0

Reflections: Golden Years

golden-years-card-7

As I approach 60, my mailbox is filled with AARP promotional material and long-term health care applications. My prized collection of reading glasses has grown to over 20 pair; and crossing my legs has become a mandatory ritual whenever I cough or sneeze. The grand kids know that lost reading glasses can be found perched on my head and sending a one line text message will take me 10 minutes.

With age, comes a sense of freedom from others opinions or expectations. It’s truly exhilarating to grocery shop in my bikini, wear PJ’s to my dental appointment and cruise past a fast-food drive up window topless… just kidding!

A transcript of my daily conversations are much like this:

Grandchild: NeeNee you wore that outfit yesterday.
Me: Yep, and I might wear it again tomorrow. In fact, I might wear it all week. Mention it again, and I will show up at your school in this outfit.

Builder: I can have that done in 2 days for $$ cost.
Me: So, what you are saying is it will cost twice as much as your quote and take twice as long.

Husband: Did you take a nap today?
Me: Yes, I did and the answer to your ‘real’ question is NO; you can’t have the TV remote tonight because I will be up late watching every Hallmark movie made.

Daughter: Hi Mom, it’s 9 PM; I hope I didn’t wake you?
Me: Of course not, I’ve been asleep for an hour waiting for your call.

Grandchild: You sure have a lot of wrinkles.
Me: I know; thankfully, they are the only thing that doesn’t hurt with age.

With age comes knowledge and there are a few things I have learned. Like memory loss can sometimes work to my advantage, sex is over-rated, control isn’t the Holy Grail and neck scarves do wonders for the fleshy wattle around the neck. The cowboy boots that look so cute on the magazine model won’t look like that on me. Neither will the size zero stretch pants on the mannequins in the junior section of a store.

On a spiritual level, I have discovered life isn’t all about me. I now listen twice as much as I talk, and when I do, something marvelous happens. It generates a call to action based on the need of someone else and fosters an attitude of generosity, pay-it-forward and volunteerism.

And so, as I head to the salon to have my gray hair colored, purchase age-defying make-up from Mary Kay, pack Spanks and reading glasses into a suitcase for an upcoming vacation, I consider what age 60 will be like in heaven.

What characteristics and features will identify me to those I’ve known at different ages in my earthly journey? Will wrinkles, gray hair and reading glasses no longer exist? I can’t help but wonder if we will be given the opportunity to pick our ideal age in Heaven. If that could happen, what age would you pick and why.

0

LIVING IN DENIAL

denial

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr

Long before Facebook, I wrote a monthly newsletter for the cousins on my mother’s side of the family. We have all remained close in heart through the years, but separated by distance. The newsletter was a way to stay connected with each other and share memories from the past. It was a great idea until an aunt sent me a past memory to post in the newsletter.

I included her story in one of the newsletters. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from a family member who was offended by the story. They felt the writer had darkened the real truth. In anger and hurt this person was quick to accuse me of deliberate misrepresentation of the true story.

It seemed both the storyteller and reader had jaded memories of the published story. The real truth will never be known because neither person was willing to change their perception of the story. They chose to live in denial of the truth.

Sigmund Freud defines denial as:

A psychological defense mechanism used when a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

Living in denial can be dangerous and can interfere with your ability to tackle challenges. When you refuse to acknowledge a stressful situation or problem and find ways to minimize potentially devastating long-term consequences, you are in denial.

It’s OK to say, “I can’t think about all of this right now.” Sometimes, we need time to work through and adapt to something that has happened or life changing circumstances. But, this should only be a temporary measure as we work toward the reality of the situation.

There are times in life when the truth hurts, makes us angry and forces us into denial. We run but can’t hide from the truth. Jesus makes it very clear that it is the truth that sets us free. It opens our eyes, ears and heart to accept those things we cannot change and to work through the challenges before us.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

1

INSIDE OUT RESTORATION

IMG_2823
I returned from a ten-day trip to Northern Italy exhausted and exhilarated; exhausted because of the long journey, and exhilarated by sites I had only seen in travel brochures or read about in history books. It was a lifelong travel dream with many ‘pinch me’ this can’t be real moments.

Words or photos cannot portray the beauty of the many cathedrals I visited or the emotions that surfaced each time I touched buildings and sculptures that dated back to the Byzantine era. As I stood in the center of grandeur palazzos with thousands of other tourists, I was overwhelmed by how small and insignificant I seemed in comparison to the backdrop.

The massive cathedrals embossed with gold mosaics, jewels and artwork from ancient times have immeasurable value and are irreplaceable. Many buildings are in disrepair and being renewed continually to preserve the integrity of their foundation.

That is how God works with us. No matter the backdrop of our life or how much we are in need of repair, He lovingly works to preserve our foundation. As we stand in the palazzo of life surrounded by the masses and feeling insignificant, He whispers

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 (ISV)

Jesus stands ready to renew us from the inside out. Our souls are irreplaceable and have been purchased by the immeasurable value of the redemptive power of His blood. No one is insignificant or small against the backdrop of the cross.

We are not so unlike the crumbling facades of the many ancient buildings burdened by the elements of time. It is only after the exterior is stripped down to the original foundation that the true damage can be assessed and repaired.

Jesus stands ready to erect the scaffolding needed to renew you from the inside out. He will power wash the accumulated dirt from your soul, restore the foundation on which you stand and renew you to your former glory.

God is in the restoration business!

1

ATTIC DREAMS

Climbing the narrow steps to my attic has never been an easy task. It becomes more difficult with age, but to decorate for Christmas a trip to the attic is essential. I will admit having my body bent in a hunchback position while shuffling around boxes (and muttering a few choice curse words every time my head hits the overhead trusses) is not my idea of fun.

It is amazing what you find in the attic.

When I visit the attic, questions come to mind. Questions like, “Did I really save an entire box of my daughter’s grade school memorabilia, and why? Or, “where should I display all the baby teeth collected by the tooth fairy?” Yes, of course, it’s a rhetorical question but it does make one wonder about those things we shove into the attic.
I don’t know about you, but at age eighty, I don’t foresee myself climbing the attic ladder to sift through pasted first grade crafts; or finding any value in pictures colored outside the lines or report cards bearing satisfactory check marks.

Forgotten dreams are buried in the attic.

This year my trip to the attic revealed a few forgotten dreams. There was the box filled with my troll dolls from the early 60s and the felt clothes I crafted with a pair of blunt end scissors. It was my dream of being a fashion designer. The shoebox of doll furniture was my dream to decorate the homes of famous people.

As my hand brushed the dust from the cover of a binder, my heart skipped a beat. It was a collection of children’s poetry, songs and writings from the early 80s. The contents of that binder held my ultimate dream; to one day author a book.

In our youth, we dream big and nothing seems impossible. At age eight, I dreamed of marrying Chuck Connors from the TV show ‘Rifleman’. At age twelve it was the dream of walking the runway at the Miss America pageant.

Life is full of dreams.

An occasional trip to the attic to revisit our buried dreams might not be such a bad idea. Some of our dreams may never be realized.  The dream of being a pro-football player may never happen, but coaching a little league team is within reach.

Maybe you never fulfilled your dream of teaching; then volunteer at your child’s school. Didn’t finished that law degree? Consider mentoring someone who has fallen through the cracks of our justice system. So, you aren’t the rock star you hoped to be; maybe you didn’t make the grades to reach that medical school dream. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has an attic dream waiting to be uncovered even if we need to make revisions.

What is your attic dream?

0

RECLAIM A YOUNG HEART

IMG_6400

The other day my youngest grandson, Fischer, told me I was old. When I question him why, he was quick to reply.

FISH: You are old because you don’t get in the hot tub and ride your scooter around the yard like Poppy does.
ME: So that makes me old?
FISH: Yes, you could fall and get hurt getting into the hot tub or riding me on your scooter.
ME: Who told you that?
FISH: YOU

Of course, my reply had simply been a way of bowing out of something I didn’t want to do at the moment. What struck me odd was his idea of old age had nothing to do with outward appearance but rather having a young heart.

What self-imposed duties were robbing me of the joy of spending time with my grandkids? As I flipped through the rolodex in my head, I noted other conversations. Will you watch me ride my bike, print me coloring pages, watch a movie, rub my head, snuggle, read a story, help find rollie-pollies…? Sometimes the answer is yes, but more often a no.

I believe it’s time to scrap a few of my so-called priorities and reclaim a young heart. My grandkids won’t remember the things I have bought them, but they will remember the time we spent laughing, playing and experiencing life.  It’s time to exercise self-control and stop moving from task to task.

Are you spreading yourself too thin and no longer experiencing life? If the answer is yes, it’s time to develop a plan; time to ditch those self-imposed priorities that cheat you out of a young heart. Schedule your priorities, don’t let them schedule you. Life is too short. Leave this world riding a scooter, soaking in a hot or reading a bedtime story to your kids/grandkids.

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Psalm 39: 4-5

0

OUR DESTINATION

As I prepare for a trip to California, I have 15 minutes to write today’s devotional.  I am not even sure what to write as it is currently 3:30 AM and I’m rushing around like a crazy lady to finish packing. And then, the light bulb goes on; why not chat about our destination. Yes!

Where are you headed in life? Not just today, but the next day and the next day and right on to eter…nity. What makes you put one foot in front of the other every day; what makes life worth living? Good question.

Each day we are gifted 24 hours to determine our destination.  Jobs, dropping kids at daycare, even walking to the mailbox is a destination. For the most part, we maneuver through our days with little thought about where we are headed. Have ever driven a car, arrived at your destination, and wondered how in the heck you got there? The redundancy of the drive mesmerizes us and we fail to notice our surroundings; sad, but true.

But, what if you knew this was your last day on earth. Would your destination change, would you still fail to notice your surroundings? My guess is our choice of destination would immediately change and I am fairly certain we would embrace every moment with a new found passion. In those 24-hours our life would be purpose driven.

Maybe it is time to stop wandering around (in our faith) and create a roadmap to our final destination. You can’t move forward if you don’t know where you are going. Having a purpose driven life (an eternal destination) gives us hope and helps us find peace and joy.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (the final destination). For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

 
0

WHEN GOD SAYS NOT NOW

Looking back on my life, I have experienced plenty of ‘not now’ moments with God; quite honestly those moments have angered me, and still do. Who in the heck is God to decide what is best for my life? He can’t relate to the heartache, suffering, illness and stress in my life. And God certainly isn’t the one suffering, losing a job, feeling disappointed and hopes dashed for the umpteenth time.

Sometimes our prayers seem like dust in the wind. Nothing happens and we wonder where God is when we really need Him. Is He listening; does He care when the job is given to someone else or prayers for physical healing, salvation, failed marriages go unanswered? Our earthly nature can’t help but question God.

A number of years ago I was going through a divorce. It was not something I wanted, but life happens. I soon discovered that my husband, at the time, had not only been unfaithful, but also had failed to pay business taxes. Unbeknownst to me, my home was in the process of being seized by the Treasury Department for delinquent back-taxes. It was a shocking truth and I sought God’s help. Weeks passed and I was unable to locate my husband’s whereabouts. He had simply vanished, leaving me with all the bills and back-taxes.

Where was God? The situation continued to drag out regardless of the heaven bound prayers. God’s answer seemed to be ‘Not Now’. I took His answer as, “I’m too busy right now; I’ll check my calendar and get back to you when I have free time.”

Panic mode kicked into gear; I wanted something to happen NOW. Hello God! I’m about to lose my home; for whatever reason, you don’t seem concerned in the least. Yet, when the dust finally settled, God’s ‘Not Now’ worked to my good. Interest rates dropped to an all-time low and I was able to refinance and settle with a lower mortgage payment.

I am the first to admit, it’s not easy embrace ‘Not Now’ moments when diligently seeking God’s guidance. When things don’t happen as planned, or hoped, we tend to run ahead of God. We try to fix and manipulate the outcome of our personal desires, schedule, or goals to fit our agenda. Let’s face it, when the tenth job interview ends with, “Sorry, we’ve hired someone else”, it’s easy to doubt God’s promises.

It’s hard to accept God’s NO, especially when reading the following scriptures:

“…If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:31

“How great is the goodness you have reserved for those who fear you; that you have set in place for those who take refuge in you, in the presence of the children of men.”

Psalms 31:19

However, God’s ‘NO’ sometimes stretches our faith; it teaches us how to accept His will even when we don’t have all the facts and information. The testing of our faith leads to perseverance. I regret to say, our personal contentment is not God’s first priority in our life. He is most concerned that we gain a deep intimacy, a strong faith, and godly character. God desires an obedient follower who loves Him no matter our situation. That’s tough, at least for me. When I make the right choices, I expect to gain God’s attention. But even right choices don’t always give insight into God’s plan and purpose for our life.

I don’t have the answers for hearing God’s voice. I don’t know how God determines His specific plans for our life, and I struggle with surrendering myself to His guidance and accepting his timing. But I am certain of these things:

1) God loves me

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3: 16

2) God leads me

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalms 25:12

God acts on our behalf, but His answers may come over a long period of time.

3) God hears me

“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” I John 5: 14-15

4) God will not be manipulated

Prayers can be passionate and full of faith, but if God is saying ‘Not Now’, rest assured, it won’t happen. God will not be held captive to our desires.

5) God shuts doors

Sometimes things that look good are not always God’s will. Our prayers can be linked to the proper timing of the event or situation. God’s response is delayed, but not necessarily denied.

Jesus taught us that God “sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Good and bad happens to all of us. When our prayers are answered with an unexplainable ‘no, not now’, we need to understand God is fully in charge of our life. He has not abandoned us and he will never forsake us.

“The Lord goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8