In Blog, Monday Morning

Take Inventory of What (and Who) Actually Matters

“May you never forget what is worth remembering; And always leave behind what is best forgotten.” – Irish Blessing

On a family vacation several years ago my seven-year-old son stole my phone.

The thief (Patrick) moved methodically room to room throughout the rental house, taking pictures. He captured every wall in every room within the house. He even walked around outside and took pictures of the barbeque pit, the fence, the swing, and the view toward the beach.

In reviewing pictures that evening, I swiped through more than 100 pictures he had taken. In trying to make sense of all the random, seemingly useless pictures, I asked what he was doing. Why did he take these?

Seated at the kitchen table, with a juice box as a companion, he looked up and stated matter-of-factly: “I just want to remember this.”

The kid had a point.

The vacation was awesome, the weather ideal, the place perfect. Besides a bit of sun burn on his shoulders and sand in his flip-flops, tee shirt, and shells, he wanted a more tangible way to remember the time.

It begs the question: how do you work to ensure you remember your vacations?

More than that, though, how do you take inventory of not just of your summer highlights, but of your life?

My Commitment to Remembering Everyday Life

With four kids, a demanding travel schedule, and meeting with thousands of individuals each year, I wanted to take pause today to remember and celebrate the person that matters most to me: my wife.

On January 1, 2017, I bought a new journal, opened it to the first page, and wrote the words, “Dear Beth:”

What followed was a note committing to her that each night for the next year, instead of missing how good our life was, or focusing on something that went wrong, I would record something she said, she did, she shared that was remarkable.

I wanted to capture, in the midst of the busyness of our lives, not only how fortunate we were, but how remarkable she is. I just didn’t want to miss it.

So, without her knowledge, each evening I secretly recorded something beautiful she said, she did, or we experienced together. I tracked the subtle moments of enjoying coffee on our screened-in-porch, the walks around the block together with our dog, or the way she shined before heading out on a date.

I recorded little things she did to help kids get to practice or prepare for a test, and the baskets of dirty clothes that were magically cleaned, folded and placed in drawers each night.

I noted dinners she quietly prepared for a sick friend and the enormous amount of work she does in our home, at her work and in our community.

Some entries were deeply private; shared moments between a married couple. Others were hilarious moments shared with family or friends. But each night, something was recorded that otherwise would have become a missed, forgotten, unacknowledged moment of grace.

And on December 25th, 360 days or so after the journey began, with wrapping paper covering the floor, I handed her a poorly wrapped gift.

She unwrapped it and saw a well-travelled, frayed, coffee-stained leather journal. Opening it, she saw my handwriting and movie ticket stubs and receipts from restaurants. She saw plane tickets from a special trip and a simple love note she wrote me and hid in my bag before a work trip.

In other words, she saw a year’s worth of love, forgiveness, sadness, gratitude, sorrow, joy… life.

Life is a Gift; Don’t Forget It

As the kids played with their toys, with a tree lighting up the corner of the room, and Christmas music playing in the background, a huge smile covered her face.

“Why did you do this?!”

I answered with a response one of our kids had taught me a couple years earlier.

I wanted to remember this.

My friends, in the midst of the mundane, the hectic, the tragic and the redemptive, consider slowing down long enough each day to track the remarkable journey that is your life.

Write down what is worth remembering. Leave behind what is best forgotten. And embrace the truth that life is seldom easy, rarely perfect, but always a gift. [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

This is your day. Live Inspired.

 

This Monday Morning Motivation was inspired by my most recent Live Inspired Podcast guest, Najwa Zebian. She has a profound, beautiful story about coming home, embracing who we really are, boldly stepping into that truth, and the power of recording the journey. To be inspired to begin more actively tracking what matters in your life, check out this inspiring conversation here.

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Showing 11 comments
  • Dianne Redman
    Reply

    This reminds me of a gift my siblings and I gave to my mother one year for Mother’s Day. We wrote down memories, rolled them up and put them in a basket with instructions for her to read one every day. There were enough memories for over a year. We did not discuss what we were writing with each other so some memories were of the same event but the interpretations were often quite different. After they were read we then put them in an album. Although the gift was intended for my mother, it was truly a blessing for me to take the time to revisit the “memorable” occasions in life and to talk and laugh about them with my brothers and sisters. My project today is to find out who got that album after my mother died and read it again—thanks for the reminder!

  • Marj Swikert
    Reply

    I love this message. What a cool idea to take a few moments each day to capture a great memory or two in writing. It is quite easy to take your spouse or family for granted and this is a wonderful way to document great memories. My husband actually does this with photos throughout the year, putting together a slide show documenting many memories. But the written journal is a better idea for me!

    • John
      Reply

      Marj – actually, I REALLY like what your husband does….I might accept the invite to do this in 2019! Great idea and thanks for sharing!

  • Diana
    Reply

    WOW – just WOW!! This would be an awesome gift for anyone special in our lives! I thought of doing this for my children. It would be a great way for me to remember the positive things about my teenagers especially on days they are pushing the envelope! And what a wonderful way for them to know that they are loved EVERY day of the year. Thank you for sharing, John!

    • John
      Reply

      Diana – I feel the exact same way… Really want to hold onto the best of my kids, too….time is flying ….. and the teenage years are fast approaching (just 3 months away for my oldest, in fact!) Keep tracking what is right!

  • Wendy Uhl
    Reply

    Beautiful!! We should all capture our everyday lives in the small moments, and hold them close in our hearts!

    • John
      Reply

      yes…right on, WU. Thanks for sharing. Keep capturing those moments!

  • Michael Bryant
    Reply

    Thanks. I sent a message to my wife just now repeating your powerful words (with a Bryant Family twist), “With four kids, a demanding travel schedule, and meeting with thousands of individuals each year, I wanted to take pause today to remember and celebrate the person that matters most to me: my wife.”

    Thanks for reaching out to me and the rest of us all the time. Make positivity louder.

    • John
      Reply

      MB, you are always welcome to steal from me, my friend!

  • Dave
    Reply

    John,

    What an innocent answer from a young child and what a wonderful gift for your wife. Keep up the good work and don’t forget, take time for YOURSELF!

    • John
      Reply

      thanks Dave… I find that in celebrating them – and spending dedicated time with them – that I receive a remarkable gift…win-win! thanks for the encouragement

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