Mistaken Marbles & A Step into Eternity

“It’s fun to be some place where there’s so much art,” he says smiling, as we explore an island in Minneapolis. We climb up underneath a giant highway bridge, hearing the cars roar overhead.

Later I snap photos of him down by the river, across from the gleaming blue glass skyline and mirrored river water. We speak of public art and private property and of “Why can’t this space be used for art if no one’s using it?” We wonder, What would you say if you could? and we search online for “free walls,”  public spaces where it’s legal to do public art. None of them are nearby, sadly.


Red and yellow maples stand majestic while black and grey geese munch in green grass.

“Are you cold?” he asks.

“A little, but that’s okay.”

And my fifteen year old son steps closer to put his arm around me, rubbing my shoulder as we walk a sandy path.

I think of that now, two weeks later, in a low light coffee shop. Hot salted maple latte is creamy and soothing to my tongue. Orange and white neon lines and bulbs frame the ceiling above the baristas. Voices hum, and bass thrums beneath vocals and brass. Bright bold primary paint splashes in modern abstract art against white walls and minimalist grey cube booths stack up near occasional plush chairs and couches.

I take another sip, licking the salt from my lips, and remember a friend’s recent funeral. On Saturday, long rows of friends sat at Renae’s funeral, wiping salty tears. Her children and friends told tales of this spunky short woman who loved people well. Renae loved Jesus deeply and modeled how to tangibly love and care for other people– and foster animals by the hundreds! We laughed, wiped tears, and sang songs about a life full of gratitude and thankfulness to the God who loves everyone.

I left Renae’s funeral wanting to be more like her and more like the God she loved so fiercely.

This Monday, I sat at the kitchen table counting marbles. Daniel sat beside me, his language arts books out beside him. He wrote in answers and I clanked marbles, looking for a container large enough to hold a number of them.

“There was a man,” I told Daniel, “who calculated how many years he had left in life and had a marble for each year in a jar on his desk. Each January 1st, he removed a marble and it helped him live his life intentionally.”

Marbles clattered as I slid them out and into another jar.

“Using average life expectancy for an American woman (81 years) and my age (49 years old), I should have…”

I stopped to calculate that with a pencil and paper.

“Thirty-two!” I exclaimed. “I have, on average, thirty-two years left and I want this to remind me to live intentionally — to love God well and love others well with each year I have left.”

“And the marbles can be wrong,” I said, my eyebrows raised.

We talked more, some sentimental and some jokes but the concept has stuck in my mind this week. The marbles rest in a small jar on my desk now.

“Look,” I showed them to Mark this morning. “It doesn’t look like a lot, does it?!”

“No,” my husband agreed, shaking his head, and we fell thoughtful.

For you and me, my friend, as we count marbles and think of stepping into eternity, join me in wanting to live intentionally. With all of life as a canvas, What would you say if you could? 

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Jennifer speaks often at MOPS/MomsNext groups, at conferences, churches, retreats, camps, home school co-ops and more. She loves getting to know people and making new friends.

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  1. Linda on November 10, 2023 at 5:16 am

    I turned 50 this year and have thought about a lot of what you shared. If I live the average lifespan, then more than half my life is behind me and fewer years are before me. How can I make the greatest impact for God’s kingdom in the time that I have left? How can I prepare others to carry the baton? I definitely want to live intentionally!

  2. Sara Gunsch on November 11, 2023 at 2:01 pm

    This was lovely.

  3. Peggy on November 12, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    A very good reminder for those of us who are visual learners. I need only put in 11 and one will disappear in less than a half of year. Each day is a gift and I am grateful for these days, but oh how I am ready to meet Jesus.

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