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.

1618411_10202533312007523_169618446_n

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.

Z01nobok

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

Scan_Pic0077

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!

Scan_Pic0052

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,

age.jpg

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!

  chapter.jpg

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

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.

60295149_285735192370066_4798139980494929920_n

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.”

old 2

From a Fiery Redhead to a Silver Fox

Growing up I loved being a red-head.  Not really confident in my looks, I felt my red hair made me special.  There are not that many red-heads around.  One of my sisters was a brunette and the other a dark blonde.  When we met people I would be the one they would notice first because of my red hair.

My grandmother had been a red-head and as she aged, she began to lose her eyesight.  When we would go to visit she would have me stand in the door where the sunlight would shine through and she could see my red hair.  Again, that made me feel special.

On Saturday nights my mother would roll my hair into banana curls (just like Shirley Temple) and come Sunday morning I would feel so special.

Scan_Pic0005

For many years I kept that red hair.

12967342_10207911794786231_8878925280864992214_o

Then cancer came and chemo and I lost all that thick red hair.

12046593_10206669285564277_6986474641592720379_n

The doctor told me not to worry, after treatment my hair would come back even thicker.  But it did not.  It slowly came back but it was very, very thin and it was grey.  They did tests trying to figure out what was wrong because my hair should have come back much thicker that it did.

Only a few years ago we found one of the drugs used caused permanent hair loss.  But not to worry.  There are always red wigs.

I began wearing a wig during my cancer treatment so afterwards I just continued to wear a wig.

Long after my natural hair was grey I remained a red-head.  I told my husband that I would remain “red until dead.”

The last few years as all my friends turned grey I have debated with myself if I should start wearing a grey wig.  I hated losing that special feeling of being a red-head.

But this April I will turn 71 so I decided to make the change.

I used to tease my husband and said I was a fiery red-head.  Putting on my new grey wig, he pronounced that I am now a silver fox.

It’s taking a little time to get used to the new look – but I think being a silver fox will be just as much fun as a fiery red-head.

 

 

 

Giving Only What I Can Afford

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus pointed out to His disciples a widow woman who placed two little coins in the offering box in the Temple.  Compared to the much larger amounts they had seen others give earlier, her offering seemed like nothing.  Yet Jesus pointed out that they had given of their abundance while her offering consisted of all she had – a much greater sacrifice and gift.

widow

Jesus explained that the rich people had given “what they can easily afford” while she had given “her whole living.”

This has me thinking – do I only give what I can afford or do I give my all?

When we talk about giving in relationship to God, we usually think of money and in this instance it was money that was being discussed.  And certainly I have to admit when it comes to financial giving, I certainly use a lot of my income on myself.  As I look at my checkbook, I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford to the work of God.

Giving financially to God is more than just giving to my local church, although it does include that.  But there are so many other areas where I need to share my abundance with others:

  • helping teachers and schools with supplies
  • buying shoes for children from families who are struggling financially
  • buying a meal for a homeless person
  • taking food to the local food pantry
  • many non-profit organizations like American Cancer Society, St Jude’s Hospital for Children, Wycliffe Bible Translators and the list goes on and on

My first thought is I do not have an abundance financially.  But I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford.  Am I really making any personal sacrifices giving up things I don’t really need, only want, to help others whose finances are much less than mine.

But giving to God is much more than just giving of my finances.  There is my time and my talent.

time

How much of my time do I spend doing things I want to do, things which will help me or my family?  How much of my time do I spend reaching out to others.

This was really brought home to me this past month.  We just moved to a new state.  Just a couple of days after moving in with boxes still everywhere our doorbell rang.  It was a neighbor coming over to say welcome.  My first thought was “how nice!”  I invited her in and we began getting acquainted.  After 30 minutes had passed and she showed no sign of leaving, I must confess I so wanted her to leave.  After all, I had boxes to unpack and a long, long list of things that must be taken care of when you move from one state to another:  new car title and license, new driver’s license, new car insurance,  and my list went on and on.

Finally she left and I told my husband I was worried that she would be a nuisance.  She was elderly and clearly lonely.  She also repeated herself several times.  I dreaded the time she might take up coming over to visit.

Then, I remembered what Jesus said and I felt the Spirit’s conviction as I realized I have an abundance of time.  My husband and I are both retired, we only have one daughter and her family living close by.  We have lots of time to enjoy.

So – will I be willing to give up some of my time – my abundance of time – to spend time with this neighbor – listening to the same story and showing interest as if it was the first time I had heard it?  Do I really need to spend all my time just doing what I like to do, just enjoying myself or do I need to give my all as Jesus would have me do?

So I have determined to visit this woman every week, to take an hour or two to sit and listen to her stories, to make her feel important to me.  To give out of my abundance.

 

 

 

 

Where is Your Treasure?

This past year my husband and I did a lot of downsizing in preparation for a move from a nine-room house to a five-room house.  Part of our downsizing also was simply a recognition that we were at the age when we did not want to continue all the upkeep a large home and a big yard required.  At 70 I decided life was too short to spend precious moments taking care of so much “stuff.”  In the middle of our downsizing we also decided to move over 350 miles from one state to another to join our youngest daughter and her family.

Putting our house on the market, we began selling, giving away and simply discarding a lot of items accumulated over a lifetime.  As we prepared for the move, we stored the boxes in our garage.  On the day of our move my husband looked at all we had boxed up and ready for the move and he said,

After 78 years, is this all I have to show for my lifetime?

boxes

Immediately I remembered the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

treasure

 

As I reflected on my husband’s life I realized he has not accumulated a lot of wealth or possessions.  Yet, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

I think of the hundreds he has baptised, the baby dedications, the weddings and the funerals he has conducted.  To him, these were not just  formal ceremonies but opportunities to share God’s love and rejoice with those who rejoiced and to weep with those who wept.

But I think the one of the greatest things he did was to minister to those in nursing homes – the forgotten ones.  He not only visited them, but he spent quality time with them.  Watching him interact with the residents of the nursing homes was always a proud moment for me.  He took such time to ask about their family, where they lived and worked.  After one visit he always remembered their name and many times the names of their grandchildren.  Their eyes would light up when they saw him.  Sadly, many who had once been very active in their church found they were forgotten after a few weeks in a nursing home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

So, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

That did get me to thinking.  As the moving company began loading the truck with our possessions, I wondered:

  • Where is my treasure?
  • If I could see the treasures I have in heaven, would they fit in a duffel bag or would I need a pickup train or a semi-truck to hold them?

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Promises for the “Old Folks”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, turning 70 was an emotional time for me.

I’m “Officially” Old!

getting old 1

In sharing with one of my good friends, who recently also turned 70, we came up with some quotes about being old.  (Can’t claim these as originals.)

You know you are getting old when:

  • You used to do the shuffle; now you just shuffle along with the lost.
  • The twinkle in your eye is only the reflection of the sun on your bifocals.
  • You remember when you could refer to your knees as left and right instead of good and bad.
  • You can remember getting through a day without taking a picture of anything.
  • Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.
  • Most of the names in your address book start with “Dr.”

And the one thing I really love about growing old:

getting old

I had to laugh at this one.  My granddaughter recently had a sleepover at our house.  When she comes over, she comes prepared for Grandma to do nothing but play with her.  I try to keep up with her but often find I need to excuse myself to use the bathroom.  At one point she asked so innocently,

Grandma, why do you go to the bathroom so much?

I just thought,

Someday you will know little one.

But in reading God’s Word I found some wonderful thoughts on how God views the older generation.  I love these.

Gray hair is a mark of distinction; the award for a God-loyal life.  Proverbs 16:31

That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house.  They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.  Psalm 92:14-14

I will be your God throughout your lifetime until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.  Isaiah 46:4

Not that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.  Psalm 71:18

All my life I have been active working for the Lord in my church. You name it, I have probably done it. Worked in nursery, played the piano for worship, led the women’s ministry, organized kids klubs, taught Bible classes and even cleaned the toilet.  Now my age and energy have limited how much of that I can do.

Yet I have many more years and I want to still be of service to the Lord.  As I have sought the Lord for what He would have me do in this “last stage” of life, I found a new purpose – to be an encourager for the younger women who are now doing the work I used to do.

To pray for them and speak words of encouragement. To be there to offer advice (only if asked); otherwise to just let them know someone is in their corner cheering them on.

So I have discovered:

Sometimes you get to what you thought was the end….and you find it’s a whole new beginning.

beginning

 

 

I’m “Officially” Old!

It has happened!  Today I am “officially” old!

Today I am 70 years old.

70 2

How did that happen?  How did I become my mother?  Where did that thick head of red hair go?  What is that sagging thing under my chin?  That can’t be bags under my eyes?

Many of my friends have become very upset at turning 30 – 40 – 50 – 60 and I have always asked them:

What’s the big deal?  It is just another birthday!

But I have been dreading this day.  Somehow it has seemed to me until I hit 70 I could still consider myself – well maybe not middle aged – but certainly not old.

But 70 – I realize the days ahead of me are way, way fewer than those behind me.  I find myself looking back at my life and wondering:

Have I done anything of real value?  Is anyone’s life better because I have been a part of their life?  Have I done all I could do, all I should have done to be a good mother, wife, friend?

Over the years ministering with my pastor husband to the elderly both in our churches and in the nursing homes where we visited I have seen many different responses to old age.

There is the the old crank who complains about everything and constantly puts the younger generation down.

growing old 6

And the one who wants to tell you all about her aches and pains.

aches and pain

But there are also those who are a joy to know.  Those who still have a zest for life and a gratitude for the blessings they have.

growing old 2.jpg

So as I move forward into this “old” time of my life I pray that:

I still see the glass as half full, not half empty.  I appreciate the health I have and not complain about what my weak knees, bad back and poor hearing.  Others still enjoy being with me and not dreading to see me walk in the door,

So – here’s a little “old folks” humor.  Laugh with me.

aches and pain 2.jpg

 

growing old 4

If you do see me coming, just remember this:

old