Early in the summer I began a new journey. Although I’m pretty well traveled, this was a journey I’ve needed to take for a long time. It’s a journey of self-knowledge, self-development, and self-improvement. You might be thinking, “Well, there’s a lot of SELF in there!” And it does sound that way. I’m trying to think of a more spiritual way to express this project and the old Army slogan comes to mind….”Be all that you can be!” It might be a result of having another birthday at the end of June that spurred this thinking and these new goals. I turned 62 this summer and that sounds pretty old! Whatever the cause, my mind has been drawn to new habits and goals and I’ve become very introspective, reviewing where I am on this road map of purpose and accomplishment.
I also reached another milestone this past year: my youngest child left home permanently and got married. After 35 years of raising children, this task is complete. I live alone and am no longer actually responsible for the support and care of another human being. That’s huge! Also, I can no longer blame anyone else for my shortcomings in any area. If my house is messy it’s my fault. If tasks are undone, there’s no one else to point at. Although this fact could be depressing, to me it’s very freeing. I can do anything I want/need to do without asking another person if it’s okay with them. I can say that after 62 years of asking permission or at least checking in with someone.
So what am I doing? Well, the changes I’ve noticed are these:
- I’m developing and embracing new daily habits along with my long-standing old habits. One resource that really helped in this area is the trilogy of Happiness Project books by Gretchen Rubin. Her books, The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before, are a tremendous treasure of information on helpful habits and include many ways to create and develop new beneficial habits. Some easy habits that are part of my life are morning daily devotions, making my bed and “staging” my bedroom daily, making sure the kitchen is clean every evening, doing an evening walk through of my house to deal with any mess or clutter, and listening to uplifting or educational audio books and podcasts every single day. Some of these are old habits but some of them are new.
- Another powerful area is to “know myself”. For years I’ve been saying “I’ll let God be God, and I’ll just be Arlene”. But often I have looked at myself as somehow lacking and I’ve recently begun embracing my own individuality. I used to say, “I’m too talkative” or “Why do I feel compelled to always look for the positive…I should be more realistic”. But I’m making a true effort to be me. I am who I am and I realize I actually like me. It’s enjoyable to analyze myself and see things like: I don’t really like having a lot of stuff but I love the “hunt and gather” experiences of life. So it’s fun for me to volunteer to be the person at church or at work who purchases supplies and organizes events.
- I recently began taking inventory of my finances and as a result I’ve been reading books and studying personal finance. I have set up a new budget and I’m loving it! Because I’m the only one in my family, I have total control. I can set up my budget to include getting my nails done, even if it means spending less on groceries. There’s no one to complain! And having my finances under control is extremely liberating. When money isn’t leaking out into unknown areas, it’s amazing how much more I have! In this area, I suggest Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” as a beginning guide. I also listen to Dave’s daily podcast and it keeps me encouraged and engaged in the process. His Every Dollar online budgeting tool is wonderful! My pastor encouraged me in this area when he asked me to host the “Financial Peace University” at our church this coming January, 2016.
- I don’t want to exhaust my readers but I want to mention that the core of all these new efforts and habits is my desire to embrace a bigger life. For me that’s a really big life. I’ve always had a big life due to the opportunities God has given me. But I’ve had this life because I took/accepted those opportunities. I was willing to leave my security behind and move to a foreign country as a missionary…more than once. Now that I’ve been here at WYGE for more than 20 years, my life hasn’t felt as BIG. But even here in my hometown, I’m embracing the bigger life. Two years ago I volunteered to begin teaching little girls at our mid-week service at our church. I wanted to invest in their young lives and tell them things that I feel young girls need to know. It’s been a wonderful experience. Exhausting, but wonderful. It’s part of my project to embrace a bigger life. I also am making the effort to reach out more to the community, attending and supporting groups and events that I deem worthwhile and valuable. And I’m setting aside money and time to do things that I want to do while I still have the means to do them. I’m planning a trip with a dear friend this fall. We have tickets to go to Israel for a week, and then on to Rome for another week. At the end of the trip, we arranged to spend a day in Amsterdam. I have wanted to visit Corrie Ten Boom’s house in Harlaam, Holland for all of my adult life! And we are planning to do just that!
As I was making plans for this trip; booking flights and hotels, checking out sight- seeing tours and restaurants, my youngest son encouraged me by saying, “YOLO – you only live once!” And truly that is accurate. At the longest, life is still short. Every moment and day is a gift from God. Once it is gone, it’s gone. Readers, my advice to you is this “Be all you can be. Embrace the opportunities God gives you. Reach out wherever you are. Bloom where you are planted. Choose the bigger life. You only live once! YOLO!”