Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

REFLECTIONS ON SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY WHILST IN A TRANSITION

Guest blog by Denise McLoughlin tips and hints for facing the inevitable journey into older age.

When one is going into a new phase of life… Crossing another bridge – maybe the slightly fearful bridge to old age and all it entails- then it could be time to take stock  of where you stand in relation to your spirit, mind and body!

SPIRIT.

 Sunday – my day of rest and the time to meditate or look inwards -I thought I would share this wisdom I have encountered in various of my Quiet time books, one of which is “Streams in the Desert” by a lady called L B Cowman. Over the years I have found real treasures in this little book to guide me on my daily path. For example: ” Everything is possible for him who believes ” Mark 9:23

The “everything “mentioned here does not always come simply by asking, because God is always seeking to teach you the way of faith. Your training for a life of faith requires many areas of learning, including the trial of faith, the discipline of faith, the patience of faith, and the courage of faith. Often you will pass through many phases of faith before you finally realize the result of faith- namely, the victory of faith.

When you have made your request to God, and the answer still has not come, what are you to do? Keep on believing His word. Do not be swayed by what you feel or see. Then as you stand firm, your power and experience are being developed, strengthened and deepened. God will often purposely delay in giving you the answer, and in fact the delay is just as much the answer to your prayer as is the fulfilment when it comes. (ref. Streams in the Desert, L Cowman, 12th May pg 191)

SOUL OR MIND

About the soul or mind side of life there is so much to say… I think the most important thing for me is to take control of thoughts because as you think, so you are! It is so easy to fall into a negative pattern of thinking, especially in today’s world.

I like to turn my thoughts to the positive and part of this is to embrace your life! I try to make my life a celebration because being alive is so special and time is short…. I make my days as pleasant and festive as possible! As we get older there is a tendency to get stuck in a rut and stagnating and not having an open mind …. We should counteract that by doing new things…learn something new- whether it is mastering your smartphone or learning a language or taking up dancing …in all its wonderful forms… or setting up your Bucket List… things you still want to do…. if you don’t think about it and plan for it.. you might never do it!!!

I made a Power Point presentation of my list and have actually achieved  some of my dreams like my road trips with the conversion of my car into a campercar… enabling me to travel on a budget.

THE BODY

When I had to face my ageing body, there is a lot to be said. What comes to my mind is that it is the only body we ‘ve got and as we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” we should look after our bodies… we all know we need exercise but if you are naturally a bit lazy like I am, this could be a schlep… I have, however, discovered how good one feels after a nice fairly brisk walk, out in nature …or even up and down the streets of your suburb, as I have recently started doing. Now if one has kept up with the part that technology plays in today’s life, then may I suggest that on your  smartphone you download a little app called Runkeeper which works with GPS and tells you how far,  and how fast  you have walked… nice encouragement I find.  Just think how impressed your children and friends will be when you show them the visual map tracked on your App! You can also compete against yourself and improve your fitness.

Then of course there is the whole boring thing of eating right or your diet. I once went on the Banting lifestyle for three months and felt wonderfully energetic, lost some weight and it worked.

Then there is the matter of sleep or rest … I find that if I read until the wee hours of the night, I battle to fall asleep, likewise if I am on my cell phone busy with Facebook or whatever, my brain won’t switch off.  I read about digital burnout and how technology in the forms of cell phone, computers email etc can affect your sleeping pattern – something to take into consideration.

 I now made a rule to switch off everything around 9.30 …to then start with a quiet routine eg a warm bath, a book( not too a  stimulating one ) and low light (candlelight in these load shedding days * South African phenomenon due to inadequate electrical provision* ) is perfect. They say you should try and go to bed more or less at the same time every night…it seems to work!

I am coping with the transition of getting older by adapting my lifestyle and trying to stick to good habits. In this way I care for my body, soul and perhaps most importantly my spiritual life!

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Uncategorized

MY SEVEN-DAY BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!!

How often we dread the turning of the clock as the years tick by and we reach a certain milestone. Denise Mclaughlan shares how she celebrated her coming of age of three score years and ten as a single person! (This was 5 years ago)

In an effort to accept and make sense of this ageing matter, I had this sudden inspiration to embrace the fact that I was turning 70 in that month of May… so, rather than to fear it or make it go away I decided to embrace it…and that after several years of not easily admitting to my 60-plus status!

The fact is that I feel so much younger…. healthy and with more energy and exuberance than a lot of younger people. I realised that there is no getting away from the years… thus why not go big? Hence the week-long festivities, A 7-day celebration for the 7 decades.

I set about it by creating a Powerpoint invitation of several slides in which I set out the plans I had for doing pleasurable activities every day for a week…with whatever friends cared to join in.

I took great pleasure in designing the page and writing the rhyme/verse playing with the words starting with S as in the heading SASSY SENSUOUS AND A SHARP SEVENTY which is how I tend to see myself… never mind the odd grey hair, the slight stiffness when getting up ; at least I had kept up with the modern world of technology and had refrained from getting narrow in outlook!

On the following slides I set out plans like….a morning tea party at my house (for the older folk who are not working ) … a Pyjamas and Popcorn movie evening for my church cell group on the one evening…a movie and coffee outing with three other friends – who share my interest in movies ( and did we enjoy “Far from the Madding Crowd”!

There was also the Sunday with my little family at home with cake and champagne… and the joy of having two of my three grandchildren with me!   However the piece de resistance was a good old-fashioned Soiree (which for those who don’t know) is an elegant get-together at a home with live music and a dinner. This was in the end held at a very close friend’s house and as a gift she provided her lovely dining-room, most of the dinner and the table decorations which had a vintage theme…and her cook who did the delicious meal. To fit in with the soiree theme, I hired a professional saxophone/clarinet/flute player to do the honours. We were 12 people and I must say they did me proud… a real highlight of my festivities!

On my actual birthday and after the six days of enjoyment, seven friends and I went for a very fine breakfast at Nitida Wine farm near Durbanville where I simply loved the view of a dam , the vineyards in their autumn colours , the fynbos and the Boland mountains in the distance.

This was the most blessed and fun-filled birthday and I actually enjoyed reaching this milestone of birthdays…. here is an excerpt from the speech I made at the dinner on the night of the soiree. 

Seventy years of a good life

……….And so now I am seventy and rather than fear old age I shall embrace the years to come. I will work on my bucket list and I will live life to the full with the help of my Lord in heaven. I am grateful for the blessing of good health and a zest for living … so watch this space!!

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions

WAYS TO KEEP ONE’S LIFE FESTIVE OR TO MAKE LEMONADE WHEN YOU HAVE LEMONS!

Denise McLauchlin shares her tips on not stagnating but about renewal and change -making the most of what you have.

A little background to put things in perspective.  When you are single (and perhaps not completely happy about it); a reluctant pensioner with the relevant change in income ; the spectre of old age creeping up on you, and you very few family members for support plus a slight tendency to depression/anxiety, then you could just give up or withdraw from society or get bitter and twisted!

Or you could embrace the changes, find renewal in new interests and re-think what you still have.  Arthur Ashe once said,” Begin where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can!”

When I realised it is up to me to make my life happy and to make some of my dreams come true, I decided to renew my life – and yes to make it festive!!

I have always loved writing, I regularly journal and take stock of my life, my talents and skills. I joined the wonderful senior group – the University of the Third Age –U3A – which is active all over the world – and not only did several computer courses learning about the amazing mystery of the Internet and social media but I started writing a blog called Denise’s Festive Journey through Life , I also attended a creative writing group for a while. The U3A offered me groups on History, classical music, play reading, Armchair Travel and a monthly speaker on an interesting topic, besides also meeting new people.

I took my natural creativity to another level by decorating and rearranging my house regularly and on a shoestring budget. Amazing what a difference some hand-sewn cushion covers and framing the results of my other new interest in colouring-in books, make. When I feel lonely on a Sunday afternoon, It is time to make some changes – moving furniture, re-hanging pictures – whatever it takes!

To get out to new areas, and with my love of animals I started house-and pet sitting all over the Cape Peninsular, living in and enjoying the benefits of a swimming pool or the Premium package for TV.  Instead of feeling alone in a relatively strange house, I would get onto the big double bed and surround myself with a few of the pleasures in my life:  a cup of tea, something  to nibble, perhaps listen to my favourite radio station, browse through some new magazines and finally and lovingly turning to my all-time book friends ( by which I mean the books I am currently enjoying). All the while stroking and enjoying the comfort of the cats or dogs around me.

It is invigorating to walk the pets, enjoy a fireplace in winter, change your everyday routine ,not to mention the extra earnings which is always a toss- up between using it for maintenance on my old house, or using it for a weekend getaway ( my substitute for travel).Of course nowadays my laptop and smartphone and the house’s Wi-Fi is part of the enjoyment. I use my smart phone photos to make power point collages on the laptop- for use as birthday cards or to share on Facebook. Found myself thinking what more could an ageing single woman want?

 This brings to me to renewal and enjoying change. Other than the Internet opening a whole world to one, I find that if one goes with the flow of life – accepting changes- rather than to reject anything new or different – it gives one a feeling of well-being and still being part of the mainstream life which one might still be missing. Besides, I found keeping tabs on your teenage grandchildren on Instagram is can be so enlightening and gratifying.

 I have realized that one doesn’t need outside things to make you content and happy. You can make yourself happy by finding things you enjoy –The thing is not to sit around and wait for old age or better days!

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

This week Denise Mclaughlan shares other aspects of her life – she has made deliberate choices that have taken her life out of the mundane. …and helps to enhance her festive life.

Variety in my book is stimulating, it means new opportunities, it rules out boredom and rules out being stuck in a rut! What were the things that set me thinking in this direction?

It was when I looked at all the book s waiting for me to read- the variety of which – pleases me immensely. When I go to our wonderful library, I choose fiction, non-fiction, Afrikaans and English and I make a choice of different genres. I enjoy biographies, historical novels but then more specifically about the late 19th century/early 20th century and I adore novels set in the English countryside, or in Italy.

What a pleasure to read widely and to be able to completely immerse yourself in an era of long ago or to read about other ways of life in faraway places!  The library never ceases to excite me – I take my time and browse in the rows of different genres. I can look through the daily newspaper or find a magazine that fascinates me. Other options are DVDs or CDs, not to mention the courses that are on offer and the coffee shop!

Another area of choice and variety  for me are the creative colouring-in books for adults which have become popular in recent times. I love colouring in – and the books range from inspirational, the natural world, fashion and cityscapes. My special favourite- which I shall frame and hang in my home- are the Fashion fantasies – dresses designed out of leaves and flowers or a William Morris pattern book.

One could carry this theme through to many facets of one’s life…. thinking about my friends who are so different and all the more appreciated for their differences. I have single and married friends, some younger and some older – there is something fresh about the young ones and something familiar in older friends. Some are there in my time of need, others inspire me, and I find companionship with all of them.

Thinking of one’s daily way of life, I believe -why live a monotonous life of doing the same things at the same times and in the same ways? Why not a life full of variety and alternatives and choices? Even holidays…. I never wanted to go to the same place year after year. That is why road trips appeal to me and train trips with different stations and landscapes to gaze at. I cannot resist using this old cliché – a change is as good as a holiday.

Even in nature and in the seasons we find the wonderful variety of new buds in Spring, the sunshine of a summer day, the change of colours in Autumn and then the bare trees on a winter’s day . I don’t think life was meant to be the same every day, but then I have always shied away from too much routine and not enough new and different ways of living your life

It is said the only constant is change. Therefore, embrace the changes that you make or that are perhaps forced upon you. Sometimes when you are in the doldrums all you need is a change of scene or a change of mindset.

So, give me the spice and color that variety in any sphere of life brings… Have you perhaps changed anything in your life recently? I hope you also experience it as refreshing and uplifting?

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized

LEARNING TO BE CONTENT WHATEVER THE CIRCUMSTANCES


Reflections on solitary outings and activities, by Denise McLaughlan

Being single again has many challenges and loneliness is one of them.  Denise shares her story with how she has been able to be content within her circumstances. This has been a day by day walk.

These days I am constantly aware of the merits of going -it-alone! Being an extrovert and socially inclined, the prospect of outings and get-togethers used to be paramount. I could even admit to a touch of Fomo- fear of missing out, but lately I have tempered this inclination. Maybe due to the ageing process- which I tend to ignore!

 I am discovering the pleasure of pursuing passions for certain things like country drives – I call it Small-town Hunting, I love weekend getaways or just sitting alone in lovely surroundings. This could be a coffee-shop with atmosphere, a tea-garden – anywhere I can sit, read, or write in my journal, also to take photos of old buildings/landscapes. It seems to me that the only requisites are a pretty, vintage-like or close-to- nature setting, a book, a pen and the money for a coffee or light meal…Sometimes I take my own picnic. I am discovering that much pleasure is to be found in simple things that need not cost much money.

My weekend often includes just one outing or pleasurable activity to keep me content  – to feel less lonely .An example would be my drive one Saturday morning to Franschhoek, a very pretty historical town with a decidedly French atmosphere -mainly to go and listen to a well-known journalist/political commentator at the Huguenot Association of S A where I could also find out more about my Cilliers family research.

Beforehand I enjoyed a coffee milkshake at an open-air cafe, then strolled through a market, where I bought a blackboard and chalk, a new straw hat for the summer and six plants for my new-found interest in my garden, all at a very reasonable price! The trick is to focus on places where you can indulge in your own interests or passions – whatever they may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed mingling with other descendants of the French Huguenots, listening to the topic of the day and actually finding out some vital information about my paternal grandmother!

On the other hand, I have started cherishing time spent in my home and garden. My various activities include reading, knitting, creating little corners of interest or displays such as my travel corner in the entrance hall complete with a globe, vintage suitcase and old-fashioned picnic basket plus travel magazines!  I have also arranged a bookcase with comfy chair and little table for tea as a reading corner with invariably the French doors open for the summer breeze and a view of my little side veranda. To enjoy time alone I find I must create the setting and get the right atmosphere – which could be a simple as a little glass container with a few small flowers from my garden, maybe a candle and the inevitable cup of tea- definitely in a pretty porcelain cup !

Then of course there is my hobby of adult colouring books where I can indulge in my love of color and creativity… I already own ten such books.   When one lives alone (and originally this was not by choice), you can eventually learn to enjoy the companionship of a pet- and my white cat Saphera purrs happily when she tentatively creeps onto  my lap while I knit or write or colour in. Who can resist such closeness?

Another source of stimulation and enjoyment is my creating PowerPoint Collages or cards – often for someone’s birthday using some of my many photographs. If permitted I share them on Facebook – another nice-to-do thing. That is to say if one has embraced new technology- which I would not want to be without now.

I am deeply grateful that I found it in myself to be on my own and not only to keep productively busy but also to be truly satisfied and content with who I am and where I am at. I am striving to have more time quiet time, in my case with my Lord Jesus, but could be spiritual awareness for someone else. I know that my abundance comes from Him.

More and more I am choosing to spend time alone and enjoying the freedom and choices that living alone gives one, therefore still maintaining a festive outlook on living alone!!

Paul said he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances, I think learning was the operative word. It is a process, and Denise has clearly outlined how she went about being content as a single person. What are you doing to learn contentment in your circumstances? We would be really happy to share your thoughts on rebuilding a contented single life.