Category Archives: loneliness

Mid-life Mom… Who am I and What am I to Do?

What happened to my flowers?!?


We went to the beach in the midst of a beautiful Tallahassee spring. My yard was full of color and promise; azaleas, Japanese Magnolias and Dogwood were splendid with blooms! Less than 48 hours later, the flowers of “spring,” certainly the shortest season in North Florida, were all but gone.

Pictures of the same Japanese Magnolia taken just days apart


Spring’s promise is being fulfilled too quickly for my tastes. It seems the transition happens overnight, as one day we wake up to the full-on green of summer’s heat. Cycles of change are inevitable in nature and in the lives of individuals — in my life.

I remember my mom saying each year passes more swiftly than the last. It made no sense to me as a child enduring the seeming eternity between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But today I agree with the generations before me. “Tempus do fugit,” as Granny liked to say agreeing with Mom; time flies.

I said in my last post I would write about “His continuing work of grace in my heart.” The time stamp says it was a month ago — I would have guessed 10 days. Barbara Bush had a quote about the life of young mothers being comprised of “long days and short years.” It’s so true! And for this 50-year old empty nester, this month has been similar. I am a mother without a child.

IMG_1317Lately I feel like a misfit: a stranger in my own body and mind — lost and confused. Something akin to the insecurity of adolescence when we are children in increasingly adult bodies, I am a searching version of my past self, with obviously aging skin, bones and muscles.  The real me feels invisible in a crowded room.

With incessant digital capturing, I’m shocked at images of my middle-aged face and form —  so drastically different from the athletic, unwrinkled woman inside. This matronly version of myself is not one I easily appreciate. And my mind? The forgetfulness, the confusion and unrest. Not knowing what’s next or what to do? Who am I?

In the little time my youthful self spent thinking about midlife, my current reality was not a part of my imaginings. Midlife crisis doesn’t fit because it implies recklessness and chaos. I don’t want to dismantle what I spent a lifetime building.  Yet something tells me, even as Rob and I are creating a second infrastructure with “family” in mind, I need to face the truth that the old is falling away like the blooms of spring, and new growth is happening without my permission — it’s time to embrace it!

We are blessed and grateful that our children come home fairly often. But nothing is as it once was, and their departures back to their “real” homes always loom. Each good bye is a reminder that the full-time mom season is over.

IMG_1211I get up at 6:30 and begin my morning rituals — but why? I could kiss Rob good bye and sleep a bit more. Most days, I have no where I need to be and no one who is counting on me.

The remaining tasks still available from my stay-at-home-mom days leave me feeling empty. I used to create our family life, full of friends and activity. All that went into homemaking and being mom was fulfilling and gave me great joy. A place and a purpose.

Whether at work or at home, I’ve managed to “busy myself” through the days, even productively sometimes. Then, Rob and I continue the old nighttime patterns, as if we still need to be home weeknights — a rut of sorts.

Recently, I wandered around Fresh Market, departed and drove to Publix — pushing a shopping cart again, but collecting only a bag of grated cheese (I later returned it and left empty handed). The futility of my leftover routine overcame me. We laughed and enjoyed a night out.

I try really hard to live in the present, but I often carry the grief of moments gone. Sweet memories of times fully lived and the regrets of opportunities lost. Recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with longing for my familiar and imperfect but beautiful past life as a bustling family.

IMG_0269God has met me in these last weeks, full of grace and compassion. The funeral of a 90-year old family friend who lived exceptionally well gave me glimpses of my own finish line, my obituary. Thirty, forty fifty… they came so fast. I never really considered life beyond my little “family.” But I am here and God-willing, I have 25-30+ more years. I want to live well and age gracefully.

Psalm 92:14 says, “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.”

Everything in my life is fair game to offer for examination. To retain if still useful or to remove if outdated. I want to make room for God’s continuing plans and purpose for me. I feel more urgency to share His love. To engage others. More intentional and thoughtful about my steps than before, when doing all the things that made up my days was enough. Now I’m spending a lot more time praying, being still, and listening.

My conversations tell me I’m not alone in this unsettling stage — struggling to loosen my grip both on what always was and on what I thought would be. Wondering if I have the courage to create something new and to claim the life God has for me now.

IMG_4230At 50 I’m living the backside of what I always thought of as my “future.” My goal is to keep my eyes and my heart on God whose grace is eternal and whose work in me will continue until he brings me home.

Something inside whispers that being busy is not the same as being fully alive — and that I have a lot to look forward to, as each day I surrender to being more of who God made me to be. The great thing about the passing years is we get to hang on to every age, as we build on all God accomplishes in each season we are His child.

Isaiah 46:4 says “Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.”

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EVERY Moment is REAL

In this blog I do my best not to tidy up the stories of my life. I try to be tastefully honest and thoroughly authentic. It’s hard enough making our way — we don’t need to live under the illusion that every body else has it all together and figured out. 

IMG_1049My writing isn’t meant to be advice for Christian living — many others are much better resources for that. I’m a stumbling, searching, developing, grateful sojourner. Someone trying not to be churchy, but to know and love Jesus and to follow His purpose for my life.

I don’t think we reach our destination this side of heaven, but to persevere on the journey of seeking God, keeping Him first, and following His will is important. Otherwise put — I feel the tension between what the Bible says and how my cushy story reads.

I’m committed to change, struggle and sacrifice as God leads. I want to discover what my part is in God’s kingdom on earth. I’ve lived with Him enough to know it’s SO worth it when I follow Him. He is faithful to restore and renew all I offer to Him — and in surrender I’ve found a joy I never knew before — and I want to share that!

IMG_0057Culturally, it’s not always acceptable to reveal our hearts to others. We find it difficult to be ourselves because we’d prefer to be popular and successful than risk possible rejection by being REAL.  When we encounter genuine self-disclosure and sincerity, we take notice — like a person’s profound last words. It’s expected we’ll be emotional and wax philosophical from our death beds. My challenge: why wait until old-age or tragedy hits to get real with others?

Even after many edits to my blogs, it’s difficult to publish. It’s even harder to put myself out there in REAL life. Usually God’s refining work isn’t accomplish when I’m strong and competent.  God molds me at my lowest, ugliest, most difficult moments — where He can work miracles attributable to none other than His hand. I offer my stories, because sometimes it’s easier to relate to a fellow hot-mess than an authority on a subject.

It would be horrible for us to think that we’e the only ones who sometimes feel left out or lonely. Incompetent, unloved, frumpy, tired, or like we’re too much and too little all at once. That we’re way too busy, but haven’t done nearly enough. Insecure and unsure, even fearful at times about so many things. To think that we are unique in our doubt and struggles would be so discouraging and useless.

IMG_0246Let me digress a moment to say it’s just as important to share the triumphs, joy, hope and peace God offers us as it is to share the valleys. BOTH exist in every journey, and both are  REAL moments to be lived and shared to the Glory of God.

Just as we hide our weaknesses, we also tend to be too embarrassed to admit the gifts God gives us and the transformational work He accomplishes in us. We’re afraid people will think we’re arrogant if we acknowledge God’s healing in our sin and brokenness. Or worse, we forget the work and blessings of God are all grace, and we take credit ourselves — then project false modesty. Neither is very God-honoring, attractive, or helpful in encouraging others.

We all struggle sometimes, both in hardships and blessings. We aren’t always graceful and merciful to ourselves (or others) in the midst of them. Instead, we often judge too quickly and hide our neediness so deeply that our hearts are never healed by God nor are our experiences helpful to others.

stained glass in church in Greece
stained glass in church in Greece

When we ignore, hoard or bury the real moments of life that don’t suit the image of ourselves we want to believe and project, we playact. We build glass sets representing our beliefs about what life should be, and by wearing masks and costumes we carefully orchestrate what the world sees through our walls. We even believe our own scripts.

We cheat ourselves and those whose company is entrusted to us of the encouragement, hope, empathy and compassion that comes from living and sharing real lives. Only in the truth of the present moment can we love God and one another.

Just last week I forgot my identity: fully accepted and worthy in Christ. I forgot He loves me just as I am, and that I can rest secure that He’ll provide all I need to accomplish His will. I forgot I live to please an audience of one —

IMG_3657I felt insecure and self-conscious, so I tried to cover up by getting dressed up. I worked really hard on my hair and make up. I made three different wardrobe changes, chose one, and then started all over again to match a better pair of shoes. I wanted to look just so: stylishly hip and together — why?

Girl’s night. I don’t know about you, but I can be the very least sure of myself in the presence of a group of women — Christians or not.  I felt so much pressure to impress, fit in and even to appear “Godly.” To look more appealing and together than I am. I thought I needed to be an attractive Christian  in order to represent Jesus well (embarrassing and laughable, I know).

I left home knowing I definitely wasn’t rocking my “costume.” I was reluctant to go, quite certain the “real me” was fully exposed and on display. My flesh was ugly, self-serving and ridiculous.

Thankfully, I came out of hiding, and low key me fit in fine with these beautiful and gracious women. We laughed and shared our experiences with menopause, teen-aged mean girls (young actresses) and our stressed-out schedules. We talked about the current highs and lows of our families. We shared REAL life in the moment. I think Jesus was glad, and he’ll further develop relationships or not as he sees fit.

IMG_0447We all desire community like this. To matter to the ones who matter to us. The ones we risk to show our real selves to in the unrehearsed and un-edited moments of life. That night we were authentic. As a result, I left dinner feeling renewed. That gathering wasn’t a coincidence but a life-giving gift and lesson from God, and I almost blew it trying to make it something else.

Why don’t we approach all of life’s social interactions as a gift and opportunity? I think  that taunting voice that begins somewhere in our pre-teen years plays a role. It reminds us of every time we were excluded or ignored.  It says we aren’t quite right for the in-crowd, and tells us some others aren’t quite right for us. We panic, because we were created in the image of God for community.

What if instead of conforming and chasing our agendas, we looked for real moments of focused presence with the people God places in our daily paths. Why not invest in rich community with them — even if briefly? The truth is we’re all left out of some things — but that’s only half the story. As Christians, we are also members of the most wonderful, exciting, joyful body on earth — and we’re commanded to encourage one another and invite others to join us.

IMG_0410Having the courage to honestly connect is often the first step toward obeying the Great Commission. It means risking being real, which invites rejection. We have to care enough about a hurting world to listen. Empathize. Serve. Encourage.  We earn the right through honest realationship to share our stories and the Gospel with others who don’t know Him.

We have to be courageous enough to admit that we’re no better or more together in our flesh than the next person. To give Jesus credit for everything good in us or done through us… And then to leave the reactions of others and all the results and glory to God.

We know we bring nothing to God but our sin, and that we’re saved by divine grace. When I let that truth really soak in, I am amazed by His mercy and less caught up in myself. I want to encourage others and offer them the same hope Jesus gives me. God made us to need each other. The REAL you and the REAL me  sharing REAL moments together.

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Tired of Today’s Crazy Daze? — “Olden days” Answers from Granny’s Abundant Life

IMG_0682I wish I could chat on the back porch or pick vegetables in the garden again with this beautiful lady.  She was 70 when I was born. Until the last couple years of her life (she lived to be 107.5), I never thought of her as  old — she was simply Granny, and I loved her with all my heart. Everyone who knew her did.

One of the last times I saw Granny, she asked if I had rose bushes — she thought I should. Sadly, I couldn’t say yes.  At the time, I thought I was too busy  to spend much time in the yard. My gardening wasn’t in the same league as hers — or my beautiful mother’s.

Now I’m an empty nester, and I know there’s much to learn from Granny — her life, her  dinner table, garden and her roses — and that just maybe, I should have made time to apply the values, priorities and principles I so admired– even way back when I had young children. It’s never too late to learn worthy things from a life well lived.

Granny hadn’t been  widowed very long when I was born. I’m sure she was lonely sometimes, but it wasn’t apparent to me. People were always at her house; she was vibrant, interesting and overflowing with love and caring. She didn’t let her struggles define her.  I never heard many complaints about her own circumstances or the actions of others. To the contrary, there was a contentment about her that was very appealing. Even in the challenges of her later years, there was a graciousness about Granny that allowed her to accept her limitations with humor and peace.

still in school at 102
still in school at 102

A teacher at heart, she was well into her 90s when she volunteered to read at the elementary school.  I’m sure she never thought of herself as “old on the inside.” Certainly not as obsolete or without value and purpose. Kid’s from all over town called her Granny — and loved her. I think they knew she sincerely cared for and enjoyed each one of them.

I always felt that way too. She wrote me regular letters in college, and when I moved nearby as an adult, she lovingly gave love and garden memories to my children and all their generation. She valued the simple things and lived a full  life, much of it doing what others might consider mundane tasks. Her attitude and the joy she brought to her chores made them the heart of a beautiful life.

She cooked a big “dinner” (the noon meal) almost everyday and always had a table full of lively guests to enjoy fresh vegetables from her garden, cornbread, sweet tea… Everything was full of flavor — never lacking in protein, carbs or fat. Granny was back and forth to the kitchen — one of the most serving people I’ve ever known, but not in a “Martha” kind of way. Granny was a deliberate and attentive “Mary,” and time with her never felt rushed or stressful.

Granny's dining room and roses
Granny’s dining room and roses

Whether on the back porch with it’s chearful oil cloth and box fans or in the dining room with sterling silver and her best china and linens, dinner was about being together — often visiting for an hour or so after dessert. We were in south Georgia without air conditioning, but it’s  funny, I’ve never associated being hot with Granny’s house. I’m sure I was hot, it just wasn’t significant enough to remember.

Her house was big and rambling on small town Broad Street. When I would visit, I would let myself in the front door (which had no lock) and call out as I walked toward the kitchen. If she wasn’t there, I went right out the squeaky back door and into Granny’s garden.  As a little girl, I thought her whole house and especially the back yard was a magical place… and I never grew out of that feeling.

I can see her now — doubled over working in a sleeveless, cotton dress (she never owned a pair of pants), yard shoes, and a baseball cap to shield the sun. She’d look up and push away wisps of curly hair that spilled from her bun (she never cut her hair either). She would smile like I had made her whole day by visiting.  I was never an interruption, despite her earnest work. She made me feel special, loved and wanted — and she always encouraged me in all my activities.

IMG_0673There were all sorts of  vegetables in her garden, but  her roses… they were her pride and joy.

In the days when weddings were in churches and receptions in the fellowship hall, Granny provided buckets of roses for many a bride.

Toward the end of her life, Florida State asked her to ride in the homecoming parade, as the oldest living graduate of FSU (FSCW in her day). Always humble, she declined, and they sent her a beautiful arrangement — roses, of course. During one of our last visits, she tenderly reminisced about how much TLC roses need and the privilege and rewards of tending them. Another curious thing — I don’t remember there being a lot of roses in her house; I think she gave most of them away.

IMG_0677She was a smartsimple, humble, beautiful woman. She loved Jesus and read her Bible — but didn’t preach or wear her religion on her sleeve; it was a natural part of all she was.  She lived her faith and shared His love. She loved His creation and walked and talked with God in their garden.

She read books, kept up with the news, had hobbies and loved her family. But the purpose of everything she was, learned and did seemed to be to give it away. She was active in civic clubs and the church, but much of her philanthropy was unofficial and without a tax deduction — simply loving and serving whoever God entrusted to her by putting them in her life.

IMG_0684Granny never flew on a plane or saw anything outside of driving distance. She worked hard, but never “worked out” or “counted calories and carbs.” She drank a touch of wine when it was offered but didn’t take vitamins or drink green shakes. She ate small meals throughout the day and stayed actively engaged in life right up to the end.

She never dyed her hair or had a professional mani-pedi. In my memory, she didn’t wear a stitch of makeup, and her dresses were not the latest fashions. She was ahead of her time in not liking stockings. Her legs usually had scratches from the garden and her face was wrinkled with laugh lines. Yet — without any qualifiers — I think all who knew her would call Granny beautiful and her life abundant.

Remembering Granny, I think maybe we spend too much time today searching for ways to reduce our wrinkles, waistlines,  gray hairs, and discomfort. And trying to increase our lifespans, our “friend” lists, leisure, and wardrobes. Maybe the good life is simpler and a whole lot more than what the world says we should go after. Granny certainly proves the most beautiful part of any woman is found in seeing her heart and soul.

IMG_0686The olden days are attractive to a lot of us — hence the popularity of magazines like Real Simple and the trend toward minimizing. But the reality is that times are different. I’m not suggesting we garden in skirts, avoid airplanes and throw out all our makeup!  It’s worth noting that adapting to changing times is an important indicator for happiness and longevity. Granny’s life span included a lot of acclimating and re-acclimating. Nor should we start saving bacon grease to season our veggies or shun modern medical advancements. I bet Granny would use olive oil today, too.

But could it be that we give the common idols of today’s popular culture way too much time and attention? Are we running so hard and trying to do and be so much in our crazy busy world that we have no time for other people?

IMG_0680What can we learn from all the beautiful people (past and present, of all ages) who model abundant life? I think they share many traits (in bold above) with my Granny — traits we can emulate and intentionally develop when we slow down — resist following the culture of the day —  and seek real relationships, beauty and abundant life.

 The hymn to sing at Granny’s funeral was easy — In the Garden by Charles A Miles

  1. I come to the garden alone,
    While the dew is still on the roses,
    And the voice I hear falling on my ear
    The Son of God discloses.

    • Refrain:
      And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
      And He tells me I am His own;
      And the joy we share as we tarry there,
      None other has ever known.
  2. He speaks, and the sound of His voice
    Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
    And the melody that He gave to me
    Within my heart is ringing.
  3. I’d stay in the garden with Him,
    Though the night around me be falling,
    But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
    His voice to me is calling.


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