Photo by Pam Ecrement
In mid-2013 when I sensed during a devotional time that I was to lay down the position I was heavily invested in and loved, I turned the page of my journal and it lay blank before me. There was no indication of what was next as there had been at each previous transition. I had not even been thinking about retirement even though my husband had already retired a few years before. There was nothing that said I needed to retire but I had learned to follow the Lord’s nudges at every other step along the way so without a clear path I shared with key staff the decision and over the coming months I began to plan to let go of the place I knew the Lord had called me to and loved.
I was asked what I planned to do next with most expecting more travel would be involved. I knew that was likely but what would day-to-day look like, how would I spend that time? Beginning to give away some of what had become an extensive library of resources was like saying goodbye to old friends. Many who had met with me in my office knew it was not uncommon for me to swivel in my chair and pull out a book related to whatever we were talking about that offered valuable input. I had always been a lover of books but my shelves at home were already crammed full so there would be no room for all of those in my office.
Little by little some of those resources in my office went to ministry leaders as they related to the areas where they would still be leading. Others went to newer professional counselors I knew and had mentored during the 25 years I had worked and grown in this profession and passion. Some I could not bear to let go as they were now classics and no longer in print so I reduced some of the books on the shelves at home to make room.
Photo by ricky esquivel from Pexels
“Life changes. It is the essence of life to change. It is of the spiritual character of life to make demands, to bring new challenges, to goad us into living it. It is not change that will destroy us. It is the attitude we take to it that will make all the difference. The frame of mind we bring to it gives meaning to the end of one phase of life of course. But more than that, it also determines the spiritual depth with which we start the new phase.”Joan Chittister
So with these wise words from Joan Chittister whose book, The Gift of Years, I had read five years earlier, I retired a few months before my seventy-first birthday. It would take several months after I officially stopped working to empty out my office and do all my due diligence with files and referrals to other resources for those I was meeting with. Boxes were carted home with a realization that for all I had given away, there was more I would need to part with.
As we looked ahead our daughter and her family suggested we join them on a vacation to Yellowstone National Park the following year. We had been there previously but the opportunity to see it all again and drive from the Midwest visiting other places we loved was something that excited us. While they would fly from the mid-Atlanta state where they lived, we would pack the car and head west with stops along the way to see Mt Rushmore and the Badlands again with one additional bonus that was an unexpected step into new territory.
Photo by Pam Ecrement
As we were leaving a grandson’s basketball tournament, I discovered an author I love (Margaret Feinberg) was offering a writers’ boot camp in CO that was slated to be held on the days we would be traveling back home. I had read all of her books and my love of writing as an option peaked my interest. Retirement gifts were ample to cover the cost of that camp so with my husband’s ever encouraging blessing, I signed up to participate without knowing what to expect. Certainly, I would learn something and get to spend time with a favorite author as well.
What I did not expect was that those coming to the camp were to have put up a website and written at least one blog post before we arrived. How could that be? I was not that tech savvy and thought surely that was something I would learn there.
I remembered that a couple I knew well through premarital counseling might be able to help in the assignment. The wife was a graphic arts major and her husband was a writer and editor. When I called them, they were more than willing to help so I took my computer to their home and the wife began offering suggestions of how to start and which programs would work the best since her husband already had a website and posted on it routinely. The hardest part that day was determining what the title of the website would be. I tossed one idea after another out but they were either too long or just didn’t excite me. Then in a blink of an eye I suggested “A New Lens” since it fit with my love of photography and that what I hoped to write would be used to try to help readers have a “new lens” to look at what I wrote about from a different perspective. It seemed the perfect fit and within a few minutes I found a favorite photo I had taken at a favorite vacation spot that would be the one used on the home page.
It was a start into uncharted territory. But what would I write about? Hadn’t authors written about everything already?
Somehow I came up with a first try without much confidence in what was now going to be public. It made me feel vulnerable and exposed and it hadn’t even been critiqued yet by my favorite author? Who was I kidding and what was I doing anyway that summer of 2015?
Photo by Pam Ecrement