Don't Miss Your Life! : An Uncommon Guide to Living with Freedom, Laughter, and Grace

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  • Edition: Original
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-06-02
  • Publisher: Howard Books
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When was the last time you kicked off your shoes, twirled in a circle, threw your head back, and laughed yourself silly?

Author Biography

Charlene Baumbich has news for you. God is wooing you to live life to the fullest! Don't Miss Your Life! shows you how to slow down, wake up, let go, hold on, and LIVE! Charlene Ann Baumbich is an award-winning journalist and author of such books as the Dearest Dorothy novels, How to Eat Humble Pie and Not Get Indigestion, and Don't Miss Your Kids! A motivational speaker and self-proclaimed wild child of God, she travels the country, delighting audiences with humor, wisdom, and fun.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Remember When?p. 5
What We Already Know
Wake Up!p. 18
A Call to Attentiveness
Crowned Princesses of Sparkledomp. 31
Friends, Fellowships, Foundations
Humor Hogtiesp. 44
Overcoming a Spiritually Constipated Life
Always Question Your Assumptionsp. 68
Sometimes They're (GASP) Wrong!
Help! I've Lost My Leanp. 84
The Necessity of Balance
Splatp. 97
When We Crash and Burn Out
I'm Sick of Listening to Mep. 109
Bye-Bye, Old Tapes and Negative Thinking
Trust the Questionp. 122
And the Question Would Be?
Decorating with Rocks and Rocketsp. 134
Awakening Our Senses
Leap and the Net Will Appearp. 144
Risking, Relishing, and Faith
Imagine THIS!p. 160
A Mind's Ride to Play, Possibilities, and Change
The Land of ODDp. 178
Stop, Crop, and Roll
When It Rains, I Let Itp. 192
Responding to Life's Storms
Be Still and Knowp. 214
Centering in I AM
Be a Reedp. 233
The Breath of God Blows Through Us ...
Notesp. 253
Acknowledgmentsp. 257
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


1 * Remember When?

What We Already Know

MEMORY PORTFOLIO (MP): Your invisible, utterly personal, wholly accessible, always-ready-for-new-entries, combination diary and scrapbook of sensory-loaded captured moments. Properly honored, added to, mined, evaluated, sifted, and, sometimes even edited, gentle examination of said captured moments can become the key -- the very path -- to your success in not missing your life.

When I was a child, I loved playing spaceship and building worm forts with the Cook brothers. They lived just up the path through the weeds -- the path we'd created by endlessly running through them. (Cook brothers, if you're out there, please contact me! My maiden name was Brown.) We once left this earth (for real ) on an abandoned hot-water heater rigged with a control panel made of half-melted camera flash cubes and pieces of wood that we wired and taped to its side. Of course this was back in the pre-Wii days, when our only option was to engage in real-life hands-on play, like sifting through the remnants of the garbage our folks burned in a rusty barrel out back. Where else could we discover a once-common flash cube transformed by fire into a crystal launch button?

During our space explorations, I was always Flash Gordon. I mean to tell you, I was Flash Gordon, neither a pretend Flash nor one of those froufrou tight-clothed girls in the old black-and-white television show of my youth. Nope, I was Flash, who was also tight-clothed, but not in "that" way. As for the worm forts, they were exquisite -- although I do not recommend putting a swimming pool in your complex. Don't ask me how I know.

Over time, I became a Gypsy (inspired by the exotic Sophia Loren), Annie Oakley (sharpshooter), Calamity Jane (rough-and-tumble), Crazy Googenheim (I loved making my mother laugh while pretending to be that wonderful character brought to life by Frank Fontaine on The Jackie Gleason Show), and Doris Day, that quirky fanny-swinging dame of a movie star with whom men always fell in love. A comparable cast for today's youth -- or, on a bad day at the office or with the kids -- perhaps might be made up of an actual astronaut (we didn't yet have them back in the fifties), Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, or, say, Jim Carrey.

Although I wasn't doing typical childhood writerly things like reading stacks of books or writing, not even in a diary, I always had a story running in my head. I was too busy "living" in another world or paying attention to the fine, wondrous, confounding, and startling details of my own life to sit down and write about it. At the time, little did I know that my natural childhood inclination to live in "otherly" skin was setting the stage for my all-growed-up, as my grandma used to say, "accidental" fiction-writing career. Never did I suspect that my youthful God-given instinct to pay close attention to the physical and emotional nuances of my own life, as well as the lives of those around me, was preparing me for one of the most fulfilling and rewarding joys of my entire life: writing this book. However, during an astute memory portfolio (MP) review, my writerly path and this burning message became as clear as a bell. When we give our MPs a chance to work for us, what obvious and meaningful threads we discover woven throughout them! Not only that, but what might the patterns of our frayed threads teach us -- spare us from in the future -- if we learned to recognize and heed their warning stitches?

Turns out I am best fed, educated, and ministered to by the magical, mystical power unleashed through stories, and hugely blessed by passing them along. I'm also often a complete doofus, a "qualification" God uses to make sure I don't run out of fun and wholly relatable, so I'm told time and again, material. Thank you, God -- I think. That is why I'm offering you this easygoing pluck-and-play opportunity to pluck what you want from this book of stories and play their implications and possibilities into your life as needed. Be advised that along with a full exploration of your MP, a strong Play! thread will weave its way throughout these pages. Doesn't this approach add up to more fun than a scary "self-help" theme?

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7 NASB

In the most relaxing, amusing, yet thought-provoking ways possible, I want to remind you, (and me, too) of an incredible asset you've been given. I'm talking a mega-asset that is so easy to forget. Ready? Here it is: your one and only, true-self -- not someone else's version/vision -- God-breathed life. I don't know how we can forget such an easy-to-remember asset, but we do. So, if you feel like you've lost your way, or like you might need an emotional laxative for your fun-impaired, spiritually constipated, fear-laden self, this message is just the painless (well, mostly) ticket to help you get your life back to YOUR LIFE!

'Tis my quest to help you learn the lively and releasing arts of listening to, mining, and then sharing your own stories. Yes, even that story that you hoped you'd never have to think about again, since maybe, just maybe, you can at long last learn to laugh about it, or at least unknot the emotional ties that feed its life-nabbing viral-ness.

* * *

If you explore your happiest childhood memories of times at play with your friends, I believe you will discover that they reveal the same keys that can infuse you with satisfaction today. This is one of the best features of an MP, demonstrated by the fact that when I say something like "Explore your happiest childhood memories," you can. Your MP is already up and running and contains everything you need. Although it might require an occasional reboot or memory tickler -- and I'm going to deliver tons of them -- no new software is required. Just dive in! In fact, do it right now! Shine a light around in the alcoves of your childhood when you were playing with your favorite playmates.

You are searching, remembering, rediscovering, reawakening...

What did you find? Did you spend the majority of your youthful playtime with your imaginary friend? Well, that counts. If you thought, perhaps still think, that imaginary friends are completely weird and unheard of in your land of play, well, that counts, too. After all, it is your brain, your life.

But the universal truth is this: whether our true friends were born of our imaginations or our childhoods or we cultivated them as adults, they can serve as mirrors and stabilizers, partners and butt-kickers, examples and lessons in our lives. Those voices from the past, trusted friends in the present, and conversations regarding our futures can often guide us back to our personal North Star course, which we might have long ago lost in the shuffle. Please try to consider me one of your new friends, for that is the spirit I bring to this book.

Are you unhappy in your current vocation? Perhaps something as easy as perusing your MP and pondering your natural gifts, attributes, and leanings can point you toward a new, more satisfying career, or at least flush out a fresh, rejuvenating, and fulfilling avocation or hobby. Later, I'm going to help you examine the "way" you used to play before someone encouraged you to start "applying" yourself, which often implied you should knuckle down and leave your natural-bent "fun and frivolous" -- HA! -- inclinations behind. Your MP is a great place to search for the gifts you've lost or set aside, to lift them to the light and reignite them.

What if you don't even know if you have any gifts? Suggestion: listen, mouth zipped, to the way your friends, both old and new, can lay out your strengths. If you don't believe me, ask them. It's time you shore up and reclaim your uniqueness, if, somewhere along the line, you handed it over to the blandness of other people's expectations for you. It's time to reignite the God-given hope you already harbor within.

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Romans 8:25 NASB

Hope is perhaps the first key that can enable you to wake up, then open up, to your life. Without hope, we are left with only despair. As I heard -- and forever remembered -- Marilla Cuthbert say to Anne Shirley in the 1985 made-for-TV adaption of Anne of Green Gables, "To despair is to turn your back on God." Now, who's gutsy enough to do that?! Not I!

* * *

Maybe you derailed (hey, you picked up this book, so something must have happened!) when you began assuming your life is worse than its actuality. Our assumptions can get us into whole heaps of trouble, not to mention waste big blocks of our valuable time here on this earth. How often have you stood in the line you assumed to be the correct line, only to learn upon finally arriving at the clerk that you've wasted your time in the wrong line? How many times have you assumed something about your spouse, say, that she'd like a can opener for her birthday or that he'd welcome a subscription to Communicating 101 as a good change of pace, only to learn you were wrong -- by a gazillion miles? And not only that, you're now in deep doo-doo, bucko or buckette. How often do you set a course for your career, project, or parenting skills based on assumptions that one of those well-known and respected gurus, including the ones on television, is actually correct about your individual situation? And surely they wouldn't let people have their own TV shows if they didn't know what they were talking about! Would they? Never mind that he or she knows none of the details about your personal life. So you follow their advice to the letter, only to receive a gut punch to your psyche when your leap of assumption dumps you and your loved ones down the proverbial drain. Again.

But even if my examples of errant assumptions did feel like personal excerpts out of your past year (doink!), be of good cheer since you, you smart smart person, are reading this book. I'm going to deliver handles and stories that can help you learn the vital art of questioning your assumptions. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: You're on your own with those story lines.] Together, we will tame a few shrewish thoughts and ignite more noble ones. And if that's not already a deal for the price, I'm even going to help you question your questions! For instance, in your aliant attempts to find out why your life's trolley has slipped off its happy track, perhaps you're asking yourself, Why can't I be more like [fill in the blank]?

BZZZZZZZZZZ! Wrong question! God and I are here to meet you exactly where, how, and who you are, which reminds me of a story logged in my MP that well illustrates my point. See how this is going to work?

* * *

I love to attend stock-car races held on half-mile dirt tracks. My favorite part? The glorious crescendo of rumbling thunder that comes rippin' 'round turn four when the drivers see the track lights turn green. Previous to that moment, perhaps they've had to circle the track once or twice, arranging and rearranging themselves until they jostle to the track official's liking, but then...GO! As opposed to the "cleanliness" of NASCAR races, I adore the remarkable demonstration of energy when, depending on track conditions, either dust or mud kicks out from behind the tires as the metal-to-metal mass -- or perhaps only two cars that have broken away from the pack -- makes its way past the roar of the crazed crowd. Heart pounding, I sit in awe of each driver who dives into the turns (Man, I wish I was him!), exploding the back end of his or her car into a wider-skidding arc than that of the curb-hugging front end. Centrifugal poetry set to motion by wild childs! Oh, baby! Although I feel bad for those who, on their own accord, spin out, I also secretly revel in their courage, since it means they held nothing back. Full bore. Head-on. Havin' at it! No put-puttin' for them! Isn't that the way you want to go through life?

Years ago, the grand-finale race at a track not too far from us was a "Run What You Brung" event. (No doubt insurance eventually shut it down.) In other words, if you're revved up from watching the night's action (Let me at it!) and want to give it a whirl yourself, go ahead and line up your street car -- the one you drove to the races -- for the "Run What You Brung." To be fair, you probably had to prepare for this before the actual event since your car needed to be in the pits, and there were no doubt indemnity waivers. But nonetheless, you "raced" your street-drivin' vehicle. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: Most nights for this event, the word race was a gross exaggeration since gutsy racing appears easier than it is, but buddy, by golly they were in it!]

So, too, all you need to begin this journey into not missing your life is to run what you brung. You need no further preparation than to show up, which you've already done. If you're happy and you know it, drive yer happy self right on up to the starting line. If you're lost and you show it, you, too, are on the right track since you're seeking a better way. So you see, you don't need to be more like somebody else; you just need to be whoever -- and however -- you are at this very moment.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises. James 5:13 (ESV). Notice that doesn't say snap out of it, shut up, or go away. Kinda sounds like God's "run what ya brung!" permission slip to me. Amen!

* * *

When I first started coming to grips with the fact that I'd "accidentally" (more on this later) become a professional speaker, a professional writer (Stand back! Professional words at work here!), I couldn't for the life of me believe it. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: To this day, only God can truly explain how I got so "lucky"!] For years, every stumbling step of the writerly/speakerly way, I kept thinking, When are they going to discover I don't know what I'm doing? When will someone finally check my report cards and learn I received average grades in all things English? How is it that editors at publishing houses, newspapers, and magazines have chosen to publish my articles and books instead of many others written by people who've spent their lives doing all the right things to become published writers, like write-write-writing stories from the time they were little, keeping a diary or journaling every day, attending journalism school...none of which is in my history? How is it that kind folks pay me to come speak at their events when I have no degrees in anything ? Other than a couple miscellaneous writing classes, an unending passion to share what I've learned, and more guts than brains, I have no certifiable qualifications to do what I do. Oh, and that "mostly Irish" thing, which not only honors Story but believes in Story's innate power to transform.

But when I examined my childhood adventures with my friends, the writing (hahahaha) was on the wall. Or rather it was lurking in the gifts God gave to me -- none of which I earned or deserved -- along with an unignorable lure to play with them. (Ah, we're back to the pluck-and-play mantra of this book. Nice!) Of course when I was a child, I had no inkling about "gifts," nor did anyone pressure me to use them. Thank you, Mom, Dad! I had no drive to find a career path; my mom was so happy in her homemaker role that all I wanted was to one day get married and have kids, too, which is what I did. My parents weren't channeling all their energies into pushing me down the "fast track" so I could attend the "right" college. Thank you and bless you, Mom and Dad. (Don't get me started on the topic of parental pressuring!) Aside from school, household chores, horses to feed, and stalls to shovel, I had no demands. I simply had time to play at whatever floated my boat, whispered to my creative brain, delighted my unstressed heart. I had leisure time (which overbooked kids do not have -- okay, I started anyway, but I promise that I'm done now -- I hope!) to explore my natural bents using the crude "tools" of childhood that would one day help hone my happiness and ability to fully live.

* * *

In that last paragraph, you likely noticed that I tried not to get started on something that launches me up on a soapbox -- and not in a good way. (If you didn't notice, wake up, people! Thankfully, the next chapter is about wakefulness, but at least flutter your eyes to let me know you're still with me -- and yourself.) Sadly, I failed at my attempt to stifle myself since only three sentences later, I started! Is that kind of lack-of-self-disciplined failure familiar to you? At least this time, even though I sorrily started, I was able to quickly stop myself. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: I'm getting better at catching myself. Just not always.] The encouraging part for all of us is this: as opposed to the negativity of my soapbox, I also possess, and later will share, many positive, productive antidotes and inspirations on the topic of overbooked anyone, especially ourselves.

Summing it all up, friends [emphasis mine], I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious -- the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Philippians 4:8,9 MSG

All of us possess our good sides, as well as our shadowy soapbox-y [or fill-in-the-blank] sides. Again, here's where our MPs usher forth yet another great incentive to explore them: I don't want to one day open mine and discover that every page is filled with me ranting. I feel assured you don't want that type of overriding vibe in your MP either. But here's one of the truly great things about life: right this moment, God is with us. Because God is with us and holds us close, we therefore each possess the power -- God's power -- to make our new MP entries more positive. Wonderful! I'd much rather remember, and be remembered for, my helpful attributes than my negative, harmful, or sarcastic ones, wouldn't you?

So, even though we mess up, we're here to run what we brung with the hope that we can, and will, get better, especially if and when we let our MPs tutor us while God holds our hands and hearts.

We find what we look for, so let's look for what's right -- including in ourselves. How can we move forward in our lives if we're using all of our energy pounding ourselves and others downward?

* * *

Throughout these pages, I'm going to share many stories from my journey. They will run the gamut between hysterical (both ha-ha! and oh, no!), pristine, tormenting, profound, Duh!, and beautiful. I have no doubt that within them, you will connect with the good, bad, and dubious shades of yourself. As you read, pluck, and play along, you'll be able to apply some order, meaning, and a tad of funk-tionality to your memory portfolio and discover that your days are, or soon can be, indeed better than you think.

God called his creation and everything in it -- which includes us -- good. Even when we behave badly and fall short and say stupid stuff, we are loved by God. Put it in your memory portfolio and bring it along. It will be the most important thing you need to remember. But do yourself a favor: stop every few pages and pray for your own stories, memories, and joys to rise to the surface. Be willing to put the book down when they do, close your eyes, and allow yourself to sink into them. When you read about me second-thinking things or questioning an assumption, you do the same. Sometimes those double-clutch discoveries are both startling and illuminating. Perhaps they'll even be life transforming.

In fact, let's practice. Stop and pray right now. Pray that God illuminates everything -- all the lessons, options, goodness, and choices -- you need to extract, then trust his grace to help you pray and play it into your life.

(You're supposed to be praying!)

Amen. © 2009 Charlene Ann Baumbich

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