I left the kids at home with my superhero hubby last weekend and flew alone to southern California for five uninterrupted days with my eighty-four year old grandma. We spent most of our time together talking about her life.  I did my best to listen to Gma’s stories, documenting her memories in an attempt to permanently put to paper the impact of her life on our family.



As I listened to story after story—and my dear Gma has A LOT of stories—I found myself flooded with the weight of what she was sharing. The privilege of hearing her memories, watching her joy as she relived the moments through each story she told, ushered me into sacred territory.


I realized as she talked that the task was too big for me. How in the world do you squeeze a whole life into words? Talk about being humbled by an ocean-sized undertaking. I found myself lost for words, unable to express the overwhelming value of her legacy. I wanted everything I wrote to convey the truth that her life matters.

I finally had to take a break and walk outside to look at the ocean, which is conveniently just a few steps from where we were talking. Something about the consistency of the waves is inherently calming—they just keep coming, no matter what I’m feeling.


Standing on the sand looking at the ocean, I flashed back to moments as a kid when I would play on the same beach while visiting Gma and my grandpa, Boppa. I remembered what it felt like to have the waves lap at my feet, cold and foamy, pulling the sand out from beneath my toes as the water returned to the ocean. I used to force myself to stand as still as possible, willing the receding waves to bury my legs up to my knees in sand.

Decades later, the same waves are crashing on the same beach—and yet nothing else is the same.

Sweet memories of summers spent swimming in the ocean, singing at the player piano, and visiting Knott’s Berry Farm with grandparents that spoiled us rotten come flooding back with every visit to the beach house. Boppa died a few years ago, but everything about that house reminds me of time with him.  Surprise birthday parties he threw for Gma on the sand. Dinners with my aunts, uncles, and cousin on the back patio. Watching the sun setting where the ocean meets the sky. So much life has been lived in this place.

Hearing Gma’s stories made me reflect about my own life, honestly asking myself, “What will people remember about the years I live?” I doubt my impact will have to do with my effectiveness as a housekeeper. Or my keen fashion sense. Or the meals I cooked. Or how much money I made. Or how well I decorated my house. The only things that last are the things that can’t be seen.

Each morning last weekend, I woke up to light pouring through the guest bedroom window overlooking the ocean. The early morning light inspired me to try running on the beach.


The sand closest to the breaking waves was most packed down, offering the least resistance for a first time beach runner like me. I jogged down the beach along the waterline admiring the majestic ocean and passed by several runners heading the opposite direction. A little further along, I looked down and noticed there were no footprints anywhere in the sand where those I’d passed had been running. The waves had washed away the evidence that anyone else had ever been there.

It struck me—our lives are like those footprints. Sooner than we realize, they will be washed away. So what are we going to do with our moments?


I’ve been thinking about eternity a lot lately. Looking at what the Bible says about heaven is changing everything about how I view my days on earth. If this life isn’t all there is (and I believe with my entire passion-filled heart that there’s more!), I want to use every ounce of breath in my lungs to get ready for the rest of forever.

How do I live a life that matters?  By spending the moments of my life in a way that makes the impact last beyond a footprint in the sand.

The multi-million dollar houses along the beach where Gma lives have been endangered by huge tides washing away much of the sand between the houses and the ocean. In response, owners have spent thousands of dollars each to barricade their property with sandbags to protect their homes from the powerful ocean. It was a visual reminder that even the most impressive things in the world will eventually be washed away by the tides of time.


As I ran past these sandbags on the beach, I kept thinking about a story Jesus told about two different house builders.  One builder was considered foolish for constructing his home on top of sand, and the other was considered wise for digging down deep and building on a foundation of rock. The first house collapsed in a moment when a torrent of wind and water bombarded it. The second house was built to last, standing strong even when water came flooding in.

Only the things in life that are built on the Rock will never be washed away. David writes these words to describe the God who lives forever: “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” What we build our lives on determines whether what we build will last.

I want to build my life on the Rock that last forever, trusting Him to make these moments matter by choosing

connection over convenience,

presence over productivity,

perseverance over comfort,

gratitude over comparison,

authenticity over counterfeit,

love over all things.

I hope that if I live into my eighties, I’ll look back with a satisfied sigh and a sense that my one and only life has been well-lived. I hope I’ll know that I became all I was created to be, loved with reckless abandon and impacted the people in my world in a way that makes them more fully alive.

No matter how many years I’m given, I hope when I cross from earth into eternity I’ll know that my life mattered. May we all build what lasts with our moments from now until forever.

2 thoughts on “How to Live a Life that Matters

  1. Jillian, thanks for sharing, I to have been thinking about eternity and that we are here on this earth for such a short time. I pray we use our time wisely. God is good!


  2. Love your words. The sermon today and series at CrossPoint is on Heaven. A great reminder to live this life on earth fully for Christ knowing that our reward in Heaven will be more than we can imagine!


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