I’m troubled midlife friend.
I want you to know that I carry a heavy burden for those of you who think that this season of life was supposed to be so much better than your present reality.
I hear your stories.
Stories of loss, and grief, depression, disappointment, and general anxiety about the future. Stories of unplanned illness or divorce, relational challenges, menopause challenges, career challenges, caring for aging parents, and empty nest/adult children challenges.
So many of you find yourself looking in the mirror of your new season of life with that dear-in-headlights look – that glazed-over, blank stare.
As if to say…
“This is not what I expected.”
“Where do I go from here?”
Does this describe you, midlife momma? If so, I’m glad you’re here.
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Several years ago, I too found myself in a midlife mess of bottled-up emotional drama.
I was going through three major life changes simultaneously. And I can tell you in all honesty, those changes wreaked havoc on my midlife momma soul, mind, heart, and body.
But in spite all the chaos taking place on the exterior of my life, God began doing a deeper work in my unseen interior….those recessed, hidden places of my life that had to do with loss, identity, and God’s call to become more of who he made me to be.
It was in the life-transition that I found refuge from the storm that was raging around me. In Jesus, I found my safe, resting place. He was the bridge that held me fast and strong and kept me from disaster. And ladies…I don’t know about you, but I can do “hot-mess disaster” pretty good, apart from God’s grace.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you..” Is. 43:2
The transition to midlife is often marked by a chain of losses and can be challenging, to say the least. You’ve traveled long and hard to get to this place in life. And so have I friend.
All those lines, wrinkles, and stretch marks tell the story of endless endurance, of battles won and battles lost; of blood, sweat, and tears.
Point one: Your Story Matters!
Where you have been and where you are now, every ebb and every flow, every high and every low, every single part of it…is part of how God is shaping your next chapter.
So I have a question for you.
It’s a simple question that’s not meant to bring one ounce of guilt or condemnation. So please don’t go there.
The question is this:
When is the last time you stopped to consider the many ways God has been orchestrating the details of your life?
There is no possible way, this side of heaven, you will ever know the countless ways God has worked behind the scenes of your life to bring you to the place you are today. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking some time to simply recall where you have been, what God has done, and how you have seen his hand at work in your life.
Over the next several weeks, I want to encourage you to do a little inventory journaling.
Doing so, will help you begin to connect some past, present and future dots, and help you gain a better understanding of yourself, and God’s never-ending care of you. I think you will also be able to see the many ways God has been leading your life – and preparing you for such a time as this.
Inventory: The Act of Remembering
What words come to mind when you think of the word Inventory? I recently asked this question to a group of midlife friends and here’s what they said:
Organize. Assets. Resources. Stuff. Count. List. Analyze. Itemize. Remember. Add-up. Value. Reconcile. Evaluate. Write down.
The scriptures are filled with the act of remembering God’s care and activity. In fact, the word remember is used 234 times in the scriptures.
In all cases, either God is reminding his people to remember God’s kindness, or God’s people we’re pleading with God to remember is promise to them, OR God is recalling his promises to his people (not because God needed to remember what he said, as if he could ever forget anything), heavens no!
Remembering was kind of a big deal to God, and I’m thinking it should be something we should probably take note of, and make it of uttermost importance.
The bottom line, is that every act of remembering is for the benefit of those who have received the invitation to know and trust God for who he is and for what he has done!
WE are the ones who need to be reminded to be grateful…to continue to trust God, to stay the course in times of doubt and uncertainty.
I encourage you to read this fantastic article on the act of remembering by Patricia Mitchell originally posted on Christianity Today…well worth the read. http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/spiritualformation/remember.html
Point two: Remembering Has Purpose
Throughout the Bible, remembering comes across as a command of God…rather than something that was optional. There is grave importance attached to it. Of course, we always have the ability to choose or not choose to do something God says. But in these passages, we can hear the heart of God that longs for us to trust him, to rely on him, to thank him, and to glorify him. In doing so – we are blessed. By not doing so, God’s people miss out on the peace and joy and blessing he longs to give and promises to provide.
words worth remembering:
Ex. 13:3 “And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand Jehovah brought you out from this place.”
Ex. 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
Ex. 20:24 “An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.”
Num. 11:5 “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.”
Deut. 7:18 “You shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt”
Deut. 8:2 “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
1 Cron. 16:12 “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered”
And just before you are tempted to think this was an old testament thing, consider also, these passages:
Matt 16:9 “Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?”
Mark 8:18 “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?”
Eph. 2:12 “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Rev. 2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
This last passage pretty much sums it up, does it not?
God has done so much for me, friend. And I am instantly humbled just thinking about it.
He has done so much for you, too.
I’m hoping you’ll do more than just think about how God has been at work in your life, but that you’ll actually write it down, as an act of worship.
My prayer for you, is that you will take to heart this act of remembering exercise. I pray that it will renew your love for the triune God. This God of the universe, the all-knowing, all-powerful God who sent his son Jesus (on our behalf) to conquer sin, shame, and death. This God who empowers us by his Holy Spirit to live by the spirit and not by the flesh. This God who is working all things for good in our lives so that HE IS GLORIFIED.
That’s why remembering is so critical to the kind of future God has in store for us.
It’s good to recall where you’ve been for many reasons. But the best reason, is to remind yourself of God’s sovereign care over your life and his goodness in your life – despite how challenging life’s circumstances may have been.
Certain Events, People, and Circumstances are worth remembering
God uses providential events, people, and circumstances (process items) to develop and lead his people into his divine purposes.
Each week I want to invite you to create a timeline that will span different seasons of your life.
Draw each timeline (Horizontal with plenty of room to write) in your journal or on a large piece of paper that you can fold up and tuck into your journal. Place the starting age (for each week) on the far left end – and the ending age on the far right end.
As you look back over the events of your life remember this: These next four weeks play a key role in what we will be doing over the coming several months. So please take ample time each week to consider the activity of God in your life.
I’ve broken it down in phases to make it more manageable and hopefully, more meaningful.
Week 1: Birth to Age 18
Week 2: Age 18-30
Week 3: Age 31-45
Week 4: Age 46-present
I promise you this is leading somewhere (i.e.: upcoming blog posts).
If difficult memories come up as you create your timeline, allow God to meet you there. The goal of this exercise is not to revisit trigger points of life that stir up past hurts, past sin, or other areas of brokenness you’ve experienced.
This exercise is designed to simply help you acknowledge your story in its truest and most honest form, so that you can be reminded of God’s sovereign care over your life, his love for you, and to begin to connect the dots on how various events, circumstances and people in your life have shaped who you’ve become today.
We will start connecting the dots next, so hang in there with me. J
Point three: ‘The Act Of Remembering’ brings great value
I hope you will create enough space and time in your life to complete each weekly exercise. I’m confident you will be glad you did.
But in case you need some encouragement, I’d like to share this testimonial from one of my Next Chapter midlife friends. (Next Chapter is a class that I teach at my local church). They too, are discovering more of who God made them to be, how God is leading their next chapter, and embracing the act of remembering.
“I found that the invitation to reminisce on the invitation that Jesus gave to us… what It was really a blessing (to reminisce) bc I realized… I kind of take for granted. So many years have gone by…(22 years since I became a Christian) so thinking about all the little pieces that he put into place, all the things that came together as he was calling me to him, I kind of forgot some of those things. And as I was journaling it gave me so much gratitude…and brought it all back to the front line. It was such a great foundation to start with.” Gf
So if you’re ready…let’s get started.
If you have any questions along the way, or would like to share part of your journey, please do so over at the Above and Beyond Midlife Facebook page or in the comment box at the bottom of this post.
Week One Inventory: Draw a Timeline of your life from Birth to age 18.
Start by identifying the major “boundary events” in your life from birth to age 18. Think back to what God was doing in each of these major boundary events. Write them onto your timeline in chronological order.
These events can include…
- Experiences that are unique (ex. Unique circumstances surrounding your birth, childhood (growing up as PK, military kid, etc)
- A person who has a life-changing influence on you
- Move to a new geographical area
- A Crisis /time of testing/ or being broken
- Spirit leading you into a divine experience
- Skills you began developing at an early age
Chart and date each “boundary event” along each continuum. Use the following questions to help you identify the boundary events in this phase.
Week 1 Questions:
- How has God providentially worked in your family?
- Are there any significant events that took place surrounding your birth or during your childhood that you recall?
- What events did you have little or no control over growing up?
- What did you play as a child?
- Who were key players in your development? What did they teach you?
- What age marks your earliest remembrance of your first awareness of God. About Jesus? What do you remember?
* * *
Week Two Inventory: Draw a Timeline of your life from age 18 through 30.
Start by identifying the major “boundary events” in your life from age 18 to age 30. Write them onto your timeline in chronological order.
Chart and date each “boundary event” along each continuum. Use the following questions to help you identify the boundary events in this phase.
Week 2 Questions:
- What kind of events shaped your early adult years?
- What were the specific life decisions you made regarding your college, career, family, or work path?
- What were key lessons or observations you made about life? Yourself? God?
- Where there any unique or specific events that had a positive or negative effect on you personally?
- Was your faith or leadership or character tested in any way?
- What kind of tests did you encounter? To become more discerning? More Understanding? Obedient? Humble? Teachable? Etc.
- Who were the influential people in your life? How did they influence you?
- Mark other key life events: marriage, divorce, birth of children, etc.
* * *
Week 3 Inventory: Draw a timeline of your life from age 31 to age 45.
Take an inventory of your growing adult life. Start by identifying the major “boundary events” in your life from age 31 to age 45. Write them onto your timeline in chronological order.
Week 3 Questions:
- What unique life experiences did you have at this stage that has shaped you as a person?
- What other (or unique) skills did you develop as an adult?
- Did you travel anywhere, or participate in some major event that had a profound impact on your life?
- What kind of life-challenges did you face?
- What are some life lessons you began to learn in this phase of your life. How did you grow as a person?
- Did you have any leadership growth experiences?
- Did you discover your spiritual gift? When? What is it?
* * *
Week 4: Draw a timeline of your life – from age 46 to your present age (write in your age on far right of the line).
Start by identifying the major “boundary events” in your life from age 46 to your age today. Write these boundary events on your timeline in chronological order.
Week 4 Questions:
- As you look back on this season of life, what has been your greatest challenge?
- What has been your greatest joy?
- What has been your greatest area of growth?
- How do you think you have matured as a person?
- What keeps you up at night?
- What makes you angry? Sad? Happy?
Have fun with this friends! I look forward to hearing from you! Don’t forget to come join in the conversation here: Above and Beyond Midlife.
Despite the midlife challenges you are currently facing, I want to encourage you dear one: Your next chapter will be good because God is good, because he is for you, and because he is with you (past, present, and future).
Until next time,
But Before You Go
I wanted to let you know that I had the absolute honor of being a contributing author to this beautiful magazine, called “iola” by my sweet British friend, Abigail Partridge.
If you love good design, creativity, reading and music, – iola magazine is for you. If you’ve ever wondered about how to manage all the things: family, meaningful work, creative pursuits and how not to lose yourself in the process, – iola is for you. If you have faith in God but at times might describe your relationship with him as complicated and have been hurt on life’s road, – iola is for you.
If your idea of a simple treat is some time out with coffee and a magazine that inspires not invokes envy – iola is for you.
I’d be honored to share a signed copy with you for a cost of $15.00. Please email me at email@example.com – I’ll be sure to send you one.
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