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Faith Going Forward: A Midlife Following

By on October 29, 2017

By Michele Morin

Proverbs 16:31; Jude 12; Exodus 13:21,22

I can just barely admit this, but I have finally hauled all the cassette tapes–John Michael Talbot, Carole King, Billy Joel–out from under my bed.

And I’m going to throw them away.

Letting go of this one thing may not free my hands to grab hold of an entire universe, but who knows?

This unloading is initiated, I think, by my oldest son’s purchase of a house: endless boxes and piles of belongings, so overwhelming, and yet minor, inconsequential compared with my extensively curated mess.

Then, there’s the presence of teen sons still in the nest, their growing competence a continual reminder of my slippage toward obsolescence.

The prayer of my heart as I fill the waste basket with relics from the 1980s is this:

“Oh, Lord, please keep my heart from becoming brittle and plastic,
unconsciously stuck in rigid notions of my own right-ness.
Grow in me a willingness to jettison anything that slows my growth toward You.”

Trusting that the body and the soul are somehow linked in their flexibility, I’m exercising these days. Like a tee-totaling mama sneaking her basement brandy flask, I creep off to the furnace room, knock off my little jumping jacks and squats, approximate a push up, and tremble through a 30-second plank. The fear of looking ridiculous is
banished by the greater fear of weakness–of outliving my ability to rise from a chair unaided.

Lilias Trotter, English missionary to Algeria (and brightly shimmering droplet in my cloud of witnesses), prods me to look beneath the surface of this middle-aged Christian life:

“There may be much of usefulness
And of outward self-denial, and yet . . .
There may remain a clinging to our own judgment,
A confidence in our own resources,
An unconscious taking of our own way, even in God’s service . . .
Are we following His steps?
Are we?”

 

Am I?

In this long-ago question prompted by a bold woman who aged with grace, I see a call to open my hands; to stop clinging to the trappings of midlife that provide a feeling of safety or control, but may hold me back from experiencing life in the present moment; to cast off the lazy thinking that interferes with my ability to distinguish between God’s will and my own preferences and prejudices.

Am I willing to let go of my attachment to “the right way” of doing things? The truth is that there is more than one way to discipline a child, organize a kitchen, lead a committee, or conduct a Bible study. While my way may have been time-tested, I have to admit that I’m working from a statistical sample that is achingly small. Other leaders, mothers, and workers need to enjoy the freedom of seeing their ideas come to life. People are more important than my perception of success or perfection.

Am I open to new experiences, unfamiliar ideas, people who challenge me? I began listening to NPR in my forties because I realized I had surrounded myself with voices and opinions that sounded eerily like my own. When is the last time you read a book by an author who does not share your background, race, or political leanings?

Am I suffering from an unhealthy attachment to my “stuff”? I’m looking at the bookcases in my house – most of them with double rows of tightly packed books – and asking: Is there room for anything new here? If God called me to a new location, would I pull up stakes and go, or would I be anchored to collections of items that have no value to anyone else but me, and will eventually become a burden to my children as they try to deal with “my affairs.”

Do my open hands free the people I love to follow the call of God upon their own lives? Having poured ourselves into our families, we cherish time with them, but their company is not an entitlement. I have asked God to give me joy whenever my children find purpose, excitement, or an outlet for their gifts–even if that means that time and space keep us apart for a while.

Am I available to serve others with my time and abilities or have I hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign and put the world on notice that I am preparing for retirement? If the Proverb is to be trusted, and my mostly silver hair is to be seen as a crown of glory and wisdom, don’t let me be guilty of false advertising. I want to be wary of Jude’s waterless clouds, carried about by the wind, promising rain, but yielding nothing; like those fruitless trees in late autumn, not only barren, but uprooted. Twice dead.

Do I wake up each morning ready for a fresh following, a new insight into timeless words from Scripture? Is my following marked by an ever-enlarging faith? By joy like a firehose? Will the stumbling footprints of past failures lead to fear-based caution or to greater courage–founded in a memory of seas that split and sustenance that fell from Mercy? Can my heart find grace enough to view, in retrospect, my stumbling steps onto wasteland trails as the exact price for becoming the woman who I am today?

Cloud of My Soul,
Light of My Soul:
Lead me forward.

Through the decisions that lead to a letting go,
Freeing my hands for the new that You have planned;

Through shadow and shade,
When your presence is veiled and in mist;

Through blazing Words and bright Truth,
When the next step is clear and urgent.

Strengthen my soul for the wondering and for the wandering
That are part of my journey forward.

How do you see your life going forward? What are you carrying and what do you need to release?

michele-morinMichele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who blogs at Living Our Days. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate.  She is active in educational ministries with her local church and her writing has appeared at SheLoves Magazine, The Mudroom, (in)courage, and elsewhere. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy, finds joy in sitting around a table surrounded by women with open Bibles, and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

36 Comments

Beth Willis Miller

October 29, 2017 @ 22:21

Reply

Michele, I love this post! Your words challenge me to hold the things of this life loosely, and be ready for our Lord Jesus Christ to guide me onto new paths of righteousness. Many years ago I was struck by the quote, “The important thing is this: to be willing at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we might become.”–Charles Du Bos (1882-1939), the French critic of French and English literature. It goes well with one of my favorite scriptures, “Romans 8:24-25Living Bible–We are saved by trusting. And trusting means looking forward to getting something we don’t yet have—for a man who already has something doesn’t need to hope and trust that he will get it. But if we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently.” Many blessings to you, friend ❤️

Michele Morin

October 30, 2017 @ 00:50

Reply

What a great quote, Beth!
That seems to be the job description of these years past the mid-point: to keep on becoming, even if it means we have to learn new patterns of doing — and being. And I love the way you’ve emphasized the “trust factor.” This is huge, and something we need to continually be growing into.
Thanks, Beth, for offering your thoughts!

Donna Macomber

October 30, 2017 @ 10:40

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Thank you so much for this post!!! So timely!!! So encouraging!!! Time for me to act and throw away my cassette tapes and more – literally and figuratively!

Michele Morin

October 30, 2017 @ 11:51

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Isn’t it just so easy to get STUCK??!!
My bookcases are the next thing that need to be purged. Somehow, lightening my load of stuff is becoming a metaphor for what needs to happen in my head and in my heart.
Thanks, Donna, for letting me know that you’ve been here!

Linda Stoll

October 30, 2017 @ 12:18

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You’re asking some powerful questions that give cause for pause, Michele … I’m off to jot them in my journal. I do believe some of them will fuel a few interesting conversations with the Lord.

Will be sharing your wisdom with my LinkedIn tribe, too.

Thanks, friend …

Michele Morin

October 30, 2017 @ 13:24

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I count it a privilege to be pondering weighty things along with you, Linda. As I wrote, I was certainly being challenged — and I’ve got to be more adventurous with my understanding of LinkedIn . . .
Now you’re challenging me!

Barbara H.

October 30, 2017 @ 15:57

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Wonderful truths, Michele, and beautifully expressed. Especially loved this: “If the Proverb is to be trusted, and my mostly silver hair is to be seen as a crown of glory and wisdom, don’t let me be guilty of false advertising.” Ha! I am in the same boat, in the midst of middle age, and need these reminders. I never want to stop learning and never want to be so firm in my own ways of doing things that I can never entertain a new idea. Thanks also for introducing me to this website!

Michele Morin

October 30, 2017 @ 16:07

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I found that quote by Lilias Trotter some time ago — when I was much younger — but then stumbled across it again the summer my oldest son got married. All of a sudden I was a mother-in-law to someone and had a grown up son. I was really not ready for the transition, and I find that it’s been a continual battle against being opinionated and task-oriented and TOWARD (toward is so much better than against!) flexibility and fun and the joy of new ideas.
Thanks for meeting me here, Barbara!

Jeannie Prinsen

October 30, 2017 @ 17:05

Reply

This is beautiful and challenging. I think I have to ask myself some (OK, all) of these questions. Thank you.

Michele Morin

October 31, 2017 @ 00:37

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As difficult as it is to let go of the old, I want to be so careful of the “unconscious taking of my own way.” Trusting God along with you for wisdom to know how to persevere in becoming more flexible in both body and soul.

Lesley

October 30, 2017 @ 17:34

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These are great questions, Michele! I think, whatever our age, there can be the danger of becoming set in our ways. Being open to different opinions and new ideas is important.

Michele Morin

October 31, 2017 @ 00:44

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Yes, and not falling in love with my own opinions, letting them die quiet and dignified deaths if they need to. I remember reading words from Ruth Bell Graham that have stayed with me. She said that she realized at some point that she did not need to share her opinion on every topic and at every opportunity. I so want to learn the grace of silence when silence is the wise response.

Katie

October 30, 2017 @ 17:42

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Oh, Michele –
you SO make me smile and chuckle at myself! “I can just barely admit this. . .” (don’t we all have something(s) in that category?! AND “my extensively curated mess.” LOL – this so perfectly describes my “junkyard” (as it has been referred to) of books, magazines, etc. that resides next to my side of the bed.
What a wonderful prayer you gave us and quote from Lilias Trotter to help us to examine ourselves and see what we may need to release, change, develop. . .to really stop and take stock of who we’ve become and see what Jesus may have for us next.
Your reviews lead us to light for our paths and truth for the way because you are ever pointing us back to Him.
Gratefully,
Katie

Michele Morin

October 31, 2017 @ 00:47

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I keep my magazine mess on my desk. And the books . . . well, they’re everywhere. So now that the cassettes are gone . . .
I hope that I can always keep the word NEXT in my vocabulary. It’s so easy to get stuck these days.
And thank you, Katie, for your kinds words. It’s the desire of my heart to shine the spot light on His glorious ways, and to let His words be the basis for my own.

Bev @ Walking Well With God

October 31, 2017 @ 00:46

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Michele,
I have found it so freeing to unload “stuff” and travel lighter. I owe a lot of this to my husband as I tend to be a pack rat lol. Between garage sales and donations, it is good to know that some of my treasures that have finished their life here in our home, are now repurposed and bringing joy elsewhere. I have also learned that God has amazing plans for us way beyond our imagination. If someone would have told me that in mid-life, I would be starting a foundation that supports Christian education in the Middle East, I probably would have said you were crazy. Amazing where God will take us if we simply say, “Here I am Lord, use me.” Great post!
Blessings,
Bev xx

Michele Morin

October 31, 2017 @ 00:50

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I love the way you’ve remained available for God’s great and glorious NEXT, Bev!
Thanks for blazing a trail that challenges me to a more faithful following!

Dorothy Greco

October 31, 2017 @ 10:44

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These are good and wise words Michele. Thank you.

Michele Morin

October 31, 2017 @ 11:52

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May God continue to strengthen us for the journey forward — in health and holiness.
Blessings, Dorothy!

Debbie Putman

October 31, 2017 @ 13:42

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Michele, the list of things to consider resonates and causes me to know that even in the purging of stuff as we moved was not enough. Now, as I transition from middle age to senior citizen, it’s time to “distinguish between God’s will and my own preferences and prejudices.”

Michele Morin

October 31, 2017 @ 18:59

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And don’t we just become expert-level at creating God in our own image — if we’re not careful.
My hope is that God would quite literally “give me the desires of my heart,” so that I will find, more and more, my preferences line up with His preferences, my values with His values. Even at age 55, I have a long way to go!

Lois Flowers

November 1, 2017 @ 01:10

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Your words here really resonate with me, Michele. I’ve had to let go of a lot this past year in terms of expectations and regular routines, and it’s really helped me be in the moment more during this season of my life. We never know how much time we have to do anything with anyone, a fact that is becoming more clear to me the older I get. I also love your thoughts about the “right” way to do things … I wish more people had this perspective: “People are more important than my perception of success or perfection.”

Michele Morin

November 1, 2017 @ 14:43

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Letting go of the known in order to free up space for the unknown is such a scary process, and one I’d rather not experience again, but I know that change is on the menu now and there’s more to come. Like you, I want to be present with my people, knowing that time is a tricky thing, and to let my ideas about success and perfection die quick and heroic deaths!

Betsy de Cruz

November 1, 2017 @ 08:40

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Oh Michele! Girl, I read your post just when I needed because I was just about to slink out of my yoga pants without doing my yoga workout. (Only 15 minutes, bless my heart!) But this is such a beautiful piece of writing that speaks so many truths my heart needs right now. Kids growing and flying the coop. International move and career change planned for next year, although we’re not quite sure what it will look like. Moving house internationally means letting go of 17 years of STUFF, like the 40-50 pieces of silverware I still have from my WEDDING! God has been speaking to me about new wine skins. So I’d better get to my lame yoga practice so I can stay flexible! Love you.

Michele Morin

November 1, 2017 @ 14:47

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I’m excited for you about the move and the career change, but I can just imagine that the whole thing is in that category of exciting, but . . .
And I admire your dedication to stretching and remaining flexible. As we pursue healthy and strong bodies, we can be praying that our convictions and our callings will remain flexible and responsive to the breath of the Spirit.

Debby

November 1, 2017 @ 11:48

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As my husband and I face the nearing time of retirement I ask myself many of the questions you’ve posed. You’ve given answers I know to be true but am trying to rationalize at times. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful words, Michele.

Michele Morin

November 1, 2017 @ 14:49

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Retirement is huge, Debby. All that wide-open space for new and different to flood into — thanks for sharing your ambivalence here, and I’m looking forward to hearing about the process. Thanks for your encouragement.

Meghan Weyerbacher

November 1, 2017 @ 15:46

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Michele, you have stopped me in my tracks to think deeper on some things here. I am grateful for it. While I can say many of what has been said I am akin to, there was one that struck me in the gut and I know it to be one God is working on me with….it is letting people inside my little bubble, which isn’t really my bubble anyways. PS: I love NPR too now. It’s interesting how that journey started, of wanting to know more than what I had been raised to know or believe, in other respects. It started last fall around the elections when I got utterly sick of negative word flinging. I thought, there has to be more to this than our own little view. And since then God has been allowing my heart to love on people no matter what background or belief they may have. When I was younger I may have feared this, but now I see real love can’t be grounded in fear of man. It took me a long time to get to this point! That was a novel to say, thank you for sharing these things. I am blessed to know you, friend. Keep on writing and sharing..and have fun with those squats (I have been sneaking some in too, in between chores lol!)

Michele Morin

November 1, 2017 @ 16:30

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We will endure any pain or indignity in the present so that we may rise from our chair with dignity when we are 89!

And we do love our bubbles, don’t we? There’s nothing more affirming than hearing our own sage opinions mirrored back to us, but I’m glad you are also putting yourself in the way of other people’s viewpoints. Something else I’ve started doing is choosing podcasts that shake me up a bit, and trying to read more books that were written by women of color (just saw a new one by Amena Brown this morning that looks good, and who doesn’t love a spoken word poet?). I appreciate the way you have entered into this train of thought. As much as change is scary and as much as I want to stick with the safe and the known, I fear more the smallness of life that may come if I insist on always having things my own way.

Brenda

November 2, 2017 @ 16:18

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Such wisdom, friend. — It’s so easy to get comfortable, isn’t it? And, really, for me — it’s almost a claiming of “comfortable.” Almost like I’ve earned it. (rolling eyes.) Now that most of mine are grown, and I’m down to one in high school, and I’m feeling the waning energy that comes with being 46…I almost give myself too much permission to relax, I think. Thanks or sharing these words, Michele. Blessed by you, friend. xoxo

Michele Morin

November 2, 2017 @ 17:58

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We’re in the same “emptying” nest phase, and it’s sure tough to put the same amount of energy into this teenager as I distinctly recall putting into the first three. It’s good that we can encourage one another to stay on mission and finish well. There’s a time for letting go . . . and a time for HOLDING ON (for dear life!).

Lisa notes

November 2, 2017 @ 16:59

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Oh, this is such an important topic, Michele. Thanks for addressing many of the thoughts that I have, but am not always willing to say out loud. As I enter a new season of life, there are things I need to let go of, to release altogether (including a few cassette tapes too!), but it’s not always easy. May I be brave to do it!

Michele Morin

November 2, 2017 @ 18:01

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The twenty-something me was so courageous, so willing to make major changes, to tackle new things. I’m different now, but I have to keep reminding myself that God has a track record of faithfulness, and He has not changed, so we’re covered, Lisa. And as we get acclimated to this season of grandchildren, we’ve got so much to look forward to!

Kristi Woods

November 3, 2017 @ 11:46

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Michele, we’re in a similar season. Our oldest headed to college this year, and this not-typically emotional mom is beginning to get emotional, considering that in only 5 years we’ll likely be empty nesters. I find myself grasping for and clinging to things and people – at least in my thoughts if not in the natural. Crazy, right? It’s the progression of “growing up”, I suppose, the opportunity to draw closer to our Father – to truly trust. Your prayer and thoughts above ministered well today. Blessings. #faithonfire

Michele Morin

November 3, 2017 @ 13:21

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It’s always good to take note of how others are doing when we’re on a similar path. I’m finding the upcoming holiday season with all the changes in our family to be a potential challenge for me — kids with in-laws who will be having their rightful “turn” this year, my mother’s passing and her absence on my gift list. Can I really call it Thanksgiving if ALL my kids aren’t here?
I’m turning those empty chairs into a challenge this year, and I want to fill them with people who will be blessed by our particular form of chaotic celebration.
Thanks, Kristi, for finding your way over here and for sharing your particular situation.

CrystalStorms.me

November 6, 2017 @ 19:36

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Love this encouragement to let go so we can move forward, Michele. I’ve been going through and donating years of treasures accumulated from 11 years teaching preschool. Making space in my life for what’s to come.

Michele Morin

November 7, 2017 @ 01:34

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It feels very monumental to let go of the trappings of a certain phase of life, but I love the way you’ve expressed this: “Making space in my life for what’s to come.” That’s such a great outlook. God is always doing a new thing, and I’m thankful that He’s in charge of the future.

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