The house is quiet now, unless you count the lapping sounds of our dog trying to quench her thirst on a hot Alabama summer afternoon. I am sitting on the couch with an ice cold glass of tea next to me pondering whether or not to make the dreaded trip to Wal Mart. There is no movement in the house, just the occasional buzzing of the air conditioner switching on and off. It feels very empty these days in the wake of dropping our youngest off at college.
He’s living his dream and I’m facing my dreaded empty nest.
Empty is a word I find myself using a lot lately. I think about it, talk about it, write about it and mostly feel it. I understand why so many who pass this way struggle with the silence after having a busy home, and why they feel like their purpose, that was once so very clear, is suddenly gone; packed and dropped off with the last child who leaves. Some of you will have no idea what I’m talking about, your experience with empty nest feels like the beginning of the next exciting chapter of your life. It opens doors of opportunity to things like missed date nights, trips that have been on the back burner for years, home improvement projects and maybe even getting back in shape. I find myself wandering down the empty hall of my house staring into empty bedrooms and reminiscing how things “once were,” and wondering how it all flew by at the speed of sound.
I miss the way things used to be.
I miss the feeling of never being quite caught up and scrambling from one event to the next, making each sure each kid knew I had been there to support. Flying home to see what in the world I had in the fridge that would suffice for dinner and inevitably it would be grilled cheese again. While I was busy living those hectic times I would hear other moms laughingly complain about how they never had their act together and I would join in, teasing that “one day” we would have a moment to ourselves. As though those moments alone would be the prize at the end of a long race.
What I didn’t realize fully was how much I needed those busy days and nights to fill the empty places in my heart. Or maybe not having the chaos has caused the empty places, not quite sure which way it goes. No matter, there’s still an emptiness, sitting here on the couch, watching the dog play with her tail. I am forced to really deal with the depth and width of it.
What am I to do with myself?
I do not want to volunteer for lots of committees or join random clubs just to fill my time and put a mask over what I’m feeling in my heart. I want purpose, real purpose, the kind I used to feel each day when I rose, making sure the amazing humans the Lord gave me were properly equipped as they headed out the door. Well, mostly properly equipped on most days, I guess. Or at least they were equipped sometimes. The point being, I loved caring for them and being in their life. It brought joy and energy and I felt needed.
I don’t want to just be busy, I want to take care of business.
In these days of quiet and a bit of aimlessness I want the Lord to reveal to me what’s next. I know in the depths of my being these child rearing years are not the end for me. I also know getting from where I am now to where He wants to take me will most likely be a challenge. That just seems to be the way my Heavenly Father rolls in my life, one difficult climb after another. Each excursion leading me to a beautiful view. By the time I arrive at the destination He has for me I am usually weary and ready to be done. But, as He gives me a moment to rest, I feel myself rallying, longing to see more of what He has for me and to be more of the person he has in mind.
And so I pull myself up and put one “spiritual” foot in front of the other.
And that’s exactly where I am today. I have seen the most beautiful view of my child stepping out of our cozy nest and into a prickly world, and, so far, he’s doing it with grace. I am tired from the difficulty of letting go, but I can feel my spirit rallying and it won’t be too long until I’m up and ready move forward.
It would be so easy right now to start filling my time up with good causes and good people, but I’m praying constantly, “Is this what you want me to be doing, Lord? Is this YOUR business? Or my busyness? Help me to discern your will and direction in this desperate place of loneliness you’ve placed me in. Don’t let me fill it up with counterfeit activities that are good but not really what’s best for me. I need you to keep me focused and attentive as you lead your very tender, fragile servant into what you have next.”
As my husband and I were driving to a neighboring town recently the term “has-been’s” came up. We began to talk about what that term really meant and how inevitably at some point in your life you will feel like one.
My guy loves to watch TV shows about cars. Pretty much any type of unique old car that needs repair will grab his attention every time. He loves the story behind these old beauties as much as seeing what is to come of them. He knows many of the hosts of his favorite shows by name and loves to watch as they go through the process of finding and restoring these antique automobiles. Occasionally a car will show up and he’ll wonder out loud how the buyer will ever be able to make anything of value from the hunk of metal that has seen better years.
Without fail, by the end of the program, the vintage vehicle will be fully repurposed and ready for another season of life on the road.
It’s no longer a has-been, thanks to the tender, loving care and determination of someone who saw what most couldn’t; it had more life to live and give.
At my age and current place in life, I can relate to these old cars.
I am waiting as my creator gives me new purpose. He sees in me what only an expert eye could and he’s putting in the necessary time and effort to make the changes I need. These changes will benefit and equip me as he sets me on the path for a new season of life. My part is to be available, attentive and willing…even when it hurts.
Notice I didn’t say “if” it hurts, but “when.” No pain, no gain is a real thing.
So, remember as you’re climbing and growing in life, the pain will be worth it. Occasionally you will get a chance to rest and enjoy the breathtaking views of what God has done and is going to do. But, it won’t be for long, and then he’ll move you onward and upward to more challenges and beauty. He is the expert and knows exactly what he’s doing.
And, maybe if you’re lucky, in your journey of growth, you’ll be “restored” to a hipster sports car, the kind that sounds good and runs fast. I’d be happy for a fresh paint job and lubricated joints at this point. I believe I’ve still got plenty of miles left in me; one road, one season at a time.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”