All posts by louise

It’s About Time! Musings at Midlife

Midlife and the Empty Nest. I’m many years into both but still searching to understand this new rhythm and stride. Shouldn’t someone have written What to Expect when I’m Expecting — but don’t Know What?

IMG_1287In my experience, the freedom is intoxicating at first. You do fun things you couldn’t fit in before. The bucket list remains and can serve as a defining focus. Carpe diem!

But if we listen there are other voices.  Sometimes an edge of loneliness creeps in with the absence of structured opportunities for socializing with other parents. Often there are the added distractions of illness, menopause, weight gain, elderly parents, job shifts, relational shifts, moves, children’s graduations, jobs, weddings, and/ or those absolutely wonderful grand babies…

Time marches on. Circumstances multiply and keep coming at us, as if we’re drinking from a fire hydrant. Nothing is quite as it was. I call this perfect storm being in the sandwich generation.

Time especially has become an unrecognizable commodity.

On paper, I have all sorts of “freed up” time. But somehow my reality is that I’m pushed, pulled and distracted. Busy but without even a vague notion of just what it is I’m accomplishing. At least not in a “big picture” sense. And the clock’s rotations seem ever faster.

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In childhood it seemed there was an eternity between holidays and all the markers of my calendar. Time meant nothing to me outside the present moment and whatever was just ahead.

In my 20s, 30s, even into my 40s, I meandered through my days with anticipation. I still remember what I wore on those milestone birthdays (now I can’t remember if I’ve done laundry this week). It felt like THIS season was the REAL LIFE I had always dreamed of. I had all the time in the world.

But in midlife, time is moving faster! I’d swear I was at the dentist just before Christmas — but I’m due my 6 month appointment! I find myself thinking “that went so fast” about everything.

In my heart I’m a young mother with a family to raise. In reality the kids have been adults for a while, and the stranger in my mirror has pills to take each morning.  I’m living a favorite phrase of my Granny’s,  “Tempus do Fugit,” but I’m not sure how to respond? I feel an urgency to get life figured out.

I’m conflicted about how to save and spend my time. I’m protective in scheduling, but not sure for what purpose. Not only did I not plan for this stage, I never really believed I’d be here!

The angst makes sense not only because of my denial, but also because midlife is a major transition — the process of changing from one state to another. Beyond the family dynamics — the physical, emotional, and spiritual adjustments are forces to be reckoned with.

IMG_3000What is my purpose, God willing, these 25-30+ years I’m already inhabiting, but without an instruction manual (sounds like bringing the 1st baby home… sigh). Who am I besides what I’ve known? I know God is calling me to something else — but the particulars are not yet clear.

I’ve been trying to give myself grace in the questioning and to live in patient expectation. To be comfortable with this in between and experiment my way to the answers — allowing for missteps and mistakes along the way. Admittedly, it’s hard.

Even the same old, same old often feels very different today. The once comfortable is ill-fitting, like a well-worn glove that’s been molded on someone else’s hand. One part of me is ready to discard it to make room for tomorrow’s new thing; another is holding on to that glove, as if it is Life.

What is it I feel… is it lonely? Lost? Or a new sort of peace?  I’m befuddled. I want desperately to engage in something that’s not yet here, and I’m oddly protective of my Time, so I don’t miss it when it arrives.

Ambivalence. Juxtapositions. Change.

I looked around yesterday and realized I’ve become a stranger in my own home. A month after Christmas an almost dead poinsettia is still on the coffee table along with a strand of Christmas lights that went half dark while still on the tree. A Swiffer has long been propped in the kitchen near the ever-cluttered island counter. My bed isn’t made. But the house doesn’t mind; no one is bustling in and out. And Rob and I no longer “see it” or care quite in the same ways as we once did.

I am not this person! …Or am I…?

I used to enjoy having a well-used, but almost always tidy home. A full refrigerator and pantry were a given as we were a “hub” of activity. Meals were fed and clean sheets offered to the predictable tides of friends and family. Happy times for a mom who loves hospitality.

IMG_1418But my truth today IS different. I’m frustrated with the late afternoon taunt in my head, “what’s for supper?” It’s just the two of us — that’s not the cooking I understand or enjoy! The fridge is all but bare, save the outdated produce and dreaded “healthy” additions like coconut milk and kale — neither of which I had heard of when I was young and skinny. But alas, the battle of the bulge is lost if we’re not fighting. There is no cease fire. Culinary enjoyment removed until the next holidays or party.

I resent the dust, laundry, clutter and such that perseveres in its attack to wear me down. Yet it feels frivolous to have someone else help too often with the everyday stuff — when it’s just the two of us.

Rob left a great career in corporate America, to make a change. Am I different? Could it be OK to shift my entire focus? To let go of what’s worked so well? Is it time for something altogether new?

Homemaking distracts me and pulls me away, but from what? Exploring. Purpose. Meaning. I’m restless, but certain God is up to Something…

My sense of time. My priorities. My friendships and involvements — they’re all changing. A metamorphosis is taking place. I’ve been in the cocoon for a while — but I’m emerging. I can feel it. Life has been defined by my own little red wagon. God charged me with certain roles and responsibilities. Certain people and places. And now, my purpose is less clear.

But one thing He is speaking loud a clear… I am so much more aware of eternity. His Kingdom. Biblical Truths I have always heard but couldn’t absorb are becoming Life to me.

My world is increasingly complex and confusing — with many demands on me and my time, making it easy to get lost and perplexed as to what’s next. What’s important.

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Philippians 3:13-14 says, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

It is critical to my peace and well-being to nurture and strengthen my relationship with Jesus.

Direct answers to my question of “what’s next?” have been elusive. But God reminds me of Matthew 8:3 and my need to be more childlike: embracing patience. Being present wherever I am — in the moment without worrying about the next. Humble. Dependent.  Trusting. Expectant. Full of awe and wonder.  So much easier said than done.

To relish focused time with my Papa first and foremost helps all else fall into its proper place. He’s reminding me of what it is to be “like a little child,” for there is much there that connects me to the kingdom of heaven.

I have 52 years of His faithfulness to draw on as I trust Him. At His feet, I’m finding rest and renewal. Life. For now that — with hope and faith in the future God already knows — is enough.

All will come, in His Time.

 

I Forgot a Title, so I’ll leave it as a Sweet little Surprise…

IMG_3379A while back I remember strolling down the beach with Rob as I excitedly covered some long-forgotten topic — from 3 different angles. I was virtually uninterrupted for at least the first quarter mile of our walk. Rob knows I am a verbal processor.  He’s a great listener and so wonderful about letting me express a myriad of thoughts out loud with him. When I finally asked, “well — what do you think,” I’ll never forget his answer.  He had listened to it all. And cautiously and honestly suggested, “I don’t think I think quite as much as you do.”

Can you relate? I can seldom “turn off” my brain. Meaning rarely am I not running a stream of consciousness reel in my head… traveling from topic to topic; turning over ideas, people, relationships, prayers, problems, lists and schedules (you name it) repeatedly and to varying depths — involving both my head and my heart.

E-X-H-A-L-E… I’m out of breath even typing it!

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Sometimes it feels like a curse. I’d love to just chill and go “brain dead” for a moment of rest and relaxation! Many men seem to be wired better for this than a lot of women I know. But God made us as we are for His own reasons. As Psalm 139: tells us, “You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.”

I want to be thankful… but sometimes, I want a break even more!

Painting is my best escape. I have no scientific data to prove it, but experience tells me that painting involves a special  kind of creative process that shuts out the barrage of interruptions that usually pierce my internal peace and quiet. When I create, I can’t think of anything else… Ahhhh. The bliss of it! IMG_4050

IMG_4048But alas, my life can’t always be lived holed up in my studio, in sweats and the shirt I slept in…braless and covered in paint. I paint like I do puzzles and read books… ravenously. Non stop until I arrive. Loving the journey, but living for the accomplishment. Engrossed. Then away, and back to the rest of life… and the dreaded non-stop thinking. The thoughts that just will not turn off.

They say in truth, everyone’s mind is ever active… analyzing, evaluating, reflecting, relating, dreaming, creating. As human beings — despite sometimes reducing the noise — we all think without ceasing.  These unending thoughts sometimes bring fear, worry, guilt, stress…

img_3054Something I read the other day stopped me in my tracks. Then I moved on to why one of my dogs has sort of bleached, orangish, kinky highlights in his coat and the other has dark brown curly locks when they are from the same blood line…???  Anyway —  I can’t take credit for the original thought, nor can I tell you its source.  I’ve alternately pushed it away and corralled it to mull over more thoroughly. Regardless, the thought held on to me.

Here’s the big AHA! idea I ran across — what if instead of uselessly desiring to turn off our tiring inner monologue, we convert our endless thinking into unceasing prayer?

IMG_35651 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us what feels like a daunting and impossible task, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I’ve tried, but honestly thought, “really Jesus? UNCEASING prayer?” 

I’ve spiritualize the concept by trying to “live my life as a prayer offering.” I bet the Sadducees and Pharisees beat me to that rationale. But WE CAN DO IT, if we will only acknowledge the Truth of a few verses:

 Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

May I suggest we all reread those well-known verses again? Really let them permeate the cacophony of voices that may be competing at this very moment?

IMG_3474God is here, with you, right now. Loving. Listening. Desiring to guide you and give you His thoughts. Share in your world. Give you Life.

What if we resolved to convert our inner monologue into a ongoing dialogue with our God, our Abba, who loves us? The Holy Spirit indwells every believer and gives us Life.  We already know He is always with us. What if we invited our Maker into our awareness — and made our very thoughts a conversation of give and take with the Living God?

We can confidently know He wants to listen with his unfailing love, grace and mercy to all that preoccupies or taunts us. And all that delights us. Every good gift is from Him, and He allows and uses everything in our lives for our good. Why wouldn’t we alter our ongoing thoughts into prayer just by acknowledging what we already know to be true?

This is a game changer! From endless thinking to unceasing prayer as He commands! Oh the delight and the relief!

I’m not Pollyanna, nor am I naive. This won’t happen overnight for me. Like anything worth having it will take discipline and work… and dare I say obedience to God’s Word? But oh, the rewards I can see down the pike! I’m surrendered to the invitation, and trusting God to move.

img_3590And one more thing that came to mind… back at the beginning I mentioned wanting to escape sometimes. I’ll keep on painting, but as wonderful as it is, even that isn’t complete rest. And I need a real break very frequently.

God commands rest too, and offers Himself to facilitate it. Where I am today, just typing this brought tears to my eyes. Read a few more verses and imagine them whispered in your ear by the One who loves you more than life.

Exodus 33:14 “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28-30Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

His Peace be with you.IMG_3470

Your comments are so encouraging —  either in the comments section or through social media below. Thank you for “hearing” my confession, and for your prayers.  

Confessions of 2016

James 5:16 says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

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Did you ever read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Mix that with Pharell William’s song determined to be “Happy,” and the saving grace of the mix… “Say Amen” by Finding Favour  — and you’ll have a picture of my 2016.

My Confession: 2016 has been a wonderful, no good, frustrating, joyful, fabulous, overwhelming, love-filled, exhausting, fractious, and exhilarating year. I have cycled from fully and joyfully alive —  to exhausted resignation with mild depression — and back again. Sometimes with both all mixed together in a pot I called menopause (but the doctor said it wasn’t that).

Many times, I have called out to God both in thanksgiving and despair. Shamefully, at other times I have all but ignored Him, as I became swallowed up in temporal circumstances. The urgent and pressing.

Since we rang in 2016 from our tranquil porch at Alligator Point, I have participated in (personally or through close friends and family) many BIG, significant events.  They have included several broken bones;  numerous ER and hospital visits; countless joy-filled weddings (two of my own children); divorces; one office remodel, move then destructive fire; repeated vandalism and deception; a crazy election year; two new puppies; a hurricane targeting both houses; starting my new business; unemployment/ new employment; back to school; high risk births, serious parental illness; and family funerals — just to name a few.

In living and praying through the highs and lows, the scheduled and unscheduled events of 2016, I seemed to have put a lot of life on hold — on the back burner for a more convenient time, even though some I feel are at God’s leading.

  • despite aspirations to go to a writer’s conference and start a book, I have written only five blog posts
  • I sort of launched, then postponed starting my coaching business — until 2017 when the craziness would slow down
  • after doing so well the 2nd half of 2015, I let stress win the health battle in January 2016, and put off weight loss and cardio health until 2017
  • my “quiet time” became dismally distracted — reduced to at best “prayer without ceasing,” but without disciplined and real focused time alone with God
  • I set up my studio to paint more frequently, but rarely felt the creative spirit
  • I imagined but didn’t begin numerous projects… my to do list grew and alas is misplaced
  • my values and mission statement documents were literally lost in the chaos before any efforts  were made (and before I committed them to memory)

I’m sure I could continue listing circumstances and distractions — excuses and understandable delays and failures in reaching goals.  Possibly you can relate? We all have years that are just “one for the record books.”

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But where is the nugget of truth I need to carry forward to 2017? The circumstances — even natural disasters, family weddings or deaths — are not the core issues.

IMG_2988In a few days we will sit in the same beach rocking chairs, looking ahead to 2017. Again, I have no idea what’s in store. 2016 was truly a wendinger of a year… but maybe this is the new normal of mid-life empty nesters with aging parents and many adult children??? Despite all that’s unknown and out of my control, how can each day of 2017 be better? What can I learn? How can I grow? How can I please God?

I think the answer lies in #4 bullet on my unedited list processing the back burner spokes in my wheel of life. “My ‘quiet time’ became dismally distracted — reduced to at best “prayer without ceasing,” but without disciplined and real focused time alone with God.”

Heart of my confession: Lord, I have let other things — worthy, good and “bad”– steal my attention from You. Forgive my idolatry — which has lead to destruction. (Phil 3:19) All those other bullet points above are simply evidences of the consequential destruction when I forget my first love. img_3233

It’s so exciting and amazing that God forgives and offers His grace and mercy fresh each day! Not because I have “changed” or “been good,” but because of  Jesus! He is my atonement! Still —  true confession involves the overflowing response of repentance! Turning 180 degrees away from sin — back to God.

God not only wants but demands total devotion from His people. Complete allegiance. It is foolish to ultimately trust in myself or anything else in this life. Anyone or anything I love (or give my attention to) ahead of God puts me in danger, and should be considered an idol.

Matthew 10:37-35 says  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

That stings. Especially for 2016.

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Those are not words the modern culture encourages us to embrace. Today’s world often calls us to worship family, achievement, recognition. Or to put it in words that sound more palatable to me and allow me to sin without feeling immediate guilt… I am encouraged and feel really good about myself when I’m seen as competent, self-reliant, poised, responsible — the one who can be counted on to “be there” for my friends and family.  When I’m the near “perfect” wife, mother, daughter, friend. Giving and serving — at home, at church and in my community.

Actually all those can be good things — but never when they come at the expense of my devotion to God. That’s what I let happen in much of 2016. It’s not that I forgot God or that He is always with me. It’s not that I stopped praying altogether or even that I quit trusting Him. I just didn’t make a lot of one-on-one time for being with Him.

I was overwhelmed by immediate needs and events, and God got squeezed out of His rightful spot in my life.  Nothing and no one deserves primacy in my life except God — Creator of every good thing. He needs to be my steering wheel — not just my fuel.

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I’m looking at my Christmas village — where I love creating a Hallmark-worthy little town. The North Pole has all sorts of colorful and fun factories producing bikes, gumdrops and other great things. My heart, left unchecked, is a similar factory — producing all sorts of enticing idols. Temporal things (meant to be good if kept in their secondary place of affection) that become idols of my flesh if I put them before God in any way.

I have loved other things more than God. I have given my first fruits of attention to good and worthy things before giving God my undivided, focused devotion.  At times to His exclusion.IMG_3000

2017 new year’s resolutions are days away. There is time to make plans to meet my goals. But my repentance can’t wait!

Starting THIS MOMENT God is my unrivaled #1 love again. My Sufficiency. My All in ALL… the One I will turn to for answers and guidance. The One I trust above all else…

And when I feel myself slipping (as I will do as long as I’m on earth), I pray I will catch myself earlier and more quickly. When the time I truly want to give to God is feeling rushed or second tier — I will see a problem. This is not an isolated occasion that calls for a reorganization of priorities… it’s idolatry. I’ll ask His forgiveness again, and return to Him as my first love, as often as necessary —  until He brings me home.IMG_2755

My prayer is that today and everyday God’s love for me overwhelms the circumstances of my life. That I allow my moments to be defined by The Good Book and the reality of God’s Truth in my life with Him. My favorite great hymns are a good playlist to live by!

  • “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
  • “Amazing Grace”
  • “It is Well”
  • “How Great Thou Art”
  • “My Life is In You, Lord”
  • “Blessed Assurance”

Your comments are so encouraging —  either in the comments section or through social media below. Thank you for “hearing” my confession, and for your prayers.