Grateful for the Experience

Early last Sunday morning I was driving home from a weekend fly fishing trip in Central Oregon.  The temperature was a pleasant 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) under a cloudless, sunny blue sky.  It is mornings like this that make me feel especially blessed to be alive.

Since my wife was out of town, I decided to take my time getting home and enjoy being out in such a beautiful part of the state on a morning like this.  It was great!  I stopped at to look at a scenic landmark, walked through the town of Sisters Oregon, and read the Bible along the banks of the awe-inspiring Metolius River.  I felt recharged, inspired, and invigorated.

MetoliusAs I realized it was time to start making my way home, I was a little saddened that my wonderful morning was about over.  I didn’t want it to end.

Have you ever felt like that?  You’re having such a great time that the thought of it coming to an end is rather sad.  That’s how I felt this particular morning.

However, my wonderful morning reminded me of the following quote:  “Don’t be sad it’s over; be grateful you had the experience.”

Sure, it can be sad when something you enjoy comes to an end, like:

  • A fun time away from the regular routine.
  • A visit from a friend or relative.
  • The end of a rewarding job or career.
  • The loss of a beloved pet.
  • A child leaving home.
  • An enjoyable vacation/holiday.

But consider how blessed you were to have had the opportunity to create the memories those things produced.

The next time you’re feeling sad at the end of an enjoyable experience, make the mental shift from sadness to gratitude.  Be grateful for memories you just made, while eagerly looking forward to the new ones yet to come.

It’s Happening Now

This week I saw the following statement on someone’s T-shirt:  “Enjoy it because it’s happening now”.

I love this timely reminder!

With the beginning of a new year, it’s common to focus on goals and what we plan on doing in the upcoming weeks and months of 2017.  While looking ahead and planning are indeed both important endeavors, it’s equally important that they not occur at the expense of enjoying the good things we’re experiencing in the present moment.

It seems to me that we create our history, our memories, our relationships, and even cement our legacies by how we choose handle what’s happening to us in each moment.

What kind of memories are we creating when we’re overly focused on the future?  What kind of relationships are we creating when we’re too distracted slow down and connect with the people we love and care about?  How will we be remembered by the people with whom we have the pleasure of crossing paths with?  Will they feel like we were looking over their shoulders to see what was next, or will they feel like we actually cared about and were interested in them?

Once gone, a present moment cannot be recaptured.  We can’t go back and extract enjoyment we left on the table from a moment that has already passed.  We must be mindful to enjoy what’s happening right now.

 

Don’t Miss It

As I was driving to the gym at 5:10 AM on a dark Tuesday morning this week I was fortunate to see an absolutely beautiful natural scene.

The full moon was high in the clear, dark western sky, illuminating a band of clouds that had stacked up along the eastern slope of the Oregon Coast Range.  The moon’s reflected light cast down on the clouds causing them to pop against the black sky with brilliant shades of silver, white, and gray.  The tableau was so striking, so breath-taking and unexpected that I just stopped in the middle of the road to watch it for a moment. (One of the benefits of a small town in the wee hours of the morning.)

As beautiful as this scene was, it would have been easy to miss, had I been too mentally distracted to notice.  I’m amazed at how busy our minds can get, with all the life events that clamor for bits of our mental capacity.  Whether it’s thinking about the people, places, or things in our life, or keeping up with all the technological notifications and alerts we’re bombarded with, our minds can easily become so full that we find ourselves distracted from, if not blind to, the things going on right in front of us.

I hate to think of being too distracted to notice such a beautiful moonlit scene.  But even worse, I wonder what other beautiful things I have failed to notice in my past, simply because I was too distracted to see them.

As we’re going about living active lives, let’s make sure we’re saving some mental capacity to take notice of the beautiful things happening right in front of us.  We never know when a naturally beautiful scene will make a surprise appearance.

Let’s be ready for it!

Dealing With Uncertainty

No matter where in the world you live, you’ve likely heard the results of the US presidential election.  It’s been a circus and I, for one, am so thankful it’s over.

The emotions people are feeling range from anger to jubilation, disbelief to indifference, and everything in between.  There is a lot of uncertainty and people are wondering just what their country, their home, and the world will look like in the months ahead.  It would be easy to get caught up in all the uncertainty and start worrying about the future, but I think there’s a better way to respond.

Instead of worrying about things that are out of our control, let’s look at ourselves, where we do have control, and choose to:

  • Exercise creativity in our work and our personal lives
  • Love those closest to us
  • Treat those around us with kindness and understanding
  • Learn, explore, and be curious about the world and people in it

These are just a few of the ways among many that we can redirect our energies away from worry of uncertainty and focus them on more meaningful pursuits.  Pursuits that can make your life and the lives of those around you better.

For me, I also take comfort in an uncertain future by knowing that God is never surprised by events and that He is always in control.

As the world looks a little uncertain, let’s remember that we can still have a positive impact in our circles of influence by choosing to offer the best of who we are to those around us.  Although we may not impact the world, we will impact our portions of it.

Of that, I’m certain.

Stop and Ask

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  ~Socrates

An unexamined life can certainly be worth living.  Actually, it can probably be quite fun and, to a degree, free of the stress that comes from examining one’s own life.  If you’re not examining your life, you’re not worried about whether you’re making progress toward your potential or cultivating and using your gifts and talents wisely.

However, the problem with an unexamined life is that when it is drawing to an end, we may realize, only too late, that the body of work we’ve created with our life is not what we had hoped for, or what we would like to have done with it.  At this point, we may determine that if we had it to do over again, we would have paid more attention to where we were going.

I think it’s important to regularly stop and examine our lives. How else do we know if we’re making progress toward the things that are important to us if we don’t stop long enough to assess whether or not we’re on course?

One of the best ways we can do this is to determine where it is we’re trying to go in life, and whether the path we’re on is taking us there.  If it is, great!  Stay on course and keep checking in with yourself to make sure you’re not straying off course.  If you find that you are off course, or have never been on a specific course and are lacking direction, spend some time with paper and pencil (or any medium you prefer to capture thoughts) and ask the following:

  1. Where do I want to go?
  2. What do I need to do to get there?
  3. What’s the next step I can take to start moving in that direction?

Then take that step today!

We could have fun on a journey but be disappointed with the destination if it’s not some place we’d like to be.  Examining one’s life is much like consulting a map, or stopping and asking for directions as we travel.  It’s how we ensure that we’re on a journey toward a destination we’d like to reach.

Words

Would you ever walk around deliberately throwing pointed darts at people, hitting them with a club, or punching them in the gut? Of course not!  In fact, if we did, we’d likely get arrested!  Yet everyday people are equally, if not more, careless with the words they choose to launch at others.

Words are interesting because they don’t have any preference on how or for what purpose they are used.  They are amoral and only become positive or negative based solely on how we choose to wield them.

Look at the contrast between the attributes of positive and negative words:

Positive Words Negative Words
Encouraging Discouraging
Affirming Tearing down
Loving Hateful
Caring Hurtful
Compassionate Condemning
Healing Crushing
Life saving Hopeless
Enduring Enduring

 

Our words have an impact on people, especially on those closest to us.  And though they can be positive or negative, they are often not soon forgotten.

This underscores the importance of the awareness we should possess regarding the words we use and how we’re treating others with them.  Are we being careless with our words or are we using them to encourage and edify others?  If we could see a visual representation of the words we’re delivering to others would they resemble sticks, darts, clubs, and stones, or would they look more like a smile, a pat on the back, a high-five, and a hug?

We do have a choice regarding the words we use.  They leave our lips wrapped in our intentions.  Let’s intention to deliver positive words that bless others versus cursing them.  When we do, we’ll likely notice that the words we receive from others are kind and positive as well.

It’s Time to be Intentional

How many times has a scenario similar to this happened to you?  You’re talking with a friend about something fun you’d both like to do and someone says, “That sounds fun!  We need to do that!”  You’re both genuinely interested in the event, and have every intention of scheduling a time to get together and make it happen.  But you get busy and the event, along with everyone’s excitement about it, gets pushed to the back of everyone’s mind, where it is soon forgotten until the next time you get together with this friend and the topic comes up again… and the cycle continues.

This was the same cycle me, my wife, sister, and brother-in-law have been in for several years regarding a day trip to Oregon’s Fruit Loop in the Hood River Valley.

Hood River Oregon is known for its agriculture, specifically apples, pears, and peaches.  (Once you’ve had a Honey Crisp apple from Kiyokawa Family Orchards you’ll be spoiled for life!  No other apple will ever compare.)  The Fruit Loop consists of a bunch of farms, orchards, and wineries in the area that sell produce and other regional goods they produce.  While the Fruit Loop is open most of the year, for my wife and I, fall is the best time to attend.

hoodriver

Anyhow, my wife, sister, brother-in-law and I finally decided that September 24, 2016 would be the day that the 4 of us would at last go to the Fruit Loop together.  It turned out to be a perfect day!  The weather was sunny and in the mid-70s with spectacular views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.   We picked Honey Crisp apples right off the tree, sampled delicious seasonal fruit, along with jams, jellies, and pastries, and ended the day with a late lunch at Mt Hood’s Timberline Lodge.  A beautiful end to a fantastic day!

This trip reminded me about the importance of being intentional about making events like this happen.  It’s too easy to just say you want to get together with folks and do something special, and then never make it happen.  However, but I would argue that it’s also pretty easy to get out the calendar and pick a day make it happen.  Being intentional is not that hard.  Especially when we realize the positive impact it can have on our lives.

What about you?  Are there activities you’d like to do that you’re putting off for no good reason, or people you’ve been meaning to connect with that you never get around to putting on the calendar?  If so, I encourage you to go get your calendar or send an email to those you’ve been meaning to connect with and set a date to make it happen.

It’s time to stop being too busy and start being intentional.