On Lifelong Mothering

I was at a local thrift shop, running in for a quick peek, while my teens waited patiently in the car. I was excited to find 4 place settings of the Happy Holidays Christmas china with scalloped edges that I collect. As I stood in line, the woman in front of me was having a conversation with the cashier; they were discussing their grown children.

“Please pray for Jim–he has arrived at a fork in the road and I’m praying for guidance and discernment for him.”

And the cashier replied: “I know exactly what you mean, and watch my children go through these same challenging times. How old is he?”

“Late 30’s.”

Cashier: “Yes, my son is in his 50s. We have to pray and trust the Lord with them, don’t we?”

Y’all, this interaction poured warmth and love deep into my soul. This is a conversation that two women have on elementary playgrounds, over coffee during the teen years, on the back deck as their children marry, over the phone when the grandkids come, and in thrift shops when children face mid-life crises. The burdens of our children come and go, and we are witnesses of them over a lifetime.

We never ever stop being a praying mother.

That day I was reminded again that the heart of a caring, engaged mother stays present and prayerful into the deep years of white hair, hip replacements, and Easy Spirit tennis shoes. Other callings may come, change, and end. Some are for seasons, and then God calls to something new, but the call of motherhood is from child’s first breath to mother’s last breath. In the midst of our own mid-life changes, careers, or ministry expansion, receiving times of greater freedom with our schedules, we will always have the opportunity to stay present, watchful, and prayerful over our children.

When mine are in their fifties and I am in my eighties, I hope that I’ll pray with the heart of a nurturing, engaged mother, sharing those burdens with other mothers, always invested in the growth and goodness of my children.

Live, Mind, and Work: The Antidote to Social Media Anxiety

I have been off of social media since Ash Wednesday. Nine full days have felt more like nine months in that I feel emotional, spiritual, and mental clarity in fresh ways that somehow it must have taken longer than only nine days to get here? Those scrolling images and habitual updates already feel like forever ago. This shows that even short social media breaks can have a huge impact on our well-being.

As I was walking around a local pond during these early, lovely days of Spring, and pondering how settled my soul was beginning to feel, I Thessalonians 4:11 came to me :

“and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”

This verse can be a gentle admonishment for anyone who is feeling the creep of an anxious hum forming in her interior life. Social media is loud, public, and the work of other people’s hands. It’s noisy. So many images, marketing, opinions, to-dos, statements, crafts, clothes, patterns, passions. Because we are getting inundated with chronic visual input, our minds start ruminating and dwelling on “her affairs” even when we put away our phones. Her decor, her mothering style, her way of reading the Bible, her ideas. And if we follow about 400 women, that is 400 women’s voices, affairs and work on display to us over and over again all day! These lives can begin taking over our own, overpowering our unique thoughts, ideas, and creative output.

In my time away from social media, I have had the surprise of desiring to write again which has resulted in two blog posts and some journaling. I cleared out the winter clutter of my den, all the dark pillows, throws, and layers and lightened the space with some Spring decorating. I made pretty Spring wreaths from artificial flowers glued and wired to embroidery hoops, and knotted a simplified macrame birdfeeder. I have listened to great podcasts and dug deeper into stimulating books. I have hosted old and new friends, reached out more, and am dreaming about new, local possibilities. It’s as if I am being set free to do “me” again instead of dwelling on all the “hers” and what they are doing. My time isn’t being sucked away looking at hundreds of highlight reels, but creating my own singular, real-life highlight reel for me and my family to enjoy.

I had told you in my last post that I had Social Media FOMO, but I didn’t fully realize all that I was actually missing out on in my real life. I now am beginning to fear missing out on the now, because presence is where the magic is, and that’s where social media leads us away from. Presence is where we live at peace, manage our own affairs, work with our hands. We can’t do these well if our mind and eyes are distracted and living in someone’s else visual real estate.

Let’s invest in our own space well. Our interior spaces, our living spaces, our relational spaces. Let’s quiet ourselves, simmer down, be content with less stimulation, inspiration, and opinions. Let’s mind our own affairs, working with faithfulness within our homes, jobs, and resources, with full focus, clarity, and bringing the first-fruits of our best selves. Let’s work with our hands, tending our people, kneading the bread, digging the garden, stitching the fabric, stirring the soup, cleaning the corners, typing the words, wiping the counters, knitting the yarn, folding the shirts, hanging the banners, arranging the flowers. There is so much life to be living right in front of us! Not her work. Not the work of the past, not the allure of a beautiful future, but the right-now work of the real-life present. The invitation to a peaceful and meaningful life is in front of us. Let’s say yes to it.

Invitations in Mid-Life

Today is lovely. Cold morning, warm afternoon, with the sun shining through my front windows. Homeschooling is complete for the day. Some of my boys are playing card games, one is fishing, and another has a mandatory rest as he recovers from a cold. The laundry is humming, the dryer rattling with zippers chinking the sides. The dog is napping under the buffalo-check heated throw that I have nestled over my lap.

This day looks like one of the hundreds of days that I have lived alongside my family. Living, working, learning, playing, resting. Working part-time this year has shown me how much I value and believe in this quiet path I chose twenty years ago, to methodically make a home, raise my children, read books, nap, cook, and tend to our needs. A life marked by connection, albeit broken, and rhythms that bring stability and growth.

Somewhere in my early forties, I questioned my choices, the normal angst that arises in mid-life, wondering if I chose the right path. Was there more? Would I do it differently? It can be deeply unsettling to allow your mid-life self to ask the questions, sit with them, and not react immediately and rashly with a life overhaul, a new side hustle, a jump towards a host of activity to quell the storm of shaken identity. It’s important to allow the rumblings to come, to sift through the thoughts and questions, to find kind counsel to offer compassionate listening. Just as it is normal for our teens to navigate puberty with the deeper questions of identity, we too as middle-aged women find ourselves walking on that same path. We need not fear this rite of passage. It’s an invitation, a threshold, towards the next half of life.

Here’s what I know after a few years of questioning, listening, and waiting: I don’t regret any of it. Sometimes we think that if we had done differently that maybe it would have been easier (that could be true), happier (I doubt it), and more fulfilling (that’s not the point). But the thing is, that imperfect, faithful journey grew us, deepened us, refined us. We never “miss out” if we were following God and living by faith. Sure, maybe there are some choices that we would change, but He was faithful to course-correct, redeem, and lead us into “pleasant places”, drawing the lines around us.

I have settled into this mid-life season. My body is thickening, around my mouth is becoming softer and wrinkled, stray grays grow throughout my hair. My joints ache like they never have before. My sleep patterns can be erratic with ebb and flow of monthly cycles of hormones. None of this is to be ashamed of. We are softening, body and soul. We soften our judgments of ourselves and others. We envelop our children with our bodies in warm, comforting embraces. We soften into a deeper sense of womanhood, recognizing that nurturing ourselves and others is a calling until the end. We tenderize our interactions with our husbands, recognizing that this life of fleeting intimacy deserves more grace, more acceptance, and more kindness. We give up the pressure to perform and please, and soften into grace.

Ask the questions. Listen. Adapt. Accept. Soften. Continue to build a durable faith, built on love and presence. These are the deep invitations in mid-life. We are loved and held. This is our identity. We are accepted, received, delighted in. He has not withheld goodness from us. Look around. It’s all here!