the tough stuff that made me

IMG_4432If you caught my last post, you’ll know I was a mash-up of competing football loyalties this weekend. Let’s just say 3 out of 4 wins ain’t bad, and one contest pitted two of my favs against each other for an upset that has the whole SEC wondering what’s next.

All I’ve got to say about the hunt for a champ is “Roll Dawg Eagle” and may the best team win.

As for what I’m thanking God for this week? Years ago I would have labeled them life lessons and tried to be eloquently vague about them. Really, though, the best description is “Tough stuff that made me cry or rage at the time but changed me for the better.” I’m grateful for those changes because the woman being made through them is hands-down my favorite me.

Evidently, this combo of experiences and life-lessons is also called “Welcome to your late thirties/early forties.” At 42, I’m learning from other women and my experiences that this stage is both fierce and fantastic.

I’m going to be honest: the fierce part comes because there are hormones and there is an energy slump. You can call it some kind of peri-peri-menopause or you can call it being too busy and tired to put up with a lot of foolishness, but as Jean Lush details in her classic Women and Stress: A Practical Approach to Managing Tension, it’s real.

However, with the subtle hormonal shift and the ebb in energy, I find myself more focused than ever on where I really want to spend my time. That’s the fantastic part.

A lot of the hard-but-still-good stuff has been in letting go of things that were less important so I could pursue things that are vital to me like nourishing my marriage, raising my kids, and doing meaningful work that matches my talents and calling. Sounds terribly noble, doesn’t it?

IMG_4621Didn’t feel all that noble at the time. Mostly, it felt like crying my eyes out when I stepped away from activities I once loved in order to free up space for something new. It meant hashing out painful, vulnerable stuff in marriage counseling so McLeod and I could still be an “us” instead of a divorce statistic. It meant re-prioritizing our family and our commitments and then going 10 rounds in the ring with guilt knowing I’d probably hurt some other people I love in the process.

The pay-off has been worth it, though:
I care far less what other people think than what I think about my life. It’s not that I don’t care at all. I’m simply less likely to allow other people’s opinions to be louder than my own, and I’ve started letting God’s opinion of me as His chosen, beloved daughter be the loudest of all.

I choose being kind over being nice more often. Nice says things are good only when there’s no conflict. Kind says even conflict can be good if it leads to true freedom and intimacy. Kind gets in there and fights for what is right and valuable when nice would probably just nicely walk away.

I finally realize it’s not my job to wipe every tear, mend every heartache, and fix every problem. Lo and behold, I’ve also learned I’m not the one that needs to show up for some particular dramas. I can actually have and enforce boundaries. That right there should be cause for a ticker-tape parade.

I trust myself to make good decisions without as much fear of getting it all wrong. Better yet, I’ll risk getting it all wrong, knowing that courage to move forward when the path isn’t all that clear is really about faith in God and His bigger plan.

Plus, messes and missteps end up making much better stories than safe retreats to the sideline. That’s a life-lesson this thankful woman can work with.

Ready to let your own “tough stuff” be part of making you brave and free? Check out my book New Woman, New Clothes: Outfit Your Soul to Live, Lead, Love for a practical Bible study on dumping old hangups and outfitting your soul to live, lead, and love.

 

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