Don’t miss this

She was staring out the window of that SUV, 

Complainin’ saying ‘I cant wait to turn 18’

She said “I’ll make my own money, and I’ll make my own rules”

Mama put the car in park our there in front of the school

Then she kissed her head and said ‘I was just like you’

You’re gonna miss this

You’re gonna want this back

You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast

These are some good times

So take a good look around

You may not know it now 

But you’re gonna miss this.”

This is the first verse and chorus from the song by Trace Adkins. The song goes on to describe a young woman walking through life constantly planning for the next step. Each step of her journey she found no satisfaction. She wanted more. The life she had was not enough.

If I’m honest I can probably recognise myself in the song. Perhaps not all the time, but certainly at points in life I have seen some as mere steppingstones to something that I believed at the time to be better and more fulfilling.

Looking back it becomes clear that the thing I was so confident would make things better really didn’t. Different yes – but rarely better. Each new thing holds its own challenges, new hurdles to overcome.

I am reminded of the rich young fool that Jesus talks about in Luke 12. He got to the point that he was unable to store what he had and pulled down his barns to build bigger and better ones. He was sure that in storing all that he had securely would make life easier, he could sit back, relax and ‘make merry.’ That decision was the last one that he took, as God called time on his plans.

Please be clear, I am not suggesting we don’t do things that will improve our situation. I don’t think if the rich man had simply built a bigger barn, and continued to work, providing for his family and society he would have found himself face to face with God to give an account of himself. It’s not taking the step that causes problems, its whether we are truly satisfied with what the hand that we have been given at any point. Are we willing to be content? To wait? To worship during the pain and longing?

I’ve come to realise in the past few years that not living with contentment in the situation robs me of peace. Wishing that things were different hasn’t changed the fact that I am no longer able to spend time with mum and dad. Although I enjoyed a good relationship with them, there was often something that prevented spending as much time as I now wish I had spent with them. Had I not been trying so hard to satisfy so many different people and desires, perhaps I would have had time for those that I now can’t share time with. 

I suppose what I’m saying is that it is really important to live for today.

Remember the past (I’ve written about that before – check www.slavenolonger.co.uk , “create the future, don’t guard the past ”for more) but don’t live there. 

Plan for tomorrow. Dream big for the future – God has plans for you there that far exceed yours.

But please, please please live in today. Enjoy those you love. Make time for them. Take lots of pictures. There will come a time when you wish that the last one you have was more up to date.

Lockdown is hard

Facebook tells me that two years ago yesterday I broke my ankle. At the time it was inconvenient but the circumstances that caused it were quite amusing. I’ve always said that exercise is bad for your health. I’ve proved that at least twice now.

Why then did I find it so difficult to read it?  Why has it been playing on my mind all day today? 

The truth is that as a result of the break, I wasn’t able to drive. I therefore wasn’t able to take my daughter to school.  That meant I had to get a lift to work, and find an alternative way to do the school run. The person who stepped up without considering the inconvenience was my dad.  He picked both of us up each day and dropped us off. Whatever the weather. No matter what he had planned for the day.

It was only a few short months after that he died. Less than two years. I thought I had dealt with it. 

Turns out I haven’t. 

I’ve been sad today. I’ve realised a lot of things. Things that have always been there, but for one reason or another haven’t been fully dealt with. You probably know me to be a smile and carry-on sort of a person.  I seem to take most things in my stride. But the truth is that this is often a mask, a persona that I use to cope with life. I spend a lot of time thinking about things. Even more over thinking things.

What I don’t do is spend a lot of time talking about things – especially feelings. Part of the reason for that is that I struggle to open up to people. Psychologists would probably tell you that because I was brought up in a country not of my birth, I have adopted what became a third culture. Not fully Scottish, not fully Papua New Guinean, but a mixture of the two. Add in the Australian and American influences and my brain didn’t really know where home was. I convinced myself that wherever I was I would call home. That has worked well for years. The problem is that my head has struggled to identify with any one culture as a result. I hold lots of things inside – because I don’t have the tools to explain them. And then I think some more. 

I “know” a lot of people. If honest, there are only a handful that I would call close friends. (sorry if that surprises you). There are even fewer that really know me, and that I can open up completely to.

Lockdown has meant that catching up with even that few has been challenging. I feel that I’m either at work or getting ready to go to work. Spare time (what is that I hear you say) is at a premium, and energy to actually do productive things almost non-existent.  Even if I had the mental energy to meet up – it’s against the law. (unless we exercise – and as I’ve already said, that can be bad for your health.)

Talking does help. We men are invariably bad at it anyway. Much more in lockdown. It is almost impossible to open up and share significantly on a Zoom call. What I’ve realised though (a long walk, good music helped) is that when I actually verbalise the issue, it suddenly gets smaller. It’s as if as it leaves my mouth it gets further away and less impressive. The space that it has taken up in my head is free – and life seems significantly more manageable. I’m still not very good at actually opening up to people, but writing has helped me to ‘verbalise’.

I still miss my dad. Memories of him still make me sad. I wrote the first draft of this yesterday – and felt a little better having done it. (believe me you didn’t want to read that version) It gave me the strength to re-word it. I feel more positive than I did.

Lockdown is hard – but maybe, if we can learn to  really talk to people, we can find a way to unlock the padlock, and stay free in these difficult times.