I will never read again. Things that will get dusty and musty because even though I know they are no longer necessary, it is painful to let them go.

*Saying goodbye to relationships or friendships, that have changed through the seasons of life, time slowly unraveling them.

*Saying goodbye to dreams, that won’t ever become a reality because they just don’t fit anymore.

*And the hardest and definitely most painful goodbyes, are to those we love. When their chapter has ended, but for the rest of us still here, the story continues on without them.

Continuing to work on making changes as I continue to chase the slow…….

Making Room To Breathe

Chasing Slow already has my attention. The author (Erin Loechner) had me at the very first sentence of chapter one. “I married a man with an expiration date”. Her husband has a brain tumor, my (late) husband had an incurable heart condition. She married him knowing he had an inoperable tumor. I married mine, having no idea.

Life has a funny way of working things out. Or not. Funny might not be the word, maybe I should describe it as “interesting” instead. Challenging? Difficult? Exciting? Mundane and marvelous at the same time? As a young person, I remember thinking (and sometimes saying out loud), “I wish I knew what decision to make. I wish I knew how things would end up”. I was naive.

Knowing the ending would cripple me…. It would stop me in my tracks. I might give up if I could see the obstacles ahead of me. Often times it is those obstacles, those mountains, in life that have trained me in perseverance and steadfastness. To keep my eyes on He who knows no boundaries. No, I readily admit I don’t always know what I am doing. There are more days than I care to admit that I just find myself “winging it”. But, I do know this… I serve a God that is not chained to calendars or clocks. He is the Master of the big picture. The Creator of the perfect plan. The One who is the midst of the day to day and all its struggles, as well as the glimpses of the divine.

I look forward to reading this book, and to practicing chasing the slow. Chasing the slow isn’t about the frenzy, it is about the slowing down. It isn’t wondering why this happened, or how I got here, but searching for what and Who is real. Appreciating. Celebrating. Elevating, the moments I am given. Cleaning up and clearing out, and making room to breathe. It is making a conscious effort to slow down and savor this one life. Choosing to walk away from the harried to make room for the Holy.

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Slowing Down and Being Intentional

I am so excited.

Over a book.

Yes, a book. I read the first bit of it online.

I’ve been wanting to get this book since it came out earlier this year. It will arrive by Wednesday.

It is the book, Chasing Slow, by Erin Loechner. She talks about appreciation. Gratitude. Being intentional.

Yes. I have been attempting to work on those very things for the past several years, but who doesn’t need the reminder? To know there are others that struggle with these things too?

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As I sit here typing, my eyes glance around the kitchen. Notes and magnets askew on the refrigerator, the Keurig needs the water tank refilled, pet nose prints on the windows, and finger prints all over the stove and dishwasher. The counter needs to be wiped down, again, and my feet feel the grit on the floor. Why are my eyes always drawn to the negative? Instead, I want them to focus on my granddaughter playing in her high chair, smiling like only an 11-month-old can, a glass of cold green tea, and the feel of cool air conditioning (after having just recently been fixed).  I am choosing to make a change.

My soul craves the slower life, the more intentional life. I have been blessed with so much, and yes, I am thankful in a big way. But, am I thankful in the-everyday-way? Do I own my things, or do they own me? Do, I schedule my life, or does my calendar rule me? My life often feels hurried and I’m left harried. That is just not what I want.

I don’t want a wild race to next week, or next month, or even next year. I long to slow down and be intentional. I want to savor the days and make them what I want, not what I must. Slowing down is about more than just getting rid of “stuff”, it is also about changing my mindset. I am sure I will try and fail, then have to dust my self off and get back at it. What am I motivated by? How can I make this one life something I enjoy and not just one I strive to get through?

Over the next several months I will be working hard on simplifying, slowing down, and letting go. I plan on posting periodically about this journey.  You will read about the triumphs as well as the messy stuff. I suspect this journey to slow will not be an easy one for me……

My Top 15 Things On Life

I was listening to a speaker on TED talks yesterday. The woman speaking was in her 60’s and was also a writer (Anne Lamott “12 truths I learned from life and writing”). She said she was surprised that she had been contacted to speak at TED. She wasn’t sure what she was going to say…. Listening to her made me think about what I’ve learned over the years.

My Top 15 Things On Life

  1.  Life really is short. I still can’t believe that on my next birthday I will be 50. My son will be starting his senior year of college this Fall. My niece, who will be a high school senior this year, has already started visiting colleges. The late 80’s and early 90’s doesn’t seem that long ago to me……and yet, three decades have come and gone since I started college. Some days it is difficult to wrap my mind around that fact.
  2. Do something every day that brings you joy.  On some days that joy will come from hugging your child, or telling your spouse, “I love you”. Maybe it will be eating a scoop of your favorite ice cream on a hot summer evening or reading a good book. Other days it will be the sweet but simple things. Yesterday evening my husband and I took a short jaunt to Meijer’s after dinner. I got a new shower curtain and new rings for the curtain. That seems crazy, right? To be excited about a new shower curtain. It will be white, and crisp and clean (for all of 5 minutes) but, I’ve been wanting to get that and now I did and it is something to check off my list. Checking things off my to do list brings me simple joy. Not every joy has to be monumental.
  3. My words should bring life to others. The older I get, the more mindful I am that what I say does matter. Not everything that I think needs to be said. I don’t want to be that person that hurts with words. Words have power, and the one who understands that point is wise with what he/she says. Besides, people hear negativity far too often anyway, and some even begin to believe it. I have the opportunity to be life giving, not life draining. Be someone’s encourager.
  4. I don’t have to agree with everyone, and neither do you. It is okay to disagree. It is not okay to act like a fool when you disagree. Stand up for what you believe in, but be willing to give that same courtesy to others.
  5. I can’t please everyone. That might seem obvious to most, but it was an epiphany for me. I do not enjoy conflict and confrontation (does anyone?). I have always tended to be more of a “pleaser”, which isn’t really a great thing. It is okay to say “no” to things. The world isn’t going to end.
  6. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and everything else I do in this life should reflect that. Being a Christian is not something I detach from because knowing Jesus is a relationship, not just a religion. Christ is as real to me on mundane Monday mornings, and Thursday night’s at the grocery store as He is on Sunday mornings. I believe the God of the universe knows me and loves me. Although on some days I might feel small, I never go unseen by Him. (For more on this, see The Greatest Gift of All at the top of my blog’s home page.)
  7. It is important to listen. This is a crucial skill, that I wish more people were adept at doing. Instead of always wondering about how I am going to reply to someone, I need to listen first, and truly think about what is being said. So much can be learned if ears are turned on and the mouth is kept shut. I also need to remind myself that listening with the heart and mind is just as important as listening with one’s ears.
  8. I can do anything for a short amount of time. Life can be, and often is, difficult. There have been many things I have gone through in my almost 50 years, things that I have no desire to ever go through again, but I made it through. Sometimes it is me telling myself, “I can do this thing for 5 more minutes” or “I will get through this by the end of the semester”, or “This is hard, but I need to finish”. Sometimes it is mind over matter. I was widowed at 32, with a 5-year-old son. Those first days of widowhood, I just needed to get through the day. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else besides the fact that I was still breathing, and I had a little boy to take care of. Sometimes the things we go through are so hard. Keep going. It will get better.
  9. It is okay to cut your losses. There are times and situations in life that one just needs to say, “I gave it a chance and it isn’t working”. I often ask myself, “Is this worth it?”. Is this going to make a difference next week? Next year? Five years from now? If it isn’t really important. Let it go. There is a feeling of liberation that comes from letting stuff go. It can be freeing.
  10. Death is not dying. As a Christian, I believe the actual literal act of “dying” is very brief (although the leading up to this, can be long and drawn out or short and unexpected). One of my most beloved authors of all time, is C.S. Lewis. He wrote some excellent papers/books on grieving and death, but one of my favorite quotes of his is, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” We have a body. Bodies don’t last forever. We were made for more than this world. Ponder that.
  11. There is almost nothing better than the laughter of a child. Our 14-year-old grandson is visiting this week from Texas. Watching him play with his 11-month-old cousin, and watching the joy on their faces is so much fun. And how can anyone listen to the laughter of a baby and not smile themselves? In my opinion, there is nothing better. If I am having a rough day all I have to do is pick up my baby granddaughter. She effortlessly makes moments happy.
  12. Time is valuable. It is a precious commodity, that most of us treat in far too cavalier a manner. Once time is wasted, there is no going back.  Another favorite author of mine, Ann Voskamp, reminds us that “life isn’t an emergency”. We don’t need to waste our time running around in circles doing mindless things. Instead, take the necessary time to savor the moments. Make a conscious effort to enjoy them. If you do, you will look back over your life and smile.
  13. Be kind to others. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” or Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It has been my experience that those who come across as the most unlovable and most aggravating, are the ones that need to be shown kindness the most. It doesn’t cost one anything to show kindness. So be kind to others. It matters.
  14. I am an advocate for those who need a voice. The young. The disabled. The elderly. If I don’t speak up, then who? It is not okay for me to say someone else will do it. That might be the very reason I am here at this time. To be the voice for those who need to be heard. I am in their corner.
  15. Love your family. Share memories. Laugh a lot. Hug. Enjoy holidays together. Goof around. Get mad. Show forgiveness. Make up. Be there for each other.

***What are some of the things you’ve learned? Share your wisdom. ***

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