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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today is a Special Occasion

So...friends and dear readers... I know it has been a while since I have been here. I think about you often. I think about writing and blogging often. I think about creating art often. Life gets in the way. We all know the story. How many countless blog posts have we all seen where the blogger laments not having posted in a while?

This is not that kind of post.

My heart and my brain have been mulling this over for hours now, and I know I won't be able to go to bed tonight without exorcising the words from my noggin. I started writing my thoughts to my Facebook status, then realized it needed to be much longer than just a couple sentences.  I have so much I want to say to you and have no idea how to articulate it.

I don't want this post to be a bummer or bring you down. I want it to challenge you, to inspire you. And just maybe, I want you to hold me accountable.  But more on that in a minute...

This past December, for one long terrible month, I experienced a horrific infection that almost took my sanity along with my skin.  (I am still dealing with the after-effects. But that's another story for another time.)  In the middle of that nightmare, my mother-in-law was admitted to the ICU on a completely unrelated matter.  I was barely on the upswing of my own recovery and by sheer will, forced myself to find enough energy to get it together, get dressed, and go see her.  A week later, she passed on.  I'm thankful for every one of those final fleeting conversations I was able to have with her.

This afternoon, I had to spend a few hours at my mother-in-law's condo cleaning out some stuff. I found brand-new makeup that will never be used, brand-new clothes that will never be worn, brand-new jewelry still in their presentation boxes.

I loved my mother-in-law, so please don't hear this as a criticism.  I just want to share the lesson I learned today.  Something I'm so thankful to both God and my mother-in-law for showing me.

She was always on the hunt for the latest and greatest youth-in-a-bottle remedy for wrinkles or age spots.  She had tonics and serums and solutions by the cabinet-full.  Guess what... My husband and I loved her, no matter what she looked like.  We never cared about or even noticed the things about her appearance that bothered her so much.  The buckets of money and the stress she could have saved herself if she would have just embraced herself and not worried about appearances. When I went through my recent illness, it affected my appearance. I looked like Freddie Kruger's ugly cousin.  And guess what... my husband didn't stop loving me.  My friends didn't stop talking to me.

Your friends and family love you for who you are, not how you look.

My mother-in-law's house is filled with brand-new things she bought and never even took out of the box.  They gathered dust and brought no joy to her life.  She will never wear that jewelry, or that new blouse, or use those scented candles, or watch those movies.  It is all dusty and turning to dust.  I'm not mad at her for it, just sad.  What was she waiting for? What was she saving them for? Why didn't she enjoy those things while she was alive?  There are two things that struck me about this:

1.  Spend your time, money, and talents on the things that matter (which usually is not the inanimate "things" of this world).

It's not a sin to have nice things (within reason).  However, you will be more happy if you collect precious memories with your friends, if you store up fun adventures and experiences, if you spend time on helping others, on being a friend, on showing love, rather than hunting down the latest and greatest piece of technology or newest fashion trend.  And if you do treat yourself to a pretty new perfume or a fancy dress (I, myself, am a sucker for silver jewelry) - wear it today Don't wait for "someday" or a special occasion.  And if you find out it's not something you will use or wear, give it to someone else who will be blessed by it, and you will be blessed in return.

2. Today is the special occasion!  Now is the time to enjoy life, not later.  "Later"or "someday" is not guaranteed to any of us.

My extended illness wasn't necessarily life-threatening, although it teetered on that line.  But it was debilitating.  I was overjoyed on the day I had enough strength to get up and pour myself a cup of juice without getting tired.  The day I was finally able to do the laundry myself, I was so thankful to be upright and moving and the smell of that fabric softener was the sweetest smell in the world.  I'm not kidding.  I appreciated every mundane moment.  How quickly that gratitude faded, and I was back to complaining about traffic, instead of reveling in the moment to enjoy the song on the stereo, happy to be outside instead of cooped up in bed.

But I digress...

Here is the final lesson I learned today, in the school of life.  At my mother-in-law's house, I came across a pretty book with a flower fairy on the cover.  Recognizing the illustration, and being a fan of artist Cicely Mary Barker, I picked it up thinking it was a collection of her art.  Instead, I discovered it was a journal.  It was completely blank.  Dear readers, I began to cry. Why?  Because my studio is filled with journals, some of them I've bought and some have been given to me, some are lined for writing and some are made of art paper for sketching, and almost every single one of them are blank.  My mother-in-law's life is over.  Those stark blank pages spoke to the reality that there are no more chances for her to fill her journal. But I am still alive.

What am I waiting for?  Now is the time.

Where have I been spending my time?

My head is full of stories and things to say.  I've known since I was old enough to draw and write that I wanted to write stories and illustrate them. Writing matters to me. Why am I not spending time on it?  Drawing and painting matter to me.  Why am I not spending time on making art?  So I'm recommitting myself again, to spend more time on what matters - using the skills God gave me, doing what I love, and loving Him and loving others along the way too.  (I have no clue if the commitment to write more will equate to more posts on this blog, but please stick around.  It might be a pleasant byproduct of this adventure.) I'm not perfect. I will stumble.  I will make mistakes.  I will fall.  But my prayer is that each time I will get back up and press on, appreciate each moment (even the painful ones), take nothing (or no one) for granted, and have no regrets.

What are your talents?  Are you using them?
Who do you love?  Have you told them?
What are you waiting for?

You are uniquely gifted.  God loves you and wants you to use those gifts.
Your friends and family love you for who you are, and are your biggest cheerleaders. 
Spend time on things that matter. 

Today is the special occasion you've been waiting for.