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“On How To Grow Old” by Beth Birkenfeld

“On How To Grow Old” by Beth Birkenfeld

“I don’t know what happened… I grew old when I wasn’t looking.”

This statement was shared recently by a (now elderly) dear friend on a recent visit. Barbara was a very influential woman in my life for many years, including the early years of my Christian walk. Her devotion to the Lord, and to living her life as evidence of that devotion, set an example for so many of us who were a part of her life.  Additionally for me, Barbara was a mentor and teacher, helping me to fine tune my love for writing. The things she said, the conversations we shared, I always listened to with intent… And it’s because of this fact that Barbara’s above statement hit me like a shot in the stomach. Wow… it really happens, that your body starts to disfunction, shut down, tell you, “No, not any more, not in this area…”, not just in temporary ways, but in life-changing, can’t go back ways that re-define who you are… ready or not. 

Our visit that day was not discouraging or sad though, not by any means! We laughed, caught up, reminisced, prayed, cried a bit… Barbara is still here on this earth to be a light, to share her Godly wisdom with those around her, and to continue to glorify our God in her days ahead!

Returning to my own home that day, I was met by our “family pack”…our 4 dogs, yes 4, don’t ask why or how, please! One of our “boys”, Randy, a Chocolate Lab with immeasurable love for everyone, is getting on in years; we’ve been noticing of course. When I first realized this will probably be his last summer, it hit me as hard as Barbara’s statement. I spent a few days hugging him even more than usual, cuddling him while I cried… until the thought occurred to me: “No. This is not the atmosphere that I will bring to my ‘boy’ in his old age! If this is his last summer, then every single day is going to be filled with swimming and treats and all the things he loves most!”  

How my perspective on growing old has changed over this summer, both from Barbara’s statement and from watching Randy’s life! (I am so thankful to God for allowing me a job that gives me the summer off… no coincidence there; God is so good!)  How awesome He is, taking the normal “day-to-day” of our lives, using things right in front of us, to continually add wisdom to those who are seeking!  Do you know what I realized as my mind kept picturing Barbara making that statement?  Barbara was smiling, seemingly light-hearted as she said it!  And there it was- – a new truth from God’s heart to mine at that moment: it’s a GREAT thing to grow old when we aren’t looking! When we’re staying busy going about the Lord’s work; loving others; being thankful and generous rather than resentful and stubborn and regretful; being sensitive to the beauty, the MIRACLE, of each new day, each new person that crosses your path, then I am confident that time will pass differently.  

That’s my goal! It should be all of our goals! Keep living, every single day!  Do what we CAN, not what we can’t!  Stay as “others-focused” as possible.  Know that God still has good days, and purpose, for me…for you….  Until our last day, we are here to be blessed by God’s goodness! 

Thank you, Barbara… thank you, Randy… and all praise to God for His creativity in teaching us new truths every single day, because He is a great, loving God!!

“I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work which You have given me to do.” John 17:4