Things I have never regretted
Certain events in life, milestones if you will, really cause me to pause and reflect on my life. The obvious life pondering moments are births, deaths, marriages, and graduations. I endured the most painful of the latter on Friday, but I did survive! I wouldn’t go so far as to say thrived, but I made it through with the love and prayers of many.
I started thinking in terms of a commencement note to my son (who I can only imagine had the most amazing ceremony in heaven). The type of advice that one lover of learning would pass on to another. Rather than a long-winded speech, it came out more like bullet points which I condensed into a list.
To my children – You are about to embark on the next step on your journey through life. God has given you gifts and talents. As your mom I have seen you grow and mature, while navigating difficult waters. As an educator, I have seen you amaze me with the ways you tackle problems and the new and innovative ways you look at world. I wanted to share with you that educating a person and educating a soul are two extremely different things at times and are symbiotic at others. I have comprised a list of things that looking back now (hindsight is always ocularly clear) really did matter, and I am glad that I did them.
Twenty-five things, however small some may be, that I have never regretted.
- Following Jesus is simply the best decision I could make. We as humans make this a lot more complicated than needs be. Get to know him on your terms and follow his example, you will never go wrong.
- Sticking with a marriage isn’t easy. Often it is thankless work, but it IS work that is worthwhile.
- Having each of you. Even if I knew then what I know now about your story, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
- Finding a career that you love. I don’t care what anyone says making a difference is better than making money.
- Giving all my effort to my education. I didn’t like every class or teacher, but taking required classes made me a better person by pushing me to see there was more to the world than what I had thought before. Along with this, ignore people who tell you don’t take that professor because he or she is difficult. Pick those people every time. Trust me, it will change your life.
- Thanking those teachers who made a difference in my life. Most of my teachers and professors have passed away, but I will never forget their faces when I went back to personally thank them. When someone changes your life for the good, take the time to thank them.
- Taking care of me. It took me a lot of years to recognize that I needed to do some things that made me happy to be a better mom to you.
- Investing in the people I love. I disagree with the notion that three words can be overused. The world needs a whole lot more “I love you’s.”
- Reading the Bible cover to cover. There are a lot of approaches to doing this. Beginning to end worked for me, but whatever method you choose, just do it. The words on those pages are the closest I have ever found to an instructional booklet for life.
- Serving others. I like being a worker bee. Of course, one of you called me a queen bee on occasion, but the truth is serving others has been the key to helping me heal from more than one of life’s hurts.
- Learning to live without fear. Most of my first thirty-five years were spent pleasing others in some form or fashion because I was afraid of letting someone somewhere down. Once I let that go, I became a much better person.
- Loving to learn. When I turned thirty-six, I decided to tackle a new skill each year. As you well know most of those new skills resulted in gifts for others, but I have loved seeing the work of my hands bring smiles to many.
- Honoring traditions. Sometimes that may be something small like chocolate chip cookies and homemade cocoa on the first day of snow, but those traditions became the fabric of our family’s story.
- Acknowledging the sacrifices made by others. Even despite our worst moments, we have never gone hungry, cold, or homeless. Many of the freedoms we have are because someone else’s loved one paid the ultimate price. Never forget freedom isn’t free.
- Giving back. Serving others is closely related to this, but remember all the gifts God has bestowed on us. Give of your resources (not just your time and energy) to help others. Don’t let money become an idol, and make purposeful decisions regarding your income, for now and in the future.
- Planting a garden. There is a lot of wisdom in our favorite campfire song. Tending to the earth (especially on your hands and knees) is a great way to learn about faith, hard work, and God’s creation. Plus, being able to honestly say that your hard work fed your family is rewarding.
- Having a childlike faith. Few things in life will ever compare to sleeping in a tent in the backyard, running through the sprinkler, drinking from the garden hose, dancing in the rain, or making a snow angel. I don’t care how old you get: do something that you loved as a kid. You will be better for it. Also, don’t be afraid to dance with the mop, serenade the fruit (Oh My Darlin’ Clementine), or just let your silly out. The world is a better place because I do it.
- Singing out loud. Even if you feel you aren’t a good singer, make a joyful noise. Music will restore your soul when you lose your way. God can always be found in the music of life.
- Fighting to keep your childhood sacred. We made decisions you didn’t like, simply because we believe childhood is becoming extinct in this country. For example, you didn’t shrivel up and wither because we went most of your childhood without cable. Someday when you have children, you will hopefully understand our choices.
- Laughing at myself. I will never run out of material as daily, I make mistakes, and the ability to laugh at yourself is therapeutic.
- Forgiving. This is something that is a lifelong lesson. Once you begin, it quite literally becomes a habit. God calls us to do it, but that doesn’t make it easier. It does however often make you a better you.
- Getting rid of stuff. I cannot think of one piece of clutter in my life that I have regretted giving away. Don’t fall into the trap of letting your stuff run your life.
- Devouring a great book. As much as I love a good movie, I have never found a movie better than a book – EVER. Next to knowing Jesus, the second best gift we ever gave you was the love of reading.
- Being comfortable in my own skin. It took a lot of years for me to find my own style (literally and figuratively). At some point I stopped caring what others thought was beautiful , and I realized the woman looking back in the mirror was it. I stopped looking at myself through the lens of others expectations, and I realized that God sees all his children as beautiful. Along with this, I have never owned a scale. A number doesn’t define who am I – period.
- Enjoying the moment. Sometimes, the gentle breeze of the wind, the song of the bird, the laughter of a child, the nudge from a dog’s nose, or the tickle of the ocean wave is God’s invitation to slow down. Take that advice because the cleaning and the to-do list will always be there after the moment passes, but the moment may never come back.
If I thought about it for longer, I am certain there are many more things that could and should be added to the list. However, knowing when to stop is also something that requires some finesse. Know I am proud of you all, and I hope that you, too, can add to the legacy of living without regret.