“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
I have a confession to make. I started reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, which is an amazing, revolutionary book (or so I had heard from everyone and their sister). I got through chapter three before I nonchalantly concluded that I knew where she was going and that I pretty much already do what she is advocating. And then I stopped reading.
Sometimes I hear my own thoughts and just have to chuckle in disbelief at their arrogance. In repentance, I did start chapter four today and enjoyed it.
That said, it does seem to me that the heart of her book seems to be about being grateful for every moment…which is a lesson that I have been trying to learn since the beginning of 2009. That’s when I started a scrapbooking endeavor called, “Project 365,” where I took a picture every day. One thing I discovered that year was how much looking through the lens of the camera helped me truly see my blessings. Now, don’t misunderstand: I am no photographer. I am a strictly point-n-shoot type of girl, and for the past month, I’ve been relying on Greg’s phone for most of my pictures since my beloved camera broke. So it was not the art of photography that taught me gratitude. Instead, it was simply the discipline of keeping my eyes open for the special moments, and pausing to record them. That discipline has been an incredible gift to me.
Since 2009, I have kept some variation of the same scrapbook. I always use Becky Higgins’ format, which is called Project Life. In 2011, I did a digital version of Project Life, finishing up on New Year’s Eve. Two days ago, I got it in the mail.
Since then, I’ve been greedily poring over it and finding myself flooded by memories of all the sacred and wonderful things that happened last year. Of course, there were big things like birthday parties and first days of schools, and those were duly recorded. But there were also little things:
This moment with Anna absolutely melted me. I remember it like it was yesterday. The euphoria of having her sleep in my arms was like a drug. Seriously, I felt high. She doesn’t usually do that anymore.
There were also moments, like this one, that I had forgotten. Seeing the picture revived my memories of the whole evening. We wanted to have a fun family night, and I thought up an Italian theme. We would make homemade pizzas and watch Lady and the Tramp. But everything went wrong. I couldn’t find Lady and the Tramp anywhere, our pizzas messed up, and Greg and I were both in testy moods. I remember sitting at the table eating my still-doughy pizza, and staring out the window at a beautiful summer evening. I wanted so badly to go running instead of watching the movie. But I gritted my teeth and continued with family night. We made inflatable beds and watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It was surprisingly funny, and we all ended up laughing and laughing and had a great conversation afterward, snuggling on inflatable mattresses and giggling about our favorite parts. I went to bed feeling like my heart would burst with happiness. I am so glad that I stuck out that tragicomic family night.
One evening, we tried out a new restaurant, Sesame Burgers. While we waited outside, we entertained ourselves by trying to get a good family self-portrait. The results were hilarious, and this one was the best of the bunch.
Luke went through a brief phase of trying to give his family “the best night ever,” by turning down all of her beds at night. I had totally forgotten about this little practice of his, but it was so sweet.
I took this picture after a disastrous morning, where the kids and I barreled out the door, late for Anna’s gymnastics…and found out that the battery on our van was dead. We had to hastily load carseats into a Jeep (NOT fun) to get there, but by the time Greg and Luke worked on the battery that afternoon, I was able to take the long view and laugh at the whole situation.
I have found that capturing the “small” moments of joy helps me to keep the moments of frustration in perspective:
I capture these moments because I want to remember them. Remembering them helps me to appreciate them. And appreciating them in retrospect reminds me to also appreciate the present moments. It helps me to fully live each moment that God sends me. That’s my goal, at least. I guess it’s how I “seize the day.”
I read an article yesterday, in which the author related how the concept of carpe diem intimidated her. She felt that it put this pressure on her to have every moment full of giddiness and joy…when truthfully, her life was not like that.
Whose life is like that? I know mine is not.
The article coincided with a conversation I had recently about the degree to which we can truly “seize the day.” Basically, it was questioned whether we really could maintain such an intense level of existence moment-to-moment…or if the most we could reasonably hope for was a few good moments throughout each day. Maybe I’m ridiculously naive, but I truly do believe that we can live each moment fully. And I definitely don’t believe that living each moment fully means feeling non-stop ecstasy throughout each day.
I have the same moments that everyone else does. Right now, I’m battling a cold, and my head feels like it’s going to explode. There is fluid in my ears, which magnifies all sound, so I have spent the past couple days repeatedly asking my kids if they could please be a little quieter. I think they think I am losing my mind. I also started a part-time teaching job this week, which has been great, but it has made me readjust my routines to figure out how to fit everything in. We also have quite a few house guests this week, a circumstance that brings a whole other level of housework and meal planning. There have definitely been moments of exhaustion, which have led to confusion and inefficiency. But I don’t think that being exhausted and inefficient necessarily means failing to live life fully. One result of my exhausted inefficiency this afternoon was that I realized that the most efficient thing I could handle with my current level of brain functioning was to sit and find Waldo with Luke in the Where’s Waldo book we checked out yesterday. We found Waldo, the Wizard, Wenda, Woof, and Ogwald in all the pictures. And I’ve got to say, I’m a master at finding Woof:)! I even found the scroll a few times! That was seizing the day. It’s really not so hard.
Seizing the day for me is really just to embrace each moment for what it is. That’s how you make the moments count. I try so hard not to resent my hard moments or wish them away. Instead, when I embrace the exhaustion, the difficulty, the frustration, and the pain for what they are…I often find that they are strangely beautiful:
This was taken the evening we found out that Greg would probably lose his job, which was one of the biggest blows of both of our lives. I can’t even describe to you how much pain I was in when I snapped that picture. And yet, something compelled me to seize the moment, to make it count, to remember it. There just seemed to be something sacred in the fact that Greg continued to read the kids their Bible stories, as always. Even though everything had changed for us, nothing had changed about the God we serve. There is something sacred about pain, just like there is something sacred about joy.
And so I continue to try to cultivate the art of moment counting. I try to see the meaning in everything…honestly, because I really want there to be meaning in everything. I’m not sure that anything is more fundamentally depressing to me than meaninglessness. Pain, tragedy, heartbreak…it is all manageable if I can believe there might be meaning behind it. It’s unbearable otherwise. The same is true, to a different degree, of the rest of my life. I want it all to have meaning, every second. Maybe that sounds horrible to you, or unrealistic. But it sounds like heaven to me–truly! And the more I seek God, the more He gives me the meaning I long for in every second of the day. Seek, and ye shall find, right?
And that’s how I count my moments…and make my moments count.
How do you do it?