Reflection on a daily basis — and especially during the moments of our days — is a key to living a fulfilling, contributive life.

I am learning this. As a hardwired “do-er,” my life has been more about activity, checklists, and getting things done.

I recently “stumbled” across an article on Medium by Heather Burton, 10 Choices I’m Glad I Made and 10 I Wish I Hadn’t, and I practically inhaled it. That doesn’t always happen for me, so I took note. And I decided to take a shot at writing my own.

Today I’ll tackle the good choices I’ve made. The bad ones will show up in a companion article later.

So here are 10 choices I’ve made along the journey of life I would never trade in for anything. I hope they’ll give you a laugh here and there, and also be encouragement for your journey.

1 | I didn’t marry that high school boyfriend.

He was crazy about me, and I was pretty darn into him. But it would have caused me to be stuck in a lower level of life for a very long time. Pretty sure divorce would’ve been in the picture. I am so glad my best instincts took over and I chose to break it off during my freshman year in college.

Image credit: Stencil

2 | I jumped out of a plane.

Yes, I did, during my freshman year. With a group from my dorm, led by one of our RAs (Residential Assistants). It was thrilling and an amazing moment in my life. I would do it again…though I wonder, so many decades later, could I? (Physically, yes. Mentally? Gotta work on that!)

3 | I chose to major in the field I love…and am still doing it today.

My parents were pushing Engineering.

“You can be at the forefront of women in Engineering,” my mom, a career counselor at the time, suggested. (She was right, by the way.)

I tried it. And Human Biology (which I loved, too). But both were ultimately too mathematical for my liking.

In the end, International Relations won out. I’ve never looked back. The big wide world has always fascinated me. People, cultures, languages, foods, geopolitics, maps, travel. The whole nine yards (or 8.2296 meters).

And yes, my job for over 20 years has involved relating with a myriad of people from cultures all over the world. I love that!

4 | I decided to not go to church.

This too happened when I went to college. Being raised in an American Catholic home, I had never known not going to church. My freshman year in college, I decided I was only going to go to church if I really believed, and then if I wanted to.

This led to a cascade of personal exploration, reading, discussing deep issues with classmates and friends and, eventually, finding my way back…to church. But it was a different type of student-led ecumenical church, and it struck a cord for me. Eventually, God wooed me to himself in a profound way.

5 | I asked God for a spiritual mentor.

After I chose to become a Christ-follower, I experienced a season of immediate growth.

And then…plateau. As in, no growth. Nothing. Nada.

Image credit: Stencil

In one of those late-night moments, when I hit a wall with my studies and felt as if “nothing had changed,” I went out on a late-night walk by myself and had a deep encounter with God through prayer. I asked for two things: (1) physical healing from a running injury (it had been a problem for months); and (2) help in growing spiritually.

For the latter, I had no idea how this would happen. I felt stuck. I was willing to have practically anyone help.

Within a week, two things happened.

First, I went out running and did a five-mile loop with no pain. I didn’t even realize how amazing that was until later. In fact, that pain never reoccurred — until a small bout of sciatica arose toward the end of my second pregnancy almost two decades later (maybe a reminder of that healing?).

Second, someone came into my life who has had long-term spiritual impact as a mentor. As a friend. And, it turns out, as my (eventual) husband!

I can only attribute both of those “answers to prayer” to a God who heard my cry and my heart.

6 | I said “Yes!”

There are so many reasons — excuses — I could have used to say “no” to Dale, my husband of now 33 years.

I was too young. In my mind, I would establish my career first and then find the guy. Wait! It wasn’t supposed to be the other way around! Or, was it?

He wasn’t my physical “type.” (Ouch, that hurt!) Well, at first. Then we prayed about it. And yes, that actually changed.

Image credit: Stencil

He was from remote Alaska. I mean, really? In all honesty, Alaska had never registered on my radar before. But I’ll tell you now, I’ve lived there and have visited multiple times over the course of our life together, and I’m so glad it’s part of my life story.

I could find other reasons, I’m sure. But on all the vital levels, we were so simpatico. And still are. We get each other. This is a rare gift, and I try not to take it — or him — for granted. Ever.

7 | We’ve had an international focus all our lives and have lived and traveled abroad. A lot.

Both of us had been outside of the U.S. a couple times before meeting, but since we’ve become a team, we’ve managed to travel and live abroad a decent amount. Any chance we can get, we want to explore this amazing world we live in, and meet its people.

Image credit: Stencil

After having worked with international students for over 20 years, we now have so many friends we could visit, scattered all over the world. We’ve done some of that traveling already, but we envision so much more. And we want to help others do the same — to really connect with people and cultures in specific places. Mind opening.

Our most recent stretch of living abroad is in China from 2009–2010. That time was so significant, I even chose to write a book it — Jumping Out of the Mainstream: An American Family’s Year Abroad. It’s 5-star on Amazon with dozens of reviews. Go, enjoy it!

8 | We had kids. (And still do!)

Growing up, getting married, having children, a home, and so on — that was never my dream. I didn’t feel an extreme “mommy urge.” But I did see the value in bringing children into this world, “shooting your arrows into the future,” so to speak.

Having — and especially raising — kids is the most significant thing I’ve ever done, and probably ever will do. I love my three kids (and now one daughter-in-love) with a passion, and I’m thrilled to see what incredible human beings they are turning into now as young adults. I (mostly) loved the journey, and when I didn’t…I took a break. 

9 | I’ve chosen to never stop learning, never stop growing.

This is an intentional choice. I want to make that clear. The default is to stagnate. True confessions: I have done that at times. But I am mostly a forward thinker, so I’m always envisioning a better me. I’m always asking questions; curiosity is embedded in my DNA. Still, I need to be mindful to activate that.

I always want to nurture growth in my life. Image credit: Stencil

Over the last five months, I’ve turned a significant corner in my life. I’m developing sustainable habits I never had in place before. And I’m loving it. I wrote about that, and how I’ve done it, here. (It can help you, too, if you’re struggling.)

As a result of putting some of these habits in place, I am making new strides in so many areas. I’m reaping the fruits of my labors. And, on the health front, I am feeling better than I just about ever have!

10 | I’ve chosen to live my life for something greater.

I’m aware just about every moment of every day that this is not all there is in life. I have several close friends fighting for their lives against cancer right now. My octogenarian parents are declining and struggling. I recognize the sin, disease, dysfunction and evil present and at work. 

But I choose to see our world through a lens of hope and optimism, otherwise I, too, will become a dysfunctional mess and be good for no one.

Image credit: Stencil

I can’t do that on my own. This is where I draw from the wellspring of eternal strength — God. Specifically, I am confident Jesus is walking with me into every single situation, right by my side, present in my heart.

I cling to the quote attributed to Saint Ireanus in the second century AD, Gloria Dei est vivens homo! Essentially, this translates as “The glory of God is living humans,” but it has also been expressed as “The glory of God is man [or woman] fully alive.”

Whichever way you slice it, God expresses himself, his nature, through us, as humans. I desire to live that out through my relationships, through what I create, in all situations. This is what I live for. Period.

And this is a choice I make every day. Every moment. Every interaction.

But, as long as I have the gift of making the choice, I will!

Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for 25+ years. A graduate of Stanford University & the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she’s still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer’s awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world.
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Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for 25+ years. A graduate of Stanford University & the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she’s still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer’s awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world.

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