Soon I begin the fourth quarter of my trek toward a centennial birthday. I’ve been having a lot of 75th birthday reflections as this milestone approaches. I’m not asking people to give to some cause on my behalf, but I do encourage people to share generously what they have with those doing good deeds for society. Generosity is good for our health.
Now that I’m face to face with becoming 75, that age doesn’t look very old at all. If assorted joints and other body parts didn’t constantly send me memos reminding me that I’m aging, I could easily believe I’m still in my 40s. However, the birth certificate, combined with my waning energy and memory, testify to the reality I am indeed about to be 75 years old.
The First Quarter – Family
I started school at age six when we moved back to Cleveland, Ohio after four moves during my pre-school years. We moved to be near our less migratory extended family. Mom managed three kids and the home front with the help of local family when Dad traveled out of the country for work.
I often walked a few blocks to visit my paternal grandmother and her sister who shared the bottom of a duplex a few blocks from our home. I went alone or with my faithful fox terrier and no one thought my family irresponsible for letting me do that. When I was a little older, I rode my bike to visit my mother’s cousins who lived a few more blocks further from our home. Once I got my driver’s license, I visited my other grandparents often. They lived a few miles away from our home.
Reflection #1 – I know how very fortunate I was to grow up in a stable family that included easy and frequent contact with extended family.
The Second Quarter – Change
My parents paid for a college education for me and my two brothers. They managed this on an income and a half. Mom worked, but not full time and not at jobs that began to match what Dad earned. In college I met my husband. We married and had two children before my 30th birthday. History began to repeat itself as we moved around, following where the jobs took us. I sold a lot of freelance articles, published my first book, worked off and on depending on options available in the current community, and went to seminary to earn a Master of Divinity degree and start a career as a Lutheran pastor.
My young adult vision for my future included a husband, children and a career in writing. It did not include moving to Texas or becoming a pastor. By the end of the second quarter, I had moved to Texas a second time, this time to oversee Lutherhill Ministries in LaGrange, Texas. By then our daughters were grown and married. One already had two children. The other soon had her first baby. The grand total would come to six, born in a five-year span from 1994 to 1999. The second quarter turned out much different than planned, but very good. Of all the jobs I’ve had, roles I’ve filled, and names I’ve been called, “Grandma” is my favorite.
Reflection #2 – We make our plans and then the currents of life carry us to places we never imagined going.
The Third Quarter – Challenges
Starting shortly after my 50th birthday my life progressed like a trip to an amusement park with one stomach-churning adventure after another. At times it seemed the trajectory of my life was going off the rollercoaster rails. Appropriate adjectives include chaotic, tumultuous, shocking, exciting, challenging, remorseful, confusing, and character-building. Skimming over the details, this quarter included not one, but two divorces, a third marriage, multiple moves, nine-months living abroad in three separate trips, retirement, unretirement, and re-retirement. I mastered subjects I never intended to study such as how to manage a camp and retreat center, build homes the Habitat-for-Humanity way, negotiate travel where I don’t speak the local language, recover from divorce, respond to natural disasters, raise millions of dollars for non-profit organizations and churches, and publish books in the age of electronic publishing and social media platforms.
I also spent a lot time with grandkids and added ten new countries to my passport.
Reflection # 3 – When challenges come, so do people who show the way, lighten the load, and give us reasons to laugh again.
The Fourth Quarter – Curiosity
I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to complete this quarter. None of my ancestors did, though both my grandmothers came within five years of their centennial birthdays. Each of my parents died in their 70s. I’m curious to see how this goes; where life takes my daughters and their six young adult children; and what comes next. I’ve done what I set out to do, plus a great many things I never anticipated. Whatever comes next is the icing on the cake of my life.
I don’t talk much about my faith. I am offended when over-zealous people hoist their personal faith beliefs on me like a huckster trying to convince me to buy some souvenir I do not need or want. I prefer not to do that to other people. Plus, I know many people have been hurt more than healed and helped by someone’s interpretations of the core Christian message.
However, I am perpetually curious about matters of faith and why people believe what they do. So, for what it’s worth, here is a summery of the beliefs that have guided my life. I cannot not believe in God, because God has shown up in tangible ways more times than I can count when I was lost, conflicted, overwhelmed or in imminent danger. Just the right person appeared to show me a way forward. I know that my Redeemer lives. Beyond that, I don’t fret much about the add-ons that have accumulated over the centuries. I don’t know what God does about what other people believe. I assume God can deal with folks without my intervention. I figure my job is to trust God to oversee my life and respond to God’s omnipotent care by offering companionship, aid, and consolation without first checking someone’s religious ID.
I think I have a few more years left. I hope so because I’m rather enjoying the life I have today. As Dag Hammarskjöld put it:
“For all that has been, Thanks (be to God). To all that shall be, Yes.”
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