Once the kids were out of school on the 18th, we started finalizing gifts and food for our celebration with my family here and Justin's family in Louisiana. It was so fun to see C get excited to give gifts to others; I'll have to post pictures of the gifts she made me and Justin.
Anyway, this exercise is from Kate Matsudaira, who designed the Spark Notebook and now the Spark Planner. I got mine early in December and started writing in it today. It's gorgeous--see?
Kate has been sending out emails to help us think about aligning our yearly goals with what's really important to us.
I know the whole "What would you want your obituary to say?" idea and may seem trite and overly morbid as well. But I found it incredibly inspiring. The words just poured out of as I considered what I hope people will remember about me. Some of these things are already true for me (I think) and others are aspirations. So without further ado...here is my Thinking Big post.
MAKE A LIST OF THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE WHO MATTER MOST...
2. My kids
3. Mom and Dad
4. My friends
6. Extended family
7. Church family and our pastors
NOW IMAGINE YOUR FUNERAL...
FOR EACH PERSON ON YOUR LIST, MAKE A NOTE OF WHAT YOU HOPE THEY WOULD SAY ABOUT YOU AND YOUR IMPACT ON THEIR LIFE.
1. I hope Justin would say: "Ali was my heart. She felt things so deeply. Even though she fought depression and anxiety, the point is that she FOUGHT them instead of giving in. At times I wanted her to "snap out of it" (it became a joke as she showed me that wasn't always possible). She wouldn't give up, she said, because of me and the kids. She couldn't end it all because she couldn't--wouldn't--do that to us. That was a huge gift and I know it cost her a lot at times.
"She may have had bleak times, but most of the time she loved to laugh, even at my corny puns. She was always learning, always full of information she had read and was dying to share. She adored our kids and was a great mom to them, finding ways to nurture their talents and interests as well as sharing hers with them (for example, reading). She was their biggest fan but she didn't like it when I got upset on the sidelines because she hated conflict. When they disobeyed, she balanced out my sternness by providing a calmer perspective. When we disagreed, she insisted that we "fight it out" instead of letting things fester.
"She never stopped trying to improve. When our marriage struggled, she took responsibility for her part and learned to 'speak' my love language more fluently. She also advocated for her needs when necessary.
"Overall, she never quit loving God, her family, and her friends."
2. Allowing for their individual experiences and personalities, I hope C and L would say something like:
"Mom was our refuge, a soft place to fall. We could always go to her when something was wrong and know she would listen and validate our feelings. She never told us we didn't or shouldn't feel a certain way. Sometimes she started to give advice before we were ready to hear it or tell us how to handle a situation, but as soon as she realized that, she would back off. As we became teenagers, she would say things like, 'Wow, that sounds tough. What do you think you're going to do about that?' She always believed we could handle our business and we knew she would be our sounding board if we needed to run things past someone first.
"Mom was open about her struggles with mental illness. She believed that 'secrets make us sick' and she didn't want us to grow up knowing something was wrong but not that she (and Dad) were dealing with it. When we were little and saw her crying, she would tell us, 'Mommy's just sad but I am going to get better.' And she did. She set an example for us of someone who had an invisible illness that many people think of as a character flaw, but she chose to be open and vulnerable in her writing and in person so that other people could be helped by her experience.
"Mom wasn't the most obsessive housekeeper, but she was a good cook. She believed that spending time together as a family was more important than anything else except our relationship with God. In fact, she pointed us to God; not only were we at church almost every week, but she served in any way she could, especially as in the prayer ministry. Mom knew how to pray and showed us how by example. When we were little, she would pray for us whenever we were scared or sad or just needed to go to sleep. Even as we got older, we knew she prayed for us every day. Finally, Mom lived her belief that she just wanted two things for us: one, to love the Lord, and two, to find and follow His purpose for our lives."
3. My parents have told me many times now that they are proud of the woman I have become. They are unbelievable parents. They embody everything I hope my kids will say about me in the years to come. They have told me--and proved--that their love and support is unshakable. They've encouraged me in everything I attempted, and sometimes when I wasn't ready to attempt it yet. They affirmed my efforts as a mother, from becoming a stay-at-home mom, to a working mom with a full-time job, to a mom with a part-time job. They have listened and given me invaluable advice ... I will cherish it forever. I wish they would outlive me but not because I died young; I'd love for them to live to 110 at least!
4. I hope my friends and extended family would say something like:
"Even when life got so hectic that it was hard to connect, Ali was committed to our friendship. I could always call or text her when things were tough and she would drop everything to be with me. She also made time for us to spend together for no real reason, just to hang out. She would send notes or emails or texts or call us to let us know she loved us and specifically why.
"Ali prayed passionately for us when we or our families were struggling, but she didn't lecture us. She knew how to just be there for someone when they are hurting. She always brought something to make us feel better, and it usually involved carbs and chocolate. She would send us funny things to make us smile.
"She was REAL. She was willing to share her struggles, both to ask for help and to help others. She always loved my kids like her own and insisted that I tell her if hers were misbehaving. She believed in dealing with issues instead of pretending they weren't there. At the same time, she was a peacemaker. She didn't like conflict for no reason, but if it was there, she faced it with love so we could move forward."
5. I hope my pastors would say (speaking for my church family):
"Alison was a deeply committed member of our church. First of all, she loved Jesus all the way down to her core. Nothing was more important to her than finding and following His heart. Religion and rules were not important to her and were discarded if they interfered with experiencing His grace. She was passionate about her method of witnessing, which she called "not being a jerk." Although it upset her to see Christians acting hatefully, she tried really hard to forgive them, too. She made it a priority to look for the good in people and to be respectful of everyone, no matter what their beliefs. (If they were jerks, see above. However, she learned--rather late in life, because she was a recovering people pleaser--not to suffer fools gladly, but to speak the truth in love.)
"Alison served the local church in some capacity at every point in her life. She did not believe in simply warming a church pew. She was involved in children's ministry, youth ministry, music ministry, small group ministry, benevolence ministry, prayer ministry, and world missions at various times in her life, as the need arose and her gifts were needed. She gave freely of herself and did not demand recognition.
"Alison was a giver. She gave cheerfully of her family's finances, faithfully supporting the kingdom of God with tithes and offering. She chose to give from their gross rather than their net income, because she said she wanted a gross blessing rather than a net blessing. She believed she was blessed to be a blessing, and that she was meant to be a conduit which God's blessings could flow through rather than a reservoir in which they would stagnate. She not only supported the local church's efforts, but also world missions in countries like Haiti and Lithuania. She gave in practical ways when asked, such as supporting a Haitian orphan and loading bags for canned good drives.
"As the daughter of a longtime pastor, Alison was a huge supporter of her pastors and their families. You never heard her criticize them; rather, she prayed for them and their children daily. She often let them know in person or in writing that she loved and appreciated them. She was also voracious in her desire to hear God's Word; she always, always had her notebook for taking notes during a sermon. She showed love to people in the church, going out of her way to welcome visitors and new members. She was a vital part of our church family."
And there you have it...what I hope people will say about me when I'm gone. I also made some goals based on these thoughts. I'll come back soon and post my motto for the year and the goals I've set!