Just keep going!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

“I want us to be that couple,” I said to my husband. My most poignant moment during our trip to Maui came as I watched a very senior-looking couple slowly leave the restaurant where we were enjoying a delicious seafood dinner. They were smiling, hand in hand, each with a walking cane in the other hand.

I couldn’t help but think how awesome it was that this dear couple undoubtedly traveled thousands of miles for a tropical vacation — even now.

And why not, I queried. Why should they stop going and stay home?

Maybe traveling isn’t as easy as it once was. Maybe it takes longer to get where they want to go and do what they want to do.

Isn’t there still joy in watching the sun set over the ocean? Isn’t there still contentment while breathing in the fresh sea air? Isn’t there still wonder when seeing a mother and baby whale swim side by side?

Surely, there is no age limit for such life pleasures!

So why should we let aging keep us from experiencing these pleasures? I think we should do our best to not let anything keep us from doing what we want to do. That’s my life plan anyway — after being inspired by my elderly vacationers.

Sometimes we start believing opinions of others that try to tell us we’re too old. Or sometimes we start believing theories that say a certain age brings certain limitations.

This reminds me of Sarah (in the Bible) when she was ninety years old and received the news from God that she would have a baby. She laughed at the idea. The Bible says, “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “Will I have this joy after my husband and I have grown old?”(Genesis 18:12) God responded with the resounding, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) And indeed, she gave birth to Isaac.

Whether Sarah’s laugh was in delight or disbelief, I must admit if I received such news, my laugh would be one of sarcastic doubt, and my reply to God would be, “Lord, you’ve got to be kidding!”

Admittedly, I don’t really want to prove I’m not too old to have a baby. But I don’t ever want to be too old to go on a vacation with my husband! And the spiritual truth is that our God-given freedom and dominion is timeless — ageless. Mortal measurements are man-made. I’m quite certain that how old is too old is not a question known to the Lord.

Perhaps some ageless thinking will help precipitate some ageless living. We need not accept that decrepitude and decline is inevitable. Who is it that confines, restricts, hinders or inhibits the days of our lives? Who perceives us as young or old? Not God!

We can break any age barrier that would keep us home by acknowledging and exercising our eternal spiritual qualities of promise, purpose and progress. God has endowed each of us with boundless energy and a never-quit spirit. We can prove this even if only one step at a time!

And as we do, these words of Job will ring true, “And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.” (Job 11:17)

So with determination, resolve and perseverance, plan that vacation and have fun. Live life now — moment by moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow or “what if’s.” Just keep going, my friends!

Resolve to keep your heart young

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

“And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

When I think of a child — remembering when my daughter was a baby — I think of the love a child has for each new day. She loves everything she is doing and seeing in each moment. Every day is a new adventure of discovery and imagination. Nothing can concern or worry her. Nothing can depress or stress her. Nothing can take her peace and joy.

A child may fall as he learns to walk, but he simply gets up and keeps on walking. His blocks may fall over, but he immediately starts building his tower again. When someone bumps into him, they both fall down laughing and then help each other up — still laughing.

Perhaps we really did learn everything we needed to know about life in kindergarten.

But perhaps there is much we can learn now (or remember) by pondering what it means to be young at heart.

I was listening to a Frank Sinatra CD the other day when his song, “Young at Heart” caught my attention. I’ve heard it sung many times and have even seen his 1954 movie with the same title, co-starring Doris Day.

His song gives some assurances that come with being young at heart such as — fairy tales can come true, life gets more exciting with each passing day, it’s hard to be narrow of mind and you can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams. All of these things are possible, Frank sings, when we’re young at heart.

His song suggests that being carefree and happy isn’t based upon age. I suspect many of us fondly recall — and at least some of us long for — our youthful days of less responsibility and more energy. But according to Frankie, it sounds like an ageless lifestyle is grounded by an eternally youthful outlook. So a youthful outlook isn’t only in spite of one’s age, but also in spite of one’s circumstances and experiences.

American baseball player, Satchel Paige, also renowned for his philosophy on staying young, asked a poignant question. He proposed, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

It could be that too much awareness of our age develops into an excuse. Whether that excuse seems very real or it is imagined or assumed, age becomes the basis for our limitations, inabilities, inactions, boundaries, obstacles and confinements. I wonder how my thoughts as well as my actions, decisions and dreams would change if I dismissed completely any thought of getting old or older.

Now that I’m moving into my fifties, there’s a long list of synonyms for old that I want no part of. Synonyms like decrepit, obsolete, antiquated, outdated, stale, dull, dusty, worn out and most importantly — gray-headed. That will never happen!

Perhaps staying young and maintaining a youthful point of view is possible and for the most part within our control.

Why can the young at heart laugh when their dreams fall part? Because the young at heart are visionaries!

If one dream doesn’t turn out like they dreamed, they envision a new dream — a new possibility, a new path, a new opportunity. As I recall my own childhood memories, I don’t think a day went by without me dreaming about my future. And that future was filled with endless possibilities — many of which are still attainable and many of which I’ve not yet pursued. So what am I waiting for?

Why can a little child lead them, as we read in Isaiah?

Because children know no limitations, boundaries or obstacles! Children only envision or imagine what is possible. Children are flexible, adaptable and buoyant. Children don’t take matters so seriously. Children have the innate ability to lighten up absolutely everything they encounter. Consequently, they are able to lessen the oppressiveness, trouble or severity of any situation and make any needed alterations, changes or modifications to reach their goal.

So my friends, may we all cast away our old age blinders and return to the God-given vision of our youth — where our vision sees only the infinite. Surely this is how we keep our heart young! And this point of view will lead us to our own infinite possibilities!

A mother’s greatest gift

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

Imagine a quaint French tearoom … in Texas. Live jazz piano background music. Servings of hot tea, bite-size desserts and chocolate-covered strawberries. A lovely and charming lady surrounded by family and friends telling what they love about her. This describes the recent scene of my mom’s 80th birthday party.

Mother’s Day just around the corner seems a fitting time for me to recognize and honor the woman who has inspired and taught me most about life, courage, persistence and my own spirituality.

Most folks reading this do not know my mother and never will. But her story may sound familiar to some. By society’s standards, even today, she was a child bride. Unhappy at home with her mom and stepfather, she was easily wooed by a handsome young man in uniform. Her teen years were spent as a wife and mother of two. By 1967, she was the mother of four children — three of them grown. She had been married two-thirds of her life.

She struggled with a troubled marriage and health problems. What was next for her? When her marriage ended in divorce, she hit the road, taking me and little else. We often joke how she did manage to pack her ice cream freezer. There are certain priorities that a multi-generational Southerner from Georgia never forgets. This most definitely would include the ability to make homemade ice cream for her guests.

Our road not only took us westward. It would be a life-finding journey for my mother that would bless my life more than I have space to say.

Shortly after her divorce, my mom began studying Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy’s explanation of Christ Jesus’ healings and teachings. These ideas gave her comfort, hope and practical ideas about prayer and healing. It’s not that she didn’t know about God and prayer before. She had been a Bible student all her life, attending a couple of different churches. But now she was starting to gain a new view of her identity that proved to be health-giving and life-regenerating.

How can I summarize her next 40 years? My mother found a new life for herself, step by step. She never gave up, no matter how rough and bumpy the road got. Her belief in herself grew as her trust in God grew. Over the course of these years there were many firsts and accomplishments. From owning her very own car and house, her first bank account to college and a career. And there were also the intangibles of happiness, peace of mind, satisfaction and better health.

Her life has taught me that it’s never too late. Beginnings and first times can happen throughout life at any age. Happiness is not bought with money. Home is in your heart. Joy is God-given and can’t be taken from you. Never give up. I could go on and on!

I don’t think any words are truer than these of Mary Baker Eddy: “The lives of great men and women are miracles of patience and perseverance.” In my eyes and to many who know her, my mom is among the greatest of women, whose life is most certainly a miracle of patience and perseverance. God-given qualities she learned were hers as her identity grew from a struggling single mom to a whole-souled woman reflecting the motherhood and fatherhood of God.

Her achievements against great odds have instilled in me a conviction that anything is possible. Perhaps the greatest gift a mother could ever give to her child. So it’s time for me to say “thank you” to my mom for life lessons that have left indelible marks on me and many others, too. Happy Mother’s Day!

What’s age got to do with it?

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Ominous predictions regarding the advance of “old age” for baby boomers continues to hit the airwaves. Since I’m bringing up the tail end of the baby boomer generation, I cry, “Slander! Don’t imprison me in an age box! I will NOT go peacefully and willingly!”

Who says the passing of years determines our age? Not astrophysicists! These thinkers report there is in fact no connection between the daily spinning of the earth, its annual circling of the sun and the aging of humans. So, why do we put ourselves into age boxes that are supposed to define who we are and what we’re capable of doing?

Let’s begin with the premise that our nature is not defined by age but by what the Creator gives to His beloved creation. And what God gives can only be emanations of Himself — such spiritual qualities as goodness, beauty, strength, ability, wisdom, vitality, intelligence, usefulness and so forth. Because these qualities have their origin in God, they are as infinite as their source and cannot be limited or defined by some mistaken, mortal concept of time and age.

Now I realize the battle to overcome feelings of mortality, with all the expected and accepted aches and pains associated with age, can be daunting. But I’m embarking on a journey to overcome my own slavery to the limitations that age tries to impose. And I say you can, too!

While the news media announce baby boomer doom and gloom, they also applaud accomplishments made by those whom they categorize as seniors. Such as the successful mountain climber at age 81, the man still flying airplanes at 86, the man golfing competitively at 103, grandmothers organizing and playing in a basketball league, or the grandmother who went back to college for her master’s 50 years after receiving her bachelor’s degree. These stories are newsworthy because producers consider them “unusual.” But what if these stories were not thought unusual but rather the normal and natural continuation of life and purpose?

Numerous examples in the Bible teach us the infinite and timeless nature of life. Elizabeth was far past the age of childbearing when she gave birth to a son. And Samuel had the wisdom and discernment to hear the voice of God when just a young child. Abraham could have let his 75 years convince him that God was calling upon the wrong person to father a nation, but he didn’t hesitate to believe and follow God’s direction.

Certainly, neither days nor years mattered to the Master in his healing work. He restored a woman who had suffered from a blood condition for 12 years. He healed an impotent man who had struggled for 38 years. He healed a man who had been blind from birth. He raised a man who had been dead for four days. Christ Jesus showed that an understanding of God and a willingness to do His will enables one to transcend all human timetables.

Could this be the road to ageless living — a divinely based outlook that can remove the view that claims aging has validity? An outlook that asserts decrepitude is not natural or inevitable.

God has called each of us to fulfill a specific mission, and we can be humbly willing to be God’s instruments for His purpose. And, indeed, this higher motive empowers our ability to do the work needed. Since we’re all treading the path of eternal life, our mission and purpose continue in eternity. They don’t end at some humanly established age. And our resources, those inherent spiritual qualities for accomplishing our purpose, are inexhaustible and renewable.

This assurance from Job gives me encouragement: “Thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear: because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away and thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning” (Job 11:15-17). These words tell me to not dread or fear any mortal view of my life with its many dire predictions and low expectations — that I can look to a divinely based outlook that precipitates a view open to unlimited possibilities.

Freedom from humanity’s immovable opinions and fixed beliefs on aging is possible if we dare to imagine those unlimited and infinite possibilities. Wendell Phillips, renowned American abolitionist of the 19th century, wrote: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” So, we must be alert and diligent in the watch to move our thought and actions beyond restrictions of age. This will require focusing more on God than matter, more on our spiritual qualities and less on mortal characteristics and impressions.

Instead of ruminating on reasons why we can’t do something, we must affirm that as God’s children, we can do what He directs us to do. When God directs, God enables!

We can accept our divine inheritance as children of God right now. Age has nothing to do with fulfilling our life purpose. This means you and I can live our purpose unboxed and without age limits.

Birthday Blues

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Do you know the most popular song in the English language? It’s a song that brings in approximately $2 million in licensing revenue each year. A song that’s been sung to infants and presidents and been performed in homes, schools, businesses, playgrounds and even in space. Although it’s been translated into countless languages, it’s often sung with its English lyrics in countries where English is not a primary language.

The song? “Happy birthday to you!”

Imagine two Southern kindergarten teachers (sisters) in 1893 who write a little ditty that they hope will be a useful teacher’s aid and instead compose the music to a song that is sung millions of times each year around the globe. The original lyrics were a classroom greeting entitled “Good morning to all.” There doesn’t appear to be any definitive proof of who actually wrote the lyrics “Happy birthday to you.” The first known written version of this song didn’t appear on the American scene until 1935, using the sisters’ tune, but it didn’t take long before it had become a worldwide hit.

I guess since I’m expecting to be serenaded with this song by my family in three days, I have birthdays on my mind. I remember when birthdays were the most special of all days. It seems at least in the first half of our lives, birthdays are the coming of age, bringing with them privileges and opportunities that we often long for — such as the age we go to school, the age we can get our driver’s license, the age we get to vote.

Age also brings with it the loss of benefits, such as when you’re too old for a kid’s meal or a child’s movie ticket or amusement park pass. However, I recall being excited when I was too old for such things, because this meant I was nearing the world of adulthood. Of course, age also brings the return of similar perks when age labels us as qualifying for senior rates and specials. My oldest brother is happy about this, mostly because this means he can now receive senior discount coffee at his favorite fast-food restaurant.

I think I’m going to be like my grandmother, who was born on Feb. 29 during a leap year. No one was ever certain of her age. In fact, most of my life I remember her being 76 years old. For some reason, she liked this number. I think I’ll stick with 49 myself — indefinitely.

Perhaps we give age too much credit and power. After all, the calendar year was created by man, not God, and the number of days and months in a year has changed throughout history. I guess humankind has found it helpful for its historical recording to have some type of calendar date to include in its notes. But who knows how many days were in the calendar year in the days of Noah? The first time “year” is mentioned in the Bible is in reference to the 600th year of Noah’s life!

Ever wonder when age became an influence on abilities and a determinant for the length of life? I’ve always been intrigued by an account I read in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. She told a story that was reported in a London medical magazine, The Lancet, published I presume sometime in the 19th century, about an insane woman who apparently had been disappointed in love and lost all account of time and years. Believing she was still living in the same hour when she was parted from her lover, the woman stood daily at her window watching for his return. Some American travelers saw her when she was 74 years old and guessed her to be a woman under 20.

This woman’s mental state kept her physical appearance young — no wrinkles, no gray hair. She never thought herself to be growing old, so the passing of years didn’t make her age.

I don’t know that I can convince myself that years don’t make me older, but lately I sure like that idea. Certainly, if one believes in eternal life, then that doesn’t just mean life has no ending. It also must mean life had no beginning. So there is not much use for a calendar in eternity.

In the Bible, Job describes age well when he says, “Thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning” (Job 11:17). When I ponder these words, age feels fresh, young, new, invigorating, lively — like anything is possible in a new day. Maybe those two kindergarten teachers had the lyrics right for a birthday song. I think I’ll ask my family to change my birthday song lyrics to:

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
Good morning dear Annette,
Good morning to you!

I feel younger already!