Finding the Joy in Disappointment

As you well know, the best part of any Christmas is being together with the entire family in one place, enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations, a festive table, eating delicious, rich dishes that we only get this time of year, opening presents from one another and witnessing the joy on our grandchildren’s face as they tear open their gifts. But, without a doubt, the absolute best part is just being together with every child and their spouse, and every grandchild in the house sharing in the festivities.

As in years past, that was our plan for this Christmas. We even moved our family celebration to the 26th so that the entire family could be together. My daughter and her family were to celebrate Christmas Day at their home in Texas and then fly in on the morning of the 26th for our family get-together.

But then this happened!

Like thousands of others, we had our Christmas disrupted by Southwest Airlines’ technical problems. My daughter’s family discovered upon arrival at the airport on the morning of December 26 that their flight had been canceled. Since she was nearly eight months pregnant, driving the thirteen hours to Tennessee was out of the question.

Of course, I wasn’t alone in my disappointment this holiday season. My sister-in-law fought back tears as she told me their flight to California on December 26 to be with her son’s family was canceled. It had been nine months since she had seen them and she had been looking forward to the trip ever since their last visit.

We’ve seen videos of the horror stories of people stranded in airports for days, some without their luggage or their needed medications. We’ve heard about the much-anticipated vacations to Hawaii or the Caribbean canceled because the flights could get them there. Some of the stories are heartbreaking.

Making it Right

Southwest has long been my favorite airline. It’s always the first place I check when booking a flight. But, they made a big mistake by putting off upgrading their technology, and, unfortunately, it caught up with them at the most inopportune time.

Their leaders have taken full responsibility and come out with an apology and I believe they will make the necessary upgrades to prevent this from happening again. They have gone overboard to refund passengers, take care of their hotel or rental car costs, etc. That is admiral, but the one thing that they can’t refund is time with our loved ones. Unfortunately, that’s gone forever.

The Cure

We have to look for the silver lining in every situation we cannot control. We may not be able to change the circumstance, but we can feel much better about our dilemma when we look for the positive.

So what were the positives from something as disappointing as missing Christmas with our grandchildren?

  1. Southwest refunded them the cost of their tickets and also gave them $800 in credits. I’m sure they could use those funds with a baby on the way and having to buy a bigger car.
  2. Besides being very pregnant, my daughter was also suffering from an eye infection at the time. Being home and resting for the week was probably more healthy for her than coming in and having a full week of activities with both our family and her husband’s family.
  3. My husband and I will be traveling to Texas to help them out when the baby is born in late January. We’ll bring all their Christmas presents with us so the two boys will have new toys to play with while she’s in the hospital and caring for a new baby.
  4. They say that anticipation is half the fun, so now we get to anticipate seeing them for another whole month.

Yes, I’m sorry that I didn’t get to hear the pitter-patter of those little feet at my house during Christmas week or spend time with my daughter. I’m disappointed that the two boys missed going to Cheekwood to see all the Christmas lights and that I missed seeing the joy on their faces as the little lit-up trains made their way through the tracks in the woods. I hate that my daughter and son-in-law missed the annual steak restaurant dinner with their siblings and their spouses.

But when situations are out of control, we have a choice. We can choose to dwell on the negative or think about the positive. Since dwelling on the negative never changes anything, I chose to do that only for a little bit, but then decided it was time to look to the positive. That’s when the joy comes back.

One thing this debacle must have driven home to Southwest and all airlines is that they’re not just transporting bodies from one point to another. They are transporting human beings with their souls, spirits, and relationships, with the joys, sorrows, circumstances, and everything else that comes with the living.

While taking down the Christmas decorations this year, I was still thankful for the precious, joyous Christmas we had with the rest of the family, but I had to admit that it felt incomplete. And it’s okay to grieve for a while for something we missed. But now it’s time to look forward to our next visit with them and anticipate seeing the joy on those boys’ faces when they open their Christmas presents at the end of January. Then we get to witness the best present of all when we all lay eyes on that precious little sister, our tenth grandchild, for the first time! And this time we will be driving!

Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning,

Psalm 30:5

Remedy for a Blue Christmas

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This year, I felt a little melancholy while putting up my Christmas tree and decorations and I couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason. It was my first Christmas being retired, which meant that I didn’t have to stress out trying to get everything up in one day over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I could take the entire week to get every piece just right. However, I found that I didn’t like my house being messy for an entire week, so next year I’m going to shoot for a two-day setup. Was the slower pace causing my blueness though? No, it was something else.

We had recently decided to move our family get-together from Christmas day to December 26. The reason being that my daughter who lives in Texas let us know they wanted to start having Christmas morning at their home now that her two boys were getting older.

I get it. I’m in no way upset because I was the same way when my children were little. My dad lived in Kentucky and we would go up there every year for Christmas Eve and then drive back to Tennessee late that night so we could all be home as a family for Christmas morning. I still remember those special times. We’d be exhausted from the late-night travel and then stayed up half the night putting some Santa toys together. Of course, the kids were awake as soon or before the sun came up on Christmas morning and my husband and I would drag ourselves out of bed to watch the children gleefully unwrap each of their gifts. We loved every minute of seeing the happiness on their faces and their excitement over their presents.

Seasons change

When Lindsay gave us the news this year, we talked about having the rest of the family over on Christmas day as usual and then having Christmas with them on another day since they would be staying the week, but finally decided it made more sense to just celebrate with the entire family on the 26th.

I’m fine with that decision because it’s more fun when everyone is there, but it serves as a reminder that as each of my children’s family grows, our original family is less important. It’s the way God designed it, but letting go is still a little painful.

If you’re retired or have children who are older, you know exactly what that’s like. You’ve, no doubt, experienced many letting-go situations along life’s pathway. After all, life itself is a process of letting go. It starts with the birth of our children. While there is nothing more precious or exciting than bringing a fresh, new, sweet smelling child into our home, I found that I missed feeling them kicking around inside of me once they were born. The first attachment had been severed and life was just beginning.

Then there’s that special time of nursing and cuddling. But in no time were working to wean them to a bottle and eventually to food because they are growing and nursing is exhausting. Again, we are sad because they no longer need us in this capacity. There is always that final time and we miss those cuddles.

Before we know it, it’s off to school and then to drive a car and eventually to college from which they may or may not come back home. And while we wouldn’t have it any other way, it still makes us sad. It’s funny how we can be glad and sad at the same time.

Life on earth is a series of letting go situations because this is not our permanent home. We are created for eternity and are just passing through this world. When we have those babies that we love and cherish so much, we’re just replacing ourself. We teach them and train them in every way how to live because one day we will no longer be there for them and they will need to know how to carry on.

I’ve been very blessed as this will be my 70th Christmas. They all have been different, starting out with my childhood Christmas’ at home where the fragrance from a live cedar tree that my father cut down each year and brought home filled our house. Then the excitement of my husband and I getting our own tree in our apartment when we were first married. Though the decorations were sparse, we were no less proud! A few years later we were able to purchase Baby’s first ornament for our tree. From there each Christmas grew larger as more children were added, more ornaments adorned the tree and the gifts around it multiplied.

Then one by one each child began to leave to start their own Christmas memories with their children. This Christmas marks the final child to do that. Sure, we’ll still get together after they each have their own Christmas at their homes and we’ll have a blast. And, frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because that’s the way it’s suppose to be.

This Christmas day may be a bit of a downer as my husband and I patiently wait one extra day for the sights, sounds, smells, and energy of our four children, their spouses and nine grandchildren to fill our home. But we will be thankful. Grateful that we’re all still here and able to be together for one more crazy Christmas. Not every family can say that. I personally know of families that will celebrate this Christmas for the first time without a beloved spouse, mother or father. My heart goes out to them.

Christmas is a Season

I love that we take the entire month of December to prepare and celebrate Christmas with the decorating, parties and food. After all, without Christmas we’d all be hopelessly lost in our sins. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter if it’s December 25th, 26th, or any other day of the month, the blessing is that we all still get to participate in the most joyous season of the year with those we love one more time!

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21

Six Hiking Tips for Seniors

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I’ve never been much of an athlete, although I’ve always loved to dance and take long walks. I grew up in a rural area and would often take walks down the country roads by my house. I found it a great time of solitude for thinking and processing life. Later when I married and our children were young, we’d often take them on hikes through the woods. We have found those times to be some of our most fond memories.

There’s just something about being in nature that soothes and replenishes the soul. In Nashville, Tennessee where I reside, there are numerous parks filled with gorgeous trees and plants and plenty of hiking trails. Some paved ones as well as other dirt trails through the woods. The paved trails are usually the easiest, however, they are much harder on the feet than the dirt trails. The dirt trails often have more up-and-down hills making for a better workout, but there is one danger to look out for. No, it’s not bears or snakes, but those deadly tree roots! Yes, those innocent-looking hunks of wood in the ground bringing nourishment to the trees. If you’re not careful, they can literally trip you up as I’ve unfortunately learned firsthand on more than one occasion.

My first trip up

On this particular summer day, my husband and I couldn’t decide if we wanted to go swimming for relaxation or hiking for exercise. It was an extremely hot day, so we wanted to go to the pool, but didn’t want to just lie around all day, so we decided we’d hike a relatively short trail at Radnor Lake and then go to the pool in the afternoon. It was extremely hot and humid that day which in hindsight was probably not the best day for hiking. The trail is just about a two-mile hike over a couple of hills through the woods. We were on the plateau when suddenly out of nowhere, I tripped over a root and face-planted on the ground before I even knew what had happened. I heard this weird sound in my head and my husband who was in front of me, came running to my rescue yelling “Are you alright.”

I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew I wasn’t alright, so I yelled back, “No!” He helped me up and saw my face around my eye was already turning black and starting to swell. I was dazed. He immediately took a picture and sent it to my daughter-in-law, a nurse practitioner. She said we needed to head to the emergency immediately.

We were just about halfway through our hike and had at least a mile to get back to the car. Then out of nowhere, it started pouring down rain! There had been no rain at all in the forecast, but here we were trying to get back to the car with my injury and the pouring rain hitting me in the face. Not a pleasant experience. However, I believe that the rain may have been a God send because the cold water probably kept my face from swelling so much.

When we got to the car we were soaked. Thankfully, we had packed some towels since we were planning on going swimming later. And for some strange reason, (I thank the Lord) Bobby had put an extra shirt in the car, so I was able to put on a dry one.

When we finally got to the hospital, they took me right back for an MRI and discovered I had broken my eye socket and had a slight concussion as well. Thankfully my eye wasn’t damaged, which can often happen with this type of injury. I’m also very thankful that I still had an eyeball since there was a big, jagged stump within an inch of where I had fallen.

My three blunders

There were three mistakes that day that contributed to my fall.

(1) It was very hot and humid, making me fatigued. When we get hot and tired, we don’t pick up our feet as we should.

(2) Since it was a hot day and we were on a short hike, I had worn tennis shoes instead of my hiking boots. Bad mistake. Hiking shoes with good traction are a must when in the woods.

(3) I was not using hiking sticks. If I had them, they could have broken my fall and possibly helped me recover from the trip. Needless to say, I ordered some right after this incident.

Oh no! It happened again

It took a while for my eye to heal, and I’ll admit it was a little scary at first to get back on the trails. But I equipped myself with good hiking shoes and new hiking sticks which helped boost my confidence.

Sometime later we were on a hike with my daughter and her husband. It was a new place I’d never been to but always wanted to go called Swanee. It was a beautiful fall hike and I had on my good hiking shoes but decided I only needed one hiking stick. The hike went well as I was very cautious going up and down the wooded trail. We were actually on the way back to the car and the ground was flat when I tripped again on a root! This time I was able to catch myself with my hand, but unfortunately, that resulted in a broken wrist! Again, it was toward the end of the hike, and I was hot and tired and therefore, not picking up my feet as I should have. I had the one hiking stick, but if I’d had two of them in hand, the story may have been different.

At this point, my kids were telling me that I should give up wooded trails and only walk on paved trails, but I’ve had bouts with plantar flagitious, and too much walking on paved trails can cause that to flare up. Even with my injuries I’ve decided that I’m not willing to give up hiking trails just yet. After all, hiking and walking are some of the best exercises for older adults, and for me, there’s nothing like being in nature.

But there are some general safety rules I’ve learned to adhere to. Below are six safety rules, some of which I’ve learned the hard way, to keep us safe and able to enjoy hiking for a long time.

Start Small

If you haven’t hiked much in the past start with a short hike and then build up to longer ones over time. Most falls do come from being fatigued so don’t hike longer than you can keep up your concentration. You’ll be amazed though at how quickly your body will adapt to longer hikes. And don’t let those young folks who blow by you intimidate you. Remember their bodies are much younger and stronger than yours.

Check out your local parks

Stick with trails that are in the city, state, or national parks as they will be well-maintained and marked. These parks house some of the most beautiful areas in every community.

Know your limits

Be extra careful on the second half of your hike. This is when your muscles get tired, and your mind starts to focus on finishing instead of taking the next correct step. Be okay with turning back if you get too tired before you reach your goal. You can always come back another day and do more. Also, keep in mind that if it’s a one-way trail and you walk four miles one way, you’ll have to walk four miles back. My husband and I have been guilty of walking until we get tired because we’re having such a good time, and then we’re utterly exhausted by the time we get back to the car because we didn’t turn around sooner. Look at your watch or phone. If you’ve been hiking for one hour, for example, consider how you are going to feel after another hour. It might be time to turn around.

Bring proper supplies

Take water even in cooler weather. Water backpacks like Camelbak are great as they keep your hands free. Take a few snacks if it’s going to be a very long hike. Put some hand sanitizer in your pocket as you may only have access to porta-potties and a band-aid if you develop a blister. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

Wear proper clothing, especially shoes. Your body will build up heat as you walk, so that heavy jacket that feels great at the start may cause you to be hot later in the day. Unless it’s extremely cold, a light jacket that you can tie around your waist if you get hot is best layered over a tee shirt. Always, were proper hiking shoes that are in good condition. Boots with ankle support are recommended for trails and good tennis shoes with lots of cushion for paved trails. I include power step inserts in my tennis shoes for more cushion on the feet.

In my opinion, hiking sticks on dirt trails are essential for older hikers. Our bones tend to break easier if we fall and our balance may not be as good as when we were younger. I like using hiking sticks because they give me a little more confidence to walk faster and they keep my arms moving so my hands don’t swell.

Watch the water

Hikes around waterfalls and streams are some of the most beautiful but always be cautious as rocks here can be very slippery and, in some instances, water can rise rapidly. Pay attention to signs that warn of rapidly rising water and never turn your back on the ocean.

Don’t go alone

If you’re walking on a popular city trail with lots of other folks, you’re probably okay to go it alone, but if you’re on a secluded wooded trail and you get injured and can’t walk, you may need someone to go for help or help you to safety. Besides, walking is fantastic for relationship building, so grab a friend.

The health benefits

According to the National Park Service website, there are numerous health benefits to lacing up your hiking shoes and hitting the great outdoors.

Besides being extremely enjoyable and observing beautiful scenery that you’ll never see anywhere else; hiking is not only good physical exercise but there is also emotional and mental relief that comes from being in nature. Hiking is a whole-body workout. It builds stronger muscles and bones, improves your sense of balance, and heart health, and even decreases the risk of certain respiratory problems.

According to a study done by researchers at Stanford University, spending quality time outdoors reduces stress, calms anxiety, increases sensory perception, and can lead to a lower risk of depression.

Hiking improves your relational health. Some of the best conversations happen while on walks where there are no outside interruptions. It’s a great way to connect with your grandchild or another family member or friend.

There are over 400 National parks in the US and almost 2,500 state parks, not to mention the numerous city parks, for you to discover. Perhaps it’s time to Take a Hike and see what they’re all about.

Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

Six ways to Maintain Strong Relationships during Retirement

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As we get older, we may find it harder to make friends. What once came naturally to us as young people, can now seem rather awkward. When we were young, we were out and about, going to school and work as well as all kinds of social activities and sporting events where we were constantly meeting new people. Now, we are home more and may find our social circle shrinking.

As with anything worthwhile in life though, making and maintaining friendships doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it. Social goals should be just as much a part of our goal planning strategy as financial and other life goals because they are just as important.

If you’re feeling a little left out, don’t fret. Below are some suggestions of practical things you can start doing today to make sure you remain in touch with others and retain long-lasting relationships throughout life.

Start a small group in your home

It could be anything from a Bible study to a bridge club or some other type of game night. Just get a few friends together with a common interest and set up a regular time to meet. Don’t be shy in asking. Believe me, they are just as hungry for the community as you.

Shortly after my husband retired, we started hosting a Bible study in our home every other Wednesday evening. We have four other couples that we’ve done life with through the years so we invited them. It’s an evening we all look forward to. Not only just studying the Bible, but sharing our life concerns with each other and praying together for our friends and families has strengthened us. The community is just as important as the Bible lessons.

We elected to meet every other week because we didn’t want to get burned out from having to prepare every week or for our guests to get weary from driving across town to our house every week. Every other week seems to work well for everyone involved. Once a week or once a month may work for you. Just make sure it’s a systematic event on your calendar to keep everyone engaged.

Join a small group at church

A small group of people engaged in a Bible study
Photo by Abel Tan Jun Yang on Pexels.com

Most churches these days have small groups. They are a wonderful way to make connections and get to know people in your local church. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just attending worship services, saying hello to a few people, and then leaving, especially if you attend a large church. While the worship experience is wonderful and necessary, you are missing out if you don’t make worthwhile connections with some of your fellow congregants. The ideal small group size is no more than twelve people and be sure to choose a group with whom you have a lot in common.

It’s possible at this stage of life, that you have a church already with a lot of friends and acquaintances. If so, that’s a tremendous blessing. Just be sure you keep staying connected to those people as you age.

Our church is large so we told the small group organizers that we would prefer a group of similar age people and they hooked us up. It meets every week, but since we don’t host it, we are free to skip it if we have something else or are too tired to go on a particular evening. We rarely miss, however, unless we are out of town because we enjoy studying and talking about the Bible with people our own age. We are developing some relationships there with people we would never otherwise meet even though we attend the same church.

Join the gym

Your local gym or YMCA is a fantastic place to make friends while contributing to your health. Most offer a variety of classes for any level as well as essential workout machines. Some even have a pool for swimming which is one of the best exercises for us older adults. Over time you will naturally meet and get to know the people who are in the classes or working out around you. Just be friendly but not freaky. Some people will be friendly back and some won’t. You have to accept that. It’s nothing personal, some people just aren’t in the mood to be friendly and that’s okay. You’ll find many who are. If you go during the day and not during the busy after-work hours, you’ll get to know many retired people.

Many health insurance policies cover the cost, so it could be free for you to enjoy. If you’re not able to work out, you’re always welcome to come to hang out and drink coffee with other patrons.

A huge barbell with people in a gym talking in the background
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Host family and friends at your home

Don’t sit around and wait for your kids to invite you to their house. Invite them to yours! If your family is like most, your grown children are busy with their careers and raising their kids. Inviting them over on a weeknight for dinner can be a huge help for them while giving you time to visit. It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal. After all, they are probably not going to eat fancy at home during the week. Something easy and simple like a homemade pot roast with vegetables and salad would be a delicious meal for you to enjoy together and give them a nice break in the process. Offer to host on holidays too! I find that almost anytime I’m offering to cook food my kids will show up.

Set revolving dinner dates with friends

We have some friends that we routinely schedule a dinner date with every three months. That’s only four times a year, but we have a blast every time we get together. We go to a nice restaurant and catch up on everyone’s news. It’s just fun and I always come away feeling refreshed.

We try to make it a point to get together with Bobby’s sisters once a month. We don’t always make it because of our schedules, but when we do, we have a blast.

My husband’s company has a retiree dinner every month at a local restaurant. He makes it a point to attend when he can and he always comes home energized. If you don’t have a regular dinner with retirees from your previous company, perhaps you could start one. All you have to do is send out a text to see who’s available to come and then make reservations at a local restaurant.

A table set with a spread of Chinese food with two big bowls in the center.  It displays the hands of people digging in with chopsticks.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Have lunch with friends

Why not make it a point to routinely have lunch with one of your friends. At the beginning of each month, think about who you would like to spend some time with and call and invite them for lunch. If they can’t make it, invite someone else.

The opportunities are endless

There are so many other ways to meet people. Volunteering is an excellent opportunity to meet people with the same passions as you.

Traveling is great for human interaction. This relationship may be nothing more than short-term, but any human interaction is always stimulating. My husband and I have met many interesting people on cruise ships over the years with whom we’ve had wonderful, conversations. Also, invite some of your family and friends to go with you on some of your travels. It’s a fantastic way to spend a good deal of quality time with them and grow your relationship.

There are also bowling leagues, pickleball teams, biking groups, and all kinds of clubs and activities you can join according to your interest.

Yet, none of these things will happen unless we are proactive. We have to be intentional with our relationships. Maintaining strong relationships takes work. Don’t sit around feeling lonely and sorry for yourself because people seem to have forgotten you. Get on the phone and make those connections. You’ll enrich your life and also the life of others in the process.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:10