Only Today

“There’s nothing certain in a man’s life except this: That he must lose it.” ~Aeschylus, Agamemnon

Death does not respect anyone. It doesn’t matter the age. We know this. However, when someone who has lived a good life dies before what we think should be their time, we are even more offended.

I was struck by this thought on my recent visit to a monastery in southern Indiana.

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I took a walk to explore and came across a graveyard where past monks are buried. Two different stones stood in stark contrast to one another.

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IMG_2270The first monk lived a mere 22 years. The second lived an incredible 108 years! Monks give up all of their personal effects to live a life of poverty, in complete devotion to God. Few individuals could be found more faithful, however the goodness of these men did not determine their longevity.

C.S. Lewis said, ““There is no other day. All days are present now. This moment contains all moments.” We are only guaranteed this moment. This breath. No more.

You may remember Billy Joel’s song Only the Good Die Young:

.“They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
Sinners are much more fun…
You know that only the good die young.”

 

It was written about a Catholic girl named Virginia that Billy knew. She was in his audience one night at a church when he first started performing. She had never paid any attention to him until that night. He wrote the song as a way to promote premarital sex and reckless abandon. However, he was not the first to truly coin the phrase.

There was an ancient Greek saying, “Who the gods love dies young.” It came from a story about two young boys who took their mother to a festival for the goddess Hera. The mother asked Hera to reward her sons with the greatest gift anyone might receive. The sons laid down and fell asleep to never wake again.

Death will never make sense to us, especially for those who are young. I think the greatest tragedy would be to not live a full life, though. That is a worse kind of death.

In the middle of the graveyard, this statue stood tall:

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The phrase at the base means giver of forgiveness. The meaning is so much deeper than it implies. The gift is a lavish one, bordering on the excessive giving of the likes of a spendthrift.  It is a reckless generosity. And thankfully, it is available to all who would receive it.

Regardless of whether my years number 42 or 102, may I celebrate through my life the veniae largitor. May we remember we are only given today. May our striving cease, because the length of our life isn’t based on our fruitfulness.

“Each day is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to Him.” ~ T.D. Jakes

Remember these five simple rules to be happy:

 

1.  Free your heart from hatred.
2.  Free your mind from worries.
3.  Live simply.
4.  Give more.
5.  Expect less. 

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The Pervasive Disease of “Not Enough”

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This week I did a written lesson online for my life planning group. One of the questions asked, “What makes you angry?” Great question. I don’t get angry often. Disrespect can get me pretty darn mad. Someone who refuses to listen to wise counsel ruffles my feathers. Various kinds of injustice really get me going. The number one thing that makes me angry, though, is when people feel “less than” for whatever reason.

Now, let me clarify. I’m not angry with the individual. I feel furious at whatever situation or circumstance that caused them to have that feeling. Whether it be abuse, abandonment, a dysfunctional family upbringing, thoughtlessness, society’s standards, etc., I feel a desperate need to breathe life into that person. In my mind, we are all worthy, useful, and valuable.

I often wonder why I feel okay with who I am. In a world where so many people, especially women, are saying they don’t feel “enough,” I question why I shrug my shoulders and say, “I know I’m not, but so what?”

Don’t misunderstand me. There are plenty of things about myself that drive me crazy that I would love to change. I wish I didn’t get so anxious when I am preparing to have people over to my home. I would love to walk into a room full of strangers and feel completely comfortable. I would love to be more athletic. I definitely wish I could be more organized (I say as there are ridiculous piles around me in my office). My list could be quite long.

However, if some of these were to change, I wouldn’t be me any longer. There are opposite qualities to these characteristics that are also positive. For example, I get exhausted going to an event and being around a bunch of people (strangers or otherwise) due to my introversion. However, without being an introvert, I might not be as good of a listener. I wouldn’t think such deep thoughts, and those thoughts help me to teach, write and offer counsel to people. I would hate to lose those things.

I want to share two verses with you. First of all, 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” The other verse is 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”

So, the bottom line is this: when we respect God, and realize we have been given the necessities of life, we will experience gain. Additionally, the Bible tells us God’s power has given us the ability to accomplish this simply by knowing him. No striving is necessary.

I know I’m not “enough,” and I never will be. However, I believe God’s promises. My job is simply to be who He created me to be.

I could run around trying to imitate everyone else around me and beat myself up for constantly missing the mark, or I can rest in this: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4. I’d rather chase something I can actually catch.

Changing those negative voices you hear in your head isn’t a simple task. I don’t mean for this to sound easy. I know. I’ve fought the battle. In my early twenties I felt terrible about myself for a time. However, constantly filling our minds with positive messages like the previous scriptures can make a world of difference in increasing our contentment with ourselves.

What lies do you struggle with?

Further reading:

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/04/when-you-feel-you-are-not-enough/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201410/do-you-feel-not-good-enough

http://www.marcandangel.com/2014/09/28/20-things-to-remember-when-you-think-youre-not-good-enough/

http://www.powerofpositivity.com/11-things-remember-think-youre-good-enough/

Book: Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick

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Forgetfulness, Plasma, and Grace

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So what is the biggest bind you’ve ever ended up in due to your own forgetfulness?

I have two stories that make me hang my head in shame.

Monday morning I was home with my oldest who was sick. We were sitting on the couch together. He was watching TV and I was doing some research for a lesson. There were a few knocks on the door and then the doorbell rang a few times. Still in my pj’s, I decided not to answer. And to add a little perspective, we get monthly visits from neighbors who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I just wasn’t in the mood. It was about time for them to come around again, so I was pretty sure it must be them. They are lovely people, but this just wasn’t the time.

A little while later my son started up the stairs to get his inhalers, and announced that there was a van in the driveway. I went to peek, and couldn’t for the life of me think of who might own that van.

Pretty soon the phone rang. I answered. Much to my mortification it was my friend…who I had invited over…who was supposed to be at my house for the first time for a life coaching session of all things. Who wants to be coached by someone who CLEARLY doesn’t have her own life together when she invites someone over to her house and leaves them sitting in the driveway, worried, for 30 minutes??? I had remembered on Friday. By Monday, all vestiges of the arrangement disappeared from my mind. You would have thought the ringing doorbell would clue me in.

I opened the door and she and her other friend stepped in and we chatted while the egg dripped off of my face. They were so gracious. My friend even prayed for me, which I obviously was in need of!

Will you feel better about me if I remind you this was right after Easter weekend?

My second story occurred about two years ago. I simply shake my head as I think about it. My husband and I pay off our credit card bill in full each month. We never carry a balance. I forgot to pay the bill, was slapped with a heavy penalty, and then of course had to pay the interest. I was horrified. As a stay-home mom with no means of income, I had no idea how I was going to correct my mistake. I refused to waste my husband’s hard earned money due to my forgetfulness.

Fast forward a week or so later. My college-aged nephew was talking about donating plasma. I started asking questions. An idea began to stir in my brain. A few days later,  I finally decided on a brilliant plan to donate plasma myself. It would just cover the cost of my error.

I wasn’t about to tell my husband any of this. Not that he would be mad, but I knew he would make fun of me.

I scheduled an appointment when I would be kid-free. I knew the boys would rat me out if they came along. Like a good girl, I ate a healthy breakfast. I had convinced myself that not only would I be making money, but I was doing a good life-giving thing. Additionally, my nephew would make a little extra for referring me. Win, win, win.

Lose, lose, lose. After filling out the paperwork and doing some preliminary stuff, the lady sat me in a chair and put one of those rubber bands on my arm and started poking around with her finger. Did I mention that nurses often have trouble drawing my blood? I’ve had bad experiences with needles. I was near terrified, but dang it, I needed that $60.

She removed the band, and looked at me apologetically. “I’m sorry. Your veins are just too small. The needle we use to get plasma is bigger than a regular needle. Maybe you could try again another time. Exercise your arms for a few weeks and maybe that will help.”

Two emotions washed over me. First of all, incredible relief that the large needle would not be going into my arm. Second, extreme dejection. Crud. This was my last hope. How would I ever compensate for my ridiculous mistake? My desperation had sunk me to the level of poor college students. Who was I kidding? I wasn’t concerned about saving lives, I was concerned about covering my rear end.

The story was too ironic, and frankly hysterical, to not share with my husband. He was gracious, as I knew he would be, but I swore him to secrecy. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I may never live it down with some members of my family.

So for anyone who knows me that has the false assumption I have it all together, now you know the truth. Me and my mess for all to see.

But here’s the thing. I am blessed with people in my life who grant me grace. It’s hard to give yourself grace when you screw up, but what does fretting about it really do? Doing so only makes you more anxious and disgusted with yourself. I stuffed down feelings of inadequacy all day Monday. If others can grant me forgiveness, then surely I can forgive myself. Everyone messes up sometimes. EVERYONE.  There is no such thing as true perfection on this earth, so we might as well get used to laughing at ourselves.

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