Learning to Live Before You Die

I’m guilty of doing this thing I don’t want to do. Like all bad habits, it’s hard to break. I catch myself in it, red-handed and guilty before I even realize I’m doing it. Again. And each time I’m surprised, always surprised because I think I’ve quit doing it.  That last time was supposed to be the last time, only it wasn’t.

It occurs to me to put my ever-present challenge in very public words. Like an addict in a twelve step program recognizing the need for accountability, I spill my guts towards the goal of recovery. Here it is in black and white: I use the moment I’m in like a holding cell.  I’m guilty of short-changing now for later. Sometimes it’s excitement I feel about later, other times it’s dread, but both make me miss the now.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been aware of the tendency problem, (see how I caught myself trying to make it sound better than it is?), but decades would not be an exaggeration. My children were still small when I realized I was in danger of losing the moments of their lives if I didn’t quit thinking in terms of, “I can’t wait to get through the teething stage”, “I can’t wait to get through with diapers”, “I can’t wait to get through with t-ball”, or “I can’t wait to get through with dance recitals. ” The list could go on and on if I let it gain momentum, through their high school years, through college, through weddings…

I made a decision back then to quit.

I’ve since made a lot of decisions to quit.

At one point in the last few years I decided to banish all forms of my habit from my language. I stopped saying things like, “Just let me get past the Christmas season”, or “Just let me get through with this wedding shower I’m hosting”, in an effort to quit giving up the now. Problem solved? I wish. Banning external speech patters is like an alcoholic banning whisky in the house. It’s a good start, a well-intentioned move, but it doesn’t mean the opportunity to stumble won’t present itself again, and soon.

Last year, I did a word study on gratitude that went a long ways towards this new way of living I wanted and needed. I became specifically enamored of the word “eucharisteo”.  At it’s core the word speaks to me of a way of life I began calling Living Thanksgiving, a grateful acknowledgment to God of the moment– this very moment, not the next. I began whispering these words during the day, in good times and in bad, “Thank you God for this moment, right here, right now.” It helped me establish a new habit, which is the best way of breaking an old one. A void is a door propped open to the familiar past.

Here’s the good news. When I remember the practice of Eucharisteo, I squeeze every drop of goodness from the good, and God tempers the pain of the bad. When I remember Eucharisteo, I not only watch Dr. Emerson and Nurse Carlisle tend to a wounded Froggie– I taste their little girl joy.

Here’s the bad news. This morning I was having breakfast with two of my most favorite males when I realized  to my dismay that I was in fast-forward. Grant and Connor sat within my grasp. Soon I would be back home in Louisiana missing their little boy sugar and yet, in my head, I was checking off the seven hour drive home, scanning the work week, and preparing material for its deadlines.

Suddenly, in the entwined fingers of five month old Connor as he studied the fascinating yet elusive digits that are always well within his reach but not quite obedient to his commands, I saw the truth of Eucharisteo, a fascination for the moment. Living Thanksgiving.

And I came home to the moment. Thank you, Father, for the reminder.

I want to learn to live before I die.

And I want you to join me.

In Eucharisteo…


 I love to hear from you. And to prove it– for the rest of April, anyone who leaves a comment box will get his or her name thrown in a pot. I’ll send out a signed copy of Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy to a lucky winner on my birthday, April 30th! Kind of like a Happy Birthday gift in reverse!


About Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

Known as The Belle of All Things Southern, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is a national best-selling author, speaker, radio host, and columnist from Louisiana.
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30 Responses to Learning to Live Before You Die

  1. Sandra Smith says:

    Wow Shellie…this may be my all-time favorite. I am always amazed when I see or hear people (especially young ones) say they can’t wait for the weekend to get here…or summer…or Christmas…always wanting time to pass quickly! I am at the stage in life where I want to drain every second out of every day…slow down Sunday evening…I am in no hurry for Monday. Thanks so much for your confession. Love to you and Dixie from Sandra and Miss Pearl.

  2. Jackie Smith says:

    Someone once told me that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. and I can attest to that. I venture to say that most of us could confess to having the same problem. We get over- committed, actually doing the things we want to do, and find ourselves saying ” if I can just make it until”—-. This is a hard habit to break but with God all things are possible. I am trying to concentrate on being more thankful and acknowledging His presence more frequently throughout the day.What a great post that was. I will have to remember that term “eucharisteo”. Thank you for your encouraging words. Jackie

  3. tanya says:

    I love and give Thanks to have the Eucharist on Sunday’s and other days of the week if I am able to make a service. So, I share in your enamourment with the word Eucharisteo, to give thanks. I saw a movie, rather a film, on Friday, when I took time out for myself. It was only showing in one place here and I am sure it will not be here long, because it is not a chick flick, kids show or gore. It is ‘October Baby’. It unveils the truth of the beginning of a young girls life, one she knew nothing about. The end and point (to me) of the film was about Forgiveness. I rarely cry, especially in the parts of movies where they want you to, I did not in those parts, but when one scene took place in a grand Cathedral. The site of the Altar and Christ touched me, just like it does in my own Church. The Priest listened to her story, told of of Paul’s letter about God’s Forgiveness. I know this is not what your message was about, but since seeing the film, I catch myself asking for forgiveness and being Thankful that I understand God’s forgiveness, my forgiving myself and the ones who ‘wronged’ me forgiveness’. So here is to Eucharisteo!!!

    • I’ve heard about that movie, Tanya! It’s been on my list of must-sees but if it wasn’t, I’d put it there on account of you! I loved reading your words on forgiveness. Doesn’t matter if you are “on topic” with exactly what I’m thinking. I just enjoy the community discussion!

  4. Dodie Fisher says:

    I enjoyed this post so much. I know it is the part of my life that has caused me the most pain. Always anticipating. I read the other day where this particular person was fed up to the gills with people talking about how “busy” they were. It was funny and thought provoking. I have always lived in the past or the future, and it has caused me a world of hurt. I have been training my German Shepherd puppy. Cesar’s admonitions that dogs are always in the present is so true. It reminds me this is where my Lord is as well. So as I train Nike to heel, I am training myself to slow down, stay in the moment, and Thank God for all the moments I have. A thoughtful and honest piece. Thanks! Dodie

    • Hey Dodie, (and I love that name! One of my dear friends from childhood had a little girl named Dodie!) I haven’t heard Cesar say that dogs are always in the present but reading it rang soooo true. You’re welcome for the post. Love the “heel” idea. Thx for giving me something to chew on in return!

  5. Brenda Bahn-Moore says:

    Shellie, this really hit home with me. We need to live in each moment and appreciate the blessing of it. I seem to do a little better after my retirement from my stressful Walmart job. However I still have those times you mentioned. Sometimes I find myself soaking up those moments and not wanting them to end. Especially the time spent with my mother and grandchildren. The times that we will never get back. They need to make an imprint on us that will forever stay in our memory. Like you I get ahead of myself in thoughts just as those special times are coming to an end. You’ve opened my eyes to want to cherish every moment and not allow it to slip by without savoring it. Thank you for sharing something we all relate to. May the Lord continue to bless you in every area of your life. Love and prayers, Brenda

  6. Faye says:

    In 2012 I’ve had two major surgeries and now having a setback that has me in bed. I’ve done a lot of whining and wishing this was over. Then I remembered Brother Paul said something about tony thanks in everything. So now I’m thanking Him for the slowed me who can hear the windchimes. I’m thanking Him for a little dog who thinks I’m awesome. I’m thanking Him for a husband who treats me like a princess when I look so pitiful. I have much to be thankful for, including a God who takes care.of me, meeting me where I am.

  7. Kellie Brown says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I need to learn to do this as I find myself like you

    • Kellie Brown says:

      My daughter passed away in January and I am now raising a 16 month old so it is rough but I am thanking God for this opportunity to make a difference in her life as life is short and you never know what the day will hold

      • Oh, Kellie. Your words have broken my heart and challenged me to come alongside you and pray for your strength as you raise that precious grand and for your mama’s heart to heal. I’m asking Father to help me remember to pray. Much love!~

      • Kellie Brown says:

        Thank you Shellie… Much prayer needed… She was 25y old and chose to end her own life which makes it all the more harder…

  8. Jeanie McMahon says:

    What a beautiful message and one I will remember to use to stay in the moment. If you pull my name pass on the winning to someone else, as I already have your book and it will brighten someone else’s day!

  9. Jeanie, that is so nice of you!!! THX 🙂

  10. Lucy Young says:

    Shellie, I wish you had written this Friday night. I am very guilty of this very thing. Sat. my youngest daughter was in a fashion show and I was dreading it. Needless to say I was imagining her falling off the stage, dresses not fitting all of a sudden, etc (this was her first time to do this). I got up Sat. morning saying to God , please just get me through this. It will all be over tonight. I wish now I had taken a deep breath and enjoyed it. All went fine but I remember very little of it. I have printed this post off and I plan to re-read it often to hopefully stay in the moment. I hope you accomplish the same. Thank You, Lucy

    • Hey Lucy! I’m sorry I didn’t write it sooner, but the good news is there is always another opportunity to put it into practice! 🙂 I’m honored that you would print this post! Congrats to your duaghter for all going well!

  11. Learning to live in the present. Enjoying the journey. It’s hard to do that when we are goal oriented, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be constantly working toward the next milestone, but thank goodness life requires us to stop at a station along the way and take in the view. Thanks, Shellie.

  12. Frank Shelton says:

    I posted this earlier today… to the wrong comment section. What can I say, that’s just typical me…

    Life runs backwards. You spend your youth wishing it all would hurry up. Hurry up and get to High School, hurry up and get a drivers license, hurry up and graduate, hurry up and get through college and out into the “real world”… and it all seems to go soooo slow.
    When you get old, or at least as old as me (not that I’m old, mind you) time seems to fly by. Wasn’t Christmas just a few weeks ago? Is school really just about out for summer? What happened to all that stuff I planned to do last year… the stuff I didn’t have time for? What do you mean it will be here before you know it? I’m not ready. I haven’t had time…
    They say you can never go home again. You can try, but what you’ll find is a different place and a different time. Oh if we could only go back and savor those moments… Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat. To have those days back.. the ones I wasted trying to get to where I am now.
    Take time to smell the roses… and study the petals and leaves… even the thorns. God has placed a plate full of wonders right under our noses, and we need to be sure to devote the proper amount of time to each and every one. When it comes time to leave we can say we didn’t miss a thing…

  13. Carey says:

    Love this and needed the encouragement! I was praying earlier today and I literally could not say anything other than “Thank You! Thank You! ThankYou!” it was weird and amazing at the same time. Such a sweet Father who deserves those words with literally our every breath!
    Love u!

  14. I think Thank you, Thank you, Thank you is a marvelous prayer. Love you, too!

  15. jonna marsh says:

    Just discovered your blog! I’m anxious to sign up to receive it!

  16. Hi Jonna! How nice of you to say that. I’m delighted to have you join us. I don’t know if you’ve found my website, http://www.allthingssouthern.com/ but you can also subscribe to it to get my free weekly newsletter. It has weekly chats, chuckles, recipes, quotes, and a devotional. Blessings~

  17. Linda H. says:

    I ordered and received Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” recently. I recommend it to everyone. I researched and found it after seeing this article. Thanks!

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