Things That Matter

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things that matter and things that don’t. Well, at least, things that don’t matter that much.

One week ago I returned from a 10-day trip. I was facing plenty of catch-up “to do” on the home front. (You know that drill.) I was very, very glad to be home—but was all too quickly consumed by my to-do lists: loads of laundry, an empty refrigerator and pantry, email pile-up, household maintenance calls, beds that needed changing, bathrooms screaming to be cleaned—all this and much more. Sound familiar?

In the midst of this, I had two local speaking engagements on the topic of “Living Your Legacy—Starting Now.” During these, I spoke to women (some moms and some not) about focusing on what really matters. Then I went to a funeral at which a friend of mine gave the eulogy, a moving tribute to his mother.

I began to refocus a bit on the things that really matter.

Then I went to the post office. I went to mail a box to my daughter Erika of miscellaneous things she can’t get in Ireland. Things like chocolate and butterscotch chips, the “right kind” of deodorant, Starbucks coffee (which you can get in Dublin but almost need to take out a loan to buy), a small devotional book I wanted her to have—all kinds of bits and pieces of things.

When my long-awaited turn came, I proudly approached the window with my entire customs form filled out. It’s taken me a while to get the details of international mailing down, but this time I was ready to go. Or so I thought. That is, until the postal worker paused and said, ”M’am, you have a few more things to fill out here . . .”

It turns out that the U.S. Customs Department has issued a new regulation: every single item listed on the form must also have its exact weight specified. That is, M&M’s: so many ounces. Book, so many ounces. Deodorant, so many ounces. Et cetera. You get the drift. And, these individual weights must add up—to the ounce—to the total weight of the box.

Furthermore, the postal employee must now enter every one of these individual details into the computer. Picture the line forming behind me while all this occurs.

It may sound very silly to you, but this was the proverbial last straw in my day with its never-ending to-do list. I immediately saw visions before me of how I would weigh each baby dress or pair of socks sent to Gabriella. Each mint chocolate brownie sent to Lars. The higher math (for me) involved in getting each of these weights to add up to the total. The line that would form behind me each time I go to the post office. Whether or not I would escape such a line with my life . . .

I felt an overwhelming need to vent. (My house guests, the painter working at our house, and my husband can all tell you that vent I did.)

Back at home, I sat down to check my email, and discovered that my husband, Woody, had written an extremely moving email to our family in honor of the 37th anniversary of his father’s death—the grandpa our kids never knew, because he died so young. He never met any of his grandkids.

But his legacy surely lives on. His life has already had a multi-generational effect. He was a B-17 pilot in WWII, flying 29 bombing missions over Germany. Then later, he became a commercial pilot for TWA for the rest of his all-too-short career. He would have loved to have known Lars, and Lars would so love to be able to talk with him.

Woody’s father, B-17 pilot

Woody’s father, B-17 pilot

But his legacy goes much deeper than that. Though Woody wrote several pages about him, these words stand out:

“Most of all, he taught me to love and cherish God. He taught me to live a life that was steady—a steady, solid faith. Not flashy, but solid. He lived in such a way that I knew deep down that God mattered and He loved us and that those facts were foundational in our lives in a deep-down way. He taught me to love our children by loving me and my sisters. I miss him every day.”


Woody with his father and sister

Woody with his father and sister

Woody ended his note with some musings about the legacy of a father—both his own and his father’s. He talked about not being perfect. About having rough edges, but still living out the things that matter most. He asked (really asking himself as much as our kids), “Have I been that kind of father to you? Have Mom and I pushed you to love God and to hold fast to Him as the most important thing in your life? I hope so. God knows we pray for you daily, constantly, and entreat God to protect and prosper you in the ways He chooses . . .”

Woody (center back) with his father, grandfather, and two sisters

Woody (center back) with his father, grandfather, and two sisters

My focus on what really matters returned. There are things that matter and things that don’t—or at least that don’t matter as much as the things that really matter. Woody’s email letter was a good reminder for me.

Good reminder for all of us, yes?

I leave you with a quote I read recently:

“Our greatest fear as a church and as individuals should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” *

Hmmm. Helps to put the lines at the post office (and new customs form regulations) in perspective, doesn’t it?

*Tim Kizziar, quoted by Francis Chan in his book, Crazy Love.