How Then Shall I Live

This is 31 Conversations From the Front Porch Day 31 -How then shall I live- you can find the rest of the series here.

31 conversations from the front porch with jkmcguire

Day 31: Ending Well

Every year I choose a word or a phrase to shape the new year. There was that year spent in silence and a year spent abiding. Some years are vivid and powerful while other years I am simply grateful to roll on into the new year with everyone still in one piece.

This year (2015) was significant for me in a whole new way.

At the end of last year I almost died.

I lay in bed with an oxygen mask held tightly to my face as a team of doctors and nurses hovered waiting to see if I was going to need additional assistance to breathe, waiting to see if the medications would work in time. With each labored breath my husband sat in a chair by my bed with our 12 day old infant sleeping across his chest. A pulmonary embolism was threatening my life.

For weeks afterwards I settled into deep grief and sorrow as my body began to heal. As I came out of the drugged stupor – I fell headlong into an anguish I had never known.  I was so grateful to be alive, but I could barely raise my head up out of the terror to focus on what lay ahead.

All I could see in those moments is where I had been and what I saw made me sad.

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[right click to download for a free Facebook cover image]
Then a new year arrived and in the days preceding and the moments that would follow – I wondered what this new year would hold.

I wondered how much time I would be given. 

I grieved over the years past – how present I had not been, and how fearful and worried I had lived. I wept at how many times I had ignored my role as mother – focusing instead on all the wrong things. I remembered vividly my agitation and annoyance at one more dirty pile, and one more toy left out, and one more crashing, tumbling running about. I grieved how often I worried what other people thought about me or what they might say. I had given too much head and heart space to unessential people and places. I mourned the missed opportunities for laughter, fun, and enjoying one another all because my body was tired or my patience had run thin or I was too afraid or didn’t have enough money to try.

In those days Ann Voskamp wrote wisdom words that spoke right into the questions I had been asking myself. She said we are given a spoonful of diamond days:

You have absolutely only one decision to make every day: how will you use your time?

Time is a great equalizer. We all equally get the same number of hours in a day. The hands of the clocks points to no favourites. The pedestrian truth that you just have to live your one day at a time may not be very helpful at all — because the real question is: How are you supposed to live your one day at a time?

The real question isn’t ever How long do I have to live?
The real question always is — How do I really live?…

Time is preciousall the weeks of your life here might add up to a spoonful of diamonds. Time is precious — how do you use your One Spoonful of Diamonds? (Ann Voskamp)

I don’t know how many diamonds are left on that spoon of life I’ve been given. I don’t know how long I will get to stay, but I do know I want to live.

And so from those prayers and that deep sorrow and anguished terror came one question, “HOW then shall I live?”

how then shall i live jkmcguire

That is HOW I am framing everything this year. That is one of the reasons I actually made it through a 31 days series.

My every move is framed around one word:


  • How then shall I love?
  • How then shall I parent?
  • How then shall I grow?
  • How then shall I listen?
  • How then shall I speak?
  • How then shall I see?
  • How then shall I lean in?
  • How then shall I laugh?
  • How then shall I write?
  • How then shall I work?
  • How then shall I worship?
  • How then shall I pray?
  • How then shall I live?

We are not always given such eye opening and heart turning moments to shift our focus. But when we find ourselves faced with the significance and brevity of our days – of time – it is a gift.  I have been given a gift.

Every single day we are given a gift – time.

Time is a miracle. To Breathe is a miracle.

every single day given a gift time jkmcguire

When faced with all the diamonds left on my spoon – I am turning to the HOW.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” – Frederick Buechner

We are given this “one wild and precious life” (Mary Oliver) – How am I going to live it?

We are given the opportunity of “Daring Greatly” (Theodore Roosevelt) – How am I going to live daring greatly?

We can “get busy living or get busy dying” (Shawshank Redemption) – How then SHALL I live? How then shall I die?

We are given but moments and breaths and a limited number of joyful places – and I want to lean into all of that because I can breathe.

I want to die trying…

Every breath is a miracle. And I don’t want to waste another breath on all the wrong things.

This year from the front porch I have learned that:

Self-care is not selfish. It’s essential to a well-lived, wholehearted, god-breathed life.

Playing nice when others are cruel is never loving and never kind. Keeping the peace just to avoid the difficult, anger in others will never make for peaceful living in my own heart and life. And I am the one who has to live with myself.

It is good to be honest. It is good to ask questions – it is love to ask the right questions.

It is good to establish places around myself where others are not allowed to tread with their dirty shoes – these holy ground spaces inside ourselves are sacred ground. Only those who know how to tread lightly, who have earned the right to our stories, and who know how treat us as hallow have the right to be there. All others need to earn that permission first. Access to your sacred spaces should never be automatic or a given. Just because isn’t good enough.

My consent matters. I can give it; I can take it away.

I do no have to offer explanations or excuses for the choices that I make.

My NO can be my NO and that is OK.

Just because someone holds up a label to your life does not mean that you are defined by what they believe. Be you anyways.

A man intent on declaring peace – has to be a peacemaker within himself first. You can not make peace with others until you have found peace inside your own heart and life.

Sitting on the front porch to reset  is not selfish; it’s essential to a quiet, peace-filled heart and life.

My prayers feel heard here.

My dreams feel seen here.

My heart comes alive here.

I find the words I never knew I needed here.

You can take the girl off the front porch, but you can never take the front porch out of the girl.

Peace ♥

[right click to download a free Facebook cover image]
[right click to download a free Facebook cover image]
Ending well….

31 days have come to an end. Have you followed the whole way through? If yes, thank you for stopping along the way to listen and wonder and wander with me. If no, maybe you have 31 days to spend considering conversations from the front porch in your own life?

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