I no longer bound out of bed these days. I pray my way out of bed these days. I slowly sit up and throw my legs over the side of the bed. I sit there for a few moments to meditate on whether I should even try to get up. I must daily choose not be defeated by any geriatric state of mind so I slowly rise to stand even as cranky joints grudgingly respond to the call of the brain, “Get up, get up, GET UP!!! Slowly, inch by inch, I will myself up to my full height, whatever that looks like these days because as we age, we shrink, I think. I wobble into the bathroom for my thousandth visit since I lay down to sleep the evening before (I blame the blood pressure meds). I stare in the mirror and note the bedhead state of my hair. I can see clearly now since cataract surgery and I stare into a face that will greet me every morning from this day forward. I really did not understand just how diminished my vision was until the day after the surgery on the first eye and my face came into all its glorious focus. It took me more than a minute to recover. All I could think was a line the character Aunt Bee had in an Andy Griffith Show episode about aging, “You’re no spring chicken any more!” No spring chicken anymore. Nope, not anymore. My snapback has lost all of its snap and refuses to come back. It just limply lies there waiting for someone, or something, to push it back into place. My hair grows in gray and rallies agains any hair dye that tries to encroach on its territory. Crows peck at the outer corner of my eyes and chin whiskers grow at the speed of light as they defy tweezers. People tell me I don’t look my age, whatever they think my age may be, but my hands will not lie to save face. Birthdays insist on adding up and they refuse to stop showing up every year with another reminder that time marches on. My 18 year old mind is confused about my physical state of affairs and keeps sending out orders with which my obstinate body refuses to comply.
Still, grace continues to somewhat ameliorate the effects of growing older. I am still here, present enough to laugh with daughters, love on grandchildren and celebrate small victories. Ice cream is still a treat (always in moderation as is everything these days) and the hint of Autumn in the air wraps me with warm memories of yesterday. I move forward in the assurance of my faith which reminds me God still cares for me and He will take good care of me. I celebrate today because everyone, young or old, knows for sure (especially these days), that tomorrow is not promised to anyone of any generation.
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
~excerpt from “Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning
The fact of the matter is that everyone is aging no matter their age. We may not always be able to grow old gracefully every moment of every day but grow old we shall so come grow old with me — it’s all about mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. I’m good with that.
The world is in chaos. The world is in turmoil. The world is full of Chicken Littles who run here, there and everywhere, crying out to all, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.” Conked on the head by an acorn of truth, that moment has been turned into a mountain of distress and each believes it is now their obligation to warn everyone of the coming apocalypse.
So many Chicken Littles today, each with a personal perspective that has morphed into a worldview panic. Unfortunately, even those who proclaim to be followers of Christ now scurry around to praise those that receive their message of woe and to condemn those who refuse to buy in to their rhetoric.
“The sky is falling; the sky is falling!” The truth of a pandemic has become fodder for conspiracy theories and doom day revelations. In light of all that is being said and done, conservative versus liberal, right wing versus left wing, red versus blue, how does one find the energy to sift through all the minutia to discover the acorn of truth that is buried under red herrings by straw men?
Fear can stalk each of us but those of us who are believers can find comfort in the promises of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28-30. When our souls are burdened with the cares of the world, we can find solace in Him.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely
dim in the light of His glory and grace.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I closed my prayer with the silent request, “Speak to me, Father.”
As I waited in stillness, as my selected music video from my favorite YouTube pianist played, I was distracted by an intermittent chirp. I listened closely; was it the smoke detector calling my attention to a dying battery? The chirp was not that distinct so, no, not the smoke detector.
The chirp continued and I could not ignore it. I got up from my chair and followed its call. I walked over to the front window to stand and listen.
“Chirp, chirp, chirp.” Is it a cricket in the house and if so, how did it get in? I’m in California where crickets in this neck of the woods are rare. I shuddered at the thought of having to chase down a cricket.
I pulled back the curtains to look out the window and there it was, a small bird on the walkway that leads to the front steps of the house. It pecked away at kernels of something and in between pecks it chirped. I stood there, watched it and mused that a bird which could fly chose to walk on the ground to forage for food.
My bird thoughts were interrupted by part of a scripture I had not thought of in years, “…if I take care of a two cent bird…” I could not remember all of the scripture but in that moment God reminded me of His care for me. He used a small bird that has no means other than to trust that when it looks for food, food will be found, even if it means taking a walk on concrete rather than soaring in the air.
The bird eventually walked away from the front of the house to cross the street. As I watched it, I realized that once I walked to the window to discover God’s feathered messenger, the chirps stopped though the bird remained in place for a few minutes. God got me to where He wanted me to be, to “hear” his message in the form of that tiny bird.
I returned back to my chair. As I sat, I glanced at the computer and the bible text from Mark 11:24 was on the screen. I had paid no attention to the screen during my prayer time so I was not expecting a scripture. I laughed as I read the text and thanked God for the period on His word to me through a little bird.
Mark 11:24 — “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.“
Luke 12:6, 7 — “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.“
It had been a tough week. Emotionally drained, I dragged myself through each day! I felt disconnected, standing on the outside of myself going through the motions. It was a struggle to maintain any kind of momentum! I was caught up in the doldrums and I had no energy to stir anything up! Each morning I crawled out of bed in weary anticipation of the same kind of day.
But Sunday, Oh Sunday invited me into the new week with a full blown praise party in my car on my way to church. It was triggered by one nonsensical word spoken by a pastor in a service that was live streamed. That one word, “whoop,” sent me into a paroxysm of praise! I needed that moment. It was my moment of recovery but I still was not where I needed to be spiritually.
I had allowed my emotions to trump my faith. I was in fact dragging my faith behind me as I allowed my emotions to take the lead which led to the inevitable result, malaise and doldrums. I looked forward to nothing. I was excited about nothing. I wanted nothing. I embraced nothing. I expected nothing.
Then I picked up a flash drive onto which I had loaded some writings years ago. I inserted the drive into my computer, clicked and opened it. I immediately went to the folder labeled, “Gern,” my code word for Journal in case someone got into my computer and happened to come across it (as if their curiosity wouldn’t be piqued by this weird word). “I thought I knew what the journal contained and to some extent I did but I was not prepared for the rawness of the text, the pain and passion between each line. As I read those thirteen year old words, I had to ask myself, “Have you ever felt this way about the Lord?”
It was a revelation that my heart best so strongly for a person while those same kind of heartbeats for God were often moment based and momentary rather than lifestyle laced.
From time to time, when I am in my car, I listen to a Christian radio station that plays hymns in different slots of time. In the week following my week of the doldrums, I was driving and I tuned in to that station. A hymn played that I had not heard in years,‘I’d rather have Jesus.” At first I was locked in to the beauty of the arrangement and the singers. Then the question came to me, when was the last time I put Jesus first in everything rather than giving Him first place in a few things? How often have I intentionally surrendered the reins of my life to Him in all things?
I read the book, “in His Steps,” some years ago. I like the premise of what would Jesus do and tried to emulate the concept but as with all trends, that soon passed as a habit. The hymn challenged me to institute a “I’d rather have Jesus” mindset in all things, as best I could in this fragile frame of dust.
My journey begins now. When I reach out to try and hold on to people and stuff; when I try to control circumstances, when I put It or Them before Him, I will give it my all to remember, “I’d rather have Jesus.”
63 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
“I’d Rather Have Jesus”
George Beverly Shea
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today
I’d rather have Jesus than vain applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name
Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords
Today is “National Widows Day”
I cried today
I did not cry because I am a widow
Even though I am a widow
I did not cry today
Because he is no longer present
I cried today
Because some people took the time to say,
“You are not forgotten”
I did not know that tender place existed
“You are not forgotten”
It is so easy for widows to be lost in the fog of grief
I do not mean a widow loses her way because of her grief
Though this is possible
The journey on the path of the new normal can be quite circuitous
Fraught with fear of the unknown
Strengths to be discovered
Obstacles to overcome
Courage to be cultivated
But this is not what I mean
When I say a widow is often shrouded in the fog of grief
I mean too often others lose sight of her because of her grief
Unable to relate to the loss
Or her struggle in the loss
They lose sight of her because of her grief
Familiar voices no longer call out to her
Familiar faces fade away
Memories are sometimes her only recourse
But they too are painful reminders
Of forced isolation
That which is too often a part of mourning
Others try to construct a timeline
For her grief
As though they know what that timeline should be
For her grief
Challenged by her singleness
Begin to exclude rather than include
They do not realize
That “single” only means to the widow
A double bed that now only makes room for one
The spouse’s name is no longer spoken
Unless she speaks it
The stories she so treasures
No longer told
Unless she tells them to herself
It’s the widow’s walk without the wail
Or a mournful claque
To encourage the grief over loss
The supportive recognition of her sorrow
After “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
She is alone
Shrouded in her grief
As though she was buried
With her husband
“Donna, you are not forgotten”
Yeah, I cried today
For additional information about “Widow Wednesday:” http://widowwednesday.com/national-widows-day/
Sometimes posts of people I knew back in the day pop up on my Facebook page
Sometimes I scroll through Facebook pages of people I knew back in the day
Recognize faces in captured photographic moments
People I no longer see, have not spoken to in ages
This is not intentional
It is just the nature of the beast
Out of sight, out of mind
It occurs to me that I have become one of those people
Like those former celebrities who no longer occupy the limelight
And people wonder
“Whatever happened to?”
Yeah, I have become one of the misplaced
People who I saw on a regular basis
People with whom I laughed and cried
People with whom I dined and traveled
I no longer see or talk to
It is the nature of the beast
To be forgotten as memory fades
And connections dissolve
It’s just as well
Especially since I am no longer that Donna
They probably wouldn’t recognize me anyway
Which is just as well
Because if they had really known me back then
They would not have let me get away
I was going through some old pictures last week when I came across one I had not seen in some time.
Someone decided to bend the top portion, perhaps to put into a wallet, I don’t know.
I thought, “I will have to get it restored because of that crease that runs right through the face of the person in the photo.”
It is a picture of my grandmother. She died in 1964. It is the only picture I have of her, full body.
I loved my grandmother. I still think of her often. My sister and I lived with my grandparents for three years.
It was the country and the living was neither easy (for them) or fancy.
I loved it, was not even mindful of what they did not have.
I just loved being there, being with them.
Well, more my grandmother more than my grandfather who was rather taciturn and rarely interacted at any length with us kids.
My grandmother was not beautiful. She was not pretty. I’m not sure you would even call her handsome.
I see that now. I did not see that then.
I only saw her, only heard her laughter, enjoyed the food she cooked, especially the steak and gravy with rice or those fat red sausages served for Sunday breakfast after Grandpa’s Saturday trip to the market.
They lived in the country with very few modern conveniences.
No indoor plumbing, no electricity or gas, chickens on the yard, wood stoves, tin roof, well water.
I do not remember ever being bored.
This picture takes me home.
After all, home is where the heart is.
All these years later, my heart is still her home!
I met Grace and Frankie last year.
Septuagenarians coping with a new normal.
Divorcees who never expected three score and ten to include a roommate and dislocation from all that once was.
I have watched their lives unfold.
I have laughed with them.
I have cried with them.
I have been angry with them, at them and for them.
I have grown to love them as friends and contemporaries.
I have never met them.
You see, “Grace and Frankie” is the name of a Netflix series I discovered last year.
Played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the Anal Waspy Socialite and the Free Spirited Jewish Hippy Bohemian (who are radiant in these roles), they are an unlikely coupling as roommates but they find themselves having to run in place on the same track as they initially cast side-eye at one another.
Their husbands, soon to be ex-husbands, announce to them (around a restaurant table to waylay a scene, the husbands hope) that they are in love with each other, have engaged in an affair with one another for twenty years and now that they can, they want to get married…to each other.
Sayonara life as the ladies once knew and lived and loved.
Sayonara to a future filled with retirement and grandbabies and exotic trips around the world.
Sayonara yesterday, hello uncertainty.
I feel their pain, their sense of loss, their severed identity.
The ex-husbands move on with life as usual with the desired partner and no drastic unexpected changes (well, maybe one).
Grace and Frankie have to figure out exactly what is “moving on.”
This is not an attempt to review the series, and I suppose some of the material should be problematic for me, but it isn’t.
Instead, I want to talk about the “lossness” with which the women struggle, loss that is palpable throughout each episode.
Who wants to be seventy years old having to figure out the rest of their life, however long that life might be?
How do you pursue purpose at a stage in life when you thought you had accomplished pretty much all you were going to accomplish by that stage of the game?
Grace and Frankie stumble and fall, regain their equilibrium to move awkwardly forward like a blind person in a unknown space.
They have to learn to walk again, 69 years later, and they have to learn how to negotiate their own way through the rest of their life without fear hobbling their stride!
Eventually, they become fearless and fierce in pursuit of their own voice.
Real life Graces and Frankies take note.
Sometimes the end really is the beginning
I see you, Grace and Frankie I see you!
She walked into the church on Easter Sunday morning dressed in a light blue “church” suit and a silver ornate hat on her head. I watched her from across the room and as she walked to her seat, I noted how she stood out against a backdrop of Sunday casual.
I grew up in the era when clothes had a category. There were work clothes, school clothes, play clothes, church clothes. On special occasions there were party clothes, Easter clothes, Christmas clothes.
Church clothes were aka Sunday Best and everyone, kids to adults, wore their Sunday Best every Sunday. Often, Sunday Best was the same outfit every Sunday, but it was always pristine, freshly cleaned and ironed.
I think about those days in light of the casual ambience of today. “Come as you are,” almost looks like “ready-roll.” For those of you not familiar with this term, it means an individual rolls out of bed and rolls out into the world just as they are, “ready-roll.”
Church wear is pretty much casual wear these days and I get it. Following Christ has nothing to do with the clothes one wears into the sanctuary. Fellowship with the saints is more about the blood of Christ than the red sole of a shoe.
But, my Sunday observation got me to thinking. Here are my thoughts, my “Afterwords:”
Back in those days when there were church clothes and work clothes, my grandparents and parents needed that distinction. The work week for them was tedious and back bending. More often than not, they had no authority, no power. They were subject to the whims of the system that defined how they could be, where they could be and who they should be. Those work clothes reminded them of just how powerless they were in a world that demanded so much of them as it did its best to drain them of value and self respect.
But, Oh, those church clothes! Those church clothes, that Sunday Best ensemble, welcomed them with open arms. Those clothes reminded them of sanctuary, that place where they could celebrate one another and rejoice in the presence of a God who loved them beyond their reality. Those church clothes strode proudly into a place that was 100% their own.
Those church clothes, plain and simple, were worn with a regal posture as the saints greeted one another before walking into a house whose doors were always open to them. Hats were crowns worn on heads held high in the presence of the King of Kings.
I never saw my grandfather in anything other than a blue suit jacket, a khaki shirt and khaki pants on Sundays. But, dressed in his Sunday best, he was the superintendent of the church, and in that place he was that intelligent, self-taught, learned man he always was.
His work clothes were farm laborer clothes, but his Sunday clothes spoke to who he really was from the inside out. His Sunday clothes kept him sane and insulated from the wretched demands of those work clothes. His Sunday Best was his best and in them he was always at his best!
No, clothes don’t seem to have categories anymore. But, for some of us, those yesterday clothes categories remind us of just how far we have come by faith!
I must remember this the next time I see someone dressed in their Sunday Best!