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Living the Life You've Been Given - Fully

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Joseph Campbell

When I was pregnant with our first child years ago I did not have the usual food cravings involving pickles or ice cream. I had a yearning to learn how to make the best chocolate chip cookies possible. Maybe the Nestle Toll House commercials had gotten into my head. Years ago, when we had to watch ads while viewing our favorite shows, they aired commercials that sometimes pulled on your heart strings. I still recall a Nestle ad with a child making cookies for his mom, just like she used to do for him. They had slogans like “It’s good to be home” or “Bake some love.” With my pregnant brain, my thoughts were swayed and cookie making was on my agenda.

I found myself in the kitchen this past week making another batch of cookies. I decided to try a new recipe. Someone had shared that they had the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. That peaked my interest. It was late afternoon when I started to make the batter. I was also listening to a podcast on a topic I am researching. I should have known better. I was not fully paying attention to either thing and accidentally added baking powder instead of baking soda to the bowl. I pulled the first batch out of the oven and knew something was wrong. They were fluffy and golden on the bottom and pale on top. Of course everyone ate them anyway. While they may not have been the best cookies ever, they were still fresh out the oven and good.

Isn’t that often the case? We can try to do too many things at once or we can be going through the motions without really paying attention. We can get some crazy idea in our heads that we need to have the best thing ever, only to discover it’s not quite what we thought. There are so many things we don’t have control over. We make plans and then life happens and we need to pivot or find a new rhythm based on what is.

Wendell Berry wrote, “We live the given life, and not the planned.” Sometimes, the best we can do is live a given life. There is something that speaks to me in that phrase — a given life. First it reminds us that life is a precious gift that has been given to us. Ours plans don’t always work. Sometimes they are too big and often they are too small. God seems to always have something for us that is more than we can imagine.

Living a given life also brings our focus to the present. We can’t change what has been or know what will be, we can only work with what we have now. Many things have not turned out as I thought they would in my life yet I have found joy and fulfillment in what has been given. As I have tried to live intentionally, moving through both the challenges and possibilities of life I have discovered 3 things that always help me get back on track and move me forward in a good way.

1. Embrace each day with a fresh start.

Whatever yesterday was or was not, today is a new day. We can’t let the troubles, muddles, or weight of the past overshadow us today. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, "With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts." It’s never too late to start anew!

2. Enjoy the day.

Someone once said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” We can try not to let all our to-do’s overshadow the ta-da’s of the day that give us an opportunity to smile, laugh, or delight in the moment.

3. Trust and Give Thanks.

Perhaps the biggest game changer in personal transformation is developing a practice of gratitude. Taking the time to find something in each day that we are grateful for changes us and the course of our day.

As we look at the big picture, we are also reminded that we not alone. God is with us and wants to help us. James Bryan Smith tells us to remember this: “You are one in whom Christ delights and dwells. You live in the strong and unshakable kingdom of God. The kingdom is not in trouble and neither are you.”

In that reassurance we can claim the day and all that comes with it, trusting that we are not alone. We can live fully into the life that has been given to us today.


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