Inspiration, Encouragement & Instructions
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Attending a Funeral On Your Birthday
Yesterday, I celebrated getting another year closer to old. To be honest, getting older hasn’t been all that hard for me (yet, anyway). I love that I get to learn new things about myself, others and God with each passing year. I love watching my kids grow up. We are adjusting, however, to this new season to car-lines, piano lessons, and orthodontist appointments. Time once spent corralling toddlers, changing diapers, and married to the routine of nap-times has been replaced with time spent driving kids to and fro, spelling test practice, and reminders on repeat: Did you brush your teeth? Did you walk the dog? Did you feed the rabbit? Did you do your homework? Did you shower?
This change of season from being 100% responsibility for our children’s well-being, to teaching them to begin to be responsible for their own well-being is a new kind of beautiful and monotony. And even though I now have from 8 AM - 3 PM each day to work part-time, run errands, and workout, somehow I still struggle to get the laundry done, keep the bathrooms clean, or stick to the meal plan I intend to write out each week. More time “to myself” (i.e. sans kids) hasn’t helped me be as productive or effective as I had imagined it would. The hours are fast, the weeks quick, and the months keep passing without my permission.
As a “young” mom, the days (sometimes weeks) when I didn’t leave the house much--or if I did leave, not alone--in some ways kept the pace of life a bit slower. A routine centered on the needs of the littles in our home made life seemingly small. The smallness was both a cocoon and a pen--full of comfort and also limitations; The viewpoint of which often depending on the day and the amount of sleep in the night. Now, each weekday by 7:50 AM the entire lot of us are up and out of the house. A snow-day or the rare Saturday we have nothing on the calendar and can stay put for 24 hours brings elation and the peace of pause. To stay home is to have a break from the pace of the world. A true retreat and treasure.
Yesterday, after going out for a birthday breakfast (Thank you 2-hour late start!), and dropping the kids off at school, I did something I have never had the opportunity to do in my 38 years of birthdays. I attended a funeral. (To clarify, I have been to funerals, just never on my birthday.) A dear friend’s Mama went to be with Jesus, seemingly too soon. Upon hearing the news of her passing, my first thought was, I am not old enough to be attending a friends’ parent’s funeral. As I considered my friend’s loss, I wondered if I could even handle or fathom losing one of my parents in this season of life. Would I be ready and able to face that?
These are not thoughts one usually reflects on while waiting in the school parking lot. But that day, they were. The news slowed me down and began to shift my perspective on my day.
My second cause for pause came a couple days later at the funeral, while sitting in the back row of a small church in my hometown. In front of me were this mama’s 14 children and their spouses, her 87 grandkids and friends and relatives in abundance. As the testimony of her life was put into words, it was clear this mom had obviously lived her life well. Especially impactful were the words of her youngest sons (whom were in elementary school the last time I saw them). As I listened I could see tangible evidence of the powerful impact a faithful, Gospel-centered parent can have on a home and the lives of all who are nurtured there, or come to visit.
As the words poured forth, giving a picture of the legacy of my friend’s mom’s life, the statements listed below struck me, especially in light of it being my birthday--a day on which I tend to reflect on the last year of my life, and set goals and focus for the year ahead:
I wish I could paint a picture for you to reveal the paradoxical thoughts and sensations of my heart set into motion because of attending a funeral on my birthday--it may have been one of the most strangely comforting, thought-provoking and inspiring experiences I have had on a December 9th, yet. I considered the seasons of life this faithful mama had lived well, raising 14 kids and loving Jesus all the way to the end. I considered my own season and the seasons I pray are ahead of me. And yet, I was also prompted to accept the reality that I am not guaranteed any more seasons. Tomorrow, on earth, is not certain to happen.
I know this. I have known this for all of my adult life. But in the weeks that lead up to my birthday each year, I spend a lot of time thinking and asking God to show me what to focus on in the year ahead. I vision and dream and hope that the year ahead will be the best one. I love to celebrate the looking forward to what is ahead.
And yet, here I was in a church pew being reminded of a few truths that don’t typically make their way into the “reset” plans I make on the eve of a new year:
Today as I write this I am a bit of a wreck. And yet, I am full of peace. My thoughts and emotions want to keep riding around the mountain of mystery and down paths of diffidence. But the assurance I have in who God is and who he is to me clothes the overwhelm with garments of truth, adoration, praise and wonder. In Christ, because of his coming down to be fully-God and fully-man, I can walk through the paradoxes of living fully-present and fully focussed on eternity at the same time. But in order to do so I must walk in step with the Spirit. I get to choose to dream, vision, plan and expect God to use me every day he gives me. And yet, I too submit to simultaneously, allowing his voice be louder than the dream, vision, plans and expectations, believing his goodness comes in the form of interruptions because He knows best when it is time to create new things out of old plans.
Though it seems awkward and strange to consider one’s death on your birthday, I must say I recommend it. My day was more sobering than most, but also more meaningful. When I returned to pick up my kids from school, my mind-set was different than in the morning when I dropped them off. As each of them jumped into the van, I wondered, what will each of these precious ones say of me when I am gone.
Will they love the Gospel as much as I do?
Will they tell others that my life was characterized by my savior or my to-list?
Will they want to pass Jesus on to their friends, children and strangers?
Will they say of their mama, “she did not believe in a fluffy Gospel?”
Will they say, “When I sat down with her I knew I would be heard and I knew she would want to know the truth?”
These questions will be directing my choices, habits and words in the year to come. Whether I only get today or I do indeed get all 365 days of this year, I believe God set me in that church pew yesterday to realign my visioneering of 2020. He has set us each in our places and cares too dearly about each of us to not shake us up from time to time. I will admit, I don’t relish the emotions and hard questions that arise in the shaking up of my ways of thinking or living. But if that is what it takes to point my heart toward humility and others to see Jesus through me, it is worth it. I pray that my life will yell loudly, she embraced the discomfort of the Gospel and lived like she believed the cost of the cross was nothing in comparison to leaving a legacy of faith for generations to come.
What about you?
What do you desire to be said of you when you are gone?
What will it take to start living today in-light of the legacy you desire to leave when you step from this reality to the next?
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: