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fullsizerender-7fullsizerender-5fullsizerender-6Last week all of my sister’s family and all of mine gathered together at the beach for some family time.   One of the things I realized is that 14 adults and 12 kids consume a whole lot of food!  I also realized again how fun it is to have such a variety of personalities in the mix.  Also reconfirmed to me is how important it is to provide opportunities for children to create memories with their extended family.  Special times with my cousins, aunts and uncles are some of my most treasured childhood memories.

One morning I took all of the older kids for a beach walk in search of shells.  They eagerly scoured the beaches, running back and forth to show their latest treasure, oblivious to time or temperature.  Eventually one of the cousins started to complain of thirst and wanted to turn back.  The group voted to keep forging ahead with the adventure so the one dissenting cousin had to tag along.

Why can’t you quit rushing and just enjoy the journey?

When we finally turned around to start walking back to the beach house the impatient, thirsty child ran ahead of the rest of us yelling, “Hurry up!  Walk faster!  Come on you guys!”   The rest of the group kept finding wonderful shells to add to their collections which only further frustrated the one in a hurry.  Finally Blake, my niece’s nine-year-old son, calmly responded with, “Why can’t you quit rushing and just enjoy the journey?”

I had to laugh out loud.  “That’s right, Blake!” I chimed in.  “It’s not about the SPEED of the journey.  It’s about the JOY of the journey.”  Blake, who is a more astute philosopher and theologian than many adults I know, repeated my phrase a few times and I could tell he was storing it in his marvelous little mind.

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Blake, our nine-year-old philosopher.

Blake and I have been having meaningful conversations since he was around the age of five.  He makes great observations and has a sense of logic that defies his years.  I love spending time with him and wish more grownups had some of the basic wisdom he has already embraced.  Take for example the concept of enjoying the journey.  I love that!

The speed at which we live our lives today has created for many a multi-tasking frenzy.  We check our emails while we eat our meals, make phone calls while we drive, cook and care for our children and are always in a hurry to get to the next thing.  There’s nothing wrong with ambition or an ample social calendar but is it at the cost of real joy?  If so we’ve missed one of life’s greatest gifts.

While I was on vacation, my phone rang early one morning before I was even awake.  One of my dearest friends had called to tell me her only son had been killed in a tragic accident.  On Saturday I attended the memorial service of this wonderful young man.  Still a few weeks shy of twenty-one years old, Cole had packed more joy into two decades than many people do in a lifetime.  Every person who spoke mentioned the joy with which he lived his life and the joy he spread to those around him.  Because of that joy, his parents were determined to focus on the celebration his life had been.

Cole had packed more joy into two decades than many people do in a lifetime.

The apostle Paul encouraged us to “Be full of joy in the Lord always.  I will say again, be full of joy.” (Phil 4:4)    If Paul were writing this blog he might have some catchy phrase like “Don’t choose the craving of competition over the pleasure of being present” or “Don’t sacrifice the sacred for the tyranny of the temporal”.  But then again Paul was always pretty direct so he would probably just say “Be full of joy in the Lord always.”

One of the speakers at the writer’s conference I attended this past summer was Shauna Niequist.  This young mother of two is a self-proclaimed over achiever who published three books in a decade while holding a full time ministry position, traveling to speak on weekends and attempting to raise a family.

For years she pushed her body and her schedule beyond sensible limits until finally one day in a hotel room in Dallas she realized she had to make a change.  Her latest book, Present Over Perfect, recounts her journey from a frantic and frenzied lifestyle to a simpler, more joyful way of living.

In the final paragraph of the introduction to her book she says this, “My prayer is that this book will be a thousand invitations springing up from every page, calling you to leave behind the heavy weight of comparison, competition, and exhaustion, and to recraft a life marked by meaning, connection, and unconditional love.”

I so admire her willingness to take an honest look at her life, assess it for what it was and make changes for what it should be.  Such wisdom is found in Shauna’s words in this sentence:  “Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul.”

She goes on to say, “My regrets:  how many years I bruised people with my fragmented, anxious presence.  How may moments of connection I missed –too busy, too tired, too frantic and strung out on the drug of efficiency.  Now I know there’s another way.”

“Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul.”

Yes, Shauna, there IS another way.  And as nine-year-old Blake would tell you, “It’s not about the speed of the journey.  It’s about the joy of the journey.”  Some of us just learn that sooner than others Blake.

I heard on the radio yesterday that there are several new words being introduced into the English dictionary.  One of them is “yolo”.  The meaning is “you only live once”.  Life is fragile.  Life is brief.  Make it a joyful journey, friends!