Archives for October 2015

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 31 — Choosing Life


You know what? I’m not dead yet!

So as long as I breathe earth’s air, I want to LIVE life as fully and joyfully as I can. I want to enjoy the view from our new house for as many years as the Lord may grant.


I want to watch those waves swell . . .


. . . and crash!


I want to walk on the flat, hard sand at low tide; 


I want to relish the sunset from our backyard;


and I want to celebrate the sunrise on my morning walk.


I want to take thousands of panorama shots of the Pacific Ocean from my favorite bluffside stop.


I want to worship God in our glorious sanctuary, a building I actually had something to do with building, and which brings joy to us all every time we’re there.


I want to worship with our community, to push against one another when we need to, and to learn from one another always.


I want to welcome others to our home, to say ‘come in and set a spell,’ to order food out when I can no longer cook, and to offer a place of respite and quiet in the midst of life’s noise.


I want to enjoy fresh cut flowers and bright colors.


And good food, beautifully presented — some of it made by me, more of it made by others.


I want to celebrate the indoor-outdoor way of life that central California offers us each and every day.


I want to bird-watch and learn more about living well, living obediently, becoming who I am without worry or shame. (Ever see an embarrassed bird??)


And maybe most of all, I want to celebrate the gift of family – my cousins as often as we can manage it.


My mama, as long as she breathes — and sweet memories when she’s gone.

My husband, who is most fully himself when he’s helping someone else, or filling in for a missing shepherd or two!


IMG_7122 all 16 thanksgiving 2015

I want to continue to thank God each and every day for each and every one of these people, gifts to me and to my husband and to the world. 

I want to keep right on choosing LIFE! And then I want to step into new life, when God invites me there.

Thanks so much for reading along on this L O N G journey through the 31 days of October. Some of you have been immensely faithful and encouraging and I am so very grateful!

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 30 — Facing Death

Even to your old age I will be the same,
and even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
and I will bear you and I will deliver you.
Job 12:12

This verse is a great source of comfort and assurance for me as I walk this journey toward the end of life. You know it’s there, don’t you? And you knew I’d have to talk about it at some point. The end of the road, on this side of glory, is the same for each and every one of us: d e a t h. The last breath, the transition from this life to the next, however and whenever that happens. I don’t begin to understand it, but I choose to belief that our last conscious thought on this side of the veil is of God, and our first conscious thought on the other side is not only of God, but in God — in a way we cannot now begin to imagine. 

That means that somehow, my body will be there, too, and that it will be at least partially recognizable by others who have known me here. Timing is irrelevant, whether immediate or at some distant date, as the scriptures seem to imply in all that talk about the end of time. NO clue what that all means, only that Paul assures us that we will be one moment here, one moment there. Of course, the whole concept of ‘moment’ doesn’t really fit into eternity very well, does it?

So rather than spin my wheels deliberating about when and how, I have chosen to rest in the promise of reunion, of transformation, of a familiar but intrinsically different way of being and living. And this photograph, taken almost six months ago, speaks volumes to me about what the writer of Job means in that verse up there. “I will bear you. . .”


This is our Lilly, in rapturous delight at her new cousin, Matteo, holding him tenderly and carefully and rhapsodizing over his deliciousness. I’ve written before about the revelation I received at the beginning of my training in pastoral work, that sense that dying is about being born, born into a new kind of living. So I relish this picture because that adorable infant reminds me of myself, and of each one of us, when we move from here to there.

And because Jesus himself told us to delight in little ones, to welcome them . . . indeed — to become like them, I have NO trouble imagining our loving and almighty God taking on the joyful demeanor of a young child, looking at me with the same kind of joy that Lilly looks at Matteo.

Can you see it? Oh, I hope so!

Imagine tenderness, delight, gratitude, acceptance, welcome. Because that’s who God is, that’s what God’s about, that’s what dying means. Glory be.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 29 — Leaning In


My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

Do you see that old bird up there? He’s leaning on one foot, leaning toward his strong side, leaning so that he can stay erect. That’s exactly the kind of old bird I hope I am and will continue to be — one who knows when to lean. And where.

You all know I’m hoping that these sunset years are going to take a good long time for me, that the winding down will be slow and steady, that the life I love will slowly change and undoubtedly diminish, but that it will still be real and meaningful and resilient. Not one of us can know what the years ahead will bring us. The one thing that is certain is that these years will end at some point in the future. But until that day comes, O, Lord! Help me to lean in, to lean on, to lean toward, to lean.


31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 28 — Accepting Loss


Learning to live with loss — loss of all kinds — can happen at any age. For me, it happened later in life. For my eldest daughter, it happened way too early. The man she fell in love with in high school, married after her first year in college, had three sons with . . . he died a difficult death after twenty years of marriage. She was 40.

Other than grandparents (one died when I was 6, one when I was 18, one when I was 23, and one when I was 53!), no one close to me died until I was in my fifties. My best friend died just before we moved to Santa Barbara in 1996. And our dads died 13 and 10 years ago, Dick’s mom last year. My mom is still here. So the loss of loved ones through death is not something I’ve had to grapple with until mid-life.

But I’m here to tell you that there are lots of things that are lost as you move through the years, and not just to death. I have much less bounce in my step these days, not so much elasticity in my skin, either. My handwriting is nearly illegible — not that it was ever great, but you could read it, once upon a time.

Even without mentioning the excess pounds I carried for so many years, this body has had a ton of wear and tear across these decades. Aging skin does very strange things. And don’t get me started about the hair — on my head and everywhere else. Oy vey

No one told me that menopause would be so devastating emotionally. It came as a complete shock to me to grieve the end of having periods at the age of 49. Something about removing options, perhaps? Whatever the causes may be, it did a number on me. 

Now, over twenty years later, I am somewhat more phlegmatic about it all. I’ve learned to roll with it a bit better and not invest so much of my own personal sense of identity in how my body functions and what it looks like. Yes, there are definitely pieces or regret remaining. but overall, I’ve mellowed a bit . . . I hope! After all, aging is the way of nature, the way of time, the way of earth-living. And while losses need to be acknowledged and grieved, they are not the whole story.

Which is precisely why I’ve left this topic (and the biggest one of all — death) for the end of this particular series. Why? Because this series is about embracing and owning the truth that we all age. WE ALL GET OLD. There is no way around it. It is both the price and the privilege of living a long time. So while grief needs to be allowed to exist and run its course, it cannot rule the day.

Learning to live with loss is a necessity, a requirement for these last decades. But here’s a more central truth, one that I want to live every day for however many days may be granted to me: what remains is lovely. And I am grateful for it.

How do you choose to live with loss? What kinds of loss are the hardest for you? Which ones are surprising?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 27 — Enjoying Family



Birthdays are a great excuse to get together with family, don’t you think? Our oldest granddaughter turned ten this week and she picked the restaurant for a fun dinner out with both sets of grandparents.


Earlier in the month, we celebrated with these two — one turning 17, the other 10. 

We’ve also started something new this fall — SOCCER, with our youngest grandgirl. So most Saturdays, we’re there, on the sidelines, trying to be encouraging as five 5-year-olds figure out what to do with their feet on a 1/4 sized field. They’re so dang cute!


All but one of our eight were here at our new home to celebrate those two guys’ birthdays and I caught them all, just as the sun went down. I love the bare feet and silly grins. Each one is unique, each one is remarkable, each one is lovely, interesting, quirky. Maybe most important, they are all kind — to each other and to the adults in their lives, too. It’s a joy to be with them and we plan to take every opportunity offered to us to be together. The older two are moving out into full-on adulthood now, beginning relationships, jobs, making choices that could foreseeably impact them for several decades, if not the rest of their lives. Not sure how long we’ll be welcomed into their journey, but we want to be open and ready for whatever invitation might arise.


And, of course, central to all the rest of those family connections is this one — the one that started it all. And we want to pay attention to that relationship, too. Sometimes that gets harder to do as we age. We’re used to each other, sometimes stuck in ruts, not as likely to take risks or venture out into the new and different. But we’re workin’ on it. At our advanced ages, you do have to exercise a little caution, though, right??? Well, yeah. A little. Smile.

How are you enjoying your family these days? Is it easy to do or a challenge? 

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 26 — Sitting Still

So these are a few of my favorite places to sit still these days. The demands of moving and remodeling have left little time or space for sitting still, but when I can, I choose to sit in one of these spots. IMG_6148

This one least of all because of the heat that radiates here in the afternoons. Now that we’re moving into some cooler weather — we humbly hope and pray! — this little bench may see more use in days ahead.


These two are my favorites. They’re new to us for this house (ordered through a company new to me called Grandin Road, when they were on sale last summer) and we both love them. We usually eat our breakfast out here and at various points during our day, you’ll find one or both of us sitting here for a moment or two. We’re discovering again, in a different way, that having a lovely view is a very life-giving thing.


Though we haven’t had too many occasions yet to use this space at night, when we have, it’s been nice. The yard is quite small, but it is just big enough for these large pavers and firepit. And the view at night is pretty terrific, too. City lights and all that, you know?


This spot was a surprise to me when I first used it. I never thought that this particular room might have even a corner of our view, but it does! It’s my study, the room I use for direction, and I am sitting in a chair that matches the one in the foreground, with my computer on my lap, looking out through our tiny dining room toward the city. The fan is on, the breeze is blowing the mini-blinds against the windows and I am luxuriating in some alone time, something which is often at a premium during retirement years.

Finding time and sacred space to sit still, be quiet, meditate, pray, read, think, dream — this is life-giving and necessary. I am so grateful that our new space allows us many options for good sitting.

How do you sit still? Do you relish it or endure it? 

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 25 — Standing Tall


As we age, our bodies shrink, though not always in the direction we might choose. The pounds may still nag us, but that height we’ve carried? It’s likely to change as we add on years. When I entered UCLA as a freshman in 1962, I stood 5 feet 8 inches tall. When I graduated four years later, they measured me at 5 feet 10 inches tall. I grew during college. Who knew? Not the usual pattern for most of us, but then I’m not all that usual, am I?

So when they told me about five years ago that I was again closer to 5’8″ — I was bitterly disappointed. It took me a long, long time to live into all these inches. I was the tallest cousin on my mom’s side and almost the tallest on my dad’s. I had a grandmother who was 4’11” for heaven’s sake, so I felt a bit like a freak when I was a teenager. But as the years went by, I began to enjoy being tall. Really enjoy it. I could reach things. I could stand next to almost anyone and be taller than or nearly equal to them. Eventually, I settled well into being a tall woman.

Therefore, that year in the doctor’s office was tough for me — 5’8″ felt way too short. So I began trying to stretch as much as I could every year when I had to stand on the dreaded scale and turn backwards for the yardstick on my head. Last year, after losing 3/4 of the weight I’ve been losing over these years of retirement, all of a sudden, that yardstick read 5’9 1/4″ WOW. Losing weight can add inches?? Once again I ask, who knew??

I have no idea which measurement was the more accurate. All I know is I’m keeping this one.

And I’m standing as tall as I can every single day.

Are you tall or short? Does it matter to you? I known a few short women who hate being short, even feel overlooked a lot. Yet I have a daughter who, though short, is always gracious and grateful to be who she is. That’s the way I want to live, don’t you? Standing tall in who we are, no matter how many inches we carry around.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 24 — Living Out Loud


Here’s one of the great things about getting older — you can not only tell the truth and live it, without apology, but you can get away with living your life out loud. Don’t ask me how or why that is true, but it is. I think people are more tolerant of eccentricities as we age, don’t you? Remember that old poem about wearing purple when you get to be old? Well, yeah, I”m that woman! I love clear bright colors. I know they’re not necessarily de rigueur  in the decorating industry (unless you look at beach cottage magazines like I do), but they make me happy. And my husband likes them, even loves a few of them, so there you have it.

And another thing, while I’m at it. Things don’t necessarily have to match to still look great. We and our granite fabricator shopped several stone yards trying to find something that would match/blend with the two existing granite countertops in our kitchen. Which, it happens do not match each other, but have the same combo of colors. I found this one — on sale — , my son-in-law who is also my contractor agreed, and the fabricator make this gorgeous top in ONE PIECE. The colors are the same as the other two, but the pattern is different (all over spots rather than movement/streaks) and overall, it is darker. But we really, really like it.


And though we loved the basic idea of the trim color on our home, it was fading fast and had a bit too much gray in it for us. So we found a clear, beachy turquoise (Yes, Kristin Schell – turquoise!) and it is indeed BRIGHT. But you know what? It makes me happy. And, of course, it will fade. It gets full sun all afternoon, every afternoon! A couple of before-and-afters for you:




I think I’m going to like being eccentric and living out loud. What about you?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 23 — Being Honest


I took my mama off campus for lunch this week, the first time in many weeks I’ve been able to do that. She has tired more easily and so have I, so we’ve settled into the routine of putting her into the smallest of her unit’s wheel chairs and slowly walking over to the charming cafe that is now a part of her retirement community. 

But the weather was glorious, and if El Nino comes to pass, it will not long be that way (thanks be to God! We SO need the rain!), so we went. 

And it was lovely, and sad, and good, and hard. One thing I’ve committed to doing, even though many dementia experts discourage it, is telling my mom the truth. Unlike Dick’s mom, my mother knows that things are not right inside her head, and occasionally — if we’ve sat together quietly long enough, she will ask me about it

And I always tell her the truth.

“How come I don’t remember that you are my daughter? How come I don’t remember being married? How come? Why can’t I think?”

So I tell her.

“Well, Mom, it’s nothing you’ve done, it’s just something that happens sometimes when brains get old. Yours doesn’t work like it once did, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still you. And I’m here. I can be your memory for you, okay?”

And she is always relieved. Yes, I still get the same, question-of-the-day-whatever-it-might-happen-to-be from her, but she is calmer, steadier, more restful when we’ve talked about this situation as honestly as we can, given her limitations now and my own inarticulate attempts to explain the unexplainable.


She is so very dear. And so very lovely. And I love her so very much. Yesterday, she asked, “Was I a good mother to you?” And I was moved to tears to tell her how very good a mother she was, to me and to my brothers. 

“Brothers? I have a son?”

“Yes, Mom, you have one son still living.”

“Oh, I’d love to see him.”

I remind her that he calls her on the phone, that he lives very far away and that he’s dealing with some health issues of his own. And she is peaceful.

In ten minutes (or less) she will have forgotten all about it.

Yesterday’s through line question centered around being sure she had my phone number. I told that she does, and when we got her back to her room, I showed her where it is. Of course, she can no longer read it, can no longer use the phone herself. But telling her the truth somehow eases her dis-ease. And if I can do that, then I am happy to be her truth-teller.

It dawned on me the other day that I am currently the only person in her life who sees my mother.  Who sees her for ALL of who she is, who she is now, and who she once was. I’m it. And that makes me feel more lonely than I could have imagined.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 22 — Stepping Down

I haven’t prayed in public for over a year. And I gotta tell you, I had a case of nerves this weekend that coulda stopped a truck! I am badly out of practice! But this topic, these passages — well it was a privilege to be asked to pray into this particular service. And it fits the topic for today — the whole idea of ‘stepping down’ is completely counter-cultural . . . and completely Jesus.




A Prayer for Worship
offered after a beautiful brass medley of:
“Amazing Grace,” “Just As I Am,” and “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

October 18, 2015
Montecito Covenant Church

After reading all three scripture passages for the morning — which were incredibly rich! sometimes the lectionary outdoes itself — Isaiah 53, Hebrews 5 and Mark 10 —
this prayer somehow got a title and this was it:

The Great Reversal

Ah, Lord of Grace.
We hear these strong, joyful instruments
singing out about that great gift you
bring to each of us and to all of us:
the gift of your love,
your miraculous love,
that becomes real for us and in us
only because of your grace,
your amazing grace.

Grace that sees us exactly as we are,
and says, “Welcome. You are home here.”
Grace that invites us to take a good, long look at love,
the kind of love that you have for us,
the kind of love that you call us to live out,
the kind of love that Jesus tells us about
in all those red letters in our Bibles,
in the actions of his life while
he walked among us, as one of us,
and in the powerful ways he both invites and
empowers us to live lives that are . . .
well. . . lives that are
completely cattywampus
to what everything else in this world tries so hard to teach us.
Grace . . . that says, “Do it this way,
the different way,
the upside down way that is also sometimes the difficult way —
do it my way.”

The scriptures we’ve heard this morning,
and the one we’ll look at in just a few minutes,
they all speak about this upside-down-ness, this backward way
of living lives that truly matter,
that make a difference.

The two lessons we’ve heard already each give us word pictures
that remind us that the way of grace
is not what we expect.
Not at all.

Because we confess, Lord, we like moving up.
We like being in charge.
We like feeling successful.
We like having people look up to us,
look out for us,
and count us as one of the ‘in’ crowd.

So when we hear these words today,
we have to admit that they’re more than a little bit
jarring and disturbing:
the one who saves us and heals us
is the very one who is wounded and despised?
The one who intercedes for us with the Father
is the one who learned how to be obedient
in the midst of great suffering?

Doesn’t sound like the status quo we understand. Not at all.

And in just a few moments,
we’ll dig into the gospel lesson.
Oh my goodness!

Well, yes.

Oh. My.


And goodness trumps being part of the ‘in’ crowd, every single time, doesn’t it?
Jesus tells us directly that we are to be people who model things like:
counting others better than ourselves.
That we are to happily start taking a back seat, not a front one,
that we must simply chuck the whole idea of
‘moving up’ —
in fact, we must embrace exactly the opposite
kind of lifestyle.

Oh Lord, we need help here.
This does not come naturally to us.
Your upside down ways
reach right down into the heart of us
and shake us up.
And make us think.
And make us aware of how far we are
from practicing the grace we have received.

So we ask for your help.
We ask first that you will help our pastor to tell us this truth
in ways we can wrap our minds around.
Bless him as he brings us this hard yet wonderful word.

And then help us to take what we learn and live it this week.
And next week, too.
Help us to embrace the backward,
upside down call of your son,
and our brother, Jesus.

And oh, Lord God!
Breathe your Holy Spirit into your body,
the church, both here
and all around this aching, broken world of ours,
and teach all of us this truth,
again and again —
it is in losing our lives that we gain them,
and it is in serving that we become leaders.

Forgive us for the ways in which we
forget, ignore, refute and too often,
actively counteract
the subversive power of your grace.

May we have eyes to see,
ears to hear,
and hearts to understand.
For Jesus’ sake,
for Jesus’ sake,

Don preached well, the congregation was engaged, and after the sermon, we sang, “All Who Are Thirsty,” and were invited to come forward and dip our hands into the baptismal font, reaffirming our baptismal vows, agreeing — once again — to live this countercultural life, this upside-down, cattywampus life.



Where are you learning more about living upside down these days?? 

Just Wondering