Pay Attention to What Makes You Cry:Expanding Our Influence in Midlife Guest Post by Jennifer Grant

I’ve seen it now so often that I can’t keep track. I see it in women whose fridges no longer exhibit works of art in finger paint. They’re the ones who are beginning to see a little gray at their temples. These women have figured out, for better and worse, the shape and scope of their adult lives. They look at the trade-offs they have made – career for family, or vice versa – and begin to re-think them.

They feel a growing desire to bring something new into the world, and that something usually doesn’t require a diaper bag. They get flashes of insight – “Hey, I could do that?” or “I always wanted to….” or “Remember how I was so good at…” These thoughts energize and frighten them. They are women in midlife.

A few years ago, I was negotiating the cramped shoe aisles at a department store when my cell phone rang. It was my closest friend, in tears, spilling over with a story. She had just finished reading Richard Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel and for the first time in her life, she felt compelled to engage with people who are affected by the AIDS pandemic in Africa, especially children.

“I just never knew the scope of it,” she said.

I sat on one of the little stools in the shoe section as other shoppers picked through the boxes of snow boots and sneakers around me. “What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Something.”

Since then, she has done something. She’s been to Ethiopia. She’s brought formula and other supplies to orphanages, educated herself about HIV/AIDS, and has addressed local women’s groups. In a few months, she and her husband will adopt a toddler daughter from Ethiopiawho was orphaned by AIDS. My friend’s life has changed in midlife, her realm of influence has expanded from that of a woman focused on raising her family and pursuing artistic endeavors to being a voice for those who do not have the opportunity to speak for themselves. Her family portrait – quite literally – will reflect this change.

And it all started because she took note of what made her cry in midlife. Do you find yourself restless and even sometimes in tears?

Pay attention to what makes you cry.

In his book Beyond Words, Frederick Buechner wrote “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where…you should go next.”

Take heart that this new part of life is about more than you.

If you feel like a new endeavor, journey, or vocation is ahead but fear failure, remember that you are being led into a new area of influence on behalf of God and others. It’s not just about you, and you aren’t alone.

Pray for guidance and keep your eyes open to the way God answers your prayers.

That uncomfortable restlessness and that lump in your throat are painful. You likely want the answers, sent immediately via email or text message. You are willing to do whatever’s required, but can’t stand waiting to know what it is. Making a transition takes time; see how God is sustaining you in this process.

Take risks.

For my friend to adopt a child is a risk. To go back to work – or quit your job – write a book, start a new business, leave what is familiar to engage with those who are marginalized – these are all risks, but so is every single act of love.

May we all have clarity and faith as we approach whatever is the next chapter in our lives and expand our influence.

Jennifer Grant is the author of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter (Thomas Nelson, 2011). She is a journalist who freelances for the Chicago Tribune and writes for Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog. Her second book, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family has just been released by Worthy Publishing. Find her online at


Posted on by JudyDouglass in Guest posts 13 Comments

About the author


Writer, speaker, director of Women's Resources at CCC. Journalism graduate of University of Texas

13 Responses to Pay Attention to What Makes You Cry:Expanding Our Influence in Midlife Guest Post by Jennifer Grant

  1. Delana

    I can relate to taking risks in mid-life . . . adopting a daughter and writing a book! I like the concept of paying attention to what makes you cry. We are going to cry anyway, so we might as well pay attention to it!

    • jddoug17

      I like that thinking, Delana.

  2. annkroeker

    I’ve never seen the Buechner quote before. Love this way of noticing where God may be summoning me to go next: Follow the tears.

    • jddoug17

      Yes, I love it too, Ann. Great article from my Redbud friend.

  3. l1bryant

    Thank you from another in the middle stage of life. I love how God uses tears to catch not only our attention, but our heart.

    • jddoug17

      Tears can be good guides.

  4. Susan Burleson

    So many times I’ve felt the burn of tears, thought “this is the way” only to fail in the attempt. I suppose I would do it again if it happens, but I guess I have accepted “just working to get by” for “looking for the dream.”

  5. Megan Hawkes

    Sometimes that bone- and soul-crushing journey of discontent is a way God speaks to us; letting us walk through that season prepares us, by allowing us to be uncomfortable, for the further discomfort of change. I’m learning that…and walking through it day by day. It’s painful-even awful at times. But there is a deep peace in the recognition of the truths God reveals through obedience. Sometimes the quietness of that peace on an otherwise stormy journey is the only “true north” to guide on the new path.

  6. Jacquie Brook

    This is quite an apt conversation for me at present.

    We have just moved cities since our campus ministry national office relocated. I didn’t want to move and all last year grieved over it…but with wise counsel. This year…well we’ve been here for 2 months and I actually found myself thanking Jesus for bringing me here just a couple of weeks ago.
    This move cost me heaps…have lots of weight to lose… but I chose to follow Jesus and I’m glad. I never doubted he was with me and going before me, just wanted my emotions to catch up with my faith.

    Last week, while on a mini personal retreat, I was watching some birds on the sand as the tide came in. (No kids at home now so I can indulge myself in more of God sometimes) It was so peaceful, being lulled by the sounds of quiet wavelets and far-away bird cries. Then suddenly the birds lifted off the sand as the water touched them. And off they went.
    I felt God telling me to not be burdened by things he doesn’t give me…to let be…so i could fly and be freer to follow him further and higher…just like those birds. I watched them wander over the sky until they disappeared.

    That was a timely word because I’d been feeling a bit lost in the year. I had realised I was uncomfortable with my days seeming to be just about me and setting up the home but hadn’t known how to deal with the unsettledness I was experiencing. I was wondering how to fill the ‘lack of direction and purpose after unpacking’. My immediate superviser very kindly expected little of me except to take as much time as I needed to settle well. I had also been given leave from a national role with prayer until I was ready so I was without that avenue of serving in my area of passion.
    Well, via those birds, God was telling me to leave space for him to lead me. So, I’m trying to be disciplined and not jump into projects or needs unless they are exercising the passion he has given me and he enables. And the opportunites are starting to occur.

    It can be so uncomfortable and depressing to be just about yourself and your own immediate needs for any length of time. Mid-life crisis can be like this as our children leave home or simply become more independent. It can become frightening to put yourself ‘out there’ once again after decades and wonder if youb still have something to give, if your abilities are still relevant. Then there are all the needs you become aware of that ‘maybe’ you coild help with – questions and doubts abound.
    Our ministry is with uni students and I’m older than most of their parents and of similar age to the parents of many of our staff. I don’t have many women peers at this stage in Australia. I’m pioneering this ‘mums’ re-entering the ministry full-time stage. Thank God he has given me a passion in an area the ministry wants to see growth but I’m pioneering there as well. Talk about stepping into the deep end and wondering whether what you’ve got to give will be good enough…

    Every time I see a flock of birds moving across the skyline I remember to ‘let be’.

    • jddoug17

      Jacquie, I am glad to see how well you are doing, how God is taking your through this change! Keep on. Be blessed.

  7. Brenda Jung

    Thank you for these thought-provoking words.


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