Taking it all apart: Part I

Since Pinterest has become a household word, it seems sayings like the one above appear on my Facebook page 212 times a day. Many times, I skip them. But sometimes I take the time to read one. It meant enough to the person posting it to do so, which says to me it reflects something going on in that person’s life at the time. A lot of the ones I read make me smile, every once in a while one makes me sad, but more times than not, they are a blur whizzing down my news feed, just another “thought” someone else had that doesn’t seem to pertain to me.

My friend Rai posted this one the other day, and for some reason, it struck me, and Walla! It is becoming my newest post. We get advice all the time from people, books, teachers, friends, and yes, even colorful, artsy blocks of Pinterest “art.” But does anyone ever really tell us this? Not often.

So as I know that each line of this will create more thoughts in my head than I will have time to type today or anyone else will want to read, I’m gonna make it a series. Hope you don’t mind.

Live life fully while you are here. 

Seems simple, right? Not so much. What does it really mean? I think the definitions could go on until infinity. A church that I love has a motto: “Connecting people with God and others so they can experience life at its very best.” Profound. For believers, a full life can’t be one without Jesus. That relationship is what makes us grateful, makes us kind, makes us acknowledge our Creator, and helps us to live our lives with hope and with purpose. I think their motto should be universal in the church.

So with that said, I look at the life Jesus lived, and (taking major liberties here, so don’t ask me to quote scripture) I think He would say it was full. But why? He didn’t have money to speak of, or even a home that we know of in his adult life. He was a carpenter, and he hung out with fishermen and other ordinary lay people. He spent his time working with his hands and telling as many people as He could about his Father. He planted seeds of wisdom everywhere He went, and he did so by acknowledging people that society had forgotten. He loved on children and he healed people’s bodies and hearts. He walked, He talked, He visited, He touched, He admonished, He prayed. And he is widely known as The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived.

Today, in the world I live in, it feels like everyone is scrambling to have more. People my age graduated from college and expected to have the life their parents had, not taking into account that their parents had been working for 20 plus years to have that life. We wanted houses as big and cars as nice, and we wanted to take the same size vacations they took. We wanted furnishings that weren’t hand-me-downs or from consignment stores and we wanted clothes from all of the trendiest and most upscale stores. We wanted engagement rings from Juniker’s and all of our dates to be at Shapley’s. We wanted pretty, smart, healthy, funny babies, and we wanted to send them to the best schools and take them to Disney World as many times as they wanted to go.

We wanted things that, by most accounts, weren’t ours to have. Yet.

But we see where that got us. Most of us have not achieved those lofty desires and we feel like we aren’t living life fully. We haven’t arrived. We are disappointed, and we want people to think that we have more than we do. We are embarrassed to let people see how we really live, what our bottom line is, how high our stack of bills has become. We feel like we’ve missed something.

And we have. We have definitely missed something. We’ve missed the whole purpose of living, much less living a full life. What if, when we got out of college or started on our way, we designed our life to not try to have everything, but to be everything that would make life bursting at the seams it was so stinking full?

Getting a tad bit older, a full life to me looks like this:

  • Taking the time to notice the little things. The sunset. A butterfly. A tractor in the field. The smell after a summer rain. Your laughing baby. A great line in a book. Blooming azaleas. A card that makes you laugh. My aunt keeps interesting rocks and shells and flowers that she’s found along the way on her kitchen windowsill. They make her happy. They make her remember. They make her wonder. They make her thank The One who gave them to her. I want more rocks and flowers in my life.
  • Keeping the people close who matter (and keeping your distance from those who don’t.) This may step on some toes, but this is how I feel (and I’d love to hear your thoughts). For me, it took a while to realize that having 2,000 Facebook friends doesn’t mean I have 2,000 people who will answer the phone when I call, distraught, in the middle of the night. Meeting someone on the sidewalk on the square and exchanging pleasantries doesn’t mean that I would take that call from them, either. Let’s face it. We have lots of acquaintances in our lives, many of whom bring us joy. We are thankful for them. In moments, they can be just what we need. They can say something that genuinely strikes us, makes us think, moves us, even changes us, and they are the deliverers of messages and the givers of hugs and warmth and their purpose in your life is apparent and necessary.  And then there are those relationships that are, quite simply, toxic, and they keep us from being our best selves. Some people hurt us, hurt us worse than we ever thought could be possible, and they call themselves our friends. Some just suck the life out of us. Their name showing up on Called I.D. literally gives us hives. We know that a conversation with them is going to last for-evah and at the end of it, we are going to hang up, exhausted, frustrated, and conscious of the fact that not one thing we said made any difference…and no matter if we had said something entirely different, it wouldn’t have made a difference, either. There are those who ask us to do things for them, over and over and over, but we know if we were to go to them in need, we would not get something in return. We do those things and take those phone calls out of kindness and love and generosity, or in some cases, obligation or to feel free from guilt, but at some point, we have to know when to say no.  In my opinion, in order to live a full life, we have to be willing to be filled. And there are people who simply want to take, not give, and never will. We all have times when we are so full, we have the capacity to give more of ourselves than we usually could~but there are times when we are the ones who need filling. Surrounding ourselves with people who are willing to reciprocate are vital to our lives. They make up for what we lack when we  just don’t have it in us. But those folks who just want to suck everything we have from us and never give anything in return take away from our ability to revive ourselves when we need reviving. At some point, we have to realize that we can’t do everything for everyone, or be everything to to everyone, or the people who truly depend on us are left wanting. At some point, we have to reconcile the fact that not everyone we call our friends, are. At some point, we have to trust that voice inside of us that says, “They don’t want the best for you. They just want the best for them.” And at some point, in order to live a life that is full, we have to keep investing in the people around us who can fill us back up when we can’t do it ourselves, and stop investing in those who can’t, or who won’t.
  • Being genuinely thankful for what you have. A mentor of mine has always told me: “If everyone threw their problems in a pile, you would pick your own every time.” Someone always has it worse than you do, no matter how bad your life seems to have become. Money problems. Health problems. Job problems. Relationship problems. Problems are abundant in every one of our lives, but amidst the disappointments and hurts of life, there is joy. Finding that is important. Sometimes if feels like we have to look harder than most people, but I also think that goes back to attitude. Those who look beyond their struggles and instead look around them and take stock of all that IS there…they are the ones who seem the happiest. Being thankful can mean simply acknowledging to ourselves that we have everything we need. It can mean telling God we appreciate all we have: a roof over our heads, a healthy child and spouse, a car that runs, clothes on our back, food in our refrigerator, a pillow on which to lay our heads, a pet that brings us joy, a friend that really listens, a church that feels like home, a mentor who showed us the way, a community that can’t solve our problems, but that cares about our problems. A country that allows us to live freely. A chance meeting that gives us hope. That hope exists. Being genuinely thankful can mean not just acknowledging those things, but celebrating them. Instead of publicizing all of our problems, letting our words be those of gratitude. To live in genuine gratitude will ease all of the anxiety that comes from wishing your life was different.
  • Taking advantage of what is in front of you. All of us live within constraints. Some are wider and broader than others, but all of us have a fence around our lives, and we have to work with what we are dealt with. There are positives within every fence, but it takes a different kind of vision to see them, recognize them, and appreciate them. We are given opportunities every single day and we don’t always grab for them. They may seem like to much trouble. They may seem like too much work. They may seem like they would be fruitless. They may seem like they would have no impact on life in the long run. They may seem so big, so overwhelming, so frightening that they are too big for us. But when they are there and we don’t take them, do we really have a right to complain?  I don’t believe so. I think God puts us where we are meant to be for that very reason. It is our choice as to whether or not we will choose to take action, but if we don’t, we have to realize that we may never get that moment back, and that is no one’s fault but ours.
  • Making life not all about me. Opening a door for someone else. Smiling at the guy who looks like he’s never seen one before. Complimenting someone. Asking an acquaintance how she is doing and really caring about her answer. Encouraging other people’s dreams, and helping them realize them, if you can. Listening to the stories of someone much older (and wiser.) Reading your child a book and relishing his laugh and answering his questions fully and thoughtfully. Looking for ways to give back to your community. Taking the time to hand-write a card, put a stamp on it, and send it, and not expecting a compliment for doing so. Telling someone else you will pray for them, and keeping that promise. When I think about all I have read about Jesus’ ministry, what is most apparent to me is that nothing in His life was “all about Him.” It was about others and doing His father’s work. I don’t imagine Jesus cutting off a conversation by saying, “Sorry. Gotta run. I have a million errands that I have to finish.” I think He didn’t worry so much about getting His “to do list” finished, or at least not a “to do list” that looks like the one sitting on my kitchen counter. He actually knew He didn’t have much time to accomplish what He was put on Earth to do, but he still didn’t let the people who came to Him be a distraction in His day…They were the purpose of His day. I doesn’t think that means skirting our responsibilities, not working hard, or even being embarrassed of having nice things is part of making life not all about us.  It doesn’t mean that it isn’t okay to take time for ourselves when we need it and when we can. It think it mostly means to be aware of the needs of others, and be prepared, if it is within your talents, and your means, to help.

So I say today, we all choose to live…and to live fully, while we are here.

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