I really didn't think that I would become a cliche, but it seems as though I have. This mid-life thing that I have been going through has been tough. I know I'm not alone in questioning what I'm to do with my life as one stage has ended and the next one has yet to reveal itself, but it's been hard to navigate.
It's hard because even though we still feel like we have a lot to offer with the years we have left, we live in a tricky culture where not only success and achievement is highly valued, but being on the cutting edge is king.
I was reminded of that recently while talking to my cousin about her career as a children's book illustrator. She is a ridiculously talented artist, but as a woman in her early 60's and with the changes that have occurred in the publishing world, she is questioning her relevancy. She struggles with the tension between being true to her craft and adapting toward the pressure to adopt a more technological approach.
She's wondering if she has lost her place.
As I have ended one stage of my life; raising four young men to adulthood, I have fought the concept of becoming stagnant. This past summer, I set out on a solo 2 week road trip (camping included) to "find myself" or actually to "remember myself" and it was great. I was writing and sharing and having a great adventure. But then I came to a stand-still.
I didn't even realize that I hadn't written a word since August 1st, until I recently went to write a new blog post. I didn't even finish writing about my adventure that I was so excited about. I hadn’t acknowledged the fact that I had completely shut down. The question was "Why?". That's what I had to find out.
Unfortunately, as I looked back, I realized I had been affected by some things that came into play during that time that made me feel irrelevant, out-dated, invisible and unnecessary. I felt like my "best by..." date had come and like my cousin, I questioned my effectiveness. The thought that she was done offering her gift to the world just didn't seem right.
Maybe it wasn't right for me either.
As I prayed through this, God started to barrage me with experiences from every angle to get my attention and to teach me something. Something that would move me forward and give me a new vision.
One morning, I heard Milo Ventimiglia, who plays "Jack" on the program "This is Us" (which everyone should be watching!) being interviewed. When asked how he felt about recently turning 40, he profoundly stated that he surprised himself by feeling like he finally had something to offer the world. He now had 40 years of experience which he felt gave him credibility to speak into others’ lives.
What a great attitude.
As I thought about Milo's answer, I thought about myself and my 55 years of experience. There has to be value in that. I have had great triumphs, have made many mistakes, and have had dreams both shattered and fulfilled.
I've walked with the Lord for over 30 years, which has been an adventure in itself. He has been faithful to give me great strength, mercy, wisdom, grace, forgiveness, power, and unconditional love. He’s also allowed me to experience defeat as I’ve turned my back on Him and trusted in empty things. I have a wealth of knowledge from my 55 years, but think about those women who have had over 60, 70, 80 and even 90 years to learn from.
Those thoughts led me to search for those women online. Those who are speaking into the lives of other women; some older, some younger, all at different places of maturity in walking with God. So I started studying the current top Christian women influencers on Instagram, blogs, vlogs, podcasts and on the Conference Speaking Circuit. What I found was a little depressing. They were pretty much all from 25-40 years old.
Oh there were a few more in my age category but their websites seemed dated, tired, and included a “Pollyanna” approach to life which didn’t seem real compared to what I have lived through. I needed honesty, authenticity, freshness, and teaching that dealt with living in our current, often difficult world. Also, very few of these women were on Instagram, which I found interesting since it’s such a popular avenue for influence.
Women my age seemed invisible. They didn’t seem to have a voice in a very noisy environment; a voice that’s really valuable.
It seems to be true in the church as well. I stumbled onto a blog post by Sarah Bessey where she wrote of her experience of asking for women to share how it felt to be a woman in the church. Although she heard some wonderful stories, something surprised her.
"But one theme emerged that I hadn’t looked for, over and over: Women, in the middle of their lives, who felt invisible and ignored by the church, the same way they feel invisible or ignored in our culture.
These are women of my mother’s generation perhaps, maybe ten or even twenty years on either side. And I heard their hurt and sorrow and stoicism.
I used to scan conference platforms and church staff listings, music festivals and seminary rosters for women and visible minorities, now I find I’m scanning for older women, as well. And you know what? They were right. They aren’t there."
It seems to be a problem in our society overall and actresses often speak of it. The perceived lack of value of middle aged and older women in society in general is sad, but in the church, it’s tragic. The mandate given in Scripture in Titus 2 for the older women to teach the younger is a serious one. God knew that there would be value in it but all parties need to see it. We need to see how badly we all need the camaraderie of women joining together to help each other through life.
I remember being 25 and thinking that older women didn’t get me and that they were stuck in their “mom jeans” and shag carpet. I understand now how hard it is to keep current and to try to be “hip” without looking ridiculous. In know the tension of feeling like I'm still 25-35 and enjoy being around that age group, but knowing I’m not.
My sons, their spouses and girlfriends have been “gracious” to help me out. Sometimes it’s hard to take their rebuke or disapproval of my style, but actually I’m grateful that they have introduced me to social media, minimal style and design, quality restaurants, more modern photography and art, as well as entertainment.
Change is hard but as I saw the void of older women’s voices out in the Christian realm, especially online, I felt motivated do something, so I got to work. Ok, I got to work with the help of my 21 year old son, who challenged me to start thinking of ways to make what I have to offer appeal to younger women. How to prove my relevancy.
I started studying Instagram, and although I'm still not great at it, I'm working hard to adapt. We also redesigned my website to look fresh and updated. But oh how hard it is to get noticed in a world that wants what's current over seasoned; fresh over proven. The American church culture wants the hip, cool, new angle, so how do we compete with that? How do I let my voice rise above the contemporary demands?
Sarah, went on to say in her blog that "Women told me about how hard it is to be middle-aged or to be considered un-beautiful in a church culture which values youth and energy and talent. In a sea of hipsters and motivated young people with self-promotion apparently engrained into their DNA, they feel invisible and over-looked, slow and ignored."
I've decided that it just should not be this way. I've decided that I won't stay in a "crisis" mode but will move into a form of "revival". I have a lot to say and so do other women my age so I am hoping to provide a place for us to have that voice.
I happen to be at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors and Church Leaders and quite frankly, I didn’t really know why I came. I'm neither a Pastor or exactly a church leader at this point but I do have a story to share. I also have an ever growing knowledge of the Word of God and a desire to impart some of the wisdom I am constantly gaining.
I was extremely motivated by a workshop at the conference by Susan Hunt who has a discipleship ministry which gives women of all ages a voice into others’ lives. She encourages women to always have someone discipling them as well as having someone they are pouring themselves into. It doesn’t have to be difficult, formal or time consuming. It’s simply about sharing experiences, God’s Word, and connecting.
I’ve coined a phrase for myself that instead of a “mid-life crisis”, I feel challenged to have a “mid-life revival”. Susan Hunt is 78 years old and she is still teaching, speaking, and mentoring young women. No one has told her that she isn’t relevant and she hasn’t fallen for the lie. We shouldn’t either!
If you have any words of wisdom or would like to share your story on this blog, please contact me. I am surely going to contact some of you because we all need you to share your wisdom with us! I need other women to join me in this pursuit and to carve a way to accomplish what I feel God is calling me to do. Please join me!!
My new format for this blog is to share what God is teaching me, share wisdom and stories from both older and younger women who have impacted my life, as well as share resources that I am always finding and reading. If you have any other ideas, please share them with me.
Blessings to you all!
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”