Gifts of Life

Watching a child open birthday presents is such a joy. They are “beside-themselves” excited. As they rip the bright wrapping paper away from the first gift, they quickly glance at the package inside. Just as quickly, they toss the revealed gift aside, reaching anxiously for the next present. “Wait,” you say. “Look what you were given. See how shiny it is? Hold it; isn’t it wonderful? Listen to the beautiful music it makes.” But your child is distracted by the better possibilities hidden within the other boxes wrapped in shiny, colorful paper.

Life is full of gifts that fall in continuous grace upon us. Our lives are lavished with blessings, yet we are just as children. Often as quickly as a gift is upon us, we are reaching anxiously for the next opportunity lest it pass us by and we miss out on something better. How many precious moments have slipped through our fingers because we did not take the time to relish them? How many gifts have rained down upon us, while we paid them no mind, busy stretching forward to what is next?

We can get caught up in the undertow of our experiences. Drifting along, our lives can become a fast-moving stream. For many of us, this is not merely a stream, but a white-water river churning and barreling over jagged rocks. You try to swim harder to keep your head afloat, not really steering your way, but merely being pulled along an uncontrollable, sometimes treacherous flow. You reassure yourself that at least you are moving forward. Others are in the river, too. They seem to be doing well, so this must be the way to keep moving ahead. As you keep working harder, you struggle and lose a little bit of footing. You take on more projects to be better than the next person; that should help gain more control. Your footing is now non-existent. The river feels foreign. You don’t feel in control, and you really don’t even know if you are succeeding at what you are trying to accomplish. But you are “accomplishing;” that is for sure. If achieving is success, then you should be happy and fulfilled. Are you? If you are, then you are deeply blessed. Keep swimming; you have found your purpose. If you are not, then perhaps you need to find a way to re-center yourself.

Getting swept up in the river of your life and career may lead to unhappiness if you don’t take time to enjoy the journey. What a travesty to be traveling along such a lovely landscape and not take the time to enjoy the gift of it all.  Would your life or career suffer if you took the time to occasionally swim to the shoreline for a moment? Sit on the bank and listen to the birds. Touch the prickly grass under your fingertips. Breathe in the smell of the cool air. Look above you at the tree canopy with the sunlight dancing through the leaves. How your heart would dance. Oh, how your soul would sing. Think of the memories you could make, fully enjoying the gifts of this life. What memories are you creating with those around you? Will their memories be of how hard you worked within the river of life, or of those abounding moments when you stopped and enjoyed the “gifts” along the way?

Contrary to what you might think, taking time to be still and present won’t cause you to miss anything important. The rushing river of your career is still there, waiting for your next twist and turn. The flow of life can wait for you to unwrap the moment and enjoy the blessings along the stream. Opportunities will not cease to come your way just because you take the time to enjoy the journey. Your purpose will be fulfilled. Trust in yourself. You have come this far. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you knew everything would work out well? The common quote is “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Well, if you couldn’t fail (and I know you, you won’t), you would be free to take time and swim to the shore occasionally. When you find stillness and presence in the current moment, you can look-see-touch-smell every aspect of the gifts around you. Often this will clear your mind and remind you of your “why” for this journey in the first place. When you take the time to enjoy the journey and focus on your “why,” you can make clearer decisions when you are in the throes of the river of life.

Stop and take time to be still and enjoy your gifts and blessings. You don’t always have to be working harder to get there first, to be the best, to do more, to reach anxiously for the next opportunity. Don’t get to the waterfall of your life and look back to see the beauty of the river bank that passed you by. Wouldn’t it be better to float away with a smile on your face remembering all of the deep, amazing blessings you fully enjoyed, and yell, “WOW, what a ride!”

You Are Enough!

We all strive to be our best. We try to eat right.  We try to be active. We try to take time for ourselves. All while also trying to be our best for those we serve; our work teams, our boyfriend/girlfriend, our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, our pets. It can be overwhelming. We can often put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We set expectations that are almost impossible to achieve.  We can begin to believe that we will never be able to earn our “halo.”

Listen to me: You don’t earn your halo.  You have always had one, and believe it or not, it is still there; bright and shiny.  You are perfect just as you are, just as God created you.  You are enough!  Let me say that again.  You are enough!!  Within you is all of the “specialness” that is YOU.  The world has been waiting for you to come along and share yourself with us.  And everything that you are IS ENOUGH! You were “fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful” (Psalm 139:14).

You may say to me, “but I don’t necessarily like who I am right now; I know I can be better.”  Awesome!!  You have goals; you want to be better than yesterday.  You may not be able to achieve all that you want at this moment, but you are trying, and that is what is most important.  The great news is that today is a new day, and with each day we get to try again.  And be honest with yourself; each day is full of successes.  Did you wake up today?  Did you smile at someone today? Did you pack your kids lunch? Did you let someone in front of you in traffic? Did you take the stairs today? How far did you walk from the car to the office?  Are there veggies in your lunch today? Do you have a bottle of water with you right now?  Look at that; you are doing great!  You should celebrate and take a few extra minutes to sit quietly and be thankful for all that you are and all that you were able to achieve today.  You ROCK! Tomorrow you are going to start there and achieve a little bit more.  You got this!

I implore you to start today with a deep breath and a smile; don’t just jump out of bed and hit the ground running.  Center yourself first.  Even a sprinter before a race, will breathe deeply, stretch a little, and mentally visualize running and winning the race.  You deserve the same as you start your journey today.  You are so very strong.  You are brilliantly smart in all things “you.”  No one completes all the wonderful things that you will today like you will.  Actually no one could be a better you, than “you.”  That is your stabilizing constant success; being you.

Life may seem like it is more than you can handle or want to handle.  It may seem overwhelming.  Most of us have more on our plate than we will be able to complete today.  Society seems to place great worth on how much you can achieve.  Society encourages us to believe that achieving more will make those around us happier with us or more accepted.  The bigger tragedy is that we may even internalize this concept over the years, and now believe within ourselves that we must achieve more in order to be proud of ourselves. I mean, look around you at all that everyone else is achieving; you don’t want to fall behind.  STOP IT!

You have lots of responsibilities today and guess what?  You will likely knock most of them out of the park.  Really, you will.  Think of all the things you will accomplish.  You are driven and motivated.  You will not let something slide.  You will do all you can to follow through on your commitments.  You may not be able to accomplish everything, but what you do, you will do to your best at the moment.  And like a small stone in a pond, your actions will slowly start to affect the world around you. The world needs you.  You have a purpose.  We all do.  Most of us are still trying to figure out what it is.  I believe that ultimately our purpose is to share ourselves with the world, our true selves.  Purpose is revealed in even the smallest act you make.  Maybe you don’t complete that project today.  Maybe you don’t finish that manuscript.  Maybe you lose that account that you have been working so hard to get.  But in the journey lies your purpose.

Don’t forget to reward yourself for the small things.  Merely waking up today, showing up today, being “you,” is exactly what the world needed.  And let me say for all of those that you touch today, THANK YOU!  We all appreciate what you do today.  We may not show it.  In fact, sometimes we are struggling in our own path and find it hard to show gratitude to others, but you know what?  Just you walking with us at that moment, helps us, even if we can’t find the energy to show you.

So take that breath, smile, stretch, visualize you running the race of today, and pat yourself on the back.  You will be able to walk your path today like only you can do.  You will rock this!