Patterns and Milestone Experiences That Transform

Experiences TransformOne of the joys of getting older – let’s say 50 and beyond – is that we can look back and see patterns and milestones in our lives. Seeing the patterns can be instructive and helpful in many ways. In early mid-life, most of us experience the intensity of jobs/careers, community involvement, family relationships to nurture and support – and more. As we move into a different phase of life, we can take time to do this.  Experiences transform, and reflecting on them can be part of transforming your life after 50.

I will share some of my experience with this kind of reflection.

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to be one of several presenters who shared personal stories with a group from my church. It was a wonderful opportunity to look back and identify some patterns in my life. One of them was “expanding horizons” and I also identified milestone experiences that had shifted my life in new directions. Each of us can likely identify ways in which our horizons expanded and how that impacted us.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. captured the essence of that by saying, “”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

I found it quite enjoyable to look at that pattern as if I were floating high above, getting the view from the drone, if you will. In my case, I saw an image of concentric circles and that pattern of expanding horizons. I could recognize experiences that launched me from one circle into another, and later into another as the years passed. The changes were more than geographic and included mental, spiritual, emotional and psychological expansions.

The geographic concentric circles started from growing up in a small town in Minnesota, to college in two other midwestern towns, to a summer in core city Chicago, Illinois to much of my adult life in inner city Minneapolis, Minnesota to a couple of years in suburban Orange County, California to the past eight years in Nashville, Tennessee. I can see concentric circles of relationship with a wider diversity of people and of awareness of regional and cultural differences.

In addition to these overlaid concentric circles, I can identify milestone experiences that changed the direction of my life in different ways. The first dramatic milestone was the summer spent in Chicago when I was 19 years old. It was a city immersion program sponsored by the American Lutheran Church in several cities around the country, with our team of six people coming from a small college in Decorah, Iowa. Prior to this, I had lived in homogeneous small towns, both growing up and in my prior two years of college.

Then here we were, working full time jobs and doing neighborhood work in the rest of our time out of a city church located just on the edge of the demarcation line between a white community and a black community. Oh – did I mention: it was the summer of 1966!! Tensions were high in cities across the country as the civil rights movement was in its peak years. During that summer, Aug. 5, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Chicago for an open housing march through an all-white neighborhood and he was hit in the head with a brick or a rock. This was the mood of the time.

The experiences of that summer turned my attention to being involved with the social issues of the day, and gave me clarity that I wanted to be involved in things that made a difference. As a result, I left college and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I would spend my years from 20 to 60 living and working in the inner city.

I encourage you to reflect on the patterns and milestones in YOUR life. It will be life-affirming and may open up some possibilities for you to explore as you are transforming your life after 50.

I encourage you to get a nice journal that you really want to write in.  I love the “Tree of Life” motif, and these are refillable, which is a plus.  Check out this version using my affiliate link: Tree of Life Writing Journal

Transforming Your Life With New Experiences

One of the greatest gifts of our years over 50 can be having the time and flexibility to do things that we weren’t able to do when we were younger and in the thick of career building and child rearing. It may allow more travel for leisure and excitement, or learning a new skill and practicing it, or volunteering regularly to give back and help others. All of these and other activities enrich us and can be factors in transforming your life by opening up possibilities and igniting passions of which we were not aware.

I recently participated in a project that I never would have imagined I would be interested in just 10 years ago. For the 5th time, I participated in a prison ministry in another state. This is the 2nd time the trip has been for an entire week. It was a week of travel in vans from Tennessee to Ohio and back, daily travel to different correctional institutions from the hotel and back – a total of 1600 miles. At every one of the seven stops, our team of sixteen had to go through security and have all of the multiple cases and containers of sound equipment and instruments meticulously examined. Then there was the set-up in a wide variety of types of rooms and soundcheck to assure the best projection possible in that room.

Through personal handshakes and greetings, hugs, fun music, an appearance by Santa, inspirational music, humor, words from a pastor, and communion, we communicated and embodied the message, “You are loved, you have worth, God is with you.” In and through that, both those visiting and those being visited were touched, changed and even transformed.

You may be asking, how have these experiences transformed my life, and why did I even consider getting into this? During my life, I had experiences that left me with no real desire to go into prisons. I appreciated those who did prison ministries of various kinds, but it wasn’t something that appealed to me. Some of those experiences were living for 40 years in the inner city where crime rates were high, being a victim of several crimes during those years, having friends victimized, and then working for nearly 20 years in the crime prevention unit of the police department.

When I moved from Minneapolis, MN to Nashville, TN, I got involved in a progressive church which had an affiliated non-profit ministry to prisons. Gradually the stories of the impact of these visits and the urging of the director pushed into my heart, and I agreed to go on one of the “friends” tours that brought about 40 members of the church along on 3 days of a 7-day tour. After that, I wanted to participate every time possible because I saw the world and people differently. I wanted to be a part of bringing light into dark places like prisons in ways that were life affirming and inspiring, not shaming and fear-based. The letters that come back from the inmates who have experienced these programs are filled with new hope and gratitude. Many reflect an impact that lasts, not just a one-day reprieve from their situation. Amazing!

I encourage you to look at places in your life where you have drawn lines and seen other people as totally other, totally different than the people with whom you ordinarily surround yourselves with. Step out, try new experiences, see what happens in your life. Transforming your years after 50 can start with taking that kind of step beyond what you already know.

If you would like to learn more about this outreach ministry, go to