Getting Lost…Getting Found

CHASM WATERFALLIt’s Christmas Eve day today and for me, that means a veritable smorgasbord (I have to use that word…I’m Norwegian bred) of beautiful rituals and some work for me as a pastor, even if I am mostly retired. I am one of the lucky ones. This day – this eve – has deep meaning for me after 77 years of life. My gratitude is on overdrive. I carry with me not only nostalgia and some sadness, but also the wonder of my present life into the swirl of memories and hopes that go along with this time. I am immensely blessed.


I belong to a closed group on Facebook called “Elder Orphans.” It serves those of us who are 55 or older and who have no family or no nearby family to be of presence or help to us as we age. There are over 9,000 members and we come from all over the world. Only a relative handful post there regularly but they are remarkably open and vulnerable. So many find this site to be a haven and support for the complex mix of issues that arise from aging itself to aging alone.


Many share their loneliness and depression, and others flock to encourage and commiserate with them. So many speak of how important these online friendships have been for them. We are a community in the best sense of the word, even with a few quirks in the system now and then.


This holiday season brings forth especially powerful feelings and concerns that are unique to us “orphans.” Many have found interesting and imaginative ways to bridge the gulf between what they wish this season could be and what they are planning to do to make up for the loss of their favorite hopes. Many are lost for now in the dark and not able to find a way to get through the pain and darkness of this singular time.


We all know the fear and the pain of feeling lost and the breathlessness of longing to be found. Somehow. Some way. Some day. No one escapes the waves of yearning to belong, to be loved and valued. To see faces brighten when we come into a room just because we are there. We all find ourselves at home when we are loved.


Many years ago, I found a deep well of healing and understanding when I engaged in the practice of unguided imaging meditation. That was during a particularly complicated time of life when I had no idea what lay ahead, but knew that something had to change.


That’s when I discovered the power of restlessness! I hated the feeling, but there it was. I had to enter into the uncertainty of this impatient restlessness before I could find the resting place that could hold me. Unguided meditation became the key for me.


The desert – a wilderness – was often the setting that presented itself, usually lasting for weeks before I found my way back to some vestige of civilization and new life. That’s what being lost can look like. That’s what it can feel like. An endless and unmarked wilderness.


There were no verticals to break up the horizontal expanse of the endless sand. No signposts. No directions. Only the endless horizon. Standing still was not an option. I had to walk, to pick a direction – any direction – and just head out. Day after day. Week after week.


Every time my meditations placed me in the desert, I was aware of  a mysterious guide who followed far behind and who would eventually lead me out and back to the world at hand. Every time, I found answers that were the open door to a new beginning.


Each of us, when we’re faced with this unwelcome restless place in us, seeks a way out. It is the time for new lessons, new opportunities, new people, new tasks, new attitudes, new hopes, new manners of finding ourselves found again. It can seem to last forever – indeed, sometimes it takes years to walk through it. But walk through it we must if we do not want to get stuck forever.


So here’s the upshot: when we’re found, we always find ourselves in a new place. It can be scary because so much of it is strange and unfamiliar, but the thing about the journey there is that being found is also incredibly enchanting…if we’re willing to take the chance of living there now. “You’ll never know until you try,” is still my mantra. It has never yet failed me, so I’m sticking with it!!


It’s almost a new year. Life just keeps moving forward. There’s no going back. So…if this is a time when the restlessness has taken hold, this might be the very time when we’re ready to find that new place, the time when we’re ready to take that first step…when we won’t know until we try. If and when we’re ready, there are some ways to begin:

Stay with the dream…and then doggedly follow it to where it could lead…

take a chance…

attentively await the new purpose…which will show up eventually…

have patience with time…while using impatience to keep moving ahead…

take a leap of faith…the chasm may look wide, but the other side is reachable…

challenge the restlessness…

invite a dream in…allow it to unfold…

do battle with the lingering fears…

ask for help…

ask for the wonder that is out there for the taking…

take a chance on being found…

Pick one. Pick some. Choose them all. Whatever fits. When it’s time to try.


Restlessness is one of the Big Things that’s brought me to where I am now. And I’m very okay with that! Being lost has always turned out to be blessing. Being found has always been worth the desert. And I’m very okay with that, too!


If you think you might qualify for Elder Orphans and you are on Facebook, just search for their name. There is a “free” group and a “paid” group that is more comprehensive. Start with the free one.


































6 thoughts on “Getting Lost…Getting Found

  1. Thanks for this, Martha! I’m so intrigued by your meditation technique. Would love to hear more about it! I know for myself, unguided meditation cultivates a quiet confidence in resting in the unknown. Powerful tool for building resilience, as your own journey attests. So grateful we two restless Marthas have found each other! Happy New Year, my friend! Looking forward to the continued shared journey.


    1. Thank you, Martha! I’m not surprised that you’re interested in this kind of meditation. I’ll send you an email to tell you about how I’ve done it. In the meantime, we shall enjoy each other’s company in the new year and give thanks for this amazing new friendship!


  2. You say that “being found is incredibly enchanting,” while I say that finding you was (and is) just as enchanting. You’re a bit of magic for us all, Martha. And this was just beautiful. I hope you’re sharing this with the “Elder Orphan” facebook group. It’s a must-read.


    1. I have no chance to get discouraged with a friend like you to bring joy into everything I do! Thank you, again and again, for being the steady rock and the smiling presence that keeps me doing this.


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