So here my husband Gary and I are – retired. Quite frankly just saying those words makes me feel old! And, I have to admit, there have been moments when I haven’t liked this whole retirement thing – not one bit.
Granted, I haven’t been working at a “paid” job for over 5 years. My last job came to an end, and through that I felt as if the Lord wanted me to concentrate more on my writing, which I did. I began blogging more frequently, and eventually wrote my second book Healing Hurts, based on a Bible study I had written a few years prior. I also got more involved in the women’s ministry at our church, and began volunteering for foster kid camps and special needs events.
I settled into a nice, set routine – just the way I like it!
But then? RETIREMENT!
My husband was so excited as his retirement date got closer and closer, and I was excited for him, too. He had worked hard since we had gotten married to provide a good stable life for us; and it was a joy to see his face gleaming more and more as he continued to mark off the days until it was official.
The plans we had! Maybe do some traveling, more free time to play tennis and golf, take more walks and hikes, and just explore more fully the beauty of this world God has created for us.
The day finally arrived, but by that time we were busy making plans to move to Arizona from Texas. Why? Many reasons, actually. First off, we had always dreamed of retiring there, but now there were 2 additional reasons: Our son had been living there for a number of years; plus Gary’s older sister had never married, and was exhibiting some health issues that had us concerned.
Without going into specific detail, we soon sold our home, and eventually found a neighborhood up in the foothills outside of Phoenix where we were going to have a small house built. Until then? We were renting.
But once we had gotten pretty much settled in our rental house, I began noticing that I was having a hard time adjusting to this “new” life.
For one, it was hard having Gary home every day without him being occupied with his job. I have a hard time focusing on writing when there are interruptions. Even hearing the TV in the background takes my mind out of focus. But Gary has been very sweet in giving me space when I ask for it.
However one of the biggest things I’ve had trouble adjusting to? Just being flexible and having fun!
As I mentioned above, I’m a “routine” person. I set my weekly schedule, as best I can. Then when Saturdays come, I feel like I can take a break for half the day, and maybe Gary and I can go to a movie or something. Sundays, I do my best to just rest: We attend church, go out for lunch, and then perhaps come home and take a little nap.
But now with retirement, this schedule became no longer valid! And my emotions have been on a seesaw (which isn’t necessarily a good thing for a marriage)!
I remember when this all really hit me on the head – hard.
We had lived here outside of Phoenix for about three months, and a friend and her husband we had gone to church with many years prior up in Washington state were also living down here. Back when we had lost two of our children many years ago, the parents of this friend had been two people who had stood by us unfailingly those extreme pain-filled months when we were trying to figure things out. They were at our house often, maybe just sitting quietly with us, maybe doing some vacuuming – whatever was needed for that day.
This sweet lady still lived up outside of Seattle, and she had sent me a message stating she’d love to connect with Gary and I again as she was planning a trip down here to Arizona to visit with her daughter and husband. Her precious husband had died a couple months prior.
Of course we wanted to see her – it had probably been over 20 years since the last time! So her daughter (my friend) and husband invited Gary and I to their house one afternoon while she was here visiting. They had a beautiful home with a swimming pool. My friend stated we needed to bring our swimsuits, and we should just plan on spending the afternoon relaxing in their pool.
Huh … what?
Don’t ask me to explain, because I can’t. Let me just say that the thought of spending a whole afternoon just “hanging out” with friends by their swimming pool seemed illogical (no, I’m not part Vulcan like in the Star Trek series). How could I take almost a full day away during the week from my routine? It wasn’t like we were on vacation or anything!
Yet I knew inside those thoughts really made no sense whatsoever, so of course we went.
And, as we caught up with those dear friends we had lost contact with so many years ago, something happened: I found it was okay to relax on days other than just weekends. It was okay to just sit and enjoy a whole afternoon with friends. On a day other than Saturday!
As we left their house in the early evening, I found myself filled with a joy that I had somehow lost a long time ago. I had lost the joy of just being happy and relaxing.
I discovered it really was okay – we were retired now. We were in a new season of life.
And since then? My husband and I have tried to plan an outing once a week – in the middle of the week – to just have fun. We’ve driven to hiking spots and just spent time looking around. We’ve gone to museums, and we’ve even visited little foolish ghost town tourist traps.
Friends, one thing I’ve been learning (I still have a long way to go), is that God has given us everything for our pleasure and our joy. Yes, we definitely need to keep working hard in order to provide the necessary things we need to live – laziness is not an option (2 Thess. 3:10). However He also wants us to unplug and just take time to get away and be free. To witness His creation with new eyes. To visit with friends, just laughing and enjoying fellowship.
I read an article the other day which spoke of how much harder it is for the younger generation to take time to enjoy life now – much more than it used to be when I was young. Why? Because of the pressure. Pressure that they always need to be connected.
Let’s face it, cell phones are always with us all, which we certainly need! And I’m so thankful for this technology.
Yet at the same time, instead of just using our phones for a quick call or text, we also feel we need to stay plugged into the newswires or social media all the time. After all, we need to find out what everyone’s saying about everything!
Oh, the pressure.
It breaks my heart when we visit a restaurant and see young families sitting at a table. Or even just friends out eating together. Because instead of talking with each other, each one is plugged into their devices. My heart hurts. Because I know how hard it is for me to just unplug and have fun. And when Gary and I were young we didn’t even have cell phones! Now the kids are raised and taught by communication devices.
So what do we need to do? Unplug sometimes! Go out and spend an afternoon with friends with your phone turned off. It’s okay to do that for a couple hours – trust me the world won’t stop just because you’ve decided to take a little breather.
I love the passage in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus has stopped over at Mary and Martha’s house for fellowship. Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’ feet and enjoy the time with Him, whereas Martha frets about all the things that “she” feels needs to be done. Jesus tells her to relax!
And in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, King Solomon reminds us that we should have gladness in our hearts for what God has graciously and lovingly provided for us – enjoy life!
Friends, don’t be like me. Remember Who is ultimately in control! Balance is so crucial in all our lives. Yes, we need to work hard, but there are seasons in our lives where we need to take the time to “smell the roses,” so to speak.
So plan sometime to just go and have fun. Take a vacation, and try to keep your phone only turned on for a couple hours at a time. It’s okay, honest!