“Don’t Call Me Spry”

It’s a shock to the system when you realize someone thinks of you as “old.”

For me, it happened when a fast-food cashier rang up my order with a senior discount—and I was only 50.

For Win Couchman, it happened when she ran into an old friend who commented, “You’re so spry!” “Spry” was a “compliment reserved for exclusively for old people.”

As the shock of this well-meant statement brought Win to tears, she began to consider aging.

I am at the young end of old: junior-high old. Youth is gone and now, also, middle age. My life at sixty-four is rich, adventurous, blessed, and full of joy (p. 2).

I am not only wrinkling. I am growing. And while I am forgetting some things, I am learning much that is new. This season of my life is as fearsome and exciting as turning fourteen. Nobody told me it would be this way (p. 3).

She decided to investigate “what it means to grow old” from the Bible, culture, the examples of older people in her life (“Not everything I learned from Grandmother about aging was glamorous, but all of it was valuable” [p.84]). She wanted to “notice and enjoy the perks that come with old age” (p. 4).

The results of her study and contemplation is “Don’t Call Me Spry”: Creative Possibilities for Later Life.

Win noted, “The halves of my life each merit my attention. The tension between the material and spiritual aspects of reality are normal. The struggle is to keep a balance: to live in light of the unseen while resetting the washer from ‘permanent press’ to ‘delicate fabrics.’ In order to live for God’s glory and not lose heart, I have the perspective of the eternal as a gift” (p. 4).

In their fifties, Win and her husband, Bob, began to pray and consider what to do when he retired. For many years, they had hosted a ministry called Forever Family which combined hospitality, mentoring, counseling, and teaching. But they were sensing maybe the time had come to do something different.

Through a series of events and contacts, the door eventually opened for them to minister in a variety of other countries eight months out of the year. They enjoyed the novelty and the opportunities to minister, resulting in some never-to-be forgotten experiences.

But they also experienced stresses with travel and continual adjustments, and they handled them differently. She liked to talk things out when stressed or anxious; he withdrew and became quiet. I’m sure those tendencies were always a part of their personalities, but these new experiences brought them to the forefront and required them to meet each other half-way.

Bob’s retirement brought other stresses and adjustments, like sharing space that she had previously had to herself.

Then new stresses arose when Win developed a heart issue which brought not only their international travel to a close, but their full-time active ministry as well. She had to rethink what she could do within her new reality. “It grieved me to give up thinking I could do anything anyone even a generation or two younger than I can do” (p. 45).

It saddened me to give up the illusion that I could always push myself a bit more if I needed to, that pushing was the thing to do. I could no longer be casual about getting too tired. I was newly aware of another true separation between me and those who are younger (p. 46).

She tells how God led her to other types of ministry, mainly mentoring, prayer, being involved with her grandchildren. She still taught and spoke on a limited basis.

One of my favorite chapters is “The Downside,” dealing with some of the negative aspects of aging. “When you ask me how I am, sometimes it is a little hard to know how to answer” (p. 107).

But even though Win describes herself as a pessimist, overall the book is hopeful and positive. The Bible assures that God’s care and love and grace will always be with us. In addition:

As I have looked repeatedly into the mirror of these verses, I have not only been provided with new assurance of God’s caring for me, but I have a greatly enhanced concept of the possibility of lifelong usefulness (p. 136).

While searching for more information about Win, I came across this video of her.

I had not heard of Win before until I read a chapter by her in The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength compiled by Leslie Leyland Fields. I didn’t discover until recently that her chapter, “The Grace to Be Diminished,” originally came from a magazine here. Then I found her poignant article, “The Beds I Have Known,” about living separately from her husband of 72 years when she could no longer care for him. I saw somewhere that she had written this book, so I searched for it. It’s out of print, but I found a used copy in good condition for $5 at Amazon.

I am glad to have found and read it. It gave me much encouragement as I look ahead.

“At least I’m still good for something.”

When we first moved my mother-in-law over 2,000 miles to live in an assisted living facility near us, we would have her over for dinner sometimes, take her to my youngest son’s basketball games, and take her to church and other outings.

At one dinner, a favorite family story came up. Some years ago, my mother-in-law inadvertently said something inappropriate, using a term with double meaning of which she was unaware. Everyone laughed because they knew she hadn’t meant it in the way people would take it today. The incongruity of such a thing coming from her made it all the more funny.

As we told the story to our kids, who had either not heard it before or had forgotten it, we all laughed, even my mother-in-law.

After the laughter died down, though, she quietly said, “At least I’m still good for something.”

I don’t know if anyone else heard her say it or caught the significance. But her sentence went like an arrow to my heart. She wasn’t complaining or blaming anyone, but she didn’t feel useful any more.

When we first moved her into assisted living, my husband told her, “You’ll never have to cook to clean again.” That sounded pretty good after 70 or years of those activities.

Her only hobby was reading, and she delighted in being able to read all day to her heart’s content. She had always been a homebody, and just going to meals three times a day with a room full of other people taxed her. When aides would knock on her door to see if she wanted to go see the musicians, the magicians, the church choir, or whomever, she politely declined.

I don’t think she was discontent with her circumstances. But we all want to feel we’re of use in the world. There is a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure when we’ve accomplished something, but she didn’t have anything to accomplish any more.

In “The Grace to Be Diminished,” Win Couchman wrote of turning 80 and having to give up driving, changing from their usual place in the balcony at church to a place on the main floor where they didn’t have to fear falling, her husband’s hearing loss and short-term memory loss which caused him to be “silent and isolated at social functions.” But the “diminishment” that particularly touched my heart was when “one of the women who coordinates the potlucks called me and said with winsome authority, ‘Win, enough already. You have been involved with these evenings for about twenty years now, I think. You have done your bit. We want you and Bob to be at every one, but you are not to bring any more food, you hear?'”

Only then did I realize how the slowness with which I function now, and the accompanying late afternoon fatigue, was beginning to color my anticipation with some dread.

Gladly I responded, “Okay.” It’s awkward to walk into someone’s house on potluck Saturdays empty-handed just as another couple arrives loaded with goodies. In that moment, I silently look to God for the grace to be diminished.

Win and her husband, and I am sure my mother-in-law as well, graciously accepted the decline that comes with age, knowing that:

 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).

Yet I think we should be careful not to diminish them unnecessarily.

In Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Happens in the End, he writes of a woman who was responsible for her father’s care when he could no longer live alone. Yet her desire to keep him safe culminated in his living in a small room with nothing to do, “safe but empty of anything [he cared] about” (p. 109). 

What touched off this train of thought today was a section in Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset, the sixth and last in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series. Mr. Harding was the main character in the first book, The Warden. Now, in the last book, he has become very old and increasingly feeble. He used to love to play the violincello, but can’t manage it any more. “He had encountered some failure in the performance of the slight clerical task allotted to him, and the dean had tenderly advised him to desist.” He loved going to the cathedral every day, to listen to the organ, read a theology book, or just walk around. But his feebleness caused his fearful housekeeper to write to his daughter, who came to encourage him that perhaps his days of walking alone to the cathedral might need to come to an end. He replied, “I do not like not going;—for who can say how often I may be able to go again? There is so little left, Susan,—so very little left.”

That line was heartbreaking—that there was so little left. Eventually Mr. Harding made peace with the fact that God had given him a good life and he had a better one to look forward to. He found the “grace to be diminished” and decline.

Another line in Gawande’s book says, “Making life meaningful in old age…requires more imagination and invention than making them merely safe does” (p. 137).

Hindsight is always so much clearer, of course, but I wish I had made my mother-in-law’s life more meaningful. When she was still able, I wish I had thought of small tasks she could do to help with meals. Cooking had been her love language of sorts. Though we thought we were honoring her by doing for her, perhaps she would have felt more useful with a way to contribute. I could have made a project of putting her photos in albums with her. I did ask about her early life—high school, how she met her husband, etc.–and even learned some things I hadn’t known before. But I wish I had done that more. Although our visiting almost every day and then bringing her home for her last years showed how much we regarded her, I wish I had often told her that we loved her and were happy to have the opportunity to care for her. Though she had intrinsic value as a being created in God’s image, we should have let her know more often that she was valued and important.

As I look ahead to growing older, a couple of passages especially comfort me. One is Isaiah 46:4: “even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”

Another is Psalm 92:12-15:

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

During my mother-in-law’s last years, when she slept most of the time, I wondered what kind of fruit she was bearing in that state. A few came to mind. Her godly life—not perfect, but steadily walking with God and seeking to serve Him the best she could in her circumstances. Her uncomplaining patience. Her taking things with humor. Her willingness to “go with the flow.” Her testimony of peace and joy before her caregivers.

I wish these things had come to mind when she wondered what she was “good for.” I trust her Lord’s, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” assured her that He was able to use her in many ways. And I hope that these thoughts will remind me to let others know the ways God used them in my life.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

The Middle Matters

I’ve often thought that the “middle-aged spread” refers not to an expanding waistline, but to the number of years we claim middle age. Because what’s next after middle age? Old? Elderly? We need some designation between the middle and the end.

At any rate, even though I’m on the far side of middle age, Lisa -Jo Baker’s book caught my eye when it was on sale for the KIndle app: The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You. I had heard Lisa Jo’s name but never read her, and I’ve not often seen books for this stage of life.

Lisa-Jo discusses the impact of our middle years in eight areas: our bodies, marriage, parenting (which gets two chapters), our homes, failures, friendship, and faith. “Discusses” is probably too formal a word. Each topic is addressed in three to seven essays. Lisa-Jo writes in a breezy chatting-with-girlfriends style.

It’s hard to summarize a series of essays, so I’ll just give you some samples.

One of my favorite chapters is “When You Think Your Love Story Is Boring.” The epigraph of this chapter comes from a teenager quoted in Huffington Post who feels her love life will never be adequate “until someone runs through an airport to stop me from getting on a flight.” Lisa-Jo shares many examples of love demonstrated in the everyday rather than the once-in-a-lifetime grand gesture.

He lays down his life, and it looks like so many ordinary moments stitched together into the testimony of a good man who comes home to his family driving the old minivan, the one with the broken air-conditioning (p. 40).

And this is a love life: to live each small, sometimes unbearably tedious moment… together. To trip over old jokes and misunderstandings. To catch our runaway tongues and tempers and tenderly trust them to the person who now knows firsthand our better and our much worse (p. 41).

He’s never run through an airport for me. But he goes to Walmart at 9: 30 p.m. for back-to-school supplies that we’ve had all summer to get and of course have left till the last minute. When he walks into the living room at 11: 00 p.m. with bags full of the obligatory red, green, yellow, and blue folders and all the million pre-sharpened number-two pencils, it’s the sexiest thing I’ve seen all week (p. 41).

Another chapter that I loved told of a joyous night with Lisa-Jo’s daughter’s triumph in a school program. When Lisa-Jo looked at the photos taken that evening, first she saw the joy. Then, looking more closely, she noticed a picture of her “generous muffin top bulging over her jeans as she presses up next to her daughter” (p. 26). Instead of being embarrassed or deleting the photo, she decided “There was too much happiness to ever diminish it by worrying about waistlines” (p. 26).

In “What You Don’t Know About Parenting,” Lisa-Jo tells of a time her daughter was in another program, where she struggled with what Lisa-Jo thought was pre-program jitters which would be fine once the performance started. But her daughter had full-blown stage fright, tears streaming as she danced her part. Lisa-Jo struggled with indecision as to the best course of action—sweeping her daughter off the stage or letting her finish. “I don’t know if we can ever actually protect our kids from their own fears. Maybe all we can do is show them how brave they are to face them” (p. 90). After the program was over and everything settled down, Lisa-Jo called her mother-in-law to pour out her heart.

And as mothers have always done, she listened and loved me and then encouraged me with the deep understanding born of her own lifetime of learning what you don’t know by simply walking through it. This is what we mothers do for each other—we offer our own failures as proof that our sisters and daughters, our nieces and grands, will make it through the perilous journey of mothering too. Because no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, nothing can prepare you for the fall you weren’t expecting (p. 91).

When heroes fall, Lisa-Jo wants her children to know, “fame is not where we go when we’re looking for something to believe in. Neither is the pulpit nor the soccer field, nor the stage nor the movie studios, for that matter. . . . power and influence and fame can be a slippery, lying slope” (p. 95).

When her son wants to race in the Olympics:

When they ask you if you believe that they’ll make their way to the Olympics someday, what do you—that mother behind the steering wheel who can’t see the future—tell your son?

Do I really want to be the anchor here holding him back? How do I cheer for him while also being a plumb line for truth? (p. 163).

Concerning a twice-monthly potluck hosted at her home: “Some weeks I look forward to it. Some weeks I’m exhausted at the thought of it. But we just keep opening the door no matter how we feel” (p. 136).

A couple more quotes:

Sometimes friendship is a deep conversation. Sometimes it’s a shared ugly cry. But sometimes friendship is the gift of not being afraid of silence (p. 204).

I don’t have easy answers to the hard questions, whether they’re on the news or coming from your doctor or your kid’s teacher or your coworker or a dear friend. I have only the hope of a hand in mine. The hand of this man, Jesus, who isn’t afraid and who builds things that don’t sink (p. 242).

I enjoyed this book and found it very easy to read. Lisa-Jo definitely has a way with words and weaves them with humor and poignancy. Some reviewers felt the book was more of a memoir or only appealed to women in the exact same stage of life–forty-something, married with kids. But I benefited from it even though I am an older empty-nester. Even though Lisa-Jo’s style is not didactic, readers can learn much from what she shares.

(This book will count for the Nonfiction Reader Challenge, where I am doing the Nonfiction Grazer track of basically doing my own thing. 🙂 But this would also fit in the “Linked to a Podcast” category a of the challenge since Lisa-Jo has a podcast [which I have not yet listened to] with Christie Purifoy called Out of the Ordinary.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the thought-provoking reads found this week:

Bible Contradictions? A Response to Bart Ehrman, HT to Challies. “So, I did read the text. And, what I found is that Bart Ehrman puts forward some difficult passages for believers. But what I also found is that a moment or two of thinking erased many of the contradictions.”

Three Prayer Requests for a Heart on Life Support (about prodigals, not end-of-life decisions). “In the letter to the church of Sardis (Rev. 3:1–6), Christ addressed a church that had a ‘reputation for being alive,’ but was full of ‘dead’ people, or as we might term them, prodigals. Christ then gives the church a series of commands, which will make helpful prayers as we intercede for the prodigals in our own lives.”

Instant Coffee, Instant Faith. “It is not the massive floods that cause a tree to grow; it’s the steady stream of water day after day, month after month, year after year. The Christian life does not consist only of great breakthroughs; it consists mainly in mundane, steady obedience. Like David prayed, it is the pursuit of ‘one thing . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple’” (Psalm 27:4).”

Bible Study Is Hard Work (And That Is OK). HT to Challies. “So, are you struggling in your reading of God’s Word? That’s OK. You’re supposed to. The Bible is deep, rich, and ancient.” But there’s reward on the other side of it.

About Those Sparrows, HT to Challies. “Five sparrows. Two pennies. Bought, crushed, ground into stew, discarded, their life snuffed out just like that. Not forgotten by God. If God ‘remembered the sparrow’…if his eye was on the sparrow wouldn’t they not be bought and sold like this?” I confess, I have wondered this. I like this perspective.

Fear of Being Labeled a “White Savior,” HT to Challies. “Whereas I cannot speak to the motives of every white person working in a third world environment, I can with confidence say that this mentality is not compatible with Christian missions. I propose that the Christian missionary is not a ‘white savior’ for the following reasons.”

Writing on The Dawn Treader. “Show, don’t tell” has been the primary instruction for writers of fiction and narrative nonfiction for years. This article explores how C. S. Lewis gave us a clear idea of the kind of boy Eustace Scrub was without a single adjective.

A Grandma Scams a Scammer. Loved this story.

I was looking for a “prayer for the middle-aged” that Elisabeth Elliot recently quoted on her radio program when I discovered this. It’s not the one I was looking for, but this lady’s delivery is so funny.

Happy Saturday!

An Old Poem For a New Year

Last week, I listened to Elisabeth Elliot’s Gateway to Joy series about aging. In one episode titled Being Part of the Permanent, she quoted a stanza of a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. The words so seized me, I had to stop and look them up.

The poem is titled My Birthday. Whittier was 64 when it was published, a significant age in the 1800s. Though all the poem is a touching look at an “older” birthday, the first few stanzas seem to me to apply also to a new year. We’re not so far from the beginning of this one, so perhaps they’ll speak to you as they did to me. The stanza Elisabeth quoted is at the end of what I am sharing here, but there are many more stanzas besides.

Beneath the moonlight and the snow
Lies dead my latest year;
The winter winds are wailing low
Its dirges in my ear.

I grieve not with the moaning wind
As if a loss befell;
Before me, even as behind,
God is, and all is well!

His light shines on me from above,
His low voice speaks within,–
The patience of immortal love
Outwearying mortal sin.

Not mindless of the growing years
Of care and loss and pain,
My eyes are wet with thankful tears
For blessings which remain.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are the best of the good reads found this week:

How Do We Process the Scariest Passage in All of Scripture? HT to Challies. The passage discussed is Matt. 7:21–23, where many who think they are going to heaven will hear Jesus say, “Depart, I never knew you.”

Why Does God Hide Himself from Christians? HT to Challies. “’So God never forsakes his people, but he sometimes withdraws from them the sweetness of communion with him. He hides his face, as the psalmist says in about a dozen places.’ His question is, Why would God do that to his own children?”

A Known Way. “The year stretches out before me like an uncharted sea. Some now-secret stories will bring me joy, I know. There will be tender beauty and many good gifts from my Father’s hand. But what if the churning darkness also contains a violent, unexpected storm? What if my ship is disabled? What if I am taken to an unwanted, difficult place?”

Yes, You Need to Talk to the Manager. HT to Challies. Some interesting, and I think accurate, considerations here. “The older generation acts as if the proper recipient of their frustration is the institution itself and that asking them to make it better is reasonable and right. The younger generation believes that their anger should be directed toward the audience, and that the goal of complaining in these spaces is not to get anything fixed by the institution but to see the institution punished by others.”

Song of Songs: The Intoxication of True Love in its Time. An overview of Song of Solomon.

What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life? Good thoughts for any time, but especially in light of Sanctity of Life Sunday tomorrow.

God Is With Us on the Long Walk Home. “The length of our days, as well as what the end looks like for each of us, falls under the purview of God’s sovereignty, just like everything else.”

Winter Crafts for Kids, HT to The Story Warren.

I enjoyed this flight attendant’s attempts to liven up the safety announcements to help people pay attention and perhaps relieve some travel stress.

Happy Saturday!

15 Favorite Posts from 15 Years of Blogging

I mentioned in my end-of-July post that I forgot my blogging anniversary until WordPress sent me a reminder. It’s been fifteen years!

Often in the past I’ve done something special to observe my blogiversary. Since it caught me off guard this year, I didn’t have anything prepared.

I had been pondering ways to bring some of old posts back to the forefront, since they were published before I knew some of you. Then, voila! The idea came to list fifteen of my favorite blog posts to commemorate my fifteenth year of blogging. There won’t be one from each year—that would have taken too much time to search out. But these were either fun to write or were special to me in some way.

So here we go, in no particular order:

  1. Coping when a husband is away. This is my top-viewed post of all time. I had no idea it would touch such a chord. My husband had to travel heavily for at least half, maybe as much as two-thirds of our 41-year marriage. Though I didn’t like it, I am thankful God used what He taught me to help others.

2. How Not to Become an Old Biddie. After seeing examples of different kinds of older ladies, I realized I needed to start working on what kind of older lady I want to be now. (Related: Why Older Women Don’t Serve and Ways Older Women Can Serve.)

3. With All Our Feebleness. Reflections on serving God with physical and other limitations.

4. My Ebenezers. In 1 Samuel 7:12: “Samuel took a stone . . . and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.’” “Ebenezer” means “stone of help.” In this post, I listed some of my verbal “Ebenzers,” commemorations of the Lord’s special help in my life.

5. Having Devotions When You’re not Feeling Very Devoted. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. (Related: When There Is No Hunger for God’s Word.)

6. Strong Women. What feminine strength means and doesn’t mean, with literary and Biblical examples.

7. Encouragement for Mothers of Small Children in the area of trying to find quiet time with the Lord.

8. The Back Burner. The stuff on the back burner is all the more flavorful for its time sitting and simmering. So with the things in our lives we have to set on the back burner: they’ll be all the better for the wait.

9. Why Read? Why Read Fiction? Why Read Christian Fiction? Every reason I could think of for reading all of them.

10. Can Frugality Go Too Far? Even good traits can be carried too far.

11. It’s Not For Nothing. Caregiving can seem monotonous and futile when the patient sleeps most of the time, can’t speak, and isn’t interested in food, as was the case for my mother-in-law her last two years in our home. These were truths that encouraged me. (Related: Remembering the Loved One Who Has Forgotten You.)

12. Manufactured Spirituality. Routines and programs can help us spirituality, but sometimes we focus on them to the detriment of real spirituality.

13. The Quiet Person in the Small Group. How not to torture your introverts.

14 Going to a Church with Problems. They all have them, even the ones in the Bible. (Related: What You Miss When You Turn Your Back on Church.)

15. Myths and Maxims of Ministry gleaned over many years. Myth #1: “Since this is being done for the Lord, everything should go smoothly.” Nope!

These are the posts that floated to mind. If I had actually searched every year’s posts, I might have had a different list. But there’s probably a reason these are the ones that came to mind.

As you’ve noticed, I cheated stretched my numbers a bit. Sometimes I couldn’t decide between a couple of posts on a similar topic, so I included one as “related.”

I’ve noticed that I should probably go back and edit some of the older posts. One of the tendencies my first critiquer at a writer’s conference pointed out was “long, convoluted sentences” that should be broken into two sentences (or three or four). Hopefully some day I can correct those in my older posts.

Thank you so much to all of you who read and comment. Without you, this would just be an online journal. Nothing makes me day like hearing that something here has blessed and helped someone.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

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Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, comments, and prayers regarding my post yesterday about being in the hospital. We got home mid-afternoon yesterday, and I have follow-up appointments in the next couple of weeks.

Here are good reads collected through the week. I used to make a list of these as I found them, then would have to turn them into a blog post. Now I open a draft and list and format them as I come across them through the week, so by Saturday the post is almost completely ready to go.

“What Do You Want From Me, God?” Part 4: A Humble Walk. “Isn’t it remarkable that the God of the universe, the One who is perfectly satisfied in himself, to whom we cannot possibly be intellectually stimulating, comes to us every morning and asks, ‘Do you want to go for a walk?’”

Enjoying Imperfection, HT to Challies. “Only God does all things perfectly. In a world that has written God out of the story, we have written ourselves into the role of perfection-attainment. And it is killing us—our dusty little frames, our finite abilities can’t handle it.”

The Local Church Was Made To Serve The Christian, Not The Christian The Local Church. “If we judge our faith or our spiritual maturity or our commitment to the local church by the quantity of activities we participate in (or choose not to participate in), we are judging ourselves not by the freedom of the gospel but by the captivity of the law.”

When Your Mother Grows Old: Open Letter to Younger Believers, HT to Challies. “Being old is a topic that Scripture does not shy away from. Proverbs, for example — such a valuable book for young people — addresses it directly. As one who is both learning and observing a mother’s experience of growing older, I want to ask you to think in particular about old women, while you are young — in order to encourage clear vision now, and farsighted vision for the years ahead.”

In Support of Our Law Enforcement Officers. “That’s what police officers do. They keep the rest of us safe. They are the representatives of human government that enforce the law and protect citizens. Saved or not, believers or not, they put their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to provide for us a peaceful society in which we can live, work, worship, and pray.”

C. S. Lewis and His Stepsons, HT to Challies. “While the relationship between Lewis and Joy Davidman has been a matter of endless fascination to Lewis fans and academics alike, many have ignored the fact that the marriage made Lewis a stepfather.”

How to Run a Good Meeting–And Why it Matters More than You Think, also HT to Challies. Spirituality and efficiency are not mutually exclusive (though God’s idea of efficiency may differ from ours). I appreciate these evaluations of the best way to conduct necessary but numbing ministry meetings. I’d add a sub-note to his last point: don’t have a meeting if an email can take care of the meeting agenda.

Finally, I think I’ve seen all of these at a potluck (minus the alcohol).

Book Review: The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40

The Wonder Years 40 Women over 40 The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength is a collection of essays compiled by Leslie Leyland Fields .

Many of the authors are well known (Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada, Madeleine L’Engle, Ann Voscamp, Brene´ Brown). A few have passed on. Some are bloggers. Most have published a book.

They come from a variety of faith communities. I wouldn’t agree with every theological point or endorse every person or ministry represented, but I appreciated the perspective of each writer on midlife and aging.

Some of the entries came from published books; others appear to be written for this collection.

The essays cover just about every topic one could think of in connection with aging as a Christian woman. Physical issues. Changes in marriage, new marriage, new singleness. New challenges. Attitude adjustments. The empty nest. Care-giving. Preparing for our inevitable end.

As I read the first entries, I found several instances of “doing new big things.” I appreciated the emphasis that life doesn’t end at 40—or 50 or 60. But I hoped all the essays weren’t going to be like this. I didn’t particularly want to learn to ride a horse, row a canoe for ten hours, climb a mountain, move to a different country, or start a major ministry any more at this stage of life than I did when I was thirty. Or twenty. Some of us like more sedate lifestyles. I looked back at the table of contents and saw that this beginning sections was appropriately labeled “Firsts.”

The next section is labeled “Lasts.” This stage of life brings some things to an end. Some are laid aside gratefully, other regretfully.

The last section’s title and theme is “Always”—things that ring true at any age but perhaps became more poignant or are brought more into focus the older we get.

To give you just a sampling, here are some of the quotes I highlighted:

But maybe all this is more than the universal human hunt for the fountain of youth and innocence. Maybe it’s something more modest, more possible. Maybe we older women just want to be seen again. Leslie Leyland Fields, Introduction

It takes courage to stop and take stock of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. It takes strength to keep our hearts open. It takes fearlessness to keep questing after the good, the beautiful, the true. We’ll do exactly that in these pages, knowing that no matter our age, it’s never too late to keep becoming the women God wants us to be. Leslie Leyland Fields, Introduction

I want to maintain the balance between foolish risk and boring safety. I dread growing stale, losing energy. I know my senses need awakening. Luci Shaw, “Rowing into the Wild”

At fifty-one, I was learning that maturity involves living with unmet needs and unanswered questions. I began to realize that in beauty or in tragedy, God alone is in control. He is the source of my real security. Sheila Wise Rowe, “Awakened to Adventure”

Unresolved regret is a leech that steals from our present in order to feed the pain of our past, hindering our future in the process. Michelle Van Loon, “The Gift of Regret”

As the Creator of years and time, he advises us to “number our days,” not to count down to retirement, but to “gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90: 12). Patricia Raybon, “Answer the Phone”

When we get old, in many situations we must either act foolishly or look foolish. It may be wise to walk more slowly, carry a cane, whatever else is needed. Even if it looks foolish to onlookers, to be prudent, we must change our ways to match our season. We needed grace to be diminished. Win Couchman, “The Grace to Be Diminished”

If you’ve read or listened to Elisabeth Elliot much, you’ve heard her talk about offering whatever happens to us up as an offering to God. Her entry here talks about the origin of that concept for her, something I had not heard before. I found that was because this entry was from the only book of hers that I had not read: A Path Through Loneliness.

Many of the entries are humorous, many are challenging. I found myself nodding along in several places, and tucking away thoughts for the future in others.

Despite my light-hearted (but true!) comment about not wanting to face certain kinds of challenges at this stage of life, I agree with Luci Shaw that I don’t want to become stale. I want to keep growing, learning, being useful.

I loved that the title proclaims this season a time of wonder. There’s still a lot of life left in us “women of a certain age,” a lot to learn, a lot to do. We become more settled in some areas, but we can always find new areas to serve and show love to others.

My blog friend Michele also reviewed this book here. I don’t remember for sure, but her post may have been what prompted me to put this book on my TBR list.

(Sharing with Booknificent, Grace and Truth, Hearth and Home, Global Blogging,
Senior Salon, Literary Musing Monday, InstaEncouragement, Worth Beyond Rubies,  Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

 

Laudable Linkage

These are some online reads that gave me much to think on:

5 Bible Study Techniques for Busy Moms. “We make it so complicated sometimes with rules and regulations, but the most important thing about being in God’s Word is to just actually be in it.”

And on that note, 10 Ways to Engage With Scripture. “How do you engage with Scripture? Since the key to knowing God’s heart is through His Word, I pondered her question.”

Can My Calling Really Be That Simple? “It’s easy, especially in Christian circles, to get grandiose ideas of what calling looks like. It’s easy to look for people who make a big difference, give up everything, and have the numbers (or passport stamps) to prove it.”

Ten Exhortations Concerning Gossip Blogs and Online Speech, HT to Challies. I would add, don’t pass on tweets or posts that contain this kind of thing, and don’t share something with the thought, “I don’t know if this is true, but just in case…” Check it out first.

James 3:1 and the Trembling Teacher. If you’ve ever tried to teach a Sunday School class, lead a Bible study, speak (or even write) about spiritual things, you can likely identify with this post.

To the New Parent, HT to True Woman. “What a gift you have in your hands and really, the best is still ahead of you. There’s no ‘Just wait until…’ God’s grace will equip you for each new season, even if his grace simply equips you to fall to your knees.”

This Is Your Body Today, HT to Challies. “What does it mean to bear on our bodies the marks of living in this world, to experience all that life and God will give and throw at us, and to not blame the sleeplessness or stretch marks on being a mother—or to find pride in them either because they birthed live children? To not blame the creaks and groans on laziness or lack or time. To not see ourselves as a victim of some perverse injustice, but to simply say to the body that holds us today and to the God who made it: ‘Thank you’ and also ‘This hurts’?”

Max Lucado’s Endorsement of Jen Hatmaker: What it Means and Why it Matters, HT to Challies. I don’t know much about either of these two people and have not read their stuff, but I agree with the principles discussed here. The same God who calls people to unity calls out those who preach something other than biblical truth.

Finally, I had not heard of the group 40 Fingers, but stumbled across this very pleasant video this morning:

Happy Saturday!