Monday, July 24, 2017

Gathered Advice: Part 2

As I said in my earlier post, "That Awkward Stage", I'm finding myself in a new stage of life these days. This year my husband turned 40; next year our oldest will be sixteen and the youngest will go off to kindergarten. I've found myself looking back wistfully at the years with my hands full of little people. Life was so simple when you could smooth away all the problems with a rocking chair and a kiss (never mind the mind-numbing lack of sleep in those days and trying to decipher the crying of a fussy baby...) What I've realized, as I shove back the nostalgia and determine to enjoy the present, is that my sadness might be mostly the reality of what being mother to a sixteen year old and my youngest going to school next year makes me. Not old, exactly, but a whole lot old-er than it feels like I should be.


Mid-life crisis is defined as an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. It is suddenly taking stock of your life and realizing that it may well be half over; what have I accomplished and where am I going from here?

I have found myself asking these questions and facing this reality. My question, then, was how do I do this gracefully? Today I'm sharing with you some excellent advice from ladies who have travelled this road before me.

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"There are two things about change:

#1. They will happen throughout your entire life..
#2. God will always be with us.

I have somewhat of the personality to plunge forward into change with an upward plea, "God, you're gonna have to help me".

I believe He will simply because He always has."

{I can't tell you how much I love this simple piece of advice. Facts are the mooring needed in the middle of change and questions. What better truth to ground me than this?}

"I will jot down some thoughts that come to me, not in any certain order like how important, or anything...and maybe this is not even the kind of thing you were asking for...but here goes:

1. Journaling was/is a lifesaver for me. In problem-solving, not only does it help me to understand what I’m dealing with, but it helps me to organize my options and come to conclusions better. In my spiritual journey, it helps me to process with greater clarity what I am going through at the time and then later helps to strengthen my faith when I can read back over previous victories and evidences of God’s faithfulness. 

2. The daily habit of gratitude has transformed my life, since I started it about six years ago. I try to write down three things a day that I’m grateful for – things I noticed that were outstanding, or ordinary things that I tend to take for granted if I’m not intentional, or difficult things that I am not grateful for at the moment but wish to be soon. This practice has changed my whole outlook on life. In the transition to mom-of-adults, in the changes of our family life, in navigating the onset of menopause...I have been overwhelmed at the steady, faithful, giving nature of God. Sometimes I feel so rich I can hardly stand it.

3. What you said about identity is noteworthy – “How did they gracefully adapt to the change of identity that comes with all this change of who I am?” I would say that the more I learn who I am in Christ, the easier it is to adapt gracefully. If I have my identity and worth so bound up in mothering my children, or in how much I am able to accomplish in physical work, or in my knowledge/intelligence, when my children leave home, or I just can’t work like I used to without getting aches and pains, or I start forgetting things and having mind lapses, I will be devastated. I will feel like I am losing who I am and I won’t know how to cope. The sooner I can learn to live out of the concept of Whose I am rather than who I am, the better.

4. I think it’s a good idea to be informed about what you’re going through. (That’s why I think yours is such a good idea to learn from other women.) If I were to make a list of notes to my younger self, I would include things like “Read up on perimenopause (yes, self, there is such a thing, and it can come before you know it!) and get acquainted with its symptoms”, “Ask that older mom at church what meaningful things she would recommend doing with adult children in the months leading up to their leaving home for the first time (or for good)” and “If you can, discuss your questions about scary topics with a trusted friend because you may be surprised and comforted to know that she snapped at her grown son – over basically nothing – the other day and she lies awake for an hour or two at night even when she didn’t drink any coffee and she sometimes feels despairingly dry toward her husband in bed.”

5. Get yourself a good, understanding husband and a couple of close fun and funny friends to see you through this time in your life. You’re gonna need ‘em."

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I'm not even sure how to express my appreciation for these ladies who shared from their heart. It was exactly what I was looking for and blessed me deeply; thank you!

Next up I have a guest post I'm looking forward to sharing with you....



p.s. Now, who wants to talk to me about perimenopause.................?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gathered Advice: Part 1

I must confess, when I hit publish on "That Awkward Stage", I really doubted I would get any response. I handed out my email address and boldly asked for tips but I secretly expected nothing. What that really boiled down to was the feeling that God didn't care enough about me to send responses my way.

Guess what? He did care!

He spoke loud and clear through you readers when not one but five emails landed in my inbox. I enjoyed the tips and advice from each of them, but the fact that God cared enough to prompt the writers to share them spoke to me the loudest. I'll even admit to wiping a few tears as I thanked Him for the tangible evidence of His love for me.

As I promised, I'm going to share the advice with the rest of you. In this first post, I'll give you some input on parenting teens. I'm leaving the writers anonymous and I'm not sharing their emails in full but I hope you enjoy the advice!

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"We have children that are entering the teens, those years when they search for their niche in this world. We can encourage and suggest, but some decisions we cannot make for them."

" Stay involved in their lives. Take an interest in what they like to do. Pray often."

"It is such a fun stage to have children that you can relate to as an adult."

{Let me insert here, I've never agreed with the mom's who say they love having older children who they can reason with/discuss things with; I've always loved younger children and been intimidated by older ones. But, several weeks ago when my oldest daughter was away at camp for a week I realized how much I missed having someone around to carry on"adult" conversations with during the day! I hadn't realized how much I enjoy her friendship.}

"I used to wonder why the older ladies are so tight-lipped with advice when we younger ones so obviously needed to tap into their wealth of wisdom. Now I understand that for the most part it’s only by the grace of God our children turn out as well as they do –we didn’t have a clue what we were doing (in the thick of parenting) so we sure don’t have answers for everyone else......I have opinions, but I’m not at all sure what worked for me will work for you.

That was the disclaimer.
 
Advice I have for parenting teens... when they are small, listen to their chatter so that when they are older they will keep talking to you. The chatter will slow down and you’ll want to know what’s going on in that head. But if they got the message years ago that you are not interested in what they have to say, they won’t say it.
Sometimes I want to shake young parents... how to wake them up that they are setting a foundation for parenting teens?? So much of the influence you have over your children is much earlier than you think. They don’t realize answering a toddler’s million “why” questions every day is paving the way to getting a teen to [get off their phone long enough to] communicate. Till most parents are aware of it, it’s too late. 
 
When they get to the teen years –especially once they can drive and you have less illusion of control over them- it’s fairly important not to overreact to things they tell you or you find out they are doing away from your presence. Gasping over stupid risk-taking/close calls... scolding for immature choices will not stop them from doing these things. It will only cause them to go undercover with it. Speaking from experience here. (Case in point- my parents were not happy with all the dress up socials we did when I was in service. Did it stop me from participating? No, I just quit telling them about it.) It takes the wisdom of Solomon to ‘school’ your reactions, but I keep saying I would rather know what they are doing, even if I don’t approve, than have them hide it from us. When my son got the 4wheeler stuck and it would’ve been pitch dark till he walked home but he didn’t have a cell phone along to call for help, he shot a large branch off a tree with the gun and used it to lever the 4wheeler out, I applauded his ingenuity but inside I was cringing over the many ways that could have ended badly. I thought I did pretty good covering up my alarm while teaching them to drive, but they gleefully tell stories how they always knew when I was nervous because I would clutch the door handle.
 
Something that has been big for me in parenting teens is to remember how I felt when I was their age. Yes, they seem so much younger and inexperienced than I was at their age, but I thought I was mature back then. I try to treat them the way I wanted to be treated. I loved, loved, loved the age my daughter is now so I try to release her to do things without me - get excited about what she’s doing, even though I’m too old for the slumber parties and things that were so much fun in my youth. Tell them things like “I’m so glad you have the opportunity to do this!” even when inside you are going “aww, that’s my baby!”

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Great advice, thank you so much ladies!!

I'll be back soon with part two, this time focusing more on my question of personal aging and how to gracefully adapt to the change of identity that comes with all this change of who I am......
 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Plant Therapy

"A garden is cheaper than therapy. 
And you get tomatoes." 

My tiny little patch 3 years ago

I haven't had a real garden for years and years but I can sure identify with this comment I read recently! The older I get, the more I'm discovering how much I love to watch things grow. Pretty sure I inherited that love from my mom.

Marigolds from mom's seeds 3 years ago as well

Mom loved her garden and her flowers. Neither were ever extravagant nor extraordinary but they were an important part of her life. I used to think she wanted to plant a garden in order to feed her growing family. I suppose that was part of the reason, though I'm beginning to understand that, really, she loved to watch things grow. Many were the evenings she would walk out to look at the garden. Often, there was nothing to be picked or hoed or tended, she just looked at it. Sometimes she persuaded my dad to walk out there with her, I can still see them, walking hand in hand.

I understand now why my mom did that. Is there anything more amazing than a seed popping open and new life bursting up from where it's been buried in the ground? 


How do those little shoots break through the hard earth? I don't know, but they do; at least some of them. Of course, I've had plenty of experience with seeds that disappear into the soil and no evidence of them is ever seen again but those aren't the ones that amaze me. 


The ones that amaze me are these sturdy little fellas who push up bravely through the dirt and the rocks. They hold their spindly little stems up to the light and drink in the the sun and the rain.

And then they grow, and grow......

Another thing that amazes me is taking little snippets of green, tucking them into the soil and watching the magic unfold.

The plant above was gifted when Charles was a baby. I've trimmed it numerous times and now have a second plant from it's snippets.



What makes them take root and grow, instead of withering into a heap and turning brown?


 From this little plant has come the ivy plant in the teapot and all the ivy in Jasmine's cement block creation below; amazing.




I do not know; I am not wise enough to explain it. The mystery and wonder of it point me to a Creator who alone is capable of orchestrating such things. There is something about watching it all that makes me very, very happy and puts a peaceful sort of calm in my heart.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Can Of Worms For You To Consider

I have a feeling I may be opening a huge can of worms here; worms that, once released, may be impossible to recapture and return to their docile state. But, since I am only going to open the lid and I really have no personal agenda or stake in the worms wriggling inside, I believe I will take the chance.

My husband took me shopping yesterday; he's amazing like that. I've been wanting to get up to Holmes County for quilt batting and fabric and he so nicely made the trip happen. I've told you before how our thrift store adventures turn out. I'm happy to say, we came home without a single cassette in hand. What I may have failed to mention is his other thrift store weakness: Books. Particularly ones that have something to do with marriage. He insists the dusty stack of books hiding out in the back corner of a closet that I roll my eyes over and repeatedly ask permission to dispose of is the reason he is such a marriage expert. He is, so what can I say?

We added to the stack yesterday ---


He flipped through the book and spent the $1 because of a page and half that he read and wanted to show me. The ironic truth is that I spent a good part of last evening reading what Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale had to say back in 1971. It didn't take me long to figure out that she must have had a stack of dusty books on the subject of marriage in the back of her closet too, because she sure thinks a lot like my husband!

                       

The page and a half that convinced him to spend a dollar has me intrigued too. It flies full in the face of popular marriage advice these days and I find it very, very interesting. I'm not going to say anything else about it; I'll just pry open the lid on the can and leave it here to let the worms wriggle where they will...

"The wife who studies her husband over the years--really studies him--will come to know him even better than he knows himself. She will be aware of qualities and potentialities in him that he himself may not know are there.

I thought of this the other day when I heard a story about a certain wife in a small Midwestern town, a gentle  sweet-tempered woman who's husband was a gay blade, very attractive to women. He knew it, and he took advantage of it at every opportunity--and there were lots of opportunities.

Since it was a small town, this man's amorous adventures were a matter of common knowledge. And since it was a typical small town, there were those who considered it their duty--their somewhat gleeful duty--to tell the wife about the husband's philanderings.

But the curious thing was that these bearers of ill-tidings never seemed to get anywhere with the wife.  She would listen patiently to the worst they had to say, then she would smile and reply that she was quite sure they were mistaken. Her Bob was not that kind of man at all. He would be incapable of such deceit. She appreciated their interest, but they really need not concern themselves further, because obviously they didn't know what they were talking about.

The informers kept trying. But against this serene assurance, against this unshakable faith (for that is what it seemed to be) they made no headway whatever.

Meantime, because nothing remains secret in small towns, reports of his wife's attitude got back to the husband. At first he congratulated himself on having a wife whose suspicions were so hard to arouse. He told himself that it made his extra-marital exploits a lot less risky. In fact, it just went to prove his long-time contention that what a wife didn't know wouldn't hurt her.

But gradually a change came over this man. He stopped looking for adventures, and he ceased being responsive when adventurers came looking for him. The townspeople were amazed. One day a man who knew him well asked him what had come over him.

"Well," he said, "I think I could have stood up to any sort of complaint or recrimination from Martha, any wifely jealousy, any amount of anger or accusation. But the one thing I couldn't do was brush off her faith in me. If she thought I was a hero, how could I go on being such a heel? I tried to go on, actually, but I found I just couldn't. I owe her a lot. I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to her."

Was that wife simply naive, innocent, starry-eyed? Or did she know her husband better than he knew himself?

Who can say?"

--Quoted from "The Adventure Of Being A Wife" by Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale, chapter 3. Study Your Man

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I have not forgotten my last post. I am delighted to say I have had several responses and will be back to share with you! In the meantime I'm still listening if someone has thoughts to share.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

That Awkward Stage

I'm a little unsure about putting this all out here for the world to read but here we go. I've entered a new phase in life these days - an awkward stage, as the dear old lady I knew growing up used to call that difficult, adolescent stage between child and adult. I no longer have babies - my youngest is four and although he's small for his age and we treat him too much like a baby, he's not one. I don't quite have adult children yet - my oldest is fifteen and while he likes to remind me how many months it is until he starts practicing driving and I see his years of school are dwindling, he's not there yet. All of this goes together to equal an awkward stage and I've been trying for a while now to figure out how to navigate.

I remember years ago when I was maybe 13 or 14. The Mennonite churches in the surrounding area where we lived in Arkansas had, what we called, the Arkansas Fellowship Meetings. Every year, the different churches would gather together for a day of preaching and food and fellowship. Well, that particular year, someone must have gotten creative and they had everyone split into separate groups after lunch. If I remember correctly, my parents were to talk to the men's and lady's groups on the subject of Mid-life Crisis. I'm not sure why that stands out in my memory? Possibly because it was the first time I had heard the term or maybe because my dad made endless wise cracks about things being because of a mid-life crisis; I don't think he felt like he had one at the time!

I think maybe I could benefit from hearing my mom's talk about now.

I keep saying I want to enjoy these years and navigate the changes and the ...uh... aging... gracefully. I keep saying that but I finally asked myself yesterday, so how are you planning to do it? I haven't heard an answer yet.

I understand I am running a great risk putting this all out here. I'm sure I'll hear a lot of, "How old are you? Oh, you're only 38. You aren't even that old! You could have several more children, what are you talking about?" True, I could. And I might, who knows. That doesn't change the fact that my oldest is 15 and my youngest is four right now and life is different. It doesn't change the fact that while I am only 38, time flies. If I don't start figuring out now how I'm going to enjoy each stage and navigate the changes gracefully, chances are it won't happen when I'm in the middle of it.

They say experience is the best teacher. It would be nice sometimes if there were a way to get that experience without actually experiencing the stuff, if you know what I mean? There are plenty of women who have navigated these waters before me - done it well, I might add. How did they do it, I wonder?

How did they make the switch from mother-to-children to mother-to-adult? How did they embrace the wistful sadness of no more little people in the house and, face it, the inevitable reality that their absence means you're getting old? How did they gracefully adapt to the change of identity that comes with all this change of who I am?

I don't know how many women who read my blog fall into the "experience" bracket, I'm guessing there are at least a few. I would so love to learn from your wisdom and experience! Would you share with those of us floundering in the waters of change? I could try to guilt you into it with the whole biblical idea of the older women teaching the younger but I'd much rather just have you share because you want to. If you have anything to share on this subject please email me at christopherbethany@juno.com I would love to compile all your "experience" into another blog post because I know there are plenty of other moms in my shoes.

Please don't be shy! I won't use your names without permission and I won't even share it here if you don't want me to but I would really love to hear from you. Maybe you know someone you would like to hear from on this subject - share this post with them so we can all benefit!

Now I'm gathering my courage, hitting publish and holding my breath.