At 44, I am what many (myself included) would consider an older woman. Not old necessarily, but old enough to be old-er. The distinction is important, at least to my vanity.
To be perfectly honest, I'm not aging well. I do, of course, suffer from the usual physical effects of forty plus years on this earth: the gray hair and the corresponding appointment with my hairstylist every 6-8 weeks, the wrinkles, the hormonal migraines that take me down for nearly a whole a week at a time, just to name a few.
Growing old, it's not a pretty sight.
But it's the unexpected repercussions of these middle years that have me reeling: the sudden grief over an emptying nest, the regrets of past failures and deficiencies, the question of "What now?"
Don't get me wrong. I like my 40's. Life is good here in the middle years, good and rich and happy. Yet there is also much that is confusing and stressful and surreal and, well, hard. It can be a lonely stage of life and a difficult one.
I've mentioned before my entirely unofficial and completely unscientific observation that there is much being currently written for young moms: blogs, books, and so on. The worn out and weary mom knee deep in toddlers and diapers--and I have so been there--can find much encouragement and community among the many resources and blog posts written to her and for her (and, in many cases, by her). This is totally a good thing. I do not deny the benefit or the blessing of these resources--not at all! I know I, and my mothering, could have greatly benefited from the gospel wisdom of these young mom bloggers. Being a young mom can be a lonely stage of life and a difficult one and young moms are right to seek out the encouragement and community offered via social media and other outlets.
Yet, and also as a result of my entirely unofficial and completely unscientific observation, it seems there is a deficit of similar resources for the older woman. We too are in a lonely stage of life and a difficult one and yet similar resources of encouragement and community seem harder to find online. Over on my personal blog, I surmised why so few of us are blogging through these middle years of our lives. I don't have all the answers but it's an interesting phenomenon to ponder. In the interest of full disclosure, my own blog has suffered a similar fate. I too have been part of the deficit.
Whatever the reasons behind our blogging reticence, we older women are also desperate for encouragement and community.
Our challenges in the middle years no longer include tantrums at the grocery store (ours or our kids') but, like the younger mom, indeed like women of all ages and stages, we well know our own insufficiencies. In fact, we see them in sharp relief, particularly as we compare ourselves to the current directives for younger moms. All that I should have done and didn't, as well as the burden of all I did do and shouldn't, I grieve both. But the gospel tells me neither I nor my failures are beyond the Lord's capacity to forgive and redeem. Because Jesus paid the penalty of my sins, all of them, whatever it is I see as I reflect on my past (or present), there is no condemnation, glory to God!
Additionally, many of us older women are enduring one transition or another, be it empty nest, retirement planning, or caring for our aging parents, or all three. For example, those of us who are old-er moms know that much of our parental influence has now passed--not all, mind you, but much. With this realization in mind, we must cling to the sovereignty of a God who seeks and saves His own and we must trust Him for our children.
In all transitions inherent in this stage of life, we need to exhort ourselves and each other to stand strong in the Lord and His sufficiency. We can trust Him for what we need, no matter how uncertain our days may seem nor how overwhelming our obligations feel. We have this confidence because of the good news that Jesus has saved us and He will indeed give us all things in Him.
The middle years can also be lonely ones. However, even if we aren't blogging or writing books, we often have more freedom in terms of how we spend our time than our younger friends. I've found it's important for me to be intentional in seeking and creating community with women from all ages and stages. I have my husband, yes and amen, and he is my closest friend and an incredible support and encouragement. I am profoundly grateful for him but I also find great blessing in my friendships with other women.
Sometimes, though, this kind of community is not so easily accomplished. I'm busy, you're busy, our young mom friends are busy, and sometimes it's just easier to neglect our need for community. Maybe it's the introvert in me, but I often have to repeat to myself, "The Lord is about people, Lisa!" To that end, I teach Bible study, I volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center, I am friends with many from the younger mom set--these are important outlets as well as critical opportunities to experience the kind of gospel community that fosters discipleship and accountability and, yes, commiseration. A shared journey is an easier journey, yes and amen!
I am grateful for blogs like this one and the friends here who offer both encouragement and community as they point me to Jesus. But beyond the blogs there is great encouragement in the truth of gospel grace and in the relationships the Lord has afforded me. Both help me as I navigate my older years.
Are you an older woman? Do you find the middle years difficult? Why or why not? How does the gospel encourage you in the unique struggles of your stage of life, old or young? Where do you seek community? Let us know in the comments below; your comments and conversation are important to us!