Receive my “Bright Side of Aging” blog emailed to you every Monday.
If you have trouble using the form above, please email me and I’ll sign you up.
If you have trouble using the form above, please email me and I’ll sign you up.
Here’s a real-life story that has taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve changed the names to protect the identities of the two women involved. But the heart of the story is what matters. I hope you like it.
Liz and Susan had been friends for twenty years until a storm of words blew their relationship apart. Each believed she was in the ‘right.’ Susan was the strong bossy type. Liz was compliant, until she was pushed too far. There seemed to be no going back or forward. Their friendship was over.
Good riddance, as far as I was concerned,” said Liz. “Relief flooded my soul when I realized I wouldn’t have to put up with Susan’s opinions and declarations any more. I also felt guilty for not parting on civil terms—but not guilty enough to do anything about it.”
Liz said their family life was a mess for many months after the breakup. Children and husbands were affected. The kids had played together for years and the husbands enjoyed tennis. Time spent together with the Kenyons ceased. And opportunities to visit with Susan’s wonderful parents were over.
“I hoped and prayed God would intervene and wake up Susan to her mistakes,” said Liz. “It didn’t occur to me to pray for my own because I was so clear she was to blame.”
Life went on and the discomfort subsided over the following years. The women avoided each other whenever possible. “If I saw Susan at the supermarket, I’d move to a different aisle. If our paths crossed when hauling kids to and from school, we turned our eyes away from one another.”
Several years later Liz was divorced and moved to a new city. When Liz’s eldest daughter Jane was planning her wedding, she asked her mother if Susan and Bob could be included on the guest list. “My stomach turned at the thought,” said Liz. “I didn’t want this special day to be compromised. But for Jane’s sake I agreed. The couple’s grown children would be invited too.”
Liz prayed about the event, asking for peace and joy and for civility, if nothing else, when she came in contact with Susan. “God gave me so much more,” said Liz, “and all in the nick of time.”
As Susan came across the lawn in a beautiful spring dress, smiling broadly, Liz melted. “I rushed toward her with open arms and she did the same toward me. I’m sure God raised my arms for me. We embraced as we never had before. I felt a genuine love for her—Christ’s love, I’m sure.”
“‘I’ve missed you,’” Susan said, “her words piercing my heart like a sword. I realized then that I had missed her too, and told her so. We both wept and laughed and smiled and held hands as we walked over to a tree on the lawn in front of the church.”
The two women let go of the past—just like that, talking only of good things, family, work, parents, and health. “Susan had aged,” said Liz. “And of course I had too. I liked what I saw in her—a soft countenance, a gentler way of speaking, a willingness to hear about my life.”
At the end of the day the bride and groom left for their honeymoon, and the guests departed. “As my new husband and I drove home,” said Liz, “I thanked God for his mercy and grace. I didn’t know what was ahead for Susan and me. We lived in different cities now and things had changed in our lives from the old days. But I felt set free, to love without reservation or judgment. Maybe that was enough.”
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
This week I looked through some old files–photos and writings that my husband Charles had accumulated and left for me to enjoy. I found the following piece and thought it was lovely so I’m sharing it with you here.
(For those who are new to my blog, Charles passed away in March of 2015.)
“Some years ago I attended a conference at Mount Hermon, a retreat center in the mountains outside Santa Cruz, California. It was a chilly, blustery, November day, with sunlight fleeting in and out of the stately Redwoods. Falling leaves carpeted the walkways and grounds.
As I sat in one of the sessions, intent on the speaker and his message, my attention was momentarily drawn to the large floor-to-ceiling windows to my right. The buffeting wind beat at the glass; a Dogwood tree was framed there, its rust-red leaves being carried away.
The three-day event was called the Fall Adult Conference. I had to chuckle at that, as most of us were indeed adults, senior adults that is, some even in their 90s. I, pushing the end of my 70s.
Immediately I was taken by the realization that in a few years most of us would be carried away, just like those leaves, carried to that place we have hoped for, have surrendered our lives to, in order to be with our Lord in His Love and in His Eternity.
My eyes swept the room, looking at the faces of my fellow attendees. Most were a bit tired and drawn, lined by the years, etched by events that had invaded their lives; events they had never dreamed would be theirs. All were survivors and, without my knowing anyone’s real circumstance, most seemed at peace.
Later, at dinner and at closer observation, again it was the eyes of my tablemates that captured me. Some were now gray, far from the brilliant blue of their youth. Some were sharp, keen observers of what was going on around them, sharpened by life in a world that wasn’t always kind, wasn’t always honest, wasn’t what they had wanted to idealize it to be. Some were tired, some rheumy, and some, it seemed, were already looking at a far distant place.
But for most there was a gentle graciousness in those windows to the soul. Perhaps I wasn’t just seeing my dear friends, but through them, I was seeing the everlasting presence of our Lord, and His magnificent love for each one of us.
Most of us, at this age, like to tell stories, true stories, of how we have managed to survive through failures, losses, and sin on our part. These are mine. Through these life experiences we can see one overriding fact, that when we lived them out alone, there had been terrible and terrifying catastrophes. When we walked with the Lord and listened and trusted Him, those trying times became ones that filled us with awe at the magnificence of His love for us.
Yes, the leaves are falling.”
I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety.
Thirty-some years ago I gave my life to Jesus Christ, as I sat on a bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean near my home, in San Diego, California. I was a broken woman at age forty-two, divorced from my first husband, about to marry my second, separated from two of my children, and in the dog house with my father who was disappointed that I had walked away from the faith and life-style he had taught me. But God’s grace has seen me through the ups and downs and helped me reconcile with my dad before he died.
So when I think of what it means to grow in grace and to stay close to God over the long haul, many verses in the Bible spring to mind, especially this one:
Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
LOVE: We love because he first loved us (1John 4:19 NIV).
God is love. So primary among the fruit of the Spirit is love. When I give and receive love I’m growing in grace. So I want to wake up each morning with the word love on my lips and then put it into practice each hour of the day.
JOY and PEACE: You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; (Isaiah 55:12).
I love this verse. God assures us that if we follow him he will lead us in joy and peace regardless of the circumstances—whether death of a loved one, illness, job loss, financial upset and anything else that may come our way.
PATIENCE: . . . imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Hebrews 6:12).
It’s hard to wait, isn’t it? I’m not good at it. I like things to happen now. I want people to return my emails and phone calls immediately. But life isn’t according to my agenda. Time and again God has proven faithful after a long wait on a sale of a home, a book proposal hanging by a thread, an investment that didn’t pan out and so on. You probably have dozens of examples in your own life.
KINDNESS: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons (Acts: 14:17).
When I think of how kind the Lord is in the little things as well as the big, I feel humbled. I never have to beg for food or rain. All of my needs are met by his gracious hand. Each morning I say a prayer of gratitude for the Lord’s provision—a good night’s sleep, a hardy breakfast, the sun in the sky, a warm home to live in, fine friends and family to relate to. Following the Lord’s example, we can extend a hand of kindness to those around us. And as we do, the closer we stay to God.
GOODNESS: How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you (Psalm 31:19).
“He’s a good man.” “She’s a good woman.” How often we say or hear these words spoken about someone in public life or someone we know in our family or community. Such a person is one of moral excellence and virtue. And when we meet a good person we are impressed, for goodness is not common in today’s world. My friend and spiritual mentor, Fran, was such a person. She wasn’t a perfect woman, but she was a good woman—one who in her mature years continually reached out to counsel and encourage me as a new Christian.
FAITHFULNESS: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness (Joshua 24:14).
It is difficult in today’s culture to remain faithful to anything or anyone, but when we are, it is a tremendous example and blessing to those who observe us. I heard not long ago a woman speak about her marriage to an alcoholic and drug addict. She wanted to leave, to start over, to admit her mistake in choosing him as her mate, and to make a fresh start. But every time she brought her ‘case’ before God he told her to “Stay put.” She has stayed put—for nearly 40 years—and everyone who knows her admires her for her faithfulness—to God. She says she is ‘married’ to the Lord first and to her husband second. And as a result of this long journey of fidelity, her husband went into recovery.
GENTLENESS: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1Peter 3:15).
When I think of gentleness I think of my grandfather, Gerald. I remember peeking in the doorway of his room in the house we lived in as I was growing up. There he sat at his desk each afternoon reading the Bible. I realize now that I’m a grandparent myself, how the Word of God filled him up, guided him through the trials he endured, and refined the rough places within him. The result was a gentle man who had a bright smile, a kind word, and a loving hug for everyone who knew him—right up to the day he died. He taught me more about growing in grace than almost any other person. I still miss him.
SELF-CONTROL: Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:13).
Living in the fruit of the Spirit comes down to living a life of self-control—surrendering ourselves to God and giving him full reign over every thought, word, and deed. And though such a commitment may seem restrictive and daunting at first, it really is the path to freedom and peace. With the Lord in charge we cannot help but grow in grace and become the mature Christians we want to be—and our example will spill into the lives of everyone we meet, helping them to continue to do the same during their journey over the long haul.
One of the highlights of life is finding God in our grandchildren. For example, during a summer visit to see my grandkids in Ohio, six-year-old Liam and I went for a bike ride. He’s more agile than I am so he was half a block ahead of me all the way. Before he reached a busy intersection, I shouted, “Wait at the corner, please. No crossing without me, okay?”
He nodded and slowed down as I approached. “I wouldn’t want to lose you,” I said playfully. “You’re my precious grandson.”
“Don’t worry, Magah (the family’s pet name for me). If I die I’ll go straight to heaven.”
“But I’m not ready for that,” I teased. “You’re only six.” I lingered over what he said as we walked our bikes to the other side of the street. I learned something from the words he spoke with such confidence. To trust that God will be with me now and forever after.
Then I remembered what Jesus taught. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 The Bible). I had some work to do to reach that goal.
Liam is now twenty-two, driving a car instead of riding a bike, but he continues to inspire me. Finding God in our grandchildren is one of the Lord’s lovely gifts to us during our golden years.
How about your ‘grands?’ Do you have an anecdote to share? We’d love to hear it.
“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.”
I looked out at the crowd sitting in front of me. Oh Lord, can I do this? Men and women smiled and nodded, eager for what I was about to say. The program planner had given me a stellar introduction, even mentioning that I was a graduate of CLASS (Christian Leaders, Authors Speakers Seminar) created by award-winning speaker and writer, Florence Littauer.
With a prayer on my heart and my three-point outline on my lips, I jumped in and shared for thirty minutes my favorite presentation, Squeeze the Moment: Making the Most of Life’s Gifts and Challenges. The crowd clapped and laughed and a few even dabbed their eyes. Afterwards, people streamed up to my book table and chatted, asked me to autograph books, and shook my hand or hugged me, giving thanks for my message. It was a wonderful experience from start to finish.
I remembered what Florence had said so many times. “Everyone is looking for help and hope.” Then she shared examples that drove the point home. Whether rich or poor, educated or not, sick or well, we all need hope, and each of us needs help in some way or other. We long to be loving parents, useful citizens, generous friends, trusted employees, committed spouses, and caring Christians.
Just as medicine goes down a bit easier with a spoonful of honey so does a message of help and hope––with a dose of humor. Thanks to Florence I learned early on that laughter makes everything all better.
Now when I stand on stage before hundreds or on a floor in front of a few, or sitting across from a friend over a cup of coffee in a cafe, I no longer ask, Oh Lord, can I do this? because I know I can—strengthened by the grace of God and the encouragement Florence provided.
And you don’t have to be a published writer or a polished speaker to offer people help, hope, and a dose of humor. Anyone can give such gifts each and every day to the people we love and live with, and to those we meet along the way.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
My beautiful sister June, three years my junior–my best friend, confidant and inspiration– passed to heaven on Monday night, March 13 as her daughter Meagan and my two daughters, Julie and Erin, and I held her hands till her last breath. I had a special time with her when she was still conscious but could not speak. I recited scripture, sang a song, shared memories and brought a smile. I know she heard me and I’m thanking God for that last moment together.
She died of a rare condition called Multiple System Atrophy, which over time (four years in her case) gradually robs one of any ability to control the body until every part shuts down and death follows. It has been so difficult to watch her decline and yet maintain her spirit and her connection to our family.
She is leaving a long and amazing legacy of university teaching, writing, speaking and mentoring, mothering and ‘friend-ing.’
Heaven’s gain is our loss.
June, may you rest in peace after a long life of giving and loving.
“…the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)
As a girl, I remember my mother touching my hands gently, a reminder to sit still and stop nibbling my fingernails. She also calmed me down when I twirled and cart wheeled across the living room floor. I was an active, high-strung child, maybe a bit too active for her. As I grew older I settled down and nearly went into hiding. I was afraid to be too noisy, too showy, too much!
By the time I got to high school I was a shadow of my former self––fearful, anxious, lacking in self-confidence. College life presented new possibilities away from home and the watchful eyes of my parents and I welcomed each experience. I performed well in my studies, appeared in school plays, and even attracted a boyfriend. But still I felt discontent. Something always seemed to be missing.
Two weeks after graduation I married my sweetheart and within five years I was a mother to three children and the wife of a man who spent most of his hours working or studying toward a degree in law. I felt alone and restless even though my son and two daughters brought me many joyful hours. I continued to live on this plane until the year I turned 41—the year I met Jesus Christ, following a painful divorce and a health crisis.
At that point I opened the Bible for the first time in my life, at the urging of a friend, unaware that it was the beginning of my personal journey toward contentment. My teachers and companions were writers who lived hundreds of years before I was born—but their wisdom in the Scriptures led the way, and it is with me still. I share their words here. Perhaps they will speak to you too, or encourage you to find the wisdom God has for you on your journey.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This verse was the first one to capture my attention as I sat attentively in a bible study class on the Gospel according to John. I leaned forward, realizing in that moment that the personal relationship people had talked about and that I had no knowledge of or experience with, was now possible for me if I turned to Christ as my Lord and Savior and gave him my life.
My purpose is to give you life in all its fullness.
Today when I read these words I’m filled with peace—knowing that God has a full life for each of his children, so I shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed with any of it. He will be with me through each experience, teaching me what I need to know and leading me on the right path. I will never be alone––ever. I now have this verse in a frame on my desk and I read it several times each day.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
This verse has seen me through many anxious moments—when my son lived apart from our family for two years, when my second husband lost his job unexpectedly, when my father was diagnosed with a long-term illness, and when a book I’d written was suddenly cancelled before the publication date.
With these words to guide me, I put my hope in the Lord, not in doctors or publishers or employers. I could not control illness, jobs, the result of my writing or my son’s choices. But God said he’d be present in all these situations and bring them together for the good of all concerned. (Romans 8:28).
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you . . .
Now that I’m an older woman with gray hair (and plenty of white, too) I know with certainty that God is still with me, holding on to me and keeping me close. I am one of his own. He made me and he will sustain me and even carry me if harm threatens me.
My journey toward contentment is still in progress. It’s a day-to-day walk, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, with plenty of pauses along the way for conversations with God, for praise and prayer, for smiles and tears, but always with a deep knowing that I am not alone, never have been, and never will be as long as I stay close to God through Jesus Christ.
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
Where are you in your journey? I’d love to hear from you.
Today I’m thinking about my dad when he lost his job at age sixty, fired just like that, when a large conglomerate purchased the firm he worked for. He had no special training, had not even finished high school. At age fifteen he’d quit school and worked to help support his large family.
It was not easy finding new work at an age when many people were about to retire. But he had to do something fast. He had a wife and children to take care of.
I remember Dad combing the pages of the Wall Street Journal looking for small businesses that were available to buy or sell. He hoped to put owners and buyers together. Within three years he was not only established in this new field of business mergers but he earned more money in commissions than he ever earned in his previous career. God blessed him beyond anything he envisioned.
I asked him how he kept his wits and his health during this time of great stress. “I leaned on Jesus,” he said. “He’s a good friend to have.” My father gave all the glory to the Lord, the one he knew as the author and the finisher of his life and work.
His example cast a light on my path. When my life was about to fall apart after an unwanted divorce from my first husband, poor health, and financial uncertainty, I looked to him and to God, and fell together instead.
Lord, thank you for the gift of my father on earth and my father in heaven.
And I’m also thinking about my husband Charles, who reminded me so much of my father. Today is the second anniversary of his death. I like thinking maybe Dad and Charles are in each other’s company.
Springtime may be a season of blooms and blossoms, but it’s also a time to de-clutter the closets and sell off the stuff I probably shouldn’t have purchased in the first place.
On Saturday mornings cars move in our neighborhood like a parade of ants across a picnic table as families eye front yards packed with clothes, toys, kitchen gadgets and old CDs, videos, and books.
Which one appears enticing enough to make them stop, shop, and part with their cash? I’m an observer. I can’t be bothered participating, even though I might be missing out on some great bargains. What I enjoy is seeing people haggle with one another—begging for a discount of a nickel or dime on a fifty-cent item.
But maybe I do that in another way—haggling with you, God, so you’ll let me off the hook from my fifty-cent sins—a catty word here, a misstep there, a bitter thought this morning, a withheld compliment this afternoon. “Are they really so bad?” I ask you. “It’s not like I’m a murderer or a tax evader.” You listen, and then you remind me gently that any sin against another is a sin against you. You call me to your standard, not mine. The bar I set for myself is always lower than the one you set for me. Thank you for using a neighborhood yard sale to teach me this lesson once again.
What has God used in your life to show you a flaw and how to turn it around?
“… In repentance and rest is your salvation …”
“Am I bothering you with all my little noises and chores?” my husband asked as I worked on a writing project in our home office.
“No, not at all, as long as you don’t talk to me,” I responded. “I need to concentrate.”
Five minutes later. “Hon, should I save these papers from the bank regarding our mortgage?” He handed them over.
“No. You can shred them.”
Two minutes later. “My brother sent me the funniest email forward. Do you have a couple of spare moments to look at it?”
“Not really. I’m trying to make this a workday. Send it over and I’ll take a look tomorrow.”
“Looks like I sent it to the kids but forgot to add your name. I’ll try again. Okay, here it comes.”
“Guess what? Now that we’ve refinanced the house and added an extra payment at the end of each year, we’re killing this thing. Great, huh?” Big smile!
ME muttering in prayer: Lord, what in your name, do I have to say to make it clear that I need quiet? And I’m not the only one. I read in an article in the paper this week that one of the greatest challenges couples face is a lack of personal space. I get it. I remember my mother going bananas with my dad in their later years. He loved to tell people that he never wanted her to be further from him than an arm’s length.
She, on the other hand, had a football field in mind. After fifty-some years of marriage, twenty-five years of raising four children, and the same number of years having her father live with our family, Mom wanted—make that needed—quiet time alone to think and pray and be.
But now that I’m a widow of almost two years I long for the sound of Charles’ voice–for his easy smile and big blue eyes that I adored. Each morning I light a candle at the breakfast table in his honor. Oh, how I miss sitting with him side by side eating oatmeal, praying, and planning our days. Now I sit in reflection, missing Charles, but knowing God is providing all of my needs.
“My God will use his glorious riches to give you everything you need. He will do this through Christ Jesus.”