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How Not To Waste A Life

 

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JacobAndrew

I thumbed through my clothes twice, both times finding nothing suitable to wear. I began a third time and stopped at a khaki skirt. It’s nothing fancy, in fact, it’s quite old, but I rarely wear it. I save it for “special” days. I wondered why I always save my favorites for later. Sometimes later never comes. Some years that skirt never actually gets worn. Although I had no special plans, I wore the skirt. Sometimes living in the moment means wearing your best skirt for no good reason. Sometimes living in the moment means not saving anything for later.

I’ve decided saving is overrated.

The boys and I sipped breakfast smoothies chatting about summer. No two summers have ever held the same flow, this one is no exception. Yet, they all have one thing in common. Each summer feels it’s the best summer of my life. Jacob smirked as I reminded him of this. “Mom, you say that every year.”

The summer doesn’t feel it’s the best because my circumstances are better than any other year. In fact, this summer holds some very difficult challenges and incredibly hard moments. It’s more about my perspective of life rather than what life is serving.

“Well, it’s true. I’m not sure why.” But I do know what makes this one feel different in its own unique way. I stopped saving. Stopped saving moments for later.

I’m living my life fully spent. I’m not saving an ounce for the future because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Each day I’m falling into bed exhausted with nothing left to give, yet sleeping with complete peace knowing I’m exerting every ounce exactly where He has me right now.

It’s a different kind of exhaustion, the kind that comes not from overcommitting or trying to do everything placed before me. It’s the kind of exhaustion from living fully right here.

I’m trading in being a saver of life so I can savor life.

Why work hard at life to save it all for later? What if later is drastically different from today?

I tell my boys all the time, whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. Whatever is worth doing is worth pouring your entire being into, giving it your absolute all. Do everything as if unto the Lord. I think it applies to life in general as well.

Life worth doing is worth doing well. Doing life well might mean spending every ounce of life we have every single day, not saving any for another day. Doing life well might mean pouring out life and asking God to refill us for the next day. Telling God we are going to spend it all today because we know He is the giver of life and we trust in Him to replenish our strength fresh for tomorrow.

For me, I’ve discovered there are 5 keys to not wasting my life. For me, if I don’t spend my life, I wonder if it might look wasted one day? Maybe spending it fully every day is the key to making sure none goes to waste.

5 ways I’m learning to spend my life:

  1. Get out of bed and move with intention and a plan to live. My boys have perfected the art of sleeping late this summer. By the time they wake up, I’ve been up hours and am fully charged and ready to hit the day. Jacob and I have completely different wake up styles. My eyes open, I hop out of bed, and my feet hit the floor. He opens his eyes, lays for a good looooong while, and then finally gets up. The longer he takes to get out of bed, the slower he moves about his day, and with much less drive. Now, if he knows the day’s plan, he wakes up with a purpose. Feet hit the floor, he moves with a sense of direction, he starts getting stuff done. This always affects his attitude and his mood. I began to realize how this plays into my everyday life. When I’m not intentionally thinking about spending my life well, life simply happens. When I decide that I will encounter all parts of my day with a purpose, I engage fully and with purpose. There is deeper satisfaction at the end of the day. I don’t have to have all the details of my day lined up, I just need to set my heart and attitude right so that I engage moment by moment with the mindset that all life is purposeful.
  2. Keep my eyes open all day long, keep God at the forefront of my thoughts. My eyes can be opened, yet I can fail to see anything set before me. I see a drastic difference in my daily life on the days I decide when my feet hit the floor to keep my eyes open and alert to God at work all day. Every teeny, tiny detail. When we open our eyes and begin to hunt for Him, life overwhelms us in the sweetest of ways. Jacob and I took a long bike ride together last week. It was scorching hot, but we were doing our best to chat it up and distract ourselves from the heat. Before we realized it, we were riding our bikes through a sprinkler that offered a quick, surprising soak. Jacob commented how that was perfect timing and just what he needed right then. I smiled knowing that there are no coincidences. God is so involved in the smallest of details, so delights in delighting and surprising us, so wants us to delight back in HIm. I realized then that when I’m looking with eyes searching for how God is moving and speaking to me in every moment, life feels rich with purpose, life feels personal and intimate, life is lived well when we are living in constant search for Him.
  3. Live on sensory overload. A life not wasted uses all senses all the time. Summer is for experiencing through all our senses. It’s for recalling memories of our own childhood through smells and sounds, for recreating those for our children. For storing away memories that our senses will pull back out for us again and again. Living life all senses awake is entering into a moment and deciding it will take up a permanent residence in our soul. It will leave its mark.
  4. Giving all we have to give. I’m notorious for saying yes, but later to life. Someone will ask me to do something, and I will put it on my later radar. Sometimes it happens, but sometimes life gets in the way and it won’t happen. This summer I’m doing less procrastinating of life and experiences and more saying yes, right now, why not, I’ll give it all I have until there’s nothing left because I know the One who will replenish me.
  5. Live in real life, real time. This summer I’ve put away distractions. I am much more disconnected online and much more connected in real time. I’ve intentionally decided to pay more attention to the lives right in front of me rather than the highlights of other’s lives around me. This means little social media for me. Less news, less articles, less anything on my computer. Less writing (which I miss, but a season will arrive when I can pick it back up again). When I’m on my phone or on my computer, time seems to be vacuumed right up from my life. When I put away all online distractions, it’s amazing how my senses come alive, how my mind clears up, how my vision is crisp. I’m motivated to do life well, right here, right now.

And the biggest thing I’ve realized is that not wasting life daily looks different for everyone. Not wasting life, fully spending life, will not look the same for you as for anyone else. For me to spend everything I have on my life today might look very simple compared to how someone else will spend their life today. Doesn’t make either one right or better. It’s an awakening to where God has you this very day, and living it with all you have, spending every ounce of energy on each moment He brings your way as you trust He will restore your strength and soul each and every day.

So today I start anew as I have each day this summer. I will say yes more than no. I will trade saving life for savoring life. I will spend my life fully today and ask Him to restore me tomorrow.

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A Letter to My Sons – (the real reason I say no to electronics)

Boys back

Dear Boys,

Do you remember the day we went to the drugstore and the lady said, “Wow, you are the first kids I’ve seen all day with nothing in your hands.”  Remember how she marveled at how you didn’t need an electronic device to carry through the store?   I know how her words made you feel.  I know how it reminded you that you are different because your mom limits your electronic usage.  I know it was yet another reminder.

The same reminder you receive when we are out to eat and you notice all the kids playing their phones and iPads instead of talking to their parents.  I know it was a reminder of all the sporting events where you feel you are the only kids whose parents are making them cheer on their siblings rather than burying themselves in a phone.  I know it was another reminder to you that you feel different in this electronic age we live in.

Well, boys, it’s not you.  It’s me.  Me being selfish maybe.  You see I can’t bear to miss a moment with you.  Let me explain.

I want to talk to you when we are out to eat.  I want to listen to your questions.  I want to have training opportunities.  I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper.  And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments.

I could give you all the statistics about how damaging it is to your development, your attention span, your ability to learn.  While all of those are valid reasons to keep electronics away, that is not my primary reason why I say no to you so much.  It’s more than that.  Much more.  I need you to understand this.

When we are together, I want all of you.  The fullness of you.  I want to experience you. Truly experience you.  And I can’t do that with you when there is an electronic device between us. You see it acts as a barrier.  I want to see what brings life to those eyes.  I want to watch the wonder and magic dance across your face as you discover the wonders of this world.  I want to watch you as you figure things out.  I want to watch you process life, develop your thoughts. I want to know you.  I want to know your passions.  I want to watch you as you discover your God-given talents and gifts.  And when you hide behind a screen, I miss out on all of that. And my time with you….well it will be over in the blink of an eye.

I want to guide you into an understanding of life and who you are.  Boys, kids today are starved for attention, true connection and relationship.  I don’t want you to feel starved. That is why I say no.  I know that feeding the desire to play in your device is like giving you candy.  It satisfies for a moment but provides no long term nutrition.  It does more harm than good.

I don’t want to look back when I’m out of the trenches of child training and regret a second I had with you.  I don’t want to merely survive.  I want to thrive in this life with you.  We are in it together.  We are a family.

Yes, when we are waiting at a doctor’s office for an hour, it would be easier to quiet you with my phone.  But if I did that, I fear I would send you a message that says I’d rather hush you than hear those precious words falling from your lips.

I can’t bear the thought of allowing you to miss out on the wonders and mysteries of this world. When you are transfixed on a screen, the beauty of this world will be lost to you.  In every moment beauty is waiting to be discovered.  I don’t want you to miss it.

I want you to be comfortable with yourself.  I want you not to feel a constant need to be entertained and distracted.  If you stay behind a screen, you never have to experience just being you, alone with your thoughts.  I want you to learn to think, to ponder life, to make discoveries, to create.  You have been gifted by God in unique ways.  I want those to bloom.  They can’t bloom in the glow of a screen.  They need life, real life, to bring them to light.

I want you to be confident in who you are.  I want you to be able to look people in the eyes and speak life into them.  If I allow you to live behind a screen, you get little practice relating eye to eye.  To truly know someone you have to look into their eyes.  It’s a window into their heart.  You see what can’t be seen in cyberspace.

When I tell you no to devices, I’m giving you a gift.  And I’m giving me a gift.  It’s a gift of relationship.  True human connection.  It’s precious and a treasure.  And you mean so much to me that I don’t want to miss a second of it.

I love how God created your mind.  I love to hear the way you think and process life.  I love to see what makes you laugh.  I love to watch those eyes widen when a new discovery is made. And when your head is behind a screen, I miss all of that.  And so do you.

In this life we have few cheerleaders.  In this family we will cheer each other on.  I know it is boring to sit at swim lessons and watch your brother learn to swim.  I know it is boring to sit through a 2 hour baseball practice.  And in all honesty, it would be easy for me to give you the iPad and keep you quiet and occupied.  But we all lose out when we do that.  You will miss out on watching your brother’s new accomplishments.  You will deprive him of the joy of his moment to shine for you.  You will miss out on what it means to encourage each other.

I want you to grow up knowing the world doesn’t revolve around you.  (One day your wife will thank me)  I want you to learn to give selflessly of yourself….to give away your time, your talents, your treasures.  If I distract you with electronics when you should be cheering for your brother, well, I’m simply telling you that your happiness is more important than giving your time to someone other than yourself.

This world needs more selflessness.  This world needs more connection.  This world needs more love.  We can’t learn these behind a screen.

I want to raise sons that know how to look deeply into the eyes of the ones they love.  I want my future daughters in law to know what it’s like to have a husband that looks deeply into her eyes because he knows the value of human relationships and the treasure of love.  And that is best communicated eye to eye.

I want to watch your face illuminated by the majesty of life – not the glow of a screen.  I want all of you.  Because I only have you for a short while.  When you pack up and leave for college, I want to look back with no regrets over the time I spent with you.  I want to look back and remember how your eyes sparkled when we talked.  I want to look back and remember how I actually knew those little quirky details of your life because we had time enough to be bored together.

It’s ok to be bored.  We can be bored together. And we can discover new things together.

I love you.  I love you too much to quiet you with an iPhone or an iPad or a DS.  And I can’t even apologize, because I’m really not sorry.  I’m doing this so that I won’t be sorry one day.

With all my love,

Mom

One small step

 

When it comes to our family histories or our current family situations, we all start from a different place.  No matter your past, you have the ability to change the future for your own family if you so desire.  Maybe you don’t need to do anything different from what you grew up with, but you feel that you are failing on doing as well of a job as your own family did with you as a child.   You want to create the same relationships with your children that your parents created with you.  Or you want to create better relationships with your kids than what you grew up with.

Life today is different from even just one generation ago.  More distractions, a busier lifestyle, and a faster pace of life make it more difficult to carve out time and space to really connect with our loved ones.

I love Nike’s “Just Do It” motto.  If you want to do it, it’s simple, just do it.  Well, we may not always feel capable of just doing it.  Life can be more complicated than we would prefer at times.  Though you may not feel that you can “just do it” in making a change in your family, you can just do something.

  • Set a goal–  What is your goal?  The most succesful people in making positive changes in their lives are goal setters.  Not only will they set a goal, they will write it down.  Studies show that when we write down our goal, we are exponentially more likely to accomplish that goal than if we don’t write it down.  It is important to be realistic  with your goal.  Set a goal worth setting, but don’t make it impossible to reach.  With each goal reached, you can always set a new goal.
  • Be intentional–  You know you want to create moments in time that your family will treasure.  So you must be intentional with your time or your time will vanish into thin air before you realize it.  Make a plan for what you want to do with the time you will carve out.  Figure out how you can carve out the time you want.  Does your family regularly eat on the road between activities and you desire to have regular family meals?  Look at your calendars and schedules, determine what can be eliminated or shifted around, make your goal the priority, and make it happen.
  • Act on it–  You’ve set your goal, you’ve intentionally carved out the time and made your plan to achieve your goal.  Now act on it.  Put it into action.
  • Take one small step everyday- You can’t reach your goal overnight, and you shouldn’t try.  When we are impatient in the process of reaching our destination, we often will become frustrated and throw our hands up thinking it is impossible to make the change.  But if you take one small step every day, you will be amazed when you reach your goal and look back on  all that was accomplished.

My oldest son just completed 2nd grade.  One of his nightly assignments was to read 10 pages.  He is a lover of books, so I thought this would be a breeze.  Until our schedules kicked into full gear and he was exhausted from a full day of school, chores, activities, etc.   However, he remained diligent to read nightly.  At the end of the year the teacher handed out scrolls to each of the children to show them how many pages they read over the entire school year.  Each child was blown away by the results.  They couldn’t believe that reading a simple 10 pages a day, could amount to thousands of pages collectively.  One student read 5,800 pages!  My son read 1,302 pages and was so proud of himself.  What  a great lesson for them to learn so early that when we set our minds to something and act on it daily, great things can be accomplished.

One small step a day.  Given time you will reach the top of that stairway, grab ahold of your goal, and realize it was worth every small step taken to get there.

Resources for goal setting:

http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/step-5-write-your-goal-down

http://family-life.familieswithpurpose.com/setting-family-goals/

http://blog.mysanantonio.com/stepfaniebishop/2012/05/creating-summer-goals-for-your-family/

Resources for being intentional with your family:

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.aspx?ID=%7BD016C451-E6DE-443A-A32D-BC038A2AA02D%7D

http://www.hiphomeschoolmoms.com/2012/04/being-intentional/