As this year draws to a close, finishing things has been on my mind. Finishing up year end work, getting caught up on projects I've put on the back burner, cleaning out the old to make room for the new, working on personal and professional goals for 2012. Not finishing things has always been one of my pet peeves, I hate to have unfinished projects lying around or leave books unread. You would think, then, that all my projects would be finished in a timely manner, wrapped up with neat bows and presented to the world. But, life has a way of intervening. I'm sure you know what I mean.
I always have a book on my bedside table, sometimes more than one. I've been reading a lot of escapism over the last few weeks, but one nonfiction book caught my eye in the bookstore the other day and I bought it and began reading. The name of is it "Nearing Home," and it is written by the 93 year old Billy Graham. It has gotten me thinking about life and death, and the legacy we all leave behind. And, as so often happens, when God plants seeds in my mind, everything around me makes me reflect on it more.
I mentioned last week that while Gary and I were in Savannah, we walked through Bonaventure Cemetery. Of course, "The Book" (as Savannahians refer to the "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil") was the impetus for the journey. Even though the Bird Girl statue has been removed to a local museum in order to keep sightseers from disturbing nearby gravesites, I wanted to explore the cemetery anyway. I said before that I'm not introspective enough to understand my fascination with old cemeteries, but I love the history, the serenity, and the reminders we find there. The knowledge that life is finite, there is a beginning and an end, and all that remains of us here when are called home is the legacy we choose to leave behind.
Gary has eagle eyes, and he discovered a treasure among the headstones that I want to share with you here. He spotted this statue of a woman running, not a marble statue or a drawing on a headstone, but a very life-like bronzed statue mounted on a marble podium.
We made our way over to it and read this inscription: Humble. Brave. Determined. Deep in her Faith. Julie served her fellow man regardless of race, walk, or worth. Julie was her family's rock. She's sorely missed. Dearly cherished. I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears for this woman that I never knew. We walked to the back of the monument and learned that she was, at one time, Savannah's fastest female marathoner, and had run several marathons, including one at age 55, two years before her death. Now, I don't know Julie, her family, or any of her story, but her epitaph stands as a testament to the fact that she touched many lives, while remaining true to herself and reaching for the stars. I don't know that it gets much better than that.
I decided a few years ago that for the next half of my life, my goal is to please God. My desire is to leave a legacy of such faith that the future generations that I touch will be able to grab hold of it as though it were a physical thing. I pray for the people in my life fervently, interceding for them as needed, loving them, learning to accept them as they are, and praying that they will be the men and women that God would have them to be. I want them to be able to feel my faith when I'm long gone from this world and be reminded that faith and hope are living, breathing things.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. John 17:3-5
This is the beginning of a beautiful prayer that Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples, and for me. We are all "nearing home". The time frame that we have here on earth is uncertain. As I near home, I want to make sure that I'm finishing well, accomplishing the work that God gave me to do.
As I reflect on that, I think about how I'm going to accomplish finishing well. I look back over this year and I think it kind of sums up how I want to spend the remainder of my years. I want to dream big, reach for the stars, and step outside my comfort zone. I've never been a huge risk taker (although I've been known to eat raw cookie dough and swim right after I eat), but I want to take more risks. Life isn't a spectator sport, it requires participation. I intend to participate. To reach out to others and drag them into the deep end with me. I want to see more sunrises. I know that you know I'm NOT a morning person, but I've never once regretted getting up before dawn and going for a run. NOT ONCE! But, I've regretted many, many times hitting the snooze button and missing my morning run. Not the exercise so much, as the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with the completion of a goal, and the reward I'm usually given in the form of a beautiful sunrise, the stillness of the early morning, a glimpse of a night creature , or sometimes just a venti soy au lait from Starbucks.
2011 was a great start for me on the road to finishing well. I read a Peanuts cartoon the other day that said, "My grandfather said that once you're over the hill, you begin to pick up speed." At least it's all downhill from here. Hey, maybe that will make me run faster! ;)
The measure of a life is not in its duration, but its donation. Corrie Ten Boom