not a clue, as usual

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How to deal with those 55+ coupons

P1000461For the past few years, I’ve been watching those supermarket circulars in the Sunday papers that offer a discount for seniors aged 55 and over on Tuesdays. I don’t know why Tuesday is so special or why the age 55 is so magical but I’ve been wondering what I would do when i got there. So last November I did – attain the magical age of 55, that is and here’s what happened. I found myself avoiding the market on Tuesdays. I kid you not! The whole senior thing is really getting to me because I’m just not feeling it yet. Shouldn’t it be at least 65 and older? That would give me a whole ‘nother decade to come to grips with it. Then one day a few weeks ago, I needed to pick up a few things so I stopped by the market on my way home from work. I didn’t even realize that it was a Tuesday until I was checking out and the cashier very casually swiped a coupon at the register just before he totaled up my order. “Could that be the dreaded 55+ coupon”, I wondered (though I didn’t have the guts to speak up and ask). I walked out and made myself wait til I got home to check. Sure enough, there it was. “Minus 5% senior discount” right there at the bottom of the reciept. The kid at the register hadn’t even asked, just swiped. Was he being polite or was this just so routine to him? I still don’t know and have still been trying to avoid the place on Tuesdays till i am old enough and mature enough to deal with this.

For advice, i went to one of my favorite older mentors, Abraham’s wife, Sarai. I’ve always liked her because she tries to follow God even though she is disappointingly childless, has been ripped from her home land and has a husband who claims to have chats with God. She has every reason to be bitter, yet she is faithful, loyal and seems to have a handle on her lot in life. So I reread her story in Genesis to see if anything should jump out at me.

Sarai is well past the years of child bearing, yet her overhears a prophesy that she will have a child within one year. She reacts with laughter. I have never thought of her laughter as insolent. To me, her reactions speaks more of her ability to see humor in difficult situations. She is trying to hold onto a bit of dignity in her old age. This woman has suffered through her prime years with an empty womb, which is the worst possible fate for a woman of that time and culture. She has allowed herself to be pulled away from her home and security to travel to points unknown. she has long since suffered the trials of menopause and is now told that she will once again be at the mercy of her sometimes uncooperative female body. I don’t see panic or fear. It feels more like she has come to terms with herself and is realistic about her future. And I’ve come to think that she would laugh at the lengths I have been going through to avoid having to admit the limitations of my age. I have been commiserating with friends about the changes that our bodies are surprising us with and none of us really understand what is happening to us. So I turn to God and you have to love His answer. Sarai may be laughing in Genesis 18:12 but God steps up in verse 13.

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that i am old?’. Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Genesis 18:13-14

Didn’t God say basically the same thing to Mary when she was at the opposite end of this problem (Luke 1:37)? While we see limits, God sees the fullfillment of His plans both for us and for the world. God had been trying to let Sarah know of these things back in Genesis 17:15 when He changed her name to Sarah, meaning princess. Maybe she didn’t catch the signifcance. I know I didn’t get it the first time I read her story. But God was telling her back then, that her childless exsistance up to then was about to change and not because of anything she’d do but because of what God had already planned.

I think back to my Tuesday shopping trip and that presumptious cashier who gave me a discount I didn’t want. I thought I was mad at that kid but as I think it though, I can see that I am not mad at him but at myself. I am ticked off with myself because I see my age as a boundary. You can do some things at one age but not past this age. You can wear yoga pants when you are eightteen but not at fifty (no need to scar others). You can eat pepperoni pizza before bed at twenty but now can only eat it during the day with an extra dose of Pepcid. You can enjoy long walks in bare feet at 18 but now wouldn’t leave the house without the right orthodics in your specially designed walking shoes. so many limits!

Yet Sarai – now called Sarah – will bear a child and he will continue the line that will become the nation of Israel. She still will try to do things in her own way as the rest of her story attests to, but she will learn to stop being so realistic and more optomistic about her future. Maybe that’s what aging gracefully is. I’m not sure yet. Sarah was in her 90’s when she was learning these lessons so I still have a ways to go. But I’m realizing that the old saying that “age is just a number” is truer than I thought. I’m not going to take the actions of a cashier (who might have been genuinely trying to help and not insult me) as a sign of age but i will take advantage of the discount! I’m going to start looking for those wider horizons that God has in store for me rather than just keep measuring my wider waistline. I’m going to look beyond those limitations that I put on myself and look to God’s directions for me. And just between you and me – I will keep that bottle of Pepcid handy! I like to call that common sense – not giving in to negative limitations.


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Remembering Cisco

Cisco and I

Cisco and I

I’ve had a lot of loud, bombastic, in-your-face type teachers and I have learned a lot of from them. But I have to say that the lessons that have changed me though and through have come from those with gentle hearts. The best teachers are always the most humble ones. One such teacher that stands out in my mind is our family dog, Cisco. He was a large mixed breed with an incredibly bushy coat and huge paws. A “noble soul” as a friend called him.

He loved being outdoors. The weather didn’t particularly matter to him because of his thick fur that shielded him from cold and rain. In the summer, he would simply escape the heat by lying under the deck in the dirt. One thing he truly loved was going for a walk. Because of hectic family and work schedules, we never had a set time for walks. in fact, most days he just loved to lounge in our large backyard and chased rabbits, squirrels and the occassional deer for excersize. Whichever family member was home and had the time, would take the dog for a walk. This meant that the poor dog never knew when to expect it. Nevertheless, he would jump up excitedly whenever he saw someone holding his leash. He could be ready to go at a moment’s notice even if he was in a deep sleep when you called him. Everyone in the household knew that you had to be very careful when using the “w” word as it would cause an eighty pound dog to rush at you and pull you towards the door. Now, when was the last time that i was so excited about something? Middle age can cause things to slow down but i don’t want that to be an excuse to lose the sheer fun of the simple things that i enjoy. I want my heart to race when my husband unexpectedly reaches for my hand. i want to be unable to suppress the smile when i see my kids pull in the driveway (even if they were only out for a few minutes). I want laughter to overflow when i meet up with an old friend and we reminisce about days gone by. That’s a good lesson to learn and remember, thanks Cisco.

I find myself remembering one walk that we took about two years ago. Cisco was starting to develop arthritis in his back legs and we found that we needed to shorten his walks. Instead of going around the whole block i would cut through the local elementary school parking lot with him. This day we went out about noontime. The sky was blue, the air crisp and cold with about an inch of snow underfoot. A perfect winter’s day that Cisco loved. As we turned the corner into the school, a bus turned with us. Cisco heard the bus before he even saw it. To him, that familiar rumbling was the sound of the big yellow box that took his boy away each morning and then brought him back each day. His ears were alert and twitching as he listened to the engine getting closer. When he saw the school bus, he ran to catch up with it. The bus pulled up to the front of the school and stopped. We were walking on the other side of the road and Cisco pulled me until we were parallel with the bus. He stopped and pranced back and forth a bit. A soft, little whimpering of excitement was heard as he intently watched that bus waiting for his boy to emerge. Two other buses pulled up behind the first. They were lining up to take the half-day kindergarten students home. But the dog didn’t know that. He only knew that this was the same bus that took his boy away each day and returned him each afternoon. He fully expected that to happen now. Cisco knew his job. When that bus rolls up, he is up and running to the door, tail wagging, to greet his friend. It took some doing to coax the dog away from those buses but he eventually figured it out and we continued on our walk. Crazy thing is that he would react like that every time he heard the bus slow down outside the house. We live on a main road and those buses come by often but he would only get excited when he could hear the bus slowing down and stopping. This was his job, to love his family and look out for us. Oh, that we could be so devoted to a job that is put before us. Cisco taught me what determination looks like, that ability to finish the job you are given because you care about the people who are depending on you to do that job. Thanks, again, puppy.

Did i mention that Cisco was a big boy? We were told when we adopted him from the shelter that he was a border collie mix and would grow to around 40 pounds. He certainly looked like a collie and had many collie traits but size was not one of them. We knew we were in trouble when he hit the 40 pound mark around 6 months old and had paws that were bigger than his head! Still, our lovable goofball fit right into our family,so we bought a larger food dish and heavier leash as he continued to grow. His adult size was right around 80 pounds of fluff. He was a strong protector of the family with only one real fear. He hated loud noises. Thunderstorms, firecrackers and smoke alarms would completely unnerve him. He would try to crawl up on my lap at such times. I would  comfort him, but trying to convince him that he was not a lap dog was a lesson i don’t think i ever really got through to him. But he did teach me something. When he was scared, he went right to his master, the one he knew he could depend on for love, comfort and strength. This is a hard one for humans to comprehend. We all have a security blanket to reach for when times get tough. For me, it’s chocolate, for others it may be something good like a trusted friend or something bad like alcohol. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that the first place we should go to for help is our own Master, God Almighty, Jesus Christ, Lord of all, whatever you want to call HIm, but He is the one with all the answers and who has asked you to let Him be your strong tower in times of trouble. Silly, foolish people and oh, so wise puppy.

Cisco is no longer with us. Arthritis, cataracts, and finally bleeding tumors got the worst of him but he had one final lesson for me. The day before he died, he wanted to play with me. He had gotten a toy for Christmas just a few days before. I can’t even remember the last time he wanted to play fetch and he surprised me when he nudged my arm. I was sitting at my desk and he picked up his toy and came over to me. He softly growled as i tried to pull it from his mouth and i realized that he was barely holding on to it. I threw it a few feet and he stiffly walked over, picked it up and returned to me. His deep brown eyes were focused on my face, eagerly waiting for me to throw it again with his tail wagging. So I did, just a few feet. He retrieved the toy, turned to look at me and then slowly sunk down on the rug with his distinctive “hmmph” sound. I didn’t realize what he was trying to teach me then, but i get it now. It was the most important lesson that he had for me. He wanted me to know how much he loved me, enough to still play with me even as his body was winding down and each movement caused him pain. He wanted that one last time to make me smile. He put his love for his family above his own comfort. So, here’s his last lesson for me: LOVE. Love regardless of what is happening in your own world. Love beyond what you may think your ability to love is. Love.

If I speak with tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. 

1 Corinthians 13:1