Feeling Lost as a Midlife Christian Woman?


I met another 50-something woman today who shared her life quest. It's the same story I've heard for the last 10 years from women in a similar life phase. 

They describe themselves as feeling somewhat "lost." They want to know how to fill their time. They want to know what comes next. They want to feel a sense of purpose. The once hectic life of being a mom is over. Time is plentiful, but with no structure, it can feel hard to know how to fill. 

Life Purpose Coaching

I was trained as a Life Purpose Coach ten years ago. There is a tool Dr. Katie Brazelton created called Conversations On Purpose a woman can go through with a friend or preferably with a life coach. The chapters help a woman discover new things about herself and point her in a direction.

I've gone through this book with many women I've coached. 

I will say, though, putting what is learned into action doesn't come easily. There is not usually an employer waiting at the other end saying "Come and work for me, I will pay you a lot of money, and you will be greatly fulfilled." 

Putting Findings Into Practice 

The path to putting her discoveries into practice often ends up in frustration instead. It's not easy to make the dream happen.

I've discovered even making one's goal "being kind to others" becomes complicated. At the long term care home I visited, I pushed a woman outside because she couldn't get there on her own in her wheel chair. It was then I learned she was not allowed outside without permission. I violated a rule just by trying to be nice. 

Another time, the man in the hospital bed beside my mother-in-law wanted a glass of water. I offered to fetch it but was stopped by a nurse who told me he might be on a water restriction diet. There would be no helping this man for me that day. 

It's frustrating when we can't even do something simple for another to feel more fulfilled.

One of My Books 

This desire to be purposeful and the accompanying roadblocks are a common denominator we all seem to face.

In my book, What's Next in Midlife? I address this issue of seeking fulfillment. I don't promise my book will solve this heart-cry, but it presents a starting point. 

A rabbi I listened to on TV encouraged his audience participant with similar advice -- list your gifts and find ways to use them.

My book offers exercises to help you discover your 5 top passions. These are things unique to you. 

These will include a skill set, a theme that has been common throughout life, and the obvious things God has called you to. If you're a mom, for instance, caring for your family might be one of your greatest passions at this time in your life. 


Your top passions might include health, organic farming, crochet, quilting, and caring for grandchildren. Or, you might be passionate about gardening, cooking, creating decor, travel, and caring for your home.

It's a given that you are passionate about God, Jesus, Bible study and sharing his message. Try to narrow down actions instead.

Develop Your Gifts 

Once you know your passions and areas of gifting, work on them. Develop them without an end-sight in mind. That is, just because you like to cook doesn't mean you have to aspire to work in a restaurant. Just because you love to create decor doesn't mean you need to sell it.

Develop your gifts and passions and offer them to God to use as he desires. See what he does with them. 

Will life be fulfilling every day once you do this? Not likely. I don't think anyone can promise you that. 

We all have great days and boring days. It's part of life. Look to God. Follow his lead and do the best with what you have and with the insight God gives you.   

Midlife Crisis Preventative Tools for Christian Women



I read the story of a popular Christian woman in the media who re-married recently. Her story and that of the man she re-married sounds inspirational. 

But...on investigating their history, I learned both had divorced in the few years previous to their meeting. The woman admits she had a midlife-crisis and, combined with stress and feeling distant from her husband, decided to leave the marriage.  

Of course, I don't know everything and it would be inappropriate for me to speak about that which I don't know the truth of. 

I imagine, though, her new marriage is fun and novel and gives her a new focus now in midlife. Personally, though, I feel deep concern for the families they both left. I feel concern for the times that may arise when they both wish they were still with that person who knew them better than any other person on earth. The question is, did they improve their life or did they destroy something good?

The Midlife Crisis 

The issue here is the feeling of being caught in a midlife crisis. It happens to most people at some time or another, it seems. Even Christians.

It's easy to look around for who or what to blame and easy to look over the fence or into the past to find a perceived greater sense of joy elsewhere. 

The solution for solving a midlife crisis isn't easy. It seems in midlife, just when we feel we should have finally "arrived" and feel at peace and happy, life begins to look bleak instead. 

WHY DO MIDLIFE CRISIS OCCUR?

No matter how Christian we are, we are human. It's easiest to show our real selves with the person we feel safest with. We let things slide, other things slip from our lips and we take God's goodness for granted. We become bored with life. We tire of the energy it takes to stay upbeat. 

Added on come other midlife challenges common to most women. I discuss many possible reasons for a midlife crisis in midlife in my kindle book, 

16 Essential Steps to Help You Walk Through Your Midlife Crisis: A Self-Coaching Tool for Midlife Christian Women (Self-Coaching Tools for Midlife Christian Women) Kindle Edition by Rose Garde (Author)


Resist the Temptation 

The problem is, it's tempting to take drastic measures in an effort to find a simple solution. But God rarely prompts us to take drastic measures. Waiting on God is the right thing to do in crisis, even when you don't sense His presence. 

He allows us to meet a number of human challenges head on--from the effects of hormone changes, to dealing with children becoming adults, to the inability to find new work, to health crises. 

WHAT TO DO

I think God might welcome the idea of making a list of your challenges then asking him to reveal what steps you need to take to walk through them. Ask him to restore your motivation and energy.

Satan will come in to throw doubt and despair at you. You'll feel overwhelmed. You'll look at others and feel jealous. You'll worry about your future. It's important to learn the promises of God and to choose to believe in them. 

God says to lay your burdens at His feet. He says to resist becoming anxious. He says to resist the devil and he will flee. That means:

  • Removing yourself from the situations where you feel tempted. 
  • Stopping your mind from wandering into inappropriate "what ifs" or blaming others.

God says to wait on Him and to trust Him. He says He will renew your life. He is always at work, but His schedule is not your schedule.

The questions become:
  • Will you ask for God's help?
  • Will you read the promises and trust them?
  • Will you be willing to walk through your crisis one step at a time instead of taking drastic action?

Writing Module 2 For Midlife Women in Transition



I'm currently writing Module 2 of the Design Your Midlife Transition Roadmap (MTR) series.

The goal of designing (so to speak) your Midlife Transition Roadmap (MTR) is this:

To help a midlife woman review where she is, identify her unique needs, and to decide on what changes God is calling her to make in this midlife phase.


Isaiah 43:18 NIV
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!”

Who can benefit from this process?


This tool is geared for: 

*Midlife women from about age 45 to 60, but may be helpful to any woman in transition.


*Midlife women who have chosen to include Jesus,God and the Holy Bible in their lives.


*Midlife women who are in a midlife crisis.



*Midlife women who aren't in a crisis, but who want to hone their sense of life direction. 



*Midlife mothers, empty nesters, wives, homemakers, and career women.


I hope if any of these apply to you, that you'll consider downloading a copy of Module 1, only available as a Kindle book. 




 Also available on Amazon:







The Importance of Routine


When I held a group recently, one of the women mentioned she needed to develop a routine in he life since she was no longer working in the outside workforce. She had enough going on, but felt her life lacked structure. 

Routines can give us a sense of rhythm that helps us feel productive. I work from home as a writer right now. But working in a home office is very distracting. I miss the days of leaving home and going to another setting where my mind is off my pets, housework, errands, and family concerns. Working from home is both a blessing and a curse. To be productive, I do well with some structure too. 

A Walking Date 

It seems every year I've changed my routine. When my dog was younger, getting her out for a trail walk was important. When my son was in high school, retrieving him was on my schedule. 

At one time, I structured my day by slotting in when I would write for pay, when I would do housework, and when I would exercise. 

Almost a year ago I started a routine of walking for 10 to 20 minutes around my outdoor pool deck immediately after rising out of bed. The pool deck is flat, convenient, and I can walk it in my bathrobe. I am supposed to wait to eat after taking a thyroid pill so this is a good way to fill the gap. This little bit of walking miraculously shakes loose tight muscles and the fresh air and sunshine clear my sinuses. It's been a very healthy addition to my morning. I will also usually pray while walking, asking God to take authority over the rest of my day. 

Pet Routine 

I'm usually accompanied by my cat and dog on this little walk. Once I return to the kitchen, they are ready to be fed. I often resent having to feed them when all I want is my morning coffee, but I realize even feeding them adds structure to my day. 

Gym Routine 

Recently, I joined a fitness gym that holds workouts called functional fitness geared for those over age 55. The only time slot is 10 am--five days a week. I can go as often as I'd like. This too has added structure. It's been great to meet other women my age and to be greeted regularly by them.

Family Obligations 

My son is commuting to university this fall and living back at home, so I'm now also driving him to the bus depot daily at 1 pm. Another routine addition. 

Add in there taking my vitamins and minerals, checking my email and Facebook account, making meals, and the day fills up quickly. It's up to me to fill the gaps as I choose adding in paid writing work, housework, errands, appointments, or outings with friends. 

If you are feeling a little loosey goosey about your time and wishing your day had a little more structure, perhaps my suggestions will help you. 

Christian Life Coaching for You?



When a friend reached out to me recently saying her life was falling apart, I knew what I wanted to do. Instantly, my life coaching heart kicked in.

I know she's in distress. I know she's in transition. I don't know the story yet. But she thought enough about me to reach out to me. And in that instance, my love for ministering to others and desire to life coach women was reignited.

We are a sophisticated society that sometimes I undervalue my skills. I undervalue what I have to offer. Yet I know I make good, well-though-out decisions. I know I have lived through a broad number of scenarios myself so I get it. I have rubbed shoulders with enough women to know we are not all the same, but we need others at just the right time.
So I want to be ready to minister to those who need it. I will charge most clients.

I know what I'm about to say seems like I'm undervaluing myself. No, it's about being affordable to those who need it most. I've rubbed shoulders with enough women who think $50 an hour is way over the top especially if they don't make that kind of money themselves. But a life coach splits her time up a lot and much is unpaid. Thus, the high fees.

Until December, my fee of $75 will be cut in half because I want to be affordable to those who need life coaching. Fifty percent of my time will be ministry-oriented. I won't get a tax credit for it though. My client will pay only $37.50 for a 55 minute life coaching session. I suggest a minimum of 3 sessions. It takes time to make sense of a journey.

See more details are here on my website.

Let me know if you want to investigate coaching. email me here.

Falling Out of Church in the Empty Nest


Bear with me, this article is a departure from what I usually write. I don't mean to discourage anyone by writing it. I simply want to share my own personal experience and dilemma about my midlife empty-nest church attendance. 


******

I read an article the other day about empty nest couples backing away from church attendance. It even suggested not much has been written on this phenomenon, but the phenomenon certainly exists. 

And it is problematic. For one, empty nesters are often big tithers. For another, the Bible teaches us to not forsake assembling together. Christians are better together. They need each other. So what is the church to do to retain empty-nesters? 

I have to admit, I was relieved to read this article about the migration of this crowd, because I thought my husband and I were the only "sinners" of this nature. We had already backed off church attendance going only every other week, and lately, even less. It was interesting to read that is a common thread amongst this age group.


***

Let me clarify, my husband and I had our children later than many. I was 33 and 36 when I had my children. By the nest-emptying phase, we were well into our 50s while others in a similar stage may still be in their 40s. 


A Little History 

I was raised in a church-going family. I became ministry-minded. I had great passion and held a number of volunteer church roles over the years. 

I was happy to find a church I loved--the church we were married in. But things turned bad. The church split, splintered, and eventually dissolved. My husband and I were so let down, disappointed, disenchanted. 

That event wielded long-term wounds causing us to be tepid going forward. Perhaps that adds to our disenchantment now. 

But we didn't give up on church. We were involved in church plants. I worked hard at every Sunday School class I taught. I worked hard at every ministry endeavor I tried. The list was long. And now I am weary. 

Changing Churches out of Necessity

We changed churches twice after the dissolution, never finding the same wonderful feeling in a church. 

We job transferred several times always finding a new church--always being the new people. 

Since our marriage, we have been in 8 churches--never again becoming members (oh, yes, we did once just before we job transferred again). 

We gasped that each church wanted new people to start over with a 101 class and front-of-the-church confession should they choose to become members. How off-putting for some like us. It didn't seem to matter where we'd been, our level of spiritual maturity, the number of roles we'd held in other churches. It felt insulting to have to go through church kindergarten again--to prove ourselves.

There was no membership letter transfer protocol any longer even though such is biblical and I think that is a shame. 

Once the Children Leave 

Let me not get bogged down in details. Let me get to the point of our current empty-nest 50-plus church going dilemma. 

We took our children to church until they became adults and became responsible for their own choices. My daughter moved out and my university-aged son just wouldn't get up in time when he was home. So my husband and I shuffled along to church ourselves. 

Navigating how to handle our children's choices added yet another stress to our lives. Our entire parenting role was changing. 

We were pleased to fall into a small group of empty-nesters which helped fill a gap for three years. We were able to share with each other many of our struggles.  

Illness, Tiredness, Boredom 

Then I came down with physical issues interfering with life enjoyment. I had tinnitus and anxiety and, for a time, the loud worship music added to my anxiety. 

I have chronic fatigue and lately dealing with recovery from a mild concussion. I am hypothyroid and am always tired.

Working from home and not having to be anywhere in the mornings once my children moved out, I made all my appointments in the afternoon. Church became the only thing I had to get dressed to get out to in the morning.

One church started a 1 pm service which was perfect for me. But it didn't last. I haven't been able to find any churches in my area with more interesting service/gathering times. It seems appalling. The big buildings sit empty during the week.  They all copy each other and do the same thing. I don't get it! 

Stress 

My husband changed jobs at age 57 and is tired too. He needs his weekends to de-stress. It is more pleasurable to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast together than it is to go to church where we might doze off. It's become quite a dilemma. 

Guilt

We made a point to get to church at least every second week and found doing so was more guilt-driven than desire. We want to please God and we wanted to stay accountable to our small group. 

Then my husband's mom was hospitalized and regular visits to see her was added to our schedule. Our attendance dropped even more.  

More Tiredness 

During the nest-emptying phase, we felt in demand. 

I have a large home and yard to look after which is harder at our age. My husband holds a high-level engineering role. His expertise is always sought. He grows weary.

Added onto our stress was moving our university-aged children in and out of their dorms. We moved my daughter 13 times! 

We picked our children up every couple of weeks so they could come home for weekend breaks. We grocery shopped for them or with them. We delivered them back to their dorms Sunday nights, hauling bags of groceries to their rooms. 

Our energy isn't what it used to be. Church feels like one more demand. 

Wondering Why

Until I read the article, I didn't know what was going on with us. I now see I'm not the only one struggling. 

We want to be good examples for our children, so we set to figure this thing out. Either I had to start getting up and dressed and get there, or we needed to find another solution. 

We wondered if our new disillusionment was because our church had changed pastors--one more change to adapt to. We wondered if it was because the focus of the new pastor was different than that of our heart's desire for a church. We wondered if we could find what was missing in another church, so have looked into other churches. 

But the idea of starting over again seems energy-draining. 

Investigating Churches 

We visited one church that was warm and small. But the pastor made a point to put a guilt trip on the audience saying Jesus died for us, the least we can do is show up every Sunday. (That wouldn't work for me.)

Another church was obviously geared to the younger set and the message was delivered by satellite. My husband didn't like that idea. 

A local couple wants to start a church, but their "flavor" is vastly different from ours. They're into having a church where you just let the spirit lead--no prepared message. They are prophetic-minded. We are not. 

There are churches where they love to worship 45 minutes to music. My husband despises that length of music worship time. We get tired standing that long. We don't get into the (ever-changing) lyrics the same way. Our voices aren't practiced enough to sing for that long without getting sore. 

There are churches designed for the under 40 crowd and even for the under 30 crowd. Though we have nothing against them, we know we don't fit. 

There are many young families in churches. Again, we no longer fit. We've done our time as nursery workers and SS teachers. 

Then there are churches that are like senior's centers. At 58 & 60, we are still young at heart. We aren't interested in spending our time with 75 yr olds. Admit it--those already retired and who qualify as seniors in Canada (65) think differently. 

I looked for a church that started at a different time of day thinking that may help. But there is nothing at the right time, the right style, the right distance, the right flavor, etc. It's too complicated. Or is it just me, excuses, or even the enemy? 

What's In it For Us?

I despised a comment on the article I read that suggested too many of us ask what's in it for us. The Bible tells us to weigh the costs. There needs to be something in it for us, otherwise church going is just legalism, isn't it?

So the dilemma becomes what is there out there for us? Where are empty nesters to end up? What do we want? What do we need? 

Have we just been around the block too many times? Are we just too tired of the politics, the demands, the routine?

Do we need to give ourselves permission to lay low and recuperate?

Alternative Ideas

In my search for another church I got a little excited. The church had an empty-nesters group on a weekday evening. Included were snacks or dinner and discussions relevant to their life stage whether it be caring for aging parents, reaching out in ministry, parenting adult children, or the like. It sounded like the church being the church--ministering to each other. Isn't that what church should be? 

But my excitement fizzled when I realized this group was in a location in the US, not in my vicinity. 

I think that's what I want, though, to go somewhere where we minister and encourage each other. Not just a social group, not listening to lectures and leaving. Not listening to the loud music of a worship band and feigning glorious rapture. Sunday afternoon would be a good time for us.

Perhaps the time will come when the Lord will lead us to this something new. Perhaps for now we will lay down guilt and striving and be satisfied with resting in God's love and grace. 

God is still active within us. We are trying to discern what he is saying. I hope he creates something spectacular for us and all midlife empty nest couples in the days ahead.  

Are Empty Nesters Leaving the Church?

So I want to end this by pointing out it isn't so much that empty nesters are leaving the church because they don't need it any longer or because they've changed their beliefs. They are just not going for all the reasons listed above. That is very different from "leaving the church." 


Midlife Crisis Checklists


Could you be having a midlife crisis?

Several themes emerged through conversations with women I coached. Some women seemed to feel stuck and lost. Others didn't have a description for how they felt, they just knew they wanted more out of life.  

They were Christians, but even Christian women struggle with life fulfillment and purpose. Even Christian women face life transitions. 

LIFE TRANSITION

In many cases, some type of transition was involved in the women's lives--kids were leaving home, kids were going off to college, they or their spouse had lost a job or quit one, and so on. 

Many of these women I coached were also in the age bracket for perimenopause and menopause--a time where hormones can upset the apple cart. 

Not only were their bodies changing, their roles were changing. Some were moms whose roles were changing. Others were not moms but sought something new

These women wanted to look inside at who they were now in the current moment and gather insight on what to do next. 

MIDLIFE DILEMMAS

Also came dilemmas that felt unsolvable in spite of very good efforts--the inability to find a new job, the inability to narrow down something they were interested in, feelings of confusion, feeling the need to refocus their life but not sure how, feelings of sadness and sometimes depression. 

Some doctors would merely say these women were "depressed" but I would suggest an alternative viewpoint. A more apropos term may be that a woman like this is having a midlife crisis. 

A midlife crisis is something that has to be walked through. Various life areas are under siege and help is needed all around.  

LABELS CAN BE HELPFUL

It is helpful at times to be able to put a label on a situation because then a person knows what they're dealing with. 

Without direction, it can be too tempting to take stabs at what's going on and to make drastic life-altering decisions. 
It's easy, for instance, when in crisis to assign blame where it doesn't belong. A woman may blame her husband, her marriage, her boss, her children, her husband's ex-wife, and so on. Some secular counsellors might suggest she throw it all away and start over. In my opinion, unless there are deep issues calling for a divorce or job change, taking drastic measures won't solve her issues. 

A woman in a midlife crisis will make more progress when she stops looking for someone to blame and takes responsibility for how she feels. Then, the hard work comes of identifying action steps to take.  

It's always better to make changes from a place of health and understanding than from a place of despair. 


This Wheel of Life can help a woman look at various life areas out of balance. 

I wrote the book Midlife Crisis Checklists as a companion to my other midlife crisis book on Kindle. The Midlife Crisis Checklists book presents issues that may help a woman find her way out of the thicket. 

If you feel you fit the criteria for a midlife crisis, embrace the label. You don't have to tell everyone, just realize what you are feeling is fairly common. Take responsibility without blaming others. Then, with guidance, walk through your midlife crisis, chipping away at a number of distressing issues in your life until you find balance and peace.