By Karen O’Connor
During the 100th anniversary year of the National Park Service (2016) I enjoyed an 18-day road trip visiting some of the national parks in the western states. Not only was the adventure filled with spectacular sights—from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, Teton, and the Grand Canyon—but it also inspired me to cotinue, as President Teddy Roosevelt once said, to “do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” And to let God transform me into a new person. That and more occurred as I immersed myself in the grandeur of the Lord’s creation.
I’m finding that it’s never too late to participate in life, to live your dream, to fulfill a goal—even if it requires some modifying in order to make it happen. This trip had been on my bucket list for many years, but I continued to postpone it for one reason or another—until the day an announcement from a tour company arrived by email. Right then I knew it was time, so I called and reserved my spot and never looked back.
I ask all you fellow seniors out there: what have you always wanted to accomplish? Name it and then look at what it will take to do it, especially now while you can. Travel may not be your thing, but maybe you’d like to take up golf, write the story of your life for your family, move to a new location, or volunteer for a wildlife agency.
Following are four topics to consider and reflect on as you move through the “golden oldie” years and decide what is best for you. Let them inspire you to make changes, to step out with tenacity and enthusiasm, and to do what you can while you can.
“We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
As I look back on my life, for many years I did just the opposite of what the apostle Paul taught. I lived by sight, not by faith. Instead of setting a goal or finding a way to turn a dream into reality, I succumbed to the status quo and put my desires on hold. That is, until the crisis of an unwanted divorce knocked me down. I lay there as still as a stone. I had no resources, no help, and no answers—until a counselor friend asked me a disturbing question. “How are you and God getting along?”
I couldn’t respond. I hadn’t even thought about God except when I said a mere “thank you” before a meal. But that question would not let go of me. It started a journey that led me to Jesus Christ—his teachings, his promises, his friendship—and to the knowledge that to walk with Christ is to live by faith, not by sight—in marriage, in parenting, in friendship, in work—and to dream big so I can live the life God has for me.
Author Peter De Vries said it well: “It takes a lot more faith to live this life without faith than with it.”
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
Family! Most of us can’t get along without our loved ones—even when there has been pain and hurt. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And there may be “steps” too, if you remarried following a divorce or death of a spouse.
Being family includes love and forgiveness, joy and acceptance, and plenty of laughter and fun. I believe it’s up to us as the seniors in the family to keep going, to set an example, to show the joy and love that can heal wounds and set a new course in relationships.
Sir John Bowring, a nineteenth-century British ambassador, put it elegantly: “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God” (1 John 4:7).
Best friends. Casual acquaintances. Prayer partners. Knitting and golfing and tennis friends. Life is a rich and colorful garden when one has a variety of people to play with, confide in, talk to, and share the ups and downs of each day. They are even more precious as we age.
Building a history with another person is no small achievement. We don’t easily say goodbye to such a man or woman, for as Robert Louis Stevenson recorded in one of his writings, “A friend is a present you give yourself.”
I remember my mother-in-law, Ada, weeping over the loss of one friend after another as she moved into her 80s. By age 92 when she died, she was the last one of her circle. I couldn’t relate to her heavy heart then because I was much younger and had plenty of people around me. But now, nearly 20 years later, I’m beginning to understand her losses, as some of the men and women I’ve known are being called home.
While we still have one another, regardless of age, it is important to nurture those relationships with care, loyalty, and truth and to make the most of the time we have to enjoy one another. Instead of focusing on our own pain and challenges, let’s look to others and share the blessings of a well-lived life.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you” (Isaiah 46:4).
Just mention the word fitness and some people are fit to be tied. They can’t fit into their old clothing. And new clothes aren’t a good fit either. But they hate pumping iron. They’d rather sit than walk or swim, and dunking donuts is more fun than swigging a smoothie! What’s a body to do?
Reform! Form new habits. Formulate a plan you can live with. Then join the line that forms to the right—right to the gym or the track or the swimming pool or the bicycle lane or the skating arena. Give up fitful thinking and “just do it.” Think only on those things that are lovely and good and noble (Philippians 4:8), and soon you’ll be seeing those attributes in yourself—like the grandma who started running marathons at age 70 and was still running on her 90th birthday. The opportunity to lead a life that is balanced and beautiful is available to anyone who wants it.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2, New Living Translation).
Karen O’Connor is an author, speaker, and writing mentor from Watsonville, California (karenoconnor.com).