There is a small, framed Mary Englebreit print in the tiny half-bath off my family room. It somewhat clashes with the otherwise Victorian floral decorations (which I inherited from the previous owner and adore) but I loved the print, anyway... for it shows a middle age woman studying garden books for Master Gardeners with the words, It is Never too Late to Be What You Might Have Been.
Most of us have empty places in our lives which we wish were filled differently... some from our childhood and others with present day circumstances. We wish we were raised in a different environment, one with elegance and the sharing of family chats on Sunday afternoons with dinner on china plates. We may have desired a youth filled with camping and summer by the lake when parents both worked and we spent hours in summer day care.
Thinking through what we wish we had experienced, we decide to begin our own tradition of Sunday dinners, or Saturday morning pancake breakfasts, or Holiday experiences and menus, or camping trips and a summer trip to the lake... deciding to stop feeling sorry for ourselves over childhood limitations and to begin making memories... today. Our childhood desires become the seeds of what we do for our own family and friends.
Many families are finding themselves in unexpected financial circumstances brought about by the recession. Having gone through a couple major financial reverses and now living on a very fixed income (all due to my husband's illness, which falls under the bipolar umbrella), I have learned that less money can bring: greater creativity, new skills, less stuff, growing a garden to afford fresh food, and forced simplicity... all of which can be a good thing. It is all in the attitude.
There are very few (if any) families who can honestly say they are completely happy with the circumstances of their entire life... and perhaps find themselves in their 30's, 40's, 50's, and older watching life pass by with their fondest desires seemingly unattainable.
That's why I love that quote and picture, to daily remind me that it is never too late to reach our dreams... not perfectly mind you... perhaps not 100% the desired goal... but much better than doing nothing. By taking one small step in the direction of our desires, we begin to find wholeness and healing and a surprising sense of accomplishment.
What are the steps we can take, those which sprinkle joy in challenging circumstances?
Instead of studying art at a college, take classes at the community center and then... draw, paint, sketch... cards for friends, art for your own home, gifts for loved ones, illustrations for a Sunday school class... or just to please yourself.
Wish you had an interior design degree? The world is yours with design books and magazine and shows and DVD's and... well, you get the idea. Your own home is just waiting to be the canvas for your desired creativity... and if you do have a passion for "decorating", I expect your home already shows it. My daughter does have a four year degree in interior design but with five young children, uses it to make her home a beautiful place (not a show home... not with kids... but pretty). She also gives her mother advice... free.
Do you desire to open a tea room or just host tea parties for friends? Once again, there are books and magazines and websites and blogs... all waiting for your note taking and perusal. If finances are limited, do what I did and check Goodwill, garage sales, and thrift shops quite often... heading directly for the china sections. I have lots and lots of teapots, teacups, vintage lace linen, and silver serving pieces, most purchased really cheap... always ready for a tea party (even when it is just a solitary tea party while watching a favorite movie).
While I wanted to be a chef at one time, circumstances do not permit it now. However, that does not stop me from reading cookbooks like novels, watching cooking shows, and exchanging recipes with family and friends. I am always learning something new. Currently I'm learning new vegetarian recipes.
My budget limits my food shopping but there are many ways to cook nice meals on the cheap (many European and Asian meals are humble "rural people" foods) and learning about different cultures is fun. Cook or bake a new recipe each week with seasonal ingredients... that is 52 new learning experiences each year!
Always wanted to write a book? Then start writing... and in the meantime also start a blog. Believe me, you will get lots of practice writing and that is the only way to learn (besides reading great books). Write your family history for the grandchildren (interview parents and grandparents if you are younger and they are still alive), put pen to paper and write poetry or songs which come to mind, write Bible stories for your children to simply explain scripture... write.
Volunteer to write the newsletter of any organization or church in which you belong, write letters to family and friends, write, write, write... each day if you do nothing else but keep a journal... start writing instead of dreaming about it.
Want to work in full time ministry but you must continue working as an accountant or attorney or teacher? Check out online classes from a well respected Bible college or seminary and learn all you can about the Word, church history, etc. Teach a Sunday school class... begin a Bible study in your home... reach out to those in need... be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world.
Use your skills as a volunteer as all done in the name of Christ... giving a cup of cold water or rewiring a sanctuary or typing the bulletin or being on call to make dinners for a family in need, or fixing the cars of those unemployed... nothing goes unnoticed by He in whose Name we work.
I personally think there has to be a special reward in Heaven for nursery workers. :)
I have already written about my desire for a small hobby farm. Two years ago I decided I wasn't going to complain about circumstances but I was going to start a small garden. I am learning more all the time and enjoying the results of this year's garden. God willing, next year I will expand the garden even more. I also hope to sweep the dust off my my canning equipment this year, even if on a small scale.
My sister, Bonnie, lives in a small apartment on the ground floor of a complex and she has had a beautiful flower garden for years. She told me yesterday she just started growing an herb garden in various containers. Bonnie is seventy years old (although she doesn't look or act seventy). It is never too late to begin. :)
There is so much to learn... take a sewing class, learn to quilt, check the community college for computer classes, refinish furniture, learn the language of a country you want to visit, check out books on medicinal herbs or organic gardening, learn how to build birdhouses and feeders as you decide to learn all you can about the birds in your backyard, read the manual which came with your camera and learn to take better pictures, study a period in history and learn about their food and crafts (learn to dip candles!)... learn something new this week.
Does illness keep you housebound or on the sofa? Use your time to learn a new craft... knitting, crochet, tatting, or hand quilting, or calligraphy, or cross stitch, or tapestry, or embroidery... you get the idea. Decide to read all the books by your favorite author or research a subject which you have always wanted to learn. Begin a book club meeting in your living room... with you stretched out on the sofa like Loretta Young in your best housecoat.
Assemble your pictures into a family scrapbook... perhaps one for each child. Write letters. Start an indepth study of a subject, person, or book of the Bible. Keep a prayer journal and begin a prayer ministry (Billy Graham often said he believes it is the prayer warriors who will receive God's rewards for the large crowds coming to Christ when he speaks).
Use your down time and you will not feel down... at least as much as you would if you watched soap operas all day :)
Do not wait for the ultimate you desire...
begin now to take one small step toward becoming
the person you want to be.