A purpose and a hope for perimenopause

*****

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.

A letter to my sons on International Women’s Day

Dear sons,

You’re going to hear a lot about women today.

As your mama, I want to offer some perspective.

See, I’m all for equal pay and equal opportunity and equal rights.

But I’m also all for men.

And it’s a right of this woman to be so.

I’ve tried to train you up to know the truth about how God made us, that He made man and woman, and he made us separate for a reason. He didn’t create our differences to diminish one or the other.

He made us different to teach us what we are and what we are not, to show off the reasons why being different is beautiful and important and right.

Do men hurt women?

Absolutely.

But I’ve survived hurts inflicted by women as much as I have by men.

See, humans don’t hurt because of gender.

Humans hurt because we choose to sin.

Which is why I’ve tried to teach you that you, me, dad–all of us–need a Savior.

We need Jesus Christ.

So on International Women’s Day, when much of the world screams about women’s independence and equality at the expense of men, I’m telling you that for me, the greatest aspect of being a woman is the privilege of raising you three to be great men.

A woman doesn’t *need* a man any more than you should feel like you *need* a woman.

What we need is to believe that men and women are uniquely designed in ways which uniquely compliment each other.

What we need are men who are taught to have courage so that the women they love realize they are worth defending.

What we need are men who are strong so that the women they love have a safe place to be weak.

What we need are men who are just so that the women they love don’t have to fear injustice.

What we need are men who stand up so that the women they love can stand next to them.

What we need are men who are free to hold doors and hold hands, who use their strength to be gentle, who use their courage to uphold, who use their leadership to serve, who use their minds to be loyal, and who use their hearts to love like crazy.

What we need are women who raise men to know that these things are not only okay, but that they are indeed right and true.

That’s why on International Women’s Day, I’m celebrating the three best men in the world I know, next to your father.

I thank God every day He picked me to be your mama.

I love you all.

Male and female he created them, and he blessed them. – Genesis 5:2

On how to survive this constant fray.

It was quiet that day.

Mid-day.

Sun high.

Scorching.

Humidity as thick as the shame the woman felt.

That’s why she went to the well, after all.

No one else would be there.

No one cat-calling. No one spitting at her feet. No one turning the other way to avoid her. No one carrying invisible signs that read “slut,” or “worthless,” or worse.

There were no crowds.

To be sure, the man who met her there created and moved crowds on occasion. But when he really wanted to change a life, he picked a time no one would notice, except of course for the one who needed him most.

He looked in her eyes–first time anyone had done that in a long time. It unnerved her, that deep, gentle stare.

She had to turn away.

But he refused to leave. 

I’m talking about Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. (Click to read about it in John, chapter 4.)

And I want to be more like that.

No shouting. No name-calling. No talking over people who think differently from me. No turning the other way to the hurt and shame of others.

I fail.

A lot.

Especially these days, when fury seems like the new standard, the resting posture of so many of us.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence I felt led to make 2 Corinthians 10:5 my memory verse for the second half of January. I need to take every thought captive more than ever. And I’m learning I have to get drastic to do so. I took all social media applications off my phone. I made a pact with myself to check it once a day, twice at the most, but only for messages–not to scroll and fall into the fray. I figure anyone who really needs to get ahold of me knows my email or my phone number, and that’s enough. It’ll have to be. This isn’t something everyone should or even wants to do. But for me, well, I’m finding that the more time that passes with this new quiet, this new posture, the more I feel peace re-entering my heart.

The less connected I am to the world, the more re-connected I am to Him.

(This is the great conundrum of course–how to be in the world, but not of the world; how to reach out without falling in. All we can do is try to find a balance the best we can, with the Lord’s help.)

I wonder what we’ll have to say for ourselves in five, ten, twenty years.

I hope we’ll be able to say we were kind in spite of the times; that we were still able to hear the birds singing in the morning; that we still noticed the small green spears of crocuses and daffodils emerging this spring; that we held banners of love high above signs of hate; that our children were able to watch us and learn swords of grace and mercy work best against hate.

I hope.

I sure hope.

I know for sure I can’t do it by reading and listening to the soundbites and the news feeds and the home pages anymore.  And I can’t do it at all without turning my focus, my eyes, and my heart on him, the man at the well.

Like I said, I fail. And I will again, because I’m human, and because it’s hard not to hear constant, deafening outrage.

But there is a voice calling, even and still in this wilderness,

and it’s filled with words like those found in Philippians 4:8-9:

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart. The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things in daily life, and the God who is the source of peace and well-being will be with you.

The source of peace.

The source of well-being.

Center your mind.

Implant them in your heart.

That’s my prayer for me first, since I fail at this worse than anyone I know.

It’s my prayer for you, too.

And maybe…maybe…something good will bloom out of these dark times after all.