The Season of Womanhood No One Talks About

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This season of womanhood has taken me by surprise. It isn’t just the slowing metabolism that leaves behind some less than welcome curves and cushion, or the merciless effects of gravity on my once svelt-ish middle-aged physique. Nor the hot flashes, the insomnia, or the myriad of uncontrollable emotions that were much more easily tolerated when I was a beautiful, blushing teenager. One of the harshest cruelties of this season of womanhood is that not only is your physical beauty diminishing, but you become unpleasant and difficult to live with in general, completely devoid of rational coping skills. It isn’t merely the increasing demands of a growing ministry…one that requires great physical, mental, and emotional sacrifice or the fact that society is constantly touting the reality that you are not only replaceable, but by someone younger, thinner, and more talented and capable than you.

Women who have mothered children face a loss of identity as they feel displaced. Suddenly, the people they have poured their hearts and energy into have moved into a different phase of life, one that requires much less of their input, finding their offerings of wisdom rather unwelcome. No longer needed by her children in the same ways, her role is diminished. At the same time, young adult children are exercising their independence, reflecting on what was broken in their childhood, determining what they will keep and what they hope to redeem as they ponder parenting the next generation. We all go through it…the recognition of what our parents messed up and the promise to ourselves that we will do better. We all long for the redemption, and we all try our best. And…guess what…we all make our own mess of it along the way. But, we try and we pray and we hope that we do a little better than the generation before us.

I hate to say it…partly because good Christian girls aren’t supposed to express doubt or despair. And, partly because no one seems to want to know about the thoughts and feelings of a cast aside middle-aged woman. But, much about this season of life makes it all seem so…futile. We put so much effort into building our families. And, very little turns out the way we plan.

Pray over your children. Pray for their hearts to love Jesus. Pray for their future spouses. Pray for every hurt, every need, every rejection and broken heart. Pray for the skinned knees. Pray for their future careers. Pray about the college they will attend. Pray for them to be encouragers…and to be encouraged. Pray that they will be strong women and men of God.

Love your husbands. Cook the meals. Do the dishes. Be the helpmate. Love him while standing at a social gathering and love him in the bedroom. Love him through the ugly. Die to yourself and love some more. Love through the hurts. Through the disappointment. Laugh when you can in between it all. Through job changes, late bills, college loans, burying babies and parents, in sickness and in health…in ungratefulness and selfishness…in victory and joy and failure and success. Choose love. Pray for him.

We spend our lives aspiring to be the ever-elusive Proverbs 31 woman. A virtuous and capable wife…one who is valued by her husband, far more than rubies. His heart safely trusts her. She brings him good and not harm…all the days of his life. She gets up early…cooking, caring for her home, making a profitable business, speaking wisdom and kindness into those around her. She works into the night. She does everything right. She obeys…and because she is faithful…her reward is that she is well-provided for, dearly loved,  “her children will rise up and call her blessed and her husband will praise her.”

So, in this season of life, that’s what I expected. I expected to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I expected to have everything well-settled and flawlessly wonderful. After all, I followed Him. Of course…I didn’t do it perfectly. But, there’s grace right? Enough to cover my mistakes. I mean…He knows my heart. My children will always make the right choices, fiercely love Jesus, always adore their amazing mother. My husband will think I’m a rock star, will always see my youthful beauty, will treasure and cherish me…because we will totally have marriage figured out twenty-four years in. I mean, I did my time. I paid my dues. I prayed and waited. Twelve years in, he accepted the Lord and now we will forever enjoy ministering to others together in a happy co-existence, always on the same page, filling one another’s needs…skipping along, singing Kum-ba-yah. Because we did the suffering thing. Everything else is cake.

But, what if you try your incredibly flawed best to do those things, making plenty of messes along the way, and all of it feels broken and hard? No one is rising up to praise you or call you blessed. Instead, they are pointing out your glaring failures. I’ve been wrestling some with the brokenness of life. The loss of expectations. (You know what I think about the folly of expectations. No good ever comes from them.) What if it is all messy and unfinished and the secure place you once held as the center of your family’s hearts leaves you feeling overlooked and lost? What if none of it has turned out the way you hoped it would? What does that mean about all of your efforts, your vain attempts at obedience, your tearful mama prayers?

In the midst of the agonizing wondering, I felt God whisper my questions back to me with a twist…

What if your children didn’t rise up to call you blessed?

What if your husband never praised you…only saw the negative in you?

What if you saw none of the fruit of your labor?

Would it still be worth it to obey Me? Even if…

(Please note, I am not saying all of the above scenarios are true in my life. But sometimes God speaks in extremes to mirror our own wallowing.)

The story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac flashed before me, as I wondered why God would redeem my family if He didn’t intend to redeem the generations of broken. Why pray if it doesn’t matter? Why give me all of these promises to watch them all slip away? You promised to redeem our broken…give beauty for ashes…to restore to us the years the locusts have eaten. I trusted You. I don’t understand. Why is it still so hard?

Would you still trust Me…even if?

Would you still obey…even if? 

Would you still lift your voice in worship…even if no one hears but Me? 

Would you still minister to the broken?

Would you still pray for your children and your husband?

Would you still obey….even if you never see the answer this side of heaven?

Yes, Lord. I would. Yes, I will. 

Life has dry spells, in marriage, in parenting, in life. Seasons that feel parched and empty and messy and hard. Wilderness-wandering. Valley-wallowing seasons. Do I believe I will stay in this one? No. I still believe He heard every prayer. Keeps every tear. We will still choose to follow Him. And, He still sees. We are not forgotten, nor forsaken. We are His dearly loved children. In the eyes of my Father, I am always youthfully beautiful, never annoying or overly emotional, over-bearing or too much. Always dearly loved…filled. In Him I am secure. In Him, my family is secure. Even in the messes. Even in the broken hard stuff.

Even if…

He is faithful.

 

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,
I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
I feel like I’m king of the mountain!

Habakkuk 3:17-19

 

 

I Danced

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Last Saturday morning, I walked with a family as they said goodbye to their baby. My heart ached for them as we created some tangible memories. I carried them with me…pieces of their pain, forever woven into the fabric of my heart. Every time I wash a tiny baby foot, the humbling privilege of washing feet, as mentioned in scripture, washes over me. How our Jesus values every single life.

As I left in the van, the tears I carefully held back dripped down my face. I watched them holding hands, entering a world without their baby. I felt the ripping raw pain as I drove. Their pain. My pain. The pain of thousands of other parents who once walked out that door into a completely different world.

Life was waiting for me at home.

My son’s band was playing at the Corn City Festival, and our house would be filled with guests. Soon the combination of music and being surrounded by people I love, lifted my heart a bit. I thought of Angie Smith’s famous words, “Life is a sacred dance of grief and joy.” Yes. Yes it is. There’s so much grief carried in this tattered heart of mine.

But…there is also joy. And, sometimes, these tired feet just have to dance.

I danced most of the night, thanks to friends and my darling kitchen boys. I danced with every one of them. At first, I felt a little self-conscious. I’ve never been heavier or older than I am right now. Curvy girls jiggle when they dance. For just a wee moment, I was uncomfortable, silently focusing on my flaws. And, then this fabulous freedom swept over me, as one of the kitchen boys twirled me around in the middle of the street, in front of the stage, at our tiny railroad town festival. This life is short, and I may never have the chance to dance in the middle of the street with my beloved, beautiful kitchen boys and half the town…and eventually in the arms of my husband…again. (Even he can’t resist that kind of contagious joy.) We don’t know what tomorrow holds. So, I danced, with complete abandon. For hours.

And, once I stopped worrying about the things that just don’t matter this side of heaven, I began to feel beautiful. And, loved.

I felt loved by my friends, my kitchen boys, my Tim…and most of all… loved by God.

I felt Him whisper as I laughed and spun…

You are cherished. You are beautiful. You are dearly loved. You are Mine. And, I see you, dear daughter of my heart.

Oh, how grateful I am that I did not allow a few extra pounds and some grey hair to keep me from dancing freely. The kind of dancing that heals the soul-ache of a weary heart. Dear women everywhere, there is nothing more beautiful than a confident, joy-filled, free woman. No matter how she is packaged.

You are cherished. You are beautiful. You are dearly loved. You are His. He sees you, dear daughter of his heart.

So, dance. Dance freely, covered in His grace and love for you. And, remember…radiant joy covers a multitude of jiggles (and other flaws).

 

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