Choosing Gratitude series, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Perspective

Choosing Gratitude (series): The Beauty in Aging

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

When I come to November in a year, something happens in my spirit. I’m ready to cozy down into warm sweaters and soft blankets. I love scented candles burning and soups simmering on the stovetop. It’s a time to slow  down and reflect over the year. When my spirit is in a good place, my heart finds much to be grateful for. One thing that fills me with gratitude is the gift of friends—real life and blogging friends.

For the next few weeks, I have invited five friends I respect deeply to share stories and thoughts on gratitude in their lives. I hope you will join with me for all five weeks and share your responses to their words. If you miss a week, you can click Choosing Gratitude series to catch up with the other posts in this series. Will you settle in with me, with a mug of something warm in your hands and think on those things and happenings in the year for which you are grateful?

*****

Marie Gregg and I met through the Five Minute Friday linkup some years ago, one of our blogs was usually posted right after the other’s. Over the years, I have discovered what a beautiful spirit this lady has. She is a deep thinker, passionate writer, and lover of God’s word, dogs, and young people (among other things). Her blogposts always leave me thinking. One day, I hope I’ll have the privilege of meeting her in person. Until then, I will enjoy her words on her blog. Please help me welcome Marie to this little corner of the blog-o-sphere!

*****

As I slide into my mid-thirties, I notice more and more advertisements promising to delay the aging process. Lotions and potions for younger-looking skin. Hair dye to cover up those unsightly silver strands. Torturous devices labeled “waist trainers” to smooth out lumps and bumps. Magical, easy solutions for every Madison Avenue conjured problem.

Of course these ads have always existed; they catch my eye now only because I have joined the target demographic. I find it so odd that we are shamed for aging, as if we’ve broken the rules. As if we have control over the onward, relentless passage of time.

Four years ago I learned that we control almost nothing but our reactions to events. I lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of machines. An ugly, fiery incision bisected my abdomen. The simple act of breathing brought tears to my eyes. My brain swam in a cocktail of painkillers, sloshing around my skull to the beat of the pink elephants that danced across my dreams. There was nothing pretty about the experience. Nothing to brag about.

The incision faded into a pink scar, some sections puckered and wrinkled. It still throbs with a dull ache when the weather is about to change. It has been joined by a few fine lines around my mouth and eyes. A streak of bright white highlights the curls that seem to grow more unruly every day. 

I’ve had surgery. 

I’m getting older. 

Strange, isn’t it, that we are supposed to whisper such statements? Hang our heads. Try to fade into the background. 

What if instead we believed:

The glory of young men is their strength,

And the splendor of old men is their gray head.

~Proverbs 20:29 (NKJV)

Every age is to be enjoyed as a gift from God. So what if our hair sparkles? Our faces testify to belly-laughs? We can’t fit into those jeans we wore in high school? We don’t run as fast as we used to? 

None of these things really matter, because, while it is true that we are to be good caretakers of the bodies God gave us, we’re going to shed this skin one day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). And it will be wrinkled, for sure.

In no way is it wrong to use makeup, try new hairstyles or enjoy putting outfits together. We simply have to remember that our value, our identity, is not found in our appearance.

Yes, I know that this statement is old, seemingly trite and passes quickly through our minds, but familiarity doesn’t negate truth. 

When I look in the mirror, I am quick to zero in on what I believe to be my flaws, especially that big scar. “You’re ugly,” floats through my thoughts before I even realize it. But if I stop and think about it, that scar is a visible reminder of the goodness of God. 

He brought me through that surgery. The little lines on my face remind me of movies that make me laugh no matter how many times I see them. The white hair a sign of another year lived, a year that was never guaranteed. 

Aging is a privilege, something to be thankful for. We have no “sell by” date. This world might pretend that it has no use for those over the age of 30, but we know better. 

We live by a different standard, the one laid out for us through the Divine inspiration of men scrawling on ancient parchment. This standard teaches us that, as long as we are breathing, there is a job to be done, a job designed specifically for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10). God simply isn’t done working in and through us—period.

When you look in the mirror tomorrow, smile. And thank God for another day.

Question: Do you struggle with aging? Why? What is one so-called “problem” (gray hair, wrinkles, etc.) that you can thank God for today?

********

Marie Gregg lives somewhere in the Inland Northwest with her husband and two fat, neurotic dogs. Her passion in life is to teach others how to study the Bible, that they may come to know and love the Lord more deeply. When she’s not writing, she spends her time gardening, reading and listening to podcasts. You can find her at her blog, Along the Way, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Marie has written two books detailing her journey with chronic illness. The Harm in That: False Gospels, Alternative Medicine and Suffering deals with the damage that “health and wealth” teaching inflicts on the ill, while Distant Lights: Poems Along the Way contains personal reflections and prayers.

Click to Tweet: Every age is to be enjoyed as a gift from God.

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, and Holley Gerth

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47 thoughts on “Choosing Gratitude (series): The Beauty in Aging”

  1. What a lovely post, Marie, and so nice to see you here! (And Jeanne, thank you for giving Marie this space today!)

    Aging simply isn’t something I do. My psyche stopped developing at the age of nineteen (so say those who know me well), and if my body tires, I simply flog it harder. A grey head may be honourable, but I’ve got no use for one, and as Tom Petty sang, “if you never slow own, you’ll never get old”.

    One of the blessings of terminal cancer is that I will not, now, grow old. It’s a mercy; I would never have made a wise elder, and now I get to live the most memorable lines of one of my favourite poems, Laurence Binyon’s ‘For The Fallen’:

    “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.”

    I’m cool with that.

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    1. Andrew, Your words made me smile. And I must say, my friend, that you have already grown in wisdom over the years I’ve known you. You share wisdom hard-gained, in your blog posts, in your comments, and in your interactions online. You may never grow “old,” but you have grown wiser. 😉 You may not face some of the frailties those who are older do, but you currently face pains many of us never will. Don’t discount that, my friend.

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    2. Love that poem, Andrew.

      As far as I’m concerned, you’re a wise elder. I’ve learned so much through your example, your faith, your words. You have held me accountable when I’ve made mistakes and encouraged me to keep on going. I am truly thankful that the Lord brought us together in friendship.

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  2. This is a great perspective, Marie! I’m not always happy about those lines and white hairs but it’s helpful to think of them as reminders of times of laughter and God’s faithfulness through the years. So important to keep that eternal perspective too!

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    1. Lesley, wasn’t Marie’s perspective so beautiful? I have to remember that those wrinkles I’m now wearing, that hair that has grayed are not things to hide. They are a gift. And they indeed are reminders of God’s faithfulness through the years. Thanks so much for visiting, friend!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. One of the (many, many) things that I wonder about Heaven is what we will all look like. Will we retain the scars and wrinkles that tell the story of God’s faithfulness? I have no answer, of course, but I can imagine someone pointing to a scar and saying, “I got this in an accident, but that’s how I met Jesus.”

      It’s going to be cool to hear all the stories. A good reminder for me today to slow down and listen to the ones I’m privileged to hear now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing this space with Marie, Jeanne. It feels like something happened to me the days after my fiftieth birthday. I began to feel things that I thought I wasn’t feeling at 49? There are still the lingering remnants of pain from my stroke recovery, but it is a poignant reminder of God and His faithfulness. I am determined to press forward towards the purpose He has designed uniquely for myself. Thank you for your openness and honesty, Marie. I was indeed encouraged by your thoughts. May you ladies both have a wonderful week, and God bless you and yours.

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    1. Horace, I had to grin at your words. I turned 50 about 18 months ago, and I’m feeling it. 😉 I don’t feel old on the inside . . . I feel more like a girl than a woman, sometimes. But my body? It’s definitely telling me I’m growing older. I love your determination to press forward into the purpose God has for you. Thank you so much for visiting. And I hope your week is wonderful, as well!

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    2. I’m so glad that you are encouraged, Horace.

      Each decade brings something new, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if you do notice things that you didn’t notice before. I know that my knees are getting awfully creaky… It’s nice to know that God remains so steadfastly loving and loyal in the midst of the pain. Sometimes I wish He’d simply remove the suffering, but I wonder what I’d miss out on if He did that.

      Praying for you today.

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  4. Good morning, Marie and Jeanne. Honestly, I’m still adjusting to being 63. I have no idea how the years galloped away from me. You’ve captured some of the realities of getting older …

    But it’s ok. ‘My times are in His hands.’ I still firmly believe that God has more for me to be and to do in the season ahead. And maybe He’ll surprise me, yet once again …

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    1. Linda, isn’t it a relief that, just because we grow older, we don’t outgrow our usefulness? God has purposes for us here on earth. There’s something about knowing God has purposes for us that gives us vitality, regardless of our age.

      Thanks so much for visiting, my friend!

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    2. Oh, it makes me happy that you know that God has more for you to do! It’s easy for me to get discouraged on days when chronic illness really kicks my behind. I start to think that maybe I’m just meant for the sidelines, that I can’t contribute anything. That’s a big lie, though.

      On behalf of the younger crowd (“old” and “young” being all about context), we need you, Linda. So many of us don’t have older women to love and mentor us. I bet there are ladies in your life who would be so blessed just to have coffee with you. 🙂

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  5. Yes, every age is a gift from God. I recently let my hair grow out to its natural color (mousy brown-gray). It was freeing not to have to worry about coloring it anymore. I do struggle with the aches and pains that come with aging, though. I sometimes try to wish them away! 🙂

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    1. Laurie, I find it so interesting how making those decisive choices can indeed be freeing. I am with you on aches and pains. They have definitely made themselves more known in the past year or two. Thanks so much for sharing here!

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      1. Two years ago I decided to embrace my silver. My hair color now is truly my own and I’m loving it! It’s so freeing. I can now stand outside on a windy day and not be paranoid that everyone is looking at my silver roots! (Not that anyone was anyway!) Check out Proverbs 20:29 from the Contemporary English Version: “Young people take pride in their strength, but the gray hairs of wisdom are even more beautiful.” Some days I feel beautifully wise.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jeanna, good for you! Your natural color looks good on you. 🙂 And gray/silver is the “in” thing right now. I’m amazed at how many young people color their hair with these shades. 🙂

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    2. Why is it so hard for us to embrace our natural hair? Mine is curly but I spent years straightening it. You’re right that it’s so freeing to just let it be.

      My white streak began developing just before I had surgery. (I’m told that this is pretty common, due to stress and shock). People ask me if I’m going to dye it. Just seems like too much effort.

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  6. Marie, this is deep and so true. And just one more way Christianity and the deeper life is at odds with modern society. None of this will last, especially our bodies. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Cor. 5:1. My spirit is constantly being renewed and that’s enough.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Kathy, Christianity is at odds with modern society, isn’t it? I thought about that as I read Marie’s post the first time too. I’m so thankful that we are more than our bodies, or our age. God has placed eternity in our hearts. I’m so thankful He’s made us so much more. Thank you so much for sharing your insights here today!

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  7. I’m determined to celebrate my gray hair, and I so appreciate your perspective here on our aging and weakening bodies. Aging is a process of release, and we’re given the gift of anticipating the day when we will not be wearing a fallen and sin cursed shell. This is something to celebrate, but we need reminders like yours today!

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    1. Michele, I love that you are celebrating your gray hair. I have never colored my hair, but I’ve done other things, like given it perms and other stuff, just to try and keep it looking nice. Oy. I like what you said about aging being a process of release. I never thought about it that way, but your words resonate. I, too, anticipate the day when we no longer bear sin in our DNA. Thank you for sharing your insights here, friend!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Michele, this brought tears to my eyes! “Aging is a process of release…” That’s beautiful. I was just thinking the other day that I wish I didn’t struggle with some of the things that have plagued me since I was a teenager. I want so much to let go and move on. Sometimes I think I have, but then…a new phase or layer is revealed.

      Bless the Lord for His patience and graciousness toward me!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jeanne, thank you for allowing me to share these words today. I’m not always the best about commenting, but I do read here and always come away with something to think about (in the best of ways). May our Lord bless you richly for your faithful service.

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  9. Beautiful post on aging. It’s funny how we don’t think about it until a particular birthday hits us. But we are “aging” from the day we draw our first breath. Only this past year, after the loss of my BIL whom we were very close with, has aging truly hit us. May God help us all to number our days, using them all to His glory.

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    1. Joanne, you’re right. I didn’t think too much about my age until I turned fifty. Then, and you can chuckle here, I told myself, I could no longer refer to myself as a “girl.” I am most definitely a middle-aged woman. And that’s okay. I am sorry about the loss of your BIL. It seems like those losses remind us how finite we are.

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    2. Amen, Joanne.

      When I wrote this post, I had no idea it would resonate with others this way. Reading through everyone’s comments has given me so much to think about. I want to use my days well.

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  10. Absolutely marvelous words and so very true. I have always said there is only way to stop aging and I like this side of the dirt so much better. While I would love being hugged by Christ, I would rather make smile knowing that I am trying to make a difference for Him. And as I told Shelley of Quaint Revival – I earned every gray hair and every wrinkle. I wear them with pride and love.

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    1. Anita, your comment about liking this side of the dirt better made me laugh. I like that your focus is to make a difference for Jesus on this side of heaven. And yes, let’s do wear each wrinkle, each gray hair with pride and love.

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  11. Marie, I LOVED your post and the reflections on enjoying every age and moment of our lives. Great advice and true inspiration.

    Janet, I linked up with Mary Geisen’s #TellHisStory and wanted to gift you a comment and thank you for sharing Marie’s post.

    Karen

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  12. Hey, Marie! So fun to see you over here at Jeanne’s! Let’s see… in my late 30s I decided I would stop trying to erase the tides of age. My hair is ‘sparkly,’ I have thousands of laugh lines, I quit wearing makeup (unless I know I’ll have my photo taken 😉 ), and I’m pretty happy in my own skin. I want to go out having fun and having lived, not worrying about what other people think of me (which means I need to quit fixating on what I think of me).

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    1. Anita, you are an inspiration to me. Being happy in our own skin leads much more to contentment than trying to be something for someone in our appearance. And as for the not fixating on yourself? Yeah, I’m still there too, friend. But, by the grace of God, we can continue to focus our eyes on others and on His purposes for us, right? Thanks so much for visiting!

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    2. Anita, I love you so much! Even thought we’ve yet to meet face-to-face (someday!) your comfort in your own self makes me feel comfortable. I know that you write honestly, which inspires me to write honestly. Thank you for that!

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  13. I so need to be reminded of this – “We simply have to remember that our value, our identity, is not found in our appearance.” I leave my hair its natural gray, and I have learned not to be as concerned about my naturally curly, sometimes unruly, hair. But I do often look in the mirror and think I’m ugly. Especially when I’m on Prednisone because of chronic illness, and my face looks more puffy. So thanks for your encouragement to accept ourselves. And thank you, Jeanne, for having her. I’m sorry you have to deal with chronic illness, Marie. I know it’s not easy. Advent Blessings and hugs to both of you!

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    1. Trudy, it’s so hard to change those lies in our thoughts, isn’t it? As I was thinking on this, the thought came to mind that maybe we need to choose to see ourselves as God does: as beautiful, cherished, chosen. You are beautiful, my friend. And you have a beautiful heart. Sending you love and hugs back, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Trudy, chronic illness is…well, all the kinds of bad words that we’re not really supposed to say. I am truly sorry to know that you’ve got your own struggle in this area. I’ve been on steroids before, the kind that keep you awake for days – it’s awful. Today I pray that, when you look in the mirror, you see the beautiful, unique woman that Jesus sees.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Marie,
    I have lots of signs of God’s goodness. Having had six surgeries in six years – each with multiple incisions – I am a walking testimony that God’s grace has brought me through them all. In my recuperating time, when I couldn’t do much, my relationship with God grew by leaps and bounds and so I will thank Him for these scars. Lovely post!!

    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    ps. Jeanne, thanks SO much for your very generous gift to the precious children. I know it was a gift from the heart and they and I am very, very grateful!! Love and ((Hugs)) B

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    1. Bev, you are a walking, writing testimony to God’s faithfulness. You used your recuperation time well, seeking God’s presence and learning from Him. Thank you for all that you share so transparently on your blog. Your words are always a blessing to me!

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    2. Yes, Bev! Yes! It’s so difficult to feel thankful when the pain is fresh, but then when you look back and see what God has done, how far He has brought you…praise is the natural response. One day we’ll compare scars and share stories. 🙂

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  15. Hello! This is my first time visiting your blog and love this series, especially this post. I do not have my own children but I have nieces that are struggling with aging (they’re between ages 16 and 24 🙂 and their faith, and how it all intertwines. So I am definitely going to send this link to them.

    As for me, I have come to love aging, albeit I’d like to do it gracefully. 🙂 God has delivered me through so much, that I am thankful to be alive and each year is a milestone, each gray hair a reminder that I live, and every wrinkle a reminder that I smile deeply. thank you again for this series. Loved having found your blog.

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    1. Angie, please forgive my delayed response to your kind comment. I so appreciate your words and how the struggle with aging doesn’t disappear, it just changes its focus. You touch on one of the beautiful things that can happen as we grow older, and that is being able to see the hurts and mistakes of our pasts through the filter of God’s faithfulness. Thank you for the reminder that those gray hairs (which are becoming more prominent on my head) and those wrinkles tell stories of our lives, don’t they? I’m so glad you stopped by!

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  16. Marie- It’s such a treat to read your words here at Jeanne’s place today. I watched my mom try to stop the aging process most of her life. I know I have some of my mom in me, but the difference is believing that God has so much for me at any age. It brings me hope and keeps me moving forward.

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