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.
On a recent Saturday I woke up to a blue sky, soft breeze, and warm sunshine spilling through my bedroom window. I knew then it was the perfect day to do what I’d been putting off for weeks. I grabbed a bite of breakfast and headed to the local nursery. I was going to bring home some lovely flowers for my garden and a new plant for my bedroom.
“The earth laughs in flowers.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was amazed at how happy and well I felt after putting my hands in the dirt, plunging the small plants into the soil and then topping them off with some fertilizer and water. They are coming to life as I write this and each morning when I look outside I feel like doing a happy dance!
“The lovely flowers embarrass me,
They make me regret I am not a bee. ”
~Emily Dickinson, 1864
“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
~ Claude Monet
How wonderful it is to have flowers and plants as friends and neighbors.
They give so much and take so little.
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;”(Matthew 6:28)
To God be the glory!
“If they don’t allow laughter in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.” Martin Luther made no bones about it. He enjoyed a good laugh.
American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr went so far as to say, “Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”
When the elders of Charles Spurgeon’s church asked him to tone down his humor in the pulpit, the famous minister was quick to respond: “Gentlemen, if you only knew how much I held back!”
It seems clear that without a smile, a chuckle, and some good belly laughs, life would be pretty difficult. Even the great preachers and writers of the past knew this. We all need to look up and out more often or we’d drown in sorrow with all the sadness and evil around us in the world today.
Liz Curtis Higgs, Patsy Clairemont, and Dennis Swanburg are just a few of the well-known Christian public speakers today who can turn a phrase, tell a story on themselves, or twist a detail, resulting in a roomful of people laughing till their eyes tear up.
People will come from all over the world to hear them speak because they know how to lace hope and help with a large dose of humor. I return from such engagements feeling uplifted, inspired, and encouraged. Life seems just a little easier after I’ve laughed my socks off! Maybe this has been your experience too.
It’s a rare person who couldn’t benefit from more light and laughter in life. Here are six ways to live on the sunny side of the street.
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (Ps. 126:2).
“A cheerful heart is good medicine . . .” (Prov. 17:22).
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21)
Barbara Gordon, former editor at Harvest House Publishers edited many humorous books during her career, mine among them. Here’s what she has to say about humor and the Christian life. “Jesus was a man of joy! I picture Him laughing and smiling, especially with kids. Humorous books that highlight our wonder—and weaknesses—in living for Him remind me that laughter is a gift, and often the best way to connect with people.”
It has been quite a season in our family and beyond. Lingering illnesses. Cancer diagnosis among loved ones. Expected and unexpected deaths.
For a week or so I found myself breathing hard and sometimes breathless, scared, anxious, and overwhelmed.
But TRUST broke through. God is with me–and with you.
“Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”
“But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”
“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.”
I’m feeling calm today–resting in the shadow of his wing.
If you’re going through a rough time, I pray you will TRUST and BREATHE!
Roses are red
Violets are blue;
This rosy red bush
Is for me (Karen) and for you (Charles).
Climb so high
Touch the heavens
And to Mom and Dad say, “Hi!”
Peaches and cream
To me you seem . . .
A tree of love
From God above.
“The world is a rose, smell it and pass it to your friends.”
I enjoyed a lovely visit recently with my good friend of many years, Glenda, and her daughter Sarah, my adopted granddaughter. What fun we had after not seeing each other for quite some time.
We chatted over delicious meals, took a walk, saw a movie, and recalled our times together over the decades–picnics, plays, birthdays and graduations, births and deaths, children and grandchildren, tears and laughter, and so much more, including the challenges of day-to-day life.
Here’s to friends . . . those jewels that are more precious than rubies and diamonds. And most important is the friend we have in Jesus–who keeps us going and promises never to leave or forsake us.
“I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
(Henry Van Dyke)
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
(Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey)
P.S. If you read my last post you’ll know I want to take it easy–like a turtle–so this week while at a garden store I saw this little guy and decided to buy him and take him home to remind me to slow down. I’ve named him Teddy. He’s made of stone–the perfect pet! And he’s made his home in my flower garden.
Outside the Marmalade Cafe in Southern California I stopped to enjoy this ‘turtle family reunion.’ Members of the clan, large and small, young and old, gathered on the rock in the sun and simply basked in its warmth.
When the temp outside rose to the mid-80s, every last one took a dive or at least slipped gracefully into the cool water surrounding the rocky outcropping. I smiled to myself as I imagined their life together–sharing resources, hanging out with one another regardless of age or appearance (although they do look remarkably alike) and simply ‘being’ as God created them to be. I didn’t see any squabble or competitive or aggressive behavior. And when one or two apparently needed some quiet time alone, I saw them inching their way up the side of the pond and hiding behind a little shrub.
They had no idea how much they inspired me–and taught me about human life. Wouldn’t our planet be more loving and caring if we did as these simple creatures do every day of their short lives–living and let live, sharing what was available and giving each other space when needed. The babies seemed to thrive as they copied the actions of the adults. Wonderful parenting and grandparenting as far as I could see.
I came home committed to being more like a turtle: moving slowly, taking time to make a decision to move or stay put, resting when fatigued, cooling off when it’s too hot, and being content with how God created me.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; [AND THE TURTLES] they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)
Last week while visiting my son in Southern California he and I took a little jaunt down memory lane in Calabasas, California where my first husband and I raised our three kids–at least part-way to adulthood before divorce hit hard. I thought it would be difficult to return to this beautiful community. I feared bittersweet memories might overwhelm me and I worried I’d start replaying the should-a, could-a, would-a tape in my mind. But that didn’t happen. I simply enjoyed the lovely surroundings and focused on the many gifts my life there had given me–gifts that still bless me some forty years later.
Would I change the past if I could–somehow? NO! I’m surprised at how emphatically I feel about it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the trajectory of my life from the day I was born until this very day. I haven’t liked all that occurred but I haven’t despised it either. I see the growth in myself and others along the way, including my children.
The Lord says, “I have come to give you life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10). I believe and trust this word of God. I accept the joys and sadness, the highs and lows, the births and deaths, and the experiences I don’t understand, because all of them have come to good and for God’s glory.
Last weekend our family said our final good-bye to my sister June at a beautiful Celebration of Life service, and Heaven surely welcomed a new angel.
During the ceremony I thought about all the things June and I had shared over the years–long walks and talks, coloring and paper dolls as kids, trading clothes, playing jacks and jumprope and giving each other . . . measles, mumps, chicken pox and scarlet fever!
We survived it all and grew to adulthood, enjoying each other’s children and spouses, holidays and vacations, careers and books, and so much more.
Am I sad? Yes and no. I will miss her every day for the rest of my life, but I am also grateful that she is in the special place God has prepared for her and for all of us.
The day after the memorial I drove to my son’s home and spent the week with him and his wife and also visited good friends in the area (Southern California), with a renewed commitment to life and the opportunities I have while I’m still on earth to love and laugh and to make a difference in the lives of everyone I come in contact with.
June left her legacy and one we are all so grateful for–and I am still in the process of creating mine.
June, dearest, we will meet again before long. Till then, please leave the light on for me!
“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29)
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.