On the day of my fifty-third birthday, I would like to share some things I have learned over the years that have helped me live a more joyful life. These thoughts are based on my own life experiences and are shared with you in no particular order other than the order in which they appeared in my mind as I wrote.
1. Love God, family and friends, church, your job, and recreation. In that order. Nothing else works to give you a proper, healthy balance in life.
2. Speak truth in love. At all costs. Even when it is uncomfortable.
3. Do not let small-minded people get the upper hand. Remember they focus on the small things that don’t really matter in the scheme of life. That’s what makes them small-minded.
4. Big things such as matters of the heart are what really counts in life. Make sure you are focused on important things that have eternal significance and enduring value.
5. Don’t spend your life dieting and worrying about your appearance and miss the flavor of life. I worry a lot about how I look and I know it has robbed me of a lot of joy and confidence over the years. Due to a never-ending sweet-tooth, I am pretty sure I have eaten at least one sweet item or dessert every day of my life and yet I still have my middle school students insist that I am “pretty” and “skinny” and “young-looking” when they are talking to me. (PSA: I am fully aware that I’m not actually a “skinny” person, but they love me so they see me as “beautiful” and “skinny” anyhow. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, My Friends.) I wish I could have adopted a healthier outlook on my appearance years ago and saved myself a lot of moments of insecurity.
6. Be friendly, complimentary, and loving towards others. It doesn’t take any more energy and it truly brings a lot of smiles and, at times, favor shown from them in return.
7. Have a teachable heart. Your whole life. You are never above learning something new.
8. Pray for wisdom. Wisdom comes only from God. It is different from education and far more valuable in the scheme of life.
9. Choose friends wisely….remember wisdom comes from God so listen to His prompting concerning others.
10. Trust your gut-instincts about people. Listen to it and follow your intuition. Don’t put off decisions when your instincts are clearly saying to discontinue an unhealthy relationship or to direct your steps away from another person.
11. Value the time spent with your family and friends above everything and everyone else. Do whatever you can to make them feel valued and special. They make life more meaningful, more enjoyable, and more fun.
12. Seek Christian friends for wise counsel during difficult seasons. Do not let the world dictate your decisions. The world is all about what feels good and not what is right and God-honoring because sometimes that is hard. Really hard. Trust me on this one.
13. Love and cherish each person God has placed in your life to walk alongside you. You never know when it will be the last time you see them so make it count.
14. Do not spend your time or attention on trying to make another person change. You cannot control another person’s actions, behavior, words, or heart. Leave that to God.
15. Focus on the positive things each day. I have had my share of negative life experiences and, instead of focusing on or posting about those things, I have chosen to focus on the blessings in life. It is amazing the difference it has made in my daily mood and outlook.
16. Choose a career that makes you happy even if that means you will never have a lot of money. The laughs and smiles I have had in my classroom over the past three decades make up for the stress of our limited income. The relationships and memories I have made with former students and their parents are priceless.
17. Don’t be afraid to make huge changes in your life. At the age of 50, I moved from the crowded suburbs of Houston, Texas to a 30-acre farm in a tiny town in Central Texas. It has blessed my soul and given me exciting new friendships and experiences in life.
18. Check on people when you suddenly have them “on your mind”. It usually means they are going through something hard and need your help, advice, or friendship.
19. Don’t forget to do the things you enjoy even when life gets stressful and busy. About a month or so ago, I realized that I had completely stopped listening to music years ago when a serious, stressful event occurred in my life. Because of my level of stress, I was constantly preoccupied and wanted silence in my car and home so that I could think more clearly. I missed a lot of blessings over the years due to the imposed silence. Currently, I am working on bringing the music back into my life and it has already lifted my spirits.
20. Pray for wisdom. Pray for joy. Pray for contentment. Pray to love God with all of your mind, heart, and soul. God has no reason to withhold the things we want in life that honor Him.
These twenty things popped into my mind one right after another in quick succession and, now, it seems that the flow of ideas has suddenly stopped so I will stop as well.
Love and peace and happiness to all of you, My Friends.