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.

On writing: What I could write and why I don’t.

For as long as I can remember, I could write. And not just write, but write well.

When I decided to write books for publication, I surprised some folks.

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“Do you really want to be known as something eone who writes about sexual abuse?” (A pastor asked me that one.)

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“Why can’t you write stories like ___(insert favorite Christian romance genre writer here)___.” (A relative asked me that.)

*

I’ve fielded countless other similar questions since then. Still, my novels (with all gratefulness and glory to Him) sell well enough that I have a fourth one coming out in 2018, and a re-release of the said sexual abuse story in less than two months, September 1 to be exact.

The people who asked those questions above were right. Kind of. To be sure, my novels are meant to entertain. Each has threads of romance, intrigue, and even a little mystery in them. But those things aren’t ultimately what propels the characters, or me to write them.

I’m well aware that I don’t write what I “should” write–at least not in the eyes of others. I write the stories I argue with God about until I’m 100% certain that’s what He wants me to write. I write as a reluctant introvert and as someone who could write genre romance or Hallmark-esque stories, but I’m not called to write those. Some writers are, and that’s spectacular for them. Truly. Readers want and need and buy those books. They sell well. But whenever I’ve tried to write something more like so-and-so or less personally honest or less edgy or whatever descriptives/labels you’d like to use, I just can’t. My mind goes blank. Either that, or what comes out is a linguistically shameful blob of nonsense. (Just ask my beloved editors.)

Nevertheless, if a lifetime of Bible stories have taught me anything, it’s this: Most people won’t understand the work of someone who is listening to or following the Lord.

That doesn’t stop me from struggling with what I feel called to write. It’s downright scary to put stories out there I know are going to ruffle some feathers.

Gratefully, what I write and why made a little more sense to me when my pastor spoke this weekend about Proverbs 24:10-12. Here it is in The Message version:

“If you fall to pieces in a crisis,
there wasn’t much to you in the first place.
Rescue the perishing;
don’t hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,”
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know—
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”

 

See, I was perishing once. Still am, if I’m honest. Back when I wrote my first novel, How Sweet the Sound, I was perishing under the weight of having been sexually abused for over 10 years as a child and I had questions…BIG questions…for a God I grew up believing could stop such evil, and yet it had happened to me. I learned there were hundreds of thousands of others who had suffered the same way, so I couldn’t say sexual abuse wasn’t any of my business. Sexual abuse was all about my business. And when I argued with God about why it all happened, well…

How Sweet the Sound was born.

How Sweet the Sound is an unlikely novel about an unlikely family in Southern Alabama torn apart by the same fate I suffered. I wrote and wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote, until not only did I have a book about it, but I had a book of hope. And that’s the key to my stories right there.

I wrote a book of hard and a book of hope.

Whether or not it ever makes a best-seller list makes no difference, especially in light of Proverbs 24:10-12.

What makes a difference are the tens of hundreds of notes and handshakes and nods from others who’ve been sexually abused and say to me, “Me too. Thank you.”

Me too.

Thank you.

What they thank me for is not a book as much as for the hope the characters in that story found in the midst of their perishing circumstances.

Each one of my books is like that. How Sweet the Sound is about not turning my head to and finding hope in the midst of sexual abuse. Then Sings My Soul is about not turning my head to the plight of the aging and elderly. Lead Me Home is about not turning my head to the plight of small churches and small communities and overlooked people in our midst. And my fourth book (title TBD), releasing in 2018, is about not turning my head to the plight of the unborn, the plight of birth mothers, and the plight of those in the midst of the opiod epidemic that’s happening right smack in the middle of each of our back yards.

The sexually abused, the aging, small folks, and the unborn and birth mothers…all of them have two very real things in common:

1) People turn their heads to them.

2) They’re all desperate for hope in the midst of perishing situations.

Because when you’ve got nothing, hope means everything.

(((which just might be a direct quote from my upcoming 2018 novel)))

Could there be any greater reason to write–or to read, for that matter–than that?

Hope.

Hope in the midst of struggle. In the midst of terror. In the midst of grief. In the midst of abuse. In the midst of even death.

If one person picks up one of my books and finds that, well then I’ve done my job.

Recently I finished reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. (He was a writer who, in his time was often misunderstood and ridiculed and chastised. I’m smitten!) So many things moved me about that story, in particular the parallels between the hopelessness of the dust bowl era and migrants searching for survival in California, and the hopelessness of America’s current small towns and the poor and marginalized within them. These words in particular brought me to tears (and do again even as I type them):

“Where does courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from?…The people in flight from the terror behind–strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.” ~John Steinbeck

I’ve seen a lot of bitter cruelty first hand, whether personally, or in the eyes of friends in Ukraine where abortion is seen as simple birth control, or on the faces of an aging hospital patient who never has visitors, or at the bedside or graveside of someone riddled by the effects of an opiate addiction.

Some may say my faith is terrible, and in many ways I’m sure is. I doubt. I wrestle. I sin. And I sin again. I have often prayed the prayer, “Oh Lord, help me overcome my unbelief.”

But in and because of all of that, my faith is refired forever.

The perishing are my business.

Therefore my writing will never be off the hook.

Someone’s watching, after all.

Someone’s watching.

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Stay tuned for details about my novel, How Sweet the Sound, releasing September 1 with a brand new cover and a chapter from my brand new 2018 novel.

Also, Lead Me Home is on sale for e-readers across all your favorite platforms. Click here for options: http://ebookdeals.net/

 

Old couple in an elevator. Day 5 of #25daysofgood

he patted her bum

with his free hand, the other gripping the arm

of the wheelchair. And then

his jowly cheeks quivered with a grin.
She stood to his right, holding on

for dear life to her walker.

“Sixty-nine years,” she smiled, and

I do 

believe she blushed,

when she replied to my 

question. How long 

have you been

laughing and crying,

working and resting,

making love and making up,

gathering and letting go,

blushing,

withering,

healing,

reaching,

breathing,

choosing and forsaking,

married?

___________________

The old couple I met in the elevator today reminded me that marriage is so very good, and even better with time.

What’s YOUR good?

🔎 Find the good.

📸 Snap a picture.

📲 Share it on social media.

#25daysofgood