Writing Your Life Story

“We can hardly wait to retire!” she confided with a grin. I was too surprised to respond. I looked deep into my best friend’s bright blue eyes and saw that she was absolutely sincere.

“But Cheryl, you guys haven’t even started working yet!”

“I know! We’re excited to move to Miami, and I think Tom’s going to love his new practice, but we want to save hard and retire as soon as we can.”

Forty years later, I still remember feeling shocked and confused. Maybe I just wasn’t far-sighted enough, but the thought of retiring had never crossed my mind in all my twenty-nine years. To me, “Retirement” was the “R word” and not to be spoken . . . until necessary . . . and only in hushed tones.

Cheryl and I had been “resident widows” together while our husbands slugged their way through medical residencies at the University of Michigan. Cheryl’s husband had just finished (one year ahead of Alan), and they’d found an excellent opportunity to join a thriving practice in Miami. They were just about to embark on the greatest adventure in their life. Could they really be overlooking the next 35-40 years? What was so attractive about being old, grey, and tired? It all sounded scary and threatening to me. At this same time, my own parents were considering when to retire, and my Dad was fighting with the State of Michigan over an upcoming mandated retirement from his professorship at age 65. He didn’t want to retire!*

Cheryl’s two kids and my two oldest had played together incessantly through all those years of medical combat. Some weeks Alan was gone for 117 hours (I counted). Aaron and Michael got all excited when Alan was on overnight call, because on those nights we got to go “to Daddy’s house” (as they called it) for dinner. We’d pack a picnic and share supper with him in his tiny call room, which was especially thrilling to the boys because it was furnished with a hospital bed that could go up and back and down and up and . . . kept them occupied endlessly!

It was during those days that Cheryl kept the number for protective services above her phone. I thought she might be kidding, but she said she wasn’t. She promised herself she would call that number before she ever took her frustration out on her son, and it kept her from getting physically violent even when she felt like it.

Our oldest sons were so much alike! As first-time mothers, we were convinced they were both geniuses . . . not only in their insatiable curiosity about life and thirst for adventure, but also in their ability to oppose their mothers in every conceivable (and inconceivable) way. Sometimes Cheryl would call me, impersonating the voice of her son.

“Mrs. Armstwong, are you going crazy?”

“YES! Are you?”

“YES! Do you want to go to the mall?”

During the icy winter months, we often escaped with our children to the Briarwood Mall, with its endless maze of wide halls, escalators, stairways, fountains, and gleaming storefronts filled with tantalizing scents and sights to lure in shoppers. We didn’t shop, though! We wouldn’t have trusted our children inside the stores, but we did let them run (in theory “quietly and avoiding people”) through the hallways. It was the best way we knew to let them burn off some of their boundless energy during times when public parks were uninhabitably slippery and cold for toddling toes and noses.

Sigh. Happy times. Hard times! We are still friends today, and I’ll skip trying to share the huge middle chapters of our stories, but I’ve had two revelations: 1. I was right about retirement: Tom is gone, and Sue is alone. Being old and grey . . . and alone . . . isn’t to be prized too highly, so make every day count and stay present-minded. 2. Sue was right about retirement: Alan and I are loving retirement, because it gives us a chance to pursue our avocations! Medicine was his calling, and mothering was mine, but I’ve been delighted to discover how much we are energized by pursuing new “careers” and new chapters in our lives.

What an adventure life is! Every life! Yours too! We are writing our stories as we live our lives. For you who are young and just starting out, I hope you make every day special and a tale worth telling, even if it’s a story of coping with pain. For those of us who have survived to retirement, we can invest our lives in whatever we want—or better yet—in whatever God wants! What a privilege and responsibility! As C.S. Lewis reminds us, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Oh, for a billion happy endings to the stories of our lives!

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.”
(2 Corinthians 3:2)

(* Notes: My father retired in 1980. Since that time, the laws in Michigan have changed, and university professors no longer have to retire at age 65. Also, I will always change the names and a few facts [like locations] to protect the privacy of those I write about, although we did go to Briarwood Mall, and Alan was completing his residency through the University of Michigan. ALSO: a reader says the real author of the quote I attributed to Lewis is James Sherman from his 1982 book, Rejection: “You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.” Apparently it is commonly attributed to Lewis but has not been found in his writings.)

Passion and Productivity; Work and Vocation

How are you feeling about work these days? Do you love your job . . . or hate your job? Or . . . somewhere in between? Do you even have a job? If you could have any job you want, what would it be? Have you ever thought about the difference between a “job” and a “vocation”?

“Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need” (Frederick Buechner). “Vocation” comes from Latin and means a “calling, or summons.” A true vocation comes from God. What do you see as the world’s greatest need? What is your greatest passion? Can you think of a way to use what you passionately love doing to help meet the world’s greatest need? This is likely God’s calling for you, although it may take you much of your life to get there!

I’ve also seen Beuchner quoted as saying “joy” (rather than “passion”). I don’t know if on various occasions he said it both ways, but I believe in his ideal. If we can find a job doing something that we believe in with a passion that energizes us . . . if we can make a living doing something that brings us true joy while ministering to the deep needs of others— what an ideal job that would be!

However, I think the majority of people are lucky to have work at all, and I’ll bet many fewer than 50% of people are presently working at their “ideal” job. This is one of the key issues with midlife crisis. People often feel “stuck,” unfulfilled, and overwhelmed by their workload. “Work” is called work because it’s hard, not because it’s fun or fulfilling or life-giving. We earn our keep by “the sweat of our face” (Genesis 3:19). Our Lord, in fulfilling his passionate purpose—to redeem us from sin through his death on the cross—was in agony and “sweat was as it were great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). Still, Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Somehow, Jesus was able to live out Beuchner’s ideal perfectly. Jesus’s greatest passion and joy intersected with our world’s greatest need: He died to save us from our sins and make it possible for us to be born again into eternal life.

I wonder, is it possible for us to reconcile our passion and joy with living a life so difficult we can hardly keep going? Jesus fell under the load of the cross, but he “set his face like a flint” and never gave up. Are we able to do the same?

During our work careers, God encourages us to work hard to provide for ourselves and our loved ones (see 1 Timothy 5:8). All honorable work is good work, and whether it’s tightening bolts on an automotive line or washing cars or sweeping floors, all such jobs help people and are worthy ways of supporting ourselves. No matter what we do to earn a living, God wants us to do it “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). If we do what we do to the best of our ability out of love for God and to love others, no matter how menial or difficult, we’re honoring God and can take joy in that!

However, I believe we have every reason and “right” to work hard toward the goal of obtaining a job where we can fully utilize our gifts and talents in a true vocation (see 1 Corinthians 7:21-22). Got a dream? Do you think it’s a dream God has given you? As we journey through this new year, let’s examine our lives. Are we doing “the right” thing? If not, what can we do to start working toward a true vocation? Also, how can we bring more passion and joy into our present job, so that we’re experiencing fulfillment right now?

Make Today the Best Day of the Year

Isn’t this wonderful advice for the first Monday of our new year? I woke up this morning so thankful to be alive and determined by God’s grace to acknowledge every day as precious—a blank sheet of life that is mine to color.

Let’s face it, 2020 was hard, but my heart sinks every time I see a joke about getting rid of 2020 as if it were a piece of junk, because truly, every day of life is a gift from God.

Of course it’s also true that some days are cataclysmic and will never be forgotten because our lives have been permanently altered in a way we hate. Death, illness, accident, abandonment, treachery . . . There are evils and hardships we can never fully recover from physically. I have a friend whose husband died just before Christmas. From the outside, I would say she deserves a gold crown for faithfulness, because during their 43-year marriage, she spent more than half of it caring for her husband as he slowly lost a long, debilitating battle with multiple sclerosis. Yet, her grief is deep, and I’m sure she will miss him every day for the rest of her life because her love is even deeper than her grief.

Perhaps 2020 left you permanently injured, or without a spouse or parent or child. Perhaps you lost your job and can’t find a new one. Perhaps you have a new diagnosis of a terminal illness . . . or have been in the process of slowly approaching death for so long that you’re wondering if it’s time to look for a nursing home . . . or sign up for hospice care. 😦

If you’re looking for some consolation, I did read this morning, “If you’re not alive, then you cannot die.” I believe it’s a quote by a Russian musician named Sergey Nikitin, but my Russian is non-existent, so I may be mistaken. No matter the source, the saying is true, and the implication obvious. Would you rather be dead or alive? If the answer is “alive,” then rejoice that God has given you breath and life today and thank Him, because it is also true that “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

If you would rather be dead, then let me say this: I am not in such a dire situation, so perhaps I should be silent in the face of your pain lest you react to me like Job: “I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:2). If you’re feeling too depressed or wounded to receive comfort just now, then may I encourage you to consider taking a few hours simply to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

New Beginnings

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start
where you are and change the ending.” (—C.S. Lewis).

January 1, 2021—What a momentous time to be alive! The first day of a brand new year, full of hardships, challenges, possibilities, and promises. Globally, 2020 was uniquely difficult for those of us who are under 75. It’s been seventy-five years since World War 2 bathed the earth in blood and a hundred years since we’ve experienced such a global pandemic. One of my young friends ended her Christmas card with an excerpt from Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, Gilead. It was written about the Spanish flu from 1918-1920 that infected half a billion people (about a third of the world’s population), but it is eerily apropos for our present situation:

People don’t talk much now about the Spanish influenza, but that was a terrible thing, and it struck just at the time of the Great War,  just when we were getting involved in it.  It killed the soldiers by the thousands, healthy men in the prime of life, and then it spread into the rest of the population.  It was like a war, it really was.  One funeral after another, right here in Iowa.  We lost so many of the young people.  And we got off pretty lightly.  People came to church wearing masks, if they came at all.  They’d sit as far from each other as they could.  There was talk that the Germans had caused it with some sort of secret weapon, and I think people wanted to believe that, because it saved them from reflecting on what other meaning it might have . . .You would never have imagined that almost empty sanctuary,  just a few women there with heavy veils on to try to hide the masks they were wearing, and two or three men.  I preached with a scarf around my mouth for more than a year.  Everyone smelled like onions, because word went around that flu germs were killed by onions (pp. 47,49).

As we begin 2021, it is my prayer that we stop to reflect on “what other meaning” our pandemic might have. Personally, I believe it has been sent by God as a severe mercy—giving the world an opportunity to acknowledge the God who loves us and offers this promise of hope: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).

If you are struggling to survive, please look up to God, acknowledge Him, and ask Him to save you. I believe He will, because that’s exactly what He did for me almost sixty years ago. No matter what hardships and challenges you’re facing, God will meet you in the midst and provide new possibilities. That’s His promise!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (103): Developing a Servant’s Heart

“I just want to be a boss!” This came in response to the question,”What would you like to be when you grow up?” We thought the question would make a great ice breaker for our high-school aged youth group back in the days when Alan and I were co-leading with our pastor and his wife. There were a lot of enthusiastic and thoughtful responses—most of which I don’t remember 20 years later. But, I’ll never forget that particular answer!

Probably her older sister won’t ever forget it either! Most of us were caught off guard and looked at Melanie* curiously, trying to figure out if she was joking. She was joking, right?! Maybe not; she looked completely serious. An awkward hush fell over the room. Some smirked; some smiled; some looked a little dismayed. In Brethren circles twenty years ago, being “a boss” wasn’t considered PC as the express intention of anybody, but especially not a petite highschool freshman!

“Melanie!” her older sister protested, trying to save the situation, “You don’t really mean that, do you?”

Melanie glared fiercely at her sister. She was fifth-born in a large family and a budding teenager, so I suppose she had some legitimate desire to be out from under the watchful eyes of her parents and older siblings! ” Yes! That’s exactly what I want to be! I want to be in charge!”

I must say that twenty years later, this beautiful young lady is—in many ways—in charge . . . of her lovely children. She’s married and I think happy. She never became the “boss” of a large company or business, but she is definitely one of those proverbially virtuous women who directs her home with tender (but also firm) care. She’s a good boss, but I suspect that didn’t come without a lot of pain in the process!

In the Bible, Jesus’s followers more than once debated who was the greatest and who should have preeminence when Jesus reigned as king. In that context, Jesus taught them: “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that serves” Luke 22:26). In reality, Jesus didn’t overthrow the Roman government (as some of his disciples thought). As it turned out, Jesus’s kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom. Jesus will someday reign over all the earth, but in the cross hairs of BC and AD, Christ’s mission was to die as a sacrificial servant to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind.

Who became the leader after Jesus died? Really, all of the remaining apostles, but it cost them all their lives.

They led by example, constrained by the love of Christ, not for any glory for themselves, but so they could testify to the truth of the gospel for the love of man and the glory of God.

Jesus died so that the world could be saved. Stephen, one of the first servants of the church, died as a martyr, but through his death Paul was converted. Paul was martyred, but through his death multitudes came to faith. And on and on!

Leadership in the church of Jesus Christ has never been intended to be for the glory of individual people. True leaders suffer greatly. Jesus calls us to servant leadership—being willing to suffer so that others might hear, believe, and be saved.

Are we willing?

Here are a few quotes on servant leadership worth pondering:

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Texts for this meditation: Matthew 23:10-12, “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 20:25-28, But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 9:33-37 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,  ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.‘” Mark 10:4 2-45  And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Luke 22:26, But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Make Me a Servant

(*Melanie is a pseudonym, since this charming young woman is alive and well still today.)

Encouraging Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful time of feeling and expressing thankfulness for all the blessings in your life today, whether or not you’re able to get together with the family and friends you’d normally be seeing. As COVID spiked in Michigan, our plans dwindled from four of our children and their families coming home, to three, to two, and finally to just one, but we are extremely grateful to be able to meet with our youngest and his new wife. We could have been all by ourselves!

Or could we? Actually, even if no one could visit our home, we would never be alone. After all, what it Thanksgiving Day really about? It’s about expressing thankfulness for all our blessings! And, who is the One who has given us every wonderful gift we possess? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Our circumstances may change. Our friends may not be able to join us due to the shadow of COVID. But, God our Father never changes, and He is always with us!

Furthermore, at the root of thanksgiving is grateful fellowship, and as we learn in 1 John 1:3, “truly our fellowship with with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Even if you are all alone this Thanksgiving, I hope your day is filled with praise to God for his abundant blessings in your life! Chief among my blessings is the gift of eternal life, which God has given us through faith in his Son, Jesus: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). If you have never surrendered your heart and life to Jesus, this Thanksgiving Day would be the perfect time to do so! (Not sure how? Click on the “Coming to Christ” tab at the top of this page for more details.)

Still, I know we’ll all struggle a little with sadness over missing the fellowship of family and other loved ones today, so I thought I’d share some inspiring bits of wisdom to help cheer us all up and set our hearts on being thankful today. God bless you!!

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:1-4).

Learning to Walk Straight

“Relax! Stop hobbling!” the P.A. looked at me with a kind but critical eye. “You’ll never learn to walk straight if you don’t loosen up. Don’t be so tense when you walk, and don’t favor your left leg.”

I winced. “But it hurts! Protecting my left leg helps me avoid a lot of pain, and I thought the doctor said not to do anything painful.”

“To a point, but you’re ready to be a little harder on yourself. Sharp pain, no. Dull pain . . . ya. If you don’t push yourself, you’ll never walk normally. ‘No pain, no gain,’ right?! Take it as slowly as you need to, but make yourself put as much of your weight on that left leg as you can bear. And keep your foot straight in front of you at all times or you’ll damage your knee!”

I left, thankful for the correction and energized by knowing that it would be possible to heal and hopefully be “normal” again if I was willing to discipline myself. Being able to take some responsibility for my recovery was motivating.

The next day, during a Zoom prayer meeting with a couple of my girlfriends, I recounted the P.A.’s advice. Cindi lit right up: “Oh, yes! My sister—the one who teaches modern dance at the University of New Mexico—tore her Achilles’ tendon a few years ago, and that’s exactly what the surgeon told her. If Donna wanted to completely heal so she could keep dancing, she had to learn how to walk straight all over again!”

We learn to walk the first time as toddlers . . . so little probably none of us remember the pain of a thousand falls and the frustration of figuring out all the nuances of negotiating slippery surfaces and rocky roads. Hopefully, most of us don’t have to relearn proper walking techniques in adulthood unless we have some serious accident or illness. However, most people who survive into their 70’s and beyond will eventually have to learn to cope with some arthritic joints—shoulders, hips, knees, wrists . . . even fingers and toes! For us, learning to “walk straight” without hobbling to protect the injured joint will become a major challenge.

Even more common is the need to learn to walk straight spiritually. We may have a sudden, devastating “accidental” fall that breaks us, like Donna the dancer, or we may slowly deteriorate spiritually—like my arthritic joint. Whatever the nature of our problem, the solution is the same. We need medical care from the Master Surgeon, Jesus, but to get that care, we have to go to Him and ask for help. My surgeon would not have operated had I not gone to him for help, and God won’t force us to be healed either. I had to admit I had a problem so severe I couldn’t cope with it on my own. I had to ask for help and trust the surgeon to operate. And finally, I had/have to do my part. I have to stop protecting my weakness. I have to stop trying to compensate so that I don’t feel the pain. I have to walk slowly forward, keeping my leg straight despite the discomfort.

Got a broken heart or a broken body? Suffering from depression or PTSD? Got an addiction to alcohol, or pornography, or food, or sex, or gambling, or drugs, or cigarettes, or video games . . . or a hundred other captivating evils? Acknowledge that you can’t recover on your own, and ask God for help. Surrender to his care. BUT, after He’s forgiven you and set you back on a straight path—do your part! Pray for grace but discipline yourself. We also have an unavoidable responsibility for our own recovery. But, this is a good thing! It’s freeing to know that we can overcome if we will! Are you willing? I pray to God that you are!

“Make me to hear joy and gladness;
that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51:8).

Salute to our Veterans

Since the first celebration of Armistice Day at the end of World War 1, Americans have been commemorating the sacrifice of our noble military personnel each year on November 11.

Because I wasn’t from a military family and had no close personal friends in the military, I didn’t have the depth of appreciation for what Veterans Day represented until one of my sons joined.

My son is a dentist, but he’s served in many difficult places, including Iraq and in South Korea, where his base was within walking distance of the DMZ (the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea).

Over the years, he’s worn a lot of different hats, and this past summer he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. (However, this hat was from ten years ago!)

Alan and I always try to keep in touch with Mike’s family no matter where in the world they are, but due to COVID shutting out Americans from his current location, we had to miss the birth of their last child and a special trip we had planned to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau with them. This is a very small sacrifice compared to the horrible losses that many families suffer, but isolation and separation from home and family are two of the many sacrifices that every military family makes.

So, in honor of my son and all military personnel, I just want to say,
“Thank you for serving!”

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due;
custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
(Romans 13:7)

May God keep you in his care, and may you walk with Him.

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas Speaks to Us

If you’ve ever wanted to understand the heart of a godly African-American statesman, please watch this 2020 documentary about our longest-serving Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words is a calm, clear, recounting of what it was like to grow up as a black child in in rural south during the 1950’s.

With no father and a mother who couldn’t support her two young boys.

Clarence Thomas’s grandfather, Myers Anderson
“Old man can’t is dead. I helped bury him.”

With super strict, austere grandparents who demanded godly character and tireless hard work for their two young grandsons (although they were good providers).

Can you imagine what it would be like to be a young black man in a white, Catholic school?

What it was like to attend Catholic seminary as the only African American and experience the disregard of the other students for the tragedy of Martin Luther King Jr’s death?

To feel such intense pressure to prove your value that you considered a 98% on a test as “blowing it?”

What it would feel like to graduate from Yale law school and struggle to find a job—not because you lacked brilliance, but simply because you’re black?

To be nominated for the Supreme Court, but then undergo one of the most controversial, grueling, degrading hearings . . . because you were both black and an independent, conservative thinker?

Throughout the documentary, Clarence doesn’t often disclose how he felt; he just tells you what happened and let’s the obvious sink in.

One of the highlights for me was hearing him explain that he finally made a deal with God: “If you’ll heal me from hating, I’ll never hate again.” I believe he’s kept that promise.

From watching his resolve and responses at the confirmation hearings, it seemed obvious to me that Clarence Thomas was (and still is) a man endued by the Holy Spirit to live a godly life— as Paul taught, “That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

Clarence Thomas has become one of my heroes . . . I believe he is one of God’s children of whom it can be said that he “by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (Romans 2:7). What a wise, God-fearing, God-honoring man!

But, it’s impossible to listen to his story without being struck by the racial inequality that exists in our country TODAY. Lord, deliver us from evil!

God bless and keep you, Clarence Thomas! You are a credit to the human race and your African- American race . . . and an inspirational example to all of us!

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able
to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

Seenagers and Other Strangers

Okay, so one last blog with jokes celebrating senior citizens before plunging into my seventies, and then hopefully I’ll settle down and be a bit more dignified about my seniority.

In the book I just read on Being Old For Dummies, I learned about becoming a seenager. Did you know they exist? If you’re trying to spot one, this is what they look like:

*They have everything they always wanted as a teenager, only 60 years later.
*They don’t have to go to school or work.
*They get an allowance every month.
*They own their own place.
*They don’t have a curfew.
*They don’t have acne.
*They can stay out as late as they want and sleep in as long as they want.
*They don’t have parents to tell them what to do.
*They can have hot chocolate for breakfast and popcorn for dinner if they want.
*They have a “get out of jail free” card called “forgetfulness.”
*They think life is great.

Do you know any? Here are a few more telltale signs:

Did you know that we even have our own texting shortcuts?

And then, there are those senior moments when we’re shopping:

Of course, these are all just jokes hoping to make you laugh, and I wouldn’t give away my Alan for a barrel of adorable puppies (or anything else)! Cheer up, ya’ll! There’s a very bright light at the end of this tunnel! As C.S. Lewis said, after we close the last chapter in the book of our lives, we’ll discover that it was just the front cover of eternity:

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle).

Revelation 21-22: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

The New Jerusalem

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The River of Life

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Jesus Is Coming

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” 10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” 12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. 18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.