Tag Archives: life

What Kind Of Legacy Are You Leaving Your Children?{We interrupt our regularly scheduled Proverbs 31 programming to bring you this completely random post}

I was listening to NPR this morning and a story came on about wills. Something like half of Americans don’t have wills, and it can leave a mess for loved ones when people die without them. 

They mentioned a type of will I’d never heard of before, called an “emotional will.” According to one website I found, an emotional will “is designed as a way for you to share your thoughts, values, lessons in life, passions, hopes and dreams with your children and future generations in the years to come. This is your chance to ensure that you don’t leave this life with things left unsaid.” 

This struck me as odd, and a little bit sad that this is actually a thing. I mean, I understand the concept behind it, but should this type of thing be necessary? 

I want to leave an emotional will for my family. But I don’t want it to be a piece of paper they read while they are mourning my death and working through what life is going to look like without me.

Just like I don’t want my family to have to figure out what to do with my physical assets when I’m gone, I don’t want them to have to figure out what my thoughts, values, passions hopes and dreams were after I die. I don’t want to relegate those lessons to a letter they open in my absence.

This interview made me realize that every day, I am leaving an emotional will for my children. Everything I say, everything I do, is showing my children what I value, and therefore what they should value. 

I can do this accidentally, or I can do this intentionally. When I get to the end of my life, whenever that is, I want my children to be able to say to themselves and to others, “We know what our mother’s emotional will for us is.” I want them to be able to point to my life and say, “this is what our mother loved, this is what she valued, and this is how she wanted us to live our lives.”

Recently I listened to a sermon series by Matt Chandler about discipling children and families. He made the point that we are all making our children into disciples, the question is: of what.

If we are constantly talking about financial security, worried about money, striving for material comforts and being envious of people who have more than we do, our children will see that those things are important to us. And those things will become important to them. 

If we stress the importance of education, worry constantly about the state of our children’s schools and place great emphasis on grades and getting into college, our children will see that we value those things. And they will value those things as well. Certainly these are good things, important things even, but its easy to let these and other worldly concerns to take precedent over what should matter most. 

We can tell our children what we want them to value, but the lasting legacy we will leave on them comes from the way we live our lives. Our children learn by listening, but more than that they learn by observing. If they hear me say that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, but see me cling to worldly things, they will see right through my words and into my heart.

I can write an emotional will out on a piece of paper, telling my children about the life I wish I had lived and the values I wish I had shown them, and hope they listen to my posthumous words of wisdom. Or I can write my emotional will on my life, through the way I live, the way I love, the person I am because of my love for Jesus. That’s the legacy I want to leave for my children, and for everyone who knows me.

W


2482109_2520517_1432850457A couple months ago, I mentioned to my Bible study girls that I was feeling convicted about finding a way to live within our family’s means. We had been struggling with our budget, and I was trying to find ways to keep up with our spending, when all of a sudden it dawned on me that I was going about things all wrong. I really felt like I needed to learn to live with what we had before I started trying to make more money so we could spend more.

Our fearless leader Lauren recommended I read Jen Hatmaker’s book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” According to her website, “7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.” It was a great book, especially since Jen Hatmaker is absolutely hilarious and completely truthful about her triumphs and struggles during the experiment. But she also weaves in a lot of great observations and research about the excess that most of us live with.

She eats only seven foods for an entire month, gives away seven things a day for a month, spends money at only seven establishments, does seven things to minimize waste, wears only seven pieces of clothing, cuts out all media, and observes the seven sacred pauses for the last month. Some months are easier than others, but all of them are transformative for her family in one way or another.

I know you might think I’m crazy, but I sort of want to do it. I’m at this place where I’m sick of all the stuff around me, but I’m not bold enough to just give it all away or get rid of all my electronics and start living off the land. I don’t think that’s realistic for me, either. But I do see something appealing about intentionally taking time away from certain excesses in my life and giving myself the time and space to evaluate what can stay and what needs to go.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what is going on around me, to live my life as a reaction to what’s happening to me rather than being intentional about the way I live. Every once in a while I stop and think to myself, “how did I get here?” My life is too busy, my house is too cluttered, my budget is shot and I’m a ball of stress.

Especially with spending, it’s easy to quickly pick something up off of the shelf at the grocery or click on something on Amazon before really evaluating whether I need it. The more I’ve tried to budget, the more I’ve realized that being intentional is absolutely necessary. Even stopping to think for one second, “do I really need this?” can make such a huge difference. And I rarely do it.

There are so many things in my life I do without thinking, without evaluating why I do them or whether I even should be doing them. I just do something because I’ve always done it, or because somewhere along the way someone told me I should do it, or because well, everyone else does it, so shouldn’t I? And I don’t want to live my life like that. I don’t think I’m called as a Christian to live my life like that.

The Bible makes it clear that we are called, as followers of Christ, to live intentionally. We are called to do things that don’t just come naturally to us. We are called to love God and love others, to live holy lives and work toward sanctification. All of these require a certain discipline—an ability to look at something and say “this is something that is good for me” or “this is something that is bad for me.” More often than not, it’s the little things that keep me from living the way I want to live, the things that easily go unnoticed or seem inconsequential. The devil is in the details, as they say.

So I’m actually considering an abridged version of Jen Hatmaker’s experiment. It could be a great opportunity to take an intentional look at a lot of the little things that characterize my life. Lauren has done it before and said she would do it again with me, so I’ll be sure to let you know if we end up doing it. I think it could be an eye opening experience.

W


If You Knew You Wouldn't Fail, What Would You Try?The other day I was reading Real Simple Magazine, and I got to the section where the editors ask a question to the readers and print a handful of responses. The question readers had answered for this issue was “If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you try?”

It garnered a range of responses, from being an astronaut to going skydiving, and while it was neat to read all of these people’s dreams, for some reason it kind of depressed me. There were some pretty simple goals in there; very few of them were outlandish or completely out of the realm of possibility. It made me want to get all of their contact information and write them emails saying “What are you waiting for! You can do this! And if you fail, at least you’ve tried! The only sure way to fail is not to even try!”

What is it about the possibility of failure that strikes fear into the hearts of men? I wonder how many of us live the life we never wanted or expected to live, purely because we were afraid to try what we truly wanted to do. We have this beautiful quality when we are young, this fearlessness that allows us to believe we can do whatever we want to do, be whatever we want to be. And yes, some of that is naïve, and we realize as we grow older that our dreams may have been out of our reach. But I think more often the world gets the better of us, and all the messages of “just get a job” and “you’ve got to settle down” and “you’re probably not going to succeed at that” drown out all of the hopes and dreams we have grown up believing could one day come true.

I get it, we have bills to pay, houses to take care of, children to raise. Life is busy, and often it’s just not practical to reach for the stars. But I don’t ever want to let my little to-do lists or my desire for stability to keep me from accomplishing the goals I’ve always had in my heart of hearts, the hopes and dreams that come to mind when I lay my head on my pillow at night. And I certainly don’t want the mantra “what if I fail?” to have its way with these dreams, to keep me from even entertaining the possibility of “what if I succeed?”

When I decided I wanted to get into writing, the only experience I had was in my journal. I was sitting at my desk at a music publishing company, typing the same names and numbers that I typed every day for a year into the same computer program I opened every morning at 9 and closed every day at 5:30, and I realized I needed something else. So I set up a meeting with a friend of a friend, who set up a meeting with the editor of a magazine, who for some reason decided to take a chance on me and let me write a few short articles for them (she may have been a bit unstable, in hindsight). And just like that, I went from journal writer to published writer. Maybe it was desperation, maybe it was confidence, maybe it was naivety, but I didn’t let any fears keep me from putting myself out there. And that small step has made all the difference in the world.

Nothing monumental has happened in my writing career since that day. I’ve plugged along, writing when I can and where I can, reaching out to new people and slowly gaining more experience. I’m still honing my craft, still finding my place in the world of writing, but ever since that day my editor took a chance on me, I’ve been a writer. And I know that for the rest of my life, I will be a writer, no matter what that looks like.

I don’t want to teach my children that they will be whatever they want to be when they grow up, that they will definitely be successful at whatever they put their minds to. But I want to teach and show my children that while failure is a very real possibility, fear of failure shouldn’t be an excuse. We will fail in life, that’s a certainty. But in order to succeed, we at least have to try.

Maybe it’s time for you to ask yourself, “If I knew I wouldn’t fail, what would I try?” And then maybe, if you’re feeling fearless, it’s time to throw out that part about knowing you wouldn’t fail, and go ahead and try it anyway.

W