I began 2020 by spending two weeks in North Carolina with my daughter while her family welcomed a new baby girl. Since then, I travelled to Texas and spent three and a half weeks with my son and his family after the birth of their fifth child. So basically, I’ve spent the last two months holding newborns and preparing meals.
I drove to Texas from my home in Virginia, passing through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and finally arriving in Texas. I love to drive, even by myself, so it was a pleasure to notice that the grass got greener with every state, and buds began appearing on the trees as early as Alabama—even though it was only January. I visited friends along the way and listened to my favorite CD’s in the car. At the end of March, I will take another trip to Florida to visit friends and relatives.
“ I am so thankful that God orders our steps, preparing and equipping us, rather than having to rely on myself to get it all together. ”
This will be my first full year as a retiree, and I thank God daily for being able to live this part of my life in such happy circumstances. It is just one more instance of God’s loving care and provision for me. Sometimes, I stop and think about how much I have learned through these last 22 years of singleness—and how if I had known back then that I would be single as I entered retirement, I would have been thoroughly frightened and anxious. I am so thankful that God orders our steps, preparing and equipping us, rather than having to rely on myself to get it all together.
Twenty-two years ago I didn’t think much about retirement. It was hard enough to get through a week. I would hear all the advice about saving for retirement, knowing there was no way to do that while barely paying the current bills, and with four children still in school and living at home. I am here to say that while budgeting, thriftiness, and saving up for the future are all good things, I have learned over and over again the real secret can only be found when we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and [then] all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Kept in context, “all these things” refers back to taking care of day-to-day expenses.
“ I have learned over and over again the real secret can only be found when we 'seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and [then] all these things will be added to you' (Matthew 6:33). ”
I readily admit that I often do not follow this biblical mandate. In fact, many times I have wrestled with God in anxiety, even as recently as last week. And yet, after years of God proving Himself faithful despite my worrying, I now catch myself more quickly and remind myself that God is not going to fail—ever. “And which of you, by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27).
So when a stable publishing job ended a few years after I returned to the workforce, I started my own business; and with feeblest attempt, I sought the kingdom of God. Suddenly I not only had that business, but a couple of friends’ kids that needed child care, more than a dozen children who wanted beginners’ piano lessons, a couple freelance jobs, and then I found myself being emergency certified to substitute teach.
“ If we are working for His gain and not our own, He gives us all we need to accomplish it; He blesses the accomplished work for His own edification; and He provides the compensation we receive from the work we do. ”
A couple years later, out of nowhere, came the opportunity to be an Executive Director for a pregnancy resource center in New Jersey. It was not full-time, so I kept many of the side jobs I already had—until a friend in Florida who was raising her six grandchildren found out she had terminal cancer, and I kept a promise I had made to her years before by moving there to help. (That story coming soon!) Again, after seeking the Lord in finding a job in Florida, He led me right back to Pennsylvania to become the Executive Director of the pregnancy resource center in my home town, and with more hours and pay.
Through all of this, I could see God’s hand working in me and in the lives of those I was touching. I knew that these were the places He wanted me, and through them, He would provide. I began to trust that God would continue to guide me into the paths of retirement at the right time and with all the necessary provisions.
Colossians 3:2-3 tells us to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Ultimately, it is God who leads us into our life’s work. If we are working for His gain and not our own, He gives us all we need to accomplish it; He blesses the accomplished work for His own edification; and He provides the compensation we receive from the work we do.
“ All of the goals I set were reached by the time retirement came! ”
It was with this knowledge that I did my job with all my heart and strength (and by God’s grace and help). Financial blessings began to fall. My children were done with high school and college and I was only responsible for myself. I rented a house for a very modest sum in my old neighborhood where my daughter lived down the street. After my ex-husband died, I was able to receive survivor benefits from social security. The amount was based on my income and therefore not a monthly benefit; but once I reached retirement age at 65, the amount was no longer based on my work income. I received a higher amount every month. By this time a friend was also living with me, sharing expenses.
Before I retired, I calculated that I would need to buy a new car, a new computer, have some savings, as well as enough money to move. Budgeting to save for all these items, I estimated that I would be able to accomplish it all in about three years. It was exciting for me to watch my savings account grow—something that hadn’t been possible in the years prior to this!
Six months before I retired—and about the same time that I noticed certain expensive items needed to be replaced on the car I had—I was able to buy a three-year-old car with low mileage. It has a polished, red finish, and I am reminded of God’s goodness every time I drive it. In addition to the car, all of the goals I set were reached by the time retirement came!
“ God worked it all out. ”
Even though I had timed my retirement to be in accordance with my set-goals being accomplished, God ordered the timing to complete my work. There were certain things to accomplish regarding my job. One program—an after-abortion retreat idea I had carried with me for years—came about in the last few months. The need for a bigger building pushed its way onto the agenda due to a kind of catastrophic incident in the building we were renting. After the hunt for a new place, managing the renovations, and the actual move—my energy level was diminishing. The Board of Directors preferred that I stay until a new director was found. Again, God worked it all out.
My deepest desire since I was young has been to write. Although I journaled throughout my life—I lacked the time to write what my heart truly desired. I didn’t know exactly what that looked like, but telling stories and reporting on subjects were my favorite types of writing. I liked to interview and research and write the outcome. As I continued through life’s journey, I realized that I had experienced many adventures; and I knew many other people who had, too. I wanted to write about the miraculous saving grace and keeping love of God. I imagined that my words would paint a beautiful mural pointing to Him. Wanting to make sure that these desires were for His glory and not my own, I laid them out before the Lord.
“ We knew this was the place. ”
Another concern for retirement was how I could live on a very limited income. God also provided for that. My daughter, Kimberly, who was a live-in nanny in Long Island, New York, had expressed an interest to room together when I retired. She felt by that time she would be ready to move on to her next career interest, which would involve fostering children. Kim and I have traveled together extensively the last few years, and we knew we got along well and had similar interests. Some of my other children offered to open their homes to me, but I am not ready for that step. I still want to have my own home, my own kitchen, my own ability to have guests, and my own schedule to keep. Peace and quiet was another consideration—which can be hard to come by in lively young families!
I was ready for a new location. We had come to the Poconos in Pennsylvania 30 years prior. At the time, it was a small, quaint community in a beautiful natural setting of mountains, forests, rivers, and streams. I loved the views, and they always refreshed my soul; but developers had enticed city folk only 90 miles away to move out to newly built houses in the mountains. New bus lines carried workers back and forth to New York. Businesses and shopping areas sprouted up everywhere. School districts rapidly built new schools to accommodate the growing number of students. The population exploded. The cost of living sky rocketed. So did crime. The once peaceful, small, and quiet community had disappeared.
“ God has provided everything Kim and I desired. ”
For me now, the perfect place seemed south—though not too far south—in order to get away from northeastern Pennsylvania’s winters. I wanted to be able to travel back and forth easily since four of my children still live there. I was attracted to western Virginia from driving through it, and had even mentioned that it looked like a good place to retire. The lower cost of living was another enticing factor. After Kim and I discovered some ministries in which we were interested located in Lynchburg, we decided to visit. We fell in love with the historic downtown area and surrounding city that is situated on seven hills, with the James River passing peacefully through it. We knew this was the place.
Fifteen months later, we headed to Lynchburg for a second time, this time to find a place to live. We had researched apartment complexes ahead of time, and made appointments with our favorites. One had particularly stuck out for me. It was located just outside of town on 25 acres, with a lake, wooded area, and even a nature trail. It was small, within our price range, and lacked amenities like a swimming pool that might have attracted a noisier crowd. Amazingly, this particular complex was the only one that didn’t have a waiting list, and had an opening precisely at the time we needed it. The icing on the cake was noticing that the church we were interested in attending was only ten minutes away. It has been over 30 years since I have had the privilege of attending a church in my own neighborhood.
God has provided everything Kim and I desired. For me, I sit behind my desk looking out on a sloping lawn that ends at the banks of a small lake. Most days a flock of geese swim there or sun themselves on the lawn. I’ve spotted other birds enjoying the lake as well—a crane, some ducks. A wooded hillside rises on the lake’s opposite shore. The water clearly reflects the blue sky and the green trees of summer, or the bright foliage of fall. Remarkably, the angle of our apartment is situated so that we can see both sunrises and sunsets, and both are often reflected in the lake as well. At night, our deck is the perfect place to sit outside in the moonlight and admire the star-lit sky.
“ My schedule is full of the things I love to do. ”
My schedule is full of the things I love to do: travel, spend time with children and grandchildren, attend small group and women’s Bible study, explore our new city, walk in the park, cook. Best of all, I’m writing this blog—writing the stories I already know and looking for more—with the intention that it will help to build up the church, help to grow the Kingdom, and speak to the glory of an awesome God.
The writer of Ecclesiastes wisely says:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Retirement is just another good season of life. A new season—and new is good as one grows older. A final time for us while we still live on this earth to give tribute to God in ways that we may have not yet had opportunity. It is a time of joy to celebrate all that God has given us—particularly family and friendships. As in other seasons, there will be trials: times that will be difficult but will draw us closer to Jesus. Times of sorrow as we lose loved ones. Yet, retirement is a time to look forward to the eternal life that soon awaits us, when finally, we will meet our Savior face to face. And as through all seasons, retirement is a time for the offering of gratitude.