Category Archives: Live like you are dying

Creating a Fulfilling Life (Again) when You’re an Empty Nester

My beach porch is my sanctuary. God has met me here so many times… with dolphin shows, storms, gentle breezes, the artistry of a rainbow and the sunsets I so enjoy. Here I’ve received frequent guidance for life’s decisions (it’s where He told me to go to seminary). It’s where I’ve felt His love most deeply.IMG_0036

A few weeks ago some friends walked along the water with their dogs, and maybe it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, but I knew all at once, “It’s time.”

I looked over at Rob and said, “I think I’m ready for a dog.”

Not only has our nest emptied of children, but my home has reduced from an all time high of 3 dogs and two cats to a pet-less last year and a half. We thought we would be practical and wait 15 years or so to get a dog. You know, whenever life slows down and it’s more convenient… we travel a good bit and finally have no commitments or responsibilities at home. We’re foot-loose and fancy free to do whatever we want, whenever we want… but is that what life is really about?

IMG_2066Rob agreed and we quickly moved on to the bigger question: “One or two?” May I introduce Noah and Bristol?! 🙂

It became clear to me in watching our friends, that despite all the reasons it doesn’t make sense, they live more fully and abundantly for going to the trouble to fit their furry friends into their lives.

Noah and Bristol are adorable and HIGH maintenance Springer Spaniels. Every reason we shouldn’t have gotten a dog has already come to pass in just one week… we planned a get away for our anniversary, only to realize after a few days — we can’t leave the dogs, yet! They are messy (one threw up in my 4-day-old car, day 1), slow us down, demand attention and need training. However, I am already in love and wouldn’t trade them for the world!

Dogs aren’t everyone’s thing; and this post isn’t about pets per se — or even particularly about midlife empty nesters (that’s just where I happen to be). It is about letting go of fear, convenience, practicality, cultural norms, maybe your pity party or regrets, tidiness, the past or whatever hinders you from MOVING FORWARD from your present “you are here” red dot and into the abundant future God has planned for you.

IMG_1441Life is full of twists and turns. I used to dread the unknown and the inevitable changes that ushered me there. God is teaching me not only to embrace changing seasons, but to relish them. To move forward confidently — not because I have all the answers or know how things will play out, but because my God is Sovereign, and He loves me.

He is worthy of my trust which allows me to live into His peace and abundance — whatever happens. I haven’t written many posts in 2016, because my goal is to share what God is doing and teaching me in my life. Well — I’ve been way too “in process” to put it out there in cyberspace.

Dogs aren’t the only recent change in my life. In the midst of loving my parents, planning two weddings, painting, writing and now the puppies, I am studying to be a certified Christian life coach — I’m starting a new coaching business this fall. Crazy, I know. Maybe even “dangerous.” But like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, our God isn’t safe, but He is always good.

IMG_2136Sure the old trepidation sneaks in (it was even hard for me to publicly commit here to doing this)… but more importantly, I feel alive again. I have a hope and a future beyond being a full-time mom and homemaker  (beautiful roles from another season — from my past). I always dreamed and planned for school, for marriage, for children… and maybe even a distant “old-age.” But I never had a vision for this mid-life, empty nesting stage. Now I do. I’m even thinking Noah and Bristol might be service dogs… (dream BIG — whatever passion God places in your heart).

God is so graciously connecting the dots and guiding my way. Jeremiah 29:11-13 are some of my favorite verses: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

IMG_0756God gives us desires, gifts and a purpose. I was reminded in class that it’s our choice whether we use what He offers us or play it safe and just rock along. But it’s all irrevocably ours and He will hold us accountable one day. I don’t want to leave untapped that which He created me for and intends for me to use for His Glory. That’s why I can enter these exciting changes and all the surrounding unknowns in my life not only with confidence but with compelling gladness. I was made for this!

Outcomes aren’t all up to me.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12 :9). And Philippians 4:19  promises, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

IMG_1557Proverbs 20:5 is my vision as I rely on prayer and the wisdom only God can supply for my coaching practice. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” That insight will be supplied by God, if it’s His will that I do this. 

Because many have asked — coaching is different from counseling which valuably helps people cope with disruptive and painful problems from their past and heal what’s wrong in their lives to find stability.

IMG_2089Coaching looks forward. It’s a discovery process toward developing growth and potential. It’s more about building inherent strengths than overcoming. It’s not directive or about the coach’s expertise, but more about a partnership where the coach manages the journey by listening selflessly and asking skilled questions that guide another to set their own fulfilling agenda. Coaches help you think out of the box, and get “unstuck” or see a new vision that enhances life. Clients discover where they are and how to move from there to whatever and wherever God wants them to be. It’s the claim of John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s what we are made for — all of our days.

Henry David Thoreau ominously wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation…But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

IMG_1787As Christians we don’t need to share in this tragedy. Our God has a plan for each of His children (in every season of life) and calls us to cooperate with Him. Uniquely suited to our gifts, experiences and the desires He has placed in our hearts, the plans and purpose He has for us are assured. And they comprise our best life.  In Him we can find our confidence to embrace future change and movement with joy and thanksgiving. Sometimes we just need a little help from a friend.

Let’s bring on the puppies or whatever adventures, plans and passions He has for our tomorrows. JUST GO FOR IT!

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A Midlife Prayer Offered in the Middle of the Night

***I took this post down yesterday, so that I could add a few explanatory thoughts that might be helpful if this seems “heavy.”  This is a real prayer first written in my journal – just between God and me. Friends have asked me how to pray — to have a personal relationship with Jesus. There are many answers. I decided to share one intimate prayer of my own.

I posted this with a lightness of heart and spirit only God can provide. He showed me that while the backside of life and the empty nest require a lot of letting go, it’s not predominantly about loss but change. And that there is value and purpose NOW – especially growing more like Jesus, which means more like myself every day. This half (including a few tears) is a wonderful gift we can slowly unwrap and savor until we understand fully what’s at its center (spoiler alert: it’s Jesus).

My blogs often involve being vulnerable and allowing others a view into my heart. My prayer below is a glimpse of a small fragment of my prayer-life — which is filled with honesty, love and joy.  Please read this noticing how God moved me from acknowledging my fear (the world tempts us all with its ways) to victory and joy. To Him be the Glory!***

The response to moms at midlife was humbling. My husband said men experience similar emotions and told me he wanted to read more… for me to answer so what now?

I don’t know. I’m not there yet. God’s still working out His plan and asking me to share my journey as it unfolds. The vulnerability  that requires is scarier than the actual experience. But God has never disappointed me when I listen and obey Him.

IMG_0176I’m no longer at home in my “normal” life. I usually sleep well, but restless, I started to pray this morning around 3 am.

Dear Jesus, I’m scared. I’m not sure who I am or what I’m doing — but I’m pretty sure I’m off-track. Something feels wrong. I need Your help.

I’m thinking about my children and the details of their lives; You are good. I’m worried about my parents, our business; You are sovereign. My neck hurts and doctors have no answers; You are my Healer…

I’m quickly recognizing that I’m more focused on circumstances than Your character and faithfulness. I’m not trusting You. Why can’t I hang on to what I know to be true? I know You use all things for good – I’ve lived it. Yet, I feel stress, unrest and fear.  Is this something you can work with?

IMG_5919You say Your strength is made perfect in my weakness — I am ripe for the pickin. I know myself to be less strong, less in control, less knowledgable, less proud, less attractive, less useful… than I ever thought before.

I’m 50 years old and often don’t know what to do, and don’t do what I know is right. My head knowledge masquerades as faith, while my heart so often doubts the Truth. I don’t feel as together as I thought I would at 50.

I conformed to this world’s idolatrous bill of goods instead of believing Your Word alone. How ridiculous that I thought life was about events, accomplishments and circumstances I could piece together and control — instead of about You. Instead of fearing You, I’ve put you in a box I could understand, and built a life around that. It turns out it was a house of cards… and what has proven to be truly meaningful in my life is all about You, relationships and love.

IMG_1059I naively thought if I checked the boxes, did my best (or at least followed conventional wisdom), life would look a certain way. Today’s reality wasn’t my vision. In fact, this whole in-between stage was never on my radar. I’m totally caught off guard. My present life is a blank slate of sorts. Maybe that’s how you want it?

I know it sounds dumb — and it was — but I didn’t anticipate my body beginning to ache, pooch and wrinkle. Not yet. I believed in my parent’s immortality, too. I thought if I was a great mom I could protect my children, and they wouldn’t have to learn things the hard way as I did. It’s difficult letting go of what was and what was supposed to be, even though I know you love us all more than I can comprehend.

I took the financial climate of the 80s and 90s for granted, and let it offer me security. It’s obvious now that the global economy is fragile, and my trust was misplaced. You are my only real supply. And you offer abundance.

I’ve been surprised by the many troubles I’ve encountered in a fallen world, even though you gave me fair warning. I thought people were basically good and life would constantly get easier. I believed in arriving at some greener patch of grass — just around the bend. You are teaching me to lose entitlement and live in consuming gratitude — usually my best lessons have come in the midst of storms.

IMG_4167I welcomed the freedom of living in the United States and felt sorry for people in many other nations. “They” were the ones we send prayers, money and missionaries to. I never dreamed of terrorism on our soil or of Christians being persecuted here. I fear it’s only the beginning. I never thought I would really have to suffer for You.  Listening to the news is beginning to humble me;  I want to be courageous and honor Your Name, if that’s where You lead me.

Jesus, forgive me. I haven’t been humbled nearly enough by your completed work on the cross. Or overwhelmed by your love for me. I haven’t feared you. I’ve often asked You to bless my own desires, then been surprised by unfavorable outcomes. I haven’t understood my sin or taken it as seriously as You did. I still condemn myself instead of fully accepting your forgiveness and freedom.  You are teaching me more and more about the magnitude of Your Grace, Glory and Majesty.

IMG_0747I can talk a good game, Jesus, but I want to walk your walk. Drink from your cup. I know how earthbound my heart is. My hope is in YOU Lord, but this world’s promises tempt and distract me. You are wooing me to be still at your side. To prayer and listening.

I see You in it all, Lord. Before me, behind me, holding me, guiding me. This season is a gift, isn’t it? Thank you!

Forgive me for resisting it. Keep teaching me what it looks like to repent. To turn toward You. Jesus, here I am at 50, a hot-flashing mess of a child. But I’m Your child and heir, and you love me. I desperately want You, despite my selfish ways. You will never leave me. You want to bless me with abundant Life.

IMG_1324My hands are open, Lord. Take what I need to let go of.  Fill me with your Spirit. Teach me what it means to let You carry my burdens. Your yoke is light. Teach me how to love my neighbors well and how to be a friend who loves at all times.

Lord you are dissipating today’s stress and fear and replacing them with hope. I am closer to You than ever before. You are my Life. My changing body is clay in Your hands. Mold me into whatever vessel pleases you. I want to reflect You.

Thank you for this unique season where the noise is a little less and distractions more negotiable. I have ample time to pray; Lord give me discipline and desire for You. I want to hear Your voice.

Jesus, I sense this second half of life is less about loss than I thought. “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” You are actively working in my life. As long as I surrender my will, each day I will more closely resemble the woman you created me to be. I’ll be a little more like Jesus.

IMG_1840Give me patience in the journey. Sometimes I just want to be home with You. The joy of the Lord is my strength! Fill me to overflowing. I’ll trust You and lean not on my understanding. With You all things are possible. I will not fear for You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Teach me to trust Your Word, not my fickle feelings.

It’s a bold prayer offered in total weakness, Jesus. I’m trusting You to have Your way in my life and to help me remain focused on You. You knew this was how 50 would look on me. You began a good work in me and by grace through faith, You promise to finish it.

Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Live Like You were Dying or My Life is in YOU, Lord

IMG_0720Not long after high school my boyfriend and I were floating on rafts about 100 feet off shore when we saw a huge dorsal fin. “Jaws” had come out not long before; I truly thought I was about to die.

I was a believer, so I called out to Jesus, right? Nope. My near death thoughts surprised even me. I still remember a vivid moment of regret — wishing I had experienced a little more of what this world had to offer, instead of dying young, naive and well-behaved.

When death feels imminent, we get honest about who we are, what we believe, and what we really want. That day God exposed all the worldly idolatry that gripped my good-girl heart.

IMG_0756Recently my Bible study group had the privilege of meeting with a friend who has stage 4 cancer. He’s lived well past his prognosis — shifting between cities, doctors and treatments in an Herculean effort to beat the odds one more time. I highly encourage you to read his story and all God is doing through it in his excellent blog.

He doesn’t accept the cancer pass on doing good deeds that the world offers him, but strives to live well and serve others. Jesus is his life, and life is more precious to him than ever.

His joy is evident as he tells stories, preaches, teaches and generally blesses everyone God places in his path. He’s honest, humble, vulnerable, wise, loving and possibly more fully alive than anyone I know. Despite cancer, it seems he’s having fun! I’m still mulling over thoughts from my morning with Ed.

I’ve been wondering: Why are all of us not living more like Ed? Death is everyone’s imminent reality. We may not make it until bedtime or we could live to be 100. Regardless, our time on earth is finite and fleeting as compared to eternity.

What is my day-to-day life saying about who I worship? Why am I not more vulnerable, grateful, bold, joyful and in love with Jesus? Why should I be trusting in anything but Him? Why do I think I can “live like I was dying” at any time but the present?

IMG_0609The idea that I allow anything to trump God as the center of my devotion is horrifying. Yet I’m afraid my flesh is still much like it was that day with the shark. At 18, I had goals to accomplish and experience. Prayer meant asking His blessings on my plans and ideas.

Now I’m 50. Do I still want to do things my way? To follow the world’s prescriptions?  Do other people and things feel more urgent and important than the God who created me and loves me? Am I consistently trusting in Jesus or is my flesh finding its security elsewhere?

Despite God’s work in my heart,  I frequently mess up my priorities. I know the Truth from experience — that God is my sufficiency, my joy and my first love. But it takes my intentional daily surrender in time spent with Him for me to live in this Truth. Sadly, I don’t always give Him the time I want to —

IMG_0973-225x300Unchecked, my flesh still believes the lies that say life is found in all that brings comfort, ease and enjoyment. I chase after the good this world offers with all my heart, soul, strength and mind — and fit Jesus in as often as I can. No matter how often I pray, my priorities say my full devotion to God is saved for the proverbial “tomorrow,” after I’ve consumed all I can, and things aren’t so busy and pressing.

The Bible calls my problem idolatry. Colossians 3:5-6 says “Put to death what is earthly in you, sexual immorality, impurity, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” 

Idolatry can also describe things that are originally good gifts from God.  When placed ahead of our devotion to God, even a spouse, children or parents, school, ambitions, church service, jobs, friends, homes, health — anything becomes an idol if it trumps God in achieving our devotion and attention.

IMG_0176God’s jealousy is righteous. John Piper teaches that God deserves our deepest affections and admiration.  His is also “a loving jealousy, because we were made to find our greatest joy when He is our greatest treasure… if we find God to be so boring or so negligible that we must put other things in his place that really satisfy us more than he does, then we not only offend him, but we also destroy ourselves. And those two things make God angry…  And idolatry contradicts both of those things and so his wrath comes upon the idolater.”

At Christmas, we celebrate something mind blowing — the most powerful and joyous event ever! The Creator of the universe left His perfect heaven, became a baby who grew into a man — fully God and fully human.  A man who lived a holy life,  suffered and died. Why would He do this?

IMG_1358Jesus came to save us from ourselves, our sins and idolatry. He not only asks that we live like we are dying but that we DO DIE to ourselves, so that we may really live — today! Here on earth. Jesus deserves my first fruits of time, attention and love — without any close seconds. He asks that I put nothing before Him for any reason. Can we turn from our idolatry and give Jesus the gift of our love and devotion this Christmas, before and above anything else? Can we tell Him, Jesus, You are my Life?

Luke 9:23 – And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Galatians 5:24 – And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Mark 8:35 – For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

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