When the Empty Nest Ain’t Empty

I mourned my empty nest when the last chick flew from home.

Veteran moms told me I’d adjust to the empty space. The solitude. Cooking for two.

They were right.

Bedroom walls—once plastered with posters and youthful fingerprints—were painted and turned into guest rooms.

Beds were always made because no one slept in them. Bath towels hung on the rod like soldiers in formation. Ready for inspection.

A tidy way to live.

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No dirt. No drama.

Living in that sterile environment fooled me. Made me think I had my act together.

Then all my chicks arrived—temporarily filling up the nest. Bringing their smiles. Their baggage.

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Suddenly, SELF is tripping over shoes. Cooking when I’m not hungry. Stepping on sticky floors. Washing dishes I didn’t use. Just like the “good, old days of child-rearing.”

And I’m aghast!

Not with my guests, but my SELF.

Accustomed to being in control, there’s nothing like sharing and serving others to realize—maybe I’m not as patient and selfless as I assumed. 

In self defense, my family becomes a handy excuse to NOT meet with the Lord. I’m on vacation.

Then wonder, “Where’s the fruit of the Spirit like self-control and joy?”

Only this time, praise God, I’m proactive. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I may roll my eyes when someone leaves the light on, but I refuse to nag or stuff negative thoughts inside of me and look as though I’ve eaten sour pickles. Don’t want to implode.

Like the Proverbs 30 woman, I rise before my household. Not to meet their needs, but my own because it’s imperative to put on my oxygen mask first!

Alone with the Lord, I relinquish yesterday’s mistakes, disappointments, and small annoyances. Why give Satan the victory?

Then I ask God to show me how to be more like Christ while my empty nest ain’t empty.

However, I can only do what Jesus would do when I heed His words, “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28). And then abide in Christ throughout the day, mindful of His presence, knowing….

Even in this—bustling nest filled with human bloopers and blunders—God will accomplish His predestined will in me as well as others.

“Molding us into the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)

One dirty sink and shoe-tripping day at a time.

You Can Go Now

I wrote this in 2014. School just began and all the feelings I wrote in the blog come flooding back. I’m still learning to let go of the people I love.

ON the first day of school, student laughter drifts across the street like melody to my ears. And along with their glee, three grown children unknowingly pluck my heart strings from afar.

How long does it last…this forlorn desire to rewind time? Or must I remain tethered to the memory of my children the way they were?

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My mind’s eye sees them standing on our front porch. They’re dressed in new outfits, their backpacks filled with freshly-sharpened pencils, colored markers, and wide-ruled paper.

 I fumble with my camera while they moan, “Hurry up, Mom! We don’t want to be late!”

Within two weeks, I’ll have to shoo them out the door, “Hurry up, you’ll be late!”

While my voice vibrates like a helicopter…helicopter mom

ü  “Do you have your homework?”

ü  “Did you remember your lunch?”

ü  “Don’t forget to hand in your permission slip.”

20131012_170430Last evening, for old time’s sake, I sat at the playground and remembered my youngest child’s first day of kindergarten.

Grasping his hand, we weaved through timid children and zealous parents until we found his cubbyhole. It  was marked by a laminated sign decorated with a red apple and his name written in bold print.

Then he sat down with his classmates at one of the round tables. I squatted beside his dwarf-sized chair, hoping to provide moral support while we waited for the bell to ring.

Only, he had enough confidence for the both of us.

“You can go now.”

I did not expect my son to cling to my skirts like crazy glue. After all, he had older siblings on campus and was eager to join their ranks.

And yet, his matter-of-fact tone threw me off guard.

I left the room like a Butler dismissed from service.

Lord, why is it so hard to let go?

 

Thirteen years later, I’m still learning to let go.

Recently, we flew across the nation and left our son at college.

I postponed my torrent of tears by remaining agenda-oriented. However, Sunday morning ushered in the dread of saying goodbye.

Sitting at church, between my husband and son, I pressed that moment into my heart like rose petals in a book.

 Thank you, Lord, for my family. Thank you for Your goodness.

Other moments, including my son’s first day of kindergarten, flooded my memory bank. Only this time, it was the Lord who said,

“Karen, YOU CAN GO NOW!”

I blinked back tears while God spoke as though He were talking in my ear. “Are you willing to trust Me with your child?

My head nodded though my heart balked until I remembered,

The Lord loves my children more than I do.

And if that’s true, I can let go and go now because God will never leave nor forsake them….even in this circumstance.

 “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

The Last Time

School is over. My son, my youngest child, graduates from high school next week.

As I spread mayonnaise onto a piece of bread, I realize this is the last sandwich I’ll make for my son to eat at school.  No more brown-bag lunches filled with sandwiches, chips, and sliced apple.

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Only the Lord knows how many hundreds of school lunches I’ve prepared when I multiply them by three children. My son offered to make his lunch, but years of habit evolved into my morning ritual.

Last evening, I attended our last High School choir concert. While my eyes were fixed on my son’s clean-shaven face, I remembered another concert years ago. The elementary-aged children held battery-operated candles as they sang. Well, most children held them. My third-grade son used his candle to sword fight with the boy next to him.

Today my son’s strong body towers over me. His deep voice is reminiscent of a Bass Cello. I love to hear him sing. So when the choir sang the last note in the last song of his last concert, tears clouded my vision.

My son isn’t obsessed with last moments. He’s ready to raise anchor and leave shore, bound for new horizons. I’m excited for him, but this melancholy mom cradles last moments.   

What emotions swept over Jesus when he ate the last Passover Meal with his disciples?

Jesus knew it was their Last Supper. “The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory….Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you!” (John 13:31-33)

Although Jesus had warned his disciples this day would come, they panicked:

“Lord, where are you going?”

“Why can’t I come now, Lord?”

“We haven’t any idea where you are going…”

It may have been their Last Supper, but it wasn’t the end of their relationship with Jesus.

 “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

For three days, the disciples were derailed by their circumstances…the trial and death of Jesus. They ran and hid. Peter denied knowing Christ. They might have lost all hope for tomorrow if not for Jesus’ words.  “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” (John 16:22)  

True to His word, Christ was resurrected and appeared to them before he left them and was taken up to heaven. And his disciples were “filled with great joy.”

Likewise, our sorrowful moments…even the last ones…can become joyful when we trust Jesus and keep our eyes on Him. 

Remember the Last Time?

A new school year begins today. The beginning of the end of a season in my life.

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My son, a high school senior, is the youngest of three children. So this school year is filled with many last things….

·         Last first day of school with yours truly photographing my son on the front porch.

·         Last soccer season with yours truly shoving cleats next to the wall to keep from tripping over them.

·         Last time for Back-to-School Night, Homecoming, Spirit Week, Spring Formal.

I kept baby books for all my children, documenting the first time they ate solid food, took their first step, or lost a tooth.

I never realized when something happened in their lives for “the last time.”  

Like brushing one’s teeth, a bedtime story was a ritual for my children. Long after they could read on their own, we took turns reading pages from chapter books. But there’s still a bookmark in Eldest, where I closed the book and said goodnight to my youngest son years ago, not knowing it was the last time we’d read together.

Now I know, every date  that I scratch off my school calendar is one day closer to the last day of school, forever, and then what?

Who am I? If not, “my kid’s” mom?

What is my purpose if not running to the store at the last minute to buy poster board for a project? Why set the alarm clock, if no one needs breakfast or a peanut butter sandwich for a school lunch? Where do I go for entertainment if not a field trip, soccer game, or a choir concert?

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Long gone is the excitement of newly purchased school supplies: the smell of fresh crayons, plastic lunch boxes, glue sticks, and wide-lined paper.

A backpack laden with textbooks, a duffle bag for sports gear, and a smart phone are my son’s school accessories.

We hug goodbye, and he leaves for school, his mind elsewhere.

I wipe wet eyes, envisioning him in a blue, graduation cap and gown.

Wasn’t it yesterday when his name was printed in bold letters on an apple name tag, and hung with yarn around his neck?

Like the other moms in the classroom, I had hovered over my kindergarten child,  hesitant to say goodbye when he looked up at me and spoke matter-of-fact, “You can go now.”

Fast forward to his senior year, and I’m still trying to go…

And I’m missing him, because today is the “last” first day of school, the end of a season in my life.

 

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)