I was staying with my grandparents over the Christmas holidays when I was about 10 years old. They were members of a group at College Church in Wheaton called “60+ Club”. It was a fellowship group for people over 60 years old. “60+” was having a Christmas party and since I was staying with my grandparents they took me with them. I’ll always remember the way my grandparents introduced me to their friends. They seemed so proud of me and wanted their friends to know I was their grandchild. I already knew many of these people because our whole family had attended College Church my whole life!  Another thing I remember was the way the people there addressed each other. It was “Rev. Barker” and “Mrs. Gustafsson”, “Mr. Fischer”, and “Mrs. Alexander”. These people knew each other well but no one called each other by their first names! They were very gracious and made me feel like an honored guest, not a bother who my grandparents had to drag along. The final memory is how OLD these people seemed. They were all over 60!

I will be 60 in four days. I am looking forward to it! I have so much to be thankful for and so many wonderful opportunities to look forward to. Just last week one of my Art II students was acting lazy and tired in class. I said, “Jim, (not his real name) I have more energy at my age than you do at 16!”  Jim looked at me and replied, “I think people should just die when they turn 60!” Most of the rest of the class was horrified! Several of my students knew that I was going to be 60 soon. Several other students laughed – I did, too.  “Jim, I will be 60 soon and I enjoy life so much. I have many things to be thankful for.”  I replied. Besides teaching art – I hope to teach them life does not end at 30.

I was reminded by this incident that our culture has deceived young people into thinking that you only have fun in life when you are young. The lie is also pervasive that after 30 there is nothing worth living for. “The best years of your life”… when are those? Certainly not after 30 and definitely not after 60! How sad!

The Bible tells of numerous people who had their finest moments when they were old and “full of years”. Moses became the leader of the Israelites after 40, Abraham, Sarah, Elizabeth, Zechariah, all were used of God when they were old.

As someone who is now facing “the rest of my life” I want to be a testimony of someone who enjoys every minute that God gives me to fulfill His purposes. I was blessed with 4 grandparents who lived fully until the very end of their lives. My father’s father did acquire some dementia his last few years, but each dessert was “the best I ever tasted”, and each flower was the “most beautiful I have ever seen”. What a pleasant way to finish life. Instead of pining for the past – Grandpa Barker certainly enjoyed the present!

My Grandmother Rohner painted lovely paintings past her 90th birthday. Until her final months, she was still collecting pictures and thinking about layouts for paintings that she never painted, but she was still planning!

As a grandmother myself now, I want to model for my grandchildren a zest for life and an appreciation for the blessings of God’s faithfulness. I want to let them see by example that getting older is not something to dread or lament but something to receive from God since He is the one who numbers our days.

These verses are a chorus we sing that is one of my ALL TIME favorites. May we be living testimonies of this Truth!

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
      His mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; 
      great is Your faithfulness.

Silent Night

It was a silent night except for the gentle sounds of the machines in the ICU at Mission Memorial Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. I was looking out the 5th story window at softly falling snow and gazing at the lights decorating the city just days before Christmas. I seemed to have lost track of time, but just three days before, our 13-year-old daughter had been injured in a car wreck that claimed two lives and left 5 other people injured. Hannah had suffered a closed head injury and had been unconscious since the wreck. She had been airlifted an hour away to Asheville and received quick and thorough care.

Now it was a matter of waiting. The uncertainty of  not knowing whether she had permanent brain damage, or would ever wake up was the situation we faced. The outpouring of prayer and love had been overwhelming. So many people came to visit and show support that Phil and I were surrounded with God’s love in the midst of anguish for our daughter and for the other dear friends who were injured  – including the one friend who was gone.

Phil had driven home to be with our other three children, so I was alone for the first time in the room with Hannah. I held her hand praying and asking God to allow her to feel His presence and love even in her comatose state. I had heard that individuals often hear when in a coma so I began singing.

           “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright…”

All of a sudden a voice joined in with me. It was Hannah! She began singing “Silent Night” with me and tears began streaming down my face. Our Hannah was back with us! I called in the nurse and she rejoiced with me and began asking Hannah questions for evaluation. From that moment on, Hannah made rapid progress and we were able to take her home only 3 days later.

I can never sing “Silent Night” without rejoicing over Hannah’s full recovery. Hannah and I have shed tears together many times recalling God’s gracious presence and healing power demonstrated that night in the hospital.

Yet more wonderful than Hannah’s healing and restoration is the truth of that Holy Night when Christ the Savior was born. God sent His Son, Jesus, as a baby born in a humble yet glorious situation.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And He will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Christmas is even more special to our family because of our memories and praise for Hannah’s recovery.  As wonderful as  it was that night Hannah returned to consciousness (I will never forget it), it pales in comparison with the birth of Jesus. Nearly 700 years before Jesus’  birth Isaiah said He would be called –

        Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Nothing can compare with the birth of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings!

As we celebrate with family this year, let’s celebrate the uniqueness of each family member and be thankful they are with us. As we celebrate that Holy Night – the birth of Jesus, let’s keep our attitudes in tune with the purpose for which God sent His Son –

John 3:16 (NIV)

 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God so loved the world – let us share that love! Merry Christmas!

Holy Pregnancy

Being pregnant during the season of Christmas gives a fresh and poignant meaning to the Christmas story. 

Luke 2: 4-7  The Kings James Version says … ” And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

        And Mary, being great with child…   As far as being “great” with child, there are several meanings for the word “great”:

Great as in wonderful

Great as in large

Great as in significant.

I have felt all these meanings of “great” when I was pregnant, not necessarily at the same time or throughout my pregnancy.  We have two daughters who are currently pregnant. Each expressed to me last week that she was feeling “great” as in “large”. Each is also past the first trimester, so they are not experiencing that tired or queasy feeling any longer – they are also feeling “great” as in wonderful. One of these pregnancies was “planned” by the parents – one was not.

I say planned by the parents because I learned something from a friend years ago. The Bob Bryan family had three older children and a gap of about 17 years and then another child. People often asked if this late-in-life baby was planned. Bob would answer “Yes, this baby was planned from the foundations of the world.” What a true and meaningful response!

Each baby is planned by God as stated in Jeremiah – “I knew you when you were formed in your mother’s womb.” There are no “accidents” in God’s plan for each life.

Mary did not plan her pregnancy – in fact the timing was very problematic. It took a visit to Joseph by an angel to validate the legitimacy of Mary’s pregnancy. She was also near the end of her pregnancy when her husband said that they must travel to Bethlehem. Before prenatal visits and ultrasounds Mary did not know her “due date”. Yet, God had it all prepared according to His plan. He knew just when and where His Son would be born. He had angels ready to announce it to the shepherds and placed an extraordinarily bright star to shine over the birthplace. Even though there was no room in the Inn, God chose a place that has allowed people from every tongue and nation to identify with the lowly birth of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings – Jesus.

In Luke 1: 46 -49 –  Mary praises God for what the angel told her about her impending pregnancy.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

As we celebrate this Christmas season, we can also celebrate the fact that each child we have is planned by God – through birth, adoption, or foster care. As Mary did, we praise God for the great things He has done, greatest of all sending His Son, Jesus.