I’ve been a lot of things in my life, but never 65. Until today. As with previous birthdays, I don’t feel any older than yesterday, yet there are some odd realizations that seem to go with this prodigious milestone. Medicare is one (sorry, I am not willing to go there here!). The official ending of a career is a larger one. Yes, I’ve been on disability for 3 years, but today, retirement is official.
I’ve been mulling some things over for quite a while… What’s next? Does retirement mean the end of my effectiveness? Am I being sent “out to pasture?” Do I get to sit back and rest “on my laurels,” content to watch the world go by? This is supposed to be a time of resting, relaxing, and enjoying the good life, right? I will admit, the proverbial rocking chair does look pretty good sometimes.
Ever since brain surgery almost exactly 3 years ago, I’ve been in some sort of holding pattern, waiting to see what the next big adventure might be. After all, isn’t there supposed to be an open window when the current door slams shut? It still seems odd to have been sidelined on disability just after deep brain stimulation seemed to give me back so much! For all its miracles, DBS could not restore my ability to play the pipe organ, nor could it stop the deterioration of my voice. With balance an ongoing issue, and the increasing inability to multi-task, I could not return to my beloved classroom… so “waiting” has become a way of life, a huge question mark stamped on my existence as I try to make sense of how I got here anyway! What in heaven’s name I’m supposed to do now!??
Interestingly, recent events, some seemingly innocuous and quite ordinary, are converging into what I recognize as a Thumbprint, characteristic of other hallmark events down through the years. From a sermon Sunday at Elevation Church through a retreat for a Parkinson’s Support Group yesterday to a ministry-related hospital visit this morning, there seems to be a remarkable answer to my query.
First, Sunday’s sermon about waiting: Whether you believe i,n God’s activity on our behalf or not, there were several observations that ring true: (1) How you wait impacts who you become. (2) A waiting season is not necessarily a wasted season. (3) Waiting may be more about the journey than the destination.
Translation: Perhaps it’s quite all right to let go of constant goal orientation. Career aspirations seem to feed on our culture’s unspoken yet very real insistence that success is measured only in one’s advancement up the ladder. Waiting for “the next step” can be quite active, but it still is the antithesis of goal-oriented being and doing.. Finally, what if, all along, the journey – the experiences we’ve had, the memories we’ve made, the relationships we’ve cherished – have really been what was most important?!
A retreat with my Parkinson’s buddies yesterday helped the picture come more into focus. We shared frustrations, concerns, experiences, and even a surprise birthday cake together during the course of that day. I was asked to lead some drum circles … odd, because I can no longer keep a steady beat on my own. That didn’t seem to be an issue as these friends immediately understood the value of the drum as an expression of things even more basic than “steady beat.” It wasn’t my skill (or lack thereof) that made it work. It was the connection of kindred spirits who joined together, strengthening the bond that was already formed.
An activity later in the day “by chance” brought a book to my awareness. Peace In His Presence is exactly the sort of book I’ve been wondering if I could write! There it was, in my hands – proof that not only is such a book possible, but there might even be a niche for it. Combining nature photography and perceptive writing, Sarah Young’s book both touched my soul and sparked my imagination. Now, some real waiting and listening begins as I seek Direction for combining passions for photography and for writing into something bigger than I am…
The divine Thumbprint cemented itself, yet again, in my psyche today during a visit with long-time friends who are in the middle of a health crisis. This tale begins with a love of teddy bears. I make them from non-traditional materials such as old fur coats, upholstery material, and blue jeans. In the last three years, my sewing machine has increasingly become a tool for designing everything from minister’s stoles to purses to teddy bears. Previously, I thought it was only for sewing clothing and mending…never fully comprehended its availability as an artistic tool! Certainly not as a tool for ministry! Wonders never cease …this special friend has been looking for someone who could make a teddy bear for her sister…from her recently deceased father’s sweatshirt!
So tonight, as I contemplate a birthday chock full of friends, good wishes, family, food, and fellowship, I am aware yet again that these three years of “waiting” have most definitely not been wasted. The activities used to occupy my mind and hands while I have waited have become the Next Step. I embrace “65” with thanksgiving. This retirement pasture is still green, calling me out, giving rest, joy, relationship, and continued belief in a God who is still intimately involved in the details!