Ever Growing, Ever Green
by Sharon Betters
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Psalm 92:12-15 ESV
Did you know that women in the 1800’s rarely experienced menopause? Those of you who are struggling with that season of life probably want to know their secret. Well, here it is. Many women died in their thirties or forties. I’m not making this up!
Because of all the medical breakthroughs since then, women of today actually have two lives to live, one before the age of forty and one after the age of forty. What will you do with your second life? I taught a seminar on this very question so I can’t fully answer it in a short devotional, but the Psalmist gives us some clues. In Today’s Treasure, the writer paints a picture of a person who not only plants herself in the house of the Lord, she flourishes there. She starts preparing for the second half of life when she is young. She worships her God in a way that permeates all of life. This woman still bears fruit in old age. She is ever growing, ever green. Her purpose in life is to declare to anyone who enters her life: My God is good. He is my rock. His love and sovereignty are perfect. This is where we start when struggling to know how to live out this second life. When we start with the words in this verse, the Lord will begin to open our eyes to opportunities to continue to offer the life-giving encouragement of His Word, whether we are in a job, at home or struggling to find a new normal because of physical limitations.
My friend, Sherry, shares a bit more on how her physical limitations suddenly stopped her from serving in a career she loved and forced her to consider how to continue to live with purpose in this new normal:
After several years of searching for reasons my body did not work well, I finally had a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. I had to give up the very career that gave me joy. I felt worthless as my identity changed from a school principal to staying at home, struggling with physical weakness and lots of doctor’s appointments.
A dear friend suggested that we do a Bible Study book together on finding purpose in this season of our lives. While schedules did not allow us to completely finish the book, God led us through our study and praying together to better understand how to find purpose in this season of life.
I realized that I am energized when I can share what God has taught me with young moms, but what if young women didn’t see what I had to offer as valuable? I prayed for the Lord to show me what to do with this desire. A young woman moved into our neighborhood and as our friendship grew she shared that she needed to be in a Bible study and asked if I would host one in my home.
My husband and I prayed about this request. Would I have the energy to host and lead the study? My husband encouraged me to believe this was a good fit. Eight young moms attended that first study. Over the years, the group has grown to between twelve and fifteen young moms. We meet in the fall and spring and now one of the young moms hosts the study. We hire a couple of homeschooled teens to care for the children, so the moms can focus on the study time.
During the summer I invite the moms to bring their kids to Pool Day every Wednesday morning. Moms enjoy swimming in our above ground pool with their children and toddlers splash on the deck in the baby pool. Moms pack lunch for their children, and I serve the moms lunch. I enjoy serving these precious mothers because they spend so much time serving others. They recognize that the love coming from me is God’s love flowing to them. I suspect that lots of learning about how to live out the Scriptures goes on during those casual conversations on the deck and in the pool as we share stories about parenting, marriage and friendships. Though I lead the study, these precious mothers are teaching me. Together we are seeing the value of the little things, that they really are the big things.
I love how Sherry has created an environment for young moms to not only observe the “shape of godliness”, but to absorb the “shape of godliness” into their own lives. Now that’s life-giving encouragement.
LIFE GIVING ENCOURAGEMENT
Life-giving encouragement is contagious. When we experience the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, we can’t keep it to ourselves. We look for ways to offer that same help and hope to others. Such a desire doesn’t mean we pound people with the Bible in hand. Instead, we see God can open opportunities to share life-giving encouragement as we “do life” together.
Where are you plugged in? As you go to work, a social event, a Bible study, a service activity, ask the Lord to open your heart and eyes to opportunities to offer your life as a means of offering help and hope. Make a note in your journal of your desire and watch God open doors.
Lord, I’m thinking of the young woman reading this who desperately needs to find a group of women, who will by their very own struggles, help her in the moment by moment living of her own life, to walk by faith. I pray another woman in her life will feel your nudge to come alongside of her, to share life in a way that offers the help and hope of knowing Jesus.
STORE UP MORE TREASURES
At some point in our lives, we or someone we know will go through great suffering. I encourage you to go the MARKINC website and listen to the Terminal Cancer audio resource so that you can store up treasures of encouragement for the next rainy day in your life or someone else's. Here is a summary and teaser of this resource:
“Your prognosis is poor. You have a few months, maybe a year.” In this transparent interview, Mike and Sherry share their response to hearing these shocking words. Their story is one of help and hope, as they describe the impact of cancer on their children and marriage, the reaction of friends and the practical implications of such a diagnosis. They share how their journey has encouraged them to enjoy each day, knowing that life is fleeting, and they share practical suggestions for those just starting this cancer journey. Their story will not only encourage the cancer fighters, but will equip those who love them to help them find the right medical care and face the challenges of each day.