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“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.”

Intentions: noun. A thing intended; an aim or plan.

I used to think all my good intentions should count for something, right? I mean, I really will at some point have that couple over for dinner. At least, I hope so. And I really will call that girl that’s been on my heart and see if we can meet up for coffee just as soon as things slow down.

What? Things don’t really slow down?

How do we change good intentions from a noun to a verb–an action? How do we allow our thoughts to move from a good thought to the actual doing? Hate to over-simplify, but if it’s important to us (which people should be), we’re going to have to fit them in. We need to make a conscious decision to stop ‘thinking’ about it and actually take the steps necessary to make it happen.

Have you ever said to someone, “We need to have y’all over for dinner.” But days come and go, and it never happens. Or then there are times when you do actually have someone over and you’re stressed out, running around like a mad person. And they come and you really enjoy the company, and when they leave, you look at your spouse and say, “That was so nice; we really need to do this more.”

When I moved here just over a year ago, I was looking forward to the new possibilities of getting to spend time with all my family here. We’ll hang out, go out to eat, watch movies, etc. etc. It will just be one big party. Okay, not exactly, but I knew having family close would really be nice.

Someone in particular I really felt like I needed to connect with was my cousin Laura. But as you know, life gets busy. Between working Monday through Friday, three kids, football and many church commitments, I didn’t get to see her very much. I always loved seeing her during the holidays or at baby showers. She recently moved to a beach condo and we talked of bringing the kids by to swim at her pool. We would talk (good intentions) about getting together for a run or something, but it just never happened.

Last Thursday night we received a phone call from my husband’s mom. It is a phone call I will never forget. We learned that night that my beautiful sweet cousin had passed. I’m not going to lie; even as I write this, I’m still in shock. She was 22, with her whole life in front of her. And the record that continues to play in my head sounds like this: I just thought I had more time. I just thought we had more time.

As I look back, I’ve had to learn some painful lessons. It hurts. To come to grips with the reality that I could have, would have, or should have.

Painful Lesson# 1: Jesus loved people. He has called us to love His people. NEVER ever take a person for granted and just ‘expect’ that they will be there forever. Do the people that God has placed in your life know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them unconditionally and that they matter to you? In James we are reminded of how short this life really is.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 (NIV)

This week has been a painful reminder that we truly never know how long our time is here on this earth.

Painful Lesson #2: All my good intentions are the same as not having any intentions. We need to live our lives on purpose. I’m starting to take notes. I’m going back to all my intentions, almost like an intention bucket list. Who did we say we are going to invite over recently? I’m writing it down, and going to make it happen. I’m taking notes the next time I say, “We really need to meet up.” Even with my kids. I can’t tell you how many times I say, “I really want to start …” Write it down. If it’s important, make it happen. Show people and your family that they are a priority to you.  Sometimes we get caught up on the temporary–and we miss out on the eternal.

Painful Lesson #3: The best present you could ever give someone is to be present. Live in the moment. As you learn not to take people for granted and to live your life on purpose, be present. The best friend someone could be is the friend who will turn off the TV (unless of course you’re watching a movie together), put down the cell phone (I promise Twitter and Facebook will still be there later), and just be present. Have you ever heard those sweepstakes commercials that say, “Must be present to win”? Well, it’s true in life also.  

We are given no promises for tomorrow. What will you do with today?

Lord, as we come before You today, would You forgive us for not treating others as sacred human beings that are made in Your image? We get lazy; we get comfortable. Help us to truly see the frailty of life and the gift in today. Help us to not take each other for granted but to love extravagantly, as You love us. Help us to turn our good intentions into actions. You, Lord, are ever so present with us–help us to live that way with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.