I want to share a few ways I have lived life on purpose over the years as well as what I want to do this year. However, you need to know I am far from where I want to be in this area. I'm will be God's Project as long as breath remains.
Two areas where I have tried to live a purposeful life are creating a good home atmosphere and living a life filled with great books and the lifelong quest of learning.
I can't tell you how many times I walk in the entry way of my little house in the country and get a smile on my face. I wanted to create a place in this world that is truly a sactuary for us and I've spent a lot of time and given attention to doing so. Because this brings me great joy, I have never considered it work. (Although the process of keeping it all clean and clutter free involves work.)
I have mentioned before that I have thirty years worth of decorating pictures and articles in files. I went through them this past year and threw out the pictures I didn't like anymore. My tastes have changed...less country cutsey and primitive...more English Country meets Early American. So I weeded out all the pictures, leaving one or two for a reminder of old times.
I also have written about having my decorating/lifestyle pictures in my old fashioned scrapbook. It contains pictures of rooms, buildings, and gardens from favorite magazines. It differs from my decorating files because it also has pictures of scenery, tea parties, people, animals, etc. that create an atmosphere I find relaxing or inspiring. It also has some favorite quotes and various Susan Branch stickers. This one scrapbook very much keeps me thinking of what I want my life to look like, to feel like... I enjoy looking through it to take away stress or just to remind me of what I want my life to be like.
I also keep a mental list of certain items for the house that will give me the look and feel I want. (I remember in Laine's Letters and in the book Frugal Luxuries that both keep a written list.) My list is much smaller so it doesn't have to be written. I can run into Goodwill or a garage sale and quickly scan what is available to see if there is a something I need (or inexpensive Godly desire). Just yesterday, I went into Goodwill before running a couple of errands and saw in a corner, just the very edge of a small oriental type rug. I have known for a long time that I wanted a round rug to put over the beige carpeting in the middle of the family room. Well, this rug is not round but an interesting octagonal shape! It has the perfect colors, too...for $8.99. If I hadn't kept the mental list of my needs, I wouldn't have looked in the corner where they put the rugs. (I always am on the lookout for teacups first, inexpensive silver serving items second, other household goods third...and of course, books.)
Which brings me to...books. Books are a passion of mine and I have always had a lot of them. However, when we started homeschooling in second grade is when I seriously started collecting books. I cannot afford to pay full price for books very often so I must look for them second hand. I depend on library sales, garage sales, Goodwill, thrift shops, etc. I started researching good books for homeschoolers first so I knew what to look for when scanning book tables. Then I began building a more personal library by reading "books about books" and later by searching the Internet to find more information and reviews by people I could trust. Blogs about books have turned out to be my favorite destination online! They are almost as much fun as chatting over a cup of tea at home or meeting at Starbucks!
By spending a little time in some fun research, I save a lot of money by being able to quickly scan book tables for titles and/or authors. (Believe me, we bibliophiles are basically nice people but it can get pretty competitive on the Friend's Night at the library sales, hehehe.) My husband knows our annual $10.00 fee to the Friends of the Library reaps benefits far above that amount.
In our major life decisions, my husband and I have put a lot of thought (and more prayer) into how we want our children to be raised, what values are to be encouraged, their walk with God, etc. Leaving the corporate world behind for me was all about that goal. I loved my work and I was quite good at what I did. However, it wasn't leading me to the kind of family life I desired and I knew what had to go...work. That's not the case for every family but it was for ours and as I look back, I can see many reasons why it was better to "come home" at that time.
We Lived Life on Purpose by choosing to carefully monitor the TV programs watched (this has become much more difficult lately with little children in the home, so many people I respect greatly now have no media other than DVDs and videos), the type of books read, the friendships (when small as well as when in high school), out-of-the-home activities, etc. By at least making an attempt, we were going in a different direction than most of the population. That included knowing when to keep them close as well as when to give them wings. For both our children, my husband and I wanted their increased freedom to come when they were living in our house. Because of less than perfect circumstances in our home (especially the past few years), we also have to make an effort to live a joyful life in the midst of adverse circumstances. It is not all that bad as we have to be very Christ centered...that is always a good thing.
Those are just a few areas of many where I have succeeded at Living Life on Purpose. Some more include the years I made the time and effort and learned to be a great cook, wrote and taught Bible studies, became somewhat proficient on the computer, and worked in politics for Christian politicians and issues. All of these things required choosing to spend time in these areas, as opposed to spending time elsewhere. Of course, the decision to homeschool our son is the most obvious example of making a choice that included a commitment of ten years. I would not have changed it for the world. I tell people all the time that homeschooling was not a decision, it became a lifestyle...one we truly love.
There are so many other areas where I have been determined to Life Life on Purpose and found myself getting off track, going with the flow of society rather than staying with the way I know God would have me live. I'm not going to give up, though. As I'm entering a new year, I want to keep doing what has been working and continue to chip away at those parts of my life that do not come as easily as others. I'm certain you can immediately think of at least one area in your life that you slip back into the path the rest of the world is taking. (For instance, I have a dear Christian friend who has been trying to quit smoking for years.) I'd say for me, the most important area of my life that I have trouble staying focused is the area of staying on a diabetic diet and getting in more exercise (especially with feet that hurt).
This next week while I have more time alone, I am going to take pen to paper and write out my thoughts about the areas I need to make an effort to be more purposefully living the life He has placed before me. I will write out what specific things I need to do to and choose one or two to work on for awhile. I want to look back someday with the least amount of regrets possible, having at least made an attempt to live the life He intended me to live. It is far better to fail trying than never try at all.
Photo: The Warmth of Autumn by Susan Rios; allposters.com