Archives for October 2015

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 21 — Stepping Up


This picture is a gratuitous shot, taken the same morning as yesterday’s series of three at the end of the post. It has no particular connection to today’s theme, but I like to use the panorama feature of my iPhone when I’m standing in that vacant lot and this seemed like a good post to put this one in. And on today’s walk — be still, my heart! — there was a ‘for sale’ sign on that lot. Sob.

In these years of retirement from active pastoral ministry, I’m finding that I am stepping up to do some things that I couldn’t do as easily when I was employed and working on a church staff. And I’m having fun doing them, too. Herewith, a short list:

I am by NO means a professional photographer, but I have a fairly good eye and a moderately cooperative camera. So when I’m asked to take pictures of church activities that are then used in slide shows on Sunday mornings, I always say yes. If I’m in town and going to the event anyhow, why not?

I’m also serving on the nominating committee this year — short-term job, fairly easy. Why not?

We are doing more childcare for our local grandkids — their parents both work, we live nearby, we love those kids and they seem to like being with us, so again — why not?

If I get a call or a note from someone I’ve met online and they want to pursue the possibility of entering into direction with me, I always say, “yes.” I enjoy this work I do and online friends generally seem to be good candidates for a monthly skype session. Why not give it a try? If it works, great. If not, we’re still online friends, right?

I am available for my mom weekly for lunch, sometimes more than once, and to take her to the doctor/dentist or shop for her sundries. I’m here, nearby, she needs some help from me, so . . .yeah, I’ll own that. Why not?

If I’m asked to lead in prayer, read scripture, stay after the service and pray for others — and I am going to be in town, I will always say yes. Why not?

If I don’t have a good answer to that recurrent question ‘why not?’ —  I try to say ‘yes.’ This is a season for stepping up in ways that are both familiar and new, and I’m glad to be able to do so.

What kinds of things does your life allow you to ask, ‘why not?’ about these days? Not every season has room for a positive answer to that query, and I am in no way trying to ‘guilt’ anyone into anything. But I also want to encourage you to ask that question honestly wherever you can. And by ‘honestly,’ I mean looking at your whole life — all your current commitments — your energy level, your health, your marriage, if you’re married, your family, if you have one. If there is space for a step-up, then by all means, take it. If there is not, say ‘no,’ without guilt and without worry. There will be someone else.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 20 — Hanging On

I am hanging onto worship these days. In as many ways and places as I can find. The older I get, the more intrinsic it becomes to who I am. I think that’s how it’s supposed to happen, to tell you the truth. We’re slow learners, we human creatures. It takes us a lifetime to realize who we are and to whom we belong. As I move through my days, I am more aware than ever of the presence of God, maybe most especially in the details and the humdrum of life. But also, of course, where you might expect to find God.


For me, a primary place is at the Table, in the eucharist. I dearly wish we were part of a community that celebrated the Lord’s Table every week, but since we are not, I relish that first Sunday experience. I am particularly drawn to communion by intinction — going forward to receive a piece of bread and then dipping it in a shared cup. Something about the movement brings a deeper level of worship for me — an involvement of all the parts of me, I guess.


Most weeks, the music of our Sunday services is also a primary point of connection for me, a time of worship that moves me to a different place somehow. Again, I think it’s because of the body involvement. We stand for a lot of our singing and that gives us a bit more freedom to move gently with the rhythm or to lift hands with the words (though not many of us do that; we do have Swedish roots in our denomination, after all). I had someone say, almost snidely, that most of the time an opening set of songs is designed to make us ‘feel good.’ I beg to differ. I think music can bring us to worship faster than words. And when you combine good melody and rhythm with good words — well, then — what’s not to love?


I also move into worship quite naturally when I’m at the beach, looking at the water. The ocean has always spoken to me of God, invited me to ‘bow the knee,’ and express both my gratitude and my awe. As long as I’m able to get there, I want to see the ocean every week — preferably more than once in a week!


The Word is a place where worship happens, too. Both the word written and the word spoken. But maybe most of all, the Word as a living, breathing presence in my thoughts and actions. The Spirit is that Word for a Christian, bringing to mind written words, ideas, groans. And faces, names, situations for whom I need to be praying. And prayer for me does not look like it once did. I talk some. But I listen more. And I visualize more. I also do a brief examen, or praying backwards through my day, as I drift off to sleep. All of that, as well as the time I spend reflecting on directees before I meet with them, the times I say ‘thank you’ for the gifts that are mine, the times that I am obedient to that nudge inside that says, “write her a note,” or, “call that one and go to tea,” or “find a way to say you’re sorry.” All of that is communion, which is one of the dearest kinds of worship for me.


And, of course,  I am hanging onto those morning walks which bring me directly into the presence of our God with each step, no matter how hard I’m breathing as I climb those hills! I took this shot of the sun just peeking over the southwest coastline today, at about 7:10 a.m. And here’s what I love about it. I was standing here — in the middle of a very steep, vacant lot, chuck full of gopher holes and weeds.

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Unsightly, rough, and yet . . . the place where I breathe in the beauty of our new neighborhood more fully than almost anywhere else. The place where I pause to worship every day. Go figure.

Worship can happen anywhere, can’t it?

Where do you worship most freely/easily?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 19 — Letting Go


Here is a small, but interesting lesson I’m learning right now. Sometimes when we give something up, when we let go of it, we find something else to take its place. For me these last few months, the ‘giving up,’ or ‘letting go,’  has been late night TV watching and/or reading. As I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, our trip to Kauai in July brought a change in my body clock after we returned home.

So I can’t really say that I made a conscious, sacrificial decision to ‘let it go.’ It just went. We were packing and schlepping right after we got home and I was beyond tired much of the time. It was also the dead of summer, when there isn’t much that’s decent on the television and most of my friends’ new books hadn’t yet been released. So if I was tired, I went to bed. And most nights, I went to sleep, pretty quickly.

I no longer needed those late hours to help me find some solitary space. I’m not sure why I no longer needed that, but I know that it’s true. Instead of waiting for my usual second wind kind of experience in the evenings, I just paid attention to my sleepiness quotient and went to bed when I reached my limit. 

What a novel idea!

Yes, sometimes I am unbearably slow. Or stubborn. Or something.

So most nights since the end of July, I’ve been in bed, on my way to sleep by 10:00 p.m. You need to know that this is record setting for me. When my children were tiny, I routinely stayed up until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., just to have some quiet space. I often did crafts or read or watched Johnny Carson. I just needed some time in my own house when I was alone and not ‘on call’ to anybody else. So I took it where I could get it — and those late hours came quite naturally to me.

I do realize that three months do not a new person make and I’m watching and waiting to see if the old habits will creep in once again. Occasionally, I do stay up until 11:00 or 11:30 — but unless I’m battling insomnia (which, for me, takes the form of a maddening inability to fall asleep more than wakefulness once asleep), I’m usually sawing logs by 10:30. 

Radical idea, right?

Yes, actually, for me — it is.

But here’s the flipside, the bonus, the gift-I-wasn’t-expecting: I’m up with the sun most days.

Say, WHAT???

Yup. This night owl is up with that sun. And I’m rewarded with an occasional view like the one at the top of this post. Glory in the morning, oh, YEAH. I’m liking this trade-off!

What are you letting go of these days? Or what do you think you might need to let go of?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 18 — Laughing ’til It Hurts

I’ll admit it right up front: I do not do this often enough. Laughter is the best medicine I know and one of my favorite things about my husband is that he makes me laugh regularly. But that side-splitting, almost-sick feeling of laughing until you cannot breathe? That needs to happen more often. And I’m not quite sure how to make it so.

Part of it has to do with my own attitude, I think. When I’m anxious, rushed, overbusy — it’s much harder to see the humor in anything. And just like yesterday’s post about looking for the small, I think we also have to be looking for the laugh.

Because I do believe there are things to laugh about all around us. As with so much of this life, it’s having the eyes to see, don’t you think?

Here is a short list of things that do make me laugh. What about you?


These girls are regular sources of delight! Here, they’ve just had their ears pierced — at the urging of the littlest one. Who knew?


Men riding bicycles in church, complete with helmets. (It was for an announcement.)


Story at the steps time on Sunday mornings. Almost always there is something said or done to make me crack up. Last week, Pastor Don asked, “What do you do when you feel scared in the night time?” And one of the kids said something almost unintelligible, but Don heard it as “Lie.” “Lie?” he asked. “How in the world does that help you?” The child corrected him loudly, “LIGHT!” Ah, yes. Light. It helps every time. Smile.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 17 — Celebrating the Small

You know what? It really is the little things. Those small spots of beauty and grace that make up our days. Moments, miracles, details. These are the things that speak to our hearts, fill us with gratitude, remind us we are loved, reveal the beauty that is beneath everything. Look for them. Speak them aloud. Say, ‘thank you,’ to God, to the universe, to whoever made that moment happen for you. It’s the best way I know to fully inhabit your life, to see it for the gift of grace that it is, no matter how bad your day may be going, how lousy you feel, how mad you are at someone (or at life in general!). If we can see the small beauties around us, then we can remember who we are.


Walking through Cost Plus, just lookin’ around, and nearly tripping over a strange little pocketed stand that had drawer hardware scattered throughout. Who knew Cost Plus carried drawer knobs? What I needed exactly, right there in front of me. Cracked turquoise glass ones and lovely soft green ceramic ones. One set for our new bedroom drawers, one set for the ones in my study. Gift, pure gift. And I wasn’t even looking for hardware that day.


Ditto this small side chair. We had a stuffed chair and ottoman that we moved into our living room. But it was too big and bulky for this new, smaller space. And my daughter could use it. So. . . what about something smaller? And there it was, well-priced, well-made, perfect color. And we love it. Score!


And, of course, the smallest of our grandkiddos, who also are the ones who live closest to us. They are constant reminders of the goodness of God, the beauty of childhood and the truth that only little ones can speak and live. This was the first day of school for them both — grade 4 for the older one, kindergarten for the younger. And this is their front yard — formerly our front yard — and only a 2 minute walk to their classrooms, after many years of a 15-30 minute commute from their former home. A big change made some small people very happy. And that is gift, too.


These lovely trumpet flowers pop up at the fence line in our new backyard. They begin life a vibrant purple hue and over the course of many weeks, slowly fade to white. All the while, they lift their heads to the skies and sing to me of beauty and grace.


One set of those drawer knobs, in place on my wonderful new files. They work perfectly: small gifts, small gifts.


Look closely now — it’s kind of blurry. But there is a very tiny bird sitting right on top of one of our new patio lights. It’s a hummingbird and this is one of their favorite resting places now. Lovely, small lights now lit regularly by our noisy, fractious, wonderful hummers. We have at least five who frequent our feeders and rest on our wires. I give thanks for both the lights and the birds!


Just one moment, a single minute of my early morning walk this weekend. Gloriously lit by the rising sun, palm trees silhouetted against the calm sea. Perfection in sixty seconds. Grace. Goodness. Beauty.

I will celebrate the small as long as I breathe.

Where do you find reason to celebrate these days?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 16 — Cherishing Friends


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to value long-time connection more and more. People who’ve walked the road with me for a long time, those are the ones I yearn to be with. I’m so grateful for newer friends, for later-in-life community — I am and I will continue to be.

But those people who’ve known me for a lifetime (or at least, a good chunk of a lifetime!) are the ones whose presence I seek out. My calendar has reservations for those folks. Maybe not a whole lotta reservations — but regular ones, that’s for sure. Those three women up there are my maternal first cousins. We live within 90 minutes of each other and try to get together for lunch and catch-up about twice a year. They’re remarkable people, each and every one. And we share so much story. It’s not very many people who can see me after six months and say, “You’re looking more like your dad every day, Diana.” Who else would know that about me? (And they’re right. I’ve always looked like my mom — but I see dad in there more and more as I age, especially in the hair color, body size/shape and, regrettably, that nose.)


And, of course, there is my longest-term-best-friend, my mom. The parts of her that made for true friendship are not as evident as they once were, but that twinkle in her eye is a reminder, that smile is a heartstring to the past. She does not remember me, but oh! I remember her.


And then there is this glorious posse, this group of long-term friends from our days at Pasadena Covenant church (1975-1996). Many of them are in this photo, but a couple of them weren’t able to make it to this gathering, just as I can’t make it to the one tonight.

These friends knew me before I wore any of the hats I’ve worn in the past two decades. Before seminary study, before pastoral ministry, before spiritual direction. Before. 

And most of them knew my kids. At least they knew me as a mom to those kids, which NO ONE in Santa Barbara does. I was so surprised at what a loss that was to me when we moved here. My role as their mom has been my primary identity since 1968 — and nobody in this congregation had a clue about any of that. It makes a difference, friends. It truly does. People who’ve walked with you through the joys and pitfalls of parenting and marriage (even if they themselves are not married or a parent) — those are the people who know you best. And who love you anyhow.

You gotta keep those friendships going. They’re lifeblood, even though IRL connections may be few and far between, they’re always rich and memorable. I was also part of another friendship group for a few years, one that I miss to this day. Six of us who were ordained as pastors in the same denomination gathered together for retreat every year for about 6-8 years. And then it just sort of died away. I have limited contact with three of that group and seldom hear from the other two. I miss them all and wonder every year about how to try and reestablish our connection.

Do you have friends  you’ve known forever? Special interest friends? Shared life experience friends? What do you do to stay in touch?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 15 — Dancing (at least on the inside!) Through the Days


I mean, really. Have you ever seen such gorgeous color in your life???

Our days are marked by moments. Moments that often bring us glimpses of glory . . . if we have eyes to see — and feet to dance! (at least in our spirits, right? I’ve written before about how dancing is a thing of the past for me, but the spirit of dancing is available, always. Always.)


So today’s post is a compilation of some of my dancing moments over the past eight weeks since our move to this house. Yes, there have most certainly been moments of a different kind. Tired, cranky, worried moments. But these dancing ones? They’re the ones I want to remember, to hang onto, to breathe in like oxygen. Because that is exactly what they are. Sailboats just before sunset will certainly make me breathe more deeply.


Worship is a dancing moment for me, especially on Communion Sunday. I might even move my feet or my hips (very carefully) if the beat is uptempo.


A largish angel from my collection didn’t fit indoors, so my eldest daughter calmly walked her outside and put her in the birdbath. And I LOVE IT. Every time I look at it, I smile.


A beautiful succulent flower, new to me, seen on a morning walk.


One of the bunny family that share our backyard – sitting calmly while we were eating dinner.


And stretching up to nibble on the low hedge of ceanothus that borders our fence.


A gasp-worthy reflection in a neighborhood pool on a walk one morning.


Early morning cruise ship viewing.


Five-year-olds playing soccer.


An evening view from the dinner table.

A California icon, rising upward against the morning fog.


Egrets in flight.


A great blue heron stalking lunch.


A hummer circling round the feeder.

DSC05234The super moon, the night before.

These guys, playing cards on our back patio after dinner.


And these blurry feet – so precious to me and so small next to my honkers.

Yes these are things that make me dance inside. What about you? What lifts your spirits and makes your muscle memory think of dancing?

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 14 — Valuing the Old


Of course today’s topic is one close to my heart. I am graced to have my 94-year-old mama still living. I myself am now 70. I am personally familiar with old things. And old people.

But you know what? We are not a society that particularly values old anything, maybe most especially people. That is painting with far too broad a brush, I own that. But there are times when it surely feels that way. I’m not sure it’s entirely intentional. We get busy, our lives are full, there is more energy to be found in the company of younger folk. I get it, I’m guilty of it, I know it.


The sixteen people who live in my mother’s Alzheimer’s unit were once thriving, contributing members of society, living lives rich in friendship and family. Now, many of them seldom see any young face other than that of their closest caregiver — the one who is paid to be there.

I myself am deeply, DEEPLY grateful for those paid friends. My mother’s life is incredibly richer and safer because of the place where she lives. And for a long list of reasons — most of them to do with my own emotional and physical limits — I see my mom only about every five or six days. For years, I called her nightly on the telephone. Now, that is too confusing for her, so I stopped doing that this summer. It was both a relief and an opening for yet another kind of grief, deep within me.

I love my mother very much. I miss my mother very much.

Yet she is still here.

And the pieces of her that remain have been lovely to see for the last two years or so. Just in the past two weeks, however, I have seen a deepening level of confusion and ‘lostness,’ which come yoked with an exponentially deeper sense of panic that permeates almost all of our ‘conversation’ of late. Three days ago, she was frightened to use the bathroom before we left for lunch, sure that someone was going to get her wet (she now hates the shower.) And she insisted that she had never been to the Cafe before, though we have been there at least once each week for the last six months.

“Are you sure it was me you took here?”

“Yes, Mom. I know you. It was you. You are Ruth Gold, right?”

“Yes, I am. But there must be another Ruth Gold because I’ve never been here before,” she said in a frightened, trembling voice.

I patted her arm, told her I was going inside to order our lunch and left her, sitting at the counter, peering at the view with a troubled look on her face.

Seven or eight minutes later, I returned with her diet coke in hand and told her the cheeseburger would be coming soon. She turned and looked at me, much calmer, and said with conviction, “I think that other woman must have left.”

Clearly, she had been thinking about our earlier conversation, something she is generally unable to do. Something about it hit her deep inside, requiring her to ponder and try and figure out how she could be so lost. Her conclusion was unbearably sad to hear.

Yet something deep within me resonated strongly with that so-sad sentence, that oh-so -carefully prepared sentence. Because she was right, you see. That other woman has indeed left, never to return this side of heaven.

And oh, I miss her so.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 13 — Trying Something New

I have a small collection of videos (two!) that are appropriate for this topic we’ve been examining the past two weeks. The whole video world is relatively new to me and I enjoy it so!

I’ve been a YouTube fan for about five or six years, I guess, and love the fact that technology allows us access to so many talented people around the world. This one even has the same title as this series and is great fun to watch. Enjoy!

And one more, just for thought and reflection. What a group of elderly women from Great Britain would do differently if they had their lives to live over again:

What do you enjoy that is new to you (relatively!)? What things do you dream about trying?

Just Wondering

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 12 — Walking for All I’m Worth


A few months before I retired at the end of 2010, I began to intentionally take walks almost every day. I’d done it for a lotta years before I moved to Santa Barbara and began my pastoral work, but somehow, the habit died away. We lived on a street without sidewalks, it was quite hilly . . . yadda, yadda, yadda.

I quit. I was distracted. I was lazy.

Then I landed in the hospital with blood clots in both lobes of both lungs and I began to think about trying to get more exercise. So I walked. Very slowly at first, walking laps around the large parking area of our driveway or around the campus at church, sometimes even around the pews in the sanctuary. 

Then I went to Laity Lodge in the fall of 2012 — my second time to that marvelous place — and one of our speakers was an expert on neurobiology. We happened to be in the same van heading to the airport for our flights home and I asked him what the latest developments were for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. He said this: “Sadly, there isn’t much that we know right now. It’s a much more complex process than we initially thought and the meds we’ve developed only target tiny pieces of that process. But there is one thing we do know that can help prevent or delay onset of this disease and that is this: thirty minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days each week.”


So I began to step it up even more, getting to about a mile and a half or two miles each evening. Slowly, I began to get stronger and I also began to drops a few pounds here and there.


Then, I injured my foot while on vacation. And during PT for that injury, I sustained a far worse one — the story of which you undoubtedly have heard enough about to last a lifetime. I could no longer walk and the pounds began to slowly return.

Then, after trying various combinations of strange footgear and consulting with three different doctors, I had corrective surgery. And going into that surgery, I put myself on a fairly stringent diet and lost a number of pounds just before and for several months after that surgery and recuperation. 


Within about two months, I began to take very, very careful walks once again — laps around my driveway and occasional circles at the beach nearest to that home. Since our move, I have mapped out a route in our new neighborhood and found another beach that allows me to walk on the sand at low tide. The pictures in this post were taken with my iPhone while on each of these routes.

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You know what? I LOVE WALKING. I often have my longest prayer times when I’m walking. I don’t talk much, but I listen and I lift names and faces to our loving God, trusting that God knows their needs far better than I. Since our trip to Kauai last July, I am waking up much earlier than ever before in my life (which means about 6:15 or so — I am SO a night owl and not a morning person!) and I’m usually out of the house between 7 and 7:30.

In many ways, those walks are a highlight of the day for me. 

And they are also good for me — in every way I can think of. Since that initial hospitalization for pulmonary emboli in May of 2010, I have lost about 80 pounds — very, very slowly. And, hopefully, permanently. I’ve dealt with weight/food issues my entire adult life, so I make no guarantees. Somehow, this feels very different from earlier weight loss episodes and I am praying that I am very different. 

So far, so good.


What do you do to stay healthy? 

Just Wondering