I didn’t think it would be a problem for me. An empty nest was much harder than I anticipated. I’m aging and not always gracefully. I had higher expectations of myself. Yet I felt a little used up.
I have gotten used to my kids not being here. Those college years were great transition years for them and for me. I like that our life’s pace has slowed. I appreciate that our time is in fact our time. No more parent meetings. No more performances or sporting events to attend. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy them. I did. But honestly, especially their high school years, their events dominated our calendar. We attended countless band concerts, orchestra performances, plays and musicals. We cheered on our youngest in every swim meet she swam in. We volunteered to make food, take tickets, chaperone trips, upload stats to the team website, and time races. We worked band festivals, sold concessions and the list continues. I would do it again in a heartbeat but I’m glad that season is finished. For the most part, my time is back to being my time.
So what do we do with this time? What is fun? What is interesting? What brings joy and satisfaction? These questions are harder to answer than I thought. I wish I had written down what I was yearning to do when we were knee deep in kid’s schedules. But those crazy years flew by. Was there time to make lists? If I had would I be able to find them now? Probably not! You may be better organized them me however. If you made a list don’t tell me.
Part of me can’t remember what I enjoyed 26 years ago. My before children days, were filled I’m sure. Of course I worked full time. I was taking graduate classes. We camped in the summer, sleeping in a small back packing tent when our backs were young and agile. That for sure isn’t going to happen now. If you know me you know my love for coffee. I can talk for hours.
So now, with time, I can rediscover recreation with other people. I like people. I want to share my time with them. After all, this life is all about relationships. Settle down my introverted friends. You too need friends. Whether we are together in a large group or sharing time one on one. I believe the key to finding fun is building relationships. These friends should be older, younger and just about the same age.
Are we up for adventures? What consists of adventures in the empty nest years? Is it spontaneous day trips? Is it planned dinners with friends? The most important act however, is just that. We have to stop talking about it and start doing it.
I suppose I define adventure a little differently now. I’m not looking for danger I’m looking for more than just fun. I’m looking for restoration. I’m seeking rejuvenation. I’m hungry for recreation that does what the true sense of the word means. Recreating my soul and spirit. Giving it new life in a new season. We rest in Him so that He is the source of our renewal. The empty nest isn’t the end of something it is the beginning. Recognize we, as older women, are recreated for a new purpose. Colossians 3:10 tells us that we are “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” (NLT) This is a daily process. He is continuing to make us new. Continuing to help us work out our salvation. He is far from done with us.
Mountain top experience
In November, I broke my foot. No dramatic story, I took a step, my sleeping foot twisted and I heard a pop. The pain overwhelmed me. “I don’t have time for this!” I mutter. It was the day after Thanksgiving. You know that crazy time of year. It is peak ministry season, great family time, and of course my job. How was I going to juggle an already busy season with this unexpected injury?
It had already been a difficult year, a dark year. Our circumstantial struggle drove us to cut our schedule to the bare minimum. Death of loved ones, our children moving away, and financial strain all contributed to our frustration. We put our head down and plodded through each day as best we could. Help was offered and gratefully received. Our struggle eased. It got better. We saw light in the darkness.
I was cleared to walk in February. Hobble is a better description. With each week, I felt the improvement. Bone strength increases with use. So I used it. Ice packs and ibuprofen became my best friends. It was not easy but it was better than living with that boot and scooter.
My foot was tested on our recent visit with our daughter in Seattle. She was excited to show us her city. She lives with hutzpah. It was her adventuresome spirit that took her across country to begin a new life. Her pioneering spirit would have conquered the Oregon Trail, had she been born in that era. I would have stayed east, unless encouraged or inspired – maybe.
Hopping from one tourist site to the next we walked a great deal. Although it wasn’t too painful my foot ached at the end of each day. Our last day we planned to hike in the Cascade Mountains. My husband really wanted to visit Wallace Falls State Park. The hike to the upper falls was four miles, one way! That meant four miles up and four miles back – down a mountain – on an already aching foot. I had a choice to make. Do I pamper the foot and miss out on the hike with my family? Or do I risk the pain and embrace the adventure? I took the risk and it was worth it.
Was it stupid? Maybe. Rest assured, I was cleared by my doctor to return to all activities. I wasn’t risking reinjuring the bone, just discomfort. As a bone heals, it can take up to a year for reformation to be complete. You can still feel a bump where it broke. So currently, there is too much bone for the area. Any swelling due to excessive use causes discomfort. Yes, we are to use wisdom but we also are to dismiss worry. Matthew 6:27 (NLT) declares “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
My foot did hurt more than it had in a while for an entire week. It doesn’t hurt today. So now I know my risk paid off. In looking for the fun, risking the possibility of discomfort, I found a day that I will treasure. Taking in magnificent creation that reflects our designer God is top of my list of time well spent. Doing this with my husband and adult children made it priceless. It is a day that I can remember on difficult days. It will inspire me for years to come as one of those golden days.
Are you in the midst of a survival season? Life ebbs and flows with beautiful and hard. Remember you are not walking alone. Jesus is with you walking beside you as you hobble along and when you dance with joy. He is our eternal hope.
Building A Legacy
I always knew I wanted to teach God’s word, but I didn’t know how to initiate that process. I prayed for opportunity. I was determined to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, but I was afraid any movement I made would be outside of God’s will. I will never forget the phone call that came on a bright June morning. Elizabeth was looking for women to mentor into Bible Study leadership. A wonderful teacher, she saw in me a glimpse of who I could become. She was wondering if I would be interesting in joining two other women in a year long process. After that year, the three of us would share the Bible Study leadership at our church. I didn’t hesitate to say yes—this is what I had waited for! As the year progressed, so did our friendship. Soon we were discussing more than Bible Study—we were sharing our lives.
But it wasn’t just knowledge she poured into me. Elizabeth knew me, and saw what I was good and what I was not-so-good at. She saw things I didn't see; she exposed flaws and encouraged gifts. Not only did she teach, but she listened. Introverted, she chose her words thoughtfully. I was the extrovert to her introvert, and often had ten times as many words as she did! But she listened closely to every one of them. She was a wonderful sounding board and I have learned much not only from her knowledge but also her technique.
“You realize I didn’t give you any advice,” Elizabeth would say with a chuckle. “I just had to wait until you heard what was in your head. You came to the conclusion without me.”
That may be true, but I needed help untangling that mess. I’m a verbal processor; I needed someone who loved me enough to patiently listen to all the details, all the bunny trails, and finally determine the conclusion. This is one of the tools I bring to the young women I know. I love them because I was loved. I pass on the legacy I was given.
Maybe you didn’t have an Elizabeth in your life—don’t let that stop you from being an Elizabeth for someone else! The potential is in you because you have Jesus in you. He is greater than your past. Put Him in the center of your relationships and watch Him work. You can do this. Be the woman you wished you had in your life.
I know, I know—I can hear your protest now: “But I don't have anything to offer!”
That’s not true. Discipleship is not about your accomplishments. You don't need an impressive resume or a string of letters behind your name to be a mentor. Discipleship is about sharing your struggles as well as your victories. Sharing life is more important than sharing advice. Availability plays a stronger role than teaching knowledge. You have wisdom to share but your confidence comes from your identity in Christ, not your achievements. You are fully equipped, and sharing you time tells others they are important. Sharing life—like Jesus did with His disciples— just takes availability.
Will you make yourself available?
Speaker, Author, founder Dragonfly Ministry
10 ways to honor Mom on Mother’s Day
- Clean for her. No matter her age Mom will appreciate a helping hand. This can be indoor or outdoor. Whatever your choice, make sure it is something she will appreciate.
- Donate in her honor. There are many charities that benefit Mom’s in poverty. I especially like those that launch into self-support. World Vision and Compassion International (click on either to donate)
- Breakfast in bed or anywhere she likes! This is cliché but Mom will love the pampering. Create an atmosphere that makes her feel special.
- Write your favorite memories. Whether in a letter or framed for her to display. This means more to Mom than you can imagine.
- Set time aside for her. Mom will always want to see you. Invite her to do something with just the two of you. Go for lunch, a walk through a garden, or just sit in the living room and talk. The gift of time is precious.
- Make a video. This is a great idea if you can’t be with Mom on Mother’s Day. With smart phones this is so easy. Make sure to send a copy to older folks via email so they can watch it over and over. What a special way for her to feel like you are there with her. Make it personal.
- Wear something of her to honor her memory. If Mom is not with you anymore the loss can feel incredibly large on this day. Honor her by wearing a piece of her jewelry or accessory of your choice. If you don’t have anything like that then carry a picture of the two of you wherever you go that day. Be sure to show it to someone you love and share a memory that is dear to you. You are not sure who that could be? Than send it to me! I would love to hear all about her.
- Make a photo album. Use pictures for your childhood as well as now. You can make an online slide show or have one printed. I like to use Snapfish for mine.
- Make art for her. Ah, the artistry in each of us can vary. This project is only limited by your creativity. A few years ago, my son wrote a poem for me. He framed it with pictures of the two of us. I love it and keep on my desk. Not so creative? Remember she loved the macaroni necklace, she will love whatever thoughtful idea you come up with.
- Tell her you love her. She never tires of this. Include why you love her as well. Mom’s love to receive back a tiny bit of the love they have poured out over the years. However, don’t limit it to a verbal expression. Give her something tangible to remind her of your meaningful expression of devotion.
Did you use any of these ideas? I'd love to see them. Post a picture on social media with #dragonflymothersday
Do you have additional ideas? I’d love to hear them. Share on the Dragonfly Facebook page for other’s to try.
While in Colorado we looked forward to a mountain hike. Our destination was a beautiful waterfall. Adventure awaited us, little did we know the challenge we would face. Reaching our destination with ease we rested and enjoyed the beauty of creation. The area around us was littered with loose rock. This made further climbing difficult, so my girls and I didn’t chance injury and played around the base of the falls. After some time we decided to work our way back to the path. I helped my 8 year old back to the safe spot and turned to guide my eleven year old. At that moment I heard someone yell “ROCK!” The warning sounded too late, my daughter was hit in the back with the melon sized rock. Its momentum knocked her to the ground. I stood helpless as she slid past me on the path, her leg seemly twisted behind her. Time seemed to stand still as panicked thoughts rushed through my head.
“My God, is her leg broke? How far are we from the closest hospital? Can a rescue team get here? What are we going to do? Oh God, Oh God, my poor girl, I’m scared Lord, I’m scared!”
Fear could have paralyzed me, but that short prayer drove the fear away and I was able to assess the situation with the help of others. Although she had a horrible bruise on her back, the rest of her flexible, youthful body took the blow without damage. With an ice pack on her back, we were able to hike back to the main road without further incident.
Anxiety ridden as a kid, I have learned that faith can overcome fear. Such a wonderful gift! As a child of God we don’t need live in fear. When it creeps into our life we simply have ask God to make it go. Isaiah 41:10 tells “Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Look how close He is to us. Right next to us, He chases the fear away. The Comforter comes in and calms His child.
Thank you God, you are always with us and you calm our fears. Build our faith, Lord, so each time we fear we remember to call to you! In Jesus Name AMEN
She walked through the door by herself. Strange thoughts ran through her mind.
“Am I dressed ok?
What if it’s weird?
Please, don’t let me say something stupid.
Better yet, please don’t let anyone talk to me!
But please don’t ignore me!
Oh help! Why is this so hard?”
Entering a church for the first time shouldn’t be intimidating but it is. Any unknown place is. We each fight with our past experiences and current fears.
I entered an event two years ago. I was the speaker, so I was a little nervous. I didn’t know a soul. Woman after woman greeted me. Some chatted a bit. They shared a little of their lives and I shared a little of mine. As we talked I realized they didn’t know I was the speaker. What they observed was a woman who arrived alone. A woman who needed to be greeted and received into their community. What a gift! They helped settle my nerves. They helped me through the awkward transition from unknown to welcomed guest.
These women lived Romans 12:13 (NLT) “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” They were so good at it. I would have started attending that church had I not had a home church already. Truly lovely hospitable people.
The word hospitality used in Romans 12:13 means “love to strangers”. Paul was not talking about giving a cup a tea to a dear friend. He was reminding us of the importance of extending love to all we meet. This is a powerful message. It goes against the idea of looking out for self first. The next verse in Scripture (Romans 12:14) tells us to bless those who persecute us. When we show this kind of hospitality it is risky. We have no idea the kind of people we are greeting. We are to do it anyway.
The next time you are at a place you feel comfortable, look around for someone that looks a little lost. Say hello and make a little small talk. Invite them to join you and your friends. Don’t worry about their response. Their acceptance or rejection of your offer is their responsibility not yours. Remember everyone appreciates kind words and gentle welcome.
I asked on my social media pages “Why is your church community important to you?” Over and over I read, “They support, encourage, and pray for me” “They are family.” “They understand and know me.” “They accept me.” On and on went similar comments. The need for relationship is at the center of our beings. We desire community and connection. Someone at the beginning of your journey at your church stepped forward and shared hospitality. What a gift! A God centered precious extension of His Holy Spirit from one person to another.
Simply put we have a choice. We can self-focus. We recognize our own needs, our own limitations and let our insecurities win. Or we can extend a hand, defeating the grip of insecurity on our self and maybe on the one we invite in. The effect of the greeting is immaterial. It is simply the right thing to do.
Romans 8:12-39 Romans 8:15 “Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
Insecurity was deeply rooted in me and recently I realized there were STILL remnants of those old wounds. As I was cleaning out a drawer of old photo albums, a picture fell out. I showed it to my son, Mark as proof of my participation on our math team. He said “Hey when was Elizabeth (my daughter) on a math team?” My response was telling “How could you say that! That’s me, not Elizabeth. Elizabeth is so beautiful and I was so ugly.” Do you hear the lie? Thinking Mark had made a drastic mistake; I found Elizabeth and showed her the picture. You know what she said? “When was I on a math team?” It was so revealing to me. Traces of insecurity were still there.
I grew up in a Christian home, we attended church every Sunday. I was loved in my family; words of encouragement were spoken over me regularly. My parents told me Jesus loved me as I was, I trusted my parents. Yet, when I went about my daily life I heard a different story from other people. I was told by other kids my appearance was subpar. In the worlds eyes I was a homely mess and I believed them.
The problem was I could not defend why I believed Jesus was God. I had just accepted it as truth but never investigated it for myself. As I began to question, I prayed a great deal. God began to reveal Himself in a personal way. I pursued Him and He became very real to me. As I got to know Him, He taught me who I really was. The more I understood how I fit into His Kingdom the more confident I became.
Confidence does not equate to pride as long as it is anchored in Christ. If I am relying on my own gifts and talents that is pride. If I think I am better than someone else that is pride. If I believe all my success is my own and for myself, that is pride. If I trust Jesus loves me know matter my performance on any given day that is confidence. My confidence does not depend on who I am but whose I am. I belong to Him and He loves me.
This process continues today. As my confidence grew, I recognized something else was happening. I became more attractive to other people. I love people. My natural personality was hidden because of the victimization that I experienced as a kid. When that pain was healed my true identity was revealed. John 3:3-6 tells me when I accepted Jesus I was born again. This rebirth not only gave me new life it gave me a new family. (Romans 8:15,16). God is my Father and I am His daughter.
This is true for you as well. When you hear those whispers of insecurity remember how God feels about you. Tell those whispers to knock it off, you are loved and that is enough. Take up your true identity as a confident child of God. With confidence we declare our true identity in God’s Kingdom.
Acquire and develop fruit??? to further build our legacy.??? Cold, dark, and dormant. This is winter in Michigan. Yesterday, I wore leggings and jeans. Yes, you read that right. Two pairs of pants at once. It was that cold. Why then write about cultivating when the ground is frozen? Now, in the quiet season, this is when we prepare for the next step. The New Year holds promises of new life. Although, the earth is suspended in rest, we are not. Now is the time to review, refresh and move forward. We need to cultivate the soil of our soul. Cultivating prepares the soil to bear fruit in the coming season. It loosens the ground where it has become hard. It delivers much needed air to the life that lives deep in it. It allows the soil to percolate water where it is needed to aid in growth of the plants for the new season. Cultivate is my word for 2018. When we cultivate we acquire and develop what God planted in us. It allows us to acquire and develop skills to further build our legacy.
Oh how I want to bear the fruit God is calling me to develop. Psalm 1:3 defines this goal. “They are like trees planted along the riverbanks, bearing fruit in each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” I wrote this verse in my journal in mid-December. Unaware of this, my son included it in his Christmas present to me. I’m pretty sure that is confirmation for my 2018 Scripture verse. How do we cultivate so that we bear fruit in all seasons? Remove spiritual weeds from my gardens. This includes letting go of the heavy cares of this world, avoiding deceitfulness that comes with comfort and power, and distractions from the pleasures of life. (Matthew 13) For me this is a daily process. Give up worrying. Put my faith fully in God, not my stuff. Balance my time. Loosen the soil of my spiritual garden. Meditate on His word. I’m not going to read it alone but I’m going to chew on it. Digest it and let it become part of who I am.
Challenge my opinions by comparing them to God’s word. I am often surprised by what I learn about myself. (Matthew 13) You probably will as well. Cultivate to make sure my roots are feeding and drinking from God’s living water. (John 4:10) Drink deep through worship and prayer. This brings strength, empowerment, and resolve. A cultivated garden of my heart allows me to grow toward God and follow God where He leads. This one is scary but I will tell you it is so worth it. It may not be easy but He will take you places you never dreamed and the results will overwhelm you with joy. (Ephesians 4:15) Cultivate to bear fruit that shows I delight in God’s way of living. Each day I will choose live that way.
This is simple if we focus on bearing His fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Don’t worry about how others are living, their fruit isn’t my responsibility. This soil needs to stay rich with the nutrients God provides. We need to cultivate it so that these nutrients penetrate deep into us so that mere opinion is replaced with steadfast truth. “Oh but I know the truth!” Don’t we all think that? Honestly, we are only grasping the edge of it. A wisp of knowledge is in me. God is so great, so vast, we must continue to expose ourselves to Him in order to know Him. There is so much more to know, so much more to understand. Psalm 90:12 says “So teach us to number our days, that we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom.” Grow our knowledge Lord, and help us to apply it wisely in order to build the Kingdom of God.
Oh Lord, penetrate the deepest part of me. Help me to know you better. Teach me to live a life that reflects you, my beloved Lord and dearest friend. In Jesus Name, AMEN Are you willing to cultivate with me this year? I’d love for you to join us in our Facebook study of the Legacy workbook. You will receive a downloadable preview of the workbook that is designed to go with the Legacy book. The workbook is free for this focus group only but you will need your own copy of the Legacy book to participate. Space is limited so please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, January 5, 2018.
She thought she could so she did. But it was harder than she thought. Who does she think she is? She tried, so why keep trying? Did she hear God correctly? Was it even God? Or was it some silly dream not work her time? There is fruit but not what she was expecting. Could she have misunderstood? Then quietly she hears the whisper. “Dear one, true it is not way you saw it. But I did implant the dream. Let it play out the way I want it. Don’t force it. You will impact others to grow my Kingdom.” As she walks down the path Jesus has set before her she sees the seeds He has asked her to scatter. She misses sometimes. Some days her imperfections seem larger than the talents He has clothed her in.
Still she walks. She doesn’t know what opportunities or barriers are before her. She just knows the goal. One day she will be with her Savior and each step will make sense. Until then, She will serve because He served. She will sacrifice because He sacrificed. She loves because He loved. She thought she could but she couldn’t. However, Jesus knew she could. He restores her unbelief with faith.
He fills her with joy. He extends His gentleness through her. He supplies her with self-control. He pours out patience so she too can give it. His peace overwhelms her. His kindness emanates from her. His goodness directs her. His love propels her to love like Him. He supplied the power she needs and through Him she will. This is each of our stories. Yes, that is right, this is each of us. We cannot forget we are His workmanship. Keep walking.