The present time has one advantage over every other…it is our own.
– Charles Caleb Colton
If I had a friend that, without fail, gave me 24 gifts every day, I would be elated. I hope among all the iced lattes, massages, and new shoes that I wouldn’t lose my appreciation for them. When the walls were filled with beautiful art and I had traveled to a hundred different cities all around the world, would I still wake up the next morning with child-like anticipation for my next gift? Would I spend time reflecting on the gifts of yesterday or simply starve for the next sunrise – greedily wanting more?
What if they missed one? What if on one particular day my friend only brought 23 gifts to me? Would this be enough, or would I feel dejected over the loss of one among the pile?
I have lived this gift experience, personally and truly, for 14,172 days now. 340-thousand hours of life I have been gifted. Twenty MILLION minutes of adventures, joys, laughter and love. Some of those minutes and hours brought great challenges, but the gifts of hope and peace have been enough to carry me through.
I desire to be careful not to fall victim to the idea that life owes me anything, including time. Rather, we are gifted time over and over from minute to minute, hour to hour and day to day. We are afforded the opportunity of redeeming it at our pleasure and disposal. Today I redeemed 10 minutes for a shower, 90 minutes for church and 20 minutes at the grocery store picking out ingredients for a new udon noodle recipe I am excited to try. I redeemed 12 more minutes to sweep and clean the kitchen and 45 minutes to sit and write.
Somewhere in the mix I redeemed 8 minutes to hug and chat with a friend at church, and another 10 minutes to hold and cuddle a daughter of a friend whom I love to pray with and giggle with. I redeemed a few seconds to tell my step-son, “Thank you, I really appreciate all that you do,” when he stepped in to help with the chores. And a few more seconds to pet the dog and make sure he also feels love and attention on this beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. Later I have plans to redeem a few hours with friends, talking, laughing and enjoying dinner together this evening.
Recently I experienced a frustrating situation that left me feeling negative and displeased. In the midst of dealing with it, I suddenly realized there was no value in the way I was feeling. Sure, I had every “right” to be upset, but what good was this course? It was only adding stress and tension to my day. I put down my head, said a prayer for strength and wisdom, and firmly decided I would not redeem any more time to any actions that were not positive. I simply refused to let this situation steal any of my gift of this day. Instead, I moved through the motions of stepping towards peace, and peace I quickly found.
Hearing a sermon on Luke chapter 10 recently, I am reminded of the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. As Jesus was traveling on a journey, Martha opened her home to him. Martha proceeded to serve and tend to the needs of the travelers. Mary chose to sit at Jesus feet and hear his words. Martha complained that she was having to do all the tasks without her sister’s help. Jesus heard this complaint and acknowledged that Martha had many things that were concerning to her, but that Mary had “chosen the good part.” Mary was redeeming her time in a manner that fed her soul, rather worry about physical needs in that moment. There would be time for her to help her sister later, but in this particular moment she redeemed some precious minutes to learn from the one they called Master, the one that brought healing and great, wise teachings. It was not a moment that Mary could afford to let pass her by. She knew the priceless value in spending her time in this moment.
We all have pressing demands in our lives – commitments that tie up our time for some reason or another. These commitments do have value, to be sure. But, how do we redeem our time otherwise? When called to put in my time at work during the day, I redeem time to connect with others around me, to offer words of encouragement or a listening ear. I may be committed to this block of time for my employer today, but how I spend it is still up to me. I could spend it frustrated at constant changes and shifting goals that seem elusive or I can spend it investing in others.
Spending my time at home is no different. Do I redeem it cleaning and fussing, or connecting and loving? Can I find ways to do both so that my obligations and desires of my heart are both fulfilled? This looks like engaging the kids in cooking dinner, or making chores into a game with Alexa turning up the music at full blast. How can we work through the process of using and redeeming our time wisely?
Identify Time Pitfalls: How we desire to use our time and how we actually spend it can be two different things. Start by writing down and tracking how you spend your time. This will help you identify things that might be holding up your time, despite your own desires and wishes. I was finding myself at the grocery store three times per week to pick up ingredients and this wastes a lot of time for me, especially as I commute 45 minutes to work each day. That means it can take me up to an hour and a half just to get home in the evenings by adding in this stop. After identifying this time-wasting activity, I started to meal plan at the beginning of the week and making a shopping list. Now one stop per week gives me time back that I can invest into something more productive than a redundant task.
Prioritize What Matters: Our schedules can get hectic and overwhelmed pretty quickly. We can end up having so many pressing tasks and commitments that it is nearly impossible to give quality time to them all. It will help to prioritize what truly matters. Is it life-giving? Is it necessary? Is it healthy to spend your time in this way? Sometimes it is okay to say “no” to another commitment, or “not right now, but perhaps in the future.” I personally would love to volunteer more, however I am working and a student. My time is dedicated elsewhere for the immediate future. It will not always be this way and in a few more months my schedule will change and be more open. I have to be willing to be flexible and honest so that I can prioritize my time correctly.
Redeem Your Time: It truly helps to think of time as a gift. Redeem it wisely and you will not find yourself starved for more minutes. Break tasks into small and manageable pieces to avoid procrastination and spending time unnecessarily. Work daily tasks and chores into your routine so that you can accomplish priorities and enjoy some fun at the same time. For me, this looks like folding laundry while watching my favorite Netflix show, or working on homework while dinner is in the oven. You can have quality time and talks with your spouse while taking a walk together in the evening. Turning off distractions and focusing on spending time with your kids in whatever they enjoy is also a great way to redeem some precious minutes. You will never regret investing time into those you love. Life demands come and go, priorities can readjust, but remember they are only usually for a season. Continue to value your time and respect it. Do not get too stressed if things are not going perfectly. Take a breath, set your intentions and try again. Every effort is time well spent.
24 hours. 24 gifts every day.
May I wake each sunrise with renewed anticipation and fresh perspective. It’s a brand new day I have been gifted and one I have not lived yet. I hope I redeem it for the treasure that it is.