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!!

WHAT A CHANGE OF VIEW CAN DO……FOR YOU!

After being gone from home for over a month I can honestly say, “There is no place like home.” It’s not really about the great view from the window of my home but a sense of peace and contentedness. The change I want to talk about today isn’t so much visual, it has to do with our ability to look at our surroundings with a new perspective.

You can be happy and content in any place as long as you are willing to look through the eyes of faith and hope and a belief that goodness is in everything.

There is a story that is found in the Old Testament that really explains what I’m trying to say. It’s found in 2 Kings chapter 6. The King of the Arameans was out to kill the prophet Elisha because he was telling the King of Israel the Aramean’s battle plans every time they were planning an attack. So Elisha and his servant were hiding out in Dothan and the Aramean King found out and sent “a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city” vs 13. When Elisha’s servant woke up that morning, the first thing he saw was them being surrounded by troops and horses and chariots. They were “everywhere”. Quite a visual, right?? Fear, at this point, would be an appropriate reaction, quickly followed by run!!

Elisha, on the other hand, saw something totally different than his servant. He told his servant not to be afraid because “there are more on our side than on theirs!” vs 16. Elisha asked the Lord (prayed) to open his servant’s eyes and change his perspective. The next time he looked up he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots on fire. Elisha’s next prayer was to ask the Lord to blind the troops attacking them. When the Aramean King saw Elisha he didn’t recognize him and Elisha told him he had the wrong guy and lead him right to the King of Israel!! Both prayers had to do with seeing. One had to open his eyes and the other needed their eyes blinded.

To have a perspective of faith there are some things you need to close your eyes to and others you need to see through eyes of goodness and hope!

When I was about sixteen years old living in Nigeria with my family, we were driving through a large city in our VW van and found ourselves in the middle of traffic, blocked in at all sides. We had no idea there was a riot going on and people with large sticks and clubs had stopped cars and were yelling and hitting and breaking windshields, AND THEY WERE COMING TOWARD OUR CAR!! Needless to say, my three brothers and I and my mom were terrified. I remember sitting in that van holding my breath while the crowd came closer and closer. My dad and mom began to pray that our van would be invisible to the crowd and that we wouldn’t have a hand laid on us. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! It was as if we didn’t exist. They went right by us yelling and shouting but didn’t even touch our van. I didn’t see any ‘army of God’ surrounding us but I’m sure He blinded those people to protect us.

My perspective in this season of life is one where I know I have to choose every day to look through eyes of goodness and faith and hope, believing that this season is going to be filled with more fulfillment and purpose than ever before. I’ve had to close my eyes to what I don’t have and open my eyes to what I do have. When I look with a renewed perspective I realize goodness is always there! Going ‘back’ is not an option. Forward in faith is what I choose.

AN UPDATE ON HOW I’VE BEEN “ENJOYING” 2019

Finding purpose and joy in this season of life.

Enjoy is my word for 2019 and I have been challenged to see the joy in every experience I have this year.

January in Florida was kind of cold and dreary but ENJOY IT I DID!  So many people come to this part of the country in January to escape the rigors of winter in the north and as a result many of our friends and relatives have come our way.  It has been fun to have coffee every Thursday morning with friends and dinner out with other friends, having the joy of catching up with them and their families.

Then in February I spent almost three weeks in that beautiful cold and snowy climate up north helping both of my kids with their families.  My son and daughter-in-law and two grandkids needed my help because mom had broken her ankle and she was not able to walk on it at all!  After helping there I went to help my daughter and son-in-law and 9 grandchildren as mom and dad and two of the kids went to Florida to a conference for 5 days.  I also had the joy of being with my mom who turned 92 during that time. I ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT ALL!

Needless to say, those three weeks flew by.  I was so busy I didn’t have much time to think about anything else AND I quickly and easily slide back into my old life of responding to the needs of those around me.   The easy thing for me is to serve…..the hard thing for me is to use my other gifts and talents and stretch myself to go beyond the familiar into the unfamiliar.  I enjoy being with my kids and grandkids and it has been hard being so far away but I also know I am right where I am supposed to be.  By the time I came back to Florida I was tired (physically) and I’d had enough of the cold and the snow and I was reminded again that my new life in this season is the one meant for me.

So, here I am being open and honest and using this blog to talk to myself (and hopefully others who find themselves in this season of life).  My word for 2019 to ENJOY is a choice and some days it has been difficult.  It’s not hard because of the weather or any hard circumstance in my life.  It’s hard because everything in this new season is still so unfamiliar.  I don’t HAVE to DO ANYTHING, which is so different for me.  Every day it is up to me to make my life purposeful and to CHOOSE TO ENJOY even in the unfamiliar.  One thing I do know is that I am determined to press forward…..forget the past……enjoy 2019 and see what my future holds. Time is precious and not unlimited. Every day is a potential open door of purpose to walk through and I don’t want to miss it because my eyes are closed.

Along this way I am going to begin to be more purposeful in sharing with you all some practical steps I will be taking to pursue this journey of finding purpose and joy in this season.  If you are finding yourself in a season of change similar to mine and are having difficulty finding your way, let me know what you are doing that is helping you navigate and I know we will benefit each other.  #ENJOY2019

MY WORD FOR 2019

Choosing a word, one word, to describe what I am anticipating for this new year is not an easy thing to do….usually.  But this year it came to me in such a simple way that I couldn’t ignore it.  

Change is always challenging and these last four years have been all about navigating a lot of changes in my life.  2019 begins year number five and as it was nearing a close in December a lightness and anticipation began inside of me.  There wasn’t any one thing I can identify that made me realize my “word” for the year but this “lightness” was so noticeable it made me pay attention to it.  The last few years I have felt the exact opposite.  A heaviness has seemed to envelope me in so many ways and affected my everyday life in a way I had never experienced before.  So feeling “light” was such a change it was easy to notice.  No one around me commented about it but it was something inside that made me realize there is a change in the air and I began to be excited about it.

Some people say it takes up to five years to begin to adjust to a lot of change and maybe that is true.  I just know that I like it….whatever it is.  I wouldn’t trade all that I have experienced, in 2018 especially.  It wasn’t the easiest year, that is for sure.  But easy isn’t always the best and I know I have benefited from the difficulties and have become a stronger, more secure person because of it.  There is good in everything….especially when you trust God with your life.  His faithfulness and goodness never ends and I experienced so much from those attributes last year.

This year I am excited to experience whatever He brings my way.  My word for the year is ENJOY! Enjoy life, enjoy God, enjoy my family, enjoy my friends, just ENJOY.  I know that isn’t deep or necessarily profound but in my practical, ordinary way it means so much to me.  God has been so good to me and I have ignored His goodness because it wasn’t what I wanted or necessarily expected.  There is so much enjoyment to be had in my everyday living and I have been one who has not taken the time to even consider enjoying them.  Well, this year is different!

So….my word for 2019 is to ENJOY EVERYTHING THAT COMES MY WAY, EVERY DAY AND IN EVERY WAY I POSSIBLY CAN!  This picture says it all!!img_8554

ARE DETOURS​ NECESSARY?

Last month was pretty crazy.  There were days when I had a really hard time seeing any good that could possibly come out of quitting a job I had begun only three months before.  I mean, what had I been thinking when I said “yes” to working again?

 I am the kind of person who wants to know the next turn well in advance.  Ms. Google (on Google Maps) has become a personal friend of mine.  She tells me what to expect next.  She lets me know when I need to keep to the left to anticipate my upcoming left turn.  She even informs me that my destination is on my right when I have been looking left and would have missed it completely.  There have been a few times when I did question her directions.  Every time that happens it’s either because there is a detour I am not aware of or she know’s a shortcut that is new to me or I entered the address incorrectly.  In other words, it is usually my fault.  Ms. Google is actually getting me to my destination to avoid trouble.

Yes, a detour is necessary.

You remember the Children of Isreal who took detours all through the desert for 40 years?  Although their grumbling and complaining kept making their journey longer and longer, God kept waiting for them to get it right.  They are the ones who made the journey longer than necessary yet He gave them the freedom to make those choices.  He knew what they needed in order to be able to go into Canaan and take the land that was rightfully theirs.  In fact, a whole generation had to die out and the next generation was the one who accomplished what God called them to accomplish.  

He was willing to let them take as many detours as they needed to in order to complete His work in them for their future.

Saying “yes” to this job was God allowing me to choose my own way.  I see it now as a detour to open my eyes to see I was already in God’s perfect plan.  Experiencing life through my choices and decisions caused me to feel what it was like trying to get to my destination on my own.  It was difficult, to say the least!

I know the Children of Israel felt like life was more difficult once they were following God but if they would have been able to spend just one day back in slavery they would have realized God was actually moving them into something even better than what they had before.

Those three months of working did that for me.  I now see my current situation as one God is using to prepare me for what is ahead.  This season of life can seem like an end but in God, there is never an end.  There is always a plan for the future.

 We are the ones that put a period at the end of a season.  God puts a comma.  And sometimes a detour is for our own good!

A MARINATING SEASON

I am in Lincoln, NE this week where I lived for 25 years and where my daughter and son-in-law and their 8 children live now and also where my 90-year-old mom decided to settle for her final years.  So, even though I moved from Lincoln to South Florida 4 years ago, I find myself back here often.  On Monday we remembered my dad who passed away 5 years ago.  I happened to spend the afternoon with my mom and she was asked to play tIMG_7840he piano (she has played by ear for a long time) for the Memory Care Center in the complex she lives.  She is living in the Independent Living side.  These patients love her piano playing and she loves playing the old hymns for them.  As she played I could see my dad standing next to her singing harmony….as they often did when he was alive.  All of a sudden I was crying….and I could hardly speak.  It totally took me off guard.  She wasn’t crying at all.  But I was a basket case.  And I am not typically an emotional person.

This season of change and transition has opened up a part of me that is very vulnerable.  I cry easily.  I laugh easily.  I feel lonely at times.  I don’t know if I particularly like this “feeling so much” me.  But, I have noticed that it has made me think of others more.  I’m not as critical as I have been in the past.  I forgive and allow for mistakes in me and others when I have always been hard on myself and others in the past.  Maybe this is a good thing.  I’m beginning to realize I will never be perfect and I can’t expect others to be perfect.  Without God’s help, I would actually be nothing!!  I’ve always known that but now I feel it!!

Maybe that is what this season is all about.…tenderizing….marinating….a time when the seasoning that comes from life’s experiences is finally getting into my spirit and making me full of flavor so God can use me more than ever before.  You know….”salt of the earth”.  Marinating takes time and tenderizing has to be beaten into you. I guess it depends on how tough your piece of meat is. God knows how much we need.

When I first arrived here in Lincoln my 7-year-old granddaughter gave me a card she had made just for me.  The front of the card read:  To: Nana   From: Tori.  She had drawn a picture of earth with a moon and stars.  When I opened up the card it read…..You will do one big thing.  She had a picture of me with a helmet on and the moon.  Of course it made me cry and laugh.  (The thought of me going to the moon made me laugh!)

The Rev. Billy Graham died this week at the age of 99 and we were all reminded that our lives will count if we just do what God asks of us and no more.  THAT ONE BIG THING!