Sometimes the transitions of life are difficult because they’re tragic or we’re caught off guard. Sudden and unexpected deaths or events fill this category: Heart attacks. Aneurysms. Birth of a child with serious health challenges. Cancer diagnoses. House fires. Premature death. Auto accidents.

Each breaks the norm. They’re out of order. They’re therefore nonsensical to us, and they require enormous adaptation in response.

They beg the questions: Why? Why now? Why this? Why us? We must grapple with God, for we don’t understand. We must yield and change, even if we never do.

The tragedies that feel unjust jolt us. The valiant and brave are injured or die tragically, exactly like those who aren’t so noble. The godly missionary reaches his destination and experiences nothing but sickness or defeat, maybe even a quick death. The steadfast family who loves Jesus lives through one setback, loss, and calamity after another. We want a better outcome for ones we deem deserving.

We don’t understand. God seems unfair. We forget His character as we sit in judgment of Him. We grow angry. Our whys seem to bounce off the cold metallic heavens. These are difficult to accept. We face the questions: Who exactly is God? Does He really love us? Is He just?

But some transitions are deemed “normal,” expected even, the next thing on the list. We often embrace them as our due, rather than as the miracle they are – the birth of healthy children, their first days of school, their graduations, their honors, the raise at work, the new house.

These don’t flatten our worlds and torment us with questions. These are pleasant and tempt us to coast on through.

In August I detailed my considerations of a coming “normal” life change, a transition near the end of the journey, rather than the beginning. It brought a mixture of joy and sadness. Our last child left home.

The time was right. We had spent nearly thirty-eight years raising our family. This youngest was twenty-one and a senior in college, her siblings long gone. My husband nears retirement. It was time. Nothing shocking here.

But I wanted to mark this “normal” life transition with celebration and reflection, to give it the due it deserved. These moments are often overlooked as we stumble from one disaster to the next. Yet these smooth transitions deserve our rejoicing and our attention. It is healthy and right to mark these milestones.

Now we’re a few weeks on the other side. This event required no battle-weary yielding to God, no confusion or angry questioning, no conscious resistance of the new norm, and no challenging adaptations to it, though it easily could have.

Still, every night I dream of a houseful of children, of them as babes in arms, or of family exploits done together. My yearning for them escapes subconsciously. Occasionally, my longing for them causes a full heart and tears. I miss their company. Having been a mother for nearly four decades, I’m assuming these effects will always be with me. Motherhood has changed me.

Consciously, I’m making these decisions: When I’m tempted to bemoan my children’s rapid arrival at adulthood, the end of the era, and the loss of those precious years, I ask the Lord to help me refocus on gratitude for His amazing gift of these children, prayer for my kids, and rejoicing in our new phase of life. Therefore, even though I miss them, the transition to empty nester is going smoothly.

It has included spur-of-the-moment fun with my husband, tossing of worn out household goods, scheduling a trip to care for my parents’ health needs, a final edit on my next novel in progress with relatively few surprise interruptions so far, and the beginning of our long list of do-it-yourself home improvements.

Our daughter pops in to touch base and then pops out again. We’d already adjusted to this, because she had grown so busy that she was seldom home. We have watched the Lord provide good and miraculous gifts for her in her new home. With her, we rejoiced. The transition was, therefore, a blessing.

An era has ended. We’re in the end game. What does God have for us next?

We will watch and pray. Whatever it is, He will teach us to love Him more, to yield to Him, to accept loss and blessing from His hands, and to regard both as good, simply because they are from Him.

And we will learn. Always.