If you haven't guessed already, I am a lover and studier of words. Let me preface this post by saying that every year I choose a word that is my watch word - my litmus test with which I measure my actions. My word for 2014 has been "intentionally", as in I want to live life intentionally.
Intentionally (adverb) meaning deliberately, on purpose, by design, consciously or willfully.
I recently returned from a trip to Pittsburgh. It was a gorgeous trip up and back through the mountains of West Virginia. With every bend around the statuesque mountains, we were greeted with an even grander display of God's glory at its best. Brilliant hues of yellow, orange and red set the hills on fire in the sunlight. It was, quite simply, breathtaking. Part of me wanted to fumble for my phone to catch this sight on camera. My husband knew better and he calmly said, "Bev, leave the phone alone and just take in the sights." Smart man, my husband, he knows how to live intentionally.
Along with visiting family and taking a walk down memory lane, the driving purpose of our visit was to attend our 35th high school reunion. This would be the first one we'd be attending as husband and wife.
As one would expect, you knew which banquet room was ours because you could hear the laughter and chatter from a mile away. Needless to say we were greeted with hugs and squeals and congratulatory handshakes. It was great fun recounting "our story" of reconnecting after all these years and our courtship. We all regaled each other with tales of high school hi jinx, stories of fun, love, angst, navigating the awkward road toward adulthood. We caught up on the years gone by and shared stories of our grown children. It was a perfect evening...almost.
My husband and I were sitting at the dinner table with 70's and 80's tunes wafting in the background. A continuous slide show off to one side was flashing fun and fond memories until the picture of the cute, blond-haired girl holding her books and flashing a bright smile caught my eye. Immediately I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. Hot tears welled up in my eyes and I could hear the roar of laughter still going on around me as the air seemed to disappear from the room. I literally couldn't breath. It was a surreal experience. My mind flashed back to when I had gotten the news on the phone.
The girl in the picture - the one wearing the bow blouse and meticulously hand-sewn jumper was my best friend from high school. My BFF, my buddy, my share the depths of our hearts friend. Just months before, she had traveled from NYC to be with us at our wedding. Her smile still lit up a room. Her vivaciousness and zeal for life were still oozing from her. Her sincere enthusiasm in sharing our joy could not have been more apparent. I talked with Cindy longer than anyone at our wedding ceremony and I now know why. In just a few short weeks after our wedding, Cindy collapsed and died of cardiac arrest.
Cindy knew and helped to teach me to live life intentionally. Diagnosed at an early age with heart disease, she didn't take any moment for granted. Having been brought back to life a few times, she didn't take this frail thing we call life for granted. She lived it to the full. She took time to ask questions and truly wait for, and listen to, the answers. She loved life and didn't want to miss a moment of it.
Even before her first episode, I have such fond memories of Cindy as we stuck like glue to each other as the often mocked "goody two shoes" on the cheerleading squad in high school. Even back then we took our faith and our friendship seriously. In college, we would visit each other and have long conversations over coffee and dance the night away in the dance clubs. We'd fix each other up on dates and then laugh about the horrendous experience afterwards.
Perhaps my fondest memory of my spunky friend is when we were supposed to be going to the Harvard Business School Ball in Boston. My date, just a little chauvinistic, was running late and shoved his tuxedo shirt in my face and asked me to iron it. Cindy could see the vein in my forehead about to burst, but calmly whispered in my ear, "Just iron the d__n shirt and then we'll get to the ball and ditch these two bozos!!" And, that's just what we did and had a ball dancing the night away with the guys without dates for the evening.
This same spunky gal also sent me journal entries as she and her wonderful husband Patrick traveled half way around the world to China and were volunteering their time in a Chinese orphanage. This particular orphanage was home to the "least of these"...beautiful babies with moderate to severe birth defects. I could tell by Cindy's letters that she was particularly smitten by this one tiny baby girl - a girl whose spunk (not unlike Cindy's) had enabled her to beat the odds of survival. This little one with almond eyes and a precious smile lived life with a purpose.
I was not surprised that after jumping through every hoop imaginable and cutting through all sorts of red tape, Cindy and her husband were going to adopt little Norma Xian ('Xi 'Xi) who was named after Cindy's deceased mom. To say that Cindy was over the moon in love with this little girl was at best an understatement. I could tell by the pictures that she would send me that my friend was living life on purpose and with intention...cherishing every moment she had with her precious little girl.
Cindy lived life consciously, willfully and by design. She didn't take a single blessing for granted. Though I will not see my beloved friend until we dance together in Heaven, I know that every moment of her life here on earth was lived with purpose.
To live life intentionally was a rare and precious gift that she gave me.
I think of Cindy often when I am caught letting life aimlessly slip away. I am reminded that we don't know how much time we are given and so we need to live life to the fullest. We need to love how Christ loved. We need to share the message of Jesus' love with family and friends and strangers alike.
We need to live life intentionally...
Lord, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only. (Mark 13:32)
Lord, let me live life like my friend Cindy did - not knowing the day nor the hour that I may leave this earth. Instead, let me look around, seize life and live each moment intentionally. Amen.
How is God calling you to live life more intentionally? Will you be kind enough to share?
In His love,
This post written in loving memory of my forever friend Cindy Klaja McLaughlin.
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