More thoughts on blogging in the middle years

Well. It seems I struck a chord with my post on blogging in the middle years and while I haven’t been able to keep up with all the conversations it spawned, I am grateful I do not lament alone.

Here are some of the follow up posts I do know about and if I have overlooked any, please let me know and I will be sure to include them here.

Aimee Byrd, Where are the Mature Women Writers? and Platform, Blogs, and Why We Write

Persis, What are the Expectations of Women’s Ministry?

Deb Welch, The Blogging Chronicles, My Take On Where the Mature Bloggers Went

I am thankful for the wise input of these women and the others of you who commented on Facebook and Twitter and here at the blog. You’ve all given me much to think about and, as I said, I am grateful that I am not alone in asking these questions.

Speaking of comments, my sweet friend Jessalyn posted my favorite. Actually my two favorite. You’ll have to click over to the post and read them to see why. :)

As I continue to think on the void of mature women’s voices in blogs and books and social media, I agree with what most of us have concluded: it’s complicated. There are, I think, certain mitigating factors of this stage of life that contribute to our reticence…

Our circumstances. As I attempted to highlight in my post, a lot of us are finding ourselves in situations and struggles for which we are totally unprepared and inadequate. Life is just hard, whether we are dealing with aging parents or rebellious teenagers. Along with these new challenges comes new uncertainty of what is appropriate to share in terms of the privacy both of our situation and those we love. And we are busy. We’ve transitioned out of the mommy years and our time is less our own. Many of us have returned to work full time and no longer have the freedom to write and comment.

The medium. Those of us who began blogging ten years ago or more fondly recall when blogs were places of conversation and community. As Twitter and Facebook have taken over the community aspect, blogs have become less dialogue and more monologue. Blogging itself has become more professionalized both in terms of monetization and publication and thus increasingly intimidating and isolating.

The industry. Some of you mentioned other possible reasons; for instance, how the publishing market seems to be geared toward younger women. Youth does sell, that is true. Maybe I’m naïve but I’m not certain publishers are actively discriminating against the older woman in favor of the younger. I just think there are a greater number of younger women writing.

“Women’s ministry.” I do agree that another possible factor may be how women’s ministry has been modeled in the local church over the past couple of decades, particularly in churches that hold to a complementarian position in terms of women’s roles in the church. As I’ve observed before, in a small complementarian church often the only places open for a woman to serve is in the nursery and children’s ministry. It’s not discrimination against the woman teacher; it’s the need and size of the church defining her opportunities. In that scenario it is difficult for a woman’s active pursuit of theological training to be modeled. Not impossible, but difficult. Added to this is the prevalence of video based studies forming the sum of theological dialogue among women. I’ve talked to many women who think they have nothing to offer the conversation because they don’t fit the mold of the dynamic, skilled orator.

Pushback against the egalitarian position has also resulted in a lack of investment in a strong theological foundation for women which in turn leads to less women writing and talking of theological matters. I once read an article, years ago, that advocated all Biblical instruction for women be taught through Titus 2. As if that were the only passage of Scripture relevant and necessary for the woman of God!

As I said, it’s complicated. We could offer up reason after reason and personal story after personal story—and I would seriously love to hear your story if you’d share it!—but my hope is not that we would merely have forum to complain and commiserate but that as we reason through our silence, we would find our voice. How I hope more women will be thinking and talking–and yes, writing–about theology and real life! Young or old, I pray that we will all use whatever sphere of influence the Lord grants us to joyfully assert the hope we have in Christ.

So many of use are eager for more mature voices! I love that. Maybe more of us will blog; maybe some of us will write a book; maybe there will be more honest, deep conversations between friends and across generations. You have a voice. You have a story. Go. Tell. Speak. We want to hear from you!

Writing from the middle years. Or, not.

The summer before this last, I attended The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando. It was reported then that half the conference attendees were under the age of 40. In my own group of real life friends who made the trip together, of the four of us I was the only one above that age marker. Not only that but of the authors and bloggers I had the privilege to meet in real life there at the conference, all appeared to me younger than their profile pics might indicate. In fact I finally admitted as much to my friend and fellow blogger Staci, exclaiming “Everyone is so young! They all look so much younger than they do online! Wait, it’s the same for me too, right!??!?”

She said so but then again she is my friend and she loves me and thus she may be somewhat prejudiced or at the very least unwilling to hurt my vanity.

My vanity and youthful (or, not) appearance aside, I’ve observed that much that is currently being written to and for and by women seems to be written by the younger generation, those under that 40 year marker. My experience at the conference bore that out as I sought to get a book signed as a gift. “She’s adorable, isn’t she?” my friends and I remarked as the author walked away. And she is. And young. Young and adorable she may be but she is also serious about her craft and using it for kingdom work.

I am excited. I love that there is a generation of young women the Lord is using to reach the world with their words. I applaud their efforts, I seek their wisdom, I buy their books. I have such respect for these young thinkers and theologians, young women earnest about their faith, hungry for the Word, passionate about reaching the world for Christ.

My desire is for women to know and love the Word of God, that knowledge and affection fueling a knowledge and affection for the Lord God Himself. I see that in these young women, in their words, in their blogs, in their determination to spend a weekend in Florida to attend a conference about the gospel.

That being said, I feel keenly the void of the older voices among them. Where are those of us writing from the middle and late years or from grandmotherhood? Be it books, blogs, or tweets, it seems to me we are underrepresented in the world of words and ideas.

Awhile back blogger Tim Challies observed there are more and more women neglecting and even abandoning their blogs (present company included, ahem). I think of his comment often and I wonder if the real question may be where are the older, more “mature” women bloggers?

Tim published a follow up post in which three women offered their explanations for the falling number of women bloggers. Interestingly, all were of the younger set.

I have one friend who recently had her mother to move in with her and her husband and daughter. She purchased a hospital bed as well as renovated a bathroom in order to be able to care for her mom. I have another friend enduring the heartache of a rebellious son, another who hasn’t spoken to her daughter in months. One friend suffers ongoing health problems, nothing life threatening, but the kind of difficulty that is both annoying and debilitating in its own way. Another friend is looking for a job for the first time in many years in order to help with college expenses for her child. Just last week I met a woman whose family has sold everything they own to pay for their son’s drug rehabilitation program.

I offer their examples to say this: a lot of us aren’t writing not because we don’t have anything to say but because we can’t say what we have to say. Not on a public forum. It’s one thing for a mommy blogger to write a post about a two year old’s tantrum at the grocery store; it’s another thing entirely when it’s the rebellion of your twenty something year old, not to mention the heartache and confusion therein.

So to my young writer friends: please, keep writing! Use your words and your platform for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, yes and amen. As you do so, do not forget the wisdom or experience of the older woman in your life. Maybe she isn’t on Twitter but she may be in your church or your Bible study. Seek her out and be her friend. She needs you and you need her.

To my sisters in the middle and late stages of life: let’s support our younger sisters! And as the Lord may grant us freedom and grace, yes and words, let’s use our voices to fill this void with encouragement and edification. We are not alone in this journey, no matter how heavy our burden or unique our circumstance. Whether our conversation happens online or in real life, we can speak up and speak out in friendship and fellowship.


I once thought thoughts. You know, deep and meaningful thoughts, thoughts I pondered and wrestled with and deliberated over and contemplated and, well, thought and sometimes wrote about, sometimes not.

“I don’t think stuff anymore,” I told my husband awhile back. He assured me that I did, in fact, think, and think loads of stuff, just maybe it’s the stuff and the kind of thinking that’s changed. Not necessarily less than, just different.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s life here in the middle years with nearly grown children. Maybe my boys finally did rob me of all coherent thought. I suspected they might, from way back when they first entered my life and heart and I was so overwhelmed with love and responsibility that my thoughts merely stammered even then.

Of course sometimes I think perhaps it’s social media–Twitter and Facebook et al–making me dumber. All those people thinking stuff, amazing stuff, and filling my feed with their amazing thoughts expressed in beautiful prose and engaging commentary and, well, it occurs to me maybe they’ve already thought all the thoughts I might think and thus there’s no need for me to ponder or wrestle or contemplate. Where I once foraged for truth and understanding, here it is as easily accessed as the swipe of my thumb on my smart phone. I can just think their thoughts after them. Or not think at all.

Which is a real temptation, to piggyback on or merely observe another’s force of conviction. I remember my early days of blogging, you know, back when I thought thoughts, and part of the joy of the medium then was the sheer freedom of thoughtful expression. We all thought and wrote and commented and engaged. I miss those days of blogging but I think I miss the thinking the most. Like many of the young mommy bloggers of today, I had pat answers and firm convictions about almost anything and I liked to tell you about it.

Not anymore.

My husband is correct; it’s not that I don’t think. It’s that the thinking is different, now weighted with the extra baggage of doubt. Not that I doubt what I believe so much, I do not. Rather, it’s the sort of doubt that wonders over the journey and questions the objective. This is who I am? Where do we go from here? Who will I be?

These are the questions of the middle years, I think, questions of identity and regret and vocation and transition, and, if truth be told, they do not lend themselves to a blog post full of cheery certainty.

I once thought thoughts of fierce and confident opinion and sometimes I miss that. I miss writing them out as part of our ongoing faith conversation here in this space. Though I find myself in a different stage of life with different struggles–and there are joys too, let’s not forget that–I do know this: my hope is secure in Christ. As murky as life may seem today, I need not despair. I know whom I have believed and, glory to God, He is able.

Unless the Lord builds

Not quite seven years ago, my friend and I sat on my back porch discussing Psalm 127. I was presumably mentoring her but I was so shell-shocked at the time, and so very heartbroken, I really think it was she mentoring me. In fact, it is probably still she mentoring me to this day though she has since moved. Thanks to the wonders of technology she is only a text message away and I find myself often seeking advice and opinion and perspective.

At the time of our mentoring discussion, our church was in its very early stages. Psalm 127:1 was particularly applicable: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” How much we wanted the Lord’s blessing in this, the building of His church! How we begged for His work, not ours! We prayed together that day, my friend and I, and asked the Lord for those very requests.

My church began on a hot July day seven years ago in another friend’s driveway. Actually, I suppose you might say it began a Sunday night a couple of weeks before that when a bunch of us crammed onto my back porch in a swell of grief and shock. But it was there, on that July day, all of us fanning, kids wandering between the lawn chairs, the decision, the leap of faith as it were, was made.

We met first in a large conference room at my husband’s office, borrowing chairs from another church and setting up a makeshift nursery in one of the empty offices. It wasn’t long before we were able to rent a converted insurance office space large enough for our corporate gathering. We eventually rented three units in that same complex and there we have met for worship and Sunday school and fellowships and bridal teas and Vacation Bible Schools and all the other functions and privileges of church life over the past seven years.

However, this past Sunday we bid good bye to our “storefront” meeting space and we have spent this week moving chairs and desks and tables and bookcases and sound systems and everything else to our new church building.

Our building. Ours.

When we first began, a beautiful building with cedar columns and stone accents and gorgeous stained concrete floors was the very last thing on our mind. Sure, we would have liked a sink to make kool-aid and maybe some green space, but, really, as we brainstormed church names and drafted a church covenant and googled statements of faith, our overarching desire was to build a church, not a building, but a church and to do so together, according to the pleasure and provision of the Lord.

This week as we were sorting things to be moved and other things to be given away, my friend and I were surveying the pile of giveaway items. We realized we each had things we had donated, me a pack and play and a toy box and a few other nursery items, she various other things needed and necessary when the church is new and the budget small. She laughed and said, “We just kind of all threw our stuff and whatever we had in together didn’t we?”

That’s exactly what we did. We threw our lot in together seven years ago, for better or worse, richer or poorer. We had no idea where the Lord would lead or how He would provide. We loved each other and we loved the Lord and to us that was enough. The Lord would build the rest.

And so He did.

This Sunday we will worship together in a building the Lord in His rich and abundant grace has provided. We will humbly, gratefully acknowledge Him as we rejoice in His faithfulness to us. We know that unless the Lord builds it, we have labored in vain. We believe this is the Lord’s work. We have seen His hand, we have known His faithfulness, we are recipients of His mercy and His grace.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.


For the abortive mom

There seems to be an unspoken expectation in today’s blog culture that if one were to comment on the hot button topic of the day, one does so immediately and thoroughly, with carefully constructed opinions and arguments. In fact, I think this may be one reason, no doubt among many, for my tendency toward reticence in posting. Maybe I’m a wimp, but I generally shy away from the brouhaha of social media commentary.

Except for today.

I cannot read of the Planned Parenthood videos and not weep. I haven’t watched any of the footage; merely scrolling through my Twitter feed reading the headlines and quotes is enough to bring tears to my eyes. The screenshot of the hand in the tweezers, like so many have said, I cannot unsee it.

My heart is broken.

I grieve for these precious little lives taken so soon and in such brutal fashion. I grieve for the evil and the lies that call wrong right and right wrong. I grieve for the medical personnel who deal in such atrocity.

I grieve for the abortive mom.

My heart breaks for the many women who have endured the violation of abortion and are now seeing what before was only imagined or ignored. The hand, they cannot unsee it either.

I have friends who are post-abortive. Though they have found healing and hope in Jesus Christ, they will not hesitate to tell you that it is a horror that lingers.

I do not want to be overly dramatic but I am convinced we would be surprised at how many post-abortive women we each know who are suffering in silence. Yes, in your pews at your church.

Dear friend, if this is you suffering in silence, please know there is hope. You need not suffer alone. Your sin, like all sin, is evil rebellion against God and His ways. But Jesus bore the weight of your condemnation when He died on the cross. He paid the penalty for your sin, yes for the sin of your abortion, and He offers you His perfect righteousness. Repent in genuine grief over your sin against Him and turn to Him in faith, believing His promise to save, and His free and full forgiveness is yours. Forever. Completely. His grace covers all your sin, all of it, every single one.

And please, sister, talk to someone about your shame and your guilt. At the crisis pregnancy center where I volunteer, we offer post-abortive counseling. We have women there who know exactly what you are experiencing. They too aborted a baby and they want to offer you friendship and support as well as the healing they have found in the grace of the Lord. If you are local, you are more than welcome to email me and I can get you in touch with someone. If you’re not local, then please find a pregnancy center in your area that will support you as you work through these issues.

I know that the condemnation of the enemy in regard to your abortion—and yes, sometimes of the world, especially the evangelical one—is an ongoing attack. Stand firm, friend, and know that the grace of the Lord is not without effect. Remember your hope is in Christ! Remind yourself of the gospel, that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And “no” means none. Zero. Zilch. You are free!

How I pray this freedom bring you joy and healing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glory.

And to others who may be reading this, may we speak with care as we rightly condemn the horrific practice of abortion. It is an evil and it must be stopped. We must stand for the unborn and we must defend the image of God. But let us do so with speech that is as gracious as it is bold and uncompromising.

Please, Lord, have mercy on us all.

More words, more vanity

This morning I was thinking to myself that I might actually pop open the laptop and attempt to resurrect the blog, at least briefly. Most of y’all have been around long enough to know that any signs of life around here are generally short-lived.

What I had in mind was publishing one of the several posts I have in draft that I tweak and edit whenever the writing urge strikes. Despite evidence to the contrary, I really do (occasionally) get spurts of creative energy! I did not consider I would be writing the stream of consciousness sort of post that you’re seeing here.

Lucky you.

With the thought of perhaps publishing something today lodged firmly in the back of my mind, I commenced reading my Bible out on the porch as I generally do on a given morning. My reading today took me through the first few chapters of Ecclesiastes. I chuckled as I read Ecclesiastes 6:11, “The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?” I couldn’t help but think immediately of the words of this blog, and vanity, and wherein is the advantage?

I will say the context of the verse isn’t exactly words written by me or anyone else. Rather the passage is speaking of the sovereignty of “one stronger” and the folly of disputing the authority of the Lord God who reigns and who determines all things.

But the loose, out-of-context application made me laugh regardless.

I once wrote a post where I made the statement I had little vanity. By that I meant that I don’t really struggle with appearance; I probably worry far more about whether or not I should be worrying about my appearance. The post actually went on to describe an attempt at purchasing swimsuit so, yeah, hello vanity and insecurity and heaps of both.

One cannot engage in a hobby like this one, writing something and sending it out to the world wide web for whosoever will to read, and not admit some degree of vanity in the process. In fact, the Preacher’s next question in Eccesliastes 6:11 hits my vanity square on the head, at least in terms of writing and ministry: what is the profit?

We have lots of ways we measure the success of something, usually by its popularity. We follow the numbers game. We look for assurance and affirmation in our perceived like-ability. See how many people read your post? How many links it received? Or, we talk in terms of how many attend your church, how many likes your Instagram photo received, how many retweets and shares your status update boasts. Or maybe we look to the advancement of our agenda, or the assertion of our “rights,” or our measure against any number of chosen standards, from our children’s academic success to the cleanliness of our baseboards compared to our friends’.

Oh. Wait. Maybe we’re not talking just about “more words” and correspondingly more vanity. Truly our vanity, my vanity, manifests itself in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Bitterness, unforgiveness, unwillingness to give others the benefit of the doubt, self-consciousness, lack of love, defensiveness—all these and more find their root in vanity and pride.

I’m reading The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God’s Love Through You by Jerry Bridges as part of my preparation to teach on the fruit of the Spirit in Sunday School. Interestingly, he begins his discussion with humility. Last I checked, humility wasn’t on the list of fruit the Spirit bears in the believer’s life. But Bridges asserts we must begin here, with a proper view of the holiness and majesty of God and a correct assessment of who we are before Him. Otherwise, we cannot grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, all of which are starved and strangled by the pervasive evil of vanity. In fact, Paul follows his list of the fruit of the Spirit with the command to not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

In other words, lose the vanity. Repent of your pride. Humble yourself before the Lord.

And what is the profit? What is the advantage to man? Consider Isaiah 57:15 for just one example of the beautiful promises the Lord makes to the woman who will humble herself before Him:

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Consider that! The Lord will dwell with the lowly! We also see in the Bible that Jesus is our example; He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross! (Phil. 2:8). Because of His life and death and resurrection, we have His Spirit within us willing and working for His good pleasure. He is our guarantee and He has promised that he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:14, emphasis mine).

“More words,” indeed. It’s a long post, stream of consciousness or not. “More vanity,” please Lord, I hope not. The profit? May it be for the Lord’s glory and His alone.

To wholly follow the Lord

It is easy for me to read about Caleb and be impressed, inspired, and even a little intimidated. So brave and so bold, and, good grief, so very brave and so very bold at eighty-five years old!

I want to wholly follow the Lord but most days I don’t feel so very brave or so very bold. I don’t have the confidence or the strength to conquer giants. My life feels less like claiming the Promised Land and more like struggling in the same battles day in and day out…

Read the rest of my post at Out of the Ordinary here.

Seeing grace

My church girlfriends and I often exhort each other with the reminder that “there’s _________ grace,” grace for fill-in-the-blank with whatever challenge or insufficiency the other is facing. There is dirty-dishes-piled-in-the-sink grace and there is moms-of-teenagers grace and there is I-cannot-do-this-one-more-day-grace. We sometimes laugh in our exhortation but deep down we know it is sometimes hard to see the provision of grace that is ours.

I wonder why I am so blind to the graces in my life. It is true we are all busy, life is hard, our struggles blind us, and we need the gentle reminder of friends to slow down and see grace. Grace also demands I own my insufficiency and my inadequacy as well as my outright desperation and depravity. I must acknowledge the end of me before I begin to see grace in all its beauty.

Same for receiving grace. It is humiliating to freely receive a kindness, a kindness wholly undeserved and with no quid pro quo attached. For some of us, it’s even a little embarrassing. But that is grace, is it not? Free, humbling, even humiliating, openhanded goodness we could never repay.

Recently I read Kara Tippett’s book The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard. It was not exactly the funnest book to read because it’s about cancer and death and because of the nearness of Kara’s story to that of my friend who also lost her life to cancer last year. But it is a hopeful book and a beautiful book, hopeful and beautiful in that it is an unwavering testimony to the goodness and sufficiency of the grace of God even in the worst of circumstances.

Kara talks of receiving graces from friends and church members, gifts she could only receive and could never repay. She writes:

Seeking grace has been a theme since I met Jesus, but it wasn’t the very air I breathed to get through each moment—each scary, hard moment. The looking has now become my practice. The names of the graces, the gifts I don’t deserve, is new to me. But I do not believe you need to face cancer to see the value of looking for and naming the graces in your own moments, days, weeks, lifetime. To capture this beauty in this weariness, even if your story doesn’t look like mine, will enrich your moments, give you a new perspective, and help you lift your head in the impossibility and pain in living. Hard is hard.

What gave Kara the clarity of vision to see these graces? Cancer.

Cancer has given me the freedom to see my story with me utterly not in it. Sans Kara. I saw the grace of care and community when I could not reciprocate my love to the givers. Cancer showed me the beautiful community that could be built into a church that didn’t have me doing anything. Cancer showed me the gift and strength of weakness, that in the place of utter inability, Jesus was able. The beauty of the broken was the gift cancer gave to our family. Suffering taught us a new song of what ministry could be. How do I communicate that gift and help you see the love in the lack of the expectation without you facing such devastation in your own life? How do I communicate the gift of weakness, neediness, and utter dependence for each moment and the beauty it brought to our community? How do I encourage grace and the freedom to exhale from the endless expectations you place on yourself?

I can spot myself in so many mamas I come in contact with daily. I see so much going, doing, and wearing out in the effort to find grace. My heart is so full of love for the overachieving mom, and I long to share the heart of slowing and hearing. I see my former self in the mama who is doing every activity, seeking acceptance in her ability, and striving to capture goodness in her going. I recognize the tired eyes and the efforts at speaking with an energy she cannot feel. I want to encourage her to slow down, to rest, to stop—but I know I would not have listened to me. I would have politely smiled and kept moving to the next thing—the endlessness of the next thing.

May I slow down and look for and name the multitudes of blessings, of graces, the Lord grants me each day, each moment. I want to see grace, the beauty of the Lord’s mercy and provision in Christ no matter my circumstance. We value those testimonies of problem -> grace -> presto! no more problem. But, as Kara and others have testified, sometimes there is only the beauty of grace and glory of sharing the suffering of Christ and knowing His sufficiency in weakness. Life is hard and may not get easier yet there is always, abundantly _______ grace. Yes and amen.