A couple of days ago, I felt compelled to begin a blog post about something that has been on my mind a lot lately. Truthfully, it's on my mind all the time and has been for years. But sometimes, without warning, it forces itself to the forefront of my thoughts and actions, and actually, it's sort of become a mantra for me. It's simply this: Make TODAY count.
My life has been so incredibly blessed. As I have put my hand in the Lord's and allowed Him to guide my choices, I have found all of my dreams and goals being met, although not always in the ways I had envisioned. My most fervent desire was to be a wife and a mother. So simple, I know, but I had this fear growing up that, for one reason or another, these blessings would not be mine. Now, I sometimes fear these children I love so much might be taken away from me for some reason. Maybe it's because the world is so violent and bad things happen regularly. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that when I was only 11 years old, I went through a life-changing, traumatic experience. In one single event on one single day, my parents almost lost three of their five children. This experience left me appreciating the very fact I was alive and that also left me promising to never take one single day for granted. Now that I am a mother, it reminds me to appreciate each day with my children, knowing life can change in an instant.
Without going into a lot of detail, let me explain just a bit. On May 16, 1986 our small elementary school in Cokeville, Wyoming was held hostage by a man and a woman with a homemade bomb. They gathered 154 of us--students, teachers, etc.--into one small classroom and demanded $2 million/person. Their plan was to blow us all up and rule us in what they called a "brave new world." We were hostages for over two hours before the bomb was accidentally detonated. Through a series of tremendous miracles I cannot begin to mention here, we all made it out alive, although many were seriously burned and underwent burn treatments for many months and even years. Only the captors lost their lives. (I was recently asked to speak about the events of that day and I put together this short video--click here to see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
I went home that day a different person than I was when I left for school that morning. I was 11 years old at the time, old enough to understand the reality of what had happened and to internalize the tremendous blessing of all of us surviving. I determined to never forget that and to take advantage of every day I was given, suddenly realizing that life is indeed very fragile and can change in an instant. Hence my mantra: "Make TODAY count."
So simple, right? I mean, of course I should make today count--that's obvious. But is it really? And if it is, then why do I often find myself realizing my razor-sharp focus is actually a blur of non-vital activities and time-wasters that leave me feeling dissatisfied? I don't really have the answer to this question, but I do believe it has something to do with the ever-attractive, enticing allurements of what I simply call "the World."
I think it's a bit different for everyone, but some of the things I get caught up on are things such as these: TV (I'm a sucker for singing competitions--"The Voice," etc.), a good book (I can neglect my kids, house, husband and more if I get too caught up in a good read), e-mails (I recently unsubscribed from a dozen sources of daily e-mails--and I have a lot more to go!), and more. For some of us, it's social media, such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. All wonderful connections to fabulous ideas around the world, but can definitely be a distraction.
The problem with these activities is not only that they can suck up our time, but more importantly, they divert our focus and attention away from weightier matters, such as service to others, spending that one-on-one time with a struggling child, really listening to our children or husband when they tell us about their day, keeping our thoughts centered on our families and their needs.
A man I love and respect dearly, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said this in a conference talk about "Regrets and Resolutions": "Why, then, do we devote so much of our time and energy to things that are so fleeting, so inconsequential, and so superficial? Do we refuse to see the folly in the pursuit of the trivial and transient?"
I'm afraid sometimes I do. And darn it, I don't want to. The thing is, I know better. My life itself is a reminder that I have been given a gift--a sacred gift--one I simply can' squander away. To be married to a man I love and respect like no other person alive; to be the mother of five amazing children who teach me every day is not a light thing. It is amazing! So I have to make it count.
I have to show love to my children TODAY. I have to forgive them for making the same mistakes over and over TODAY. I have to show patience with a struggling child TODAY. I have to hold them and read to them and comfort them and whisper my love to them over and over, and I have to do it TODAY. I cannot wait until a difficult stage has passed, or the children become easier, or life becomes less busy, or even until tomorrow, because reality is, those things never really come. My biggest fear is that I will look back one day when my children are grown and I will realize I did not enjoy them enough, laugh with them enough, hold them enough, talk with them enough, listen to them enough, soak them up enough while they were right here under my nose. That, to me, would be a regret I could hardly stand to live with.
President Uchtdorf said it this way, "Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey." I have a feeling that finish line isn't nearly so satisfying if we haven't enjoyed the path we took to get there. I think that is especially true in regards to motherhood. What is the point in accepting the awesome, sacred role (and yes, difficult, too) of Mother if we don't take the time or effort to appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the process of learning and growing and loving that comes with it?
I like this thought as he continues, "Perhaps we should be looking less with our eyes and more with our hearts. I love the quote: 'One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.'" I have to agree. When I am following my heart, my priorities are much different than when I am simply allowing lists of to-do's and tasks to rule my time. The fact of the matter is, parenthood is all about heart--hearts bursting with joy, hearts beaming with pride, hearts breaking at times with sorrow and disappointment, and especially, hearts exploding with love like we've never known before.
Lastly, President Uchtdorf says this, ". . . We cannot take for granted one single day."
I shooed my kids out the door for school today and then collapsed on the floor in front of my husband, in an effort to exaggerate how difficult and chaotic the morning had been. My husband nodded in agreement, but as I lay on the floor and thought about those children of mine, I couldn't help but say, "Yea, but they are all worth it." And I meant it. They are absolutely worth it. And my life would not be the same without each and every one of my children. That's why I must appreciate them and all that comes with them--even the chaos, the tantrums, and the utter craziness--TODAY.
I just found out that today, in a small Connecticut town, lives have been changed forever. Parents sent their children to school this morning without a single idea that they might not return home this afternoon, but according to reports, 20 children and six adults were killed in a school shooting there earlier today. It's hard to even comprehend that kind of loss, and as I have wept for the children and families involved, understanding in a small degree what they are feeling and what they must face in the future, I am reminded once again of how important it is to appreciate today. When I think of my life in terms of what I might lose, suddenly my perspective becomes so much sharper and I see clearly where my priorities lie: in snuggles with my children, in patient teaching of a new skill, in supporting their endeavors (even when it's painful to watch, like beginning basketball:), in noticing their growth, in playing with them, laughing with them and showing my love for them.
And so, when my children walk in the door from school, I cannot wait to wrap them in my arms, to whisper to them how very much I love them, to tell them how amazing they are and remind them what a gift they are to me. And at times when I feel completely overwhelmed by all that motherhood entails and I feel like I just don't even know if I can go on, I hope to remember to not take for granted one single day--even if it's a hard day. I hope to be able to sift through the struggles and find those golden moments that make it all worth it. I hope to make time for the things that really matter and let the rest go. I hope to . . .
. . . make TODAY count!