By on January 1, 2012

By Deb DeArmond –

I haven’t had a real job in years. Or at least that’s what my kids used to say. You know – a real job, in an office building. With other people and maybe an elevator. Or at the very least, a break room, with a refrigerator full of “science projects” underway, from colleagues who decided that fast food chicken strips and fries sounded better than last night’s tuna casserole they bagged and brought with every good intention.

Oh I’ve worked. And I would say that I DO have a “real job”. Or more correctly, a business. I am a consultant. For the past 14 years, I’ve officed at home, and commuted- usually on an airplane – to a variety of clients in a broad range of industries. My specialty? Leadership training, development and coaching. Helping people develop the skills to lead, not just manage others. I don’t care what your title is, if you turn around, and there’s nobody behind you, moving in the same direction – you are not leading. And fortunately – for me, the world is full of managers and bosses, but leaders are in short supply these days.

Over the last two and a half years, I’ve been blessed to work with one of the nation’s most powerful players in the transportation business. I’ve been workin’ on the railroad. (It’s hard not to sing that as I type it!) A rich 150+ years of heritage and history, and much of it has remained unchanged in attitudes, mindset and management methodology.

But the last ten years or so have brought a new realization: the ‘way we’ve always done it’ won’t work anymore. It’s time to make a change and begin to create an entirely different culture, by developing leaders who can take them there.

It’s a slow and steady process. I’ve been privileged to work with some of the finest folks I’ve ever met. Mostly male, this group has never had an opportunity to get training of this type.

One of our classroom activities is titled The Rescue Mission. The objective of the game is to practice the communication and conflict resolution tools they have learned in the hours leading up to this closing exercise. The format is simple: the group must come to consensus as to which 5 of the 10 stranded occupants they will rescue as a devastating storm closes in on a tiny remote island. The five who remain will be washed out to sea and will not survive. Participants are asked to select from the list of individuals with only a very brief description of each. They are instructed to first make their individual choices, and then they must discuss the possibilities and come to a consensus as a group. No voting is allowed, and they are reminded to use their newly acquired skills – asking questions, listening, empathy and so on – to achieve their decision. It’s a little fluffy. They have 25 minutes total.

Here is the challenge: the info provided about each of the island occupants is designed to encourage the participants to base their selections on their personal values. Some guys go with the women and children. Some select those they believe have the greatest value to society. Others take the youngest, as they have their whole lives ahead of them. And some ignore the reality of the impending storm altogether and select those to remain that they believe are strong enough to survive on the island.  When we discuss our values, we can get pretty passionate when they are challenged by others. And it creates a great platform for using the skills. I’ve seen the discussions get heated and people get offended. I’ve seen them end up in a stalemate, unable to successfully come to a decision. And I’ve seen it work beautifully, with the new skills taking a starring role to build understanding, influence and collaboration. Whichever way it goes, the learning is rich.

Here is another thing I observed from watching this discussion unfold. The occupant described as a “55 year old housewife with a high school education” is gonna die. She occasionally makes someone’s initial list, but she rarely gets on that rescue chopper. Even those in favor of “women and children” are typically easily persuaded to leave her behind. I have done this activity roughly twice a week for the last 3 months and it’s pretty consistent across the board – she’s a floater. Why?

Here’s how the conversation goes:

“Man she’s 55! Come on, she’s lived her life already.”

“How many more old housewives does this world need?”

“She doesn’t have any kids at home. They’re all raised up. She’s done her job.”

“What’s she have to do? Die, that’s the only thing left.”

Ouch. That’s me. I am 55. My kids are grown and gone, raising families of their own. But I am nowhere near ready to say I have lived all the life God has for me. Many of the things He placed on my plate, I have indeed completed.  But there are lots of things left on my ‘to do’ list.  So I may be done, but I’m not finished!

I must admit, each time I hear this discussion, I am incensed, indignant and infuriated. But if it’s such a consistently common perspective, I believe there is probably a bigger image problem than I might have ever understood. It’s not that those of us who are 50+ are no longer capable, qualified or called. It’s that lots of us believe the lie that we aren’t – and we just stopped showing up. Why? How on earth did that happen?

For some of us moms, we find it terribly lonely in that empty nest. Braces are paid for, Little League games have concluded and piano practice has been silenced. We spent so many years focused on discussions with our husbands about the kids that we’ve forgotten how to converse about anything else. There’s an awkwardness that seems rather isolating. Some of us are alone, indeed. Divorce we didn’t see coming or widowhood. When you’ve been part of “we” and “us” for a longtime, the transition to “I” can be scary.

Others in our group are less than engaged by the career they pursued, and now find it dull and confining. Or perhaps we just long to do something different. Maybe even called to it, but it seems like that opportunity has come and gone. “Best to leave that to one of the younger girls.” “Short term mission to help in Haiti? Maybe 10 years ago, but now? I don’t think so.”

We flounder as we try to figure out the answer to the question “ok Lord, so what’s my purpose now?”

Being needed is a heady drug – and unbelievably addictive. Our children needed us for survival- a level of need that was both overwhelming and affirming. Our husbands needed our encouragement and support as they built their careers. PTA needed room mothers, Little League needed a snack lady, and neighbors needed carpool drivers. And they invited US!  And certainly, while we were doing it, it drove us crazy. But it reminded us we were of value. We still need that affirmation of our usefulness – and the good news is that there are lots of places in the body of Christ to get that fix! And now, finally, at this time in our lives, we are available and free to explore our options – and they’re a lot more interesting than driving the carpool! This is not the time to drag out the knitting and settle in for the “winter of our lives.”

Adventure has no age limit. There are new friendships to build and relationships to resurrect. It’s never too late to serve, explore, mentor, study, create or minister.  It’s time to SHINE during this time of our life when we can make a genuine difference in the lives of others and fully walk in the wisdom and joy we have collected this far on our journey. We are relevant. We have value. We are NOT past tense!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 Each season of our life has purpose. But it’s a bit of a moving target. As we change, His purpose for our life changes, too!

Author Erma Bombeck once said “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.” That is my heart’s desire. Don’t tightly clutch your remaining talent – invest it, share it, let God multiply it and give it away!

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -Robin Gunn. I love this concept and I’m looking for traveling buddies to help me finish strong. So will you go with me? Let’s take a look at relationships, spiritual growth, health and wellness, even beauty, confidence and communication. All focused on where we are right now. We’re not 30 anymore. Hey, we’re not even 40. New time and new opportunities need new ideas and new tools. Let’s go far together as we explore the possibilities for those of us 50+ who are fed up with the stereotype and revved up enough to ask, “Lord! What’s my purpose now?”


Deb is ‘wife’ to her high school sweetheart, mom to three incredible sons and Gigi to two perfect grandboys. She is a former Californian who now lives in the Dallas area. She is excited about the next stage of life and what God has for her now. An author, speaker, and executive coach, Deb travels extensively and is always seeking a quiet place to write. Read Deb at:


About My Purpose Now

Deb is ‘wife’ to her high school sweetheart, mom to three incredible sons and Gigi to two perfect grandboys. She is a former Californian who now lives in the Dallas area. She is excited about the next stage of life and what God has for her now. An author, speaker, and executive coach, Deb travels extensively and is always seeking a quiet place to write. Read Deb at:


  1. Sandra

    January 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    So, Grandma Moses would never even have *thought* about painting, ’cause she’d be dead at 55…?
    The list is…well, almost endless!

    • Deb DeArmond

      January 25, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      Sandra, my point exactly! Mother Theresa, Golda Mayer, Mary Kay Ash, Margaret Thatcher, Betty White – I guess they didn’t get the memo! It can be the best part of life. Stop by and check us out at where our tag line is,
      “We may be done, but we’re not finished!”

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