Do you ever lie in bed and think about being old? Maybe it sounds strange, but sometimes I wonder, “When I am old, will I look back over my life and let out a sigh of satisfaction, or feel the pain of regret deep in my gut?” Picturing myself sitting alone in a chair, silver hair in a bun, tears dripping from my eyes, longing for a chance to do it all again, is a frightening thought. And, though I hope to have my end of life wishes all mapped out for my family, I pray I spend more time living than anticipating my death. Death is inevitable, but living – really living – is not a guarantee. We have to decide to live.
It is important to get your affairs in order before you pass away, so your loved ones know how to carry out your wishes – and, so your belongings go to the intended recipients. But, why should we arrange for our deaths before making arrangements for our lives? It is very important to have a will (and to let your family know your wishes should you pass away unexpectedly), but it is also important to live intentionally – to go after those goals and experiences you dream about instead of thinking about them and never taking action.
This week, I turn thirty-five years old. There was a time in my life I could not imagine being middle-aged; but, nevertheless, here I am. If there is one truth I want to bestow upon the generations coming up after me, it is this: Life is not as long as you think it will be! When I was in my teens and early twenties, life seemed endless. I could afford to daydream about possibilities without putting any of my plans into action. Now, approaching the middle of my life (should the Lord bless me to live more than seventy years), I realize magical forest animals will not fulfill my hopes and dreams. I have to get off the couch and seize them, or my life will pass me by, and my bucket list will go unchecked.
Before the end of the week, I encourage all of you to write down at least twenty experiences you want to have before you die. Some of them may be deep, world-changing goals, and others may be fun, seemingly insignificant goals (to everyone but you, that is!). For years, I have had a mental list of the experiences I want under my belt before I pass from this life, but in honor of my upcoming birthday, I will lay it out in print. And, you are all welcome to randomly contact me and ask me how my bucket-list completion plan is going (and I will probably ask you in return!)
- Motherhood. Earlier in my life, I viewed motherhood narrowly; but, now, I see it in a myriad of ways – adoption, foster care, and loving on the children God gives me the privilege to mentor. My mentor, Miss Betty, was not related to me by blood, but she was every bit a part of my heart; and, even if I never become a mother, I pray I can touch some young hearts in the way she touched mine.
- Jumping off a sky scraper (with a harness attached to me, of ~smile~).
- Jet Skiing. Every time I see a jet ski I remember my desire to go flying through the water without a care in the world. It should not be too hard to fulfill this one. I just have to be willing to part with some cash!
- Parasailing. I watch longingly from the shore, and I dream of it being me up there in the sky!
- Zip-Lining. Basically, I want to fly. That seems to be the common thread running through my bucket list. ~smile~
- Hike to a beautiful waterfall. Mountains and water – need I say more?!
- Climb a mountain. It does not even have to be a tall mountain – just a mountain. ~smile~
- Stay in a hut over the ocean. What could be closer to heaven on earth than looking through your floor and seeing the bluest of oceans?
- Spend a week at the beach in a large beach house with family and friends. Growing up so close the ocean, I was able to go for the day and drive home lickety-split. It was a blessing to have the beach so nearby, but we had little reason to rent a place on the beach since our actual house was only forty-five minutes away. Something about watching the waves from a balcony at sunset with the people I love most sounds joyous.
- Spend a week (or month, or year) in a cabin overlooking Lake Tahoe. Eric grew up vacationing in Lake Tahoe, we spent our honeymoon there, and his brother recently got married there. It is a beautiful place filled with amazing memories. At least once in my lifetime, I want to visit the area and stay on the water. It is such a peaceful place. (So, water and flying seem to be at the root of my aspirations in life. ~smile~)
- Get (and stay) healthy. For years, I have dreamt of looking and feeling better; yet, so far, I have failed to do so mostly for lack of planning and follow through. Though I have no aspirations for modeling, I most definitely want to feel comfortable in my clothes and have the energy to get through the day without dreaming of a nap! When mom retired, she made it her mission to get She did it partly for my dad and me, knowing it would be harder to care for her in her twilight years if she was heavy and already battling several diseases. Getting healthy is not only good for us but a blessing to our families.
- Own a larger home we can use to bless others. Eric and I love our house and it has served us well; but, someday, we would love to have another home with an open floor plan where we can host parties and provide lodging for friends, church members in need, or possibly even missionaries on furlough.
- Fly first class.
- Take an Alaskan cruise.
- Visit Maine.
- Learn to dance. I have no aspirations of dancing for money or fame. I just want to blend in on the dance floor at weddings. Oh, and I want to stop hyperventilating whenever I am asked to dance.
- Help women and children escape sexual slavery. If there has ever been a cause which gives me a passion to fight, it is this one.
- Learn about my ancestry. Learning about those who came before me fascinates me, and I am longing to know more about my ethnicities and something special about my people.
- Send my parents on an exotic vacation (or a boring one – whichever they choose ~smile~). Believe it or not, I was a brat to take on vacation. Between my homebody-ism, my lack of siblings, and my constant motion sickness issues, traveling was not my favorite childhood pastime. So, I ruined many vacations for my parents by whining, complaining, and asking, “When do we go home?” Needless to say, I owe them a few dozen good vacations, but I will be happy if we can send them on one amazing adventure where they can spoil themselves rotten. And, Mom, all diets are off!
- Float in a cage in shark-infested waters. Ever since I saw a horrified man forced into a metal cage in the midst of dozens (maybe hundreds) of sharks, I have wanted the “pleasure” of doing the same. It will either help alleviate my fear of shark attacks or intensify my fear exponentially. We shall see. ~smile~
- Share the Gospel of Christ with others without fear or trepidation. Afraid of rejection, not sure which words to use, fear of not having answers – there are dozens of excuses I use to keep from telling others the good news of Christ. My prayer is that as time goes on, my fear will decrease and my trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance will increase.
Honorable mentions which did not quite make the cut:
- Sky Diving. I am just not ready to commit to this!
- Wrestle an alligator. Not necessarily wrestling an alligator, but I am interested in sitting on an alligator’s back. An alligator whose mouth is thoroughly taped up, of course. ~smile~
- Publically embarrassing myself and refusing to care. There are hundreds of ways to accomplish this task effectively. The possibilities are endless!
- Karaoke. Even after decades of singing in front of crowds, I have always feared karaoke. Singing without first practicing terrifies me.
- Impromptu public speaking. There is not much in the world which scares me more than talking in front of large groups of human life forms, unprepared.
- Go inside tiger cages! My friend did this in Thailand, and it has been on my mind ever since! I especially want to feed a baby tiger.
- Frolic in a field of golden retriever puppies. Okay, maybe I sound crazy, but is there anything more therapeutic than being trampled by dozens of eight-week-old furry bundles? No, I dare say there is not! ~smile~
A few completed items:
- Riding an elephant. For my thirty-third birthday, Eric took me to a semi-local zoo that offered elephant rides. I almost cried!
- Holding a snake. I am terrified of snakes but so thankful for the young man at the pet store who let me hold one so I could begin my journey of snake-fear freedom. They are not slimy at all, and if you look hard enough, they can even be cute. ~smile~
- Getting married! Yes, that was at the top of the list, and I thank God for my precious husband. We make each other crazy sometimes, but he is most definitely a gift from the Lord. We do not complete each other – only God can do that – but we have helped each other grow, and for that I am thankful.
- Playing with wolves. Some might even say we danced with the wolves. In Colorado, Eric and I had the pleasure of entering three separate wolf enclosures and getting up close and personal with these amazing creatures. We gave them treats, let them lick us, and howled with them. The experience was worth every penny.
When we live without intentionality, the days and years fly by without repentance. While you have the time, the energy, and the ability to run after your dreams, go for it. It is important to get your affairs in order for the next generation, but it is just as important (if not more so) to leave them with a legacy. It is possible to accomplish my dreams just like my dad accomplished his. Mom decided she was going to live life with passion, and she did. If she can do it, so can I.
Before you give another thought to your ultimate demise, take the time to list your ultimate life – and check them off one by one. Get your friends involved. Have accountability – in case you begin to lose sight of your dreams. And, do not allow yourself or others to talk you out of accomplishing something even if it seems silly or insignificant to the masses.
Well, it took me thirty-five years to write my bucket list; but, now that I have, I feel more confident. These experiences can come to pass. If you are in your teens or twenties, do not wait as long as I did. Make your list. If you have left your teens, twenties, and thirties in the dust, you can still make your list – can and should. You will not be sorry. ~smile~
“I think the only advice I can give you on how to live your life well is, first off, remember… it’s not the things we do in life that we regret on our deathbed, it is the things we do not.” – Randy Pausch
What bucket list item can you cross off this week?