I’ve always been a daydreamer. As a lonely little girl, I couldn’t wait to be a teenager. Trudging through my melancholy teens, I dreamed of the day I would be a self-sufficient adult. I‘ve always been certain that everything in my life would, one by one, fall into place, and I would be deliriously happy . . . one day . . . someday . . . when . . . if . . . one way or another. Happiness awaited me just beyond the next whatever. I was constantly wandering in the wilderness—but totally convinced I was heading for the Promised Land.
I refused to call myself a hopeless romantic — I was a hopeFUL romantic! My day would surely come! Dorothy and I were en route somewhere over the rainbow. Too often I wished I could sleep through today and wake up tomorrow (and, sadly, I sometimes tried it), after all, tomorrow was closer to the next day . . . and the next day . . . when things would be better.
And then there’s John. John’s a writer—a real writer. He works long hours, and lots of overtime, for an ad agency in California. He also spends most of his off hours writing freelance projects to make extra money. At one point, he was constantly working so he could afford to travel with his wife Dee. They were always going somewhere. She so enjoyed planning their trips, and, as she was often sick, he loved bringing her joy even if it meant working himself to the brink of exhaustion. And then came the trip to Hawaii—the vacation of her dreams—the Ultimate Holiday! John worked (and worked) and saved (and saved), and Dee planned and shopped (and shopped). Departure day finally arrived; they boarded the plane in Los Angeles, and they were off!
John called me when they returned, and I heard the frustrated dejection in his voice. All that work, all that saving, and as the plane was lifting off . . . yes, you read that right . . . as the plane was lifting off, Dee said excitedly, “Guess where I’d like to go next?”
My heart ached for him. They hadn’t even arrived at their destination — they hadn’t bought one souvenir, enjoyed one Hawaiian sunset, one walk on the beach, one kiss in the moonlight . . . and she was already scheduling the next adventure! What about that day? What about the exhilaration of that moment? They were on their way! Wasn’t that something to be happy about? Something to rejoice in?
I often remind myself of what missionary Jim Elliot said: “Wherever you are, be all there.” When we are not fully engaged in the moment—wherever we are—what blessings we miss! Whether it be a word of wisdom, the warmth and strength of a held hand, or the beauty of whatever touches your heart, don’t waste this moment and what the Lord has poured into it for you. There are purposes, blessings—gifts—all around us. Just look.
Have you ever spent all day cleaning the house . . . or been excited about a new haircut . . . or set an especially beautiful table for your family or guests . . . or spent extra time doing something special . . . only to have no one notice? How disappointed we are! Heartbroken even. Yet how often are we too busy (or too self-involved) to take in what the Lord has placed right before us? Perhaps failing to notice His gifts, His blessings, the smorgasbord of delights He sets before us, over our own preoccupation with self, is akin to sitting at a Michael W. Smith or Josh Groban (or another world-class artist) concert listening to a recording of ourselves playing Chopsticks blasting on our iPods. Or telling Monet to move aside so we can fingerpaint. We honor God when we pay attention to His gifts. We honor self when we don’t.
Yes, we all love the Jeremiah Scripture about having a plan and a future and a hope. It’s true—hallelujah! But the Lord also has a here and a now for us. When Moses asked God His name, He responded, “I AM.” He always has been and always will be, but He is also fully present, fully here, fully now. Always with us.
Every year we celebrate Advent—the season leading up to Christmas. We have Advent candles and Advent calendars counting down to the excitement of Christmas Day. Advent is a time of anticipation and hope and is marked by a spirit of expectation, of preparation. But I believe there is more to Advent than just those few days before Christmas. I believe God has made every day an advent—that He uses every today to prepare us for every tomorrow. I also think we often tend to miss it, because we’re so busy rushing past today to get to tomorrow. We can’t wait to get through now to whatever the future holds . . . when we get married . . . when we have kids . . . when the kids graduate . . . when we retire . . . THEN (fill in the blank).
Oh, today—sure, this moment is fine if something exciting or fun or sweet is happening—a movie to enjoy, an event to celebrate, a song we love, a delicious taste, a hug that’s warm. But if we don’t take the time to reach out and take in everything He has for us today, when we come to tomorrow and what it holds—both the good and the not-so-good, we won’t be as prepared as we could have been. There will be some piece of knowledge, some morsel of wisdom, some bit of much-needed experience we will be missing.
I’ve changed a lot recently. I think I pay attention better. I look around me more. I try to be engaged in the moment, where I can receive all the Lord has for me every day . . . and I find there is something to be learned in even the hard times. I’m learning to give thanks for things I’ve never been grateful for before. And “thanks makes now a sanctuary” (another great thought from Ann Voskamp)— and every day is holy . . . and every day is filled with sacred moments.
Oh, I still look to the future with great anticipation. I expect great things, because there are wonderful promises in the Word and because the future will one day be my “present,” and it too will be filled with glorious gifts. And I intend to be thankful — and aware — of each one.