Every day we are faced with making about 35,000 decisions. (Yeah, I googled it.) Most of them are pretty basic, what I'm going to eat, if I'm going to walk to the bathroom, should I get a drink, etc. The impact most of those decisions have won't change much about my life or anyone else's. Out of that 35K decisions, however, some of them could change the course of my life and many other lives.
When the weather is good we like to go down to the river. The kids like to splash and play. I like to toss rocks into the water. Partly because snakes scare the ever loving beejeebes out of me, and partly because I like to watch the water ripple out from the point of impact. I like to see what they touch. And when all of us throw a rock in, you can see the ripples kind of overlap. That's what our decisions are. They are rocks, tossed into the river and the ripple effect goes far beyond the starting point. Even those decisions that we don't think make any difference can change things.
I don't wake up every morning and wonder how I'm going to change other people's lives. Heck, I don't even wonder how I might change my life. Most days I'm just thankful that His grace is sufficient and His mercies are new every day. Survival. That's what I think about. Point A to point B and how that's gonna happen. I'm coming to realize that I need to wake up everyday and be more intentional.
I've been taught many lessons about this being intentional. Those lessons have led me to set my priorities. I thank God for my day and my blessings. I take care of my husband and my kids. I clean the house, cook the food, clean the clothes. I do the shopping, run the errands, taxi the tiny humans. I try to fit in a few minutes of me time, even if it involves 5 minutes behind a locked bathroom door with hands or a flashlight beam under the barrier. I'm overwhelmed, but I have priorities. I feel like I have an okay handle on that stuff. But none of it feels very life changing.
I've come to the age where I've attended a few funerals. Those always warrant some desire to live life a little different. I've been to funerals for people who had so much more life to live. My heart still breaks when I think about those lives cut too short. My faith allows me to believe in a greater plan, that there is a reason for the pain in the world. I believe that there is something to be gained from pain, even though my tiny brain can't comprehend it. I've been to enough funerals that I have thought about how I would want my own to go.
A few years ago I lost a cousin. Even though we never got to spend a lot of time together and she was older than I was, I always looked up to her. She was strong. At 36 she had a husband, kids, a career and leukemia. She came from a less than ideal home. She took herself to church. She knew Jesus, not from a family example, but from her own desire. She faced decisions that I've never faced. I'm proud to tell you that her choices impacted lives. I couldn't begin to estimate the number of lives she touched. I know this because at her funeral, there wasn't an empty seat. She wanted her preacher to PREACH. And he did. He told everyone in that sanctuary that they had a free gift of salvation and all they had to do was take it. He told us that without Christ we faced a bleak eternity. He made sure that every single heartbeat knew that there was one way to Heaven and the path was laid out. And bless her, she would have been proud. As that pastor preached to me, he held up my sweet cousin's Bible. It was worn. It was marked. It was highlighted with notes taken on most every page and post-it notes sticking out. It had tear stains and a rip or two. It was a well used, well loved Bible that spoke to me like few other things ever have in my life. And it told me that your circumstances don't define you. You can choose more. And every time you choose more, you touch lives. Those lives will make decisions that your decisions influence. The ripples that you push outward will touch ripples of someone else.
I will never forget that message, that Bible. I will think of it when I am weighing big decisions. At my funeral, somebody better PREACH, y'all. Somebody better have the guts to stand up and say what needs to be said. I want my life to ripple out and touch yours.
My family has our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve. It's been that way for a few generations on my paternal grandmother's side. I come from a long line of preachers set in their ways. My dad, of course, his uncle (his momma's brother), and her daddy. You might blame my genetics on my long-windedness and my desire to just call it like I see it. Honesty is still a thing in some places. My family doesn't exchange gifts as adults. Mostly because we are all to difficult to buy for. It makes life much more fun to just get for the kiddos and watch their joy. My niece was super excited about a box she got. It didn't really matter that there was stuff in it. The littlest Milkmaid got some walkie-talkies, 10-4 good buddy, this is the rubber ducky. And my big girl got money. Yep..it's all about the paper at her age. Even though we don't buy for each other, this year my daddy gave me an unintentional gift.
He handed me my great-grandpa's Bible. Jake Brady was well known in Oklahoma. I've heard all kinds of stories about him and revivals. I am fond of hearing about him say something like, "If I die and happen to be reincarnated, I don't want to come back as the first row pew in a Baptist church or the third verse in a hymn. They don't get used." I've heard about how he wouldn't let his girls swim or wear pants. And how he would just die (again) if he were living in today's world. He preached and helped build churches. He also helped build me.
This Bible...it means something to me. Just like my cousin's Bible spoke to me on the day we buried her, this one tells its own story. There are pages marked and passages circled. The edges are frayed and the pages are fragile. This Bible may not have bright highlighter in it or written notes, but it has my great grandpas name in it. It has pages that I'm sure are stained by his tears. It has rips that happened while he preached so hard he spit on the front row. Y'all, it's a good thing no God fearin' Baptist sits up there or there'd be no need for a Sunday morning shower.
This Bible that was a Christmas not-gift makes my heart so full. The ripples that Jake Brady made in his life have helped make me who I am today. And while everything I do, like wearing jeans or letting my girls wear a swimsuit, wouldn't impress him, I would hope that he would be proud of me. I hope that he would look at the legacy he left and be happy with its direction and the legacy I'm going to leave. I am far from perfect, just a sinner saved by grace. I haven't given up on the ripples sent out by a baby in a manger. My faith remains that I am loved perfectly in my imperfection. That's the rock I want to throw, the ripples I want to make.
It is almost that time where we get a fresh start on the year. I think we can all agree that 2016 wasn't the most epic of times. We probably threw a few rocks in that we wish didn't ripple. Thankfully, 2017 is just around the corner. We have an opportunity to not only make ripples, but make waves. Let those waves be like post-it notes in an overused Bible. Be intentional when you make a decision. Set your priorities so that when your rock hits the smooth surface, you can hope for ripples that go on forever and touch lives you don't even know exist.