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Posts Tagged ‘Aging’

 

Younging. That’s a word coined by author Valerie Burton Bell in her book A Well-Tended Soul.* She says, even as our bodies become less reliable, we can continue younging on the inside, growing more lively in our spirits.

Author and minister, George MacDonald (1824-1905), would have agreed:

 

 

I like the sound of that—younging and ripening with fresh life within. Maybe you do too. (Even if you’re under fifty, you can still determine to choose younging when the time comes.)

The question is: How do we achieve it?

Perhaps the best answers come from those who’ve gone before us who demonstrated lively, spirited living into their eighties and nineties. How did they swell with fresh life within?

 

1. By serving others

My parents modeled this strategy. Even when arthritis caused painful challenge for Dad, he served at the church food pantry, assisted in the kindergarten Sunday School, and read to students every week at my nephew’s school.

Mom also assisted in the Sunday School, lavishing her love on children and parents alike. She sang in the choir, participated in women’s ministries, and volunteered at the church office.

 

Mom and Dad with their first great-granddaughter, 2010

 

“Experts in aging make a distinction between passive aging and purposeful aging. Successful, purposeful aging calls for continued involvement, relationships, discipline, and an attitude of faith” (George Sweeting).

I’m sure Mom and Dad never researched what successful aging entailed. It just came naturally to them, as an outgrowth of their love for Jesus and a desire to serve him.

 

2. By maintaining a positive attitude

Not only do joints get a bit rusty as we age, our attitudes can start to corrode. It’s so easy to let negative thoughts grate in our minds, or respond to “How are you?” with creaking complaints.

But a positive attitude contributes to joy, and joy works like oil, lubricating our spirits. In addition, the oil of gladness tends to overflow, providing positive impact on those around us.

My father-in-law was just such a person. To those who asked him, “How are you,” his stock response was: “If I felt any better, I couldn’t stand it!”

 

Mom & Dad Ruegg, 1983

 

That’s the kind of attitude I want to foster—not for the purpose of reaching my nineties as he did, but to avail myself of the abundant, overflowing joy Jesus provides (John 15:11) and then share it with others.

 

3. By keeping a sense of humor

 

 

A cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22a), perhaps all the more so as we age.

And no one had a more cheerful heart than Hazel, a merry senior in the fourth church my husband pastored. She was the one with a bicycle horn on her cane.

One day, in a phone conversation with her adult son, she informed him of her date that evening.

“A date?” Andrew inquired, more than a bit surprised that his widowed mother, now in her late eighties, would be venturing out on a date. “With whom?”

“His name is Michael.”

“And where did you meet Michael?”

“At church.”

“Where are you going?”

“Out to dinner.”

“Well, tell me about this Michael.” Andrew prodded.

“Oh, he’s the nicest young man—you’d like him.”

“Young? Just how old is he?”

“In his early thirties, I suspect. He…

“Mom!”   Andrew interrupted. “What are you doing, going out with a man nearly a third your age?!”

Hazel finally admitted to Andrew he had nothing to worry about. Michael was on staff at our church, his wife (a nurse) was on duty that night, and Michael had offered to pick up Hazel and be her “date” for the Senior Sunday School Class banquet.

 

 

Younging—by serving others, fostering a positive attitude, and keeping a sense of humor– certainly contributes to those pleasures.

 

Thank you, Father, for the opportunity of younging as we age,

providing numerous delights as we do so.

__________________________

 

What younging strategies have you adopted in your own life or observed in others?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

*Zondervan, 1996.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.pikist.com.

 

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There are those who would say the sweetest time of life is childhood, when we carry few responsibilities and enjoy hours of play.

Others will say the teen years are best, when the freedoms to go, do, and become are gloriously opened before us.

Ah, but then come the years of building a career and perhaps raising a family. Maybe that’s the sweetest time, as we pursue success in our vocations and witness the achievements of our children—from first steps to last graduation and beyond.

As a retiree of almost seven years, I would chime in with Vance Havner who said:

“The last chapter of life can be the best.”

 

 

Yes, aging has its downside. The person we see in the mirror has changed drastically. Joints refuse to bend and twist like they used to. And though we wish our waists would thin out, it’s our skin that has.

But that’s just the outside—the least important part of who we are.

The golden years offer much sweetness to savor. If you’re not there yet, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  1. The gift of memory

The older we get the more memories we have to enjoy. And just about everything reminds us of something else. ‘Ever try reading street signs and billboards to see if the names conjure up people or places from the past? It’s a game guaranteed to make you smile.

Cindy Lane reminds me of a dear friend in Florida (Hi, Cindy!), Barbara Circle conjures up a valued colleague from my teaching days, and Harrison Avenue takes me back to my childhood, riding my bike on the street of the same name in my small hometown.

Shared memories are even more delightful. Not long ago in church, the pastor asked if we could remember a time when low expectations generated poor output. Steve and I made eye contact and simultaneously whispered the name of a union-controlled company he worked for years ago.   We almost laughed out loud amidst the silent congregation. Such fun.

 

 

  1. The wisdom of experience

Experience with God teaches us the wisdom of his perfect ways (Psalm 18:30). Life is enhanced when faith, kindness, and gratitude characterize our days–just as he’s said.

Occasionally our wisdom-from-experience may be sought by others. But actions speak louder than words. To live wisely and make prudent choices—that’s the best way to impart wisdom. They’ll remember what we did better than what we said.

 

  1. The expansion of certain abilities

Research indicates that as we get older our abilities to reflect, create, and analyze can actually improve. The reason may be “we bring experience to knowledge and then add wisdom to our result.” Of course, we must continue to “cultivate our mental acuity as we age”.*  We must never stop learning, evaluating, and thinking about new ideas.

 

 

  1. The time to be present in the moment

We can savor such luxuries as watching raindrops make momentary rings in puddles and checking for signs of burgeoning spring that were not noticeable yesterday.

Now we have more time to express our gratitude for every good gift God bestows. And since gratitude begets joy and contentment, we can make these years a season of delight.

We also have more time to stop and listen—to the frustrated store clerk, the struggling waitress, the overwhelmed young parent. At our disposal are the benefits just listed–the gift of memory, the wisdom of experience, the enhanced abilities of reflection and evaluation—all useful for offering beneficial (but brief!) encouragement.

And as we lighten the burden of others we find our own spirits uplifted.

 

 

  1. The faith to persevere 

We’ve lived long enough to see God bring us through sadness, difficulty, distress, and more. We know he will provide for every need to the end. And such confidence overflows in perfect peace.

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For these reasons and more, our latter years can be the sweetest time of life.

 

(http://quotefacy.com/quote/758763)

 

“For age is opportunity no less

Than youth itself, though in another dress,

And as the evening twilight fades away

The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

In that we can rejoice!

 

*Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years, p. 96.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.afgsc.af.mil; http://www.Canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotefancy.com.)

 

 

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Back in the early 60s when I was a young teen, Dad took me to an Artur Rubenstein concert. For those of you too young to recognize that name, Mr. Rubenstein was a well-known pianist of the last century.

You’d think a thirteen-year old would be bored at a classical performance. Far from it. Mr. Rubenstein’s flying fingers held me spellbound. Sometimes he’d even come up off the bench, putting body and soul into the piece.

One selection in particular Dad and I will never forget. While performing “Ritual Fire Dance” by DeFalla, Mr. Rubenstein’s arms beat up and down like hummingbird wings, from head level to keyboard, in rapid succession. How could he possibly bring his fingers down to the right keys from such a height and at such speed? It was a marvel of power and precision—from a man who was seventy-five at the time.

(You can access a video of Mr. Rubinstein playing “Ritual Fire Dance” here:  https://youtu.be/3SDeN9ZrRRI.  To view just the DeFalla piece, skip ahead to minute #11; to see just the portion described above, skip to 11 minutes, 30 seconds.)

Yes, older folks can still fly—maybe not physically like Mr. Rubenstein’s fingers, but certainly attitudinally and spiritually.

 

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Our youth can be renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:5).

The eagle enjoys a long life compared to many other animals–up to thirty years in the wild and fifty years in captivity. Each year its feathers are renewed, providing new strength for flight.

We can renew our strength attitudinally by focusing on the benefits of growing older.

Yes, research has uncovered a number of advantages, including:

  • Improved self-esteem, self-control, and selflessness.
  • Decreased sadness, anger, fear, and other negative emotions. Stress and worry also decline.
  • Less concern for the trivial; more focus on what’s important.
  • Increased wisdom, due to a wide base of experience and a broader perspective on life.
  • Less attention on the negative, more focus on the positive.

As a Christian senior, I’d have to add:

  • Increased faith in God as I’ve seen more evidence of God’s faithfulness.
  • Greater appreciation for the simpler things of life—each one a precious gift from my loving Heavenly Father.
  • The glorious hope of heaven as it grows closer to becoming reality.  John Newton said:

 

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(“I am still in the land of the dying;

I shall be in the land of the living soon.”)

I like his perspective.

We can also renew our strength spiritually with the help of God.

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Just as the eagle rides on the wind high above the earth, we too can ride above our infirmities on the wind of the Spirit. He provides renewal of faith, strength, and passion in numerous ways—through scripture, song, other biblical reading, strong teaching, mature Christians, and more. Then we can:

  • flourish and be fruitful (Psalm 92:14).
  • stand firm and immovable (1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • always give ourselves fully to God’s work (same verse).
  • run and not be weary (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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Here’s an idea:  Let’s start a list of advantages we observe in growing older, to help keep us uplifted on wings of praise.

What “blessings of aging” have you noticed? Please share in the comments section below. (If you’re still enjoying the first half of life, tell us what you’ve observed in others, or what you’re looking forward to.)

 

“The last chapter in life can be the best!” – Vance Havner

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.freeimages.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wildlifeworkshops.com; http://www.pinterest.com.

 

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Unknown

(“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” – Eleanor Roosevelt)

 

Can I get an “Amen?”

For those of us who’ve reached the fifth decade and beyond, Eleanor’s words give us a worthy goal: to become lovely masterpieces as we age.

Obviously she’s not talking about the artistry of a plastic surgeon’s facelifts and tummy tucks. I don’t think such procedures were even being performed in her generation.   Besides, the most successful procedures provide only temporary changes. I’ve never seen a ninety-year old who looks twenty-one, have you?

But if you Google the phrase, “aging gracefully,” you’ll find a long list of articles about stalling the aging process—on the outside.  Eat right, exercise, get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, etc.  Where are the essays about becoming more lovely in heart and spirit as the decades pass?

No doubt Eleanor was referring to those who have achieved this kind of beauty–those gracious elders who listen, encourage, and speak positively.  And I dare say, such folks are most often Christians who have grown in faith and spiritual maturity over the years.

Their eyes twinkle from the Light within. And those radiant lines that fan out from the corners? Son-beams.

In fact, His name is often on their lips, because their thoughts turn to him so consistently. Jesus is an intimate Friend.

In addition, the joy of the Lord is their strength—perhaps not in body, but in soul. It shows in a delightful sense of humor and frequent smiles. Joy is also expressed in continual gratitude and praise.

These dear ones learned self-discipline along the way. Those ugly traits of bitterness, complaining and negativity are nowhere in sight. And never do you have to endure a long soliloquy that begins, “Back when I was young…”, that goes on about how much better or tougher life was decades ago.

Wise elders realize the value of influence, and the power of positive memories for the younger generations. They know that integrity and faith are best taught through example—examples that live on long after the elders graduated to heaven.

And as such saints delight in God and minister to others, they discover contentment—even as aches, pains, and deficiencies overtake their bodies.

They are true masterpieces, according to the definition: outstanding, superlative, ingenious works of art.

Masterpieces don’t just happen; they are the result of: 1) informed skill, 2) extended time, and 3) concentrated effort.

Similarly, beautiful seniors are the result of: 1) living by Biblical principles, 2) trusting in God day after day, and 3) practicing his presence moment by moment.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Father, thank you for taking up your paintbrushes and paints to create a pure and beautiful spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). But it’s also true I must be a willing and active participant. May I not lose heart and invite your Spirit to refresh me every day. May I be mindful that “what is seen [like outward beauty] is temporary, but what is unseen [a pure heart] is eternal (2 Corinthians 5:16-18). May I be focused on the latter.

(Photo credit:  www.groups.yahoo.com.)

 

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