Proactive Aging: A Road Map to Arrive and Thrive

When I made the decision to retire, I was surprised at the number of people who expressed to me their belief that I would be bored when I didn’t have a job to go to everyday.  My response was the same, 100% of the time:  

“…only boring people get bored.”  

But– maybe also people who don’t plan for what’s ahead. If you are currently contemplating retirement, now is the time to begin building for that future. If you have already retired and feel like you’re floundering, it’s not too late to begin.

In a culture where often the first thing we are asked by a stranger after initial introductions is “what do you do?”  is it any wonder that so many of us are largely defined by our work?    I learned early on to view my work as a means to support my life vs my life supporting my work.  For me that meant that while I worked hard to give my best effort, I also endeavored to  maintain a life outside my job.  It was often challenging to manage that goal.

I have a friend who had a very successful career in a field she loved. She retired after some health issues made it difficult to continue, but has since failed to thrive and is largely housebound.  She is an example of one who was so involved in her successful career that she failed to build a life outside of it.  

If you are approaching retirement, here are 10 suggestions to consider :

fullsizeoutput_7945

gather with others

  1.  Build scheduled activities into your schedule now so that you have a reason to get up and get out when you’re no longer going to work.    I’ve attended a Monthly Bible Study with a small group of women for the last 20+ years.  In addition I’ve long attended weekly services at my church.  Once I ceased working, I added in classes at the gym three times a week and began walking one morning a week with a group of women friends.  These routine activities keep me active and involved in lives outside my own and give me something to look forward to nearly every day.IMG_4788
  2. Kill two birds with one stone.  Exercise your body while staying in touch with friends.  Instead of meeting for lunch or coffee, meet at a park and go for a walk, giving you time to catch up while keeping your body strong and agile.fullsizeoutput_add4
  3. Don’t restrict friendships to others your own age.  If all your friends are your age or older, eventually if you are fortunate enough to have long life, you will face losing many who are dear to you.  Hence, there is a great benefit to having friends of various ages.  I have found many young women who are desirous of being in relationship with an older woman who shares their values and can be a source of wisdom that comes with age.  Multigenerational activities are enriching and expand our horizons.  Spend time with grandchildren while they’re young so you’ll have strong relationships when they age.
  4. Don’t be afraid of technology/social media. While it’s true that social media can be misused, but it can also be a blessing.  Facebook and Instagram have been a means for me to stay in touch with friends all over the world.  Today I was able to converse in real time with my friend who recently relocated to Luxenbourg.  I group text with a several small groups of friends regularly.  And, my granddaughters introduced me to Marco Polo, an application that allows us to send video messages. I’ve been using it for months and recently some of my 30 something friends have discovered it.  This Senior was ahead of the curve!fullsizeoutput_7848
  5. Exercise hospitality at whatever level works for you.  You may not feel like hosting a dinner party but who can’t manage a pitcher of iced tea and a bunch of grapes?  Invite friends over for a movie night or a potluck holiday gathering.
  6. Find a place to volunteer where you can use your gifts for the benefit of others.  We all need a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.  I spend one day a week with my grandchildren, freeing my daughter to have some time to herself.  I spend another afternoon volunteering at my church, supporting women’s ministries and events.  Wherever your interests lie, find a place to exercise them on a regular basis.  
  7. Remember that isolation is your enemy.  Don’t end up like my friend who believes retiring was the biggest mistake of her life.  Ideally you start building a life outside of your work while you’re still in the game.  But, if you can’t, make it a priority to do so soon after you leave the workplace. cookie 169
  8. Rediscover your partner and the things you enjoy doing together.  Whether it’s going to the gym together, walking your dogs, hiking, travel or movies, make time for each other and for social activities with other friends. 
  9. Rediscover your spiritual side and the faith you may have abandoned. As we near the end of life on earth we are more incline to realize that our spirits need to nurtured and stretched. For me that means reading my Bible in the morning as I enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Ive found God’s Word life giving and able to fill my spiritual tank, enabling me to live with purpose. It means gathering with like minded believers so that we may spur one another on to good work. And, it means feeling prepared for whatever may come.
  10. . Serve others. It may be a neighbor, a friend or someone in your church. Find ways to give of yourself to bless others regularly. Prepare and deliver a meal to a sick friend or a new Mom and her family. If you don’t cook, deliver take out or a gift card to their favorite restaurant. When you make soups prepare a double recipe and freeze half to share with someone later. Offer to babysit your grands overnight and give your adult children a night out sans children. Offer to pick up things at the market for someone who has difficulty getting out. Help with preparations for events you enjoy. The possibilities are endless and as you bless others you, too, will be blessed.

The beauty of retirement is that we have the freedom to choose where and when to spend our time and effort and with whom. It is NOT the time to burrow in for the winter. We are not groundhogs, people.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’re either preparing to or are already thriving as you age.

Here’s to Blooming in Winter! With a little preparation it can be the icing on your cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of a Smile

I really love retired life.  My days are full and I love the freedom it affords.  Even so, in a moment of  madness,  I accepted a short-term position which landed me back in the workforce for a period of six weeks. Three weeks into it,  I’m musing on the value of a smile.

IMG_1439

A happy face means a glad heart…  -Proverbs 15:13 The Living Bible

Each day of my assignment, I have been given the opportunity to interact with anywhere from  25 to 75 individuals for  a portion of my day and theirs.  What has repeatedly  pierced my heart in these interactions has been  the power of a smile and those who seem unable to give and receive them.

I have long been challenged by a desire to present a smile to all I come in contact with. The humble, quiet, smile can break down walls, lighten loads, ease anxiety, cheer the down hearted and comfort the hurting.  It can encourage the worried, create a safe space for the scared and elicit a mirrored response.  In that moment, all is good and right when someone smiles at you.

sP06jCg1QWmoeiDfiUihfw

A joyful heart is good medicine…  -Proverbs 17:22

I find it disturbing when humans, both young and old, walk around with blank, angry or hardened faces. These faces appear unwilling to make eye contact and unable to give or even respond to a smile.  They walk around with fences around their hearts that dare anyone to tear them down.  I weep, especially, for the young students I have seen these last few weeks, who enter a room face down, stone faced and unable to receive the warmth of a smile, let alone return it. A smile invites others into your life, if only for a moment.  It says, “you are welcome here in my world for this time we are together”.  It makes you accessible and allows someone to experience a moment of joy.

IMG_5629

If you’re happy, notify your face.  If you’re not, try to smile anyway.  It’s good for your soul.

If you refuse to receive and respond to a smile with one of your own, you are shutting those out who are purveyors of peace and joy. Perhaps fear, isolation or abandonment has caused you to shut others out for fear of being wounded by someone you once opened your heart to. Consider that a smile may well begin to heal what is broken and warm what has grown cold.

Let’s admit right now that it’s not always easy to smile.  Sometimes it is a sacrifice to set aside how we’re feeling inside and to go beyond those feelings to give someone else what they might need.  But let’s also be real.  It’s not that hard to turn up the corners of our mouths even when we may be hurting inside.  What does that old song say?

SMILE

This is some good advice friends. Take heed, because when we smile we not only brighten the person we’re giving it, too, but we are also notifying our own soul that there is still much to be joyful about and to be grateful for.  We cheer ourselves when we cheer others.

Take the smile challenge.  Make it your business to give  more smiles today.  Bless someone with a gift that costs you nothing but may be an encouragement to one desperately in need of it.

Just SMILE.

ūüėć

The Comforts of Community

Feeling more than a wee bit smug, I ¬†put the finishing touches on my presentation about persevering through the storms of life. (I should’ve seen those yellow warning lights flashing, right?) I was scheduled to speak ¬†to a gathering of women at my church ¬†in 7 days ¬†and was elated to have completed the preparation. (‘So unlike me to be ahead of the curve) ¬†Except for that ¬†nagging little voice in my head ¬†telling me ¬†there was still ¬†something I needed to add. Never the less, ¬†I ¬†had a week to polish and prune and a wide open schedule if adjustments were needed. ¬†No problem.

light road red yellow

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Right…

I arrived home that ¬†Thursday evening ¬†to find my husband in significant pain, but chalked it up to the fact that he had consumed an entire container of salsa with chips, so ¬†we went to ¬†bed praying he’d be better by morning. ¬†When the sun came up, it was clear that was not the case. ¬†His pain had intensified. ¬†I called his physician and although he was overbooked for the day, they fit us in. ¬† His pain was off the charts by the time we arrived at his office and his doc. urged us to go immediately to the ER for further evaluation.

We arrived to a bustling ER and were seen immediately, despite a lobby teeming ¬†with sick and injured patients. He was quickly evaluated and though there ¬†was “no room at the inn” he was moved into the patient area ¬†where he was put on a gurney, in a hallway just across from the desks where nurses and physicians took calls and input information onto their computers. Eventually he was whisked off for an ultrasound and later a CT scan. ¬†Blood was drawn and pain medication was administered. ¬†And we waited. ¬†For hours and hours.

The thing about an emergency room is that you are reminded that many others are far worse off than you are and that gives valuable perspective.  As results came in, it became clear that his gall bladder was the offending organ, an uncommon form of infection as most are caused by gall stones. He had none.  The CT scan showed a lot of inflammation around the gall bladder-  known as acalculous. Initially we expected surgery that night or early the next day.    It needed to come out immediately, but, because of a daily  medication he took, we would need to wait 5 days until that medication was out of his system in order to avoid excessive bleeding.   His white count was 29 which is 3 times the ideal,  indicating a serious infection was raging.  Although the surgery was impossible in that moment, the inflammation needed to be addressed.  As we approached midnight, he was moved to the med-surg  floor and prepared to be  taken into radiology, where a catheter was inserted to draw out infected fluid in order to bridge the situation until surgery was prudent.  The procedure had similar risks, but because it was less invasive there was less risk involved.  It was a short term fix.  In the days that followed, there were heavy doses of antibiotics, painkillers and  intravenous hydration.  Three days later, his  white count finally began to descend.

Over the next several days, I spent long days that morphed into nights at his bedside. ¬†In the midst of this I learned a little more about the meaning of persevering through storms. ¬†I learned that there are gifts to be found. ¬†I learned that the gifts of community are in full bloom when we are confronted by such storms. ¬†Via text messaging, I started three prayer/update chains, one for immediate family, one with Bible Study friends and one with some cousins. ¬†The responses and reassurances of prayers going up on Mike’s behalf were an enormous comfort for me in the long hours I waited alone. Although I wasn’t able to respond in detail, I was able to show my appreciation quickly in most cases.

IMG_3081

By Sunday, the word was out.  Our senior Pastor came and spent an hour with us, encouraging and praying for healing.  Over the next days multiple church staff members came to pray, deliver chocolate and bring encouragement. My girl brought hot tea.    My sister-in-law and niece came briefly, and later delivered a sumptuous meal for me to take home. And one  night when I left the hospital after nearly 12 hours, I asked a security guard to escort me to the 3rd floor of the parking structure. His name was Jesus.  The significance of that was not lost on me.

So. Much. Kindness.

So. Many. Blessings.

The hospital experience was spectacular. The nurses, the nursing assistants, the physicians, the respiratory therapists…without exception we were bathed in kindness and grace. Each new morning I was made ¬†aware of everyday heroes, quietly doing their jobs and blessing those ¬†in their path with ¬†their faithfulness to the tasks given them: worker bees, all – ¬†nursing staff, housekeepers, facility staff, volunteers, cafeteria workers, security guards, parking attendants, lab technicians and pharmacists- the list is long. ¬† Even as I rode the elevators up and down, every employee made eye contact and spoke intentionally. Every single one. ¬†It was like it was a job requirement. ¬†Volunteers played piano in the lobby as I entered each morning and one such morning I found myself singing along…

fullsizeoutput_9e87

God bless the volunteers…

“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, everything’s coming up roses, everything’s going my way.” ¬†Bringing joy and uplifting hearts, one song at a time.

Over the next week, my  days were spent spoon feeding my patient  bland, pureed food, assisting  with grooming , adding blankets and taking them away, adjusting heat and bed up and down,  calling for more medications or to stop beeping machinery,  meeting with physicians and sending out updates to our prayer partners.  Friends and family came bearing  chocolate, hot beverages, books, cards , plants, dinner and prayers. One such angel walked and fed our pooches twice a day as I manned my post at the hospital.   Encouraging texts flowed in throughout each day, surrounding us with friendship and love even though I was hard pressed to respond with specific updates.  Prayers from Montana, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, California and more and phone calls from concerned friends and family.  We were so covered and felt so loved.

Although he was assigned a shared room, we were blessed with privacy for the first five days. ¬†It was a blessing to have time ¬†and space to spread out with my books and laptop and a chair to rest in. ¬†Then, by divine intervention, an 85 year old Syrian man came in to claim the other bed. ¬†His daughter visited her Father that night and overheard a conversation about my niece who had visited earlier. When the woman got up to leave later, she apologized for overhearing but she had heard the names I mentioned and wondered… long story short, we realized she had actually cared for my nieces two decades earlier when they were very young. ¬†Though she no longer ¬†lives ¬†in the area, ¬†she ¬†had come to see her Father in the hospital and our Heavenly Father ordained that he should be placed in the bed next to my husband. Another reminder that our ¬†God ¬†is in the details of our lives. ¬†She ¬†shared with me that my ¬†nieces had recently been on her mind and heart and after I updated her on their lives she vowed to keep them in her prayers, knowing the Lord is faithful to provide for all their needs. Isn’t our ¬†God so personal ¬†and so kind? I am astounded at His intervention in our lives.

Six days after we first arrived at the hospital, a successful surgery was performed and on day seven, the patient came home, very grateful to be sprung from the annoyances of hospital life while appreciating every individual there who made his return home possible.

fullsizeoutput_9cf6

Sometimes community springs up where we are, as it did in the hospital that week. But, deep community is built in the monotony of everyday life when things are going well. ¬†It happens in our neighborhoods, in our churches and in our interactions with others. ¬†But, it doesn’t happen without our making the effort . ¬†The time to build community is now, not when you’re en route to the hospital in an ambulance. ¬†Because when you’re sitting in a hospital and day becomes night and then day again, that’s when your community will prop you up. ¬†When you are fatigued beyond your breaking point, they will deliver a much needed cup of coffee when you don’t even realize your body is craving caffeine or, ¬†a meal when you didn’t realize how hungry you were. ¬†They will close the windows you left open in your mad dash to get help and they will walk your dogs when you can’t get home to do it yourself. ¬†More importantly, they will send up prayers on your behalf when you are at a loss for words to pray yourself. ¬†They will bring comfort by waiting with you in the surgery waiting room and be a balm to your weary soul. ¬† These are the priceless gifts of community.

Get one.

Build one.

 

Enter one.

Tomorrow you may well reap the benefits from the one you built today.

Falling in Love Again

Growing older often  brings with it,  gifts that can only be  wrapped and delivered with the passage of time.

This post isn’t what you think it is. ¬†And maybe you will think me a little “off” once you hear what it ¬†is. ¬† But, the title of this blog is the one that best describes how I feel about ¬†the events of this past weekend.

Nearly fifty years ago, I met a friend, by way of our mutual friend and then we became friends. ¬†We were both single and for a minute contemplated a romance, but quickly came to our senses. ¬†Not one to let a good friend be lost to a romance that wasn’t meant to be, we ¬†both persevered in our friendship, now for almost half a century.

IMG_2265

My dear old friend and I

He, a quirky guy, ¬†married a beautiful woman with a heart-shaped face and a heart that welcomed me. ‘Bless her. ¬†I married my own ¬†quirky guy (whom I ¬†later ¬†divorced and¬†¬†re-married.) ¬†In between, ¬†Steve and his wife travelled from Tennessee with their first-born and spent time with me and mine. Later, they came to visit us when we lived in the DC area. ¬†When my girl and I returned to California to reunite with my¬† guy, the drive across the ¬†country included a detour to ¬†Nashville specifically designed to spend time with them before continuing West.

That was 26 years ago.  It was the last time we were in the same place together. But, now they were headed West for a wedding and my far away friend  announced via an unexpected email, that he and his beloved would be dining with us on August 4.

YAHTZEE

They arrived at LAX early early Saturday morning, texting me that ¬†their rental car wouldn’t be available until noon. Yikes! ¬† I jumped out of bed and ¬†dashed out of the house, sans make-up and in ¬†the clothes I’d had on the day before. They are ¬†those kind of friends–no need to impress, only to ¬†show up. ¬†So, show up I did.

He was mildly disappointed that I was driving a Ford and not a European sports car but, agreed to get in with a promise of breakfast to come.  We headed to a small community adjacent to LAX where we shared a meal, took some pictures and then drove  along  the coast so they could soak in the sparkle of the early morning Pacific. We  headed North on Vista Del Mar as  beach goers claimed their turf for the day.

Their rental was ready, so I deposited them just off Century Blvd. and they headed East ¬†to one of the Presidential libraries they’d planned to visit. ¬†As for me, ¬† I returned home to prepare for their return for ¬†dinner around our table. When they arrived just after 6, ¬†they met my husband for the first time and everyone was instantly at ease. ¬†If you’d been a fly on the wall, you’d have assumed we were all long time friends in the habit of gathering together often. ¬† We meandered around our kitchen island drinking cold beverages and the years and distance melted away with the summer ¬†heat. ¬†There was no lack of ease ¬†in the room, no extended silences, no aloofness – only the comfort that comes from knowing and being known and believing down deep that ¬†you are welcomed as you are.

We sat at our table and ate too much food. ¬†We ¬†talked for hours, not about superficial things but about the many things that had transpired in our lives since we’d been together last. ¬†There were the expected “catch up” conversations about our children and their lives today, our families and how they’ve evolved. ¬†We came current as we ¬†took in ¬† braised short ribs and strawberry shortbread dessert. There was a lot of laughter, and then some ¬†sorrow too, which morphed into deeper conversations. ¬†We shared joys and sadness because the best lives are ¬†full of both. ¬† ¬†And- because there was no sense of risk involved. ¬†We were safe together.

My husband, still recovering from a recent illness, said goodnight early, ¬†but the three remaining compadres sat up late, sharing more stories , unwilling to let the one night we had together end too soon. They had a full day planned for Sunday and it was unlikely we’d meet again before their departure on a train early Monday morning. ¬†Still, as I stood at the front door ¬†sending ¬†them off to their hotel, ¬†I couldn’t help interjecting (okay, I was kinda pleading) ¬†that “IF” they were up to it after another day at another library on Sunday, we’d be so happy ¬†to meet for another meal at a local ¬†restaurant. (a girl can dream, right?)

I fell asleep with a full heart and a prayer that  it might possible to reunite just one more time.  The next morning we texted and I was thrilled to receive her response, which said in part,

“…Such a precious time last night. I hope we’re up to dinner tonight. ¬†We are planning to unless the day gets too long. ¬†It’s good to be here and to be near you guys. ¬†‘Don’t want to miss the opportunities God has for us…”

My heart swelled with hope.  I prayed for a burst of energy that would bring them back to us.  By 5:30 there was a text that they were headed our way.

BINGO

So there we were, once again, sharing a meal and our lives for another three hours.  And, then,  at the end of a long day,  we said good bye knowing it would be our last for a  long while.

fullsizeoutput_9dc9.jpeg

“Re-united and it feels so good” The husband and I along with our beloved far-away friends, Prilla and Steve

 

It was more than a little heartbreaking for me. ¬†You see, I was reminded anew how very much I love them. ¬†I realized that though 26 years and 2,022 miles had come between us, the closeness I felt for them had never gone away. ¬† Added bonus: ¬†the husband now had come to know and ¬†love them, too. ¬†Although I knew I loved them, it felt ¬†like “falling in love again.” ¬†I was reminded afresh, how very special they are, how like-minded we are, how we share values, ¬†faith and ¬†perspectives on so many important things. ¬†It was a little glimpse of Heaven. ¬†For reals.

WINNING

“I felt my heart strangely warmed.” ¬†¬†-John Wesley ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†First love.

 I had forgotten what it felt like.

But-then, I was reminded.

They arrived back ¬†home just yesterday. ¬†We ¬†now have a group text going and ¬†I vow it’s going to keep going. ¬†They are the next-door neighbors we’ve always longed for. ¬†We’ve rediscovered a long-lost love and it has left my heart bursting with joy.

May it burn strong for all my days. ¬†And, Lord, if it’s not asking too much? ¬† May they be our next door neighbors in Heaven, if not on Earth? Please and thank You.

Amen and Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings of Friendship Through the Seasons of Life

IMG_8824.JPG

My earliest friends, aside from my maternal cousins,  were Pam Peluski and Donna Todd in Three Forks, Montana,  followed by Susie Haggerty and Johnny Mike Wilcox when we moved to Butte.  They were the first  friends who have marked my life of  64 years.  I am no longer in touch with those early friends,  but they comprise my earliest memories of friendships  and are forever engraved in my heart.

IMG_9290.JPG

I have been blessed with a long line of friends-most certainly more than I deserve.  Some have come for a season and others for a lifetime.   Some have moved far away geographically and others, emotionally, but all of them are together  in my collection of treasured memories.  Each have blessed me in their own unique way.  A few have ended badly- not many, but there is still some regret for less than happy endings along with gratitude for the gifts they brought.

There were many friends in my elementary school years, mostly from our So Cal neighborhood. We spent hours playing Barbies, tether ball on the playground,  roller skating, bike riding and going to the beach when our parents gave in to our craving for the sand and surf.  Through the blessing of Facebook, many of us have been able to re-connect despite most having left the neighborhood we grew up in.  Our childhood was sweet for the most part and we share many  fond memories of growing up in a simpler, more carefree time.

In my  high school years, I made  new friends, some  from far away places-Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee.  Billy, Deb, Stephen and Evie all opened up new worlds to me.  With Evie I visited New York City for the first time, went to Carnegie Hall and fell in love with the Big Apple.  While Billy and Stephen travelled throughout the country, I travelled vicariously with them and engaged in copious letter writing through the years.  Because of them, I visited Nashville for the first time and also fell in love with Music City.  Although I see them rarely, I still consider both to be dear friends.  Stephen and his wife Prilla will visit us next month, some  26 years since  I last saw them in Nashville and I am beyond excited to see them.   Deb and I have never lived in the same state, but through the years we have managed to meet once or twice a year in places wherever we found a good airfare.   We have shared the joys and sorrows of life together for nearly half a century.  (We are OLD!) She has been a shelter to me through many storms.

At home, my local ¬†bestie was Cindy. ¬†Her family lived in another town, ¬†a few miles from my home. We were the closest ¬†of friends through high school. ¬†I spent many a weekend in her home, with ¬†the two of us sleeping in her small bedroom at the top of the stairs in a single bed. ¬†I travelled with she and her sisters in their own bus, as they travelled from church to church singing their sweet harmonies as The Hammond Sisters. ¬† ¬†We had the best of times. ¬†I remember gathering around their kitchen counter for breakfast and her Dad reading from ‚ÄúOur Daily Bread‚ÄĚ. ¬†Her mom was an anchor and always welcomed me with open arms. ¬†She was strong and unyielding in her faith, but warm and loving at the same time. ¬†I felt at home in theirs. ¬† Through a long series of life‚Äôs challenges, Cindy and I ¬†lost touch. ¬†She went through some very hard times and ultimately moved away and settled far North of us. ¬†Though there were occasional letters and brief visits through the years we have not been in touch in over three decades. ¬†Though time and geography have come between us, my affection for ¬†her remains strong and I know one day we‚Äôll be reunited, if not on earth, in Heaven. ¬†That will be a day ¬†of ¬†great joy for me.

As an adult, my closest friends have blossomed under the umbrella of my faith. ¬†So many women have grown to be so dear to me. ¬†Karen and Patricia, my Maryland besties who blessed me extravagantly with their hospitality, like mindedness, listening ears, prayers and humor. ¬† Jules, who is a bestie to everyone who knows her and who taught me how to set a beautiful table among other things. ¬† Tracey, who has modeled a life of prayer and who makes me laugh hilariously in the dark hours of the night with ¬†her texts as we both battle insomnia. ¬† Nancy, who ¬†has rescued me from my impulsive actions more than once and whose wry humor makes me laugh out loud. ¬† Paula, who is an example of self-less service, devotion to knowing the Word of God and a sense of ¬†humor that I adore. ¬†Cindy, who believes me to be far better than I really am and encourages me to walk in faith believing God CAN. ¬†Jean, who has taken on the mantle of great-grandma to my littles in the absence of my own mother, and who has been a constant source of encouragement from the day I met her. ¬†My walking group and my Bible study partners who urge me to press on to the good…the list goes on…

They say you can’t choose your family, but you can, your friends. ¬†Some of us are blessed with family we also call friends. ¬† My husband, who has grown to be the dearest of the dear through many trials and heartaches and who is now my ¬†exemplary husband and friend. ¬†My closest cousins, ¬†Shelly, Linda and Dona, ¬†are literally lifelong friends, woven into the fabric of my heart. ¬†Not a week goes by that I‚Äôm ¬†not in contact with one and sometimes all of them. My sisters and sisters-in-love, Debi, Dona, Christine, Nancy and Stacie are not “just” my family, but friends in whose presence I am always at home because of the history we share.

Each friendship is unique. ¬†Some are full of laughter and others are full of heartfelt conversation, exhortation and encouragement as we share our lives. ¬† I have always struggled with the question, ‚Äúwho is your best friend?‚ÄĚ My friend Betsy once asked me that question and I responded, ” I cannot narrow it down.” ¬†The truth is, I have been blessed with an abundance of good, good friends. ¬†At any given time, they have each been my ‚Äúbest‚ÄĚ friend. ¬†When I am in their presence, the ¬†designation of “best” belongs to them. ¬† Each, ‚Äúfor such a time as this.‚ÄĚ ¬†I marvel at the goodness of our loving God, to gift my life with the right one at the right time. ¬†Through joy and suffering, through laughter and tears, through successes and failures, this cadre of friends have walked with me through the sunshine and storms of life. ¬†They have inspired me to press on through the heartaches and trials and have rejoiced in the delights of this life.

I cannot choose one.

I choose them all.

If you have one true friend, you are fortunate.  If you have a handful, you are blessed.  If you have more than a handful, you are rich indeed.

Rich, indeed.

#agr8fulheart