Friday, February 10, 2017

living the life we are meant to live

"With our minutes and days and decades, we build houses and savings accounts and busy calendars full of activity. And in some deeper way, we build our reputations and friendships and invest in our kids and careers. We are looking for this life to matter. No, we are actually looking for ourselves to matter. So we keep so busy, so distracted, so in love with everything but our invisible, patient, jealous God." ~Jennie Allen in "Anything"

I think of legacy every time I see someone's name etched into a tree or graffitied onto a rock wall. We are finite people with a short blip of time on this earth. Yet we want to last. We want our names to be known. We want our time to have mattered. We want to be remembered. We spend our days and organize our time, even etch our names into trees, to meet that end. Then, ignoring or forgetting our purpose, we work longer hours to take longer vacations. We sign the kids up for one more extracurricular activity because the neighbors did and we think our kids would like it. We buy one more cute pair of leggings to go with one more really beautiful sweater to match one more stylish boot. Our lives seem full. We are certainly using every last drop of time and money, so we must be fulfilled. Right? RIGHT?

Then we buy more ridiculously overpriced coffee to stay awake for one more hour and eat more take-out or fast food in our futile quest to be eight places at once and be everyone's everything, the person who doesn't drop the ball, the person who loves and says yes and shows up. We shush the intensifying pleas of our soul to slow down, step back, and live the life we want, no need, to live. To what end? Really. To what end?

We are tired. We are depressed. We are overwhelmed. We snap at our kids. We forget to care for ourselves. We don't have time to grab a quick meal with a dear friend because our second full time job is schlepping kids from here to there and back again in between running to the store for another birthday party gift and planning the world's best SuperBowl party. To what end?

There is no peace there. There is no time for quiet and contemplation. We say this is a season and when it is over we will have more time, but then the season changes and we fill our time with new responsibilities and commitments.

I'm not saying I have this figured out. I'm not trying to climb up on my high horse to tell others what they're doing wrong. That is never my intention. I used the word we for a reason. I'm right there with most of you. I am saying I am constantly working on it. I am constantly working on saying no to things that don't bring me joy, require too much driving, or bring stress. I am constantly saying yes to things that build relationships, serve others, and point me toward God.

The older I get (hello, 40, I see you!), the more I recognize and listen to what depletes me. The other day Audrey was selling girl scout cookies with a friend at a huge bank in downtown Denver. I had the boys pack up their schoolwork, packed lunch, and brought toys for Asher. We stopped at Jim's work so she could sell cookies to his co-workers, then went to the bank. After helping at the booth, keeping Asher occupied, and trying to keep the boys on task with school in spite of many distractions, I left her at the booth with her friend and her friend's mom so I could take the boys to meet Jim for a meeting. Then I went back to pick Audrey up. We went home and had snack before loading Audrey and Asher back into the car for Audrey's 4 pm swim lesson. I drove home for the final time that day, skipped church activities that night, and was sleeping on the couch at 8:30, as soon as possible after getting the youngest three kids in bed.

I know that sounds all too familiar to many of you. It was one day for me, and I was absolutely exhausted. Running around depletes me. I'm not exaggerating. I hate it and it makes me crabby and when I'm crabby I snap at people and then I feel terrible for being terrible to people I love. Even when all of the things are things I like with people I care about, I still hate running around.

So I don't do it. Well, I obviously do it one day, but, in general, I organize my life so that I don't do it. This Jennie Allen quote is telling us that there is another way. There is the life we know because it's the life we observe and the life we've lived for years. It is safe and familiar and normal. But there is also the life God wants us to lead. There is the life our weary souls are crying for.

It involves quiet and solitude and reflection. It involves justice and mercy and the kind of love that pours out of us and into our hurting world like salve to an open wound. I don't know what that looks like for you. There are a billion options. I'm getting a better glimpse of what it looks like to me.

As I read Jennie's book, I turned to the back and made a list of activities in which we are involved and volunteer opportunities in which we participate. (I say we because, as a homeschooling family, I travel with my entourage 99% of the time.) Next to it, I made a list of opportunities I feel God calling me/us toward. I crossed off the things we are already involved in that would prevent me from being able to do the things I am called to. Just took a pen to the paper and crossed them off. Then I made the necessary calls/emails to stop doing those things. It wasn't easy. But it is necessary so that my life has room for other yeses.

Our time here on earth is finite. So are the 24 hours we have in a day. Jennie Allen's quote reminds me of that truth. As a Christian, I know that God is waiting for me patiently, but jealously. God is nudging me, calling me, urging my soul to cry out to me that this stuff isn't important. It's not why we're here. In fact, all too often, the stuff is a distraction from why we are truly here.

I'm talking to myself just as much as I'm writing to anyone else. Let's all listen to the cry of our hearts. Let's make a list of what we're doing and cross off what is keeping us from what our hearts long for and our souls ache for. It might be messy. Scratch that. It will be messy. We'll make people mad. We'll wonder what in the world we're doing. Lies will creep in and tell us we've got it all wrong. But our world needs us. Please. Let us answer. Let our lives of love and service be our legacy.


What, if anything, does this quote stir in you? How can you use your days and weeks, months and decades, for truth and beauty and goodness in our world?

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