I Am Sixty

I am now sixty years old. I’m grateful for three things:  That I’m alive, am in reasonably good health, and I know God.  There have been changes over time – some for better and some for worse.  It’s nice to be wiser. Not so nice to not be able to find the right word I want to use, right when I want to use it.  It’s nice to know what/who is worth expending my time and energy on.  Not so nice to not be able to move/trust my body in the same way I once did. It’s nice some people show me deference.  Not so nice when it’s only because I move slower or can’t read the tiny print to figure out which button to push. 

My time on this earth is running down.  I figure I have about 25 years left (based on the fact most of my relatives have died in their 80’s).  That may seem like a long time at first, but not when you consider 25 years ago was only 1996.  Gulp.  The older you get the faster time flies. Back in my younger days there seemed to be much more wiggle room and lots of time to make mistakes and then to fix them, to make choices and then to change them. Even with wrong choices that couldn’t be fixed I still had time to sort through and deal with them (a.k.a. therapy and prayer). But now, sometimes I feel like the choices I make heading into my own “end of days” may not even have time to play out.  There’s much more of a feeling that they might be final and irrevocable. This can make me a bit nervous.        

A friend recently asked me that old chestnut of a question, “What advice would you give your younger self?”  If I could go back in time, would I talk myself into finishing school?  Would I tell her to take the other job? Would I remind her to get married and have kids? Would I try to change things?  No, I wouldn’t.  Things are as they are and everything that happened made me who I am today, and I’m okay with me (except the aforementioned being 60 years old now).  But I think I would give my younger self a big hug and whisper, “Pammy Girl, you’re alive, you’re in reasonably good health, and  in every single instance it was always worth it to follow God.  Every. Single. Instance.” I think that would help me get through everything.

Today, as I was reflecting on all of this, I suddenly thought, “What do you think eighty-year old Pam would come back and say to you today? What would you WANT her to say?”  Would I want a warning to avoid something or someone? Would I want to be cautioned about one of my choices that might go wrong or not play out? Actually, no. I think I would just like that same deep hug and same encouragement that I am still alive, still reasonably healthy, and it’s still worth following God in Every. Single. Instance. I think that could help me get through anything — even being sixty.     

It’s Okay

You’re feeling great, moving confidently in your purpose, passion burning, goals met, connections made. Everything is in motion. Then it all comes to an abrupt halt.

You’re feeling great, moving confidently in your purpose, passion burning, meeting goals, making connections.  Everything is in motion.  Then it all comes to an abrupt halt.  Something unexpected happens and no matter how you try to press on or press through you simply cannot. It’s impossible to move forward.

The block could come from financial struggles, health crisis (yours or a loved one’s), failure in a relationship, or even an unexpected global pandemic. Don’t panic.  It’s all going to be okay.

If your finances collapse and you need to take a job unrelated to your dream in order to stay on your feet– it’s okay.   

If you become physically or mentally unwell, and you need to take time to overcome it— it’s okay.

If someone you love is in crisis and you need to give them your time for a while—  it’s okay. 

If the world comes to a standstill and you don’t have it in you to figure out how to carry on with remote technology or without one-on-one connection or you feel stressed, overwhelmed– it’s okay.     

As someone who has faced each of these issues in the past few years, there were times when I thought if I wasn’t pushing towards my goals every moment then everything I had built so far was completely lost. But I discovered that when you are pursuing your true purpose, you do not have to blast your way through to it and struggle over every little move or lack of movement. Your true purpose will still be there when you are ready to get back into the swing of things. Don’t misunderstand me, building your life towards your purpose is hard work, there are times you have to fight your way towards your purpose, but you’ll never have to fight something into being your purpose. It’s a natural extension of yourself. It’s always been a part of you, will always been there waiting for you to discover/rediscover it. It will always be there for you. You’ll equip yourself for it again and pursue it. It may take a little extra time and effort to get it back to the shape where you left off, and it may not be going in exactly the same direction it once was, but it’s okay.

After the struggle, after the crisis, after the failure, after the pandemic, when you look up from the bottom and, if for some reason your purpose is NOT there, then it really wasn’t your purpose at all. And if it was not – it’s okay. Don’t get discouraged, just take time to regroup, rethink, restructure. And start again. It’s okay.

Your purpose does not depend upon any monetary condition, any state of health, the presence or absence of any person, or the condition of the world at large. Your purpose fits you no matter the shape of your life, no matter the shape of the world. It will be there when you get back. Don’t worry. It’s okay.

Red Brushstrokes

Photo of the actual oil painting referenced
is courtesy of Steve Scheibe at visibleinvisible*.

In December, I attended an art show of a new friend*.  His lakeside gallery was filled with beautiful watercolors, silk banners, stone lithographs and more.  In a small sun-filled corner was his latest commissioned project currently in progress.  Around the easel were photos of the subject and all the requisite tools of an artist: containers of paint, brushes, rags, drop cloth, etc.  In the center of it all the client’s requested seascape was forming on an oversized canvas.  Brushstrokes had created the silhouettes of cliffs, trees, the horizon, and rock formations.  But to my surprise, it was all done in red paint.  Not what I expected. He explained this was a special technique and when he later applied the familiar hues of sand, water, and sky, the red base underneath would bring warmth to the entire composition. Layers would also be added in some areas that needed intensity in their depth. The idea completely intrigued me – setting down a foundation to make what was later placed over it feel warmer and stronger.

For weeks afterward I thought about it and I found myself comparing the painting to my life as I face challenging times.  Do hard times just hit me free and clear?  Do I just hold my breath hoping it’s not too destructive this time?  Or have I laid a foundation that lessens the impact of these challenges, making them not quite so dark and damaging but allows warmth and strength to seep through?  

When I freely give control of the purpose and design of my life to God, I also take the responsibility to follow and keep up with Him as He moves.  I need to create a base that helps me hold onto Him as He adds to and subtracts from my life, or when He takes me in a direction I haven’t anticipated and don’t understand. That base layer – my red paint – shows through and helps me stand firm.  That layer is more than just having a positive attitude or reciting affirmations.  I must deliberately lay down thick, red brushstrokes of hope and grace.  Hope that comes from remembering His faithfulness to me in the past and trusting He will continue to do good things now and in the future.  Grace that reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect and I am not relying on my own abilities to get everything right.

When I intentionally build towards His purpose for my life and I equip myself with hope and grace, I can pursue it with a sense of warmth and strength, even when my life is not picture perfect.    

*Steve Scheibe is an accomplished and awarded artist with over two decades of professional art experience. On his website, visibleinvisible, he has posted “An Oil Painting in Progress” which follows the development of this project. While you’re there, please browse through the rest of his site and enjoy the other excellent artwork Steve has produced.