Fantastic After 40
By Pam Farrel
There are currently more than 43 million women in America ages 40-60. Baby Boomers today represent 28 percent of the U.S. population, of which approximately 38 million are women. How do we reach them? To quote Jesus in Matthew 9:37-38, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
In my early forties, I was a director of women’s ministry and an author and speaker. What I noticed in my own church and in the audiences of women where I spoke was that a majority of women were parenting teens, college, or adult children as they also balanced their own perimenopausal or menopausal issues. A few were chasing a toddler and coping with hot flashes at the same time! These were incredible women, often at the peak of their careers or carrying numerous volunteer positions in the church and community. They were caring for others. I had to ask, “Who is caring for them?”
When my son was a senior, I experienced the emotions of the pending empty nest, so I gathered some friends around me and said, "I want to be a woman who finishes well." I believe the rest of life can be the best of life. It seems like life’s second half can be filled with so many lovely moments: graduations, weddings, grandchildren, and for some of us, precious wedding anniversaries. But it can also be a challenge, this midlife adventure: husbands dealing with midlife issues or deciding to leave, health issues, parenting, adjusting to being an in-law, plus personal health issues. "I need some sisters around me," I said, "who want to hold onto Jesus and travel life’s second half with a positive attitude. Are you with me?" I got a hearty, "Amen!"
So some friends and I decided to meet just once a month as a book club and Bible study. We added mandatory humor as ice breakers, and also ended with a prayer time and either a simple service or missions opportunity. After finishing our first book, I’m Too Young to Feel This Old by Poppy Smith, the group wanted to continue. We became the Seasoned Sisters, which means: Seasoned: We are old enough to know what we want out of life, and wise enough to know what to do with those desires, hopes, and God-given dreams. Sisters: When building a home, 2 x 4s are hammered together on bearing walls so they can bear more weight. This term is called "sistering." When women stand shoulder to shoulder and sister one another, we are stronger, and we can make a positive difference. The Seasoned Sisters’ verse became Rom. 12:10-13, "Be devoted to one another in (sisterly) love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Everyone needs a "sister."
I felt pretty good as I looked around and saw all the ways Seasoned Sisters was blessing and benefiting others. But God in His goodness knew I was the next sister to be in need.
One day my life as I knew it began to unravel. I was told by my doctor that I was four times more likely to have a heart attack than the average woman because of my family tree. I needed to make some key lifestyle changes. My husband Bill was 45. One day we were traveling, and he wasn’t feeling well, so he went to the doctor. When Bill described his mountain of responsibility, the physician assessed that some major lifestyle changes were needed for him as well. Through a series of events, Bill ended up resigning from the church he’d pastored for more than 15 years–a church where we loved the people and they loved us. The anxiety and emotional pain were intense.
While we purposely slowed Bill’s pace, my stress levels grew exponentially as we faced a large downshift in income and all of our teenage sons (13, 17, 19) had sports injuries in rapid succession. Caleb, then 13, was injured during a football game and was admitted to ICU for the next eight days. Soon after Caleb returned home and I was away on a speaking engagement, Zach, our middle son, was pulled from his football game with a concussion and knee injury. The next night our oldest also suffered an injury in his football game. When I landed at the airport back home, my sister-in-law was on the phone with the news that my brother had just had a heart attack, and "Could you come help with the kids?"
I prayed in desperation, "Lord, who am I supposed to save first?" People could easily see that I was definitely experiencing stress. People cared, so they inquired. I just didn’t know how to reply.
Often, when asked, "How are you doing?" women respond in an Eeyore kind of moan, "Well, pretty good under the circumstances." I love Professor Howard Hendricks’ response, "Under the circumstances? What are you doing under there?"
Something Jill Briscoe had shared with me suddenly came springing back into my mind, "We should live as if all our prayer requests have already been answered." I wanted to be a woman who lived by faith, not fear, so I began to ask God how to answer people when they asked, "How are you doing?"
"Lord," I said, "I want to be the kind of person who can look at whatever life sends and find joy in it. Your Word says, 'The joy of the Lord is our strength' (Neh. 8:10), and do I ever need strength right now!" My new answer became Choosin' joy! And guess what? In choosing joy, I discovered joy.