They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case I find it to be true.
This moment that our oldest daughter captured with her phone was hardly a surprise. Rather, it was a playing out of the natural progression of life.
A rite of passage.
A milestone we had known was coming for years, yet I still feel ill prepared for.
I lingered on move in day. I helped her unpack, hung her clothes, smoothed her sheets, fluffed her pillows and hung the lights with her.
We gushed over how nice her dorm looked, how beautiful the grounds were, how good the food was and how friendly the people seemed. But no amount of procrastinating could subvert the inevitable.
At some point I had to leave and in doing so, I had to leave her there.
She is the last of our 4. My right hand woman, my ride or die, and in many ways she’s become my best friend.
A few tears worked their way out as we said goodbye, but I have yet to release the flood that’s been building since I drove away from campus last week. There’s this empty, what-do-I-do-now, hole in my soul that people casually call the empty-nest. It’s more like a breaking of the heart.
I’ve said these kinds of goodbyes now 4 times over and there are good points to them all. I no longer have to put the seat down, hide the snacks, or be woken up in the middle of the night with barking dogs while a teen tip-toes up the steps. There won’t be dust balls running across the floor, strange odors wafting from behind bedroom doors, or a plethora of things piled high on the stairs that someone will “get to later.”
In spite of all the irritants, a piece of me goes with each child when they spread their wings and fly. This last one is proving to be the hardest, leaving me with feelings that are inescapably hard and questions that I can’t yet answer because, well, she’s the last.
While our children were growing there was little time to really ponder what would happen once everyone was gone. Sure, we imagined how nice it would be to have the house to ourselves. He and I are finally alone, free to travel or do nothing if we like. He’s been patient while I mothered and it’s time he gets my full attention.
I don’t want to let my life atrophy because I’m not connected to parenting in the same way as I was a week ago. There are still things to look forward to. There are adult kids and grandchildren to hug and watch and plan adventures with. There are hobbies to explore and ministries to serve in. None of that seems as fulfilling at present as the role of mothering that seemed to pass me by all to fast, so for now I will try to honor the feelings of loss that will naturally come.
I don’t want to hold my children back or get in the way of the plans God has for them. This is the fundamental paradox of parenthood: we bring them up with one ambition, which is to let them go.
Whether I find myself embracing what lies ahead or resisting the inevitable reordering of things, here are a few ways I’ve decided will help me to move through this change with grace and confidence.
Surrendering to God takes place on many levels, but maybe the most difficult is surrendering to God’s timing. Emma left for college a full two years early and that makes me impervious to this steady march of time. Some days I want it to go by quickly, like the years of teenage rebellion and attitudes. Other days, like the day I left Emma at her dorm, I want time to stop completely. But time is indifferent to my feelings; it will neither be hurried nor halted.
Every season in life has its own purpose.
These are my moments. And as time moves on, it’s important that I surrender to live every part of the life I’m living, trusting in God’s timing and the plans he has for me.
Stumbling blindly through the days and weeks ahead will not yield the kind of life I want; Yes I miss my kids and I’m pretty sure I always will to some degree. Still, it is imperative to listen wisely if I hope to glean a harvest from this new season I’m in.
Listening to God is a learned skill.
God is always teaching me something if I pay attention, and I want to see the lessons He has for me as my faith deepens.
When we share our circumstances and how we’ve surrendered and listened, God can use us to reassure others going through similar challenges.
This has been my anthem for a long time. God has given me a story. There are chapters I wish were different, but then again, if my story were different I wouldn’t be who I am and I wouldn’t have the tools He’s given me to help others.
Ecclesiastes counsels, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up” (4:9-10).
One of my favorite ways to share is through writing here on this blog. It’s something I haven’t done much of in recent years and something I’m looking forward to, whether I have one reader or ten.
The beauty found in this season of change is that no matter where it leads me, I am always secure in Christ. He is my anchor as I navigate my thoughts and feelings and move on to a new adventure.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”Ephesians 2:10, NLT
As you can see, a picture really is worth a thousand words.