Aging alone

Back when I was teaching, we took a field trip to The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. There were these cool machines with cameras that would age a photo depending on life choices. Are you a smoker? Do you spend a lot of time in the sun? And so on went the questions.

One of my junior highers got me to pose for the camera. My mistake was not taking over the controls afterwards. Having already gone through the process once, he knew all of the answers to age my photo as much as possible. He ignored my protests as the screen spun out an image of a worn out old lady who eerily resembled me.

Thanks, kid.

I remember that photo sometimes when I find a new gray hair or a neck wrinkle or an age spot I never noticed before. The realization that one is aging is hard for many people; however, as a single, I wonder if aging alone is different. Not harder, but different.

As a single, there is no togetherness in disintegration. It’s just a party of one who watches the body in the mirror stoop and droop a little more each year. A party of one who gets pitied as she grays because there go her chances to snag a husband and, if she doesn’t have children, she can’t even attribute the grays to the honorable occupation of child-rearing.

His eyelids sag and he gets an extra roll of fat at his waistline.

There is no together giggling at age creeping over two bodies become one. It is just her facing irreversible doom as she watches those creeping spider veins.

There is no one to notice that mole on his back slowly changing colors. No one to miss that tooth except him.

Those freckles that once were becoming are overcome by age spots and they’ve scattered farther than she ever imagined. Her body is no longer what it used to be. And sometimes she’s glad she doesn’t have to share it.

I read through 1 Peter recently, about beauty being internal rather than external. Because remember, these bodies were not made to last forever. Whether one is aging together or aging alone, that truth is comforting.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear other perspectives. What has it been like for you to age alone, man or woman, single or widowed? Or what has it been like for you to age beside someone else? Maybe you’ve had both experiences. What are some things you’ve learned over the years?

Hindsight is not 20/20

Hindsight is not 20/20. At least mine isn’t, especially my hindsight of past conversations. My hindsight compiles a list of things I should have said and didn’t or shouldn’t have said and did.

“I should have invited her up for tea when she asked if this was my street.”

“I should have complimented her on how nice she looked; I noticed she made an effort.”

“I shouldn’t have made that comment about Islam.”

That’s what I focus on. How I should have made better use of the conversation. As I turn with a finger poised to shake at the past me, my hindsight narrows to tunnel vision. 

Because, more often than not, I’m forgetting the other factors involved. 

It could be that I already had plans with a neighbor and only when the other plans were canceled did I remember the interaction on the street.

It could be that our interaction at the noisy gathering was so brief that I only had time to ask her about the exams she had been studying for when I last saw her.

It could be that after my friends spent twenty minutes complaining about Muslim men, they ganged up on me to marry me off. And I made that split second decision to speak directly rather than lose the moment in the rush of conversation by taking the time to formulate an indirect response.

I want to learn from my mistakes. However, when I get analytical about what was said or not said, I need to pause long enough to remember the other factors involved: the distractions, the mind noise, the body language of the other person, etc. 

Then slowly, a shameful, paralyzing memory is seasoned with grace. Only then can I step forward because remembering truthfully is the best way to learn from mistakes.


Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Her perception is her reality

It was happening again. Round two of the same problem, only this time her hurt was bubbling up in anger. As rage overpowered her tears, she clawed at her clothing as if wanting to rip it—to rip anything—to shreds.

But was her reality real? Ever since I had met her months earlier, I had never been able to determine exactly where reality and her misguided perception began to blur.

And yet, her perception was her reality because it was the filter through which she understood life. Pain and shame were just as real in both truth and misconception.

And the questions I have asking myself over and over are:

What does loving her look like? How can I help? How do I enter into her reality and walk with her through her pain to bring her to truth? What does that look like practically?

That night, I held her baby while she wept and spat out in anger. I prayed for her but after my amen, I still let her ask the question, “Where is God in this?”

When she had calmed down, she stood up to leave. Anguish still twisted her features into a frown, but she thanked me for listening and praying.

Most of the time, loving isn’t easy. I will probably spend the rest of my life learning how to do it well.

Religious hurricane

The sweeping wind
of religious authority
scatters humanity
to drown in waters
of blind idolatry
of human effort.
Flailing arms
reach out to me.
Instead of “Save us!”
they cry, “Join us!
We have the truth!”
But why would I
search for truth
when I have found it?
Why would I
search for peace
when I am in
the eye of the storm?
And how can I rescue
those who want to drown?

20 even more things I’m thankful for

  1. Dreams I can climb out of
  2. A quiet market
  3. Syrupy tea poured from a neighbor’s kettle
  4. Observations so true they hurt
  5. Little boy grins that come shy and blushing
  6. Remembering the awe of a blessing forgotten
  7. A cheerful chat at the bus stop
  8. Hearing my name on the street
  9. Language lesson over towers of fruit and vegetables
  10. Cicadas
  11. Damp outlines around fallen leaves
  12. A speedboat skimming along the horizon
  13. Middle of the day thunder
  14. A pale lizard running along the boulevard just ahead of me
  15. Opening a door to find a cool breeze
  16. Fresh paint
  17. Humor when I’m not expecting it
  18. Heads bent in prayer
  19. Conversation so long we forget to clean up dinner
  20. A Kindle full of waiting books

Redeemed opportunities

Where do missed opportunities go? Are they gone forever or does God redeem them by giving us new opportunities?

Here in North Africa, where living intentionally should be as easy as breathing, I still miss opportunities. Why? Well, I’m busy; there is always language to study, classes to teach, emails to write, friends to visit, etc.

But those excuses aren’t good enough. Try telling a little boy that preparing lunch is more important than his soul. Maybe that’s not exactly what I said, but it is most likely what I communicated.

I was in the middle of a bad day when he followed me home from the store. People had been raining expectations down on me and I was exhausted although the day was only half finished. So when he jumped up and followed me, I rolled my eyes.

He only wanted one coin, he said. But to me, he was just one more beggar with just one more fabulous fable to accompany the outstretched palm. I tried to be pleasant, but my smile faded with his persistence. “Enough!” I said as he fell in step with me. “Be quiet!” I said. He didn’t. He followed me to my doorstep and only stopped when I closed the door behind me.

I had just started putting groceries away when my conscience awakened. What if I was the only person in that boy’s life who could have shared truth with him?

It took an hour or so before I was ready to face him again and apologize for my heartlessness. But when I went outside, he wasn’t there. Nor was he in front of the store. He had vanished.

So had my opportunity.

But my question is this: Has God redeemed my mistake by giving me another opportunity? Could it be having tea with that lonely widow? Or maybe taking time for a girl whose insecurity manifests itself in bullying?

God is a God of redemption. Because He has redeemed me, I know He is capable of redeeming my missed opportunities.


This post was first published on https://lucindajmiller.com

We are dust

Do you ever get tired of living by the expectations of the culture around you? I do. Expectations can be healthy, a type of accountability. In a way, expectations are what people give you when they can’t or chose not to give you rules.

Living in a different culture gives me two sets of cultural expectations to abide by. Suddenly, besides the way that I have been raised to behave, I am given a new set of standards from a very different culture. Sometimes I am stranded when the cultures clash: Is it better to be evasive and deceptive or offend someone by being truthful? Either way, someone is unhappy.

In short, I forget to focus on God’s expectations, which might mean disappointing both cultures. 

But are God’s expectations attainable? He was the one who placed me in this cultural conflict in the first place, so wouldn’t His expectations be the hardest to meet of all? And He does expect a lot:

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

2 Cor. 3:18

His expectation is that we become more like the Son, more challenging than any cultural demand!

But He also remembers something that cultures forget: we are dust. Living to please cultural expectations would drain every drop of our resources, and like Solomon’s leech (Prov. 30:15), the culture(s) would still cry for more.

But God sees our limitations and coordinates them with His great expectation:

“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Ps. 103:13-14

He doesn’t forget our frailty; he knows what it is like to be a human. His expectation for us doesn’t change, but as we learn, His grace abounds.

Alone? Not at all.

There is something I know in my head but forget in my heart.

Do you ever look at your believing friends–those people you see every Sunday and meet for coffee during the week–and get overwhelmed by their spiritual “giantness”?

At times, exchanging a deep spiritual dialogue or having someone shower you with love strengthens your walk with God. Other times though, it discourages you. At least if you’re like me.

Sometimes, when I see flawless spirituality in others, I feel insignificant. I feel dirty. And selfish. My mind replays my past sins one by one.

“I’ll do better. I’ll try harder to be like my friend!”

Those are the times I feel the most alone; it’s as if no one can identify with the monster inside my sinful shell. No one else faces my daily temptations. No one else has to struggle with their thought life. No one else makes selfish choices that destroy trust in a relationship.

Have you ever thought that? Well, here’s a little bit of truth for you (and me):

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”

1 Cor. 10:13a

You’ve probably heard that a thousand times. Maybe two thousand. But the truth hasn’t changed. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Whatever you’re struggling with has been struggled with before by someone else…maybe someone is even struggling with it right now. And not just one someone but enough someones to make it “common to man.”

Depending on how you look at that, it’s encouraging. But wait; lest knowing that others have the same struggles makes us gloss over our sinfulness. There’s more:

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Cor. 10:13b

Having a faithful God means that we shouldn’t yield to temptation so that His grace may abound. God forbid! (Rom. 6:1) Without rejoicing in others’ failures, we can realize we’re not the only one in our boat, paddling furiously against temptation’s current. Others are in the boat with us. What would happen if we would paddle together without fear and without judgment?

Enough of this silently drowning in our own shame! We have an “very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). We are not alone. Not at all.