Only One Life

This month, the high school seniors of 2016 are launching into adulthood. It’s their season of profundities and pontifications, of mortar boards sailing through the air, of hard-earned diplomas, of inner quavering. “I’ve graduated. I’m done with school. What do I do now?”

Traditionally, high school classes have chosen mottos to live by, some silly, some far-reaching.
The other day while driving through a small town, we saw a big signboard on which the local class of ’16 had posted their motto: “Only one life, right? Don’t blow it!”

The thought was right on.

How many young people let the months coast by without a thought that some day they’ll run out of time?

How many older people look back at their unfulfilled dreams and think with regret about their wasted years?

In our retirement community, the people who are most satisfied and joyful are those who’ve devoted their lives to what they feel is a high purpose. It might have been staying at home to raise children. It might have meant faithfully sticking with a less-than-ideal job in order to care for one’s family. When people know that God has called them to a specific task or tasks, there is no satisfaction higher than accomplishing that task.

My mother had a small picture on the wall, which we children passed every time we went up or down the stairs. A silhouetted woman in an old-fashioned hoopskirt sat at a spinning wheel. Above her was lettered,
    “Only one life.
    ’Twill soon be past.
    Only what’s done for Christ
    will last.”
          —Charles Thomas Studd (1860-1931)

Once upon a time, spinning yarn was a time-consuming but essential, daily task. Even in silhouette, that woman looked so content and satisfied, she made an impression on me that’s lasted through the decades. Whether she was real, whether she even had a name, she wasn’t blowing her life. She was doing—and doing well—the task she was given.

Whatever the life God gives each student in this year’s crop of young people, we who love them pray that they’ll realize early that they get only one chance to live the moments of their lives. May they live those moments well, in accordance with God’s good plan for them. Don’t blow it, graduates!

photo credit: As The World Keeps Turning … via photopin (license)

Time Management–A Happier Way

    I just read an article in Reader’s Digest about the failings of time management, that icon of our American way of life.

    The author dared to say that as we slice and dice our day’s allotment of hours into smaller and smaller pieces, we become increasingly less satisfied as well as less efficient. For months now, it’s seemed like I’ve been flying down a mountainside on a sled propelled by urgency to hurry-and-do-and-make-lists-and-accomplish-t.h.i.n.g.s. But this simple statement knocked me off my sled. I fell into contemplation like a child tumbling into a soft, fluffy snow bank. I felt the sense of urgency loosen its grip.

    The moments of my day drifted by, as enjoyable as falling snowflakes. I prepared a good breakfast for my husband. We savored our time of Bible reading, prayer, and discussion. We talked about trusting Jesus enough to put the events of the day on hold in order to spend time with him. Sarah Young, in her book Jesus Calling, says that if we put communion with Jesus first, because he is omnipotent he will bend time and events in our favor, helping us accomplish more in less time.

    That proved true as I checked e-mails, brushed our cat and trimmed his toenails, and dusted and vacuumed the house, and tossed a load of clothes into the washer. Housekeeping can be an onerous chore, but as my mind followed the thoughts Jesus sent, the time flew past.

    I’d promised to fix a meal for a friend recovering from surgery, so I found a recipe online and began a baked stew while wondering what to fix for our lunch.

    All these activities were things I’d planned for the day.

    Then friends called, wanting to see our new house. I told them we’d love to see them. Hank came home from running errands. I put the stew in the oven to bake, fixed grilled cheese sandwiches, and we had lunch.

   The friends arrived. Because of their declining health, they brought with them very negative attitudes. Now that they can no longer carry on their lifelong busy schedules, they have trouble seeing their lives as worthwhile. As we listened, we made several positive responses that seemed to brighten their mood.

    Later, I finished fixing dinner and found the address of the friend who’d had surgery. We delivered the meal, came home, and ate our half of the baked stew.

    I addressed a mailer for one of my out-of-print young-adult books I wanted to send to a cousin. While Hank cleaned the kitchen, I skimmed the book again. I felt a little guilty. Time out to read wasn’t on my schedule, and boxes of books and papers in the office were still waiting to be unpacked, sorted, and put away. But then, as I skimmed, I realized the writing really was pretty good. That renewed my interest in turning it into an e-book. So was the time wasted?

    No, it was another example of the way the Lord gently nudges us into doing what is good for us and good for other people. He allowed the unscheduled visit of our friends so that we could encourage them and also to be aware of how many people around us need the attention that we can give. The steady but leisurely pace of the day left me feeling satisfied, not frustrated.

     And the things I did that weren’t on my schedule turned out to be the biggest blessings of all.