The Construction of Late

Do you ever go through the emotions that you just aren’t doing it right anymore; that you really aren’t necessary; that if you took a few steps back for awhile, no one would even miss you?

I have absolutely no reason to feel that way, but sometimes I do. It’s not so much things others say to me or things they do–it’s more the way I perceive myself in the big picture.

A discussion goes bad, and now communications are strained at best and non-existent at worst. Over and over the question arises, “What could I have done to assure a different outcome?” My perceptions become skewed, and I blame myself for both sides of the breakdown.

The positions you held are not yours anymore, and while you may be glad to have someone else in those positions, suddenly you feel — I don’t know — unnecessary? lost? empty?

It’s strange. Every now and then I go through these emotions. I don’t share them so that you will feel the need to pat me on the back or encourage me. In a day or two, I’ll be over this and back in my “zone.” Right now, I just feel tired, unnecessary, a bit lonely.

But tomorrow….

For Jenni

Ten years ago my daughter became a mother. Today she has three sons ages 10, 7, and 4. They each have their own special personality, and they are all active little boys! Some nights their granddaddy and I watch them for Jenni, and love them as much as we do, by the end of most of those evenings, we are exhausted. However, this article is not about me; it’s about my daughter, the mother of three little boys.

When Jenni brought Nate home from the hospital ten years ago, she was only 19 years old. I can remember walking into her room each night as she cared for him. He slept with her, and I’d stand in the door and watch her arrange his little blankets and get him cozy before she’d make herself comfortable. I felt great pleasure watching the way she protected and cared for him.

Over the years since her first child was born, we’ve had occasional differences of opinion about parenting. Times and trends have changed, and actions I took with my children aren’t necessarily the norm today. Many times as we discussed styles of parenting, Jenni took my advice—sometimes she did it her way. Ultimately, when all is said and done, I have to say I’m very proud of the way she mothers her children.

I was reminded of her abilities just recently when my youngest grandson had his tonsils removed. I picked Jenni and A.J. up at 5:45 am and off to the hospital we went. When the nurses called A.J.’s name, Jenni took his little hand and led him back to pre-op. He looked so tiny, and he was so sweet as he clutched her hand and walked along beside her. After they were situated and I went back to see them, Jenni was lying on the bed with A.J., and they were playing and laughing. She managed to keep him fairly calm before he was taken to surgery; and although she was very nervous, she managed to maintain her calm in his presence.

After surgery, we waited in A.J.’s hospital room for the nurses to bring him to us. As soon as he was carried into the room and saw his mommy, he began crying. Immediately Jenni was beside him, comforting him, whispering in his ear to calm him down. She lay beside him on the bed, and in no time he was sleeping again. She didn’t leave his side as she watched over him with her mother love.

Jenni, this is for you. While we don’t always agree on the day-to-day of motherhood, and while our styles of mothering may have some differences, I freely admit that I am proud of the mother you are. Life is not easy much of the time, but you still manage to make sure your sons know how much they are loved. They clearly adore you.

Little A.J. recently whispered in your ear, “You’re a good mommy.” I couldn’t agree more.

I Wonder

Stephen the deacon was full of the Holy Spirit, and he performed signs and wonders. And he became a target of the same mindset that had already crucified his Savior, Jesus. They set him up the same way they set Jesus up. But he refuted their false testimony by giving them a history lesson about God’s chosen people–Israel.

When Stephen got up that morning I bet he didn’t consider that it would be his last day on earth. But it was. Before the day was out, even with his testimony which proved his accusers were wrong about him, the powers that be had incited yet another crowd against another innocent man. Stephen died a very painful death by stoning.

Did he whine? No. Did he beg? No. The Word says he looked heavenward and saw the Son of God standing at the right hand of the Father. Jesus was preparing to meet Stephen. Stephen’s face glowed with the vision. A few short minutes later, Stephen asked God not to count his murderers’ sins against them, and he died.

We in America don’t have people chasing us to the edge of town in order to stone us because we are a testimony against their lives. Don’t be deceived, though. The enemy still hates us. Watch the news–every day the battle grows more heated.

I’m not trying to be morbid, but you do realize, don’t you, that …. well, you know. What sort of testimony do you hope to leave behind when that day arrives? Will you be able to look into the heavens and see the Son standing, waiting to welcome you home? Will your face glow from the encounter? Or will we hang our heads in shame, afraid to look our Savior in the eyes?

I wonder.

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

Our daughter had her first child when she was 19, her second child three years later, and her last child two years after that. Because she is a single mom and needed help with the boys while she worked, she lived with us. Honestly, that didn’t really work all that well. From her perspective, it was as if she were still a child living at home with her parents. We had our share of disagreements (at least a hundred thousand or so). The living situation just wasn’t the best, because the tension of adults very loudly sharing their different perspectives transferred over to the little guys.

About a year-and-a-half ago, Jen told us she was moving into her own home. She had found an apartment within her price range and felt that the time had come. She was right, of course, it was time. Her dad and I helped her get her belongings moved in, bought her some groceries, gave her a little cash, and returned to a child-free home for the first time in more than 30 years.

At first, I thought I might never get used to the quiet that engulfed the house after living with noisy little boys running around, leaving near-tornado results in their wake. They had always been with us. I loved them with every ounce of my being, and having them gone from under foot every minute of the day wasn’t as enjoyable as I had dreamed it might be.

At first.

Eventually, I began to notice the change. I would leave for work and find the house in the same condition when I got home that evening. I noticed it was quieter, and I was calmer. This really helped when the boys came over, because the day-to-day stress wasn’t there anymore. One day I looked around the house and thought, “Hmm, maybe now I can fix these rooms up like I’ve wanted to do.” We’d bought the house as a fixer-upper, but the years had taken away the desire to do much with the house in our struggle to simply stay sane.

So 2009 was a good year for me. I began working on those home improvements, a little slower than I might have tackled them ten years ago, but getting the work accomplished nonetheless. With the grandsons around the corner from us, we were able to see them as often as we wished. Our son and daughter-in-love live about 7 hours from us, normally allowing us to see them only twice a year. In 2009 we saw them five or six times! On one of their visits my son commented that I was more fun to be around in my “old age.” When I asked him what he meant by that, he said that I seemed more relaxed and I laughed a whole lot more about things.

Saturdays are a real treat for me now, because I am able to visit with my other family members, plan an evening with our adult friends, or do any number of things I want to do, as opposed to babysitting most of the day away without accomplishing any of my plans. Best of all, we can have one of the boys over for the night and really enjoy having them with us. So all in all, empty-nesting has been a good thing for my husband and me.

As I struggled through the years of having our daughter and grandsons living with us and all the drama involved with that, folks would ask me, “How do you deal with it all?” My reply was that this was just a season of life, and it would eventually pass into a different season. I’ve looked at life that way for many years, and it has been what has kept me going when a current “season” wasn’t so much fun. I believed that every season was God-ordained, so I clung to the knowledge that God was in control and to the promise that He would bring good from every challenge I was facing.

This new season as an empty-nester holds much promise. My husband and I can once again carry on a quiet conversation, or simply sit together in comfortable silence with no distractions. We are able to plan vacations, or go out to dinner every now and then; and I’ve especially noticed my husband once again enjoys having folks come into the home now that it isn’t full and noisy all the time. Best of all, we are freed up to spend more time in the Word of God, and focus on particular aspects of our own personal walk with God.

As I said before, some of the seasons I’ve traveled through have not been easy. I believe, however, that in every season—good or challenging—God has much to teach. The lessons that I have learned are not just for my benefit, either. Every lesson learned is an opportunity to help someone else who is struggling with the same issues, to share what I have been taught by God and to encourage them to know that God will help them too.

I will more than likely face new challenges in the days ahead. Recently, my husband and I have found ourselves to be members of what I have coined the “sandwich” generation, taking care of grandchildren on one end of the spectrum, as well as caring for aging parents at the other end. I have no doubt that we will learn lessons as we face the challenges of this new role. Thankfully, we both believe that God is stronger than the challenges, and He will be with us every step of the way. He is, after all, the Master of the seasons.

Claudette Wood
© 2009

Resolutions, Smesolutions!

For the past several years, my husband has asked me the same question, “What resolutions have you made for the New Year?”

My answer has consistently been, “None.”

Seriously, if I could remember the last time I actually kept even one resolution, I might consider making new ones. The simple fact is that I have begun many a January 1 with a list of resolutions for the year, all of which have been broken by January 2. So forget it. And the list is almost exactly the same every year. I could just pull out my list from ten years ago and re-date it. Come on, ladies, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? My list reads like this: Number one, read through the Bible; number two, lose weight; number three, spend less money (seriously?).

All this is not to say that resolutions aren’t a good thing. Making resolutions helps us check our priorities, consider where we want our lives to have traveled by year’s end, and gives us a direction in which to move. A person who actually accomplishes the goals on her list is doing a good thing. I’ve accomplished one or two things on my lists in the past, but not enough to actually feel the benefit of making the lists for the future. I don’t need that kind of guilt.

But, okay, just for the fun of it, let’s say I was going to make some resolutions for this coming year, and I wanted it to be different from past lists—you know, something I could actually see myself accomplishing. What sorts of things would I put on this list? I’ve considered this for a while, and here’s what I decided upon. A good place to begin, I suppose, is with my relationships. God first, of course. I’d want to spend more time in the Word, getting to know my Father better. That’s a worthy goal, one that would benefit me daily and eternally. So far, so good. Then, of course, is the relationship with my husband. Now that we are empty-nesters, I could work to be sure our relationship doesn’t grow stale, but moves out in new directions. That could be lots of fun. I like that goal.

Next on my list would be my children and grandchildren. I’d like to further develop the friendship I have formed with my two adult children—spend more time talking with them and learning what’s happening in their lives; perhaps make more opportunities to visit with each other and maybe even go on a trip together. That’s a good goal for the list. As far as my grandsons are concerned, I could write a book. I would like to fill their lives with love, kisses, hugs and back scratches (only grandma knows how to do this properly, I’m told). I’d like to teach them more about Jesus, of course. I could make plans with their mom to take them to movies, have sleepovers, eat pizza, make cookies, stir kool-aid—any activity that involves interaction with grandma. Okay, so let’s add that to my list.

Oh, and then there are my friends. I have some very good friends, and over the last year I have begun reconnecting with friends as far back as high-school days. I’d probably add that to my list as something valuable to be continued in the year ahead.

I suppose if I were going to break down and make a list of resolutions, these are the sorts of goals I would set for myself. It is certainly different from past lists I’ve made, and it might even be an achievable list. I don’t know, though. I could just do these things without that list hanging over my head all year long. These types of goals don’t really need a list as a reminder, anyway, right?

One year, for the children’s sermon at church, I rolled up a scroll with a list of resolutions on it. As I flipped open that long scroll that ran down my legs and out onto the floor, the congregation erupted in laughter. It was a fun moment, and allowed me an avenue to make a serious point. We can make all the plans we wish, but life doesn’t follow a list. One moment or one word could literally move my life into a different direction.

Life certainly can be full of surprises. However, while I have no idea of the events I may experience or if I’ll accomplish anything on my “non-list,” I do have confidence that I won’t be facing the year alone. God guarantees me of His presence with this promise: “… the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8). My Father loves me. Whether or not I make any resolutions for myself, it will still be a year of promises kept.