By Eunice M. Porter
When I lived in Portland, Oregon, each morning as I walked to the bus stop, I glanced into the lit windows of two large apartment complexes. I often saw retired persons enjoying a leisurely breakfast. I envied them; the whole day was theirs to do what they wanted, while my days were filled to the brim with necessary tasks and little time for fun. How I would enjoy a day to work on my latest sewing project or even to shop at the many stores in the city! It seemed light years away before I would join the retirement ranks.
Then came my move to a smaller city with the tasks of finding a different job and church, not to mention making new friends and joining new activities. The time went by with lightning speed! Good years, to be sure, but all too soon my new job came to an end when a ballot measure failed, forcing me to face the inevitable.
The retirement that once seemed desirable now came with great concerns: What’s in store now? Out to pasture for my remaining days? Will my finances hold? How will I fill all this leisure time thrust upon me?
God’s Word, though, promised to answer any doubts or fears because he indeed had a plan for me. It was up to me simply to trust those promises. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
“Eunice, I recommend that you draw some unemployment benefits, at least for a few weeks. They’re yours and you deserve them,” my last supervisor advised. In all honesty that thought never crossed my mind, but what a good one! Fulfilling a requirement for receiving benefits, I entered a temporary agency one day to inquire about what they had to offer, and a real miracle unfolded.
“I’m not so much interested in a job as in something to fill my time,” I confided to the lady behind the desk. With that she mentioned a retirees’ class her in-laws attended at our local Willamette University; if I wanted, she would give me their names to contact. Great!
This class of 160 retirees meets for two days each week during the school year and is wonderful beyond imagination. The price is most reasonable (dirt cheap); it’s open to everyone from PhDs to GEDs; quality presentations are offered by professors, outside speakers, and even our own class members; there are no exams; and there are added benefits of two yearly field trips and beautiful end-of-semester luncheons. What a great way this is to meet and interact with others of like and unlike interests. It has also been a way for me to mention my Christian faith in a nonconfrontational manner as the occasion arises. God certainly has his hand in this endeavor.
In this day of the Internet where links connect one area to another related one, a speaker from a literacy center connected me as a summertime tutor to students who need help learning English. Although not required for being a volunteer, my college background in education, long sitting dormant, once again came to life. Helping others was a great way to use my time.
I live in an area of rapid growth for the Hispanic immigrant population. Although their children attend local schools and learn the English language rather easily, parents and children continue to converse in Spanish in the home. After many years these parents realize the necessity of learning English, possibly to become U.S. citizens or just to function better in society without the stigma of not understanding or being understood.
My students have been such a joy to teach. They are hardworking individuals who even come to class following a work shift, eager to learn such a challenging language and grateful for tutors who dedicate time and effort to help them. More often than not, many are Christians, willing to share their faith with me. When classes at Willamette University recess for the summer, I find this tutoring endeavor a wonderful way to fill my days and I thank God for it.
Another surprise God had for my future came one afternoon when I, as a pianist, accompanied my daughter on flute and my granddaughter on clarinet for a graduation celebration. A gentleman approached me following the performance with an offer to play for a 12-person, four-part harmony ensemble that was just forming and was looking for an accompanist. While I love to accompany, I had more or less put my skills on the back burner. What an opportunity! Yes, I was interested.
Known as the Noteables, these singers blend together with skilled precision under our creative director, who is a retired music professor. Our ensemble, in coordinating attire, performs for groups large or small, from retirement centers to the concert stage, sometimes for a fee but oftentimes for free. A real camaraderie exists among us, and I feel so blessed to be in this important role. A side benefit, of course, is that it keeps me in practice, learning new music constantly.
Back when I was still working but giving some thought to retirement, I would occasionally come up with the idea that perhaps some of my life’s experiences should be shared through writing—a scary thought, however. After all, I wasn’t a journalist and didn’t know anything about being one either. Besides, I had heard about all those rejection letters when trying to get something published. Not for me; I don’t think I could handle that. Who would be interested in publishing what I had to say?
While waiting for someone at my church one day, I picked up a Christian magazine and began leafing through it to kill time. There before my eyes was an ad for a one-day Christian writing seminar! Should I or shouldn’t I? It’s not too far to drive and a good way to spend a rainy March Saturday. The price seems within my budget. Knowing little or nothing of the art of writing, I was sure to come away with something heretofore unknown. I decided to give it a try and tell no one.
I’ll never forget that day of being among fledgling aspirants and seasoned authors. It didn’t matter that I was a neophyte with just an idea in the back of my head. It wasn’t too long after the seminar that my interest piqued enough for me to step out of my fear zone and start putting some words on paper. Yes, one of the greatest things about that class was information about places that might be interested in publishing what I would possibly write, should I get around to it. Eventually I did give writing a try, and what a thrill to see my name in print for the first time when I got my first devotional article published!
Another Bible verse came to mind: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Yes, what could be termed the desires of my heart came to be realized.
Instead of my life coming to a screeching halt in retirement, it has simply unfolded in ways I never dreamed possible. It has certainly proved to be another phase in God’s master plan, a wondrous passage. Instead of feeling useless and wondering what to do with my time, I have experienced some exciting, rewarding years. The psalmist was correct in saying, “They will bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:14).
Even now I do not know what God has waiting for the rest of my life, but I do know that there is something in store as I learn to trust and depend on him. Each day is truly a gift from the heavenly Father, and as such, I praise and thank him daily for this gift as I go about serving others and doing his will.
Lectures and seminars abound on the topic of planning for retirement. That is all well and good; in fact, we need to make some plans. I would add another dimension that is just as important, however: include God in your plans for retirement. He’s full of surprises!
Eunice M. Porter is a freelance writer from Keizer, Oregon.
Read Up on Retirement
Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ by John Piper
Launch Your Encore: Finding Adventure and Purpose Later in Life by Hans Finzel and Rick Hicks
(Baker Books, 2015)
Embracing Your Second Calling: Find Passion and Purpose for the Rest of Your Life by Dale Hanson Bourke
(Thomas Nelson, 2010)
101 Ways to Reinvest Your Life by Steve and Janie Sjogren
(Tyndale House, 2003)