CELEBRATING WHAT WAS
Like most big changes in life, adjusting to an empty nest as a ministry wife holds some surprising joys and sorrows. Even years into the empty nest, the leisurely pace of getting ready on Sunday mornings without little ones at home is still a delight. I no longer have to hold a press conference while trying to brush my teeth, talking through toothpaste to answer questions such as, “Why can’t I wear flip-flops to church..the disciples did!” I no longer hear myself repeat these three things: put down the Legos, get your shoes on and (for the love of mercy) get in the car. I hold in my hands the precious treasure of time, and new choices of how to spend it fan out for me like paint samples. I weigh the excitement of these newfound freedoms against the unfamiliar quiet walk into church alone.
I’m a grief coach by vocation, and often the question I process with clients after a significant loss is: Who am I now? In this empty nest season, I am asking this question of the Lord and of myself:
Who am I now?
Where do you want to use me?
What do I have to offer you that I didn’t before?
The season of being home with little ones was a treasure I am grateful for. Many tell you, as a young mom, that the season with kids at home “will go so fast” (I did not believe them whatsoever during potty training). The hot tears stinging my eyes if I look at empty bedrooms for too long now confirm they were telling me the truth. It is ok to mourn and hold close to your heart what you cannot have back. Yet the sunrise of another season is peeking over the horizon, inviting me to wipe away the tears and “come and see” (John 1:39).
DISCOVERING WHAT’S NEXT
I am choosing to lean heavily into this new sunrise with joy, purpose and intention, taking what I learned in the former season with me. There were organizational skills I learned during the early years, simply to keep us all afloat! Like a new season in my yard, some things stay as they are and some crackly brown branches need to be pruned to give the very best chance to new growth. The branches I am pruning are those which have become “too easy” or rote after so many years. God is challenging me to lean out for what is slightly beyond my own reach…places that re-awaken me to the fact I am reliant solely on Him. There are things only your Heavenly Father knows about you. So when you get invited to try something He knows uses your skill set and simultaneously intimidates you, I hope you will get the same inward smile I do.
“He sees me…He knows my name…I am not just a map dot to Him…I am not done.”
The spaces in the evenings that used to be filled attending my kids’ events are now sporadically filled with sporting events or music events for the younger kids in our church. What a delight it has been to clap and cheer for them in the stands through the thrill of a long touchdown run or the disappointment of a missed squeaky note. Meetings I could not attend years ago when I was busy with lunches, permission forms and science projects are possibilities now. The word “legacy” often pops into my brain like a cartoon bubble. How might my story be used to encourage someone younger than me? God is showing me one step at a time that I am still very much His ambassador and very much needed, just in different ways than I was before. My quiet walk into church doesn’t have to be quiet if I’m scanning the parking lot for a young mom who is carrying “all the things” (diaper bag, Bibles, car seat) who might need my help.
Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (NKJV) I looked up the phrase “redeeming the time” and found that the Greek word “exagorazo” means “to buy up or rescue from loss.” (Strong’s Concordance, 2023). God has given me an awareness that the treasure of time I hold in my hands is a gift from Him, to be used for Him in the quick wink that we are on this planet. I do not want to waste my treasure. My life in ministry is not over because my kids no longer live at home; it is simply changing form.
What treasure do you hold in your hands? It has been trusted to you for a purpose. Your empty nest does not mean you are done; your season is changing and therefore so are your ministry opportunities. Talk to your Heavenly Father who created you, and ask Him to point you to where your gifts can be used for His glory in this new season. Go all the way to the finish line. We (the global body of Christ) need you.