December 1, 2023 • Article, De Pree Journal, Marketplace Leaders, Third Third Journal
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Jeremiah 29:11
My neighbor held the elevator for me and we greeted each other with the customary, “How are you?” I live in a residence for people living in the third third of their lives. It was built this year so all of us are new to the complex and to each other. I had not seen her before and simply gave the standard, “I’m well; how are you?” To my surprise, she actually took a moment to think about my question while I continued to look at her expectantly—intrigued that on a short elevator ride she would actually pause for a thoughtful response. (By the way, when you ask someone how they are, look at them and give them the courtesy of waiting for a response before turning away. They may actually want to tell you how they are! Thanks—I got that off my chest!)
What she said gave me pause: “I’m bored.” I wasn’t expecting that. I told her there were weekly community activities. She smiled and said she would learn more from the office. I would have liked to find out more about her. Maybe rode up to her floor and continued the conversation, but I was ready to relax after a long day so an opportunity for a new relationship passed. But her honest response stayed with me and made me think about a sermon my pastor had preached a few months ago. It was titled: Something to Look Forward To and prompted my thoughts in this article.
What Do You Look Forward To?
I remember looking forward to Christmas when I was a child. Also, new black patent shoes at Easter and, of course, summer vacation. As I grew older, my list of what I looked forward to grew bigger and bolder: My driver’s license, a first date with a high school crush, the first job at the Cunningham’s drug store that allowed me to feel like I had “financial freedom!”
You get the picture. You have similar memories of looking forward to large and small events with anticipation and excitement as a child and young adult. As you recapture those memories, think about recent experiences from this season of maturity. How often do you respond with “I am bored” when asked how you are? Maybe you say, “sad.” Or maybe there are times you honestly answer, “depressed.” Certainly it’s common to cycle through different feelings as we make sense of this third third time of our lives. Today, I am asking you to think about how often do you say, “I’m looking forward to __________”? What are you looking forward to? In this time of our lives we can continue to experience the excitement and anticipation that was woven into our younger lives when just waking up brought hope and something to look forward to.
I am looking forward to reconnecting with a friend I have not seen in thirty years. We will revisit earlier years and make plans for what a new, more mature relationship can offer. I also find joy watching my friend Pam, who I constantly brag about because she began writing romance novels on the eve of her 70th birthday and is now on her third book in two years. She retired from advertising and now splits her time between writing her novels and attending events to promote her books. She looks forward to meeting other writers and enjoying her new identity as a romance writer of a certain age.
Finally, I must mention Wanda. She works part-time and her employer asked if she would be willing to spend some time during work hours with his family member who now resides in a long-term care facility. Wanda jumped at the unexpected chance to be a blessing to someone. She now looks forward to offering personal care that relieves the overworked staff. She looks forward to caring for her eighty-year-old friend, though she is not much younger. Unexpectedly, Wanda finds more joy being a part-time caregiver than she does in her office duties.
Sometimes we don’t know what will bring us a new adventure or opportunity until it’s presented, which is a good reason to live expectantly. Live with the hope that something new will be born into your life and you’ll be given something to look forward to.
Living Expectantly in Advent
We are in the season of Advent, the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day, and whether you observe the liturgical calendar or not, December is a month of anticipation for those who celebrate Christmas. It is a time of preparation and anticipation for the arrival of the infant Jesus. It can also be a time of sadness because of losses. We live with daily tragedies in the world and in our own lives that talking about joy and excitement may feel insensitive. But, even in the midst of suffering, we seek the light in the darkness. That is the message of Advent, and the message for those of us for whom it’s been a while since we woke up with a sense of expectancy and hope. We can take time during these four weeks of Advent to reclaim the childlike quality of waiting for something good; whether for ourselves or by serving others.
Advent also encourages us to bring the light of hope, peace, joy, and love into our lives, which are represented by the lighting of candles on the Advent wreath. You may already have a ritual around the lighting of the Advent candles, or you may have an Advent calendar that allows you to count the days until Christmas Eve beginning on December 1. This Advent Season take the opportunity to create a ritual or practice that will give you something to look forward to and deepen your relationship to God.
The daily ritual of unlocking the gift or marking the days on the Advent calendar can give you an opportunity to personalize some of the days. You may hide an activity behind one day a week. In Houston, the Museum of Natural Science has many interesting events scheduled for the month of December. Look for similar events in your area. Or you may decide to volunteer one day a week during December, which can be added to your Advent calendar. And certainly Advent is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with God. Explore one of the many inspiring devotionals written by Dr. Mark Roberts on the DePree Center website to enrich your daily prayer and reading time.
I, too, become uncertain about what brings me joy at this point in my life. I am uncertain; sometimes depressed; and yes, even bored. However, I will continue to look around and explore new opportunities, renew relationships, and follow a newly imagined dream. I can begin a new practice in this season of Advent and that practice can remind me that I have a future with hope and that I do have something to look forward to.
Banner image by JLco on Shutterstock.