Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mothering Daughters: My Perspective at 3 AM

I turned forty-seven this month and still, there's no hint of what's ahead for me as a woman, other than a store-bought hair color.

When I gather the courage.

Did you know the box indicates if you get it in your eye, it can cause blindness? "Do not use to color eyebrows. This can lead to blindness." 

And they let people do this to themselves? What if it trickles near my eye? My husband is not one to help his wife color her hair, and he doesn't paint toenails either.

More about my being 47...

Menopause is defined as going 12 consecutive months with no cycles. I had a close relative finish the entire process by 48.5, but many women won't finish until between 51 - 54. I think my mother was done at 51.

Except for intermittent insomnia (like this week), everything is as usual for me, making it hard to believe I'm this old. I catch my reflection sometimes in a store mirror and the face staring back at me is a shock. The body performs the same for a long time--it's the packaging that goes first and it takes some getting used to.

One positive thing about insomnia is the extra prayer time and the wisdom naturally garnered through our heart-felt petitions before a gracious God.

I've prayed this week specifically about my relationship with my daughters, that it would never fall into that "mother-daughter thing".

That...I'm jealous of you thing...and won't let me be me thing.

As I prayed the Lord gave me a weird summary of who I am as a woman. At the same time he told me I'm raising two unique girls who may or may not be like me in significant ways, and that's to be expected.

Below is a sampling of the everyday me. God sent all these facts flooding by me, in an effort to help me understand the uniqueness of each woman. Each woman is complicated and it takes time to know her.

I rarely wear sweatshirts except while hiking or when sleeping in winter with the furnace set at 60 degrees. Similarly, I rarely wear tennis shoes except for exercising, and right now I don't have an exercise program, but walking and hiking are coming soon, especially now that Beth's arthritis is improved. My muscle tone is the worst it's ever been, since having my fourth child and being busier than ever.

I used to work out a lot...before children.

I'm small-boned, weighing 110-112 for most of my adult years, but right now I'm 114 and hopefully staying there or losing. I don't know what the 50's will look like weight-wise, but I expect to have to exercise or eat like a bird, due to slowed metabolism. Females produce more fat cells in the abdominal area in the later years--the body's effort to produce more estrogen in a body that is making less. Fat = more estrogen production, which is why obese girls begin puberty earlier.

I prefer dresses and skirts but right now my feet can't take heels for very long, possibly because I've worn heels most of my life and my left foot is now deformed and intermittently hurts.

That said--I told you I'm complicated--I wear heels to church and on errands and at indoor gatherings. At home I change into a minimally-heeled comfortable shoe, but I never don slippers after my shower.

In the last year I've been unable to find jean skirts or casual dresses in my size at area thrift stores. Many of my older ones are shabby, having been washed too many times. I'm back to mostly jeans and I like them neat and polished-looking, not frumpy, thank you very much. Not too tight and not too loose. I wear a healed shoe with them and sweaters or long-sleeved fitted tops, sticking to a flatter shoe at home as I said. The look is polished on a budget, which can be pretty nice if you know anything about thrift stores. 

This I've learned over the past 8, low-income years. When God wants me to dress well he puts good pieces in my path at the thrift stores and money in my pocket. When he wants me to look rather shabby but still neat, for some reason, I try to glean what I can from it.

I'm a woman who tries to glean something from every experience. As I age, I look to prayer more and to myself less. As I age, I get how little I know.

Clearly, if I want jean skirts I'll have to locate a seamstress soon, which would be cheaper than a modest Christian clothing site. I wasn't taught to sew, only hem, and I don't own a sewing machine or know of anyone who'd teach me.

And as I hunt for size 6's for my Mary, I can see that modest clothes are less the norm for that age and older.

The ease of clothing my children--my girls anyway--is about to end.

Forgive all these insane tangents. A good writer sticks to the point.

But did I tell you it's 3 AM here and this is my third consecutive night of insomnia?

I shower before ten most mornings and I never skip make-up or let my hair go (but it's low-fuss hair when permed). I'm the type of woman who wouldn't even think of checking my mail without make-up because I don't have the best complexion. I'd gladly forgo it if I'd inherited smooth, healthy skin and good lips.

I'm soft-spoken, introverted, introspective, and shy, but increasingly confident, with evergrowing wisdom to give people room to be themselves, as I've learned to give myself this same room. I'm overly-sensitive and in his graciousness, God gave me a man who doesn't hurt my feelings often; my husband never belittles me.

Tonight we went to a church function: a pizza dinner, egg hunt and egg-coloring extravaganza for the whole family. It was chaotic but fun for the kids, occurring at the AWANA church not our home church. We don't go to that church anymore because the children's program is chaotic and the building has mold problems. Children run the hallways and rooms rather wildly without much the adults scurry to get completely ready.

I view the programs as an accident waiting to happen, but put together with love and attention to the gospel, which is why we still attend the AWANA program and I stay (quietly) involved. We love the children's director's heart; she's a blessed gem who just needs to delegate more.

The chaotic nature of the event left me seriously drained and I couldn't wait to leave. Chaos is not my friend and I prefer small or well-organized gatherings, but that's not to say my linen closet is impressive. I don't have a gift for organization, but I have the will to work at it for my own sanity and for my family's good.

I love to read, think, write, but talking is draining after a while. I regroup when alone. Emotionally, I'm fairly independent.

On personality surveys I'm the submissive type, but my husband wouldn't describe me that way. Nor would he describe me as bossy or stubborn. I'm complicated.

He'd probably say...nervous and not easy going, but capable of faking it when she has to. Nice, kind, loving, but intent on getting her way about certain things. Mostly easy to live with, but a little too ambitious.

I am not the main decision maker. I'm too busy keeping the ship running to make many decisions. That said, I totally dislike making money decisions but prefer to make the scheduling decisions. My husband hardly ever lets us take a day off church, except when one of us has to stay home with a sick child ( I'm the sick nurse here). He will lead family devotions but I have to organize them and make them happen, as his own father didn't take this initiative, thinking his only spiritual responsibility was to get the family to church on time.

But don't look for us on time unless I'm working the church nursery. On those days we're miraculously early.
Don't ask me why we can't recreate this earliness the other weeks.

I guess we're complicated.
I don't spend much time wishing my husband were the ideal biblical husband. I'm not the perfect biblical woman either...but like my husband, I have a heart to improve. I pray for me to grow in submission and him to grow in initiative. I give thanks that when I get the ball running around here spiritually, he takes it on cue and does his job conscientiously, knowing well the Kingdom impact of his leadership. He gets it.

Sometimes I don't get the ball running and I wait to see what happens, thinking maybe men don't take the initiative because we women are too quick to do it ourselves?

But then nothing will happen...or is it that I don't wait enough days, perhaps, for patterns to change?

That's a complicated topic but Dennis Rainey has probably written a book on it. I'll get back to you on that.

Right now anyway, I'm the organizer for family devotions but husband leads them when he's here.

I'm very capable as the woman of the home, but call before you come over. Just sayin'.

One week a month, I'm not capable. One week a month my hormones render me pitiful. I'm a different person emotionally, depressed and anxious and feeling in solidarity with every hurting person the world over. And somehow, angry too. Only I can't pinpoint why.

Yes, I'm definitely complicated.

All this long-windiness to say, I'm complicated with many twists and surprises, as every woman is.

As I raise my girls, I'm to observe who they are...celebrate who they are, while still shaping them spiritually. On non-character, non-spiritual issues, I'm to give them room. They may marry differently than me, dress differently, relate differently, reason differently, express themselves differently.

They might be needy or independent, head-strong or nervous, carefree or uptight. They might be fat or thin, love food or not. They might love to cook or hate it, or be better at it than me. They might use boxed foods and fatty foods, or bake bread daily and make their own yogurt.

They might love to look polished or prefer comfortable and natural, sweats and all. They might take a shower religiously by ten, or skip a day and put their hair up in a pony-tail.

They might be better looking, have better skin, have a better personality...they might be better in a lot of ways, or just different...but if I know who I am in Christ, I can celebrate my daughters, pointing them to Christ always, never feeling jealous but displaying unconditional love and acceptance.

At my best, as I mother daughters, I'm a loyal cheerleader, always 100% for her team.

I'm to regard them as budding flowers, letting them be the women God created them to be, while praying and trying my best to model what God calls all women to be.

Fostering a healthy relationship with daughters, one that will grow in depth and love, is complicated.

But if we ask the Lord for help he is gracious to order our steps and create best friends for us later on.

Doesn't that sound like a beautiful thing? To be able to say..."My adult daughter is my best friend and besides my husband, there's no one I'd rather be with?"

And for our daughters to feel the same?

"What is a daughter?", asks the Lord in my ear: A precious gift.

"How do you treat her?"  Gingerly, never breaking her, always admiring her unique beauty.

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