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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Making Memories (2)


Holiday Hope for Aging Parents

Including aging parents in our holiday plans can take some extra thought, but as Cynthia Ruchti shows us in this Holiday UPGRADE, it's so worth the time and effort!

"Aging parents—and caring for them—can upgrade the holidays for us," Cynthia says. "And it’s about time."

I (Dawn) like that. I like any time we can upgrade the holidays. We do it with decorations and events, but what about the people in our lives? How do we give a meaningful dose of holiday hope to our aging parents?

Cynthia continues . . .

In many families, Grandma and Grandpa once provided the setting for all the holiday memory-making.

Theirs was the groaning dining room table with a feast and decorations that revealed days’ worth of cooking, baking, preparation.

Theirs was the backyard hill for sledding and snow forts.

The presents under the Christmas tree might have crowded against each other with the grandparents’ generosity and homemade gifts.

But now, a hospital bed might occupy the spot a glittering tree once claimed.

The living room of the grandparents’ home is “decorated” with the trappings of ill health and aging—walkers, commodes, lift chairs. The sounds of Christmas music in the background competes with the sound of the oxygen machine.

Or Grandma and Grandpa are in reasonably good health, but living in a small apartment or an assisted living home.

We can change the setting for holiday gatherings. Christmas at Aunt Cheryl’s this year. Or Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Grandma and Grandpa’s eldest child.

But how do we keep our grip on cherished traditions, include rather than exclude the aging, and find new ways to “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12 KJV) when the holidays include tasks of caregiving for aging parents?

And how will doing so upgrade our holiday experiences?

I love how God included the elderly in the original Christmas story.

Luke 1 starts not with the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, but with Zechariah, an aged priest, who by God’s grace had a son despite his wife’s lifelong barrenness. That son—John—prepared the way for the coming Messiah.

Bookending the story of the birth of Christ are other characters of many yearsSimeon, who blessed the eight-day-old infant Jesus in the temple, and Anna, a prophet described as “very old.” She’d been married only seven years, and at the time of Jesus’s birth was an 84-year-old-widow.

Anna was among the first to Tweet the news about the birth of the Messiah.

(She “tweeted” with whole sentences, though, telling everyone she knew, everyone who had been looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem that He had been born, according to Luke 2:38.)

Zechariah, Simeon, Anna—their ages added to the encompassing picture of the Christmas story.

And so can the elderly in our families, even if their needs require special accommodations during the holidays.

  • Encourage Grandpa or Grandma to pray over the holiday meal, if that’s long been a tradition in your home and they are still able to communicate.
  • If you host the holiday gathering at some place other than their residence, consider bringing something familiar to anchor them in the new scene—a favorite afghan, their heirloom nativity set, Grandma’s good china or silverware.
  • Use double-sided name tents at each place setting to boost Grandma’s or Grandpa’s memory about the names of their loved ones.
  • Unless it’s physically impossible, include them in safe but meaningful ways in the food preparation. Some aging parents/grandparents grow restless and uncomfortable around the holidays because it’s a reminder of traditions in which they can no longer participate. Even if someone else needs to yield the knife, can Grandma arrange the vegetables on the crudité platter? If Grandpa once carved the turkey but can no longer manage the task, can he be given the honor of making the first slice?
  • Reserve time for aging parents to tell their stories.
  • Show consideration for their tolerance for noise and commotion. Plan quiet activities in addition to what was once delightful chaos for them.
  • Consider, too, their nutritional restrictions. Rather than making them bypass their favorite foods, find ways to accommodate an extra bowl of salt-free gravy or seedless blackberry jam for their dinner roll.
  • If aging parents or grandparents are confined by health needs to a nursing home facility, give the gift of your extended presence sometime during the holidays. Unhurried. Reminding them, and the staff, that they are treasured, dearly loved. If they live far away from the family festivities, bring video messages from their children and grandchildren, so they know they were thought of, remembered, cherished.
  • Even if you send Thanksgiving or Christmas greetings only by email and Facebook, take the time to send cards to the aging.

God did not tell us to honor our father and mother when it’s convenient.

Or when their needs don’t interfere with our plans.

Or only when they … and we … are young.

What does your family do to honor elderly members during the holidays? In what ways have you discovered that “it’s about time”?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women. Her recent book—As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love, and Change—addresses many challenging and tender aspects of caring for aging parents or grandparents.,


Holiday Hoopla at 50+: Making Memories

Deb DeArmond, the co-founder of "My Purpose Now," eagerly encourages women to live for the Lord in their second half of life. This optimistic mid-lifer has a special Holiday UPGRADE for those of us who still want to make a difference at 50+!

“As we get older,” Deb says, “making new memories is more important than ever!"

I (Dawn) am well past 50, and although I might move a little slower these days, my mind is always dreaming up some ways to create fresh family memories. So I appreciate Deb’s perspective.

She continues . . .

Two years ago we did what most people our age don’t do. We upgraded by purchasing a bigger home. We got an extra two bedrooms and another full bath in the deal and traded a small lot for nearly a quarter acre.

Crazy this late in our fifth decade? Maybe. But it’s all part of the plan.

What plan? To make room for more memories.

This year we will be blessed with five little grandboys gathered in our home for the holidays. (They will be bringing their parents along.) A sixth grandson is waiting in the wings, arriving after the New Year. The boys range in age from three months to seven years old.

It’s going to be noisy.

          And messy.

                    And all kinds of wonderful.

I do enjoy watching the kids as they open something special—selected just for them. But the holiday hoopla includes the marketeers working to convince the little ones that “this new thingamajig” is something they can’t live without.

As grandparents, how do we bring balance, with a focus on honoring Christ and enjoying the season in awe of the depth of God’s love for us?

As it says in Proverbs, "A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren . . . " (Proverbs 13:22, The Message).

Several years ago, my hubby and I proposed a new Christmas plan to our sons and daughters-in-law. We concluded we no longer needed anything, wanted anything or had room for anything else in our home.

But just like Jell-O, there’s always more room for memories.

Our suggestion? A shared experience in place of gifts. There were a few raised eyebrows and requests for clarification, but eventually, thumbs up all around.

The first year we rented a mountain cabin where the snow and the crackling fire kept us inside playing games, watching movies and talking. Remember talking? It’s been downgraded thanks to the (anti)social media mania.

The kids skied and we all indulged in a furious snowball fight. We exchanged letters on Christmas morning, each writing a note to the others acknowledging the gifts and gratitude of doing life together. One of the best holidays ever.

Disney was beautiful the next Christmas, and one year we opted for California sunshine. Eventually, the first couple of kiddles joined us as travelers. I wouldn’t trade those trips and the time together for anything.

This year with three babies 18 months and under, plus a very pregnant mama-to-be, travel is not an option. At least not one sane people would choose. So we’ll be making holiday memories with a new flair this year. Here are some tips on how to do that with your tribe.

(1) Turn holiday chores into an event. A baking date with my daughter-in-law, or a tree trimming extravaganza with food and holiday music can make the mundane magic.

(2) Expand holiday traditions to the next generation. The traditional holiday tea with my best friend will include our daughters this year at a lovely public garden. Wrangle the older kids to deliver gifts at a nursing home or sing carols to shut-ins. Dress up the littles in their holiday best and go to a holiday concert.

(3) Select experiences that are new for the entire family. We’re planning a ride on a local version of the Polar Express aboard a restored vintage train. Perhaps a holiday “cook off” with each of the couples taking on a day of the week-long menu plan. Vote for your faves and award “family chef” prize to the winners.

It’s easy to buy a gift. Creating memories might require more imagination, but is worth the effort. Perhaps we can help influence the grandbabies to choose wealth by wanting less stuff and living more life.

As grandparents, we have a responsibility to the next generations so Jesus, not things, becomes the focus.

This year, upgrade to making holiday memories!

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her recent book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between moms and the girls who marry their sons. Deb and her husband, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her “My Purpose Now” site and her "Family Matters" site.