Friday, November 2, 2007

What Do You Do With Every 86,400 Seconds?

I think back to when I was in High School. My junior year, we had a young man die while playing a school football game. I don’t remember all the details. What I remember was the thoughts running through my head after it happened. I remember thinking that he would never graduate, never go to college. He was a senior, and his whole final year had been dedicated to preparation for graduation and college. I knew him. He was exhausted. But he was focused on the ‘once I attain this or that, I can rest and have some fun’. He never got the opportunity. I remember thinking, what a waste. He never grasped that which he was reaching for. If he would have known, would he have lived differently? Would he have spent less time studying and filling out applications, and more time visiting with friends and family? I mean, planning for a future is a great plan. But how often do we push the present aside, only looking toward the future?

I have been speaking to so many people lately who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances. They are working long hours at a job they detest. They are running to and from activities. They are studying for a better degree. They are putting in long hours, trying to obtain a promotion. They are trying to make it to PTA meetings, helping kids with homework, cheering for their kid's sport team. They are working two or three jobs to try to pay for a bigger house, accessories for their BlackBerry, a nicer car, a neater vacation, and to pay their medical bills from all their stress-related illnesses. On top of all those responsibilities, they still have the simple tasks of living, like cleaning, laundry, eating, and paying bills. Into the tiny cracks of time they have remaining, they try to cram in 'living'.

Every now and then I feel overwhelmed. Between teaching, driving to and from activities, church, cooking, cleaning, bill paying, grocery shopping, and laundry, it is a wonder we ever have time for each other and friends. But most days I am content with my life. But it has been a difficult road to contentment.

We used to work a lot. I worked long hours. My husband worked long hours. We were barely getting by. Funny things started to happen to us both. My job became unbearable. Things were crumbling at my husband's job. So I took a job for less money, but more time at home. Then, at work, they started throwing more time at me. Christ was just becoming an important part of my life. He started making me VERY uncomfortable where I was working. They started making me work overtime and weekends with no notice, which is kind of hard to do when you have child care to provide for. My husband kept the girls with him at word during the week, but if we both had to work on the weekend, we were in trouble. Just how many people do you know you can find to keep a couple of small children at 5 am on a Saturday? So, I started looking for yet another job. I found one with the school system. Alea was starting Kindergarten, and I could get her on and off the school bus -a major dilemma, since we went to work so early. But the pay was very, very low (15K gross!). My husband told me that he believed God was weaning us off my paycheck.

That was the year God started telling me about home schooling. To add to the pressure from God, my kindergartner was incessantly sick. She even had her scalp split on the playground one day. So we made the choice for me to quit work, and home school our girls, beginning at the end of the school year. As soon as we committed to that choice, Alea stopped getting sick.

It was difficult at first. Although my husband was working long hours, he was making very little over minimum wage. We found consolation in the fact that we still had more time together, and the girls and I were, for the first time, building a relationship. But God is faithful, and less than a year after I quit work, He made it possible for Darrell to make more than the additional 15K I had been earning.

God gives us all the same amount of time every day. None of us get a 26 hour or 30 hour day. But He grants us freedom in what we choose to do with our time. Some of us choose to strive for success. I used to be in that boat. But what I found was that I never attained it. The measuring stick for success kept changing. It seemed to me that once I started climbing the proverbial ladder to success, every time I moved up a rung, another one popped up above me. When I got a raise, I needed a newer car. Once I got a newer car, I needed a better job. It was a never-ending cycle. Instead of being content whatever my circumstances, I was always reaching for other circumstances.

But some people live for contentment, enjoying the moments as they tick by. It may look like they don’t have as much in the way of possessions. They may have a smaller house, and an older car. They may appear to go without what some of us would deem necessities. But I have noticed a look of peace on their faces that I am willing to trade my possessions for.

I am not afraid of hard work. In fact, I think my days are more full of work than they were before. The difference is that I feel fulfilled. I am not striving for something else that eludes my grasp. I no longer find myself thinking about what I can accomplish on my vacation days. I don't long for a better car, nicer clothes (okay maybe I long for nicer clothes :)), or more exotic vacations. My job is not only one of a housekeeper, teacher, and cook. My job is one of a relationship builder. And I am content.

I want every day of my life to include fellowship with my family and friends, and appreciation for something God had placed around me for my enjoyment. I want every day to include more serving, and less receiving or expecting. I want every day to let God know He is my priority. I want every day to let my family know I love and cherish them. I want every day to let my friends know that I appreciate and value them. I want every day to let a stranger know that I notice them, even if just by eye contact and a smile. I want every day to be content with what I have, and as the minutes tick by, not be thinking about what tomorrow‘s journey may bring. After all, today may be my last tomorrow.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:23

"One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"There are 86,400 seconds in a day. It's up to you to decide what to do with them." Jim Valvano

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” Benjamin Franklin

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special." Jim Valvano

“To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.” Walt Whitman

"What is a thousand years? Time is short for one who thinks, endless for one who yearns." Henri Alain-Fournier

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

"We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance." Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Starr said...

We are right now in that transition period. Just trying to keep our heads above water doesn't seem worth it anymore. We want so much more out of life, and I don't mean materially. We are scaling back big time as far as work schedules and financially. We are open to holding on loosely to "things" and keeping our grip on Him tight. Whatever He has in store will be much better than what we have tried to attain by keeping up with the world's standards of success. I am so glad to see there are people close to us who feel the same way. I think that is a sure sign He is getting us all on the same track. Thanks for sharing. I LOVE your writing. It is very thought provoking.
Love, Starr

Wendy M. said...

Me, too - me, too! :)