Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Karen O’Connor's book, The Beauty of Aging, (Regal Books, 2007).
Even though our society celebrates youth and scorns aging, getting older is a natural process designed by God. You don’t have to fear aging. In fact, if you embrace the reality of getting older and invite God to lead you through the process, you’ll discover that this season in your life can be a beautiful and satisfying one.
Here’s how you can age gracefully:
Keep growing in your faith. Remember that God wants you to live by faith, not by sight. Instead of trying to control your own life and other people’s lives, trust God’s work behind the scenes. Avoid giving your grown children or anyone else unsolicited advice. Instead, pray about all of your concerns, interceding for the people you care about and believing that God will help them resolve their problems better than you could. Surrender your worries to God, remembering that He will give you all the protection and provision you need. Read and meditate on Bible passages (such as a Psalm) every day, allowing your soul to absorb God’s truth like vitamins. Frequently pray for God to give you a fresh perspective on the various situations in your life, so you can see from a healthier point of view. Ask God to help you see through the window of His will, no matter what the circumstances. Remind yourself that God is with you always, and ask Him to help you be alert to His presence even in the midst of mundane tasks. Thank Him and praise Him regularly for His constant presence in your life. Let your love for God motivate you to do your best at everything you undertake. Get the rest, solitude, and silence you need to fight stress in your life. Simplify your schedule and environment so you can focus on what matters most and let the rest go. Carefully consider your choices so you don’t over-commit yourself and risk illness or irritability. Whenever you’re facing a tough situation, choose a relevant Bible verse, personalize it, and meditate on it. Make a habit of personalizing your favorite Bible verses to help you apply them to your life.
Build your relationships with family. Choose to forgive people who have hurt you, and rely on God’s help to do so. Realize that you can’t afford to keep holding grudges against family members; you need them. Determine to make the best use of the time you have left on Earth by growing closer to God and other people. Ask God to give you the love He wants you to have for your family members, and to guide you regularly to know how best to express that love to them in specific ways. Be generous, willing to give your family your time, energy, money, or other resources as God leads you. Remember that people are more important than things. Decide to be tickled about your family members – even when they make choices with which you disagree – instead of ticked at them. Love them unconditionally. Know that you can be a great grandparent, no matter what your personality. Clearly communicate to your grandchildren and their parents what you can and want to do as a grandparent, and what you’re not open to or available for, so they can set appropriate expectations. Pray for your grandchildren, and talk naturally about what God is doing in their lives and yours during your time with them. Have fun together. Don’t turn down invitations to family functions that you really could attend if you simply took a nap beforehand or asked someone for a ride so you don’t have to drive yourself. Try to attend family events whenever possible. When it’s not possible, express your interest in your family through a phone call, card, letter, or gift. Rather than just giving your adult children gifts that you think they need, ask them to tell you what they actually need, then focus on that.
Build your relationships with friends. Ask God to give you the time, energy, and patience you need to continue to nurture your friendships. Strive to be a good friend by being available, attentive, aware, accepting, and appreciative. Make a point of encouraging your friends who are in need. Invite a friend to your place for tea and meaningful conversation. Pray for the ability to love your neighbors (whether close friends or strangers) as yourself through your thoughts, words, and actions. Pay attention to the personality of each of your friends and look for the gifts in each one. Don’t take your friends for granted; let each friend know that you appreciate him or her by calling, e-mailing, or writing regularly.
Enjoy food. Don’t worry about trying to follow any particular diet to stay in shape. Instead, just eat sensibly. Go ahead and enjoy some of your favorite foods without guilt. Remember that food for your soul is even more important than food for your body. Feed your soul with something regularly, like prayer, journaling, worship music, a time of rest with God, or a leisurely walk. Thank Jesus for being the Bread of Life, and regularly share His Gospel message with people who are spiritually hungry and thirsty. Enjoy delicious, relaxing meals with people you love. Don’t criticize other people’s eating habits, no matter how much you may disagree with them, because doing so harms relationships. Focus just on your own diet and aim to eat nutritious meals in moderation. Instead of worrying about preparing complex meals when you don’t have the time or energy, savor simple delights like a bowl of fresh fruit.
Develop fitness. Get outside in nature as often as possible to walk, garden or otherwise enjoy the great outdoors. Take care of the body God gave you by getting enough exercise and sleep. Keep your spiritual muscles strong, just as you try to keep your physical muscles strong. Remember that true beauty isn’t based on your outward appearance; it comes from within. Every day, try to take at least 30 minutes to engage in activities that bring you happiness and contentment. Whenever you feel fatigued, take a time-out without feeling guilty or needing to apologize to anyone.
Manage your finances well. Thank God for providing all you have, including the ability to earn money. Choose to follow biblical principles when you manage your finances, and ask a person you trust (or a group of people) to hold you accountable to doing so. Make sure you’re following a reasonable budget. Do all you can to pay off your debts and avoiding incurring new debts. Make a habit of resting so you won’t be caught up in our society’s pressure to frantically keep acquiring more possessions. Learn how to have fun without spending money you don’t have. Enjoy simple treats, such as visiting a library or cooking from a recipe you haven’t used in a while. Make creative vacation plans that aren’t too expensive, such as visiting a national park. Create a vacation budget and stick to it. Look for ways to save small amounts of money regularly, knowing that those small amounts will soon add up to large amounts of savings.
Have fun. Make time to write your thoughts and feelings in a journal regularly. Express yourself through music, art, crafts, or some other pursuit that jumpstarts your creativity. Don’t stop dreaming just because you’ve gotten older. Instead, think of at least one thing you’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t yet done (such as learning to fly a plane or play the drums) and take action toward finally doing it. Laugh and smile as often as possible, knowing that humor will benefit your health and perspective on life. Buy a bouquet of flowers often and display the flowers at home to cheer you up whenever you see them. Aim to spend at least 30 minutes a day doing something playful and refreshing.
Adapted from The Beauty of Aging, copyright 2006 by Karen O’Connor. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.
Karen O’Connor is the award-winning author of more than 50 books, including Squeeze the Moment; Help, Lord! I’m Having a Senior Moment! and Help, Lord! I’m Having a Senior Moment – AGAIN! She is a popular speaker, instructor and consultant who has appeared on many national and international television programs. She and her husband, Charles, have five children and live in California.