I’ve been reading a lot more during this time home alone. Mostly I have been reading about the way God can completely change who we are, if we are willing to open that door. I know he has changed my heart, my thinking, and my desires in many unexpected ways. I know God has forgiven me in ways people never have. I know I have found peace in that forgiveness and a greater willingness to offer that same mercy and grace to others. It all started with God moving in my life when I opened myself to his ways over my ways.
We are in a new era of forced isolation. There is no telling how long this will last. For those in their late-50s and older, “social-distancing” could become the new norm for us because doctors can’t say if the Coronavirus, or an offshoot of it, may come back next year. For an age group that is already trying to stay physically fit and actively engaged, this is like a slow death sentence. Melanie Joosten, a researcher at the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) wrote that aging women especially experience a growing sense of becoming invisible. This feeling could become more of a reality as we carefully choose our external activities and social/work relationships to protect our health.
Women feel this sense of social isolation and lack of relevance much more than do men, according to coach Dr. Louise Mahler. In a 2016 NY TimesDr. Dhruv Khullar wrote: “About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. ” He continues to explain that social separation is bad for our physical, cognitive, and mental health and that those who are isolated from society tend to die within seven years.
The need to be seen as relevant and as a contributing member of society matters for those entering their ” twilight years.” Regular social contact and involvement is key. Dr Khullar quoted one senior as saying: “Your world dies before you do.” For our older population that is even more real today than ever before. As I have spoken with seniors in my community the past few days, I am finding that while their faith is keeping their spirits up, they desperately miss even the little bit of friendly contact that came from socializing in the grocery store. No longer is the store, the coffee shop, the neighborhood diner, or their place of worship a available to them to get out of the house and interact with friends and family.
For many seniors, participation in their ministries and charitable organizations has been a lifeline and provides a sustained a sense of purpose and contribution to society. Religious organizations bring a sense of spirituality and connection with community. For those who continue to work, they have the opportunity to share their experience while learning new skills and keeping their minds sharp and engaged. Take that away and loneliness, isolation, and depression are likely to set in. This is even more true for older adults living alone who today are unable to meet family, see grandchildren,or venture to their communities and jobs.
‘You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.
Technology has helped to bridge some of the gaps older adults are feeling during social distancing. Once they get the hang of all the processes available to them to video chat and participate in streaming religious services or exercise classes, they may feel a momentary sense of connection and belonging. However, the crucial piece is to help them find relevance and purpose. If all they do is take in information they still lack an ability to contribute to society. This could lead to a greater level of social anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, according to Good Therapy. These factors tend to be more prominent in women; however, because of their tendency toward transparency in expressing loneliness. This again goes back to a societal response that respects maturing men over aging women and the notion that men still have something to contribute despite their age.
So what can we do in this period of forced isolation? Reach out on a regular basis to your older friends and family. Find a video platform that they are comfortable using because it helps to actually see the faces of our friends and family. Find some way for them to help. Maybe they can write letters or make phone calls to people in their religious and charitable organizations. Visit them from a safe social distance. Give them tasks to complete for which they are responsible. Acknowledge their skills and contributions, no matter how minor. Help our senior citizens feel that they are respected, needed, and connected and they will come through this crisis stronger and more engaged then ever before.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10
It has been hard to get out of the house and I finally had to admit that I have been struggling with depression. I knew something was off when I no longer had interest in the things that delight me–mostly being around other people and taking those walks that I had committed to for this blog.
I know what depression feels like. I have experienced it before. I know many of you have too, or someone close to you has. For me,
- Depression isn’t just feeling a bit down. It is feeling like no matter what you do you can’t get up.
- Depression isn’t just feeling grief after the loss of a loved one. It is feeling as if life will never be whole again, and you don’t care. You just don’t care.
- Depression isn’t being tired and staying in bed. It is wanting desperately to get up and yet the best you can do is make it to the bathroom and back to your bed.
- Depression isn’t just skipping events to which you committed to attending. It is wanting so much to see people and yet being so sad that you can’t imagine getting dressed and putting on your happy face.
- Depression isn’t about feeing sad and overly emotional. It is sitting on the edge of the bed and crying and you don’t know why because all you did was wake up.
It can take some courage to recognize the symptoms and ask for help. Unlike other illnesses, there is a conflict between shame and pride associated with depression. Sometimes well meaning friends try to cheer you up and get you past a down period. Religious leaders are often ill-equipped to diagnose or treat depression. And the communities in which we live frequently don’t have the patience to support someone with a ‘hidden’ illness. And more often, our pride stops us from sharing with others that we are living with depression, even if we are undergoing counseling or taking medication.
My life is better this week. I have the support of my closest friends and family. I’m doing what I need to get better and each day I feel a little more like myself. And I finally got out the door and into nature. I have to take the steps back to normal living and make the most of my treatment plan to find my center again.
I was amazed by the simple beauty of the world just a mile away from my home. I found a touch of God out there as I walked with a friend and our dog. I found that my inner spirit was renewed in the midst of God’s creation.
I walked in gardens planted and felt a new being breaking through. The bright colors of flowers coming into bloom. The promise of second chances and renewed life.
Take the walk. Let the wonder of the world open your heart and lighten your journey into healing.
Sit. Rest. Be.
If you think something might not be quite right in our life, I encourage you to seek professional help–start with your family physician. Let people close to you know that you are grappling with depression so they can encourage you and walk in your recovery journey. Be brave enough to ask for prayer and to seek out spiritual healing and direction.
And remember to keep walking. One foot in front of the other. Out the door. Down the street. Around and over the rocky parts. Into the garden of new life.
Walking with the Light,
Mother’s Day is this weekend. I was reminded by one of my favorite authors, Rosemarie Fitzsimmons of The Portrait Writer, that it may not be easy for some of us to celebrate our mothers. Some of us may no longer have our moms with us while still others don’t have wonderful memories or relationships with their mothers.
As I reflect back on my own mother, I remember some sad times as she struggled in a marriage that was not kind to her and led her to find relief in a bottle of beer or cognac. Her alcoholism would tarnish her image for us children as we remember the angry outbursts and thefights with her husband. She could be rather brutal when under the influence and it would be easy to just remember that mother.
But my mother was also a generous loving woman. She loved her church and when not tending to the family, you could find her in service to the Lord or at school volunteering. People who met her there saw the heart of Jesus and a friend that would give everything for them. I think my sister and I learned those lessons–to give without ever expecting anything in return, simply because we are led by the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately because of her alcohol abuse my mother wasn’t always available to me as a mother. She did her best. She loved us. Her outbursts were usually the result of frustration and fear that we were moving away from God’s will for us–meaning the “rules” of Catholic life. We couldn’t always talk to her about things because they might come back to haunt us later. That led me to find other strong women as mentors and mother figures.
There were Mrs. R. and Mrs. C, who understood my mother’s struggles and knew that I needed that little bit of extra attention. There was Marie who showed up throughout my life to step in during weddings and from whom I would learn how to set a table and host guests with grace. My neighbor Pat who helped me lose weight in high school and gave me confidence to find friends in an awkward time. As I moved on with my life and following my mother’s death I have come to know some remarkable women, starting with my sister Marilyn who I watched navigate the ups and downs of marriage while my brother and I went through divorce after divorce.
There was my dear friend Gail who taught me how to live as an unmarried woman in love with the Lord. God sent me wonderful women friends with whom I could share my life challenges and would remind me that I am never alone and I am worthy of love and friendship. Still other mentors from my church world guide me to forgiveness for my own actions and into redemption through healing prayer. I have met wonderful women living in ministry and with sacrifice in the service of the Lord and to other women.
Today I want to remember all of these wonderful women that God put in my world to help me navigate life and draw nearer to him. I am extremely grateful to them for taking the time to listen, to share their story, and to pray with me. I appreciate the lessons I have learned and their willingness to walk with me into a new changed life.
Maybe Mother’s Day brings up some pain in your life. Maybe you don’t have the TV perfect mother and feel that you missed out. Maybe your mother was missing as you grew up and you feel abandoned.
If that is you, I encourage you to look beyond the label of the day and look at the women in your life. Is there someone who had a special impact on your life? Is there someone who you cherish because of the woman of God she is and the blessing you receive every time you get together? Maybe she is an older woman and maybe she is a younger lady. Think about her. Honor her. Pray for her. Give thanks for her.
Don’t let this Sunday be a gloomy day for you. Don’t feel compelled to celebrate in the traditional manner. Seek out a woman who has touched you and give her a call. Thank her at church on Sunday. Take her out for lunch next week. Be blessed and then honor her in the best way possible: pass it on. Be a blessing to some woman or young girl that she too may know the joy of a giving relationship with women.
And if you are fortunate enough that the woman who influenced you most is your mom–breathe in that love, let it warm your heart, and make sure she knows the love and respect you have. If your relationship is strained with your mother, lift her up to the Lord and ask that he redeem your relationship and bring healing and restoration. In all things, give thanks for the life she gave you and the woman you are today.
I’m a rules person. I try not to drive more then the ‘acceptable’ five miles an hour over the speed limit. I try be on time (meaning early) for my appointments. I don’t lie about my age to get a cheaper rate; nor did I ever do that for with my child. I want people to think well of me and see me a ‘virtuous’ or ‘law-abiding.’
I’m also a horrific sinner. Yup, me the ‘rules girl’ have broken all the rules, one way or another. And for many years I have carried the guilt and shame of my past with me. Yes, I have confessed most of those lapses in following the rules and as open as I have been about God’s forgiveness of my actions, I still let them define me. I still stopped short of embracing my ministry because someone might unearth and reveal my sins for the world.
Fear can be so crippling. If we let it, it will run our lives. It will cause us to do things out of emotional blackmail and often drive us to make poor decisions, or worse yet, no decision. It can stop us from stepping into the life God intends for us (a calling) because we think we aren’t good enough, not worthy to stand, or that our past has left us irreparably damaged.
The Single Walk is not always an easy one. It is frequently more difficult for people who have been in long-standing relationships who now find themselves walking alone. Singles struggle to find a new way to fit into community, especially religious community, following the end of a life with a partner.
Some of us are single because the person we planned to spend all our years with has died or left us. The singleness that comes from the death of our partner can leave us in un-imagined pain and grief. A divorce, or end of a committed partnership, can do the same for many; even when we might agree with the decision to terminate the relationship. We go from two to one. We are no longer part of the “couples community” and we aren’t quite ready to function as a single person. This is especially true for the widow/widower who may remain married in their heart.
Do we dare to search?
Do we dare to seek?
Will we break the bond?
Will they understand?
Does it matter?
Shine the light.
Lead the way.
Follow the path.
Where the light shines.
Copyright Maggie Marcum
It has taken me a long time to have a friendship with God. We were more the ‘casual acquaintance’ type for many years. Oh sure, we had our moments of closeness when I cried out in despair for help, not fully expecting to receive any help. And there were those ‘ah ha’ moments on spiritual retreats when I got all caught up in emotions of the worship and the message.
Real friendship was another thing. I still remember walking to communion one Sunday as the band played a song about Jesus being my friend and I realized that I didn’t feel that way. It broke my heart that others could know him that way but I didn’t. I mean I have been a Christian all my life so how could I not feel Jesus was my friend? Friendship implies a close relationship, a sharing of secrets, a deliberate presence in each other’s lives, and time spent together through all the good and bad times.
Wasn’t that Jesus?
It wasn’t my plan to be outside walking before the sun came up this morning. However, with the dog whining and the daughter already off to work, up I was. And what a wonderful delight I found outside.
It was still quiet. Early enough that people were not out and about and late enough that I could see the lights turning on in the neighborhood. As Olie led me down the pathway I could feel the unfamiliar silence in the complex. The wind was lightly blowing, the grass slightly wet, and the crescent of the moon was still visable. In the distance I could see a glimmer of the new day dawning as I stood on the sidewalk looking skyward.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30
I found myself thinking that if I had stayed in bed even a few minutes longer I would have missed all this. I would have missed the crisp air bringing my skin to life. I would have missed the simple walk that brought light into my day. If I had focused only on me instead of the needs of a four-legged friend who depends on me, I would have missed the best blessing of the day.
How often do we hesitate to step out of our comfort zone for the good of another? How often to do pull the covers up and say “someone will tend to it.” How often do we miss the joy that God will send our way when we look beyond self and love and care for others in the world around us?
I visited the Lamb Center in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday. What an amazing place. It is a small facility that is making a huge change in the lives of the homeless, and in the lives of the volunteers. Here visitors are given a hot meal and a place to socialize. Here they can find someone to pray with them and attend recovery meetings if needed. They can get a hot shower and have their clothes laundered while they look for a job or talk to someone about government services. They can meet with a nurse practitioner or a dentist. And they are so loved and respected in this simple place.
You see people who are willing to step out are blessing others and receiving a blessing in return. They don’t do it for the return benefit – they do it because God has placed a love for the less fortunate on their heart. Here people don’t have the luxury of a bed let alone the covers to pull up to hide under. Here people have said ‘yes’ in a big way–one person at a time.
Start your day early. Look beyond the normal. See where God would love to use you. Maybe it is the homeless, maybe young children, maybe the disabled, or maybe just the neighbor next door. Look up and see the wonder of this world and see what you can do to lighten the walk of another.
God bless you on your walk.
“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” Psalm 143