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A purpose and a hope for perimenopause

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I thought better about writing this post.

The topic, after all, ranks right up there with politics and religion as far as what NOT to discuss with strangers.

But when have I ever worried about that?

Besides, my overarching writing mission/vision is to write words of hope for a hurting world.

And if perimenopause doesn’t hurt, I don’t know what does.

There.

I said it.

Perimenopause.

In case you haven’t noticed…

…no. one. talks. about perimenopause. EVER.

But girlfriends, I’m shattering the silence. For better or for worse. Even if it makes my husband and three sons disown me. Even if it lets on to the fact that yes, I actually am MIDDLE-AGED. ***Gasp! I admitted it!*** (Special thanks to L’oreal for hiding my Pepe Le Pew-striped white hair roots for the last decade.)

I mean, my sons are 20, 19, and almost 17. I’m not fooling anyone anymore. (Why do we think we can–or even should? Also, who decided perimenopause needs to happen at the same time as empty-nesting? Come ON!)

So here’s the thing.

Here’s the reason I’m writing this blog post.

After two-plus years of struggling with my weight and mood swings and ultimately–the deciding factor–a period that lasted an entire MONTH, I called my OB-GYN. (I still have the phone number memorized from the 1990’s when I birthed three babies in four years.)

As if the office workers sensed my duress…

…they got me in for an appointment faster than a 38-weeker whose water just broke.

They drew labs. They ultrasounded my uterus and ovaries. They listened to me complain about how I’ve always been thin and able to eat whatever my 6’2″ husband and sons eat,  but now all I can think of is Fat Amy when I look in the mirror despite regular weight lifting and hoofing it at the gym and losing 30 pounds only to regain it all in six months.

After it was all said and done, my doctor, the same, kind woman who quite literally saved the life of my first born during a precarious labor two decades prior, the one in whose eyes rises and sets sheer obstetrical and gynecological brilliance, she called me and said the labs show that I’m in perimenopause.

My problems of late are hormonal, she said.

I probably should just accept that my body is different than it used to be, she cajoled.

They could call in some progesterone to the pharmacy, she offered.

Being a nurse (aka the worst sort of patient EVER), I did what I tell all my patients NOT to do.

I googled.

The conflicting advice and research and opinions about hormone replacement therapy sent me into a near-panic attack (and I’m near enough to those already).

I called my psychiatrist.

Would progesterone make me more crazy? Because I don’t need to mess with my head any more than it’s already messed up.

She said progesterone might help even out my moods.

Now there’s some incentive.

I messaged my girlfriends.

Some liked taking progesterone. Some didn’t. Some, the more scientific/research-leaning girls like myself, are scared to death of it.

Ultimately, because of my never-ending-period, I decided to give the progesterone a 10-day try to, as the nurse at the OB-GYN office said, “re-set my system.”

So far, it’s going *super*.

I’ve taken it for two days and all I can think about is how I’m going to either get a big, huge, nasty blood clot and die, or that I’m going to get breast cancer and die.

I told my husband I can’t.

He gently suggested that I need to give it more than a couple days.

(Bless his heart.)

In the meantime, I’m tired.

Tired of trying to look like my brain feels–like I’m still 25. Tired of trying to keep up with the women who are my age and somehow manage to still look 25 (mouth-breathers). Tired of being upset about being different than I’ve always been, and trying to figure out how to just be me gracefully in this ungraceful-feeling new body.

Enter a recent study of Ecclesiastes, that one, non-politically correct book of the Bible that says nothing we do matters or is new under the sun. But the same book of the Bible that suggests, in the meantime, we make the most out of our vaporous days and our unique purpose on this earth, for such a time as this. 

Enter my Lord and Savior, who says that He knit and formed me, that He has a purpose and a hope for me, and who nowhere ever says that that purpose is weight or wrinkle or confidence or age dependent.

Enter the truth–God’s truth–that says I am beloved and I am His and that is enough.

And if you are reading this, He says

YOU are enough, too.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying knowing and acknowledging these truths is an automatic embrace of the changes going on in my middle-aged body.

What I am saying is that I’m going to try.

I’m going to try to see myself like Jesus sees me, and not the world.

I’m going to try to embrace my new curves–not by letting myself go–but by doing the best I can with what I’ve got. (Except for during Girl Scout Cookie season. I think even Jesus will give me a pass on that.) And I’m going to try to appreciate…even celebrate…the fact that my curves are because I’ve birthed three beautiful boys and I’ve lived forty-something years and I work hard every day at what I do and if I have a little extra on board to show for it, then so be it.

Maybe, after all, I’ve earned the right to take up a little more space on this earth.

If you struggle with this, I’m quite sure you have earned that space too.


For more laughs and tears and hope with more over 40 girls, be sure to pre-order this new book, in which I am privileged to have a chapter:

The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength

with Brene Brown, Ann Voskamp, Lauren Winner, Elisa Morgan, Kay Warren and many others.

Here’s a synopsis:

Women past a certain age often feel like they are fading into the background of life. The nest is emptying, limitations are increasing, and fear about aging and the years ahead grow. Even women of faith can feel a waning sense of value, regardless of biblical examples of godly women yielding fruit long after their youth is gone. But despite a youth-obsessed culture, the truth is that the second half of life can often be the richest.

It’s time to stop dreading and start embracing the wonder of life after 40. Here, well-known women of faith from 40 to 85 tackle these anxieties head-on and upend them with humor, sass, and spiritual wisdom. These compelling and poignant first-person stories are from amazing and respected authors including:

Lauren F. Winner

Joni Eareckson Tada

Elisa Morgan

Madeleine L’Engle

Kay Warren

These women provide much-needed role models–not for aging gracefully but for doing so honestly, faithfully, and with eyes open to wonder and deep theology along the way. Each essay provides insight into God’s perspective on these later years, reminding readers that it’s possible to serve the kingdom of God and His people even better with a little extra life experience to guide you.

The Wonder Years is an inspiring and unforgettable guide to making these years the most fruitful and abundant of your life.

The opioid epidemic: author Heather Day Gilbert brings hope through story

One of the best parts about being an author is meeting other authors who have a passion for bringing hope to a hurting world. Heather Day Gilbert is one of those authors. Her newest release, Guilt by Association, is a mystery set in the middle of the hurting heart of America plagued by the opioid epidemic.

Here’s a synopsis:

Tess Spencer hadn’t planned on returning to her hometown, but when her ex-prisoner mom puts in a special request, Tess overcomes her hesitance to help her turn over a new leaf. Pearletta Vee’s drug-dealing past is resurrected when the body of an overdosed teen shows up—right next to her trailer. Tess decides to stick around and investigate, yet the evidence is stacked against Pearletta. Tess suspects a setup—but why?

Never one to back down from a challenge, Tess takes on a wayward teen, an abusive grandma, and more than one drug dealer in her quest for the truth. But it’s going to take a miracle to keep her from becoming a casualty in her own personal war on drugs. Plunging into the shadowy reality of the drug epidemic in West Virginia, Guilt by Association is the third book in the award-winning Murder in the Mountains mystery series.

Recently, I had a chance to interview Heather about her book and her life as an author, including the work she does for local charities helping fight addiction in her West Virginia town:

  1) Guilt by Association is the third book in the award-winning Murder in the Mountains mystery series. What can fans of the first two expect from this one?

Readers will see more of Tess’ back story as a child in this one, since it’s set in Boone County, where she grew up. They’ll also see how her relationship with her loving lawyer husband, Thomas, continues to grow. In Guilt by Association, we don’t have as many scenes with Tess’ supportive mother-in-law, Nikki Jo, because this book focuses on Tess’ conflicted relationship with her mother, Pearletta Vee, who has recently been released from prison on drug-dealing charges.

Also, Tess’ close friend, Charlotte, is overseas during this book, but readers will get to know her spitfire friend, Rosemary, much better. This series draws some parallels from Nancy Drew books, with Tess being like Nancy, Charlotte being like George, and Rosemary being like Bess.

2) Your blog describes you as someone who, “…writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory.” How do you see Guilt by Association fulfilling that?

More than any books in the Murder in the Mountains series thus far, I think Guilt by Associationreally showcases the darkness and the light we wrestle with in life. We see the messy fallout from drug addiction in the rural area where Tess grew up, but at the same time, we see the hope God can bring to these seemingly impossible family situations. In my home state of West Virginia, it’s a near-daily occurrence to read how opioids are ripping families apart, but I’ve watched people step in to these seemingly impossible situations and make a lasting difference. God is greater.

3) Will Tess Spencer be back for a fourth?

Definitely! My readers have lots of questions about one recurring character in this series—Axel Becker, the florist, who always happens to show up at just the right time to help Tess. Axel’s story has been a mystery within each of these mysteries, and at the end of the series, we’ll find out how his story ties in with Tess’.

4) Which famous actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

I actually did think about this when things seemed to be moving toward a movie version (not in the works now, sadly). Tess Spencer has short, straight dark hair, blue eyes, a heart-shaped face, and fair skin. She’s about 5’7 and in her twenties. She knows how to handle a gun, which has made me look at women shooters of Instagram, like @theamyrobbins. Sherilyn Fenn back in her Twin Peaks days would’ve been a great fit, but she’s over thirty now for sure! 😉 I also just found an actress named Grace Phipps who looks similar to Tess’ coloring/face shape.

5) What inspired you to donate the first month’s profits of Guilt by Association to Sparrow’s Nest?

A couple of women from my church have worked at Sparrow’s Nest, which is a Christian women’s shelter not far from me, and I feel like I know a bit of how this shelter is going about rehabilitating the women who check in there. The male counterpart of Sparrow’s Nest, Brian’s Safehouse, has been around longer, and has made a difference in many lives, as well. Drug rehab facilities are generally booked solid in my area and I feel they need all the support we can offer!

6) How have you seen the opioid epidemic impacting your part of West Virginia? How are some ways readers can help?

Drugs are everywhere in my rural area. There are repeated news stories of children who are basically abandoned in their own homes because both parents are using drugs and have neglected them horribly. Health care workers who work with neonatal units could share countless sad stories of babies born addicted in this state. And the foster care system here is overwhelmed. Our family has personally become involved in the foster care arena, and that is where we see so many Christians stepping up to the plate and making a difference for these children who have basically been orphaned because of drugs.

7) What’s your favorite book from childhood? Was it a mystery?

That is a tough question! I did read Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew when I was young, then I moved on to Phyllis Whitney, Daphne du Maurier, and Agatha Christie in my teen years. I also enjoyed Madeline L’engle and was obsessed with A Ring of Endless Light for a while, which made me want to become a marine biologist and work with dolphins. 🙂 I also loved Little Men by Louisa May Alcott and I enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables series. So I don’t think I can pinpoint one book!

8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love working in my perennial flowerbeds or walking in the woods, though I never have time for much of either, it seems. I love going on dates with my husband and sometimes we go to the outdoor shooting range, which is a blast (no pun intended!). I also play video games to blow off steam and just clear my head.

9) What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I’m not sure, but it would probably have something to do with the utter messiness of my notes. Sometimes I jot things down in all directions, so it’s hard to go back and put it all together! I am a loose plotter, so I know highlights of the story, but it basically fills in for me as I write. Another thing my mystery readers might be interested to know is that I might go into a mystery thinking I know who the murderer is, but I often surprise myself mid-way through and realize it’s another murderer. You know what they say: “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader,” or some quote like that!

10) What writing project(s) are you working on next?

I’m working on a three-book cozy mystery series for Kensington Books this year. I think it’ll begin releasing in 2019. I’m not sure what other projects I’ll be tackling, but I like to always have things in the queue!

Thank you, Heather, for taking the time to visit with us, and for shedding light onto the opioid crisis, and your work as a writer.

Click on the links in this post to pick up a copy of Guilt by Association and her other novels today.

AUTHOR BIO:

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and contemporary mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.” Find out more on heatherdaygilbert.com.

About the battle: surprising truth about life after #metoo and #churchtoo

***

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now.

I’ve turned words in my head and started and stopped and prayed and not prayed and prayed some more.

The news cycle has been inundated for months now with cases of sexual abuse from all corners of the country…USA gymnastics, Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein, Andy Savage, the pastor who molested a girl in his youth group, and so many others.

Stories of sexual abuse are everywhere.

But you know what?

Sexual abuse has always been everywhere.

We’re just hearing about it more now.

For a survivor like me, this watershed moment is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to know fellow survivors are feeling brave enough to speak their truth and seek help and healing. Glory be, it’s a blessing!

But it’s a curse, because every story makes me feel raw and sick and paralyzed with anger and fear all over again.

More often than not, I admit that I’ve wanted to do what Randall Margraves did.The father of not one, but three, of the gymnasts molested by Larry Nassar in the USA Gymnastics case, he charged Nassar in the middle of the courtroom.

Like Margraves, I want 10 minuets.

Five minutes.

One minute alone with each of the people who abused me, and those who enabled them, too. (Sadly, there were several.)

I want to storm their perfectly ordered worlds, where they’ve hidden the secret of what they’ve done to me (and likely to others, too, according to statistics) from everyone.

I want to find a way around the statute of limitations that prevent me from filing law suits and making their lives the hell that they’ve made mine.

I want to write revealing blog posts and victim statements of my own.

I want to make them hurt as bad as I’ve hurt. 

I want them to feel the heinous things I’ve felt and will feel for the rest of my life. (These unending aftereffects are not the result of my own inability to forgive or heal, as I’ve been accused of before. On the contrary, and as science has recently confirmed, like an amputation, some scars never, ever fade this side of Heaven).

That’s what I want.

But.

Like a child having a tantrum, I push and swing and kick and bite at the One who knows better than me…

…the One who wraps His arms around me and rocks my heart and whispers to me to be still…He’s got this…He’ll take care of them.

And He’ll take care of me.

See, we live in a world where the idea of vengeance lends itself to a the false promise of rescuing us from our broken hearts and brokenness.

Hear me out.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t file law suits where law suits are due. I’m not saying we shouldn’t prosecute sexual abusers to the fullest extent of the law. And I’m not saying anyone who has done so in a church should ever be restored to ministry.

Far from it. 

What I am saying is that as survivors, most of us won’t have the opportunity to charge our abusers in a court of law, and for that reason and in general, we need to give the paybacks to the Lord.

As I’ve struggled these last few months, I’ve re-discovered the promises in Psalms 34 & 35 which remind me only the Lord can truly rescue…not only that, He DOES. The Lord is the one who rescues and doles out justice. The Lord is the one who protects and who promises all things secret will be revealed. Nothing hidden will stay that way. Indeed, He already knows it all.

He is the one who rescues.

He is the one who heals.

And He wants to do the same for you, and for the gymnasts, and for the actresses, and for every girl who has ever faced an Andy Savage, or the people who allowed his unconscionable return to ministry, as well as the congregation who applauded his weak apology.

Can I be honest for a minute?

Fretting over feeling helpless against those sick abusers who have robbed me and others, when He promises vengeance to those who steal from the innocent…well, it’s a constant battle for me. Chronic PTSD and the overwhelming tendency for my brain to be in fight-or-flight mode (one of the permanent aftereffects of abuse now proven by medical science) make me want to fight and lash out first, and think about my actions later.

But the Lord wants the opposite.

He wants me to come to Him first.

He wants me to put down my fists and to stop my flailing and my daydreams of having my own day in court, because only He can ever truly deliver me. Only He can ever truly make them pay. Only by forcing myself out of fight-or-flight mode and stepping aside to let the Lord fight for me can I be free.

Staying stuck in a posture of vengeance allows them to steal from me–from us–all over again. And what they stole the first time around was quite enough.

Maybe your fight isn’t abuse recovery or PTSD. Maybe you have another battle you’re trying to fight.

Trust me when I say the Lord wants you to let Him fight your battle. (2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 46:10).

He wants to rescue each of us…

…but we have to let Him.

What battle do you need to give to him today? What waters are you struggling to keep your head above? Reach out to His outstretched hands. Hold on to Him.

Let go of the fight that was never meant to be yours, dear one.

Will you let Him fight for you today?

***

My novel, How Sweet the Sound, is a contemporary re-telling of the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, quite possibly the earliest recorded “me too.” More than that, it’s a story of hope and healing and forgiveness.

How Sweet the Sound is my word-prayer for every survivor. 

Would you consider giving one to someone who needs it today?

Click here to purchase from your favorite bookseller today.