Live In The Moment

shutterstock_119676250Life is about moments.  It is about breaths and heartbeats, not days or years.  We hear all the time about how important it is to live life in the moment and, although it’s true, I fear we have become so accustomed to listening to it that we don’t actually HEAR it at all anymore.  We go on about our daily lives, making plans and worrying about what needs to be done next instead of appreciating the moment we are in and the ones with whom we share it.

I have encountered a lot of losses in my life.  I have lost many friends and family members over the years and each one has its own set of grief associated with it.  Even the counselor I have seen over the years has said I’ve experienced more loss than most people.  I suppose she is right but I told her recently the reason I have experienced such great losses in my life is because I believe in connecting deeply to those around me.  When you open your heart up and truly love and connect to others in this life, your world is filled with such amazing joy and great love.  Of course the other side of that equation is your world is also filled with great loss.  It is a difficult thing to balance in your heart sometimes. 

When I was young, I thought I’d never live to be 30.  I was obviously wrong since that age has long since come and gone but I have always been very aware that life is short and none of us are guaranteed our next breath.  This breath is all we have.  NOW is all we have and if we choose to not live in the moment, then we are choosing not to live at all.  Life is scary sometimes.  shutterstock_133009796The thought of what might be just around the corner can be paralyzing to us and cause us to spend all our time and energy planning for all the “what ifs” we can imagine.  Somehow we believe that if we plan well enough and are disciplined enough to stick to those plans, then we will lessen the chance of something terrible coming into our world.  Planning is not wrong but when we allow our plans to imprison us or even distract us from what is happening around us right now, then it only brings us more stress in life.  Difficult things WILL come into our lives no matter how well we plan and, if we aren’t careful, we begin to somehow blame ourselves for not planning better.  It is a warped perspective but it happens more often than it should.  

Nothing will clarify your perspective more than serious illness – yours or that of someone you love.  I helped take care of my best friend for many years as we fought cancer together and it caused us to take great advantage of every moment we shared whether her cancer was raging out of control or in remission.  It caused us to not worry so much about what tomorrow would bring because focusing on tomorrow steals today from us.  One day we wake up and find that our life has become a constant struggle…a struggle with health or finances, a struggle with our jobs, a struggle with family or friends.  We spend our time trying to resolve the struggles instead of embracing the fact that getting up every morning is a gift!  Annette eventually lost her battle with cancer but we won so much along the way.  We won the “moments.”

shutterstock_126144137I thought I would never in my life have to again face such a serious fight with cancer in someone I was that close to but sometimes life doesn’t turn out as we think it should.  A year ago today, one of the people I am closest to was admitted to the hospital for what seemed to be a bad stomach flu.  Within 3 days, she was diagnosed with cancer and was in surgery that turned out to be extremely extensive with a number of complications.  She underwent radiation and chemotherapy and we had hoped that by the today’s anniversary we would be celebrating full remission.  Instead, things shifted and she is beginning another series of treatments that is even more aggressive, with potential side effects that are also more aggressive and toxic, to try and get it all under control.  I would love to say I have learned to trust God and live in the moment so well that I choose to celebrate that she is still with us…but I would be lying.  I get terrified sometimes just like everyone else.  The thought of eventually losing someone so close to me to the same disease all over again terrifies me because that pain is all to real in my heart even after all these years.  It is too overwhelming to my spirit.  Then I am reminded that to look ahead down ANY road in life serves only to distract us from the beauty of today.  Doing so weakens us.  It weakens our faith and sometimes even our resolve.  

Life is uncertain.  We all know it is true but it is exactly that truth that scares us to death.  We don’t want to feel pain or loss.  We don’t want our loved ones to feel pain or loss either.  As a result, we endure a much greater loss than necessary as we let this moment slip away without acknowledging the beauty it contains.  We need to stop looking ahead.  We need to stop avoiding connections in life.  We need to stop being afraid to let down our guard and be who we are on the inside.  We need to love with all our hearts and forgive just as deeply.  We need to fulfill our true calling NOW and stop waiting for a “better time” to do so.  There is no better time.  As a matter of fact, there may be no time left at all. 

shutterstock_96294860So live in this moment…in this breath and this heartbeat.  Fill it with joy and love and the most beautiful connections.  And if you are blessed to have another moment, fill it with the same.  It is the only way to truly be free. 


Silence Is Loud

Cayucos Sunset

Recently a friend shared with me that her hope for 2013 was “to be still and listen to God.” I found that to be a very interesting and revealing statement. At a time of year when people are busy engaging in new activities and commitments, it was unusual (and refreshing) to hear someone say she hoped simply to be still and listen. This time of year causes many of us to become more active. We take up a new exercise regimen or make changes to our diets. We start new adventures. We want to DO something.

In our culture, we have reached a point where if we aren’t continually running at a frantic pace we think it somehow means we are lazy. We work ourselves to death at our jobs and at home. We spread ourselves far too thin because we just can’t say “no.” We take on projects – very worthy projects – even when we know we don’t actually have the energy to give them the focus they deserve. In those rare times we find ourselves just sitting down and relaxing, it is only moments before our minds are jumping to the next thing we need to do or accomplish. I have suffered from this way of thinking most of my life. My husband tells me all the time, “You just can’t sit down and relax for even a moment!” I hate to admit he’s right but he is. (I also hate that I just gave him ammunition for the next time I refuse to slow down!)

As believers, we do the same thing with our service to God. We think the more we do, the more pleasing we are to our heavenly Father. Nothing could be further from the truth. He doesn’t want us to be running about frantically trying to serve Him any more than we want to be doing it. He simply wants us to trust Him to take care of us. He wants us to rest in Him. He wants us to “be still and listen” to the still, small voice within that is continually guiding us down the path we should be on. When it is time for us to act, we will know it. Purposeful action is much different than taking action just so we can avoid the silence or being still.

Three Rivers

Stillness and silence are uncomfortable for most of us. Even in our conversations, we feel strange when there is a longer than normal pause between topics. We will talk about almost anything to avoid the sound of crickets chirping! No matter what area of our life it may be, silence feels awkward and we do all kinds of things with one purpose in mind – to get rid of it. Sometimes, when I am still and quiet, I don’t like what I hear. When I am still and quiet, it isn’t long before the stillness brings reflection and reflection can be painful. It is sometimes difficult but it can also be a catalyst for change or reveal our true direction.

I have to be honest with you, there have been many times in my life when I have engaged in activities (no matter how honorable the cause) because I thought no one else would step up to the plate. I’ve been in churches and community organizations where it seemed everyone was content in letting one or two people do all the work. Many of you can relate to this type of struggle. If I am really honest, I must say I have found it difficult at times to let go of the reins because I feared the resulting effect would be that nothing gets accomplished. Do you know what this says about me? It says I struggle trusting that others are as committed as I am. It says I believe no one could have a better idea than I do. It says I think I am so valuable that without me this project, church, friendship, or family will crumble. When I finally realized how arrogant this mindset is, it was difficult to swallow. I can assure you it did not go down easy!

It is a fine line we must walk. There is a delicate balance between the things we do and the reasons we do them. Too much activity and busyness in our life will drain us of peace, sanity and contentment. On the other hand, too much rest will drain us of our passion and sense of purpose. I’m a firm believer in leaping when it is time to leap but the only way we will know it is time to act is if we have been quiet, still and reflective. It is only when we have listened to the voice within that we can be sure we are ready to leap. Only then do we know which direction to leap and only then do we truly have the strength. It is important to realize that being able to act and leap comes first from a place where we have been able to let go, rest and listen.

So my friend who said she hoped to be still and listen in 2013 was a great reminder of how important it is to slow down in life. It is crucial we learn to rebel against the pace dictated to us by our society AND by ourselves! It is good to rest. It is good to take care of yourself not only physically but in every other way as well. It isn’t selfish and it isn’t lazy to do so! When we constantly focus on the next thing we need to accomplish, we are losing the blessing of THIS moment! This moment is all we have. It sounds cliché but yesterday really is gone and tomorrow may never come. There is no guarantee of even your next breath so slow down and enjoy it. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back.

Open Arms

It is good for us to step back and let go of the control we often grasp at in life. When I am able to let go of trying to fulfill everyone else’s calling, then I am free to fully embrace and fulfill my own. And when find ourselves feeling like we have to “save” every project or organization we are involved in, it might be time to put on the brakes and get quiet for a little while. You might be surprised at who steps up from the shadows when you are willing to step out of the spotlight.