The Empty Nest, Part 2

Not long ago that was me in the photo, young, long hair flying in the breeze. But time flies! Now it’s our youngest daughter.

Just yesterday it seems our house was full of children, gathered around our table, filling our big van and our bulging house. Now all our kids are grown – three in their twenties, three in their thirties.

Our best years with the most precious people, the most fulfilling, satisfying, stretching, and rewarding time of our lives draws to a close. An era is ending.

The thought puts a hole right through me. I don’t want to think about it. But every night I dream they’re all tiny again. One by one, they keep wandering away, losing their shoes, scattering, and I can’t corral them. How did it go so fast!

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“The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16 NIV).

Soon our youngest daughter moves out. And thus will end nearly thirty-eight years of sharing our home with our children – the people we love best in all the world. Nearly four decades of parenting is wrapping up.

Oh, we’re still parents. We’re still called upon for advice and blessing. We still worry, pray, and love. We still have the benefit of grandchildren and of watching our adult children become all we ever hoped, prayed, and dreamed they would be!

But we’ll have the house to ourselves, and she, like the rest, will no longer live with us. These ideas are both strange. How can she not live with us? She’s our baby girl! How can we live alone? The last time we did we were teenagers expecting our firstborn. Now we’re pressing toward sixty! Our appearance has changed.

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IMG_9405 Will we know how to act without children at home?

We’ve had trial runs of summer-long camp-counselor absences, but there was always an end in sight. We remained in parenting mode. They always came back home. Though our children are forever welcome if they need a place, with this evacuation of the “baby,” the end seems to have arrived.

This is bittersweet. Our children are the richest blessing God has lavished on us this side of heaven, other than Himself. We miss them! We’ll miss her!

We are family people. This is our tribe.

What will we do? 

My husband has just a few more years until he retires. We have to figure this out! Our life verses for almost four decades have taught, guided, convicted, and shaped us. They still provide direction.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates” (Psalm 127 NLT).

“The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 NLT).

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Our grandchildren all live far away. Investing in their lives beckons us – the application of the same verses applies to them. Visits with adult children attract us, more involvement in India calls, and I have parents who will soon need our assistance. My writing is fully portable. I’ll take it with me.

As we prepare for this coming adventure, we must determine our priorities, our living place or places, and our plan for following the Lord’s leading. Just as the past decades of parenting blessed us and transformed us, so will these coming years of empty nest. More bittersweet also lies over the horizon, for this isn’t Eden.

But after decades of Jesus’ faithfulness we know he’ll see us through and continue to teach, shape, and guide us to the other side, just as he’ll care for this last precious one as she launches into the wider world.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom…Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:12-17).

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Part 1: Do We Really Know What’s Best for Us?