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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.

TwoGrandmas

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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Up with Upgrades!

3 Jun

Upgrades. We all love them, don’t we? My husband flies internationally many times during the year, and with his long legs, he always is eager for an upgrade to sections of the plane with more leg room!

I saw this photo that made me think how desperate we get sometimes for an upgrade. This is one man’s attempt to upgrade while waiting to move up from his iPhone to an iPad! LOL.

I also saw an overworked computer mouse that needed a serious upgrade!

Upgrades are fun, and often a wonderful blessing. We might upgrade appliances when we remodel our homes, or upgrade our wardrobe when we lose a lot of weight.

Did you know you can upgrade something every single day?

As a midlife woman, I suddenly came to the conclusion that I had spent all of my life serving others, but needed to focus some time on much-needed changes in my own life. My appearance was a little ragged. My quiet times were a little desert-like. My times with loved ones were a little scarce.

It was time for some upgrades! I discovered that even little changes each day make a difference, and it doesn’t matter the season of life you’re in, either!

Let me give some examples:

Appearance: Making sure my hair is neat and wearing simple makeup helps. So does watching what I eat. (For me, cutting out wheat is a major change ~ but simple choices every day are still required.) Writing in appointments for the gym make a difference (when I make the choice to keep them)! I’m starting to feel like a new woman, one choice at a time!

Quiet Times: Just as in marriage, doing the same thing the same way brings a level of comfortableness, but if we’re not careful and creative, the relationship can get stale. Likewise, in my relationship with God, I don’t want my interaction with God to suffer from sameness. So I started memorizing bits of scripture, and praying them back to God. I imagined God saying many of the “red letter” parts of scripture to me personally. I put a Bible on a chair near my Quiet Time spot to remind me that the Living Word is always present with me. Simple things.

Relationships: My girlfriend Pam Farrel is such a people person; but I’m a blinders-on task-oriented person. If I’m not careful, I’ll go a whole week and not see anyone! That’s not healthy, and it certainly doesn’t contribute to building a marriage or leaving a legacy with children and grandchildren. I need to see, interact with, and serve people. I need to rub shoulders with people who don’t know Jesus, too. So I have scheduled “timer breaks” from my work to either pray for or call people, or to jot down a note about something I want to share with others. And I clear out spaces in my calendar each week to “see people” ~ lunch dates, social gatherings, church, special meetings, “dates” with a grandchild, etc.

The point is, I can do a little bit of something every single day to upgrade these weak areas (and others) that need change. Every little choice helps!

Four questions help me know how to upgrade, and I hope they’ll help you!

1. Ask: What’s Going on Now? ~ You have to see and admit where you are, what your circumstances are (your weaknesses as well as your strengths) before you can see clearly what needs to be changed. Before you can upgrade, you need to drop any pride (Proverbs 18:12) and stand humbly before God, asking Him to show you your heart attitudes and behavior as they really are.

2. Ask: What Do I want to Be Different? ~ Get specific about upgrades. You have to decide what you want to do or change before you can make any plans for progress. You might also want to clarify what you don’t want … but spend more time on what you do want to be different. Let that be your focus. (Where you place your attention is where you’re going to see the greatest benefits and blessings. )

3. Ask: Lord, Is This Something YOU Want Me to Upgrade? ~ Always check with God to be sure your goals are good, godly, wise, worthy, and in His will (biblical) ~ see Romans 8:28.  If they are, you can ask Him to help you upgrade (believing that it is possible, because He put it in your heart).

4. Ask: What Choices Am I Going to Make TODAY to Get There? ~ This is the tough part, but it’s necessary. Ignore the arguments in your mind. Eliminate the excuses. Just act … take a first step. And a next step. Take baby steps, if necessary, but get moving forward on your upgrade. The point is to make a situation or attitude better.

When you change one little thing, you may find that an entire pattern of life changes, necessitating other changes.  How fun!  (Your habit patterns got you where you are, and new habit patterns will take you somewhere else! This Replacement Principle is illustrated in Romans 12:2.) When it comes to the nitty-gritty of life, upgrades happen in day-tight, bite-sized pieces.

And the wonderful truth is, God is in the process of a major upgrade in each one of us who are in Christ! His eternity-focused upgrade goes beyond “a little bit better” to total transformation ~ He is transforming us into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:292 Corinthians 3:17-18).

When you woke up this morning, it was another day for God to work in and through you for His glory and purposes and for your eternal good. Praise Him … thank Him … cooperate with Him!

No matter your season of life … think of at least one thing you can do right now to change your life for the better (An action? An attitude?).

Consider it an adventure with God. Up with Upgrades!

Grandma’s Wisdom

10 Oct

How many of these descriptions of grandmothers sound like YOUR grandma?

  • A grandmother is a lady who has no little children of her own. (LOL!) She likes other people’s.A Hug and Kiss for Grandma
  • A grandfather is a man grandmother.
  • Grandmothers don’t have to do anything except be there when we come to see them. They are so old they shouldn’t play hard or run. It is good if they drive us to the store and have lots of quarters for us.
  • When they take us for walks, they slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars.
  • They show us and talk to us about the color of the flowers and also why we shouldn’t step on “cracks.”
  • They don’t say, “Hurry up.”
  • Usually grandmothers are fat, but not too fat to tie your shoes.
  • They wear glasses and funny underwear.
  • They can take their teeth and gums out.
  • Grandmothers don’t have to be smart.
  • They have to answer questions like, “Why isn’t God married?” and “How come dogs chase cats?”
  • When they read to us, they don’t skip. They don’t mind if we ask for the same story over again.
  • Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if you don’t have television, because they are the only grown ups who like to spend time with us.
  • They know we should have snack-time before bedtime, and they say prayers with us every time, and kiss us even when we’ve acted bad. (1)

A few weeks ago, while I (Dawn) visited my dear aunt Julia in Kokomo, Indiana, I had the wonderful blessing to return to the town where my Grandparents lived while I was a little girl. I visited a park where I caught crawdads under a famous old red covered bridge.

 Grandparents' graveI visited my grandparents’ homes ~ very old and broken down now ~ and then the cemetery where they were buried. There was just something about seeing their tombstones that brought me up short, and made me realize, once again, that someday my name will be carved on a tombstone. As my husband snapped a photo, I thought about my grandparents, and especially my Grandma Lillian Webb, nicknamed “Bill,” for some reason.

I often talk about my mom’s mom, Grandma Parks, because she was the last of the four grandparents to pass on, and she was a woman that I loved dearly. My sister Pam had the privilege of caring for her until she died.

But my Grandma Webb is etched into my memory because of the things she said. Perhaps you had a grandma like her.

I am so grateful for her influence in my life. Some things she said were the typical things that all grandmas say ~ like “Pretty is as pretty does.” But the times I remember most were the special moments when she encouraged me to live for God. I remember praying at her knee in her living room as she taught me to simply have a conversation with God like I’d have with a good, loving friend.

Grandma told me repeatedly that she was praying for me and praying for my husband who was “growing up somewhere in the world. (That is something this Grammy now does for her own grandchildren!) Grandma told me to be careful about the choices I made in life, because many of them would be hard to change, if I got them wrong. She encouraged purity and integrity, and Grandma reminded me that success comes from “acknowledging God” and obeying Him ~ not depending on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). And it was my Grandma Webb who wisely sent me the information about a Bible college in Pennsylvania when I was considering some secular ones nearer my home. It changed the direction of my life.

Grandma could be stubborn, but it was stubbornness for good. She knew God and wanted all of her family to know Him, too. She fulfilled Psalm 145:4 ~ “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” She left my sister and I a rich legacy of God-centered thinking that helped to shape our lives.  I know that I was spurred on to seek wisdom because of the wisdom I saw in my Grandma and her Bible-based perspective on life. Because of my Grandma ~ in fact, because of all my grandparents ~ I understood the steadfast love of the Lord (Psalm 103:17).

Grandma and son

Grandma and my dad

Now a Grandma myself, I’ve realized that grandmas have the potential to shape the future as they share truth with not only their children, but their precious grandchildren. They can encourage their their dreams, and point them toward the only things that matter in this life:  love of God and His Word; and love for people that causes us to reach out to serve, teach, and share the Gospel. In this way, grandmothers (and grandfathers) “bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14-15).

Do you have good memories of your Grandma? If not, was or is there a wise “Grandma” figure in your family or church who has helped to shape your life and walk with God?

Take time to thank the Lord for this precious woman ~ and if she is still alive, drop her a note to express your love and gratitude.

(1) “Grandmothers,” Cybersalt Digest, Issue #3676, http://www.cybersalt.org

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