USE IT OR LOOSE IT

Last month I turned 69, so I am now living my 70th year. Wow!! For some reason, 70 is a big deal in my mind. I feel like I am getting ready to cross over into another country…..Senior Country.

Every decade in life presents its own challenges, and I’m not so sure I am ready for this new one. But, do I ever think I’m ready for what is ahead?

No!

Why?

Because there is no way to know for sure what my seventies will bring. The only thing I am sure of is that I made it through my sixties, with all of its unknowns, and challenges.

I now see that these last ten years have served as a transition decade for me. Major life changes brought challenges that exposed weak foundational areas in my life that were a result of neglect. This decade has been one of strengthening these basic areas, preparing me for this next Season.

DON’T NEGLECT THE FOUNDATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS IN YOUR LIFE

The most important relationship I have is with my Lord and Savior. I don’t know why, but, when things are going pretty good, I tend to let that relationship slide and become apathetic. I stop making Him the main thing. I don’t take the time to pursue Him. The more familiar you are with someone, the more attention you need to give them. I find myself doing the same in my marriage. We are coming up on our 47th Anniversary and we have to make sure we keep that flame alive and strong!! I love these quotes on familiarity breeding contempt.

Familiarity breeds contempt and children“….Mark Twain.

There can be no prestige without mystery, for familiarity breeds contempt”…..Charles de Gaullle.

In communications familiarity breeds apathy“….William BernBach.

The problems that result from neglect begin to show up when major life changes take place, as they did in my sixties. I moved away from all things familiar. I no longer had job demands on me. I was way less busy and life returned to revolving around and me and Jesus, and then, me and my spouse.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

I had a total knee replacement at sixty-five. Everything went great for two years. So great, that I began doing some more strenuous exercising (like deep knee bends, I know…..I’m crazy) which resulted in sharp pain in my knee. After numerous X-rays, and months of physical therapy, it has been determined that I have an old hamstring injury that has flared up because I’ve overworked my weak muscles. In other words, my new knee is much stronger than my old muscles can handle. So, after 1 1/2 years, I am still dealing with this hamstring that is taking forever to heal. If I had paid attention to my body and kept my muscles strong and not overworked them, maybe they would have been able to handle my new knee.

In my fifties and sixties I was always too busy to do those basic exercises and because I had knee pain I gave up too quickly and talked myself into waiting until I got a new knee. I didn’t take the time to do the things that would take care of me. Some people are good at making time for themselves, and, others aren’t so good at it. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself, the important thing is to take time for the basics that will keep you strong physically and emotionally. Exercise, eat healthy food and do your nails….Ha!! Take care of you!

I believe my sixties exposed weaknesses that I wasn’t aware of. Areas I neglected because they weren’t causing problems at the time. As a result, they became weaker, and when everything else around me changed, their weakness left me hurting and vulnerable.

The good thing is that I still had a foundation left that had been laid strong and secure so I could begin to rebuild. I just needed reinforcements, which came as I again pursued the Lord and got to know my spouse in this new season. I’m different, yet the same. Life is good, but in new ways. Relationships have never meant as much to me as they do now. Swimming, strengthening major muscle groups, and eating healthy food is a must these days if I want to keep upright in this next decade!

This had me on the floor laughing!! Life happens!!

Should I Be Worried Now?

In 2020 the practice of worry seemed to take over our world. We were told to worry about EVERYTHING! And when we weren’t worried, we heard on the news that we should be! So far 2021 isn’t much better at alleviating any of my concerns. In fact, I have gone from being worried I might get sick and die to an even greater concern that I am loosing my freedom to choose to be sick.

Knowing the truth helps alleviate worry. Back in Sep 23, 2020 the CDC released an update saying that individuals are more likely to survive the virus after contracting it. And if you’re over 70, the survival rate is nearly 95%. Age groups of 0 to 19 have a 99.997% chance of survival.

I tend to look at life with faith and I am learning to search out truth and not be satisfied with just following along because everyone else is doing something. I am thankful I have lived in a country that has allowed me that freedom. My concern is that this freedom to choose what is best for me could quickly be taken away under the guise of being concerned for my good.

So, what do you do as a Believer in Christ when you find yourself letting fear and worry take over your thoughts and even your behavior?

Last year, and even now this year I have been reminded over and over again that I have to listen to and depend on the voice of God to steady my fears. The Lord is in control. He is the only one that can dispel worry for me. The Bible actually says it is a waste of time to worry. The Psalms are great for helping me focus on God’s greatness and how He sees me and fights for me.

Psalms 56:3 says “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalms 34:4 says “I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from ALL my fears.” Psalms 118:6 “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”. I like to read Psalms 23 and apply it personally to every worry I might have. It is full of examples of how He promises to help us.

  • He is our protector.
  • He never leaves us.
  • He is our provider.
  • He will guide us and show us what to do when we are confused.
  • He promises to be there for us no matter what is happening around us and no matter what situation we find ourselves in.

As a child, growing up in Nigeria back in the 1960s there were many times when fear wanted to rule our life. Fear truly can be “so thick you can cut it with a knife”. If my parents hadn’t known that God sent them there with their four young children, they wouldn’t have lasted for one week much less ten years. They trusted God for healing when we were sick and for guidance when we were in the middle of a civil war. They had to overcome fear with faith and act accordingly. That is what I am asking God to reveal to me in these days. How do I act in faith and not fear? How do I let my life show more of God to this world? Let my faith and confidence in whose I am, be seen by my actions.

Should I be worried? No. God is in control and He will show me what to do.

SPEAK THE TRUTH

2020 was a year that brought lots of changes. All of us have had to learn to do everyday life in new ways. When such drastic change happens in the world around you, it exposes weaknesses and strengths in the structure of your current life. I have taken the month of January to ask myself some hard questions. The one that brought me up short was “How did 2020 change me?” As I was honest with myself I had to admit to this one huge weakness that I had allowed in my life.

I HAD CHANGED FROM BEING OPEN AND HONEST TO SOMEONE WHO IS AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT.

My nickname as a child and even as a young wife and mom, was ‘honest John”. In fact, my in-laws always said, “If you want to know the truth, ask Susan. She tells it like it is!” I was honest to a fault!

Over the years I found out people didn’t want me to be too honest. Because I served in ministry in our church, I was often asked to councel those I served when they needed help. I learned pretty quickly that many of them didn’t really want to hear an honest answer to their situation. When I was honest with them about what I felt God showed me, oftentimes, they never asked for my council again. Over time I learned to test the waters before I offered any council to see how honest they really wanted me to be.

This year the art of hiding what I am really thinking has gone to another level. In fact, I have learned that if I say what I really think or even share what I know as truth, I am often ridiculed and shamed for speaking out. As a result, I have found myself choosing to be silent because I’ve been afraid of opposition.

I haven’t really liked this new me. It has made me feel uncomfortable, like I’m hiding in a cave, afraid someone will find me and do who knows what to me because they don’t like what I stand for or believe. I have never been a ‘hide in the cave’ sort of person!!

So I asked the Lord, (who is my ultimate counselor) “Is it a bad thing to choose to be silent and let others assume I agree with their view in order to avoid saying what I believe to be true because I’m afraid of rejection and ridicule?”

This is what I heard God say, “When you chose to follow me, you chose to be ridiculed and rejected.”

Being afraid to speak the truth or speak out against a wrong I see is something I face almost everyday. It’s easy to just hide in my corner of the world and pretend I am ok with things that are going on around me when I am NOT. When I chose to follow Jesus I wasn’t promised a life without opposition. All I have to do is read the New Testament to know that the life of a follower of Jesus was not easy. It is full of situations where believers were put in prison for what they said and did. They were beheaded and their children were killed. Life was scary! Do I think those things could happen to me? I sure hope not!!! But I can’t let the fear that they could keep me from sharing the gospel and speaking out against wrongs that are being called right.

Truth has become whatever people want it to be. We even hear statements such as “Well, that is my truth.” There aren’t any absolutes anymore. But if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you should know what the truth is and it should set you free, not put you in prison!!

I HAVE TO BASE MY TRUTH ON THE WORD OF GOD!

He is the TRUTH! Therefore what He says is true. I have to know what the Bible says about how to live in this world. I have to know what my life is built on and make sure my foundation is sure. So many people who say they are Christians aren’t even sure they believe what the Bible says is for today. In order to be sure of what I believe, I have to be studying the scripture and check out what I am hearing from others to make sure what they are saying is based in scripture. I can’t just believe everything I’m told.

The days of the ‘lazy’ Christian are gone. We have to know what we know and when we don’t know we have to search the scriptures and depend on the Holy Spirit to teach us what is right!

How will 2021 be different from 2020 in my life? I plan to say more and read more. No longer will I accept what people are saying on social media or TV as truth. I plan to make a point to educate myself so I’m not afraid to speak out when I need to. 2020 was a wakeup call for me and I am excited to see what God is going to do in 2021.

I’d love to hear about the changes you want to see in your life this year.

JUST RELAX – and enjoy the journey!

I am so excited today to have a guest writing this post. Her name is Joanne and she is a dear friend of mine. She has been a gift to me in this season of life. Joanne has a heart for women and loves seeing them become all that God has called them to be. She also loves traveling, searching out cafes for the perfect cappuccino, and spending time with her five grandchildren. We have a great time together when she and her husband make their way to South Florida (as you can see in this picture). After reading this post you will want to check out her blog “Flavours”. (the link is in my sidebar under Blogs I Follow)

JUST RELAX – and enjoy the journey!

Many of my friends are in seasons of transition right now – some are retiring, or semi-retiring; one friend is beginning to look after grandchildren full time (God bless her!), others are slowing down, changing jobs, cutting hours, downsizing from their beloved family home to a condo … and the list goes on and on.

Some appear to be sailing through the changing times easily, others – not so much.

In 2018 we transitioned the church we were lead pastors of for 33 years to the next generation.  So the past two years have certainly been transition years for me.  For sure, when you pour your life as a couple into something for that long, it’s like letting go of a child that you raised.  I think I have learned a few things along this journey that hopefully will help you, whatever season of life you are in right now. 

Here are five things that I wish I had embraced fully, two years ago when my transition began.

  • DON’T COMPARE! THIS IS HUGE! God’s word says that we are not wise when we compare ourselves to others.  Comparison can very easily lead to dissatisfaction or discontentment. Dissatisfaction leads to self-pity, and self-pity can easily spiral to depression.  I remember comparing my situation to a friend who is exactly my age, pastored for the same number of years I did, etc. and it was very easy to envy her life at this stage.  But her plan is different than mine, her journey is different also.  And there are things in her life that I wouldn’t be content with.  I love MY life!
  • DON’T RUSH INTO THE NEXT SEASON WITHOUT PAUSING.  I have to say, I blew this one.  It’s easy to fill your schedule with things because you’re so used to being busy all the time. But what if the Lord has something He is trying to lead you into, and you haven’t made room for it? My first year was so busy it was crazy.  Nothing productive is ever accomplished when you rush, and there is no quicker way to lose your joy than to always be moving to the next thing.  Enjoy the pause!  It’s a time to re-group, not blindly forge ahead.
  • DON’T DO THINGS OUT OF GUILT. Depending on what your job was, many times you do things because you are giving in to the expectations of others.  If there’s EVER a time to let that go, it’s when you’re in a season of transition! I know at this season of my life, I don’t do things because of someone else’s expectations.  I say ‘no’ totally without guilt. (Why didn’t I learn this years ago?)  I know that sounds selfish, but it isn’t.  Saying no to one thing always means saying yes to something else, and vice versa.  I want to spend my time doing things out of joy and peace, not out of guilt.
  • STAY CONNECTED TO OTHERS WHO ARE IN THE SAME SEASON AS YOU. We can be such an encouragement to one another. We can share ideas that motivate and inspire each other! One of my good friends in the same season of life as I am is currently organizing a monthly zoom call for a few of us who are spread out geographically but are walking through similar things.  I’m really looking forward to it!
  • LOOK TO THE FUTURE WITH FAITH AND EXPECTANCY, NOT WITH FEAR AND INSECURITY. There really are so many amazing adventures ahead.  Seek them out!

Make a list of what you want to do in this new season.  For me, it was things like – family time, trips with my husband, mentoring young women, going to the gym every day, reading, counseling, preaching or teaching when asked, taking time to be spontaneous, cultivating friendships both with girlfriends and with other couples, more time outdoors, and more.

I also know that I really don’t  know the whole plan for this season yet, and that’s exciting.

In any transition, we need to listen to the leading of the Lord.  He opens doors, he closes doors.  I know His plan is good, and I want to be willing and obedient through every circumstance. He is always faithful to direct our steps.

In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths!

Proverbs 3:6