A couple weeks ago, my family pulled off an epic surprise. To be honest, I didn’t believe they had it in them. We aren’t that good at surprises, and I particularly hate being surprised, so it hasn’t been something we’ve practiced over the years. But, they pulled off a beautiful party and gathered so many of my favorite people. I was totally blown away by the love and attention poured out that night.
It’s been a rough few months for us. It never occurred to me, that through this difficult time, they were working on this. Which makes it all the more precious. When my mom and sister stepped out to greet me, I thought I might faint. I know what their February looked like because we shared it. The loss and grief, the disorientation, the upheaval as dad’s death required so much sorting and change. I know too, the grueling flight across the country. I couldn’t believe they came. I still can’t believe it.
On the morning after my party, I woke up early. Still reeling from the whirlwind, I poured a cup of tea and began poking through the cards and gifts which the kids left heaped on the kitchen table. As I read the cards with words of encouragement and love, words that reminded me of times we’ve shared and hopes for the future, I wept.
But it was a gift from my Oregon family that pushed me past the screaming edge. In the mist of the most difficult chapter of our lives, they put together a precious scrapbook for me. Each page filled with photographs, many of which I had never seen. Snapshots from another era, with my grandfather, my aunts, and uncles long gone now. Pictures of growing up with cousins and extended family. Pictures of our life across the globe and our summers home in Oregon. As I turned over each page, there was a note from someone I love. So many words of love and memories shared and treasured. It brings tears to my eyes just to think of it.
Mom told me that she and dad had been planning this for a while, but just ran out of time. So, Jayla stepped in and helped pull the pieces together. They reached out to family and friends asking for notes and memories to be included with the photos. The result is a scrapbook filled with the most important pieces of my life. The people, the places, the events that shaped me and made me who I am today. Not a bad way to celebrate the second half of my life.
I was nervous about turning 50. From a distance, this birthday seemed to have an ominous shadow. I certainly don’t feel 50. When I was home for Dad’s funeral, we talked a lot about how we were now the same age our mothers were when our Grandpa died. Then, we were in our twenties, and our mothers seemed, well, old. When we were younger, I never really thought about getting older. I’m not afraid of it, but it doesn’t really seem real to me either.
Surely, by the time you are 50 you will have your life together. Surely, by the time you are 50 you’ll no longer be a hot mess. Surely, by the time you are 50 you will have it all figured out.
Well, I don’t.
Instead, I find myself in a time of reimagining my life. The past few years of change and turmoil have reminded me of the fragile nature of time, of life. I find myself thinking deeply about my values, about goals, and about what kind of life I want to live. I feel as though time is accelerating at breakneck speed. If half of my life is behind me, I want to be real sure that I use the time ahead well.
All of this requires that I slow down. It feels as though life is dragging me forward at a pace that is unsustainable, and I need to find ways to slow it down. I need to think about what matters, make choices, and be intentional about my days. The problem is, I’m not very good at this. I am learning, but it feels a lot like playing the guitar. My fingers aren’t long enough and the strings hurt my fingers. I’m all awkward and uncomfortable trying to learn these new movements.
Maybe someday, when I’m sixty, I’ll have this figured out. Until then, I am fumbling my way through. Spending less time on Facebook and more time in my journal. Spending time with people who know and love me, sharing my dreams and hopes for the future. Spending time and attention on the narrow circle of those to whom my life matters most.
A couple years ago, I heard a teacher describe our lives as concentric circles. She asked us to draw circles inside of circles and then to label each one with the sphere of influence we held. As I labeled the circles family, friends, work, ministry, community. In each circle I added the major areas of responsibility I carry, including my hopes and dreams for the future. Once we had this visual representation of our lives, she began to tell a story.
Imagine that you are in the center of your life. In your hand, you hold a garden hose. From that hose, you water the garden (represented by the circles). If you are like me, you stand in the middle and point the hose toward the outer rings, hoping that you will be able to maintain the public spheres you are responsible for. In the process, the spray drops water on the people in your inner rings. You can imagine your children and husband standing under the spray hoping for a few drops here and there. You move the spray back and forth trying to make sure everything in your life gets at least enough to keep going.
As she spoke, I could envision the scene played out over a thousand days. Working hard to keep everything moving forward, running myself ragged and wearing out those closest to me. The ways my children sometimes got the dregs from my life after I had poured out my best to those other circles. The ways that my husband found me worn and depleted with no energy left for him. The ways that my own life has been neglected because I was too busy taking care of the needs of others.
And then she said the words that I’ve been thinking about ever since…
What if you turned the hose down?
What would happen if instead of trying to water the edges of your life and hoping that the important things in the center got enough, you instead focused your energy on the tending your life, your family and let the water overflow from there. That is my desire. It’s actually the image Cascading Life is built on. My desire to build a life where there is fullness for myself, and the people I am responsible for, and to let that fullness spread out into the wider spheres of my life.
A couple years in, I am still struggling to implement this in my life. I’m still trying to figure out how to point the hose down… but I am working at it. I want to give my family and friends the very best I have to offer. To show up in ways that only I can. My children can’t find another mother down the street, my husband isn’t allowed another wife. I have a role in my sister, my niece, and my mom’s life that no one else gets to have. I want to show up and love them well giving them the very best of myself. So, I’m going to keep learning and practicing this. They are worth it.
What about you? How could your life benefit from pointing the hose down?