Category Archives: sandwich generation

Changing Christmas: A Midlife Mom’s Musings

IMG_1015I was excited to listen to a Christmas CD I just received and popped it in the player to set a festive and worshipful mood for my work. Rob was outside in “Santa’s workshop.” The happy “trappings and trimmings” of preparing for a full house at Christmas were all around me. I love Christmas — all of it!

Suddenly, waves of raw emotion crashed my world without warning or fanfare. One minute I’m sweeping up needles, wrapping presents and arranging holly. The next I’m choked up with tears that won’t flow. Enveloped by a menagerie of sentiments and feelings I can’t identify, much less express. My soul is instantly weary.

I notice the CD player (despite greeting me with “hello”) never started playing… I curl up on the sofa with whatever devotionals my email and facebook offer me. Searching the Bible seems like too much. The joy of a beautiful Sunday is suddenly sucked out of me.

IMG_1024When Rob comes in, I first think it’s something he said earlier that has me upset… as we talk, it becomes obvious that’s not “the thing.” Rob is patient to let me talk my way to discovering what I am feeling.

It’s not one thing… more just that the floodgates can’t contain the emotions surrounding all the change in my life. Consequently, this Christmas has taken a life of its own in my head. I finally acknowledge this as a Christmas of major changes. Of “last times.” Of new territory. A Christmas to find courage to prepare for all that’s ahead — joys and sorrows.

IMG_1029Sigh. And I was so determined to joyfully just accept change and grow old with enviable grace. Seems I can’t just wish it into being. Like many seasons before it, it will be a process of reflection and work. Surrender and trust.

You know how people typically ask about your holiday plans as part of their greeting at Christmas? Well, I’ve been excitedly telling them, “I’ll have all my children home! And Mom and Dad will be here.” Then adding with mixed emotions and a forced smile — “maybe for the last time, at least for a while.”

I redouble my Christmas planning and efforts…  I want this to be a Christmas every one cherishes. What mom hasn’t gone overboard, trying to make the holiday extra special for one reason or the other?

IMG_1027We’ve added 2 more stockings to the mantel. In 2016 my boys will each marry a beautiful bride. It’s wonderful and exciting. But at the same time, it’s the end of an age. It’s the last time this Mama will have all my little babies waking up under my roof on Christmas morning. It’s akin to other milestones like the first day of school or a college graduation (we had another one of those last week too).

I’ve long known new families were starting and adult lives were budding — but graduations and “last times” punctuate and define what we already know to be true. They make it all real. Forever more, just as I’m gaining daughters, I’ll be sharing my sons. At times the house will be more full than ever. But I also recognize I’ll need to master the art of facetime connections as our family grows and spreads out. As generations shift.

Change is a constant throughout all our lives. In our youth and younger adult years, adaptation often involves growth, excitement and abundance. Midlife moms are blessed to participate in our adult children’s bounty.  But oftentimes we add to that the uncertainty that comes with loving our aging parents. I’m blessed to still have both my mom and dad.

Granny used to say, “Old age isn’t for sissies.” As our parents live out their “golden years,” it seems that many inevitable life alterations are of a limiting nature.

IMG_1030I’m flooded with so many fond childhood memories –Mom and Dad started a wonderful Christmas Eve Chile Party tradition when my sisters and I were young adults coming home for Christmas.  Of waking up to a delicious quail breakfast Christmas morning and huge extended family gatherings at Granny’s on Christmas night. Those days are over.

My mom and dad have already faced many holiday changes in adapting to the lives and schedules of their children. This year they will leave their quiet house to be with us for Christmas dinner. I want to make things special like Mama always did. I want them to feel so loved and joyful this Christmas…

Other friends and family come to mind. Imposed solitude, peace and quiet can feel a lot like lonely (click for post) to anyone. I’m heart-broken for all those who don’t anticipate this Christmas with childlike wonder — for whatever reason.

The ornaments, traditions and gatherings trigger memories that span a lifetime. They spawn other recollections… the good bring warmth and joy, but sometimes also melancholy with them. No one escapes pain entirely — and those impressions often yell louder than the sweet ones.

IMG_1031Aging parents, weddings, jobs, babies, holiday work shifts — all can disrupt. Midlife moms like me know both the joy of anticipation (will there soon be little ones on Christmas again?) and the ache of silently wondering which dining chairs will be empty next year. I’m so grateful for all who will be with us this Christmas and feel the pressure of wanting our celebration to be extra special — again this year.

But how? I’m better this morning, but have the remaining edge of yesterday’s funk. I made coffee in the Keurig, BEFORE situating a Christmas mug to contain it.  I haven’t figured out our Christmas Eve dinner plan. My shopping isn’t done.  And I’m out of ideas. I haven’t baked a thing and wonder if I will. The beds aren’t fresh and I’m running out of time and energy!

Then I happened on this verse and God grabbed my attention —

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

IMG_1028The answer is right there in the manger scenes scattered throughout my home. God — through Jesus — offers hope that heals, energizes and transforms us. He came for the sick. The broken-hearted. He came for you and me —

I know what I need to feel refreshed. I’m going now to hide away with God. My CD player may not always cooperate, but nothing can stop me from praising Him with everything I have left in me. His mercies will fail not — and I have full hope that He will give me all I need to celebrate my changing family and the birth of the Christ child with grace and thanksgiving.

Merry Christmas! May your heart be full with Him.

Addendum: the playlist I worshipped through had some great lyrics copied below about the One who never changes. God is so GOOD!

IMG_1034Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Great is thy Faithfulness, O God my Father,/ There is no shadow of turning with Thee/  Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not/ As Thou hast been Thou forever will be… Morning by morning new mercies I see/ All I have needed thy hand hath provided –/ Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

IMG_1035“And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then *I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, My God, how great thou art!”

IMG_1033O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born”
IMG_1036“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

  1. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
    I have already come;
    ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
    And grace will lead me home.
  2. The Lord has promised good to me,
    His Word my hope secures;
    He will my Shield and Portion be,
    As long as life endures.
  3. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
    And mortal life shall cease,
    I shall possess, within the veil,
    A life of joy and peace.”
IMG_1037“Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room…”
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Do you ever wish you could just hit the rewind button — and do it again, another way?

IMG_0283Last weekend I behaved poorly in response to people I love – and it caused us all avoidable pain and sorrow. There was a small issue I needed to deal with, but I didn’t pray first or take care to be kind and loving in my discussions and delivery (even though that would have best reflected my true emotions).

“Be gentle with one another, sensitive.” (Eph. 4:31) God’s gentleness was within me to tap into, but I forged ahead in my impatient  flesh and came across more harshly than I felt.

photo-113I was sick and tired, and just wanted to relay the information as quickly as possible – to minimize my own discomfort and responsibility. To selfishly unload the pain of the situation to another, even someone I love dearly, so I could be free of it. That’s how sinful and childish I can be on my own.  And it didn’t work very well.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)  How differently things might have gone had I stopped for a moment of humble prayer. I should have remembered Proverbs 15:1, A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

balancing pottery in Amalfi, Italy

My explanations for behaving poorly are plentiful: I have been sick for 3 weeks. I am exhausted from seemingly necessary travel and sandwich generation activities. Work has held many changes and long hours. There have been conflicts out of my control, where I’ve felt helpless and carried burdens with others. Many have demands on my time and resources, and I feel depleted. I’ve been away from home too much and just plain crazy busy. Is it all really necessary? Within His will? Do I need more planned neglect?

My excuses mean little to nothing to the ones I have hurt. To the ones I love. They also mean little to God – who says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) But I didn’t seek him first, and my flesh was exposed instead of His fruit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)

IMG_3841That same day, I also witnessed someone I love being treated unreasonably and hatefully. I was greatly upset with the one in the wrong, and my heart broke for the one hurt. This all occurred just before my own poor behavior. Even as an outsider very close to a situation, I saw everything more clearly and felt compassion and love. God has used the comparison to drive me to repentance.

I behaved with much more grace when I was a step removed; trusting God’s wisdom I didn’t enter an argument that was not mine. Solomon’s wisdom prevailed: “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (Proverbs 26:17)

IMG_06752 Timothy 2:24-26 says, Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.”

I have been  hearing God calling me to just love others. The word just here isn’t used to minimize “love,” but to eliminate all the other things I could do… rebuke, preach, teach, guide, judge, etc. This is especially true with my adult children. I want to give them the freedom to be themselves and discover who that is –- and feel love, acceptance and support from me. That’s what I feel, but not always what they feel from me. I’m not contradicting the Biblical wisdom  to speak the truth in love, when someone is clearly out of God’s will. I am emphasizing love.

IMG_1873I like the translation of Micah 6:8 in The Message, “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously, take God seriously.” (bold mine) This verse alone could have saved my family a lot of misery. Take God seriously, and be loyal (not selfish) in love.

The Bible has many words of wisdom I believe I need to live out in all my relationships with my family – siblings, adult children, and parents. And everyone else in my life, if I’m taking God seriously! A few verses that jumped off the page this morning.


“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

“ Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (Phillipians 4:5)

When I let my emotions, fatigue and circumstances lead the charge, I’m like a bull in a china shop, despite my best efforts.  I don’t even realize how I sound, but communication is the message received, not the one intended.  A pause for prayerful acknowledgment of Who is in charge and ultimately in control and responsible is always the right response. Then I can walk in who He says I am in Him — rather than my sinful, selfish flesh. My prayer is for more consistency in seeking Him first.

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”  (James 3:17)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn summary God says, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

The easy part now is asking forgiveness from those I have hurt.

the bright shop of another Louise, in Amalfi Italy
the bright shop of another Louise, in Positano, Italy

The hard part is forgiving myself. It’s easy for me to listen to the “soundtrack of shame” Steven Furtick describes in his book, The Chatterbox. I could berate and tear down myself, saying “you always screw things up. Why are you so weak? You know better! You will never change!” But I know that is self destructive, and not the whole story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s true I behaved outside of who I am in Christ, which always ends poorly. I don’t need to ignore or justify my sin. But I also need to allow the Holy Spirit to take away my guilt and restore me to redemption.

Thank you God, for grace and truth. And repentance… You have reminded me there is another way to live –with You — and it always leads from darkness to light.


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Bringing Young Life Camp to my “Daily Grind”

IMG_0237I don’t want to spoil any of the over-the-top surprises and wonders of Young Life Camp for future high school-aged guests. From a camper’s perspective and experience, you’ll see and read less here than you can on the YL website. What I want to write about is all God wants me to bring home and live out from my adult guest experience at Sharp Top Cove.

Rob and I ended our wonderful week at camp on my 50th birthday. I have felt God teaching me this last year about ways I need to change, and how my life should look on the “back nine.” With Young Life Camp as the exclamation point on His year of lessons, what is He saying? How shall I live?

what better way to spend my last week in my 40s than to play like a teen at camp?

On the outside Young Life Camp feels and looks like all fun and games. No one is bored with the Gospel there! A beautiful setting with everything taken care of for the campers, who are treated like royalty. As they walk through a human tunnel of  enthusiastically cheering kids their own age — truly just glad the campers have arrived to be served — the campers get their first glimpse of the week ahead: the best week of their life! “Let me take your bags and show you to your cabin.” The kids walk in to the lodge style accommodations and are taken aback by the professional decorations and attention to detail and comfort. And it’s all for them.

As they get off the bus they are told that for the week, this camp is yours! Off they run to freedom — to blob, zip line, slide, swing, play and hangout with their friends. The running, frenzied pace at which they try to experience it ALL that first day, makes you think they think it may be a little too good to be true.  In an unstable world, it seems they’re trying to grab it all and take it all in, while they can! The one thing removed from their world this week (that is so pleasantly notable) is electronics of all kinds… no phones, computers, itunes… just friends and this awesome camp.

IMG_0195Behind the scenes, it’s the staff’s  intentionality in all the details and the spirit of the abundance and the fullness of God’s provision that impressed me. A philosophy of excellence, service and surrendered trust in God is apparent in every aspect of their ministry. This attitude in each moment and each task is what I want to bring home to my everyday life. Colossians 3:23-25 (MSG) says, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

I saw these verses lived out daily in the staff, volunteers and activities at Sharp Top Cove. Despite their fatigue and the monotony of some of their jobs, it is those involved in the “daily grind,” the business of making Young Life Camp happen, whose faces  reflect the MOST love and joy. There’s a secret for me in that obvious truth. Another verse comes to mind,  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

rope swing
rope swing

The skits and singing, the lake activities and climbing, through cabin time and quiet time, delicious AYCE meals and soft clean sheets — everything point to the Gospel and Jesus. Everything. That’s how I want to live my life — as a living sacrifice, fully alive, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Loving HIm with all my heart. soul, strength and mind, and loving my neighbor as myself. I’ve never seen a sincere, living example of the Gospel quite like at Young Life Camp.

The Challenge? How do I bring it home to my daily grind? Don’t get me wrong… my life is wonderful in most ways. Still, there is a “daily grind” so to speak… meals to prepare, floors to clean, clothes to wash and bathrooms to scrub. Bills to pay, necessities to purchase, calendars to manage — and that’s all outside of the office! No one is really taking care of the details for me here.  In addition most of us in the sandwich generation juggle family obligations and privileges at a pace that’s hard to explain or achieve. We just feel  crazy busy and struggle to even fit in our quiet time. Even so, I feel God is saying, you can experience that same camp life, here and now. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

I think this post will be ongoing… as I uncover more of what God is saying to me, so I’ll start with a few observations, in no particular order.

  1. IMG_0225At camp, there seemed to be more time in the days — I didn’t feel rushed, yet it seemed MUCH was accomplished. We had a very full schedule, but I didn’t feel crazy busy. Unlike Young Life Camp, in my daily grind, it’s not so normal to see two or three huddled together in prayer. We rarely stop in the frenzy of our days, like the college-aged mountain bike guides (and all the others) did, to acknowledge God’s beauty, thank Him and ask for His protection — before racing off.  Even if we do fit in our morning quiet time, we often segregate that time with God away from the rest, and move forward from it into “real life.” If we don’t take God with us and talk to Him all day, aren’t we driving further from Him throughout the day?  I want to pray more freely throughout the day, inviting God into my mundane chores and meetings and others into my prayers.
  2. IMG_0280Despite all the wonderful activities and great group of friends, club, cabin time, chalk talks… all the times we met together to pray and to talk about Jesus were the highlight of the day for most everyone I asked! At Young Life Camp people literally line up and run in to hear about Jesus! The distractions of all those wonderful 2nd tier things that are fun and useful, diminished in importance throughout the week, and our relationship with Jesus and others increased. The days just got better and better as the camp swelled with God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s notable presence. I want to make Luke 10:27 my life verse: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can never be reminded enough that God and my relationship with Him is my priority! My purpose in this world. All the other wonderful components of this life on earth are for my enjoyment and important —  but EVERYTHING pales in importance next to God. Everything. And loving people and meaningful relationships is top on the 2nd tier.
  3. IMG_0180I sang more than I have in years! Loud and free! Worship songs,  favorites from the ages, even pop songs I’ve never heard. My grandmother mentioned my poor singing voice once as five year old little me belted out “Happy Birthday.” She was right! My voice is not beautiful, to say the least. But I’ve spent too many years mouthing the words and shutting music out. At camp I loved singing like no one was listening, because it was so loud no one could hear me! Music is so awesome for bringing  bound emotions to the surface. I’m not so good with itunes (at least since I changed computers) and all the modern marvels of music. I want to get with the times, and get more music in my life — including some of the current tunes I feel too old for. I want to be relevant today and use the voice God gave me!
  4. IMG_0171The kids can’t take the lake, the mountains, the toys or the service home. The work crew, cooks and staff won’t be tending my every need in Tallahassee. But there is Someone enduring we can take away  — and in Him, we take the BEST of what felt so good at Sharp Top Cove. The last days at camp the frenzy to DO all the activities weined. We were more content to BE. Engagement in relationships, regular worship, prayer and enjoying God and His creation are available everywhere. Young Life Camp is more than a place. It’s a way of doing Life to the fullest. I’ll try to flesh out what this looks like in the weeks to come. I already knew Jesus as my personal Savior when I went to camp — but back home, I still may not really believe this world and all God’s treasures are freely mine while I’m here. I’m still a little rushed and frenzied to  achieve and experience all the good things the world offers — but they aren’t the main event! I need to shift my focus. Live more like the latter days of camp where there might have been less scheduled events, less activities, but there was no way God or people were going to be squeezed out. He was the focus, the reason, the celebration, and the gift, in and for all else.

IMG_0562More to come as I continue to listen. For now, “Abba, thank you! You gave me several periods of rest — in Europe, at the beach and at Young Life Camp, because you love me and care about the details of my life. You removed me from the frenzy of the daily grind and spoke to my heart. Many of the more stressful circumstances of my life are not yet improved, but I feel Your Peace. Thank you for reminding me to rest in You, trust in You, and to find life and love in YOU!” In Jesus name, Amen.

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