During one of our many family times enjoyed in Christmas seasons of the past, my eldest daughter, now a happily married woman and mother of two, expressed a very thoughtful sentiment.
She said, “It ought to be that we have a ‘build-down’ period after Christmas just like we have a ‘build-up’ period before it. That way we wouldn’t just go off a cliff when the everything is over and we all go back to our everyday lives.”
But life just doesn’t work that way. Time moves on, day after day, inexorably taking us away from the good times and leaving us with only memories. But there is something wonderful about the unstoppable surging of time. If we manage our lives well, there will be more and more good times waiting just around the corner.
So, here are some paradoxical suggestions for making the most of 2015.
Take the time to make some thoughtful plans. Sit down with your calendar and your family, and mark out some time for getaways, adventures, special meals, dates, outings and whatever else makes for good memories.
Here’s what I’ve learned: The appointment calendar is sovereign! If you get to it first, you can say “no” to other semi-obligatory things that may come up unexpectedly.
I’ve also found that having fun things to look forward makes them all the more beneficial. Knowing that I’ve got an outing planned to see the grandkids, or take in a movie, or barbecue ribs for friends, seems to be a pick-me-up all by itself. Try it. Make some plans and then look forward to seeing them come about.
Live in the moment. Yes, this is paradoxical to the previous suggestion. But I have found there are unexpected pleasures and joys inhabiting almost every hour of my day.
It could be finding that I put just the right amount of cream in my coffee, or reading an exceptional article, or even hearing about a colleague welcoming their first grandchild.
Sometimes it is an old favorite song playing on the way to work, or finding the perfect parking spot at the market, or the simple joy of rounding the corner and seeing my home after a taxing day of study.
While I love to make plans and look forward, I have also found it greatly therapeutic to notice the small joys and bits of beauty God sprinkles generously all around me.
Remember, each day is a 24-hour gift, wrapped up in fresh, daily circumstances, and offering a once-in-a-lifetime set of challenges, opportunities and adventures. You’ll never have another one just like it, so use it well, and face it with eyes wide open to its unique offerings.
Take care of yourself. As I age, I am finding that time spent on health is time well-spent.
Can we all agree that, after 50 we just can’t eat or act as we once did? It’s time we took the time to do what we all know we need to do, whether it is exercise, or practice the “10-finger push away” at the dinner table.
Forget about yourself. Yep, another paradox. Sure we need to look out for ourselves, but not at the expense of looking out for others. The greatest privilege in life is living beyond ourselves, getting over our inborn addiction to self in order to spend our lives making others better.
It is also clear that the best way to overcome personal pain is to find a way to alleviate someone else’s pain. Those who remain in their own pity party too long will find that they become addicted to their own discouragement, and then wear it like a badge of honor.
It is so much better to throw off what can’t be solved anyway, and find joy in serving others less fortunate.
So, bring on a New Year, and let’s make the most of it. After all, our days are numbered, and the years keep piling on.
The God who made us did so for noble purposes, the chief being to glorify him now so we may enjoy him forever. And that makes waking up, and getting up, and getting on a worthwhile proposition every day.
Happy New Year!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.