“Old” Gets a Bad Rap

I looked up the word old in my Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. These definitions were listed.

  • dating from the remote past
  • persisting from an earlier time
  • of longstanding

Those definitions are fine when I am talking about cars or movies or clothes. However, when I am talking about people, the terms seem decidedly negative. They certainly do not make me feel happy to be in the over-60 crowd.

Therefore, when the word old is used to describe a person, it is more encouraging to state what the term does not mean.

Old does not mean useless or unproductive.

Old people have more and better life stories to tell than most young people have. Maybe that is why Laura Ingalls Wilder did not write the first of her childhood memoir books, Little House in the Big Woods, until she was 64.

The paintings of Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, hang in famous museums all over the world. She began painting when she was 74, a new hobby she took up because her hands had become too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle.

Old also does not mean unattractive.

I Googled “Beautiful Old People,” and read numerous lists of easily recognized names: Helen Mirren (72), Tina Turner (77), Liam Neeson (65), and Denzel Washington (62).

Who composed these lists? If, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then anyone with eyesight can recognize beauty.

I have beheld many beautiful old people, but not one of their names appears on the lists I found online.

Through Google Images, I found this photo, courtesy of Pinterest. This old woman’s face speaks of strength and endurance. Her eyes and smile tell me she has a sense of humor.

Based upon appearances alone, I would rather spend an afternoon with this lovely woman than with Jennifer Lopez.

Old does not necessarily mean needy. It is true that as we get older, we lose some physical strength, but most of us can take care of ourselves.

I am revealing one of my pet peeves here, but I cringe every time a clerk or salesperson addresses me as “Sweetheart” or “Dearie.”  To me those words mean “You poor, doddering old soul, you obviously need special treatment.” I am not poor or doddering and I do not need special treatment.

In addition to all these admirable qualities, according to the Bible, old people also possess other benefits and blessings.

  • Job 12:12 reads: Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.
  • Proverbs 17:6 proclaims: Grandchildren are a crown to the aged.
  • Isaiah 46:5 records this promise of God: Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.

Most old people are productive, beautiful, and competent. God says we have gained wisdom and understanding. Many of us have been crowned with grandchildren. Best of all, God continues to sustain us. These are all wonderful assets to possess.

Celebrate your age, whatever it is. Childhood offers freedom and fancy, middle age brings opportunity and responsibility, but only old age gifts us with understanding and reflection.

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Chances Are

A few weeks ago I wrote about my pink geranium plant that I thought was nearing the end of its life. Leaves were turning brown and fewer and fewer new blossoms appeared.

I have been surprised to watch the plant since I wrote that blog post. It has been given a new lease on life and is blooming almost as heartily as it did when I first brought it home.

I have no idea why my aging geranium has re-bloomed so beautifully, but I know our God rules over all of nature. He enabled the plant to produce new blossoms. Though I had all but given up on the plant, God was not finished with it.

That is because our God is patient. He does not give up on His creations as quickly as we mortals give up on projects or even on ourselves or other people.

Who but a patient God would not have given up on Jonah, the disobedient prophet; David, the adulterous murderer; Saul, the enemy of Christianity; or me, a sin-stained and unworthy woman?

Most of us have heard our God described as the God of the Second Chance. That is true, but He is more than that. On the website www.gotquestions.org I read, “God is not only the God of second chances; He is the God of another chance. This is good news because most of us mess up the second chance fairly quickly.”

It is ironic that a perfect God does not give up on His imperfect creations, but we imperfect creatures often give up on a perfect God.

I am reminded of the Prodigal Son. When this young man was pig slop deep in sin and wastefulness, he gave up on his father’s willingness to accept him back. As the story goes though, the boy’s father was watching diligently and hoping against all hope that his son would return.

No doubt the wandering son had known his father’s great love all his life. Did he think his father had changed, had become a critical, exacting, and unforgiving father during the son’s absence? Did he believe his father loved him only when he was obedient?

Who would want a parent like that? Not one of us is obedient in all ways at all times. But God’s love is not based on performance. 1 John 4:8 tells us “God is love.” God will not go against His own nature. God loves because love is Who He is.

Of all the beautiful qualities of love such as patience, kindness, protectiveness, and others listed in 1 Corinthians 13, I am especially comforted by this quality of God’s love: Love keeps no record of wrongs.

I am confident that when the son described in Luke 15 returned home to his father’s loving acceptance, the son wasn’t reminded daily of his former offense. His father did not say to him, “You had better not mess up this second chance because you won’t get another one.” The father spent his time rejoicing that his son had returned.

I will not berate my geranium for the time it spent not blooming. Rather, I will just enjoy its beautiful presence in my life.

Though you may have given up on God, He has not given up on you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Purse Is Cursed

During our minister’s sermon last Sunday morning, I felt the need for a breath mint. I take a medication that makes my mouth as dry as cotton, so I carry with me wintergreen flavored mints.

I quietly opened my purse in order to withdraw my little round box of mints, but it wasn’t there. I looked in both large compartments of my purse, and inside the small zippered section, twice. The mints simply were not there, so I did without.

When we got home from church, I opened my purse for some reason or another, and there, in plain view, was my box of wintergreen breath mints.

On Monday I bought each of our four grandchildren a pair of pajamas. When I paid for them, I asked the clerk to give me gift receipts, which she did. I dropped the receipts into my purse.

That evening when I gave the kids their pj’s, I looked inside my purse for those gift receipts. They were not there. I withdrew grocery lists, cash register receipts, gum wrappers, tissues, and various other papers from my purse, but the gift receipts simply were not there.

Before I went to bed that night, I opened my purse for some reason or another, and there, as clear as day, were the gift receipts for the four pairs of pajamas.

I wanted to scream!

Recently I went to lunch at Panera Bread with two friends. As we sipped our soup and munched on Italian bread, another customer stood and addressed the entire dining room.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but I’ve lost my keys. I know I brought them in here with me, but now I can’t find them anywhere. There are about eight keys on the key ring, and a heart-shaped charm hangs on it. Will you please look around you for a set of keys?”

Forty or so diners rose from their chairs, dropped to their knees, and crawled under their tables to search for the keys. They were not to be found.

I sympathized with the woman. I have some experience with lost items.

I left Panera Bread and drove home.

Later that day I opened my purse for some reason or another. There I saw two sets of keys, my own familiar set and an unfamiliar set attached to a heart-shaped charm.

As the puzzle pieces fell into place mentally, my stomach sank.

I am not believing this, I thought.

Through a gym membership card attached to the key chain, I was able to locate the owner of the keys. I called her and apologized my head off.

Apparently, she and I had paid for our purchases at the same time. She had laid her keys on the counter and I picked them up, thinking they were mine.

I returned the keys to their owner, along with a Panera Bread gift card as an added apology.

What is it with me and my purse? Are my planets misaligned? Am I suffering bad luck from walking under too many ladders and seeing too many black cats? Is Satan so intent on harassing me that he takes my breath mints out of my purse and replaces them with keys?

Earlier today I went to my purse to get my good pen, the one I paid $12 for. I wanted to use it to sign a birthday card for my aunt. Again, I searched every compartment but couldn’t find the pen that is always, always in my purse.

But I am not panicking. Sometime later today I will once again open my purse for some reason or another and there, standing upright and waving its tiny little pen arms, will be my good pen.

I am going to hate reciting this story to a police officer when he asks me to show him my driver’s license.

 

“You see, it’s like this, officer . . .”

Adolescence

From the moment I heard Glen Campbell’s Gentle on my Mind play on Little Rock’s KAAY 1090 AM station in 1967, I was in love. Seriously in love. I was 14 at the time and knew I had seen my future, all wrapped up in the person of Glen Campbell.

I decorated all of my notebooks, my textbooks, and my clipboard with beautifully flowing script lettering: Mrs. Glen Campbell, Mrs. Debbie Campbell, Mrs. Debra Campbell, all written inside hearts.

I don’t remember, but very likely I went around singing: Glen and Debbie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

That memory makes me laugh. But I wasn’t laughing much in 1967. I was young, naïve, and eager to grow up and enter the adult world, though I had no clue how to go about it.

In fact, I didn’t have a clue about most things. Why was I still stick-thin and shapeless when my girlfriends had developed curves? Would I ever pass a driver’s test? What possessed me to sign up for geometry? Would my complexion ever clear up?

Though I was a mostly-A student, I felt ignorant. I suspected that everyone else knew things I didn’t know and they weren’t about to tell me. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, and I didn’t know how to apply makeup. I was plagued with a constant fear that my period would sneak up on me and make its appearance on the back of my skirt.

Nobody understood me. I couldn’t blame them since I didn’t understand me either. Why did there have to be this middle part of life, this being no longer a child but not yet an adult?

My babyhood dream of growing into a beautiful princess dissolved the instant I looked into the mirror. No Prince Charming would claim this spotted-faced girl, even if the glass slipper fit perfectly.

Was I meant to be doing something specific, something significant that would launch me into the grown-up world? If so, I wished someone would tell me what it was.

I survived my adolescent years the same way most people do. I stumbled my way through and got to the other side by the skin of my teeth.

I look at young teens today and wonder if they feel as awkward and unprepared for adulthood as I was.

The kids I see appear comfortable in the skin they are wearing. They go so far as to take selfies in order to preserve memories, for crying out loud! They do not seem self-conscious or fearful of making fools of themselves. In fact, they seem to be enjoying life.

Did people think the same thing about me when I was a teen? Did they assume I was a happy-go-lucky, glad-to-be-me girl enjoying the last of her free-wheeling years before entering adulthood? If they did, they were sorely wrong.

Adolescence was a graceless, humiliating time of life that I thought would never end. It was characterized by embarrassment, uncertainty, and the constant fear of failure.

In fact, I might not have survived adolescence at all had I not held on to one sure and certain fact: I was going to marry Glen Campbell.

 

Glen Travis Campbell (April 22, 1936–August 8, 2017)

Lessons from an Aging Geranium

I bought only one geranium this spring. It has sat on the picnic table on our patio for a few months now.

When I brought the plant home and placed it on the table, it was full of rich, healthy, bright pink blossoms. I treated this plant the way I treat most of the potted plants under my care. I neglected it. I watered it when I thought to do so. I picked off dead blossoms when I noticed them.

I am not the best of caregivers.

Despite my neglect, the plant flourished, which is one reason I love geraniums. Unlike more delicate plants, they require little care.

I appreciated the plant’s beauty, its determination when it came to surviving, and its uncomplaining nature.

But now the geranium is fading. Fewer and fewer new blossoms appear. Several of its leaves have died and others are turning brown. Its life is almost spent.

As the plant’s caregiver, I will one day decide the time has come to remove it from my patio table.

I studied the aging geranium for a few minutes this afternoon to see if I could learn some lessons from it. Some, of course, are obvious: Bloom where you are planted. Be what (or who) you were designed to be. Strive for independence and do not expect special treatment.

 Good lessons for any plant or any person.

As I have grown older, I too have faded a bit. Much of my beauty, strength, and independence are gone. I now move more slowly and think more slowly. I forget things and repeat myself. I also repeat myself.

I am losing my sharpness and my ability to think on my feet and respond quickly. I relied heavily upon those assets when I was young, and I refuse to let go of them easily.

I know age brings additional knowledge and hopefully even some wisdom, but much of the knowledge I once had I have now lost. My husband asked me today if I remembered how to find the hypotenuse of a right triangle. I lied and said I did but at the moment I was eating an ice cream bar and didn’t want to spoil the experience with a conversation about math.

As for wisdom, I am no wiser than most. I know enough to come in out of the rain, to take good care of my teeth, and to sacrifice style in order to be comfortable in my shoes and clothes. I know my grandkids would rather have my time and attention than any toy at Wal-Mart.

Admittedly, I didn’t make all these discoveries by staring at my geriatric geranium. But I did learn this. No matter how old that geranium gets, it is still a geranium. Though it is now weaker, it draws upon strength from within to keep blooming.

I will not say of it, “That plant is not the geranium it used to be,” because that is blatantly wrong. It is exactly the same geranium.

The same is true of me. Though I may not appear as sparkly and zestful as I once was, I am still the same woman. The way I look on the outside does not reveal who I truly am. That determination is made deep on the inside. It is my core, the compilation of all I have learned, experienced, and chosen to be.

It may take more effort, and the results may not be as awe-inspiring, but I will continue to bloom until my caregiver, the One Perfect Caregiver, removes me from the spot where He placed me.

 

Ahhhhh, Retirement

I have always been a slow starter. Now that I am retired, that slowness has decreased to a crawl. Some days my morning doesn’t get started until early afternoon.

Retirement living is wonderful. Rarely am I in a hurry. I can do what I want when I want most of the time. But as my dad used to say, “You can get too much apple pie.”  He said this when he was bored with some activity that should have been pleasurable.

I am not exactly bored with retirement, but like any other good thing, it can become tiresome. I look around for something to do.  My house is reasonably clean. Laundry is under control. No grandchildren are available for me to play with, and I have nowhere I absolutely have to go.

I consider my options. I could spend the day reading books or watching old television shows on Me-TV. I could don a headset and lie in the hammock listening to soft rock music from the 70s. I could sharpen my pencil and sit down with a crossword puzzle book. Those are all enjoyable pastimes for me.

Doing any one of those things occasionally is pleasurable. Doing only those things all the time, however, is not.

Like most people, I want to accomplish something worthwhile. I need a purpose, a reason for getting up in the morning. When I move listlessly from one unproductive activity to another, I feel useless.

A particular French word describes this condition. It is the word ennui (pronounced “on,” as in the word honor, and “we” as in the word we).

The Merriam Webster dictionary states this: Ennui generally refers to the feeling of jadedness that can result from living a life of too much ease.

Does that mean when I feel restless and unmotivated, it is because I am living a life of too much ease? Ouch!

Experiencing ennui is not merely unpleasant. It is actually dangerous.

Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, said, “Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.”

That is another way of stating what we read in the book of Proverbs: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” (Proverbs 16:27 TLB).

When I was a child, feeling restless and bored, my mother showed no sympathy for me. Her response to my whining complaint of “There’s nothing to do,” was quick and certain.

“I’ve got plenty of things for you to do,” she would say. “You can start by dusting the living room, and when you’re finished with that . . .”

My mother knew the best cure for ennui was activity, particularly activity that helps someone else.

Around us live people with significant needs. Many need friendship, encouragement, or physical help of some kind. These people don’t battle ennui because they aren’t living lives of too much ease.

If you are feeling restless and unmotivated, find an activity that helps someone else. Volunteer at a hospital or food pantry. Spend an afternoon babysitting a busy mother’s children. Sign up at the library to tutor an ESL student. Visit a nursing home and strike up conversations with people who are lonely. Pick up litter in your neighborhood.

God didn’t create us to live lives of boredom. Go find a purpose.

But Why?

When I was at the Children’s Museum with my grandchildren a few months ago, I noticed a woman, a nicely-dressed, normal-looking woman, who had on her arm a tattoo of a large housefly. I hope I didn’t stare but for several minutes I contemplated the question: Why would anyone want to sport a tattoo of a housefly?

And recently I chit-chatted with a young woman who was helping me download photos from my phone in order to make prints. She mentioned to me that she and her fiancé had recently had a party to celebrate their engagement. I asked her when the wedding would take place and she told me August 24.

“Wow, that’s coming up very soon,” I said. The girl smiled and explained, “Oh, we are definitely getting married on August 24, but we haven’t decided yet on the year.” Why would anyone choose the month and day for a wedding but not the year?

Most of us have read about people who amass collections of unusual things, and again we ask why.

Why would anyone collect:

Umbrella cover sleeves? One woman has over 700.

Banana stickers? Someone has more than 7000.

Airline barf bags? One man has over 6,000 (hopefully empty) such bags from over 200 countries.

Admittedly, most of us occasionally save too many or too much of a thing. A friend told me several years ago that her mother always saved the TV Listing Guide that came in her newspaper. To designate which guide was the current one, she wrote on the front of the guide with a wide-tipped, black marker the words: THIS ONE. But she never threw an old guide away. Therefore, at any given time the woman had in her living room numerous TV Listing Guides all labeled: THIS ONE.

I too have collections of things I would never consciously choose to collect: plastic grocery bags, paper clips, twist ties, and shoe boxes. Those things are all useful given the right circumstance and the right time, so I hang on to a few to too many of them.

I even indulge in a few ridiculous practices. Whenever I read a book that I did not find particularly entertaining, I write inside the front cover of the book the initials N.E.G., which stand for “Not Especially Good.”

I do the same thing with recipes that turn out to be flops. But do I get rid of the books and recipes I have designated to be not especially good? Of course not! I put them right back onto my bookshelf or into a kitchen drawer.

It is as if I think that some night when I want to try a new recipe for a broccoli casserole or want to read a book for relaxation, I will choose one I have labeled N.E.G.

Why do I do that?

Maybe I am as weird as the woman with the housefly tattoo and the man with 6000 barf bags. But I don’t think so.

The difference between being odd and being weird is this: When I or people I love demonstrate unusual characteristics, we are simply odd. When other people do strange things, they are weird.

 

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.