A New Year’s Guiding Principle: Live Like You’re 87

It’s Christmas Eve. All is calm, all is bright. I’m snuggled up with our dog, Sam, in a cozy room full of beloved family members napping. Through the almost floor-to-ceiling windows, a stand of trees reaches high into the sky, their branches gnarled and bare, and crunchy withered leaves litter the ground.

December 22, winter solstice, was the shortest day of the year. Each day from thereon out will add a few precious minutes of sunshine a day, a promise I clung to while weathering Chicago winters in college.

As I savor this rare moment of quiet in a bustling season, I’m contemplating the year ahead—waiting, wondering, hoping.

Ordinarily, I eschew New Year’s resolutions. They stress me out, creating yet another area of life in which to fall short and become discouraged. Yet the concept of taking time each year to evaluate our lives and our hearts is sound. A while ago, I settled on determining a few guiding principles for the year, nothing too ambitious or set in stone, but rather some filters to run my decisions through during the year. Last year, I decided to adopt Jen Hatmaker’s short and poignant filter for decision-making: “If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no.”

This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my 87-year-old Grandmother. We spent a beautiful Thanksgiving with her, and almost every day we were together she talked about how she’s ready to go to heaven. She might be ready, but I’m not ready. Yet her joyful expectation of heaven provides a profound and inspiring choreography for her life. She’s bold and unafraid to preach the Gospel. She’s wise, grateful, and patient. She prays about everything. Every. Single. Thing.

She’s comfortable with who God made her to be, and she doesn’t mourn the “what-ifs” and the “might have beens.” She has forgiven those who’ve wronged her, even the ones who have gone before her to heaven.

Since I spend quite a bit of time praying myself off the proverbial ledge or out of a tizzy, I’ve begun employing a little technique that helps me quite a bit. When I’m freaking out, I pause and think, “Will this matter when I’m 87?” And the follow-up question, “How will I feel about this at 87?” It’s an almost instantaneous perspective-shift. When you’re 87, practically nothing is worth getting upset over, which is a pretty peaceful way to live, right?

This coming year, I’m hoping to live like I’m 87.

Here are a few freeing things about living like you’re 87:

Personal maintenance occupies its proper place. When you’re old, exercise becomes about health and movement, enjoyment, and elasticity. Exercise and eating well is not about keeping up your image because you are old. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be or where it used to be, and that’s OK.

You’re comfortable with who you are. And you don’t give a $&*# about what anyone else thinks.

You proclaim the Gospel boldly. You declare God’s truth without shame, without fear of disparagement, and with great joy. You’re going to heaven soon, you don’t have time to waste!

You praise God in everything. You praise God in everything, period. “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).

You rest in God’s faithfulness. You take all your cares to Jesus because you’ve seen him provide for you for almost 100 years.

You make peace with the limitations of other people. You make peace, not in a hopeless way, but in a way that loves them even if they never change. You also forgive your parents for all the crazy ways in which they messed you up.

You have time to rest and think and read and pray. As mothers, many of us are in our building years. We are building our families, building our careers, maybe even building a home. Even though our lives are brimming with to-do lists and never-ending chores, we can incorporate rhythms of rest into our days, and take time to study and pray.

You don’t need stuff! Sometimes, when I’m employing my “live like you’re 87 coping technique,” I think, “Well, if I die tomorrow, what will happen to all this crap? I don’t need all this stuff!” It’s morbid, but if we start thinking about our belongings like we’re 87, maybe we will acquire less superfluous stuff to leave behind.

What about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If you were to adopt a guiding principle for this year, what do you think it might be?

Wishing you a very Happy New Year! Love, Natalie

            Anna and Penelope


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