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Learning at 65

When Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons first belted out “Oh, What a Night!”, they had no idea the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra would be hosting the Doo Wop Project Encore May 18, 2019, that I would turn 65 the next day, and that I would want to celebrate by enjoying their happy tunes.

Turning 65 has become a Medicare milestone which now forces me to check the last box on any age range. Ouch! That hurts a bit! What doesn’t hurt (well, maybe a little) is how much God is teaching me at this age. So I thought I would share what I’m learning at 65.

#1: Savor the Moment

Most of my life has been structured and planned. But lately I’ve been stopping to smell the roses, watching our backyard squirrels do their acrobatics with Mr. & Mrs. Duck waddling through, and listening to unidentified, unseen birds serenade us. Surprisingly, those moments feel meaningful. I’m finally seeing and appreciating the simpler things in life.

#2: Stretch More

Twenty years ago when our church first introduced Christian yoga, I went once and left unimpressed. But now that my joints seem to tighten with the slightest twist, it not only makes sense, it feels good. To listen to soft music and stretch after a day’s activity not only provides time to praise Jesus but also makes gardening, walking, and balancing much easier. I’m now a fan of intentional relaxation and trying something new even at 65.

#3: Revisit the Past

I tend to live toward the future, but lately it’s been important for me to resume relationships with childhood friends. All of us now being retired opened that door. It’s been fun and enlightening to meet them for lunch all over Central Indiana.  They remember things I’ve long since forgotten. Because of this, I’m motivated to write remembrances of my parents’ childhoods so that our three granddaughters will someday know their great grandparents.

God has blessed my family and me beyond measure. Stepping into this new phase of life is good for the soul, cultivating wisdom and peace that can only prepare me for the days ahead.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. . .Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Proverbs 31: 25, 30

Carried

Lately Al and I have been driving on Fridays. Not sure why, but maybe because three weeks ago, we bought a new car. So on April 5 we decided to take a road trip to our old stomping grounds in southern Indiana. There at Grandview Cemetery we decorated my parents’ grave vases with red roses from Dollar Tree.

Don’t fret! They would’ve approved the cost savings. Then we headed to Elnora’s Fairview Cemetery and blessed Al’s parents’ grave with bright orange and purple Dollar Tree specials. Again, his folks, who also grew up during the Great Depression, would have applauded our frugality.

This past Friday we headed west to Cox Plant Farm near Clayton, this time to spend money on real plants. On the way there, we listened to WGNR Moody Radio, specifically senior pastor Chris Brooks’ 1pm Equipped Radio segment featuring an interview with Dr. Rick Richardson, Professor of Evangelism and Leadership at Wheaton College.

Dr. Richardson said something hopefully I will never forget. Its truth is both radical and simple. “In all other religions, you need to climb a ladder to God. In Christianity, God sent Jesus down the ladder to carry us up.”

During this Holy Week, Christians all over the world will celebrate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that opened the door for everyone—regardless of nationality, social status, or skin color—to have eternal life with God. To confess that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, the Son of the living God, is to begin a fresh life of freedom, faith, and obedience.

What a blessing it is to know that the grave, even though embellished with Dollar Tree flowers, does not contain us!

 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  John 3:16-17, HCSB

A River Runs Through It

True or False? I have never lived farther than 10 miles from White River. At the risk of your thinking I don’t get out much, my answer is True.

While growing up in Bloomfield, Indiana, our family crossed White River frequently as it edged the town’s western perimeter. My sister and I could bike to one of its creeks where we learned to skip stones and torment frogs with stray branches.

Later I followed the river north. Although I didn’t choose Ball State University based upon its five-mile proximity to White River, I enjoyed knowing it was nearby. The only Muncie river interaction I remember involved an earth science class field trip to study how the city purified its water.

The farthest I’ve ever lived from White River came after Al and I were married and rented our first apartment near Eagle Creek Reservoir. At that location, I was approximately 10 miles from the river. Ironically that was the closest I’ve ever lived to a body of water.

When we built our first home in Decatur Township two years later, we lived five miles west of the river. In 1987, we moved to our current location in Center Grove, five miles east of the river.  When it flooded in 2008, White River and our area erupted into a news flash as homes were damaged beyond repair.

This spring White River became relevant when Al and I were introduced to its scenic four-mile round trip asphalt trail, the White River Greenway Trail, which starts at Waverly’s Old Town Park. There’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Thank you, White River, for being a continuum this side of Heaven!

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. . .” Revelation 22:1

Time Travel

Since “official” retirement in 2013, what has surprised me is how much I read again. It’s a throwback to growing up in Greene County in the 1960’s glued to the Bobbsey Twins’ escapades, and later, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries.

While working fulltime, I only read books on vacation, preferably on a beach with a cozy mystery. Now I love to read any time, during winter months while lying on the sofa with hot tea in reach, or if the weather is warm, in the patio’s wicker settee with lemon water close by.

According to the Daily Journal’s Free Time weekly listing, book clubs in Johnson County seem to be thriving. Whether we’re reading to escape or to be informed, we’re reading.

Even more surprising in this culture of electronic-everything, our nation still enjoys the printed page. In 2018, 695 million printed books were sold, the highest amount since 2010  (https://www.statista.com/statistics/422595/print-book-sales-usa/). However, I confess to reading some library books on my Kindle app because they’re quick and easy to download.

My book club, Heartland Christian Readers, started and hosted by Becky Horton, is beginning its fifth year. And I LOVE it! I especially enjoy our lively monthly discussions. Even though the eight of us live in this area, our perspectives often differ, making our time together intellectually stimulating and insightful.

We’ve covered monthly nonfiction topics about mental illness, human trafficking, and an array of famous people’s biographies. Since the first of the year, we’ve read USS Indianapolis, Angela’s Ashes, and Upstairs at the White House. I love how books are like time travel, putting us on a sinking naval cruiser during war, or in famine-starved Ireland, or in the White House during the FDR years through the Nixon administration.

As we used to tell our kids, readers are leaders.

Friends, read often!

I’m There!

Last week one of my favorite writers, who doubles as my dentist, shared his experiences from El Salvador.  Not your typical tourist, Doug Harty or Doctor Doug as Haitians call him, travels the world to provide medical and dental expertise in the name of Jesus for some of the poorest, most neglected people walking this planet.

What I most enjoy about Doug’s writing is he puts me in the moment. When I read his emails, I’m there with him. When I visit his office, I see those experiences portrayed in photographs.  

A recent email paints the picture: “I write from under a beautiful, red-blossomed tree in the clinic area.  It is 87, the sun is bright, but it feels amazing and I have had just a wonderful day!  Birds are singing, there is talk from the patients who are leaving and the drone of the students helping us in the air. They laugh, and mess around after a hard day of helping us and patients, and I am enjoying sitting back and taking all of it in.”

I’ve never been to El Salvador but through Doug’s words, I’m there. That is what I’ve always loved about reading. It takes me places I’ve never been and shares experiences I may never have. Good writers do that for their readers.

The power of the written word is just that—powerful! Don’t underestimate the impact a note, a remembrance, or even an email can make.

Winter Weary?

My writing place, a roll top maple desk inherited from my father, sits by the window in our front room. There I sit on a bright blue 55cm performance ball whose goal is to strengthen my core. The reality is that it’s great for bouncing. Many days that’s all I do there, bounce, check email and stare out the window.

The past few days the sun’s been out, hinting that spring may actually happen. However, the outdoor thermometer reader on my desk indicates, “Not today.” Our temperature? 16.1

In Central Indiana we’re still waiting for spring, aren’t we?

Actually we spend much of our time waiting, whether it’s for a sunny day, a check in the mail, the next available customer service representative, or for a red light to change. 

Yesterday I stood at a local pharmacy waiting while four behind-the-counter folks ignored me. All I needed was to pick up a z-pack of antibiotics that their text had indicated was ready. Being the godly woman that I am, I said nothing snarky while there, but when I walked into our kitchen a few minutes later, my husband Al was privileged to hear my ranting.

Waiting wears us out, doesn’t it? Have you ever considered God understands this and maybe even feels this same way at times? He would have every right to tire of waiting for us to get our act together.  Or for us to repent, acknowledge, and trust Him to carry our burdens.

God is good at waiting. Let’s join Him.

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31, HCSB

Best Yet

Last week my husband Al decided it was time to talk about my upcoming birthday. Thinking this meeting was going to be all about me, I was thrilled.

As we sat together at the kitchen table, a new reality trampled my expectations as he pulled out spreadsheets—never a good sign. Groaning, I immediately thought, “Oh no!  Budget adjustments for 2019.” Welcome to retirement world!

Instead my birthday tête-à-tête with my beloved delved into the amazing world of Medicare, where part and plan are not interchangeable. Supplements are not advantages and donut holes are not edible.

My first question: “Am I really going to be 65 this year?” Surely not!  I remember thinking my folks were old when they were in their mid-sixties. Father Time could not have thrown me into that future so quickly, could he?

In my mind, I’m mid-forties at the most. But I will admit that sometimes my body and mind don’t concur with that calculation—such as when I get out of bed in the morning and wonder how long it will take to straighten up and walk a straight line. Or when I walk into a room, look around, and wonder why I’m there. Or when I spend way too much time chasing down my phone. That little techie rascal plays hide-n-seek.

But wait a minute. I’m not complaining! I praise God that He has given me 65 years of a good life, a blessed life, in fact.  Born into a great family, being married to an amazing man, having healthy children and grandchildren. and a multitude of loving friends—I have no reason to complain. Ever!

The best part is that God sees my being 65 years old as just a blip in time. He made us to live forever.  All we need is to trust in Jesus Christ. After all, the Son of God conquered death on our behalf. Life everlasting is ours through Christ alone.

The best is yet to come.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

Hang Ten!

Twelve days ago our son, along with our daughter, son-in-law, and their two daughters, enjoyed an iconic SoCal beach. Sunshine and brisk, wake-up wind greeted us as we stair-stepped toward the waves. The tide pushed unusually inland, making it possible to study the surfers.

With the high tide, experienced surfers charged and rode the “bomb”. Most didn’t make the “fade,” the most powerful part of the wave. But as they rode the top of the wave, even for a second, we could tell they were thrilled, ready to paddle back and try again.

Facing another new year, I sense life is reflected in those waves—seasons where we ride the bombs and hang ten to maneuver, accomplishing the fade. Yet other times the waves hold us in place, a gentle escort to shore.

To survive life’s waves, may we grip tightly, “hang ten” as surfers do, and stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how high the crest.

In like a lamb, out like a lion! Even if reversed, the March weather proverb describes our year, one that began with my partial knee replacement. That transcribes as lots of rehab and taking it easy. My end goal was to hike Utah’s amazing national parks with no pain in September. That prayer came true!

But what you might not know is that I sent a book manuscript, one that had been in the works for almost a decade, to CrossLink Publishing the day before my surgery. My thought process? I figured if they rejected it, I’d still be on painkillers and wouldn’t care. Strangely enough, the same day I quit taking the meds, the publisher emailed he wanted the book.

During this time, our daughter announced she was pregnant. A few weeks later, our son and daughter-in-law shared their same surprising news. So the lion part of our year began when our second granddaughter was born September 1, the night before we hiked the Delicate Arch in Moab with only four hours sleep. Our son and his wife gave birth to our third granddaughter October 23. Fifty-three days and 1,470 miles apart, the two girls entered this world, raising our grandchild total to 3.

Three is definitely a good number! Trinity: Walk in Love, Forgiveness and Peace was locally released two weeks later, November 9. In a way, it, too, was a birth, a labor of love chronicling how God had revealed Himself to me over the past decade. Through nature, travel, deaths, weddings and births, God, in His magnificent fullness, revealed Himself by ministering to my family and me.

As another year closes, let’s take the time to reflect upon the One who loves us enough to be our Father, our Savior, and our Counselor.

Great Joy!

October 7, 2018:

As I write this, all is quiet on the home front. Our two-year-old granddaughter Elianna and her newborn sister Tirzah are both taking a nap after church. A first since the baby was born a month ago! In fact, I’m fairly certain our daughter is asleep upstairs, too.

Since Tuesday when Al and I arrived for our two-week visit, time has blurred. Thirty plus years have sped by since we had to juggle the first month of a household of two children twenty-eight months apart. Believe me, the déjà-vu fatigue is reflected in our daughter’s face while our son-in-law is trying his best to hold everything and everyone together.

Al and I remember too well that some days inevitably will be literally filled with leaking diapers, feeding, and sobbing (the last one primarily the two-year-old and the mommy). Been there, done that!

Yet this time’s it’s different! Days that seemed like an eternity in retrospect now seem to fly by. When I was a young mom alone with a baby and a toddler, it seemed like forever until Al walked through the door at 4pm. If I had time for a shower before he came home, it was a good day.

Reliving those days with my daughter and her husband, Al and I could care less when we shower (in humid Houston, it only makes sense before bedtime). Why? Because we’re eager to share “oats-honey-raisin” breakfasts and walks to the park with our gregarious and incredibly intelligent two-year-old and cuddles, coos, and silly songs with our bright-eyed, sweet grandbaby.

October 23, 2018:

Actually it was 1:45am, Wednesday, October 24, when the texting interrupted our sleep. Our daughter-in-law’s 24+ hour labor included over 3 hours of pushing. But Nysa came into this world on her terms and on Pacific Standard Time and on the exact date and day her Aunt Valerie was due 34 years ago. Calendars do repeat themselvesJ Great joy also repeats when new parents meet their first child! We have never seen Chris and Shwetha so radiant. Tired but thrilled!

We are on hold to meet Nysa and her welcoming older pet sibling LuLu as we would like her maternal grandparents to soak up the glory of their first grandchild. They’ve traveled all the way from India to enjoy her and support their only daughter and son-in-law. But we enjoyed the family text circle that kept us up until almost sunrise. Al and I felt like we were there with them. Thank God for technology because our children and theirs live so far away.

Soon we’ll all be together, and it will be a glorious celebration of three babies: Tirzah, Nysa, and Jesus, along with a two-year-old whose favorite songs are “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Who You Say I Am.” She sings the first and dances to the second.

Great JOY!

I can hardly wait until we’re all together. That is my happy place! This fall has been an explosion of baby blessings. Al and I cannot thank God enough!