Wednesday, December 28, 2011

There is Always More

What is it that brings fulfillment?  What is it that brings inner joy and peace?  Is it the stuff we own, the things we accumulate?  Is it the people we love and the people that love us?  Is it God?  What really matters in life?

Here was someone in his 30’s who had accomplished all of his dreams.  Dreams that should have taken much longer to achieve, and he sat before us sharing how he had realized that this wasn’t the ingredient to lasting happiness. 

“We lost our sight of our goal and purpose,” Ryan’s wife, Barb said.

“I am a slave to all of these things, my land, my businesses, my debt, everything I own,” Ryan began, “In the end, it all really just ends up owning you,” he said as he sighed.  An 18 hour work day will do that to you.  A wine store, a nonprofit, several internet businesses, an apparel company, 2½ acres of property with landscaping and a vineyard that required 10-14 hours of maintenance every weekend.  A dream that now owned him, controlled him, and demanded his constant attention.

“People spend so much of their time looking forward and planning for the future.  The irony of it all is that you spend all of your life attaining this American dream and in while doing so you miss out on the most important years of your life.” 

My mind began to drift to my own life.   

If I could only do this… If I could only have that….busy, busy, busy, working, working, working….we gotta get ahead.   Spend a little time squeezed in here and there with the children, but how much time with them have I already missed?  They grow and grow whether we are there or not.  And why are we absent, mentally, and physically?  For what?  This dream of owning things that end up owning us?  What have we been tricked into believing?  Like a hamster running on a wheel, he runs and runs, looking forward to something, but never really satisfied by what he has accomplished.  Running, always running for more.


The problem is,

there’s always more. 

“We are so overwhelmed by what we own that we lose time.  Time together.  Time with God.  Time to just be.  We want to simplify,” said Ryan. 

“So what are you going to do?” I asked.

“We are going to sell the house, the vineyard, and the wine shop,” Ryan answered.

He may as well just have taken out a match from his back pocket and said he was going to torch it all.

Both mine and my husband’s jaws dropped. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Brings Happiness?

Here we were 15 years later, sitting alongside Ryan and Barbie in their living room of their million dollar home.  Ryan ended up a successful entrepreneur.  It must have been my pep talk.    

A beautiful home in lovely rural California in a little city right outside of San Luis Obispo.  Here it sat atop a green rolling hill with a gorgeous view of the neighboring sloping hills.  Talk about building his nest.  That guy went above and beyond. 

Ryan became successful, very successful.  A small side business expanding, growing bigger until it gave birth to other successful business endeavors.

I looked out the window of their home, and there right outside their window lay his very own vineyard. 

It had been Ryan’s dream, and he was living it.  Whose dream was it not?  Oh, to have land!  I looked at Dan.  I knew this was what he always wanted.  “A vineyard, Janna, let’s grow a vineyard,” I recall him saying to me when we still were in our Long Beach home.  The backyard was smaller than a two car garage.  The only place we could even plant our vineyard would be in our little dirt plot measuring 3 feet x7 feet.  “A vineyard, Dan?  Do you mean a vine?”  We would harvest two tiny grapes the size of two shriveled peas. 

It was clear that Ryan had been blessed, so blessed.

“So what is it like to accomplish so much, Ryan?  This is amazing!” I inquired.

“It’s too much,” he said as he breathed a heavy breath. 

“Whatever do you mean?”  I sounded like Mary Poppins.

“We lost sight of what is most important,” he said.  “This was my dream, to own land, to have a vineyard.  This romantic idea that I would have spent my whole life trying to achieve, and now that I have it, I realize I have become a slave to it.”

This was deep.  I wanted to know more.  I wanted desperately to hear the wisdom he had attained.  We all have dreams and goals, and as I have heard before, that many, once they reach these dreams, become disappointed. 

“Please go on,” I was all ears. 

“My businesses were being blessed, and I wanted to do something big for God in response to how grateful I was to Him.  Well, this rural area in which we live is so big on vineyards, so I decided to open a wine shop featuring local wines.  All of the profits from the shop would be dedicated to a nonprofit I wanted to start.  Water wells in Africa.  A nonprofit organization to bring clean drinking water to the people of Africa.”

And so in his pure attempt to give to others in need, he decided to start a business that could be used to give to others. 

This passion and love for the hurt and dying took root in his heart ever since he was in high school and went on a trip to India.  Seeing the devastating conditions people were living in tore at his heart; Ryan’s eyes were opened to something bigger than himself.  He was only a young man at the time, but he knew, deep within his heart, he would do something to help when he could.  He felt it a calling. 

And oh, it was.

However, all did not go as planned, as many times it does not.

A month before opening the wine shop, the economy crashed, leaving Ryan and his family to carry the financial weight of this wine shop plus a nonprofit, plus many other financial responsibilities. 

Here was Ryan, living his goals and dreams…

that heavily weighed him down.

Dreams that hadn’t fulfilled what they silently promised.

Gold that turned out to be fool’s gold.

If happiness was not the result of dreams accomplished, then where was the source of true happiness to be found?  The kind that doesn't fade away.

Dan and I both leaned forward on the couch, eager to hear the secrets of life’s true satisfaction revealed.....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our Third Trip

Our next destination?  San Luis Obispo, California, a beautiful city alongside the ocean.

I had never been here before, but my brother, who was once a model and had traveled all over the world, recommended that we visit this place.  "Janna, the city is beautiful, hip.  You will love it."  He had seen the world, so if he said this place was wonderful, it would be amazing.  We would be staying with an old friend of mine from high school, Ryan and his wife, Barbie.

We had not seen these dear friends of ours for 15 years, but it seemed not a moment had passed between us.  So much had changed, and yet nothing had changed.  A few grey hairs here and there, not on my head, of course.  And a few creases alongside the eyes, hiding the youth that once was.

We caught up on times passed.  Marriage, children, businesses. 

I met Ryan when we were in our teenage years.  We went to the same high school together and began our early college years together.  In college, Dan and I had a government class that we took together, and Ryan was in the course with us.  We sat in the back of the classroom, mostly to hide me from the teacher.  It's difficult for me not to whisper and pass notes in class.

“Turn around, Janna,” Dan whispered to me, attempting to redirect my attentions to the front of the room.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, the professor’s voice was so monotone, so uninteresting, and his topic made me want to shoot myself right then and there.  What was I doing in a government class anyway?  It must have been a prerequisite, or maybe I just wanted to take a class with Dan, my boyfriend.

“If you play with my hair, I will be quiet,” I looked at Dan with a sweet smile.  Ryan was beside us in the next row; he smiled and shook his head.  He was familiar with my attention deficit difficulties. 

“Ryan, what are your plans for the future?”  I asked him as we exited the class.  “I am not sure.” he answered. 

He doesn’t even know!, I gasped to myself.  I was busy putting my ducks in a row.  I had big plans of finishing school, becoming a teacher, and getting married.  What was he planning to do?  Maybe I needed to help him.  After all, he was single, and I had this crazy ability at matchmaking.  But before matching him up, I needed to interview him as well as offer him a pep talk. 

“Ryan, you have got to have focus,” I said as I hit the back of my hand to the palm of my other hand to add emphasis to what I was saying.  “Build your nest and they will come.” 

I noticed that his attention was drawn away from me to a young lady walking past.   Ahhh, an interest, I thought to myself.  My matchmaking skills automatically kicked in.  I couldn’t even stop them if I wanted to.  Forget the interview.  There was love in the air.

“Ask her out,” I said. 

He didn’t respond. 

“Don’t ignore me when I am talking to you, Ryan.  You heard me.  You are only two feet away from me and my voice is loud.  Ryan, ask her out right now!” 

He had no choice.

He walked over to the girl.  Dan and I stood back at a distance, but not too far.  We wanted to be sure to see, to hear what was taking place.  A few words were exchanged.  I couldn’t hear them, and I couldn’t read their lips.  It was so frustrating.  I should have attached some kind of listening device to him. 

Ryan began walking back to us, and I could tell that her answer was not yes.  “She has a boyfriend,” Ryan said as he flushed red with embarrassment. 

His time was to come.

And this song would haunt me until…  “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.  Find me a find.  Catch me a catch...”  

And so I did.  I know you are not supposed to brag, but I was so good at matchmaking.  It was like a job for me, and the success rate of my business was astounding. 

So here was Ryan, a perfect man to marry.  Who did I have for him? 

Ahhh, her name was Barbie, and she looked just like one.

I remember pointing them out to one another.  Violins were playing in the background.  “There, you see her?  Sitting there across the way..." I said as he stared at her from across the room, "There is your future mate.”  And because they cooperated with love, fate, and me, here they were 15 years later, two mates perfectly made for one another, sitting before us on their living room couch.  I smiled as I looked at them and thought to myself,

I'm good. I should have started the first online dating service.