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

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

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Many times when I look in the mirror, I do not like what I see.  My neck is showing my age.  My nose is too big.  My pores get larger every year it seems.  My hair is very thin (so I put on a wig and then I feel better).

Female dissatisfaction with appearance – poor body-image – begins at a very early age. Human infants begin to recognize themselves in mirrors at about two years old. Female humans begin to dislike what they see only a few years later. The latest surveys show very young girls are going on diets because they think they are fat and unattractive. In one American survey, 81% of ten-year-old girls had already dieted at least once.  Often we compare ourselves to other women and feel we come up short.

Our culture – perfect figure, face, bright white teeth!  We are often felt that we should be nurturing mothers while maintaining a successful career and our homes should look like a page from Home & Gardens.

Many times we are comparing ourselves to other women and feel we come up short.

The stay-at-home mom looks at the career woman who is contributing to the family income and may have an exciting career and spends her days talking to other adults and she often thinks negatively – “I’m just a housewife, contributing nothing to society.  Life is passing me by.”

While the career woman looks at the stay-at-mom baking cookies with the kids and busy in school events and feel that she is somehow less of a mother because her kids are in day care.

There is the woman happily married who looks at the single woman and thinks how much fun she must have, free to travel, spend money on herself and wonders what if I had waited longer before getting married or having children.

And the single woman looks at the happily married woman and thinks how much fuller and happier her life must be with a husband and a family.  She wonders will I ever get married and have a family?

We are constantly looking at ourselves and feeling we have come up short.  We are not just as pretty as the woman next door, not as creative, not as smart, not as good a Christian……..

I have a dear, close friend who I love.  But sometimes when I visit her home, I feel like such a failure.  Her house is immaculate.  Windows sparkle (she cleans them every month).  There is never a spot of dust anywhere.  She changes her pictures in every room monthly to reflect the season.  Not just fall, winter, spring and summer.  No.  She has snowmen for January, valentines for February, four-leave clovers for March, and on and on each month.  When we have a meal the table is decorated as if she was giving a formal party.  Each person even has their own small salt and pepper shaker at their plate.

It has taken me awhile to see that her gift set is that of hospitality.  She makes every visit special with her specially designed table and wonderful meals.

But I have talents she does not have.  I can play a mean piano and bring some joy to residents in the nursing homes I visit.  I have had the joy of mentoring many younger women in their walk with God.

It has been a struggle but I have finally come to appreciate my friend for her gifts but also be thankful for what gifts God has given me.  Each is equally important.

In God’s eyes we are more than what we see in the mirror.  More than just a weary mother, a worn-out working woman, a divorced and single mother, a young woman searching to find what you want to be in your life, a widow struggling to make ends meet, an older woman facing the aging process which slows you down and tells your years are numbered.

For You shaped me, inside and out.  You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.  You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;  Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.   You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You as I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.    Psalm 139:13-15

It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.  We are the product of His hand.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.    Ephesians 2:10

In the ancient world, women were considered more property than persons.  It was basically felt that women were created for man’s benefit and their job was to meet his needs.   They were purchased with a dowry, they had to have total obedience to the will of their husbands, and they could not participate in any governmental or political actions. In ancient Palestine a man could divorce a woman by giving her a hand-written note (for an offense a slight as burning the evening meal) and their testimony was not permissible in a court of law.

That is one of the beautiful things about Christianity.  Where Christianity has gone, women have slowly been given greater and greater appreciation and respect.   I must admit the emphasis is probably on slowly.  The Bible clearly gives a very high view of women.  But, unfortunately, even in Christianity I think we as women have often been seen as somehow not quite as important as men.

To see how important we women are in God’s plan, we need to go all the way back to the first book in the Bible, Genesis, the book of beginnings.

Many look at the story of the creation of mankind and feel that God created man, then kind of as a afterthought created women so man would have someone to “help” him, someone who would come along side him and help him in his work, his dreams, his plans.  It is many times stressed that God created man first, then woman so somehow man is more important, has a right to be more in charge.

Maybe a better way to think of the creation of man and woman would be this:

God made man, stepped back and looked at his creation and said, “I can do better than this” and created woman. 

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The Bible is unique in its depiction of women’s valued status as a complementary companion. No other ancient text from the Middle East offers commentary on the creation of women. It is in the Bible that we learn of the important role women have had since the beginning of human existence.

Women were NOT a second thought in God’s creation.  Were were in His plan from the very beginning.

When God spoke of creating man and woman in His image, He indicated that image was to be  reflected by the combination of male and female.

Then we come to chapter 2 which gives more detail about the creation of mankind.  Up to this point after each day of creation the bible indicates that God said, “It was good”  But when we come to the creation of Adam, God said something was not good.  It was not good for man to be alone.  He needed someone a helper suitable for him.

At this point the animals were all brought before Adam and we are told he named them.  The Bible also indicates that no helper for Adam was found among the animals so God put Adam into a deep, took a rib from his side and made woman.

Think about it for a moment.  Do you really think God expected Adam to find a helper among the animals?  Almighty God already knew there would be no companion for Adam among the animals.  He had already said His image would be reflected by a male and a female.  I think God brought the animals before Adam just to let him see that he needed someone like him to work with him in carrying out God’s command to subdue the earth.

Genesis 2:18 – “God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make him a helper comparable to Him.”

  • I will make a companion for him, a helper suited to his needs.
  • I will make a helper (one who balances him- a counterpart who is suitable and complementary to him).

In English, the word “help” has a broad range of meaning.  It can refer to a simple, modest act such as opening a door for someone you see whose arms are loaded down with shopping bags.  It can also refer to something much more vital and significant such as saving the life of someone drowning.

But what did the Hebrew word used here that is translated as “help” really mean?  That word ‘ezer” is used 21 times in the OT.  Twice it is used for the woman.  Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations.  Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper.  Without exception, when the Bible uses the word “help” it is talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles.

The second important Hebrew word in this verse, translated “fit” is kenegdo. It literally means “according to the opposite of him.” In other words, the focus is on an appropriate match. Eve was not created above or below Adam; she was complementary.

So I want to remind you – You are NOT a second thought in God’s creation.  Know that you are a daughter of  God, designed from the very beginning to be a vital part of His reflection in this world.  Without you, His image would be incomplete.

 

 

Growing Old Gracefully

This week I took a short trip with my youngest daughter flying from Michigan to North Carolina to see a granddaughter graduate from college.  What a great time I had not only seeing this granddaughter graduate, but also seeing my oldest daughter and all of her family.

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For my daughter and I it was a learning experience.

Many years of my life I have spent teaching, helping, caring for my children and grandchildren.  For many years I was the one in the kitchen fixing a Thanksgiving meal, playing on the floor with the grandchildren, being the “helper” for the family.

Slowly as my children have grown up and had children of their own I have taken less responsibility and they have done the cooking, the “helping.”

But still I saw myself as a strong, independent woman who tried to be a source of help and encouragement to my family.  I certainly could take care of myself and did not need help.

But this trip revealed to me that this old body of mine is not what it used to be and it is now my time to accept help from others.

We drove into the airport at Detroit.  My daughter asked for a wheelchair for me to get to our gate.  But my pride insisted I did not need that.  I could walk.  Being patient with me my daughter walked along with me and had to slow her steps down to accommodate me as I struggled to keep going.

By the time we got to our gate I was in so much pain.  My legs just refused to cooperate and let me walk long distances.  My poor daughter was faced with the task of insisting that “Mom, you need a wheelchair when we land in Greensboro.  You can’t walk that far again.”

How I so wanted to say that was not true.  I was still young enough to get through an airport on my own.  But my aching legs told me I needed to listen.

So – at Greensboro we were met by a kind man with a wheelchair who wheeled me all the way through the airport to the area where my daughter rented a car for our time in Greensboro.

Throughout the trip it became clear that I needed help – getting in and out of the bus that drove us from terminal to terminal, carrying my bag, walking up stairs.  At the graduation both my daughters and son-in-love were there to give me support as I climbed up the stairs in the coliseum where the graduation ceremony was held.

So my daughters and I began to navigate that journey

  • for my daughters – how do we help our mother without making her feel stupid or incapable of doing for herself?
  • for me – how do I accept the help I need with grace and thankfulness for their love and offer of help?

It’s a journey we will have to continue to navigate.  I need to continue to do for myself all I can, but I also must accept that the time has come to accept some help.

There were a a few moments of frustration as I tried to tell my daughter where I saw a parking spot or give advice on something where I really knew what I was talking about, but she seemed to ignore me.

Then I had to laugh as I told her:

“I got mad because you didn’t listen to me and I knew what I was saying was right, but then I had to think why would she listen when I just ordered a drink, walked over to the dispenser to get my cup and had to ask her what size drink I just ordered”

We both shared the laugh.

I’ve still got lots of life and enjoyment ahead of me, but as I continue to age, I pray that I will age gracefully and be a person of joy and laughter and be humble enough to accept the help I need.

Not sure who actually wrote this, but today it seems appropriate:

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient.  If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to walk, to eat, to read. to dress yourself.

When my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

 

I hope this post does not sound like I’m ready to “kick the bucket.”  There are still roads trips to take, friends to meet, flowers to plant, much more life to enjoy.  Just recognizing it may be time to walk a little slower and be a little less prideful in my own ability.

The Good Book says “pride goes before a fall.”  Now I realize this was not about actually walking but I had to laugh as I thought – “In my case too much pride to accept help just might mean a fall for me.”

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Prayers for Our Children Returning to School

It’s that time again!  Off our children and grandchildren go to school.

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School used to be a pretty safe place to be.  In my generation many of us walked to school and back and no one worried about us being harmed in our walk.  School was one of the safest places children could be.

Sadly, that is not true today.  Not only do we have shootings in school but there we now worry about bullies and even about some of the teaching our older kids may receive.

Truly, school time is a time for us to pray for our children.

Along with prayers for safety, may I suggest the following:

  1. I pray you will be near them when I can’t be.
  2. I pray if they don’t feel your presence, they will seek you and discover you’re right there with them.
  3. I pray you will surround them with peace and comfort in every new situation.
  4. I pray when they are pressured, you will help them stand.
  5. I pray they find one good friend, a brother or sister in Christ because it’s hard to stand alone.
  6. I pray when they fail, they will forgive themselves and try again.
  7. I pray my kids will befriend those that are new, lonely or both.
  8. I pray they will be a blessing to their teacher and not a curse.
  9. I pray you will bless them with Godly teachers.
  10. I pray they will let their light shine, quietly or loudly, but in their own way.
  11. I pray above all, God, that you would use their challenges, disappointments and victories to draw them closer to you this school year.

And while you are praying for the children, don’t forget the teachers.

 

 

 

 

Things Mother Never Said to Me

 

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It’s almost Mother’s Day – and my memories of Mom keep coming back so strong.  She was such a feisty lady.  In her 60’s she drove a bright yellow car and slowed down only slightly for stop signs.  She loved to show my daughters how to do the Charleston.   (Does the younger generation today have any idea what that is?)

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She gave me a lot of good advice (some I followed, some I did not).  But in honor of her great sense of humor, I thought I would share some things my mother NEVER said to me.  (And I’m sure there are things other mothers have NEVER said to their children.)

 

  1. How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?
  2. Just leave all the lights on…it makes the house look more cheery.
  3. Let me smell that blouse…yeah, it’s good for another week.
  4. If Susan’s mother says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.
  5. If everybody else jumps off the bridge, be sure and join them.
  6. Your curfew is just a general time to shoot for.  It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.
  7. Don’t worry about sharing your candy with your sister.  After all, it is yours.
  8. You are too tired to do your homework tonight.  OK.  Just be sure and turn off the TV by bedtime.
  9. Don’t worry about wearing a coat.  Spring is only two months away.
  10. I don’t have a Kleenex with me.  Just use your sleeve.