I am sure I am not the only one who feels that each year passes faster than the last one and that I am barely into a new year when hey ho we’re planning for Christmas again! However, I have decided that it really doesn’t matter how quickly the time passes as long as I have filled it, in a way that is pleasing to my Saviour. I don’t mean by being constantly busy, but rather to live well. For me this involves not being overwhelmed by the tasks that are ever- present, but being able to stop and take a walk around the garden, to be available to care for the grand children, to spend time with my children when they need to talk – even if it means putting aside a task that is waiting to be done, to stop and help Robert even if it interrupts my agenda, and so it could go on. The other evening we had a spectacular sunset – from one side to the other the sky was a lovely orangey-red and lower down there were clouds tinged with the same colour. Instead of taking a cursory glance I took my camera and took several photos from different places and in so doing took time to fully appreciate the beauty around me in spite of the fact that there were things I needed to work on.
At one of the Laidlaw Alumni afternoons I attended a theme emerged of living in the moment and this was a challenging thought. How often we are with someone and our thoughts are actually on something else or instead of just enjoying a lovely day we are planning what we are going to do next? Someone I know was finding it difficult to sleep which led to depression. His counsellor realised that his mind was always busy planning and thinking about the future. He taught him to start focusing instead on the present – not to stop planning – but to live in the present moment.
I like the following quote from John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy”: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It so beautifully encapsulates the thought that if we are always future-focussed, we will find we do not live in the moments God gives us. We cannot do anything about the future, we cannot change the past, but we can live this present moment and do in it what we are called to do.
One of the things I regret is not taking the time to have fun with my children and I am sure many parents would say the same thing. Children grow up so fast and the opportunities to spend time with them also pass quickly. In Mary Beth Chapman’s book, Choosing to See, (Chapman, 2010) she tells a story of how her husband, Steven Curtis Chapman, a well-known singer, was very pressured to get some songs written for his next album but it was his job to bath his little girls so his idea was to get this over and done with as quickly as possible so he could get back to the “real” work of the evening. Here’s what ensued:
He got them into the bathtub and was working quickly, but as he turned around to get the shampoo and a washcloth, the girls escaped, leaving two little sets of wet footprints leading to their bedroom. A few moments later, two little giggling princesses appeared around the corner, Cinderella and Snow White, wearing their Disney costumes complete with matching shoes, tiaras, and wands.
“We’re going to the ball, Daddy!” they told him.
“No,” he said, “you are not going to the ball. You’re going back in the tub!”
Two or three escape attempts later, Steven finally got them clean, shampooed, and to bed.
“Daddy, can you read us a story?” they asked.
“No, no stories tonight,” Steven said. “It’s too late. We’re going to pray and go to bed! Pray a short prayer, immediate family only tonight! Pray fast!”
This pattern continued as he tried to rush the children so he could back to his song-writing. Then he thought about his older daughter, Emily; it was not that long ago that she was his little girl and now she was an adult and away at college.
The years go by in a heartbeat, and then your children twirl right out of your life and into their own.
All that flashed through Steven’s mind in a second. It was as if God was saying, “Steven, are you really going to rush through moments like this? You already know how fast they go by! Remember Emily? She’s grown now, no more tuck-ins, baths, or make-believe balls.”
The upshot of this was that he wrote a song, “Cinderella” expressing his thoughts. What adds poignancy to this story is that the two little girls were their adopted Chinese daughters. One of them was tragically killed at only five when she rushed out on to the drive to greet her older teenaged brother and he ran her over. So they did not have all those years which they thought they would have with her, living in the moments they did have was more important than they ever imagined.
Maybe, then, a good resolution for this New Year is to live each moment fully, to “go with the flow” when those moments arise and you can have fun with the children, your husband or a friend. Those moments will not return, children will grow up and the work that seems so pressing will still be there to be done once you’ve had time with those important people in your life.
By Lynelle Steedman
Chapman, M. B. (2010). Choosing to See. Grand Rapids: 2010.