The Cycle of Life

My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August.  I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”

Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.

But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.

Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.

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But time has passed and we are slowing down.  We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.

With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.

Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life.  I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren.  Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.

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I love this picture of my youngest grandchild.  She is 8 now but this is still a favorite memory!

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When this little grandson was born, doctors were not sure he would live and said if he did he would be a weak little guy.   Today he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and anything but weak or little.  God is good!

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Love this picture of our youngest son with two of his children welcoming their baby sister.  All three are grown up now but still a joy to me.

Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.

Shakespeare said it well:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

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Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.

Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities.  Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids.  Hoping to make friends.

Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies.  What excitement those first years of marriage brought.  Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills.  For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.

Middle age came.  Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less.  The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together.  For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls.  However, I began to realize my body was aging.  I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.

Now old age has come.  This body refuses to do what it once did.  Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did.  My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip.  Still, there are joys in this stage.

I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise.  Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen.  Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband.  Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie.  There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.

Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one.  Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain.  Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play.  Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me.  Thankful for the hot shower.

A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less.  Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.

Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book,  30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  He found that:

“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”

So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:

Enjoy each moment.  Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times.  This day, this moment in time will not come again.  Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.

As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

May my last chapter be my best!

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Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-so-good-about-growing-old-130839848/#xr2BBzFeUxqfgrfg.99

I’m Celebrating!

Today is a happy day for me!

Today I am exploring the western side of Michigan along Lake Michigan.  We have a hotel in the middle between Ludington and Traverse City Michigan.  What a beautiful area!  The lake, rivers, sand dunes, beaches, quaint shops and restaurants!

My heart rejoices because we are celebrating 35 years of marriage.

What a great love story we have.

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Although Paul knew in his heart that I was the answer to his prayer, he still was nervous about asking me to marry them.  We both had two children (Paul had four but the two oldest were already grown adults and on their own) – three of whom were teenagers.  Blended families could be a difficult thing.  I think he was also afraid of rejection as his first wife had walked away from their marriage after 20+ years.

So he had to build up his courage.

He took me on a picnic to Pere Marquette Park in Grafton Illinois.  Several times that day he hinted at a more serious relationship, then before I could reply, he backed away.

A few weeks later he brought me a bouquet of flowers and took me to a nice restaurant.  All evening I kept thinking he would now talk about a deeper commitment between us.  But nothing happened.  The next night he showed up again with another bouquet of flowers and again took me out to a nice restaurant.  Again, I waited all through dinner for a more serious conversation – but nothing happened.

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My thoughts were that this relationship was going nowhere fast.

But when we got to my apartment he asked if we could sit in the car and talk for awhile.  What a surprise!  He not only asked to take our relationship to a more serious level, he asked me to marry them.

During the 20 minutes or so this conversation took, our children who were inside my apartment kept turning the porch light on and off.  Believe me you have not courted until you do with four kids watching your every move!

So we were married.

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Since we both believed that God had brought us together – both as a couple and as a family, we wanted to emphasize that God would be the foundation of our new family right from the start.

After we said our vows, we had our children join us and we took communion together as a family.

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Was it easy blending two families together?  No!  There were difficult moments.  Paul and I each had different parenting styles.  I had two girls, but I had no idea what to do with a son – and a teenage son at that.

But we stuck with each other and God made us a family.

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left to right:  my youngest daughter, Jessica; my oldest daughter, Rebekah; Paul’s youngest daughter and son, Maria and Will

From this blended family we now have twenty grandchildren (three who are deceased) and nine great grandchildren.

Looking back over these past 35 years, my heart rejoices in the blessings God has given Paul and I.

For those of you who follow my blog, you can be sure I will be posting lots of pictures when I get back home of this beautiful area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy Will Carry It For Me!

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My daughter recently spent several weeks in Sierra Leone tutoring the child of a missionary family that was returning to the states for a year and wanted to make sure their daughter was prepared for school in the USA.  My six-year-old granddaughter accompanied her mother on this trip.

It was a great opportunity for my young granddaughter to experience another culture, to try new foods and see how life is so different in other countries.  Hopefully, it has given her a better appreciation for the blessing of being born in the USA.

When she returns to school this fall and the teacher asks everyone what they did this summer, I doubt anyone will be able to top her story.  “I spent weeks in Africa.”  While there she kept a journal and my husband and I have enjoyed listening to her as she showed us the pictures she drew and read to us the comments she made in the journal.  Some of her comments we can read and some have to be “interpreted” as her spelling and printing are still in a “learning” process.

While she did well during her stay in Africa, as she and her mother began the journey back home, her excitement at the thought of seeing her daddy grew with each passing hour on the flight.  Because they were limited in the amount of luggage they could take, my granddaughter had her backpack filled to the brim with necessary items such as sunscreen and insect repellent but also with those items we Americans count as necessary such as an iPad.   The backpack became heavy as she carried it through the airport at each of their layovers.  But my granddaughter knew relief was in sight.  When they left Africa and she put the backpack on she told her mother with great confidence:

When I get home, Daddy will carry it for me.

After I calmed down from the excitement of knowing my daughter and granddaughter were back home safe and sound, I looked at the picture of my granddaughter with her daddy riding down the escalator at the airport.  My son-in-love had her backpack on his back and she was walking free of any burden.  Just as she knew, her daddy was carrying the load for her.

I began thinking of the confidence she had in her daddy.  How did she know he would carry the backpack for her?  Clearly in her six years of life she has found her daddy to be a faithful father.  He has always been there to pick her up when she fell as she learned to walk.  He has always been there to pick her up and swing her over his head and then safely put her down.  He has always been there to sooth her tears when something upset her.  He has always been there taking her to the zoo, to the park, playing games with her.  He has proven to her that he loves her, that he will take care of her and she has confidence in his ability to do just that.

Then I thought of my heavenly father.  How many times has He carried my load for me when it became too much for me?  When my earthly father deserted me, He was there.  When my first husband was accidentally killed, He was there.  When I was told that my cancer was very advanced and very aggressive and “the odds were not in my favor” He was there.  And just in the day-to-day cares of this life, He has always been there.

So I have to ask myself why is it when stressful times come, that I sometimes forget that? How sad it would have been if my granddaughter thought when she saw her daddy that he would refuse to carry her backpack but leave her to continue carrying the burden although she was exhausted from jet lag.

I keep looking at this picture of the two of them as they ride down the escalator with my granddaughter free of the load just comfortably riding down as her daddy manages the suit cases and has the backpack on his back.  He is not ashamed to wear a “My Pony” backpack.  He is not worried about someone laughing at a grown man with a child’s backpack.  His only thought is to help his daughter and to relieve her of her burden.

So Jesus went to the cross for me.  He was not afraid to bear the shame of the crucifixion.  His only thought was to help me (and the whole world) and relieve me of the burden of my sin.

So when problems come in the future, I will go back to this picture and I will say:

My Daddy will carry it for me!

 

 

Memories of Days Past With Grandchildren and Puff the Magic Dragon!

Twenty Beautiful Grandchildren and Puff!

 

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee.  Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff, and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail.  Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail.  Noble kings and princes would bow whene’er they came, pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name.

I have been blessed with twenty grandchildren – seventeen still living.  What joys they have all brought to my life!  I became an instant grandmother when I married my husband, Paul.  He was the proud grandfather of a little boy (4 years old) and a little girl (2 years old).

I remember the first time I met them.  Nervous about being a grandmother and not sure how they would receive me, I held out my arms to them and they thrilled me by quickly coming into my arms for a big hug.  Cheryl sat on my lap most of the evening and played with my pearl necklace.  By the time the evening was over, it was love for all three of us.  And a wonderful beginning to the role of grandmother!

Over the years my husband and I have celebrated the births of 18 more grandchildren.  Sadly, three of them did not live beyond the first couple years of life – but I treasure their memory in my heart.  I have shared the story of one of my granddaughters in my post – I Never Thought It Would Hurt This Much.

Each one has a unique personality.  Some are my biological grandchildren born to my own two daughters.  Others, while not my biological grandchildren, are still mine.  Born to my stepchildren (although we don’t use the word “step” to describe our relationship) they are mine by love.  Then there are my grandchildren who became part of our family by adoption.  While they carry none of my DNA and are even a different color than me, I fell in love with them and dare anyone to say they are not my grandchildren.  Some are tall (one grandson is 6′ 5″ and seems to never stop growing) and others are short.  They range in color from one granddaughter who is almost snow-white to a grandson that is as black as black can be.  But I love them all and thank God for the laughter and joy they have brought to us.

How I treasure those days when they were little and we played games on the floor, took walks through the park examining every flower and tree, sang silly songs, read books and played with imaginary characters.  Through their young eyes, I saw the magic of the world again.  The beauty of the snow, the thrill of a rainbow in the sky after a storm, the joy of feeling the soft spring rain on my face.  Through their imagination, I hid from the ghost, fought with the Ninja turtles, tossed food to Bernard the alligator that lived in our basement.

But grandchildren don’t stay little forever!

 

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys.  Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.  One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more.  And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain.  Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.  Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave, so Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

While the last verse of the song sounds so sad, I still enjoy my grandchildren who are now almost all young adults.  Our relationship is different, of course, but I enjoy hearing about their studies, their new careers, their hopes and dreams.  It is neat to relate to them more as adult to adult than adult to child.  What a joy to see them becoming strong, compassionate adults!  Now our games are scrabble, gin rummy and other card games and they enjoy trying to beat their grandparents.  Now we have serious discussions about politics and theology – but we still love to giggle at a crazy joke, a silly movie or a favorite comedian.

Still, I miss those times with Puff!

While most of the grand kids are young adults or fast becoming one, I’m so thankful for the little granddaughter I call the “grandchild of my old age.”  Zoe will be four years old very soon and these past four years have been such a joy as I have been able once more to visit that land of imagination and see the world anew through her eyes.

While I enjoy her for herself alone, I also relive the past years with my other grandchildren as I watch her explore and discover the world all around her just as they did.  Sometimes when she says or does something funny, my mind races back to another time, another grandchild.

I sometimes wish I could “freeze” her and hold her at this age a little longer, but she too is growing up.  Before I know it, it will be time for Puff to slip into his cave again.  But somehow realizing that these moments will not last forever, I enjoy them all the more.

So – for now – it’s Zoe and me and Puff the Magic Dragon

Long live Puff!