For 2015 one of my sisters challenged us to each select a word for the year. It was to be one to encourage, challenge, and focus. Mine was easy the first year: Hope. This year a different word came to me: Purpose. I’ve always been a big picture person. If I understood the full situation and especially the reason for something, it made sense and I remembered. I tried to focus on the greater good and purpose for what I did. Easy enough, right? But, then first came retirement and then came the accident.

My purpose and motivation in my career never was “to retire.” I loved working; I loved my job and knew I made a difference. What would I do in retirement? I often said, “I don’t want to retire to be a housewife.” Cleaning and cooking had never been my thing and I wanted to do more than that in retirement. Those tasks would remain shared. Growing up, I would much rather be outside helping than in the house. I much preferred hanging laundry, mowing the lawn, working in the garden, or going to various orchards and farmers to pick fruit and vegetables so we could freeze or can for winter. I even liked topping onions in the muck behind our home. Don’t get me wrong, I love a clean, orderly house and enjoy delicious food. In fact, now when I can dust; clean bathrooms; make the bed (not from scratch); wash, dry, and fold the laundry; or find something I can safely make in the kitchen I feel like I’ve accomplished a LOT! But, I still want and need more.

My mother will soon turn 90. I think I’m asking more questions about her growing up years and stories of her life. When I asked what her typical day was like growing up, I learned that she helped Grandpa outside on the farm and her twin sister helped Grandma in the house. I never realized that! Mom was always amazing in our kitchen. I joke that it was a surprise to me when first married that her cooking and baking skills weren’t inherited. Even during WW2 when both girls, still dressed alike, went to Grand Rapids to work in an office, Mom came home and helped Grandpa on the farm and her sister worked in the house. Now I understand where I get my preferences!

I worked through the what to do in retirement dilemma by identifying some education related projects as well as some ways I believed I could give back while tapping into my experiences and strengths developed through my career. Of course, we also wanted to enjoy more extended sailing, visits with our children, and chip away at that long bucket list of places to which we wanted to travel. In those first months, we were making progress and enjoying ourselves very much.

Accident. Life changed.

If you’ve read my CarePages or this blog, you know that we pray(ed) for miracles. I am an N of one. I still pray for miracles of healing for both of us. We pray that research and modern medicine may develop and fine-tune treatments which hold promise for improvement in bodily functions, bone density, cardio, movement, standing, and walking. I will never cease praying for that miracle.

However, I realized recently that I am already a miracle. Think about all my broken bones, especially in my torso. Yet, I have full use of my arms and hands. Nurses told me that most people with the scull fracture where I had mine do not live. An X-ray technician who was trying to arrange my body to clearly get pictures to show the healing that had occurred to my various bones said, “Do you have any idea how hard you were hit to break your sternum? The sternum is almost unbreakable.” In Mary Free Bed (rehab), based on my chart from Lee Memorial (trauma), I was placed in the brain injury section rather than the spinal cord section. As new medical staff came to meet and help me, I often heard, “Wow, you’re not what I expected after reading your chart. I didn’t expect you to be talking, carrying on a meaningful conversation, or as good as you are.” I have life and have it abundantly. I realize that life as I have it, challenging as it is, is due to miracles. I fully believe the prayers from so many from day one and in an on-going manner are in large part responsible for this miracle of me.

A friend of one of our sons spent some time studying and researching in Ireland. This person recalled being amazed at the number of trees everywhere. At one point, the friend was in the countryside and noted a lone tree. It was huge with its branches and leaves stretched out so beautifully as opposed to those in town which grew together and merged. This person thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be like a tree and grow as strong and as fully as this one, simply reach for the light and grow as intended. The tree’s job is to find the sun and move toward it. How beautiful. Trees know their purpose.

The story also reminded me of an opportunity I had decades ago to attend our church denomination’s youth rally with the HS youth group for which Alan and I were leaders. Blind composer, pianist, and singer Ken Medema was an integral part of the worship sessions. For this conference, he wrote a song which we sang regularly and used as our focus.

♪ I saw a tree by the riverside one day as I walked along                                                        Straight as an arrow and pointing to the sky and growing tall and strong.                        “How do you grow so straight and tall?” I said to my riverside tree.                                        This is the song that my tree friend sang to me.

I’ve got roots growing down to the water,                                                                                          I’ve got leaves growing up to the sunshine,                                                                                    And, the fruit I bear is a sign of the life in me.                                                                                       I am shade from the hot summer sundown,                                                                                            I am nest for the birds of the heaven,                                                                                                  I’m becoming what the maker of trees has meant me to be: A strong young tree.

So, what is my purpose? In all honesty, there are days when just getting through the day is purpose enough. But, I can’t believe God allowed me to live as I am just to get through the days. I ask prayerfully that my words to be acceptable and to live more Christ like. I continue to enjoy and impact our children, Alan, extended family, and friends. Is there something beyond what I’m doing? Is there more I should write? More I should do? Or, less? Be more aware of? Be more sensitive to? Additional advocacy? Promote my spelling program? Become more engaged in leadership or education? What?

From: I, The Lord, of Sea and Sky ♬                                                                                                 (Chorus) Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart. (Dan Schutte)

Watch for your purpose and enjoy your blessings. Shalom, Collene


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elly
    Feb 17, 2016 @ 21:44:02

    Keep asking. Your purpose will become so clear that you will wonder why you ever wondered.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Kathy Sherman
    Feb 17, 2016 @ 22:00:39

    Collene, How wonderfully you share your thoughts and reveal your faith! How amazing also that this morning I made not muffins but a poem.


    The fog this morning hovers on the bay obscuring the vessels I know are docked on the other side

    The presence of God renders me silent immovable in reverence

    The far side of the bay will appear with sunrise though even now I cannot see it just as now I cannot see the Lord nor could Moses nor could Isaiah

    Still the eyes of my heart are fixed on Him as His glory suffuses the bay drawing me into His breath.

    Kathleen A. Sherman February 17, 2016

    Sent from my iPad




  3. Carol Ketterer
    Feb 17, 2016 @ 22:12:07

    Collene, I love your reflections on purpose. I think that it s something we all struggle with in retirement. Your thoughts on this echo my own thoughts.
    Your life, and the courageous way you are living it, is an inspiration to us all. You definitely are a miracle! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Debbie Groover
    Feb 17, 2016 @ 23:11:05

    Retirement was one of the most difficult times in my recent history. It was even harder than remodeling…haha. I still struggle to understand what I should be doing with myself but it is getting easier.

    One time, when I was younger, I was at a healing service with my mom, who was dying. Instead of a homily, the priest posed a question to us. He asked what, each of us thought, was our purpose in life. Each of the five or six older women there said that they wished they knew what God wanted of them. When it was my turn, with my much younger view of the world, I said that it was probably to be a good friend, since I felt I that was pretty good at that. Maybe I was just lazy. I don’t know.

    Thank you for your thoughts. I am grateful for your friendship and being able to follow your blog. Deb



  5. Gloria
    Feb 18, 2016 @ 02:53:38

    Beautiful, concise, thought provoking, articulate. You definitely have a gift for writing. I’ve been thinking lately too of purpose. I have read and heard people say “God spoke to my heart and lead me on this path.” It sounds like it’s time for you to write that book. I’ve been focusing on “Faith.” Just believing and trusting and loving God. I know I am saved by Grace and not good works. I love the calm and peace that Faith in God gives me. He is in control of my life. I will walk by Faith and open my heart and mind to receive His plan for me. I love what Elly said to you, (and I’ll claim it too for me!) “Your purpose will become so clear that you will wonder why you ever wondered.” I’ll see you on the path! Love you my friend. Happy Birthday on February 21!



  6. Gwen
    Feb 18, 2016 @ 09:00:59

    Beautifully stated. We can all related in some way.



  7. Kathy Smith
    Feb 18, 2016 @ 09:10:51

    Thanks for encouraging us; must be part of your purpose!



  8. Teresa
    Feb 18, 2016 @ 14:12:53

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring thoughts! I think many people in retirement are struggling with finding purpose. Really appreciated this blog.



  9. Jeannine Brenner
    Feb 18, 2016 @ 16:26:37

    Darcy Brenner-Smith, my daughter, sent me your blow. It really spoke to me. Your courage is greatly to be admired.



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