“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Psalms 78:4

I just celebrated my 48th birthday.  I promise I am not hinting for more gifts or birthday wishes.  But I do believe birthdays should be celebrated, and we did celebrate mine on Sunday.  My daughter made me breakfast and I opened up a few surprises.  I received a few phone calls and a lot of birthday wishes on Facebook.  Yet, as this birthday passed, I realized I am getting closer to what everyone refers to as the “big 5-0”!  It makes me feel a little contemplative about my life and what it means in the big picture.  What do I still want to accomplish; what legacy do I want to leave; what do I want said about me at my funeral?  The most important question of all is how do I fit into God’s story?  I want to share with you some of my thoughts.

For starters, what does my life mean in the big picture?  I define the big picture as the world at large.  Like most people, I have not discovered a cure for a terminal disease; I have not written some important piece of legislation; I have not competed in a major athletic competition.  The reality is that when I die, I am not likely to have a Wikipedia entry.  This is not me degrading my self-worth, but rather taking a realistic look at my life.  Although I am not a major player in the big picture, I am major player in some people lives.  Starting with my family and friends, I need to demonstrate my love for them in both actions and words.  I need to be present with them and not allow lesser things to take precedence over them.  I need to put my phone away and actively listen to those I love.  I need to pray for them daily.  On a larger scale, I need to smile at neighbors I meet while walking.   I need to encourage young mothers when I see them wrestling with their toddlers.  I need to be aware of those around me who are hurting.  In essence, I need to always reflect Jesus.  My life influences those that I interact with daily; that influence can be positive or negative.  This influence is not predicated on money or power, but on being a loving wife, mother, grandmother, friend and neighbor.

This leads me to what I still want to accomplish. I know that bucket lists are the trendy thing to do, and I am not knocking that idea.  I have a journal called “Listography” that I have used, where I can list things like what places I want to see, museums I want to tour, and trails I want to hike.  For me, the things I still want to accomplish are more than a trip to Italy (although that would be nice), or hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I want to continue on my journey toward being healthy, reaching my final goal and then maintaining my weight loss by continuing the healthy habits I have formed.  I want to run a 5K and, eventually, a half marathon.  I want to continue hiking with my husband, finding restoration in God’s creation.  I want to finish my book on restoration from childhood abuse and see it published.  I want to continue to blog because it has meant something to some people.  I want to continue to read great books, keeping my mind active and always learning.  I want to finish writing out each of the Psalms in a journal, with a brief prayer on what it says to me and adding a small illustration.  It’s not enough for me to want to do these things; anyone can have goals.  I need to make time, set achievable steps, and work towards completing these tasks!

The things I accomplish are part of my legacy, but when I think of a legacy, I immediately think of my grandfather, Jerome Walter.  He was an ordinary man, completing only the eighth grade.  He worked hard as a farmer and as a factory laborer, spent less, and invested more.  When he passed away, he left a substantial inheritance for his children.  More importantly, he left a legacy that can’t be accounted for in a ledger.  These intangible gifts, like work ethic and simple living, were more valuable to his family than any amount of money they received.

To my children and grandchildren, I want to leave a legacy of faithfulness, contentment and gratefulness.  I need to remain steadfast in my relationship with God no matter what comes my way.  My faithfulness can’t be based on the hills and valleys of life; instead it should be based on the faithfulness of God’s character.  I want my children to see that I have learned to be content, like the Apostle Paul, in whatever state I am in.  I want them to know that I find delight in the simple things in life without always striving to attain more.  Contentment can’t be based on the size of my home, my bank account, or my possessions, but rather on God being my provider.  Finally, I want them to see that I am grateful.  For the past year, I have been writing three things that I am grateful in a simple journal each day.  This practice realigns my focus on gratitude instead of the problems and challenges I face.  When I practice gratefulness, I don’t make space for complaints or anxiety.  It centers me, reminding me that all good gifts come from God.

Photo credit Margaret Collins

When I think about my legacy, I often think about what my friends and family will say about me at my funeral.  I have had the privilege to help write four eulogies, including that of my beloved mother-in-law.  In writing a eulogy, you want to be honest about the character of the person, so that loved ones have a sense of closure, celebrating that person’s life and accomplishments.  The eulogy should memorialize the person, but not exaggerate their character.  Instead, it should include stories related to their quirks along with their impact on others.  This provides a balanced but honest picture of a person’s life.  When thinking about my eulogy, I am just as flawed as any other person.  I struggle with pride, lose my temper, am quick to judge, and have to repent, often.  I don’t expect my love ones to magnify my life beyond reality.  I do hope that my loved ones  are able to share that I am quick to repent, honest about my shortcomings, always striving to improve, and focused on loving others well.  I do have quirks and hope that when my eulogy is given, these quirks provide some levity in a time of grief.  In order for those things to be said with a clear conscience, I need to make sure that I am living that life now.

The most important question I have been asking is how I fit into God’s story.  I don’t know how many years I have left; prayerfully I will continue to live a long, full life.  I think there is a desire in all of us to lead a life of significance; moving us to excel in our careers or pour into our families.  This desire causes us to ponder accomplishments, eulogies and legacies.  We want to die believing our lives mattered and that we had a positive impact on others.  I am not saying that these desires are wrong.  But the more I read the Bible, the more I realize that this life I live is less about me and more about God and His character.  I have realized that God’s story, the whole Bible, is one of restoration.  He takes everything that is broken and lovingly restores it, from temples to cities to kingdoms to lives!  His greatest desire is to bring us into relationship with Him, healing our wounded places and making us whole, so that we can spend eternity with Him.  My life is full of brokenness that God has been lovingly restoring, another testimony to God’s goodness.  Anything I accomplish, anything good in me, is because of Him and is just my small part of His big story of restoration.

The “big 5-0” will be here in less than 712 days.  Personally, I am rooting for it to come with lots of glitter, good coffee and laughter, as I celebrate it with the ones I love.  But when the glitter is cleaned up and the celebration has ended, I want to continue to live a life that glorifies God.  As it says in Psalm 78:4, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation, the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” in my life!

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