Turning 60, Grace and Ruth

Yesterday I turned 60! Rich and I are in Arizona for meetings that begin tonight. We came a few days early to rest and celebrate that I made it to my sixtieth birthday. I think turning 60 would not have been so difficult had I not experienced heart failure six months ago. I have often said to folks since then, “I feel like I turned 80 over night!” My body has had to adjust to my heart’s capacity. It has taken six months of recovery to get to a place that I can set a rhythm that seems to be working out okay. I definitely have to have time for my body to reboot itself.

One of my favorite passages is Matthew 11:28 from Eugene Peterson’s Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I love the line, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Since my heart failure, I have been “Forced” to live the unforced rhythms of grace. I have had no choice. Here is what that looks like for me:

Depending on people to care for me. Rich and Alex have had to do the bulk of caring for me. I cannot emphasize how they have paid attention and attended to my every need. My family and friends have filled in with visits, prayers, meals, gifts and so much love that I think my heart is being healed from all the goodness being poured into my life. This has been an absolute necessity and so very hard. My need for others to do or provide for basic needs like cooking, cleaning, rides to places and so forth has been very humbling. The gift of receiving has become an unforced rhythm of beautiful grace.

Rest – I need to rest in order for my body and brain to work. Rest for me has become vital and a source of peace and strength. Whether I am actually sleeping or sitting and spending hours coloring, rest is a rhythm of grace that literally I cannot live without. Forced rest (an unforced rhythm of grace) has taught me that time is a gift to be treasured. Being present to the present moment has never been more real to me.

Surrender – Every day I have learned the grace of surrender. First of all, to the best of my ability surrendering my life and will to God. Letting go of the things I have no power over. I have learned that control over one’s life is an illusion. I have control over some things, choices I make minute by minute but in the larger picture of life and in my moment to moment breathing I know that God is the giver and sustainer of my life. The grace of surrender has become my lifeline to the transforming love of Jesus.

Gratefulness – For me, facing death square in the face and surviving has brought a new level of gratefulness for my life that I have never known before. I notice the smallest kindnesses, the smallest offerings of beauty and grace and I am truly thankful for every gift this life brings.

The poem Guesthouse has become my practice of grace.
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. – Jelaluddin Rumi, Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

I am learning that the practice of gratefulness enlarges my heart for God, for my family, friends and enemies.

Faith, Hope and Love – As a continuation of gratefulness, I am thankful for my upbringing in the Roman Catholic tradition. I learned to love and know Jesus as a young girl. I loved mass and I loved my school.

Faith is a gift from beyond that enables me to believe and trust in the goodness of a kind and loving King of the universe!

Hope can be a challenge. When I think about hope I think about the song lyrics, “I get knocked down but I get up again.” I heard Dan say, “Hope is like a petite little old woman who can kick your ass!” That has been my experience. As much has hope presents a challenge to me, it also grounds me in the sentiment from Julian of Norwich, “but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

And finally, “Love.” I cannot count the ways in which God’s love has been shown to me through out my life but especially in the last six months! I have experienced God’s love in so many ways, experiences that show me and say to me, “God sees, God knows and God has this!”

Here is one example. In the last twenty years I have had a reoccurring experience of people calling me “Ruth.” Either by people that don’t know me and think my name is Ruth or by people who know me well and call me Ruth and then say, “Why did I call you that I know your name is Rose??” This has happened so many times that I have wondered if there is some message to me from the biblical character Ruth. I have read her story over and over and have had many aha moments relating to her story and the work of God in her life. But here is where I know that God sees and knows me. I subscribe to a wonderful weekly email written by Ronna Detrick called “Notes from Her.”

I received this one yesterday on my 60th birthday! There is no way this was a coincidence! Dear One: Unplanned and unwanted, we often face tremendous loss, great sadness, and painful sacrifice. In the midst of such, we are hard-pressed to see how any of these things could possibly work out, heal, or offer anything good. But one day you will be surprised by delight, joy, kindness, and redemption that is yours to overflowing. You will recognize that you have, somehow, landed yourself in a vast and beautiful love story. You will see that you have been crafting a legacy beyond all imagining; an impact that lasts for generations. I promise. This was my life. And so too, yours. I am Ruth and you are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.

There are so many ways the unforced rhythms of grace are holding me in the unconditional, unfathomable love of God. These are just a few that come to mind as I celebrate 60 times around the sun!