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Invest in Growing Old Gracefully

29 Mar

There are more than 75 blog posts and articles using this photo of “Very Old Barbie” on the Internet (and I can’t find the original source) – but she’s obviously captured the imagination of many people.OldBarbieDoll_GrayHair_sourceUnknown

I keep thinking, “Wow! I hope I look that good when I’m Very Old Dawn!”

Besides her long silvery coiffure, Very Old Barbie has puffy eyes and wrinkles on her forehead, upper lip and neck … and charming “smile lines.” (It’s probably a good thing they didn’t show Very Old Barbie below her  shoulders.)

In these days when commercials abound for anti-aging creams, “lifts” for double chins, and “guaranteed” wrinkle removers, the focus seems to be on preserving a youthful look.

This might be tough as I get older. I already have more wrinkles than a Shar Pei!

But I’m wondering if people ever think these days about aging gracefully … or preparing to live in eternity with God? Thankfully, everything (body, soul and spirit) will be perfected for those who are in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:1-5, 17). Oh, how I am longing for that day.

My spiritual mentor, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, often says something like this: “… since I was a little girl, my goal in life has been to be a godly, old lady. I’ve always had this image of what this godly old lady looks like.”

I don’t know too many women who had such foresight as a child. But I do understand the “image” thing.

I’ve learned so much from watching my husband’s mom, Adele. We are so different, but she has inspired me for years to strive toward excellence. My own mom, Patricia, taught me the value of endurance and trusting God, even in the dark.

But going further back, I watched two precious grandmothers grow old gracefully. I wanted to be just like them.

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They demonstrated such joy and contentment as they modeled the love of  Christ. Grandma Lillian taught me to love God with all my heart; Grandma Dorothy reminded me, “Your love for God should always result in love for others.” I treasure the legacy I received from these two precious women.

In more recent years, I watched my brother-in-law’s mom, Nancy, age in God’s grace. She carried so many of my prayer burdens. Eventually, Grandma” Nancy‘s mind played tricks on her and sometimes robbed her of right Nancy_croppedForLOLpostthinking; but even then, I saw glimpses of the marvelous woman she was. “I want to be just like you in a few years,” I told her.

When she passed on to glory, we were comforted to know we’d see this same joyful, God-loving  spirit in heaven. I still miss Nancy’s precious smile and dancing eyes.

Watching all of these women, I’ve come to understand:

Aging well requires intentionality.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. And works of art require skill, an investment of time and creative effort.

I decided, long ago, to invest in my “old age.” The first thing I did was pray for wisdom.

Then I asked God to create the “Very Old Dawn” He wanted me to be. On my part, cooperating with God was all about choices. Over the years, I’ve been learning to embrace and apply the scriptures that will make me more like God’s Son, Jesus.

Some of my aging gracefully choices:

Understand … I am not perfect in choosing these things. Not at all.

But at least I have a biblical template for my choices, and overall, my choice is to partner with God in my sanctification as I follow Jesus. To decide to surrender, trust and obey. To triumph, ultimately, in godly maturity.

There is an old Hasidic saying that describes exactly how I feel about aging:

“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest.”

Every season of life is special, but this season of the harvest is so fulfilling. A precious time with opportunities to pour other women’s lives; and unique opportunities to bless my children and grandchildren and try to give them a hunger for God.

If the Lord does not return before I die, someday people will likely sit at my memorial service or funeral and consider my relatively short life (short in terms of eternity).

I hope they will say they saw something of Jesus in me. I hope they will say I numbered my days and applied my heart to wisdom. I hope they will say I lived for a Kingdom greater than any kingdom I could ever hope to build here on earth.

That would make Very Old Dawn very happy. Better still, I think that testimony would please my Father God.

It will be worth the investment!

How about you? No matter your physical age right now, how are you investing today in your old age? Do your investments count for eternity?

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Legacy Takes More than a Light Switch Plate

6 May

In 1939 and again in 1964, Westinghouse buried some time capsules with some common and some rather odd contents:   a deck of cards, a bikini, a Polaroid camera, a Bible,  a Beatles record, a child’s Mickey Mouse cup, credit cards, a copy of the sci-fi magazine “Amazing Stories” in microfilm form, etc.

You can probably guess which items belonged in each capsule ~ but you’d be wrong if you put “Bible” in the 1939 capsule.

Would you have added these things in time capsules?

Time capsules are all about passing on information about today to someone in the future.

I recently saw a “Light Switch Time Capsule that got me thinking. The author of the post, Sean Michael Ragan, said, “I get nostalgic when I move out of a home, especially if it’s one I’ve lived in awhile. Leaving a secret treasure or two stashed here and there, seemed to help me get closure.” Instead of dropping a note in the wall (as some have done), Sean wrote a message on the back of a standard light switch plate.

The switch plate had a note on the back to tell all future home owners a little about the previous home owner’s history in the home. This particular person’s story was a little depressing, actually, as he described some of his personal choices. But there is something in each of our hearts that wants to pass on information to others about what we think is important, or information about how to deal with things in the future.

As a Christian woman, I want to leave a legacy; I want to be sure my family knows what I think is important (God, His Word, and serving the Lord) ~ but it will take a lot more than a simple light switch time capsule to pass on that information.

So where can I “leave” my legacy information (my time capsules*) to make a real difference?

First, I can leave a legacy in my history  (or heritage). I can leave my children and grandchildren photos and family tree information, special recipes and keepsakes ~ sharing cultural traditions and some of the family history that made me the person I am, including my Christian heritage.

The Israelites left memorial stone altars for future generations. For example, they made a mound of stones after crossing the Jordan River on dry ground (Joshua 4:1-8), and later, when people asked the meaning of the stones, they talked about the faithfulness of God in caring for His people.

I’ve told my children about Christians in their background who ministered as preachers and missionaries and faithful servants of God in their churches. They need to know they have a godly heritage, and that they can trust in the Lord for their future (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Second, I can leave a legacy in the hearts of each of my children and grandchildren. I can write truth on their hearts. I can spend time getting to know the unique personalities and needs of each one, and perhaps tailoring some biblical information (or counsel, when asked) to help them deal with things in their lives or the future.

Proverbs 1:8 says, “Listen my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” This assumes that we are instructing and teaching.” We are to faithfully teach our children and grandchildren about the love and righteousness of God (Psalm 103:17-18).

Third, I can leave a legacy in my “handbook,” my copy of the Word of God. I want to leave them notes in my personal Bibles that they can read in the years to come, if they so choose.

Everything else ~ all material goods ~ will fall apart or whither away, but the Word of God will endure forever (Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35), and it is timeless and relevant for my family’s future needs and direction. I want them to understand that the scriptures “worked” for me. They comforted and counseled me in times of need, and they were a steady resource. The Word is alive and powerful! (Hebrews 4:12)

Fourth, I can leave a legacy in my home. I might write words of wisdom on items in my home, that they will read (and perhaps want) after I am gone. I think of the Israelites’ mezuzahs by their doorposts ~ small parchments inscribed with a short version of their Torah. It’s original purpose was to help the Jews remember the presence and commands of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 9).

While I think it’s more important that God’s Word is inscribed on our hearts, it certainly can’t hurt to have home decorations that remind us of who God is and what He is doing in our lives. And these works of art ~ plaques, paintings, sculptures, etc. ~ can be passed down to our family members.

I will need to be proactive and intentional about all of this “leaving,” of course. In the busyness of life, I must make time to remember legacy or it won’t magically happen.

What do you do to pass on family traditions and the truth of the Word of God? Where else might I leave some legacy information?

* Just for fun:

At your next family reunion, create a time capsule of family memories. Ask each guest at the reunion to bring an object they feel represents their current interests or something about the culture at that time. Seal and wrap the time capsule, and save it for the next reunion!

What’s in Your … Bible?

16 Jul

A little boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the Grandma's Bibleold pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages.

‘Mum, look what I found,’ the boy called out.

‘What have you got there, dear?’

With astonishment in the young boy’s voice, he answered, ‘I think it’s Adam’s underwear!’ *

It’s truly amazing what people find in old Bibles.

There are lots of stories, mostly legends, about people finding money hidden between the pages of hotel Gideon Bibles, family Bibles, and “found” Bibles ~ sometimes with a message about how to use the money.

I (Dawn) opened a relative’s old Bible and found a piece of a wedding dress, a bank calendar, a Farm Bureau notepad, and a phone number jotted inside the cover that’s only five numbers long! I saw a friend’s Bible that was filled with all sorts of meaningful poems and even some greeting cards ~ no doubt special to my friend.

My Titus 2 Friend, Nancy, told me one day that she still has a poem in her Bible that  I wrote for her after her husband passed away. You never know what people might slip between the onion-skin pages.

I laugh at the Capital One Vikings commercials on television that end with the words, “What’s in Your Wallet?” But today I am asking you, “What’s in Your Bible?”

Dawn's Open BibleYou may have sermon notes, poems, quotations ~ many things ~ but at the very minimum (and how can this be “minimum”?), you really have a library of history, prophecy, valuable messages, and a “good news” love note from Father God.

Perhaps you have jotted down dates that are important turning-points for you, or when you began to pray for something dear to your heart. Maybe you’ve used colored pencils or a special pen to highlight scriptures.

If you are like me, you’ve scribbled  Continue reading

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