Goodbye to the first quarter of this life and hello to the late 20’s stage! (Sigh…Adulting is real! Haha) A lot of things do happen every single year and it’s all packed with ups and downs, highs and lows, blessings and challenges. And since I’ve been miles away from home, this is one of the things God has impressed upon my heart these days, as a way of probably ministering to some who might be able to read this blog. So, here’s a compilation of the selected 26 things I’ve learned so far in my 26th year of existence:
1. Spend quality time with God. This is by far the most important thing we need every single day. Busyness is not an excuse. We always make time for someone or something that is very special to us. This is the greatest thing we should always look forward to before starting a busy day or before going to sleep. Nobody else can fill the void in our hearts but only God alone. Let’s always nurture our souls with God!
2. Pray, pray & pray. The more time we spend in prayer, the better we begin to know God Himself and the more we see things from His perspective. And what I also love about our prayer is that we can be transparent and open to Him everything we feel. We can be vulnerable and tell Him our weaknesses, fears and our daily battles in life. But what’s amazing is when He turn those things into strengths, courage and a God-given confidence to press on. If you’re not doing good with your prayer life, pray the hardest when it’s hard to pray. If your prayers have not been answered yet, still keep on praying! Pray that your desires will be aligned to His. There’s nothing more powerful than prayer!
3. Anchor your convictions in the Word of God. We all have different principles, preferences and convictions in life. It’s one thing to obey God because we have to do it. It’s another completely different thing to be obedient to God’s commands because we are convicted with His Word. Let’s anchor our beliefs in His truth. Our convictions should be firm enough so that when the storm comes, we will never be shaken and our anchor will never be taken away.
4. Have a thankful heart and a positive outlook. Nothing will do more to restore our joy and contentment than having a thankful heart. Count the blessings that God has faithfully provided both the small and big things we have. When our hearts are grateful enough, it makes our outlook in life become all positive and it reflects how people see us. There are countless things to be thankful to God for and let’s always remember to thank God for who He is, the people and the environment around us.
“I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds.” – Psalm 9:1
5. Build character. I remember what my employer told me when I first met her in Japan. She said, “I just realized that I don’t need someone who has many skills but someone who has a character. Skills can be learned through time but character matters most to me. That’s why I hired you.” I’m not writing this because I’m proud of myself. As a matter of fact, I’m always and forever be a work in progress. And all of us need to build a godly character that reflects Christlikeness. The real us show who we are with other people and who we are when we’re alone. It is the same character when some difficult situations arise. Our reality outside is a byproduct of us on the inside. It is our job to strengthen and build our character moment by moment. If there are things which need development in us, then there’s always room for improvement!
6. Be a lifelong learner. Knowledge is what gets us in, but what keeps us going is our willingness to keep on learning. Learning is a lifetime process. That’s why, we should never stop acquiring knowledge of many things. Since everything is accessible nowadays in just one click, there are a lot of resources to study the things you want to know. However, learning is not limited only to those things. We can learn from the right people around us, through reading books, listening to preachings or podcasts and of course, through our own personal experiences.
7. Study yourself. Many of us spend time of studying others: knowing why others are successful, looking at other people’s posts on social media, getting to know the interests of our favorite artists or celebrities, and so on. Don’t get me wrong! There’s nothing wrong with these. But what I’m emphasizing here is to know yourself better first. We all have our personal tendencies and negative side. Study your own anxieties, fears, dislikes, nuisance, etc. So, when you begin feeling like one of these, you know how to divert yourself that well. No one else can help yourself after God but only you alone!
8. Set visions and goals. We might defeat our goals if we don’t have a vision. Vision is the picture of what we want to be in the future that also determines our steps to achieve our goals. Imagine going somewhere without a specific direction of where to go. We would be left wandering around because of not having a target destination. But take note, our vision should be in line to God’s will. And if we receive a direct confirmation from our Master-Guide, then we set specific goals to achieve. This is when we have to do our part. You may create some long-term and short-term goals to achieve in order for you to keep track and organize your own personal timeline.
9. Maximize your strengths. Each person has a unique set of personal talents, skills and strengths. But it’s a whole different story of what we do with those strengths. If you know your strengths, maximize them by serving God in any way as possible or in the ministry that He has entrusted you to serve. As we sharpen our strengths, let’s continue to inspire and bless other people by sharing our God-given abilities and skills for His glory!
10. Enhance some skills. Yes, we all have our strengths but truth be told, we also have many things we don’t know yet, right? So why not start to attempt learning and enhancing some skills. We were discussing with my friends before that it’s never an excuse not to learn something nowadays because of many resources out there. Say for example, if you want to learn how to cook some new dishes, the recipes are just a google away! All it takes is to spare some extra bit of your free time and continue the skills you think are necessary to improve for the betterment of yourself and for the benefit of others too.
11. Manage your time wisely. Have you ever wished we have more than 24 hours in a day? But the reality is that time runs so fast every single day. Many things to do with our daily routine and there are things we want to do that are yet undone up to now. We all desire to have a productive day, week, month and year. Though it’s a bit hard to fight some time wasters these days, we must always manage our time wisely. If it’s necessary to make a daily schedule of things you want to accomplish each day, then assume responsibility of planning the use of your time wisely!
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of your time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16
12. Step out from your comfort zone. Our comfort zone doesn’t only mean the place where we are located at. We all have our comfort zones in many areas of life. However, if we just stay where we are comfortable at, we wouldn’t grow. It’s when we step out and face our fears then we discover God’s enabling power to sustain us through even in the midst of discomfort. For me, living abroad is being away from family, friends, the things I was used to and all kinds of comfort. But when I started living alone, I discover how God calls me to have a life of courage and full dependence on Him. It’s when there’s no one to turn to but only Jesus Himself, then we experience a life worth stepping out in faith for!
13. Take risks if needed. Walking by faith involves taking risks. Have you ever experienced being asked by someone to do something you thought you couldn’t do but after you have done it, you discover you could actually do it and the result was surprisingly great? This is an act of faith after stepping out from our comfort zone. Those great people in the Bible took risks and faced the battle just to proclaim the gospel of grace. David took the risk of fighting Goliath and eventually became the king of Israel. If we don’t take risks, what are those things which God has prepared for us would we miss out in the future?
14. Welcome change. There are things that are beyond our human control and one of them is change. Change is inevitable and most of them are those we don’t desire to happen. Whatever it is, it’s how we put God in the picture of every unusual situation and how we are flexible enough in adopting the inconsistencies of what life brings us.
15. Learn from your mistakes. Remember that life’s greatest lessons come when we are in trouble and in times of adversity. We are completely imperfect human beings that we all make mistakes. And it’s okay to make mistakes but we shouldn’t dwell on them. Instead of overthinking the past mistake we have done, we better admit those wrong choices and choose to learn from them.
16. Keep in touch with your family. There are those who are blessed to have their families around them. But without any choice, some of us are away from our loved ones. Praise God for technologies nowadays that we can easily communicate with our families who are far away from us. I’ve been distant with my family since I studied college. Though it’s hard, we still make efforts to update each other and stay connected. There are many ways to keep in touch nowadays so let’s make the most of them.
17. Have an accountability group. We are creatures made by our Creator to be connected with others. We meet a lot of people in life, make many friends and connections, but we have to choose the right people who should influence us. Be part of a small group where you can share your ups and downs in life. Having them around brings encouragement and enlightenment that we are never alone. These friends are God’s given blessing to support us and pray for us. Let’s continue building more unforgettable and fun memories with the loving people He has graciously provided for us wherever we go.
18. Appreciate others. Expressing our appreciation to others is a way of thanking them for their goodness and valuing their presence in our lives. I recently realized again the value of appreciation few weeks ago. One Sunday morning after the church service, one Japanese man came to greet us and we said to him, “Thank you so much for interpreting (from Japanese to English) the service for us today.” Later that afternoon, he passed away. We didn’t know that it was the last chance of saying “thank you” to him. So, let’s always express appreciation by honoring others with what they have done before it’s too late!
19. Love those who are hard to love. Do you have some existing peers around you who just seem impossible to love? Yeah, I feel you! The reality is, these kinds of people do really exist and they do hurt us. But the truth still remains just like you and I. These “Extra Grace Required” ones need love and patience. They are like the giants who challenge us to face the battle. But instead of putting them down, we are ought to wear the full armor of God in fighting them with humility, kindness and love just as what Christ does for us.
20. Embrace your season. Many of us are in different stages of life. Whether we like it or not, we have to embrace the season God has placed us in. And we have to go through every season with perseverance and with a satisfied heart. Don’t waste your time comparing yourself to others who have different season as you. Let’s ask God to help us see the beauty of His timeline for us. This season of my life in Japan has been very fulfilling and beautiful because I know it’s part of His grandeur plan. And the season of my singleness? Well, I wouldn’t trade all these years of being single. It’s been such a joyful time enjoying my solitude moments with God and taking advantage of the freedom I have these days. I know for sure, when I get to the next season, I would definitely miss this. Thus, sharing to you what one author said, “Strive toward what’s ahead, but learn to thrive in the season you’re currently in.”
21. Prepare yourself for the future. It’s one thing for us to embrace our season but it’s another thing to also prepare ourselves for what is ahead. There are seasons some people think that God may seem silent and nothing is happening. Actually no! God is preparing something great in the future. And when God is busy preparing something for us, it doesn’t mean we just sit and wait for it. Do some necessary things you have to do to be always prepared for what lies ahead. The Bible tells us that even Jesus needed time to grow and increase in wisdom, stature and in years before He was ready to make a global impact through His years of earthly ministry.
22. Differentiate the needs and wants. When we were younger, we had lots of wants that we wanted to get and happen. But as we grow older, we have become mature and we gradually learn what are the things we really need. This may be in our financial, material, emotional and social aspects. We lower down to practical needs that can benefit and leave us in safety. Before making every single decision, ask yourself if you really need that thing or just want it. In our lives in general, God oftentimes doesn’t give us what we want because He wants to grant us only what we need.
23. Be godly in your stewardship. We have been entrusted by God to be good stewards of our bodies, time and resources. Our life is not our own. We are just being lent with what we have by the only Giver of life. Therefore, we have to be godly in our personal stewardship. Take care of yourself, make the most of your time and save money for the future!
24. Be healthy and do exercise. It’s never too early or too late to start being healthy and do some exercise. Live a balanced life. Eat healthy food if possible and do some exercise if you can. We don’t want to regret when we become old and when we get sick. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit!
25. Manage your household & personal belongings. You don’t want to look good on the outside but your house/room is messy, do you? I mean, I know people get so busy with many priorities to accomplish in a day but as much as possible, try to clean your own space and organize your belongings. My OC friends and I always say, “OCness is next to godliness.”
26. Enjoy God’s creation. Once in a while, we all love to go somewhere to relieve some stress and to explore new places. There are so much more to see with God’s wonders and the beauty of His creation. Traveling allows us to experience new things, try some fun adventures, eat various kinds of local foods and meet new people. Travel somewhere if your schedule and your budget allow you to go!
Thus, everything I wrote above is a list of the things I have to work out every day too. These are also my top reminders on how to fight a good fight, finish the race and keep the faith. With God’s grace and by faith, we will all finish well!
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10