Retired, Really?


I suppose my personal profile begs the question. After all, I am an empty-nester, my husband and I recently “down-sized” our home and possessions, and I am blessed to be called Grandma. But I still stop short when someone asks me, “So, are you retired now?”

I do understand the reason for the question. People work full-time, put in their thirty years, get the watch, and (hopefully) live off their retirement savings. But my full-time employment in adult life was brief. So in my mind, retired really doesn’t describe me.

While I’m not celebrating a formal end to a life-long career, I do resonate deeply with many of my sixty-something friends living their, what I will call PC (post-career) new stage of life. It seems that we’re very much in the same place spiritually, relationally, physically, and mentally.

The commonality of age appears to be more influential than employment status. Certain questions that nag at sixty-somethings are not always bound by whether one worked outside or inside the home.  Like many homogenous groupings, a universality exists among seniors. My friends are wondering ~

“How do I positively influence my adult children and grandchildren?”

“What are my travel plans for the coming year?”

“What will church involvement look like  in my senior years?”

“What do I have to offer my community?”

“In what areas do I still need to grow spiritually?”

“What’s on my bucket list?”

“How do I best care for an aging body?”

“When are we going to down-size our home?”

“Who’s available for coffee?” (Seriously, that’s a major part of my rhythm of life.)

In short, how am I going to spend the rest of my 10, 20, 30 years?

I find it interesting that many of our friends that have “retired” from lifelong careers are not in the traditional sense of the word, retiring. On the cusp of exiting the traditional forty-fifty hour a week job, I’ve heard,  “I’m hoping to find something part-time,” or, “I’m going to dedicate my days to _______________________ (fill in the blank.) And some senior friends still wonder what they are going to be when they grow up! Turns out we are not quite ready to give up work that promises purpose, challenge, routine, socialization, and perhaps a little extra income.

An important PC group that must be considered here is the ever-growing number that have life defined for them. Due to family illness, the hands of their clocks circle around visits to residential care facilities, drives to doctor appointments, and other necessary caregiving duties. Multi-generational responsibilities, albeit non-voluntary, are admirably and unselfishly embraced. Retirement for these folks is a reassignment to the demanding post of caregiver. I know it’s cliche to remark, “I don’t know how they do it!” But I don’t, and won’t, unless I find myself in their shoes.

Although the sandwich generation bears these burdens, the addition of PC work continues to be a growing phenomenon for baby boomers and beyond. The identity of retiree is fading away for scores of sixty-somethings.  In fact, the term retired is losing its familiar connotation.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, my peers’ quest for something more than mid-day gin rummy and bon bons (I’m aging myself right here) are in sync with older citizens across the board. In “It’s Time to Retire our Definition of Retirement,” Huffington writes:

“To withdraw, to go away, to retreat: These are the literal definitions of retirement. But, increasingly, they fail to accurately describe the possibilities of modern retirement. If we were choosing a word today for what life looks like as we hit our mid-60s, 70s and 80s, it seems unlikely that we’d land on “retirement.” While these years bring many changes, for a growing number of people, this time of life is about anything but withdrawal or retreat.”

I’ve heard this rather existential contemplation from many of my friends. Huffington continues: “A thriving retirement can, and should, be an amazing time of connection, engagement, expansion and widened possibilities . . . Well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving back — are also redefining retirement.”

In my non-retirement retirement years, I am blessed beyond measure with the opportunity to live out this redefinition of the golden years. I humbly share that I can afford to visit my three children and seven grandchildren that literally live in different corners of the world. My husband and I are not only healthy enough to travel, but have the capacity to embrace new ministry challenges. Our minds and bodies (for the most part) have not failed us, yet. Every day is a cherished gift to be opened and another chance to follow the blessed to be a blessing principle.

In one of my favorite books, To Be Continued . . . Women, Ministry, and Retirement, former Salvation Army leader Joanne Shade concurs that the integration of well-being and continued service are the expressions of meaningful senior living. Shade and co-author Salvation Army sister Lauren Hodson probe PC experience with a thoughtful look at mining our histories, grieving through transitions, moving forward with discernment, and embracing our new identities in community. The on-point title, To Be Continued, infers there’s more life left to give than perhaps we thought and we ain’t done yet!

Perhaps that’s why I look at people a little funny when they ask me if I’m retired. I don’t know what that means. Societal norms for sixty-somethings regarding the stage of retirement are in a readjustment phase. We don’t know what to call ourselves. “Retired” has become a misnomer.

We may not clock in for a paycheck, but we are still hard at work.




Park Street Community Garden

In the beginning . . .

This is the brief talk I gave to our two worship services Sunday morning. If a community garden is something you’d like to do, I’d be happy to share our successes and stumbles as we went through the process!

I’m going to give you a little background on why we chose to do a community garden, what is happening right now with the garden, and how we plan to bless others with this ministry. How many of you have heard the old phrase, “garden variety?” In the 1920’s this phrase came into vogue, referring to vegetables that were common to the average garden. For example, tomatoes and green beans were considered “garden variety.” We now use it to describe something that is commonplace and ordinary.

In some ways, Park Street is a garden variety church. We have what is common to most congregations: Bible teaching, prayer, service, worship, fellowship, discipleship, and outreach. But God called this unique group of people together to move beyond what is common and do something a bit uncommon and extra-ordinary for the kingdom.

Several years ago our church volunteers were distributing groceries to food insecure families at Montgomery Elementary school. The school social worker and I talked at length about the alarming number of kids that come to school hungry. Through that experience, I had this inkling that our church was to do something different for our community that involved helping people with food.

Fast forward to almost two years ago, and we hired Nate, whom I would argue, is not your garden variety pastor. Nate is neither common nor ordinary. 🙂  In one of our extra-ordinary conversations about outreach ministry, Nate posed the question: if Park Street church moved away from this area, would anyone in our neighborhood notice or care? Outreach team leader, Dick Bryant, piggybacked on that statement and wondered: if any of our neighbors moved away from this place, would we at Park Street notice or care?

To begin to show our neighbors that we care about them, our outreach team canvassed 75 houses in proximity of our church building, asking neighbors what they thought their neighborhood needed. Many suggested a community garden and the inkling I had several years ago about providing food and helping others turned into an idea that our outreach team enthusiastically embraced.

Across the street we have 14 raised beds, several being gardened by our neighbors, many that don’t attend Park Street. Our design team and building teams have done a tremendous job of making this happen, from planning the layout, building the beds, and securing quality soil and other materials. Right now, our main work is to clean up the area surrounding the raised beds and making the garden area more attractive. There’s always more work to do and if you’re not involved we’d love to have you join us.

God is at work through us and the garden for the sake of others. The garden is a great opportunity to build relationships in our neighborhood as we work side by side, and to follow Jesus’s command to love our neighbors.  And we can’t wait for the days when we give away our harvest to our neighbors and families in need.


Bird Cages and More

I’m obsessed with those open wire cage thingys that seem to be popping up everywhere in the decorating world. I’ve bought three that are obviously bird cages, one in the shape of a teapot and another that’s shaped like a casserole with a lid.

Several years ago I found my casserole cagey thing while garage sale-ing with a friend. It held over-bearing, obnoxious plastic purple flowers that my husband definitely did not want on our dining room table. I did change them out and put a few growing things in it with the plan to keep it as a centerpiece. But I’m notorious for not watering houseplants so everything died. It was time to remake that thing and give it away!

This time I “killed” it in a good way. I loved the way the wire cage arrangement all came together. It transformed into a sweet Mother’s Day present for Jim’s Mom. Bonus: she remembers to water.

Mother’s Day 2015 for Teresa Thomas

Check out the succulents I chose 2 years ago. Today these little babies are super popular!

I decorated my next container for the finishing touches on my fixer upper living room. This bird cage fills in the space on the antique basket I bought (for only $20) at a local establishment.



Like I said, I don’t caretake inside stuff very well, so the once healthy pansies are a little pathetic.


I wasn’t intending on doing another cagey planter in the near future, but when I spied this teapot at the Mansfield hospice resale store, I couldn’t resist! Plus, it’s PERFECT for Jim’s Mom since she loves tea as much as she loves florals.

Mother’s Day 2017 for Teresa Thomas (can’t remember her present for 2016, probably framed pictures of the grandkids)

Isn’t this precious? I wish I would have brought the purple flowers up through the spout.

Here’s a list of what I used:

a base to put soil in, here I used a paper plate,
potting soil,
a liner to hide the base and dirt such as this sheet moss,
a “leggy” plant to spill out or over the sides of the planter,
some accent plants such as round succulents,
and a focal point such as a something tall and spiky, or full and airy like this bunch of little purple flowers.


I didn’t need the African violet (at the left of the teapot) nor did I use the black sand that’s often used to cover dirt. Of course, you can vary your materials depending on your design. Let your creativity flow!

A local repurpose/Annie Sloan chalk paint shop that I frequent is currently selling an interesting wire wanna-be planter. So far I’ve managed to walk by it several times without reaching for my credit card. We’ll see how long that lasts.

And then there’s these . . .


I guess I don’t want need any more!