Confronting mortality

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, April 26th, 2018.

Thanks for starting your day with us.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Redeeming the time.

That’s language from the New Testament. The Apostle Paul wrote about redeeming the time in his letter to the Ephesians.

REICHARD: Estate-planning attorney Jen Lewis helps people redeem the time by confronting their own mortality.

As someone who writes wills, she helps clients get their affairs in order.

Yet she had some ambivalence about turning 35.

EICHER: Maybe that’s why she has made the year leading up to that big day a memorable one.

Katie Gaultney brings us this encouraging report on how one woman is using a milestone birthday as a framework for filling each day with purpose and some fun.  

KATIE GAULTNEY, REPORTER: I meet Jen Lewis at a circus lesson. Ten jewel-toned swaths of swimsuit-like fabric—called “silks” in the circus biz—hang from a 20-foot-high ceiling. A dozen women aged 14 to mid-forties are climbing the ropes and hanging upside down with ease.

AUDIO: Sound from circus lesson

And then there’s Jen and her friend Laura. They attempt an inversion called a basket, a move that requires one to turn upside down, back arched. When I tease Jen that her basket was more of a cornucopia, she remains upbeat:

AUDIO: That’s a basket-type apparatus [laughter]

So why am I meeting an almost 35-year-old lawyer at a circus lesson? Jen explains.

JEN: My friend that’s here with me now had done it before and it looked really fun, so I added it to my list, because who doesn’t want to go to circus school? Well, probably a lot of people, but I specifically thought it looked fun [laughs].

The list she mentions is a sort of “bucket list.” Thirty-five things Jen wants to do in the year before she turns 35.

JEN: Instead of dreading an upcoming birthday, I’d rather have a laundry list of things that I get to do with my friends and my family and people that I love, so that I can look forward to the upcoming birthday and honestly just think of it as a milestone as opposed to just something to dread.

Jen will celebrate her 35th birthday this weekend. But last week she was racing to complete the list:

JEN: Tomorrow I’m going hot air ballooning; on Thursday I’m doing a scavenger hunt downtown with my colleagues; I think that’s all that’s on my list for this week, this week we’re only crossing three off, so it’s a light week.

A few other notable items on her list included test-driving a Tesla, getting SCUBA certified, reading the Bible in 90 days, and completing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

JEN: The jigsaw puzzle got annoying, right, I mean a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle? I mean it was fun at first, but my mom helped me and then one of my roommates helped me, because I was getting tired of the jigsaw puzzle. So, it wasn’t BAD, it just kind of got old.

Jen’s church places a big emphasis on community groups. Hers is comprised entirely of single women, all about her age. Jen has been able to cross off many of the 35 by 35 list activities with these friends.

JEN: I really am blessed to have an amazing group of people that surround me. I’m single in this season. And so I want to take that opportunity to use that time well while I have it, as long as this is the season I’m in, I’m going to try to live it to the fullest.

When she’s not blowing up fireworks or attending a murder mystery dinner— two more items on her list— Jen is often at her church. She serves in a Bible-based 12-step recovery ministry and volunteers with children with special needs.

Her career, drawing up wills and distributing a deceased person’s assets, likely plays into her “make the most of each day” attitude:

JEN: I actually really enjoy getting to talk to people about the inevitability of, “Look, you’re gonna die one day, and do you know where you’re going, are your affairs in order?” So I get to have those conversations on a daily basis and get paid to do so.

And she knows from personal experience that life is short. Her father died a few years ago.

JEN: We’re definitely not promised tomorrow. I don’t have any living grandparents, I only have one living parent, and so the fact that we are mortal is not lost on me.

Jen plans to celebrate her big day with a group of close friends in the Texas Hill Country. She says the past year has been a fun exercise in pursuing things that bring her joy. It fits into her mission of living life in a way that gives God the glory.

JEN: And so this list and kind of everything about my life is about trying to find little snippets of joy and kind of loving every minute while ultimately seeking to serve the Lord.

Seeing Willie Nelson in concert was another item on her list. We’ll let him—and Dolly Parton—have the last word.

AUDIO: Dolly Parton & Willie Nelson, Happy, Happy Birthday Baby

For WORLD Radio, I’m Katie Gaultney, reporting from Dallas, Texas.

(Photo/Katie Gaultney)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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