Clues to a Perfect Life
We escaped to Duck, North Carolina for a few days in early May. The Outer Banks (often referred to as OBX) is a favorite of ours. Tim and I first visited together with his family in 2001.
We fell in love with the rural coastline, quaint islands and inlets, and its rough waters. The OBX is wild and free.
It has been over four years since we have had an “official” family vacation. It’s kind of hard to plan vacations when you have been moving every summer for the past three years.
We were thrilled to take the pixies (our affectionate name for our daughters) on their first trip to the Atlantic Ocean, stateside. They had dabbled in the waters of Bournemouth, England, but this was their first real experience with the Atlantic ocean in the U.S.
Our six days together in Duck could not have been more perfect. The weather was in the 70’s, no humidity, the crowds were absent, as peak season had not yet hit.
I felt the pleasure of God in every sunset, every lapping wave.
A week full of perfect days.
While laying in the sand, I finished reading a book I had begun in the Fall, Gift from the Sea. I highly recommend reading it at the ocean. I had started it in the Asheville mountains, and as glorious as that was, it couldn’t compare to reading it as I lay on the beach looking out over the horizon.
It is a beautiful book, written in thoughtful prose, but one line stood out to me above all others. Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes: “One perfect day can give clues for a more perfect life.”
My senses perked up ... might I be onto something?
A perfect life isn’t built by planning, scheming, and orchestrating it into what we think it should be. A perfect life is discovered.
And the discovery transpires through our perfect days.
What made our beach trip so amazing? A combination of perfect days creating a perfect stay.
What clues can I discover from those perfect days to create a perfect life? What characterized our hours? What brought the most joy?
These are the questions I found myself asking, and they are questions I believe will help you also discover a perfect life.
Am I suggesting that life can be perfect?
No, not perfect in the first definition of the word, “as good as it is possible to be,” but life can be dreamy, it can be joyful, and it can be magnificent.
I use “perfect” in the sense of the second definition of the word: “absolute, complete, used for emphasis.”
Life can be complete.
We all have those days when we wish they would last just a little bit longer; the sun forgets to set, the song refuses to end, we feel a sense of eternity in our hearts, a sense of joy clings to our spirits. On days like this, life feels complete.
Those feelings and experiences live in our lives as clues, and on days like this, we should gather those clues and carry them in our pocket. We should write them down in a journal and speak of them with our spouses, and listen for the voice of God in them— listen for His thundering voice.
When we have those days that make us long for more we must take the time to look and truly see. If we do, we will discover clues that will help us build completeness into our lives. Perfect days echoing in a perfect life.
During the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of the clues I discovered at our time in the Outer Banks that I hope will inspire you. They may be clues you already implement in your own family rhythms, or they may be clues you aspire to incorporate.
Let’s discover the clues together.
Clue #1: Space
Lindbergh writes, “For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms.”
A flower flourishes in the backdrop of black space. A lone reed stands out amidst the faded background of green water. A live oak enthralls against the barren landscape that surrounds it.
Beauty blooms in space.
Space is needed in our days now more than ever. We have so many important tasks to attend to within the 24 hours we have each day. Blank space in our calendars is an anomaly.
We have so many opportunities, each affording wonderful ventures. We are connected to so many people, amazing people who are worthy of time well spent.
So how do we create margin? Is it possible to find blank space?
When we lived in Oxford, our life had so much space for beauty to bloom. But slowly, our lives in Charlotte have sucked out the empty space. The opportunities are endless but that doesn’t mean they are essential.
“The time has been filled ... Too many activities, and people, and things...Too many worthy activities ... For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.”
Let us ask ourselves, What can we cut out from our days to create more space?
This looks different for each and every one of us. For some, it might mean limiting your child’s activities, even if he is really good at every single one.
For others, it may entail saying “no” to one more speaking invitation. It might be as simple as limiting grocery shopping to one store, rather than the five we love.
No matter how this plays out in our lives, space paves the way to a perfect life.
We breathe deeper. We laugh more. We listen better.
Clue #2: Reflection
A perfect life can only be found when there is time for reflection. Time to think.
When we were at the Outer Banks, space provided margin in my day to ponder. In silence, I sat and listened to the waves. My heart lifted as I reflected on the sound of my pixies’ laughter as they ran along the seashore and played in the sand.
I took real time to reflect on what I was reading and ask probing questions. There was no reason to rush through a book, but rather it could be taken in slowly.
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport writes, “What we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life.”
When Tim was finishing his PhD, his supervisor Alister McGrath would often tell him to “go and have a think.” Integral to the PhD process and research is the discipline of reflection. Discovery of new ideas and concepts requires reflection.
Our lives are heightened by the wonder of reflection. We notice and process things we might easily skim over otherwise. If I would not have reflected on our perfect days at the beach, I would have missed out on the clues I’ve discovered to a perfect life, clues I wanted to bring home with me.
Reflection is key to creating perfect days and thus a perfect life.
Clue #3: Choose the Unknown
The host of the house we stayed in at Duck told us that a must-see was an adventure ride to Corolla. And so all five of us climbed into a HUMV and road out to the wild dunes to chase wild horses.
The wind made us breathless, its strength so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves laughing. The guide reminded us that we were an hour or two away from any hospital and that air rescue would be our only option. It was a bit unnerving. But the risk was so rich and rewarding.
We drove along the beach as the waves lapped close to the vehicle, spinning sand from our tires. Our eyes were watchful, hopeful to discover the magic of wild horses and nature communing as one.
“I see one!” cried a pixie. “There’s another one!” said Bri.
They were breathtaking. Standing among the dunes, eating the grass, the horses spoke of majesty. On the drive home, we witnessed two lone horses walking along the waves at sunset. It’s hard to capture the glorious imagery.
We had no idea what we were signing up for in this adventure tour. We knew it was risky; we would be out in the middle of nowhere and, it was expensive. Would it be worth the money?
What we were signing up for was unknown. But the unknown was full of glorious surprises.
I think we can add so much richness to our lives by choosing the unknown. Yes, it can be scary, and yes, it doesn’t always work out like we hoped, but more times than not, it is glorious.
Tim and I have humbly learned through the years, that Christ meets us in all the wonderful unknowns.
We lived the beautiful unknown for two years in the city of dreaming spires, more magical than we could have ever dreamed. We sold nearly all we owned and boarded a plane with only our pixies and a few bags to fly to Oxford. The unknown was full of mystery and beauty.
What will be waiting for you if you choose the unknown? We have yet to see. But the adventure is there.
It is inviting. It is terrifying. It is thrilling.
If we will be brave enough to take it, the unknown is a mystery waiting for a surprise ending.
The Unknown may hold perfect days which culminate in a perfect life.
Let’s keep looking for clues to a Perfect Life.
Join Christine next week at her blog Splintersong, to discover the next three clues.