Post-Mom Life and the Search for Significance

I recently slid quietly into a new decade of life—one where I get discounts on Tuesdays at certain department stores, receive targeted ads for wrinkle creams on my computer, and qualify to go on the church bus to the botanical garden with the senior ministry at my church. It happened so fast. It seems like just yesterday I was driving my mom taxi to games, debates, and recitals. It was a busy and purposeful time. I taught school on and off for many years and enjoyed it so much. I knew I was making an impact on many young lives and felt needed, valued and self-confident. I saw my role as a mom as incredibly important—even world changing. Lately, though, after retiring from teaching and seeing my last child get married and begin a life of her own, something has come over me. It’s hard to explain but is sort of a notion of disconnection, a sense of loss, a feeling of, “what now?”.

I know from talking to other female friends and relatives that these feelings are not mine alone. When women reach a certain age and our child-rearing duties are done we can feel lost, unsure, invisible and under-appreciated. At the same time, we know in our hearts that we have skills and talents that are just as strong as ever. We are leaders, organizers, encouragers and teachers. We still want to be useful, to make an impact, to share our wisdom with others. We want our lives to matter—even as we soldier on into the golden years.

What is it that contributes to this feeling of uselessness or disenfranchisement for senior adults like me? Well, often our churches and communities tend to look to the younger generation to fill positions of leadership and service. Senior adults are sometimes overlooked. Perhaps a lack of confidence or an introverted nature can play a role, as well. We don’t know if we are actually up to the task anymore. I don’t know what happened to that “in your face” confidence I had in my 30’s and 40’s—no matter what task it was, I just knew I was the best person for the job! Now, when I think about filling a particular need or position in my church or community I talk myself out of it, thinking, “Oh, I’m sure there’s a younger person who would be better”.

So, how should we view this issue as believers? Should we hang up our service hat when we turn 60? Absolutely not. Let’s look at some older women of the Bible who had great impact into their later years:

Lois, the grandmother of Timothy, demonstrated the power of godly older women to influence the next generation as she taught him to know and abide by the Word of God.

Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, persevered through tragedy (loss of her husband and sons) to secure a future for her family. She showed great strength and faith throughout her life.

Anna, the prophetess, first sees Jesus 40 days after His birth at His purification ceremony. She recognized Jesus’ significance and the impact He would have on Jerusalem. She was 105 years old at the time. Anna remained vibrant and useful to the Lord until her death.

Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias, was 88 years old when she gave birth to John the Baptist! She was a relative and dear friend to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Deborah, a judge of Israel, ruled the people with wisdom and encouragement for 40 years. She was loyal to God and inspired her people to victory in battle, guiding them to live in faith.

The bottom line is: Women like you and I can have an impact well into our golden years. In fact, God expects us to continue to serve. There is still so much to do—and we have the wisdom, experience, and skill to do it!

People in your sphere of influence need encouragement, prayer and guidance. Your church needs your giftedness and willingness to serve. Lost people need to hear the gospel.Your community needs your experience and support. The world needs your engagement, now more than ever, as it falls steadily away from the truth of God’s Word.

God expects us to stay engaged in life. He still has a plan for you—a vital part in His kingdom mission.

And…you are no less valuable to God now than you were in your younger days. You are precious to Him.

Pray for God’s guidance and direction as to what he would have you do in your church or community. Pray for the confidence to take on the task. Pray for renewed purpose and inner peace as you move into the next phase of life. God is faithful. And life isn’t over yet!

Posted in Christianity, Church Life, Grandparenting, Parenting, Service, Spiritual Encouragement | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Land That Helicopter: The Changing Role of Parents When Their Children Marry

I have loved being a mom. It has truly been my most fulfilling role in life. Of course, I have had other roles over the years. I’ve been a wife, daughter, granddaughter, elementary teacher, volunteer, Bible study leader, VBS worker and choir member, among other things. God has no doubt used me in all of these roles to impact others and to bring me closer to Him but, the role of mom gave me purpose, confidence and immeasurable joy.

I know, some of you young moms are thinking, “What?! Is she crazy? I’m up to my elbows in dirty diapers and spit up…my home is a Lego minefield! I don’t feel confident or joyful!” But if you give yourself a moment to reflect (I know, I know, a moment to reflect…what is that?) I’m sure the Lord will bring to mind all of the beautiful moments you have shared with your kids. And when your children are all grown and out of the house, as mine are, and you look back on your body of work as their mom, I pray you, too, will recognize the joy and purpose that they brought to your life.

In this post, however, I hope to share some wisdom regarding those grown children—the ones who are getting married, moving out of the house and starting their own families.

My husband and I have two sons who are married and a daughter who is tying the knot very soon. Our oldest son has been married for 10 years and our next son, for 5. We are very proud of them both and have enjoyed watching them blossom and grow as husbands and—for our oldest—as a father.

When your child marries, there are several things you need to come to grips with:

  • Your role has changed—drastically and forever (sorry if that sounds harsh).

You have spent many years as your child’s caregiver. You made sure he ate his vegetables, wore his coat on cold days, made it to school or work on time and sipped on chicken soup when he was sick. Once your child is married, this is no longer your job. It is the job of his spouse. Being your son’s helpmate is an important role for his new wife, although it may not look the same as it did for you when you got married. Our middle son and his wife share many of the jobs in their home, in fact, he now regularly offers to help with the dishes at our home when he visits! In their case, both of them have careers and so it makes sense for them to share chores at home. Our oldest son really gets in there and helps at home, as well, bathing the kids, cooking, and cleaning. They are working out their roles and responsibilities as they go along and it is wonderful. It is also, none of our business how they define the roles in their own family. You have to trust that your daughter-in-law, the daughter-in-law that God provided, will learn and grow as a wife and mom over the years and will be able to take care of your son and their growing family perhaps even better than you did.

Another thing that may have to change when your young adult child marries is your communication with them. If before they married you insisted that your son or daughter: talk to you daily from college, text you when they made it safely home from late night events, call you every day on their lunch break from their job, etc, (let’s all say it together—helicopter parent) it is time to let that expectation go! You are no longer their text buddy, their best friend, or their parental parole officer. Their spouse is now their best friend and text buddy—and parole officer, if needed. Sometimes, in the case of sons, it is dad who has trouble with this one. It’s very hard for many dads to let their sons go if they have had a close relationship. Moms letting daughters go can be tough, as well. But, once your child gets married, their spouse is the one with whom they will discuss plans and ideas, make decisions and share the ups and downs of daily life. They do not need you texting them every day or multiple times a day with trivial comments or probing questions.

Now, lest you think I am saying your adult children can not come to you for wisdom and advice, I am not. That is certainly still an important role for parents of adult children. Parents have the wisdom and experience that can come in handy in many cases. If they ask for your advice on an important matter, by all means, give it. But in order for your married kids to strengthen their bond, grow, and learn to trust each other, they need to be able to practice making decisions and discussing ideas together. Communication is so important in marriage and you and I as the parents, do not need to hijack theirs.

  • Putting too many expectations on your adult children will be detrimental to their marriage.

When your children get married, they are developing new traditions, establishing their own routines and settling into their own rhythm of life.With the multifaceted structure of many families today, it can be very stressful for them as they are pulled in many directions by parents, in-laws, step-parents, divorced parents— for holidays, birthdays and special events. We have been very careful not to put expectations on our married kids in this regard. They know we are always up for a visit, that we love them immensely and that we enjoy spending time with them. When they decide to come see us we jump for joy! But we do not put pressure on them to come—ever. I know it can be hard not to feel slighted if they seem to be spending more time with the other side of the family but, there is no place for guilt trips, tears or anger. Bite your tongue, say a prayer, and be patient. As little kids like to say, you are no longer the boss of them! And it will be your turn eventually. Make your home a place they will love to visit. Create an atmosphere of acceptance, joy and fun. They won’t be able to resist! If your married children live close by, this point can be even trickier but is just as important. You may be tempted to put even more expectation on them—wanting them to come by and have dinner with you a couple times a week or to invite you over to their place every Sunday. Resist the urge to put that pressure on your married kids who happen to live nearby.

I’m going to go out on a limb here with some straightforward advice for when your kids get married: Go on with your life. Get a hobby. Get reaquainted with your spouse. Leave them alone.

  • Getting involved in their disagreements will not end well.

It is not your job to get involved in your children’s disagreements with their spouse. Stay out of it. Do not take sides. In fact, don’t allow them to drag you into it in the first place. If your adult child comes to you complaining about their spouse, say something like, “Honey, I love you, but it’s best if you work that out with Jane/Joe. But, I will certainly pray about it with you if you’d like.” I am happy to say, our married kids have never come to us with complaints about each other. We are blissfully ignorant of their squabbles.

  • Now, a word about daughters-in-law:

I have two lovely, sweet, smart daughters-in-law. God really blessed me good with the two of them and I don’t take that for granted. They are wonderful, loving wives and my oldest son’s wife (the only one with children thus far) is a fantastic mom who is leading her children in the ways of the Lord. I have a great relationship with them both and want to keep it that way. I refrain from telling them how to run their home, raise their children, clean their house, cook, or take care of their husband. It is their home and they have their own way of doing things. My role in regard to my daughters-in-law is that of encourager, cheerleader and friend. They know that I am there for them if they want advice on anything but I do not offer it unsolicited.

I do try to model a life of faith and devotion to Jesus Christ for all of my children. That is a very important exception to the rule of not interjecting yourself into their lives! It’s critical that we use every method at our disposal to pass on the baton of faith to the next generation! So do talk to them about the importance of being a part of a community of faith (a local church) and of personal time in the Word and of raising their kids to know and love the Lord. Speak it with love and gentleness and model it in your own life.

“And the Lord God said,’It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'” Genesis 2:18

“…Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave His father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

Friends, when your son or daughter finds the one his/her soul loves and marries them, it is then time for you to: pass the baton, rip off the bandaid, cut the apron strings, change the locks (just kidding with that one!)—land that helicopter once and for all. Understand and embrace that your role has drastically changed. You did a wonderful job nurturing, training and loving those little children God placed in your care, but now it’s time to switch gears, embrace your new role and let them create their own life independent from you. Continue to be a supporter, an encourager and a model of a joy-filled, purpose driven, Christ-centered life. And when the phone rings and your married child is on the line, thank God for them and for the new—different, but just as fulfilling—relationship that you now enjoy.

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Keeping Bridezilla at Bay: Successful Wedding Planning with Your Daughter

Summer is fast approaching and my daughter—my beautiful, kind, generous, outgoing daughter—will soon become a Mrs. She met her beloved at the college youth group at church. He’s not exactly what her father and I had pictured for her.You know how it goes, we moms create a composite list of traits and accomplishments that any Marvel superhero would be hard-pressed to possess. However, God knew best and our future son-in-law has been a joy and a great addition to our family. He is exactly what our daughter needed. God is good and always, always has a plan that is better than ours.

Kari is our only daughter (we also have two married sons) and she and I have been planning her wedding for almost a year now, since her engagement last June. I have certainly heard stories of the stress and anxiety that wedding planning can bring and the tension and volatility that many moms and daughters experience in the process. But, I have to say, working with my daughter this year has been a joy. How have we navigated the treacherous waters of wedding planning with such peace? I believe there are several key factors:

  1. Mutual respect. My daughter did not just appear on the scene. We have spent many years as mother and daughter, growing, learning, bonding and developing our relationship. As my daughter reached each age and stage of life I tried to give her appropriate guidance and ultimately, freedom, to make her own decisions (and mistakes). In doing so, my daughter learned that I value her ideas and opinions—that I respect her. No, it hasn’t always been easy to let her make her own decisions and mistakes and sometimes I just couldn’t keep my teeth clamped tightly enough on that tongue of mine! But, as she got older she knew that certain decisions would be hers to make, without my interference. Mamas, that is why God blessed you with your little girl in the first place—to grow her into a wise, mature and independent daughter of the king. By the way, as you show your older daughter that you see her as an intelligent being separate from yourself with her own dreams, ideas and personal strengths, that respect will be returned.
  2. Ownership. Allow your daughter to have ownership of her wedding. Understand that this is her wedding, not yours. This was a bit of a hard lesson for me to learn but I did come to this understanding very early in the process. Perhaps you didn’t have the beautiful wedding of your dreams when you got married…doesn’t matter. Or, you just can’t stand the color peach…doesn’t matter! Or perhaps you had always dreamed of hearing “The Way You Look Tonight” (Frank Sinatra) played at your daughter’s reception…give it up. This is your daughter’s big (if not, biggest) day and she has a vision for what she wants it to look and sound like. I know you may be thinking, “Hey, we’re paying for this wedding!”, and maybe you are but you are paying for (or contributing to) the wedding because you love your daughter and you want her to celebrate the beginning of her married life with a beautiful day that makes her happy and sends her off feeling loved and supported. You are not paying for the privilege of making the decisions! It’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t agree to have your 85 year old former pastor say the opening prayer during the ceremony. You’ll get over it.
  3. Expectations of perfection. In today’s world of Instagram filters, selfies and social media, we have come to view everything through the lens of how perfect things look to others. If you want everything to be absolutely perfect, you will probably be disappointed. Understand that life isn’t perfect and neither the wedding planning nor the day itself will be perfect either. We had to order a second batch of invitations for my daughters wedding because I made a mistake when ordering them. Then, the second batch had a small issue, too. We sent them anyway. Most people won’t even notice, and if they do, hopefully they will keep their judgement to themselves. Expecting perfection leads to stress, pressure and anxiety. Try to look at the big picture and understand that when all is said and done, what’s important is your daughter enjoying a beautiful day of joy and celebration—not whether the chargers match the table runner.
  4. Prayer. Successfully navigating wedding planning with your daughter takes a lot of prayer. Pray with her, and for her, and pray for yourself. Pray for patience, wisdom and strength. And as you pray for the wedding planning and wedding itself don’t forget to pray for the marriage! Pray that the new couple will keep God at the center of their marriage and that they will surround themselves with other Jesus-loving, family-honoring couples with whom to do life. Pray that they will find a Bible-believing church to become a part of where they can grow and serve together.

My daughter has amazed me during this process. She has been very organized, developing a calendar of when things need to be done and making sure they happen as planned, contacting vendors and keeping up with payments. She is doing all of this while simultaneously completing her last year of college. And something about my daughter that is such a gift—especially during this time—is that she is very low-key about life in general. She is not particular about most things. We only visited two shops before she found her wedding dress. She loves it! It did not need to be “designer” or flown in from Italy. She has learned that people are more important than things and that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable. What is she most looking forward to about her wedding? Hanging out with the friends and family who will attend, dancing to her favorite music, eating the macaroni and cheese that we chose for the wedding dinner, and heading off to a tropical honeymoon with her beloved!

Hopefully, moms of daughters, you will take my advice and remember the pointers above when it comes time to help your daughter plan her wedding. Help her when she needs your help or asks for advice, support her with love and prayer, and then enjoy her beautiful day! Moms of younger girls, begin now to build that mutual respect with your daughter by giving her more responsibility for her own decisions as she reaches each new stage of life. And when the time comes to cut the apron strings, do it with joy and a sense of accomplishment. You have done your job well!

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3

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Generosity: The best of God’s spiritual fruit all rolled into one!

Generosity. The epitomy of godly character. It is, at once, love, kindness, faithfulness and selflessness—a spring bouquet of spiritual fruit.

Generosity comes in many forms. For instance, there is the act of giving one’s time to help another human being in need. Perhaps you give up a Saturday to help someone move, give someone a ride, or counsel a hurting friend. Many of us are so possessive of our free time and obsessive about our routine—not wanting it to be disrupted— that we won’t stop what we’re doing to help people. Or, we think to ourselves, “I’m sure someone else will do it.” Sometimes generosity means sharing our material blessings. Perhaps a friend is temporarily in need of a car and you just happen to have an extra parked in your driveway. Or a visiting pastor or missionary needs a place to lay their head and you have a spare bedroom now that your kids are out of the house. Or maybe you have an area large enough to host your Lifegroup for a fellowship. These are all wonderful ways in which you can exhibit generosity and at the same time, show that you are not holding on too tightly to the things of this world. The act most often associated with generosity is giving our actual money to worthy causes and needy people. It is through the generosity of God’s people that Christian ministries are funded and missionaries are sent.

Remember—your money and possessions are God’s anyway! You have nothing that He has not allowed you to have.

Generosity not only has a powerful impact for the Kingdom of God, but it has a tremendous impact on the giver himself. When we give, expecting nothing in return, purely out of love and selflessness, we are rewarded with joy, peace and a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Why? Because we are walking in obedience to God’s Word and reaping the reward for it. Make no mistake, giving that is done grudgingly or pridefully is an unworthy sacrifice. It’s useless. God knows your heart, dear friend. You may as well keep your money in your wallet if your motivation is impure. We can find many, many examples of well-known philanthropists in the world today who give for their own edification. This is not the type of generosity espoused in the Bible.

So, how can we show love (generosity) to our neighbor when they are hurting? Make them a meal, pay them a visit, send them a card. How can we show kindness (generosity) to the homeless man beside the road? Give him your spare change, buy him a fast food meal, give him a blanket or a coat. How can we exhibit faithfulness (generosity) to God’s mission in the world? Tithe above and beyond and support your church’s ministries. Give faithfully to missions and ministries in your area—of your time, money and resources. How can we demonstrate selflessness (generosity) in our families and communities? Put your own needs aside, be willing to disrupt your routine and put others’ needs before your own. Learn to act in a self-sacrificial way. If you have rarely or never given up your own desires for another then you probably do not have a spirit of generosity. Pray that God will work in that area of your life.

And remember—anonymous giving is the very best kind of giving!

My mother recently passed away at 95 years old. If you have ever experienced the loss of an elderly loved one then you have seen the amount of “stuff” that one can accumulate in a lifetime—stuff that certainly would not fit on the chariot as they were carried off to glory (my mom was a believer and is currently at the feet of Jesus)! That experience, as well as the death of my father several years before that, brought home to me the brevity of life and the need to give, serve and love while we are here—unaware of the day God has established as our last. I have come to see money and material things as objects to hold loosely in this life. The material things under our care were given to us, by God, to bless others and to further His kingdom (period). The “stuff” we accumulate year after year will not go with us to heaven but will be burned up as hay and stubble when Jesus takes us home. The only thing that will matter is our contribution (time, money and resources) to His people and His kingdom.

I will leave you with some wisdom from God’s Word regarding generosity:

“Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” Proverbs 19:17

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

“But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews 13:16

“Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:1-4

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Faith: What is it and How do I Obtain it?

I’ve ridden this spaceship called earth for quite a few rotations around the sun. (How did you like that colorful tactic for not telling you how old I am?) In that time, I’ve experienced great loss, family health crises, divorce, natural consequences of sinful choices and many other things we humans experience in a lifetime. At this point, there are some things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt: God is who he says he is, he will do what His Word says he will do, he loves me with an unconditional love, he created me and wants his very best for me (always!), and he is in control of this universe he created.

This faith that I have in God gives me peace in the midst of trials and confidence that everything that happens to me and to my loved ones will be used by God to make us more like him. Nothing anyone can say or do would make me believe that God is anything but good. Nothing that happens could make me believe that God has turned his back on me. And nothing I could read or hear would make me doubt that God is the creator of the universe or the intelligent designer of yours truly. I believe God’s Word from cover to cover and trust his plan for me. I have faith. The definition of faith is, “to give up, surrender, or commit”. When we come to Christ, we give up our own desires, surrender to his leadership and call, and commit to live our lives in honor of him.

When you and I come to Christ it is only by God’s gift of faith that we do it. We cannot work our way to God through good deeds or worldly success. Ephesians 2:8-9 says this:”For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”It is only by God’s grace that we can come to him in faith. How does God give us this faith? Well, saving faith comes packaged in the gospel message—the message of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for us. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” When the gospel message goes out and people respond in repentance, turning to God, they are receiving the gift of faith and are then regenerated and given eternal life. And we cannot please God without faith and belief in him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

One of the outstanding verses on faith is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The word, substance, is the key. In the Greek it is the word, hupostasis, which means the opposite of hypothesis or theory! Faith is substance. It is reality—and that reality is the Word of God. One person put it like this: Faith enables the believer to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen.

You may be saying, “I know someone who seems to have so much faith and never seems to get rattled by life’s difficulties. I would love to have faith like that.” Well, the good news is, our faith can and does grow as we go through life. God tests our faith and as we pass the tests, our faith grows.(James 1:3) We can also pray that our faith would increase. (Luke 17:5, Luke 11:9-12) The Bible says that God continually works in us to sanctify us, making us more like him. Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus “the author and finisher (or perfector) of our faith”

Just like with other godly traits that God builds and refines in us once we come to him, we can cooperate with him as he ripens and strengthens our faith. We do this by regularly spending time in the Word, praying to God (when God answers our prayers it strengthens our faith), and spending time in community with other believers (strong faith can be catchy!).

In addition, I believe that the spiritual incubator of a (truly) Christian home can do a lot to instill and solidify strong faith in the children raised there. I believe that God blesses godly parents who pass on their faith and who model unwavering trust in God. I am blessed to have been raised in such a home.

If you have never accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, do so today. By faith, believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that he died to pay your sin debt and rose again to prepare a place for you in heaven. Commit to turn away from your old life and towards Jesus. Give up trying to work your way to heaven. Instead, come to Jesus by faith…and witness the fruit of a life lived for him.

You, too, can have faith—an extraordinary, unshakable, confidence in God’s promises, power, and presence. All you have to do is ask.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

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