Category Archives: Like a little child

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.

IMG_3428

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.

IMG_3591

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!

IMG_1699

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.  

How I Know that YOU are an ARTIST!

IMG_1305A blank slate can be a scary thing.

It holds infinite possibilities and promise — as well as risk and responsibility. Who wants to commit to a pristine canvas, when you might “mess up?” Who wants to expose her heart for others to interpret? Often insecurity intimidates a would be painter from putting brush to paper.

It’s true in life too. Sometimes we avoid the art of living the abundant life (John 10:10). We prefer to admire or critique the works of others from a distance. We don’t risk engaging with others outside our comfort zones. It’s too messy, so we isolate ourselves in our safe circles of influence.

IMG_1270In my experience, the artist eventually breaks out, and I never regret it. My God-given desire to create and impact the world can’t be quenched.

Art can take a myriad of forms.  Conversation. Relationships. Visual arts. Performing arts. Cooking. Sewing. Writing. Software, interior or fashion design. Event planning. Mechanics and engineers. Crafting a business deal, a speech, lecture or a sermon. Gardening and flower arranging. Managing people… all these and more are forms of artistry.

According to the dictionary, to “create” means to bring something into existence or to cause something to happen as a result of one’s actions. Fairly all-encompassing — so I believe an artist is within ALL of us. Don’t trust me… you are an artist because God says so.

IMG_1285Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning, God created…” He is an Artist. It goes on a few verses later “So God created human beings in his own image.” We are His unique creations, made to create. We all have some form of creative, expressive, influential DNA, derived straight from the Creator of the Universe. We need to find where God is calling us to “create.” Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” To glorify Him and edify others.

While each new day is often compared to a blank canvas, I see it a little differently. A canvas, yes, but not a stark white one. Our God never slumbers, so each new day, there’s a picture in progress on the canvas, a story unfolding. We only need to look for Jesus’ hand and join in where He’s already at work. John 5:19 says “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

IMG_1289When I was little I felt tremendous joy in a fresh box of crayons. I still remember the smell and those neat little points! I’ve loved writing and painting all my life. They have always drawn me in and offered me great expression. Rest and peace. But there have been many years where I haven’t painted at all.

After 7th grade, I dropped art class for more rigorous academics. Places I believed could lead me to success and reward. I decided painting was frivolous child’s play. My juvenile assessment persisted into adulthood. Art was for personal enjoyment.  Leisure after the important things were done, or not at all. My painting served no real purpose, unless I could be really amazing — a profitable artist or master of my trade.

IMG_1288God is changing my point of view. Today I not only value creative expression, but believe no one is living completely as God desires them to unless they value their creative niche, and risk sharing their God appointed art form with others.

God is using painting in my life in important ways.

Recently, we removed a rarely used pool table and turned our pool room into a TV room.  With all those windows, there was too much glare by day and a fish bowl effect by night. And really — who needs multiple sitting rooms? With no more practical uses, I timidly suggested maybe I might paint more if I had a space I could keep “messy.” A studio? And all that natural light made the pool room perfect.

IMG_1122We transformed it, and like many a white canvas, it remained untouched. The shelves were loaded with brushes, art books, canvases and paint… but the artist was not present.

Consumed by what felt urgent, critical, and mine to accomplish, my life’s pace just wasn’t compatible with creativity. Despite helping, going and doing, I felt guilty and inept. I tried hard, but it was never enough — and I was instead being controlled and consumed by my trials… by life on this earth.

IMG_2831
my office

IMG_2832Then one day on a whim (and a prayer), I painted something. And right alongside my easel, the Potter began molding His clay, pliable and surrendered in His hands.

He is giving me new Life! A new purpose. After asking me to stop all my busyness and just be, He is beckoning me to His new plan. To work He has uniquely molded me to do (more later on that).

You are an ARTIST! I hope you have discovered a form of artistry that draws you completely into the present moment, as it temporarily drains away worldly concerns and distractions. A place to be vulnerable, authentic and raw.  Where you can lose yourself.

God led me back to painting… to teach me about His nature, expose a little more of my flesh, and to transform me for His glory. Artistry is good for that. It helps us embrace and engage fully — letting go of what’s broken and left undone.

IMG_1284Sharing my art requires me to be vulnerable. Trusting God in all the details as I rest, slow down, fill my cup and make time for Him. This “frivolous” creating has allowed God the space to teach me a little more about His desires for me and where He truly wants me to join Him in His work.

Like Eric Lidell said in “Chariot’s of Fire, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  God gave me a love of painting… and when I paint, I feel His presence and His pleasure. It has less to do with what I produce on the canvas than the freedom and the abundant life He offers, as I become more fully “me.”

Matthew 11:29-30 sheds some light: “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” (emphasis mine).

IMG_1228Are you drowning in pressure? Do you believe you’re made in the image of God and as such, an artist? Could acknowledging whatever art form God has place in your heart help you gain His Holy perspective?

I hope you have something that provides in-the-moment creative joy in your life. If not, ask God to reveal His gift to you. Then look for where He is already at work, and calling you to join in His creation. Pick up your “paintbrush,” choose your favorite color and go to work with Him on the canvas He has waiting for your contribution.

IMG_1262“To me, the purpose of the arts is to introduce people to life in all its breadth and complexity and thereby to find oneself, others, the world and God more fully.” Gary Collins

Please share through the social media buttons at the bottom of the page. If you’d like to receive future posts by email, let me know in the comments below. Or you can join the Pink Reflections  Facebook community. Thank you!