Growing Old Gracefully

When the class with the above title was announced at our church and the teacher is everybody’s favorite older woman, Shirley, I signed up. I’ve never been a particularly graceful person, so I thought, hey, maybe I can do this aging thing gracefully. You know, finish well, not trip over the finish line, stick the landing.

My youngest grandson after achieving new heights. Looks like he stuck the landing.

Not that I feel old, I typically don’t. That is probably aided by the fact that my mom, who is 91, lives with us, so I am the youngest person in the house. She has demonstrated aging gracefully and has also let me in on some of the challenges of aging. This class combined with my mom’s fine example would be beneficial.

Last Wednesday, for the first of the three sessions, Shirley covered, or I should say taught us about, our aging bodies. (The next two sessions will cover spirit and soul, as we are made up of three parts.) I am a woman in her sixties, so I am painfully (no pun intended, I just can’t help myself) aware that there is something of a decaying nature going on. That is verified in 2 Corinthians 4:16 – “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Eyesight starts going south around age 40. Some of my joints let me know when the weather is changing. And worst of all Alexa (our Echo) has begun to get confused by my commands to her. I have wondered if I’m slurring my words, but I’m also working on the theory that our Alexa is getting old, too. Perhaps Amazon wants me to upgrade her and they built that into her system. But I digress. People were designed to age, but we are also charged with stewarding the body that God has given us. In other words, we aren’t supposed to aid the deterioration that’s going on in our bodies, we are supposed to care for and strengthen them.

I don’t know about you, but I need reminders to do the things which I am supposed to do. The Bible does repeat itself a lot. I think that is because we tend to forget or become distracted. God knows that’s how we operate, so I’m thankful for the repetition.

Three days before that first class, I started feeling a twinge of pain on the lower lid of my left eye. The twinge became a pang. The pang became a pain. By the Wednesday meeting I had a sty the size of Rhode Island. And it was an angry sty – the kind that could scare small children, but I went to the meeting anyway. There would be no small children to frighten at that meeting.

By Thursday I had officially named the sty Rhode Eyeland. I figured if my entire body represented the 48 contiguous states, then my left eye was probably that size. When I saw the ophthalmologist on Friday, he said it was the largest he had seen in quite some time and added that it was “a dandy.” I told him I figured I’d go big or go home. Of course, when you have a sty the size of Rhode Island, you tend to want to stay home.

Dena (my daughter) and I caught up with each other on the phone on Friday afternoon. I had already sent her a picture of my eye when it was at its worst because she’s into gross things like that. In case you know Dena, you will understand why I made her give me her most excellent promise not to share that picture with anyone. To the best of my knowledge, she’s been true to her word.

She is also an encourager. She told me she was proud of me for going to, what she calls, the aging class.

Two things come to mind here:

  1. It’s kind of weird but okay I guess that she tells me she’s proud of me. I thought that was my job to be proud of her and her brothers, and I am, but whatever…
  2. I didn’t really care for the name Aging Class, but again, whatever…

I told her that one of the great things about being older is that you can go out looking like I did and it’s okay (except for frightening small children). Also, if I were to go anywhere with Rhode Eyeland, the aging class was the place to go. We don’t tend to major on that kind of thing. We have much bigger fish to fry than an eye with a sty.

Image result for free picture of a pig sty

I had to include a picture of a sty for you. This one’s not nearly as messy as the one on my eye, which is doing much better with drops from the doctor. Photo Credit: freepik.com

Easter Weekend – Resurrection Day

Luke 24:1-3 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24: 5-6a In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

 

Photo Credit: crosswalk.com

He is risen indeed! Happy Resurrection Day!

 

This is Post #21 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

Easter Weekend – Saturday

Matthew 27:62-64 – The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

Waiting for Sunday.

 

This is Post #20 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

Easter Weekend – Good Friday

Easter Weekend begins with the most somber of days, Good Friday. This is the day that Jesus gave his life for us on a cruel cross.

Luke 23:44-46 – It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica

But this was just Friday. Sunday was coming.

 

This is Post #19 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

The Perfect Ten

My daughter, her four kids, and their dog arrived late last night. I didn’t expect to get any blog ideas from them this soon, but that was silly of me.

I have become accustomed to a rather quiet start to my day, but I happily throw that out the window when grandchildren are around. Ten-year-old Jett was the earliest riser and we enjoyed a chat before I had even downed my first cup of coffee. Of course, I’m not sure how coherent I was, but Jett picked up the slack and kept the conversation moving.

We discussed everything from villains and heroes to the states of matter. Jett likes science and excels at math. Personally, I think he will become an engineer. I recognize that gifting and love to see his creative mind in action, but we’ll see. He likes to write, too, so the world is his oyster.

Soon the rest of the family gathered. One of his sisters said, “Oh, my gosh,” in response to something. The end of the statement kind of dropped off, so her mom (Dena) reminded her how much that sounds like, “Oh, my God.”

“You don’t want to take the name of the Lord in vain,” Dena said.

 

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” – Exodus 20:7

 

The breakfast conversation turned to the Ten Commandments – not the movie, the actual Ten from Exodus.

Image result for free pictures of the ten commandments

We talked about what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain. It means say it in jest or take his name lightly. It was a great conversation.

And then Dena broke out in song. She and her brother sang The Perfect Ten as part of a program that our church children’s choir performed quite a few years ago. She breezed through nine out of ten commandments before she got stumped. We had to look up #10 and remind ourselves not to covet.

Here’s the video of the song for your enjoyment. It’s still as helpful as ever.

 

By the end of the conversation, I think Jett was catching on. He doesn’t want to take God’s name in vain or use it lightly. “Well,” he said, “I guess from now on, I’ll just say – Oh my Gollum.”

There you have it. You never really know if you’re getting through to kids, but it sure is interesting trying.

 

 

This is Post #17 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Brings You to your Knees?

There are moments when there’s nothing to do but be silent, watch, and pray. As Notre Dame was burning and firefighters were valiantly fighting the flames, the world watched in sadness.

 

Prayers and tears from Parisians and visitors alike from the banks of the Seine as flames pour from Notre Dame (Photo Credit: Yoan Valat/EPA)

 

I visited Paris in 2013 and we toured Notre Dame. She was more magnificent than I could have imagined. Yes, she – Notre Dame is referred to as Our Lady of Paris. She reminded me of an anchor for the city. She sat in silent beauty beckoning us to come. Her outer beauty was astonishing – her inner beauty even more so. The history of the church was everywhere inside of her. She begged us to worship God.

I’ve been in cathedrals all over Europe. Some felt more like a museum. Some felt empty. Some brought me to my knees.

During this Holy Week, I will be reflecting on what brings me to my knees. On what makes me stop and worship God or stop to pray. On what makes me thankful for all He has done. On the church and how it is not simply a building. And I’ll remember the people in Paris who call Notre Dame their church. I’ll remember that to them she is more than an amazing cathedral – she is their home church.

The word today is that Notre Dame will be rebuilt. Many artifacts and relics have been saved. Nobody was hurt. There is much to be thankful for. Jesus has been in the process of building his church since he went to the cross. I’ll reflect on that, too. Won’t you join me?

 

Notre Dame – photo taken in 2013

 

This is Post #16 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

Words

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, it’s time to pack up.”

I was preparing to put away my many Christmas decorations, when I made the above statement out loud. It made me stop in my tracks. I wasn’t swearing, I was talking to my manger scene. I’d never talk inappropriately in front of Baby Jesus. I wasn’t thinking of the beauty of Christmas and the blessings of the season. I was missing Christmases gone by and looking at the work involved with packing it all up until next Christmas. I was contemplating which grandchild might want which thing when they start their own households and wondering when I would start to streamline my decorating. That’s the context from which I uttered that weird, easily misunderstood sentence.

It served to snap me out of it as I laughed out loud at myself and wondered if Bob or my mom had heard me. I’m guessing they did not because nobody came in to see if I was drinking heavily while dismantling Christmas decorations. (I wasn’t.)

The letdown after the holidays is real. We go from shiny and bright accompanied by cookies, candy, and company to ordinary life without the twinkling lights. Returning to the normal of pre-Thanksgiving is lackluster. Plus, it gets dark so early – even in Florida! But I was ready to get my house back to normal. I was even ready to vacuum all the mess from taking the tree down. I just wasn’t ready to be productive. I wasn’t ready for those January fresh starts.

That’s why I don’t do them. For me, every year is 13 months. It starts January 1 and ends January 31 of the following year. That allows me to be fairly guilt-free in January. I use January to put away Christmas, organize, vacuum, and nap. I also use it to think and pray about projects, especially writing projects, all this while consuming the leftover Christmas sweets. It’s very effective.

I should say mostly effective. The downside of eating the leftovers, is multifaceted. The thing I notice first is that I am down – my outlook, not my weight. I know the sugar has negative effects, and it pushes me lower. (Not to worry, though, it’s almost all gone.)

So, until I can once again think with a non-sugar-coated mind, how do I snap out of being so melancholy?

I do what I always told my kids and grandkids to do. I use my words. I talk to God. I talk to Bob. I talk to friends.

My big thing this year was that I felt like I had used up all my encouragement and every word swimming around my head about myself sounded like condemnation. I was tearing myself down. I asked God for encouragement to get me moving. I didn’t want to stay in that negative, self-absorbed place listening to lies of the enemy. I was tired, too, so that made it worse. But God is always faithful.

The next day I spent part of my morning quiet time with God just being thankful – specifically for the way that people in my life have encouraged me in the past. I named names (for instance, Vanessa). I remembered. Gratefulness is powerful. The fog started lifting, but I kept my fog lights on. I know how this works. Sometimes you drive in and out of fog before it’s really gone. But there was a breakthrough, which brought more thankfulness.

Letter of EncouragementIn the afternoon mail a letter came for my mom. She read it and gave it to me saying it really was more for me than for her. It was from a woman whom my mom had met through my dad. Dad was in WWII. He was a gunner in the Pacific theater. The men he flew with became his wartime family.

Years after the war, Dad started contacting all the men from his crew. He found out about their current lives and made a newsletter featuring each man and his family. He’d mail it out to the crew and keep their friendship alive. It was not unusual for me to find pictures of children and grandchildren from this group sitting on Dad’s desk. He and mom visited many of them throughout the country after retirement. To say this was special would be an understatement.

You may remember that my dad died in 2017. He was the last of his B-29 crew. I always thought it was fitting that he was last. God used him to keep them in touch with each other.

The letter was from a woman named Mabel. I remembered her husband’s name from Dad’s stories. Mabel was writing to tell my mom that she was reading my book, Always Look for the Magic, and couldn’t put it down. She said she could picture my dad as she read it and she was enjoying laughing along with his antics. She wanted to thank me for writing it. She requested that I send her a card with my autograph on it for her to paste inside the book so she could keep it. She also said she hoped I would write more books.

Well, I was flabbergasted. This sweet woman, who is probably around 90 years old, took the time to write such a beautiful encouragement as part of her correspondence to my mom. She certainly inspired me, not only to write but to take more time encouraging others.

Encouragement is food for the soul. When was the last time you received encouragement out of the blue? How about the last time you gave it? Writing it down and sending it to someone gives them something that lasts. I’m hoping that comes back in style. I think we should fill our January with uplifting words to people. Don’t you?

By the way, if you haven’t ordered my book yet and would like to, click on the picture of it on the right. Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Carving courtesy of my son-in-law

I find it strange to wish someone a happy Thanksgiving, yet I do utter those very words. What am I saying? Have a happy day on Thanksgiving? Find happiness in giving thanks? Or maybe, as John Wayne would say, “Take ‘er easy there, pilgrim?” Perhaps all three sum up my greeting – just something to chew on while you’re gnawing on that turkey leg. (more…)

Artie and Tommy are Together Again

Writing my book, Always Look for the Magic, started out as an exercise to keep memories alive, to keep those stories that my dad told from disappearing. It turned out to be much more than that for me as I wrote and edited. It became a connection with my parents and their families before me. Especially Tommy (my Uncle Tom).

Uncle Tom passed into Heaven last month. My dad, Arthur, the big brother, has been there since last October. It is a comfort to know they are together again.

I grew up in Maryland and lived close to tons of relatives on both sides of the family. My parents grew up across the street from each other, so everyone knew everyone else. When I was six, we moved from the Baltimore area an hour away to near Andrews Air Force Base where my dad worked. I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point, Uncle Tom, Aunt Audrey, and their three kids moved our way. We saw them a lot.

I know that as a kid I didn’t appreciate what was being built by those times together. It may have looked like eating dinner, playing badminton in the backyard, an epic game of Monopoly, or listening to the more musically inclined jamming in the basement; but it was family building blocks. Blocks of time that knitted us together.

Now we are all over the country. My three siblings and I and those three cousins all live in different states. Different regions, too. We don’t see each other often – in some cases it’s been over a decade.

Arthur and Tom, 1930

My cousin, Mark, and I have kept in contact more due to the fact that we both had our dads living with us and both had the privilege of being with them during those last days and weeks. We understood each other. It was comforting.

How does it work when you haven’t lived near each other in over forty years, that you can talk like best of friends? It works really well. For us, it’s aided by the fact that our dads both were Christians and we are, too. But I also know that somewhere deep in the foundations that were built when we were young, there was always a bridge to family. It’s like a draw bridge that you can lower and reach out to each other across the miles whenever you need to make the connections. It’s amazing.

I had a texting conversation with my cousins that lasted nearly two hours. We sent each other pictures and reconnected where necessary. We joked around and made fun of each other. I laughed and I cried. What a gift!

As a tribute to my Uncle Tom, I want you to know that he was a truly wonderful uncle. When Bob and I moved my parents into our house last September, he was on the phone to me with unsolicited (but good) counsel. “Bonnie, it’s not easy living with old people,” he told me.

I’m not sure if that was a quote that he picked up from my cousin when they moved under the same roof or if down in his basement he kept an even older person than his 88-year-old self, but I appreciated his call.

“Remember,” he warned, “it’s your house. You don’t need to change everything for them.”

Hum, I wondered, what had it been like for my poor cousin and uncle during their transition? I’ll be sure to never ask!

“Also, my brother can be difficult,” he added.

Can’t we all!

After my dad died, Uncle Tom called my mom about three times a week to check on her. They had been like best friends/siblings growing up together. They shared their love for the Baltimore Orioles and music and, of course, my dad.

As my father’s hearing reached the point that made telephone calls difficult, Uncle Tom and Mom did most of the communicating, especially during baseball season. Uncle Tom would call and complain about the Orioles or they’d relive the highlights of a victory.

Two of my own sons are Oriole fans like their grandmother and uncle. Eleven years ago, our son Jesse was growing concerned that his grandmother had not been to Camden Yards since its opening in 1992, so we made it happen.

Of course, we took Uncle Tom with us to the ballgame. This was the first up-close-and-personal experience that Jesse had with his great-uncle. It was love at first sight as Uncle Tom let Miguel Tejada have it for messing up at shortstop – standing up and booing him and telling anyone who would listen that the Orioles should get rid of him (in so many words). Since my dad was more of a fan-by-marriage, Jesse had never experienced a rabid Oriole fan of the male persuasion. It made his day.

What a fond memory that is for me – four generations at the iconic ballpark bonding over the Baltimore Orioles.

More important than his love for the Orioles, he was a prayer warrior and vocal about his walk with Jesus. I liked the way he referred to my dad as his big brother. I also can’t forget hearing him call his two sons “the beauties.” He was always part of my life whether near or far. I will miss him.

Where Did My Funny Go?

“I lost a little of my funny over the past year, but that’s okay.” This is a quote from someone very dear to me. I can also relate to it as I’ve had the very same experience. Life is not all roses and cat videos. It’s not all amazing trips and book releases. In between all of those things is the hard stuff. Suffering. Death. Unemployment. Injustice. Frogs that jump and make you scream. (I had to lighten things up a little!)

If you happen to write a humor blog like I do, that can add to the challenge. What do I do when the lighter side of things is hidden behind dark clouds? When I just want to go to bed and sleep until the funny comes back? When I’m tempted to retreat?

One thing I’ve learned. I’m not alone. There are always people who can relate and understand. There are always those who can’t yet.

So today I thought I’d remind you to be on the lookout for opportunities to look up. Personally I know where my help comes from. I know where the light comes from – or I should say I know who the light is. My help comes from The Lord. I hope you’ll see him as your help, too.

I have experienced something that I want to share with you. It’s joy. Joy through tears. Joy through sorrow. Joy when I don’t know where I’m going but I know who is guiding me. Over the past month as I’ve taken some walks with Jesus (literal walks), I’ve found my smile in the most unusual times. I’ve always had laughter come easily, but sometimes, along with my funny, I’ve found my smiles have faded. But I have experienced joy welling up in the form of smiles when I’m all alone. When I think of someone I love. When I witness life in front of my eyes. When I am grateful. That’s amazing to me.

So if you are finding your funny a little elusive, don’t give up. Look up. I hope you have a joyous day.

I always get a kick out of this picture. Even monkeys need to keep hydrated.