Following is the testimony that I was asked to give at our church’s annual Women’s Ministry Summer Send-Off Dinner on June 4th. I, along with two wonderful women with testimonies much more inspiring than my own, had the privilege of speaking about what God has been doing in our lives. Below is my story.
When Nadene Franklin asked me to speak, my immediate response was to fumble over my words. She had called me right after our newest family member arrived, so I asked her for 24 hours to think about it and in true Nadene fashion said, “Okay, but don’t talk to Lisa Zannin because she’ll talk you out of it.” I’ve known Lisa since our daughters were in kindergarten together (20 years ago) and having worked with her for the last 10 years, we get along well, probably because she and I think a lot alike, so perhaps Nadene was wise to be concerned!
A little background about myself … I was born in Buffalo, the second born of 4 daughters to an engineer and a homemaker now married 52 years. We moved from the East Side of Buffalo to the then growing suburb of West Seneca when I was 5 and that’s where I grew up. I met my husband Tim, the last born of 3 sons to a Lutheran minister and a homemaker now married 61 years, through my future brother in-law when I was 18. Tim and I married in ‘89 when I was 21 and bought our very first house on the West Seneca/Lackawanna border 2 years later, just before Joshua arrived. Emily followed 17 months later. We moved to Lancaster in ’98 where we made our home for the next 16 years and had two more daughters, Sarah and Abigail. Six years ago we purchased a piece of property and 2 years after left Lancaster and moved to Marilla, a town none of our kids had ever heard of before then.
I’ve always thought I’ve had a pretty blessed life. Everything was going relatively well and more importantly, according to my plan. In the past 8 months, I have reached the 50 year old milestone, my daughter Emily and her husband Chase made Tim and I first-time grandparents, Josh just graduated from law school, Tim and I will be married 29 years this month, Sarah will graduate from high school in a few weeks, Josh will be married later this summer and start a new job, Sarah will start college and Abby, who will turn 16 toward summers end, will finally receive two things she is convinced she is the only one in her school without, the ability to wear make-up and her very first cell phone.
She wanted me to relay to all of the moms here that she did indeed survive until the age of 16 without either.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be … to the unsuspecting person, we may seem like a well-balanced family who has it all together. I however, like to say we have a relatively normal, but often-times dysfunctional family; it may look different than another family, but dysfunction peppered in just the same. Monday mornings are actually quite hideous in our house.
When I asked what the topic was and why on earth my name came up as a possible speaker, Nadene told me that I am a no-nonsense kind of person and to talk about what God has been doing in my life.
So what has God been doing in my life?
“Wreaking havoc” was what first came to mind. Wreaking havoc on my otherwise orderly, often time’s dull and uneventful, but according to MY plan life.
Apparently I have this reputation of someone who would say to someone struggling, “suck it up and get on with it,” and I think my family would agree. I have however, needed to follow my own advice recently.
So … according to my plan, Josh would have been be out on his own for the last three years, using his Applied Physics degree employed as a mechanical engineer. Josh however decided that he wanted to do something different three years ago and announced that he was leaving his year-old job as an engineer to go back to school. Tim and I were a little dumfounded at first, kind of like when he told us out of the blue that he joined the choir in college because up until that point we didn’t even know the boy could sing! So he went ahead and left his engineering job, enrolled in law school to study patent law and gave up his apartment to come live back home.
During his stay at home, to say the relationship between father and son was strained would be an understatement. Josh is a good kid with a good heart. AND he has the complete opposite personality of his father. You know the saying you could cut the tension with a knife? Well this tension was so thick one might have needed a chainsaw. There were many days I wanted to just leave the house. That being said, I believe that God means for us to be out from under our parents roof and authority at a certain age for a reason, and we just witnessed why.
What was God teaching me?
According to my plan, Emily would have delivered her first baby with minimal difficulty and been up on her feet the next day enjoying her new child with her husband.
Emily did deliver a healthy baby boy, Isaiah, but she herself encountered multiple trips to the doctor, a trip to the emergency room and surgery within the first week of giving birth. So with all that she was flat on her back in bed from childbirth complications for the first two weeks of Isaiah’s life. She said that she never thought she’d have so many people praying for her “lady parts” and wanted me to thank you all. After her surgery, the family of three came to stay with us for a week so Chase could go back to work and I could help Emily with the baby until she could care for him unassisted. To say this created a bit of angst in our house would be an understatement, after all there hadn’t been a baby crying in the middle of the night for quite some time, disrupting the much needed slumber of two teenagers down the hall, a college student who slept below temporary baby central and two displaced new grandparents taking turns swapping sleep on a portable mattress and couch in the family room.
What was God teaching me?
According to my plan, Sarah would graduate from high school, get a swimming or art scholarship to a college and we would have to pay virtually nothing and if we did have to pay, with two incomes we would be able to cover the shortfall for four years no problem just like we did with Josh and Emily.
Things didn’t work out to allow me to work from home while babysitting my new grandson, so I recently had to step away from my job. That being said, Sarah has chosen the alma mater of her two older siblings for college and our question, based on seeing the increase in tuition since said siblings attended was, “Any chance we can we buy two tuitions and get one free?”
What was God teaching me?
According to my plan, Abby would sail through her teen years as the well-adjusted, obedient last born child. She would get the same amount of attention that her older siblings received. Those same siblings will argue tooth and nail that Abby is the most spoiled because she is the “baby”. I myself am a middle child, so I don’t know what being spoiled means.
Abby is the one child I feel the most guilt about because by the time she was born, I was already on my way to being old for a mom of a fourth newborn. And being older means Abby doesn’t get the same amount of time and attention that her siblings received. Put on top of that the fact that, as most last born children are, she is a fun-loving sanguine who thrives on attention. I know she feels like she gets the least, especially with everything that has been going on in our family. She thinks her biggest concern about being the only sibling left at home is that will she’ll be stuck having to bring Daddy his Bayer aspirin for his aches and pains after a day spent doing what he loves to do, being outdoors and working on the property.
What was God teaching me?
I don’t think God was actually wreaking havoc. I believe He’s was, is and will continue to teach me GRACE. Grace has always been Tim’s advice to me whenever I was struggling with relational issues. I heard it so much from him when we were first married that I started tuning it out. I didn’t want to hear about grace. Grace to me back then just meant overlooking what, at the time, I saw as problems. I wanted him to agree with me and see things the way I saw them. I don’t know what that would have accomplished other than making me feel temporarily appeased.
I’ve said this before, but God had blessed me with a patient husband. Sometimes we are totally not on the same page, but this is not the first time God has used Tim’s wisdom and persistence in my life … when he thought I was tuning him out, something must have sunk in because just in this last year alone I have had to extend that same grace God extends to me every day of my life. The ironic part is that I’ve also had to remind Tim of that grace as he also struggles with our kids growing up, becoming adults and moving out and the relationship trials that are resulting from all of these rapid changes.
I’ve opened my mouth without thinking often enough in my younger years, that in these midlife years, I like to think I’ve gained some wisdom on when to speak and when not to speak. And if I choose to speak, it looks totally different than it would have looked in those early years. There is less pride (“I’m right and you’re wrong”) and more grace.
But … I believe we are all also called to speak the truth in love, as stated in Ephesians 4:15.
For me, being a wife and mother is not for the faint of heart and I need grace to abound. Sometimes we go into this stage of our lives with all of these hopes and dreams and expectations only to discover somewhere on the journey things never end up the way we thought they would, according to our plan. Being a wife and/or mother will let you know just what you’re made of and what you’re capable of, both good and bad.
However hard I thought raising kids was beginning almost 27 years ago, those same kids are now one by one leaving home and I have long forgotten those trials I thought were so relevant during those newborn, toddler, elementary and teen years.
It’s a privilege and blessing to have children; there are so many who cannot. No one ever told me being a parent was going to be easy, but we still chose to have children and raised them through a series of choices. Our children are products of those choices, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they behave a certain way as they grow up. I catch myself more than I like to when I see my kids react to situations and I immediately know they got that from me, and more often than not, it’s not the “good” stuff.
It’s okay that we’re not wonder-women … they don’t exist anyway. It’s okay that we don’t have our kids in multiple year-round extra-curricular programs … they will survive. It’s okay to be tired … it doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong.
These days I’m putting things into perspective. We are a very spoiled and guilt-driven generation and I’m not arrogant enough to deny that. Maybe we need to look at ourselves and what we are doing and what we are not doing to create this “self-inflicted busyness” as a friend recently quoted, that seems so rampant today.
The culture may be making us think it’s harder now, but as Christians, Scripture tells us not to conform but to be transformed. So when we are inflicting that busyness on to our families, we should pause to reflect on what it’s going to cost us down the road, not financially, but relationally and spiritually.
I am not a natural edifier, but wanted to conclude with some words of encouragement, things I have, am and I know that I will struggle with:
30 years ago I thought life couldn’t get any better than when I was first starting out, graduating from high school, getting my first real job, falling in love, getting married, starting a family. I thought we would have some struggles early on, but I was going to do things differently than my parents did (that is until one day I heard my mother come out of my mouth). My life would have minimal and manageable problems and our future kids would most certainly behave.
So to the young women my encouragement is to enjoy this new, fun and exciting time in your lives, but don’t dismiss the teaching and wisdom of those who have gone before you. Because you will find out someday (if you haven’t already) how much you still don’t know. No longer young and now a grandmother, I myself still find that to be a truly humbling experience.
Proverbs 19:20 tells us to “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
To the middle-aged women, as we go through what seems the everyday monotony of life, we tend to get complacent and comfortable. If we lose sight of purpose, this monotony can lead to discontentment. I find myself in this category and have felt like I’ve needed to go back to reading the Word to get my own attitude straightened out and get out of the “woe is me” funk. It’s slow going, but I’m working on it.
As Christians we are called to higher standard, especially in this “me first” culture. This encouragement is for both the young and the midlife women because we tend to make excuses in these two phases. If we believe that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, it should be a goal for our families to witness us serving … not just them, but serving others. Why do we let the excuse of raising a family keep us from stepping out and serving? What better way to raise a less selfish generation?
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
To the “seasoned” women, my encouragement is to please stay connected to us. You have no idea how valuable you are to a generation of women growing up in a world that seems to be getting crazier by the day, raising families and going through empty nest issues. You are a wealth of knowledge and experience and younger generations will never know your stories should you disconnect and we don’t we don’t take the time to listen.
Psalm 71:18 says, Now that I am old and my hair is gray, don’t leave me, God. I must tell the next generation about your power and greatness.
I am the mother of four children, two grown, one about to leave for college and one still at home. I’m a grandmother at the same time that I still have kids at home. I struggle with feelings of disconnect with some of my family members and at the same time watch as my parents and in-laws enter into their twilight years. I’m at all different stages and trying to keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of family just like everyone else. No matter how much I may come across as being this “suck-it” up and get on with it type of person, I realized a long time ago that I can’t do this alone.
So in my own struggles I have needed the reminder of II Corinthians 12:9:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Thank you for allowing me to share some of those weaknesses.