Before a concert, April 2009
A few years ago, I was feeling at loose ends. Finished with "high-school" and still at home, I yearned for more to do, more to learn. I was helping around the house, cooking, cleaning, tutoring, and singing in the town choir, too. I was also studying acting quite a bit, via the internet and the library, training my mind to think like an actor, as I felt it was an area that God was leading me toward. My life was not empty by any measure, but I asked God for something more. What came was an unexpected as it was welcome!
While at my younger sisters' recital that fall, I heard a clarinet solo for the first time. I was instantly interested in learning to play it. When I mentioned it to my mom, she was surprised by my sudden enthusiasm. But when after a week of prayer and research I remained excited about it, she helped me contact the clarinet teacher in town.
The teacher informed me that all her class slots were full, but she would let me know if there was an opening. So I prayed about it, and still felt peace. Two weeks later, she called to let me know that one of her students had dropped out! I began classes in January of 2008, and soon joined the orchestra as well.
I started out with the basics, as it was the first instrument I had ever tried to learn (except for rudimentary piano skills). My mouth muscles were sore for weeks while I learned the techniques of blowing evenly and with proper pressure on the reed, but with consistent practice my proficiency improved rapidly. The classical training gave me good musical habits, and I moved through the study material at a motivated rate.
When the "season" changed, and I moved from Spain to the States, I moved on in a way. But I feel that time was well spent. I have my own instrument now, and I try to keep my skill up without it becoming a distraction. My life is richer when I'm making music.
Have you ever felt stagnant, like a once-clear pool of water now lethargic from waiting...for something? I've come to realize that patient waiting doesn't have to be a drag, because I can actively enjoy the season I'm in even as I prepare for the next one God has for me. By recognizing the opportunities around me, I can redeem the time, even as I wait for that next "big" step.
But another consideration is getting too busy. I think we've all experienced this to some degree. At times I find myself saying "yes" to too many things, and then I discover I don't have enough time or energy for what I believe is truly important—my relationships with God, family, friends, and others God brings across my path. If I become consumed with "productivity," and "doing" as much as I can, I can lose sight of the overarching goal to love God and others with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength.
"Being" is important. Being conformed into the image of Christ. Being thankful in everything. Being out in nature, enjoying God's creation. Being salt and light in the world. Being still before the Lord. Being watchful in prayer. Being available to listen to a friend. Being who God has made me to be. Being a giver. Being honorable, trustworthy, cheerful, encouraging. Being patient.
As Paul says, I want to "strain toward what is ahead," but also "live up to what we have already attained." (Philippians 3:7-16) What keeps us from that goal? Verse 19 explains: "...Their minds are set on earthly things." Whoops. Solution? Verse 20 continues: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there." That's how we keep our lives focused!
I'd like to share with you a poem I wrote three years ago (2008). The idea behind it is that if we reach for the abundant life we are offered by the Father and live that life unabashedly before others, we empower others to grasp His grace as their own lifeline.
A LIFE LIVED ON PURPOSE
by Rebekah Cook
Complacency would have us believe
That what is more comfortable is better;
That what is more familiar is safer;
That what requires less effort is more enjoyable
...and the easier it is, the more worthwhile.
But if we would live with no regrets
Then we must shake off all passivity,
And loose ourselves from conformity--
Resolving to live life at its best
By living in light of the life to come.
To achieve this heavenly satisfaction
We'll have to do more than sit back and watch.
Our time here is too short to botch--
Too limited to waste hesitating in fear...
For if we try nothing, that's what will happen.
I want to look back on a race well run
Where I trusted God's guidance day by day,
And said all I was supposed to say,
And know that I did all I could've done
To show God's love in every way.
...To know that I didn't shy away from change
But stretched, and grew, and risked, and gave
And didn't hold back, but laid down all
My struggles, my tears, insecurities, and fears
To laugh and sing and live for Him.
Life takes place when you step out on a limb
And pick the fruit you find growing there.
So invest in your friendships, both old and new
And follow the dreams He's giving you....
Because a life of purpose is a life lived