God of My 20’s: Mourning Replaced with Savoring

(Post #6 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger: Dawn Stark

Throughout my 20’s I worked for an international airline and traveled the world for almost nothing. But all I really wanted was a baby.  I mourned continually over my empty arms.  Nothing else would appease me: Hawaii, the Greek Islands, Europe, sailing down the Nile – a decade of beautiful places and experiences that I mainly viewed through the lens of pain. I didn’t understand God’s love language to me in the waiting season.  I missed so many amazing places of worship on the way to my arms being filled to overflowing.

The way I spent my 20’s shrouded in mourning is a life regret.

Today I am traveling again, for different reasons, but still very similar to the way I did so many years ago. I know without a doubt God has once again given me this season as a gift in a beautiful way of merging mission and passion. It’s a do-over of sorts. Life is full of long, complicated, and painful journeys; infertility was only one of many that I’ve endured. In my early 50’s now, with 5 miracle children in my life, there is sufficient evidence that I cannot fret or worry or mourn my way through this life.

Recently, work led me to Puerto Rico. A traveler to my core, I was so excited about this new adventure I couldn’t fall asleep the night before my flight.  I’ve been to the island years ago on two other occasions, but only in the San Juan area.  This trip required me to rent a car and travel to Mayaguez, on the western side of PR.  I padded my travel time on each side of work events to allow for moments of spontaneity: pulling over to enjoy look-out points, taking the temperature of the Caribbean water with a quick dip, snapping photos of interesting sites, and choosing local eats over convenient chain options.

Puerto Rico did not disappoint!  I so enjoyed spending time with ministry partners, learning about the heart-breaking impact of Hurricane Maria, and discovering the resilience of the people. I intently practiced present-moment mindfulness by not letting my thoughts creep back to other weighty matters and instead choosing to focus on the “great and small” of life happening right in front of me:

  • the vibrant colors saturating the Puerto Rican culture through nature and art.
  • the proud rooster walking down the sidewalk, crowing like he totally belonged in that human space.
  • the irony of eating St. Louis (my hometown) style rib from the BBQ joint I just happened to stop at for dinner.
  • the newlywed who coaxed me to jump into the rough shore break and enjoy the sunset with her family.
  • the experience of driving in San Juan’s rush hour traffic when 12 lanes of inbound cars merged into 4 without traffic lines or signals of any sort.

While travel is all a little harder on my body these days, I am intent on not missing the moments made for worshipping along the way this time.  I cannot reverse the way I lived my 20’s, doubting the goodness of God, but I can learn from that experience.  My trip to Puerto Rico reminded me – again – to savor the gifts I’ve been given. The song, Peace, written by Michael McDonald and recorded by Russ Taff, perfectly captures my thoughts:

I have come from so far away

Down the road of my own mistakes

In the hope you could hear me pray

Oh Lord, keep me in your reach.

 

How I’ve longed through these wasted years

To outrun all my pain and fears

Turn to stone from own cried tears

And now its your grace I see

 

Love won’t compromise

It’s a gift, it’s a sacrifice

My soul renewed, and my heart released

In you I find my peace.

 

Wonderous child of whom the angels sing

Know my joy, feel my suffering

Shining star make this love you bring

So bring that I may believe

 

That my way will not be lost

From now on, ‘till that river’s crossed

My soul renewed, and my spirit free

In you I’ll find my peace

1st 50 years-5 things I’m Sure Of

Monday I joined the 50 ranks. Whatever that’s supposed to feel like, I’m pretty sure I don’t. By age 50, you’d think I’d feel pretty sure about just about everything. One thing I am most assured of is I’m sure I don’t.

Yet in a reflective mode, I challenged myself to list what I’m most assured of about life after living 50 years. These five things topped the list:

  1. God is Right-He’s right about himself, and he’s certainly right about me. He’s right about good and evil, love and hate, holiness and pride, the present and the future, and power and humility. The depth of my submission to his “rightness” is the depth of my contentment and peace.
  2. There’s More Than This-Although there’s a lot to enjoy about God’s earth, life is more than what I can see, taste, hear, touch, and feel. An eternal perspective reveals the “more” and keeps the visible in its proper priority.
  3. Less is More-Specifically less noise, less doing, less collecting of stuff replaced by more listening, more being, and more margin.
  4. Giving and Receiving are both important-Yes, Paul mentions in Acts that givers are more blessed. I don’t disagree with that. My caveat is that I can’t just keep on giving and giving and resist receiving. I have to receive in order to give. Both are important.
  5. A godly life results in no regrets-“I want no regrets when the horses come for me.” -Margaret Becker

What are you most assured of?

Live How You Want to Die

Since Saturday I’ve had quite a few interactions with people giving me reason to ponder this question: How is it some people die happy and others don’t?

I say since Saturday because that’s the day some of our church family gathered to remember the life of Buna Brannon. She lived a full life. And I’m not just referring to her age of 84. Buna lived a full life because she chose to live it to its fullest.

By the time I met Mrs. Buna, she was already retired, 76 years of age. Nothing kept her down. Not illness. Not emotions. Not people. She made a choice to live life how she wanted, not how others wanted. And the foundation of that choice was her faith, how she understood God wanted her to live. And because of that faith, she lived happily, joyfully, actively, and extremely generously. And that’s also how she died. Until days before her living was done, she gave to others and thought of others which brought her joy, peace, and purpose. She had lived life in such a way that she was more than ready to leave it as she lived it.

However you live is probably how you’re going to die. It’s sad to watch people live unlike how they probably want to die. Angry. Depressed. Judging. Discontent. Proud. Buna made the choice to live with joy, with hard work, with purpose, and with love. And that’s what everyone will remember about her. She died how she lived.

If you want to die happily, live happily.

If you want to die sacrificially, live sacrificially.

If you want to die peacefully, live peacefully.

If you want to die regretless, live regretless.

The choice is clearly all yours.

5 Rules to Avoid Regrettable Commitments

Who knew a book on business could be so rich? Well, I can tell you that Larry Burkett’s book Business by the Book is.

For example, in chapter 6, Keeping Vows, he gives five simple rules that could not only be applied to good business practice but also good personal living practice. He developed them to avoid making commitments he might later regret:

  1. When in Doubt, Say No
  2. Keep a “Year at a Glance” Calendar
  3. Prioritize the Day
  4. Don’t Book Too Far Ahead
  5. Use a Written Contract

Here are two quotes from the chapter that seem to support the need for these rules:

  • Situational ethics have so shaped our society that even God’s people have lost the concept of absolutes when it comes to keeping our word.
  • The probability of a misunderstanding in a written agreement has been calculated at 20%, more or less. The probability of a misunderstanding in a verbal agreement is nearly 100%!