How to Live for What Lasts

Sometimes it helps to have a quality-of-life check.

I couldn’t believe the day had come. As we drove away from my son’s college apartment building, its soft yellow paint began to blur as tears welled up in my eyes. I was suddenly filled with a flood of memories, most of them fixed to what I wished I would have done better as a mother.

rear-view mirror
Image from Photodune.

When the kids were little, a bazillion adoring “older” folks said something I didn’t thing was right.

Enjoy them now, honey . . . before you know it, they will be grown.

I would smile nicely . . . they meant well. But I doubted their TV clickers were sticky with peanut butter and jelly, their laundry didn’t resemble the leaning tower of Pisa, their car wasn’t a health hazard, and they weren’t using clothing to wipe a river of runny noses.

I couldn’t imagine the day would finally come, but it did, and those bazillion well-meaning people were right.

Suddenly it Didn’t Matter

In the blink of an eye, my kids had grown: my daughter, with unforgettable curly hair and out-of-the-box spirited companionship, was married two years ago, and my full-of-life, blonde haired, blue-eyed son had left the nest. Suddenly . . .

  • TV clickers
  • Laundry
  • Cars
  • Clothes

They didn’t matter. Suddenly, the house became calm and quiet. Suddenly, my son with disabilities went to bed without a sibling in the house for the first time in 19 years. And suddenly, I wanted to go back and do things over . . . better . . . perfectly.

I don’t have the personality to handle this very well. And I really don’t have the personality that settles with being less than perfect . . . as a parent or otherwise.

It’s a total set up for failure . . . and I know this.

I know there is no “perfect” anything except God. I know that as our children develop, the unspoken messages given by parents are deeply embedded far more significantly than the verbal. And typically those silent, powerful messages are the piers upon which children build their lives:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Acceptance
  • Love
  • Value

One would think I would have remembered this, having earned degrees in education, communication, and psychology; but far too often I got caught up in the mess that was less than perfect because messes are just that.

I want to go back and be more . . .

  • Gracious
  • Forgiving
  • Available
  • Understanding
  • Full of gentle mercy
  • Full of kindness

The truth is, the bigger picture was hidden behind the sticky fingers and snotty noses.

Quality of Life Check

You may not be raising kids, but in life, there is surely a mess somewhere around you. It may be a messy marriage, work environment, out-of-control finances, a lack of relational respect, something you are trying to fix that keeps getting messier.

Perhaps the mess is sending you a message that you haven’t considered . . . that human life is messy and we are all in the process of learning and sanctification.

Modern woman can't stand a house mess

Image from Photodune.

  • Isn’t it amazing that Christ didn’t see Saul as only a persecutor of Christians but instead transformed him into the apostle Paul and used him to transform lives for centuries?
  • Isn’t it amazing that God didn’t point out Rahab’s occupation as a prostitute but instead gave her courage to help Joshua infiltrate Jericho—and placed her in King David’s family line?
  • Isn’t it amazing that Jesus never announced how much money Matthew the tax collector had embezzled but instead called him to be His disciple and friend?
  • Isn’t it amazing that the Lord didn’t continue to dwell on David’s affair after he confessed his sin but instead kept His promise to David to continue David’s dynasty forever?
  • Isn’t it amazing that God loves, values, treasures, and accepts you and me in all our fallen humanity rather than constantly reminding us of our shortcomings and failures?

Life isn’t about perfection, it’s being human. Life is a process of caring for and accepting one another, not lecturing and judging one another.

Things That Last

Listen to the words of James 3:13–18 in The Living Bible:

If you are wise, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about them, then you will be truly wise! And by all means don’t brag about being wise and good if you are bitter and jealous and selfish; that is the worst sort of lie. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, inspired by the devil. For wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.

No one can change the past; everyone can choose a new path today. Wherever you are in life, take the drive for perfection out of the equation . . . it’s an illusion. Here are some choices to evaluate today:

What Will I Choose?

To worry To trust
To remain prideful To become humble
To get ahead To serve others
To seek my own way To surrender to God’s way
To resent or retaliate To forgive and release
To be bitter To be thankful

How are you known? Ask your kids . . . they’ll tell you straight up if you will listen. What would your coworkers say about you? Are you jealous and selfish, consumed with your reputation rather than your righteousness? Are you gentle and peacemaking or stubborn and angry?

Let Me Hear from You

Check out the list above when you have some quiet time, and ask the Lord to direct you to one or two areas needing attention. How do you want to be remembered? Let’s connect on that this week.

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  • Julie Darling Winkle

    Thank you Colleen. The Lord blessed me with your post this morning. Seeking His thoughts on some areas to work on… Blessings, Julie Winkle

    • Julie,
      You are so welcome. I think some of life hits us at unexpected moments and we think…is this where I am and want to be? I’m seeking right there with you so let’s stay in touch and encourage one another! I just read this morning from Isaiah 40:31…”Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary”. I recently learned that an eagle is created with outstanding eyesight and can see for miles. So, when a storm is coming, they are already aware of it and not afraid to keep flying because they can rise above it…how cool is that. So as we seek Him, I’ll be praying for us to have eagle-like eyes and strength that only comes from our dependence upon Him. So good to hear from you today! Colleen

  • Carolyn Cantrell

    Thanks for this, Colleen. I came to the your blog purposefully today because I had seen a post that reminded me of you and Jon and wanted to share it with you. The post is a poem/film from Jason It is a sweet, living tribute to his son who has autism. I hope you are blessed because you certainly are a blessing! <3

    • Carolyn,
      You are so kind to send this to me, thank you! It’s great to hear from you and I can’t wait to see/read the story about Jason. I hope you are well . . . would love to hear how the school year/early fall season is going for you. Have a wonderful week! Colleen