On Aging, and the Importance of Friendships

Good evening, friends!  Tonight’s blog is not going to be as deep as the first two that I put together this last weekend were, or necessarily taken from the Bible – but the topic is one that is near to my heart, at my age.  If you’ll bear with me – I want to discourse for a little while on aging, and the importance of friendships. For those of you…

who didn’t know my husband and I before we moved to Minnesota – you don’t realize how different our lives were, in WA.  Now that we’ve called Minnesota home for a little over seventeen years, we’ve discerned that there are many – huge – culture differences, between the two states!  And for the most part, we don’t “fit in” here!  Oh – don’t get me wrong – we don’t mind trying new things, and having new experiences . . . but in the years that we’ve been here, now – we’ve discovered that there are some gaping, societal differences also.  In addition to the fact that neither of us water ski or ice fish, we didn’t grow up here.  So neither of us have come up through school with any of you, nor do we have a cabin up north.  Seventeen years ago, when we were both younger – and my husband was just making his initial career decisions, it became evident that if we stayed in the Seattle area – he would reach the financial “ceiling” of his profession relatively quickly.  So he made what has turned out to be a very quality decision to look – nationally – for work.  After doing phone interviews with companies in several different areas, he was extended an offer by a software consulting firm out of Minneapolis, MN.  At the time, my husband was stunned – as in conversation with me following a second (phone) interview, he was of the opinion that he had “come across” very poorly, and completely blown the interview!  When they called him back and extended him an offer – we were both floored!  After discussing it for less than a day, we were both of the opinion that the only God-honoring decision that we could make was to accept the offer – and leave all of our family, and mutual friends – to pursue God’s will for our lives.  After all, I already had extended family here – and when it comes right down to it, we’re only a short plane flight away – right?  When you’re young and childless, these are the kinds of decisions that you’ll make. Now that we’re both older, and are raising children of our own . . . some of these things have begun to resonate more, within us.  For the last thirteen years, we’ve been blessed to have my husband’s Mother, and younger Sister living close to us.  There’s a story that I could go into detail about there, also – but suffice it to say that when my husband and I found out – a little over thirteen years ago, now – that we were expecting twins (not just a single baby) – my Mother-In-Law made a decision to leave her (very good, secure) job at Boeing in Seattle – and move out (with her youngest Daughter – my Sister-In-Law) to Minneapolis to assist us.  We knew that my (single) pregnancy being our first – that having one child to care for was going to be enough of a challenge, but having multiples right out of the gate??  In mid-May of this year, however – my Mother-In-Law received a stroke of good luck, and had a home (on a rather moderate lot) in the Long Beach area of WA State reduce in price deeply enough, that she was able to purchase it!  She and my Sister-In-Law are now living in WA again.  Seventeen years later (and both of us a bit wiser) – we’re still living here, and raising our own children with no immediate family in the area.  Out of necessity, we have found activities here that we enjoy doing together.  And the church that we belong to is a dynamic, growing church with strong, capable leaders in charge of different areas of ministry!  Time, and some tough experiences in recent years, have shaped our thinking and feelings heavily.  We still don’t “fit in” to the culture here – and having aged, as long as we’re able to do well enough professionally to be comfortable – we’re starting to have some regrets about not living close to our entire families, and many of the – mutual – friends, that we had before (and for the short time after, until we moved away) we got married.  To that point, the advent of Facebook has been a wonderful, and important tool for us. The point that I’m driving to with this blog, my friends – is this.  For those of you who are still young enough, and in a position in your lives to benefit from my/our experience – when life offers you opportunities to make radical changes, ensure that whatever decision you make is God’s will for you.  Because sometimes those decisions result in more sacrifice as we age, then we initially thought that they would involve!  Don’t get me wrong, friends – this sounds like a very pessimistic end to this blog.  Yet I’m not desperately unhappy here in MN  – I love The Lord my God with all my heart, and in many ways – our moving cross-country years ago has been one of the best experiences that we’ve ever undertaken.  But in hindsight, I would admonish you to pray – friends – before making any life-changing decision!  Praying God’s will for your life is not something that should be considered lightly!! Blessings to you, Friends – and as always, I anticipate your input!!   : )

On Obsessions and Contentment

Good evening, friends!  Here are my reflections for today – for any of you who are interested.      In recent weeks, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about things – stuff.  Mostly in relation to money – and my current lack of it.  There are so many things that I want – and mostly, only because I know that getting them will make me happy momentarily.  But then, I…

stop and think about what Jesus says in the Bible about contentment.  Why is it that – at times – it feels so important to have things?   In society today, we get bombarded from all sides by the media with television commercials, Internet “pop-ups”, and signs in shop windows stroking our egos and convincing us that we would be happier if we just had . . .  I’ve decided that in some cases, there is some truth to be had in this.  With careful financial management, I’ve had the ability to purchase some nicer quality (read – more expensive) clothes to wear to work.  Doing so has made a difference – as I find that the more “professional” I look, when I’m working – the better that I feel about myself!  That being said, however – in regard to other things, I try to be much more discriminating about the financial choices that I make and the benefit of whatever I purchase.    Financially, my husband and I have always done pretty well.  As a result, for years I haven’t had to be too careful about my spending.  More recently, however – times have gotten tougher and I’ve had to start being more discerning.  As I reflect on my financial state and my discontent, it occurs to me that my poor attitude is influencing my ability to truly worship God!  God has gifted me with so much – and blessings, besides – in the form of strong, and Godly friendships – that I should be profoundly grateful, rather than feeling dissatisfied and stressed.  Additionally, my husband and I know so many people who are out of work right now – and cannot find jobs for anything.  We know others, also who have always been very careful with their money – but due to a stroke of bad luck – or a series of (coincidental) events beyond their control – are having their homes foreclosed on.  As I bear their hardships in mind, and pray for their families the thought occurs to me that . . . . how much better off, and happier would I be in the future if rather than spending money on material goods, anytime that I am able to start accumulating a little bit of extra – if I started putting it into savings in the bank, so that I could “gift” it to those in my acquaintance who aren’t as blessed as I am, and could really use it!  It wasn’t until my husband and I went through a small-group Bible Study with our pastor, that I really got the true concept of generosity!  Oh, I had known for years what the word meant – but when studied “in-depth” and presented the way that he presented it, the concept suddenly took on a much larger meaning!   In modern society, until about ten years ago when the market suddenly took a plunge – it seemed that there were so many professions that paid very, very well and so many people that made significant amounts of money that I think it started becoming easy for us to become truly selfish, and not to worship God for the gifts that he has given us!  It seems that in society today, that’s just not the case anymore.  As we look around us at current economic trends, it is easy to observe that many families are cutting way back (or out, completely) on luxuries – and only spending money on necessities.   When we look at what the Bible says about caring for our Brothers, how much more so – then – if those of us who have more give out of our abundant riches ?  And how might doing so impact our self-images?    As these things have begun to weigh more on my heart recently, I’m finding that it is becoming much easier to be content with what I have – and to, as they say – give thanks, with a truly grateful heart!  Blessings to you and your families, friends – and I pray that God continues to bless all of you abundantly!!

Thoughts on Raising Teenagers

Got up early this morning, and spent the first half of the day at the Minnesota Church Ministries Association’s annual conference.  After late evenings almost every evening this week, I’m now very tired.  I’m really glad that I made the decision to get up and go, this morning though.  I attended three very good, well organized presentations – and have spent most of the rest of this afternoon refle…

cting on a speech that Mark Gold (Global Link Partners) made regarding staying connected with our children as they grow, and age.  As a youth pastor for some twenty plus years, Mark had valuable and timely advice to share on the subject of keeping communication open between our teenagers, and ourselves.    Mark’s most important point – and the one that he spent most of his 1-Hour presentation developing – was that communication takes time, and effort.  As I was driving home after the end of the third – and last – presentation hour, and for most of the rest of the day since then – I’ve been reflecting on that.  As a parent of young teenagers now, it is my opinion that Mark is absolutely, and unequivocally correct about that!  Between about eleven and eighteen years of age, there are more than simply physical changes that take place within them.  There are psychological changes that take place, also – and those changes result from several different factors.  Two of the primary contributing factors (and these are things that psychologists have been saying for years) are the seemingly ever-present influence of their peers, at school – and poor parenting by us, as parents.  There have been about three different times within the last year, that I can recall my husband and I having gotten so heavily involved with social – and church – activities of our own, that for almost a month we failed to create any time to just be with our children.  When my children were preschoolers, I had a few close friends who would tell me to be careful how I began to relate to them – as people.  They said that as I spent time raising my children, that they would learn (and internalize) much more from my actions, then they ever would from my words!  Now that they’re teenagers, it has become apparent to me how sage those admonishments were!    In recent efforts to begin developing a quality relationship with our teenagers as young adults, my husband and I have not been as quick to start getting involved in activities this year.  Further, we’re trying to be much more discriminating about how much we get involved with – and when we do start thinking about committing time to something, we discuss it with our children first.  In addition, on weekends we try to ensure that as well as time spent assisting with homework – and supervising chores – that we spend time just being with our children, regardless of what we do together.  It has been our experience that it is in those times – when we listen attentively to our children, and validate their feelings – that trust is built, and relationship develops.  I believe that helping our children to understand that they are important to us, and that we want to have a relationship with them – is one of the single most important decisions that we can make in our lives as parents.                This has been my reflection for today.  Blessings to you, friends!