Dear Sweet Sister:
Are you looking forward to your next birthday? Do you see aging as positive or negative? As we live in a culture that worships youth, we often tend to view aging as something to be dreaded. Some see a birthday as a reminder of lifetime milestones that have not been realized… marriage, children, or a life dream. Others grieve the loss of their beauty, health and strength. Anxiety concerning the future can choke the joy out of the best birthday plans.
Indeed, as my 40th birthday grew closer, the poet in me began to ask the “Almighty poet and creator” some probing questions. On a serene summer evening, I remember looking up at the half-moon hanging in the velvet sky and teasingly asking, “Lord, am I now waxing or waning?” Of course, I knew my physical body was waning. However, I yearned to hear that my soul would keep waxing (growing). Somehow, we all need confirmation at times that, like a mature apple tree that bears more fruit than a “sapling,” our lives will continue to be productive and bear more lasting fruit with each passing year.
I invited a few sweet sisters to come join me for a beach birthday retreat and this stanza from the poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” penned by Robert Browning graced the invitation:
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!”
Just as Jesus saved the best wine for the “middle to end ” of the Cana Wedding Feast, I believe the Lord desires to give us increasingly new gifts and opportunities to grow and bless those around us. I asked my sisters to bring instead of a store bought gift, a positive verse or quote concerning the topic of aging. Amazingly, these Five nuggets together form a treasure chest of wisdom on how we all can help ensure God’s promise that our time left on earth can be our very best.
#1 Don’t Look Back
My friend Cindy shared a story concerning the importance of not holding on to the past. The character Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Sunset Boulevard kept longing for her glory days as a film star. As a former silent film star she did not adapt when moving pictures began to include sound and her life ended in tragedy as she clung to her past. This example from a “Daily Bread” devotional reminds us to see our lives like a book, and thus we need to live each chapter at a time. If we are looking back, we can’t be creating the next chapter of our lives. Yes sweet sister, you and I need to be careful not to let our past heartaches or negative people keep us from living in the next chapter of our lives. In contrast, during the wedding of Cana, confident Mary expected Jesus to perform a miracle and save the reception. This first miracle would change her family forever as Jesus was thrust out into His public ministry. Mary was ready and willing for a new season in both their lives to begin. Do you look forward to God’s new season in your life with each birthday, confident and excited for His perfect gifts and plans ready to be opened?
- Action: Look up Jeremiah 29 :11-14. Write out verse 12.
#2 Family First
A thought provoking quote from Thomas Jefferson was offered by my dear friend Beth. Jefferson stated, “I find as I grow older that I love those most whom I loved first.” She went on to explain this could mean a better appreciation for all our parents did for us when we were children or an increased love and patience for our own children and loved ones. Shouldn’t our inner circle of our family receive our best energy? An apple tree that is strong enough to produce strong healthy limbs and fruit must first have strong roots. So focus first on your family roots. Do you, sister, see each passing year as a new opportunity to heal past rifts between family members? Let us ask God to give us mercy and understanding for those who have disappointed us and the grace to reconcile broken relationships. Peace can be the greatest gift you give yourself and your family.
- Action: Call your parents on your birthday and wish them “Happy anniversary!” Or invite a sibling or child out to lunch – if you are still alive there is still hope for stronger relationship.
#3 Remain in Him
Next, my cousin Laura reminded us that God’s grace is like the rhythmic waves of the ocean. Just as the waves continue to ebb and flow, God’s mercy is new every morning. She encouraged us to spend time with God each day. Without water the apple tree will wither up and die; just as we need to stay watered and regularly drink from the Word of God. So, to expand one of my favorite sayings, “The best is yet to be,” we must add a preface to be accurate: “As you stay close to the Lord, the best is yet to be.” We have the responsibility to continue to make good choices every day. The most important choice is to seek out our creator and have fellowship with Him daily. I often imagine the Lord faithfully waiting to chat with me each morning. If I sleep in or miss our “morning date,” then I try to find a quiet moment later in the day.
- Action: Find a special spot to place your bible and a journal, and pick a time that you plan to sneak away for time just with Jesus. Don’t stand Him up, He’ll be there waiting.
#4 Fellowship with God’s Family
My friend Suzie attends daily mass most mornings and shared how beautiful the more mature members are that come to worship each day. Despite their physical ailments (waning), they joyfully come to be with God and with each other. Suzie exclaimed, “A woman in Love is beautiful!” So if we want to be beautiful in the Lord, my sister, we need to fellowship with other believers and receive God’s love and grace. Then, just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, we can in the same way reflect God’s love and beauty to those around us.
- Action: Have you found a good place of fellowship? A small group bible study? We are to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). There were times in my life that I had just one prayer partner and we used the phone to chat and pray. If you can’t find a small group of sisters, pray and seek out one sister.
#5 Make a List
Lastly, my sister Liese shared a list of gifts the Lord has already blessed me with in my first 40 years of life. Making a gratitude list has been a tool I have used often in my past. Usually to gain perspective when I felt down, I would list 10 good things about my life in my journal. If a person in my life had angered or disappointed me, I would write down 10 good things about that person. Grateful people are positive people. So instead of counting the candles, count your blessings my sister. For every year that you have had the privilege of existing on this earth, write down a gift that is in you or your life.
- Action: Tape your list to your mirror or steering wheel. Keep reminding yourself of all your many blessings. Tell the ones who made the cut on your list about your list.
Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70,80, 90 or 100, my sister, the Lord has new plans to unfold and fresh gifts to be opened.
In short, in order for “the best is yet to be,” we need to not look back, but be ready to write a new chapter in the book of our lives. We should spend time and energy on our families, our relationships with God and within our Christian communities. When we physically write down our list of items to be thankful for, we maintain perspective and a joyful attitude.
Moon answer: If you guessed waxing, you are correct. Hopefully your soul is waxing, too!