Finding a Purpose in My Empty Nest

Flying Faithfully

By Mimi Greenwood Knight

 

 

Finding a purpose in my empty nest

 

In 2003, God had a surprise for my family. With our first three kids settled in school and when I was starting to expand my interests outside the home, He suddenly — and unexpectedly — made it clear we were to adopt. Through a series of coincidences (with God there are no coincidences), He showed us we’d be a Mom and Dad to a sweet baby boy. A few months later, one-year-old Jonah joined our family.

Sitting on my desk where I’m writing this now is a photo of the first time that blue-eyed boy crossed our threshold, in the arms of his adoring sisters. I keep it there to remind me God loves me enough to allow me to raise this funny, laid-back, insightful child.

Now, he’s busy selecting a college roommate and gathering the things he’ll need to move four hours away and pursue his dream of becoming a family and marriage counselor. What a guy!

Finding a purpose in my empty nest

Finding a purpose in my empty nest

With his sisters happily settled in Alaska and New Orleans and his brother finishing up his undergraduate degree and shopping for graduate schools, it’s time to face the fact that this mama is about to be out of a job.Just the term “empty nest” feels like a sock to the gut. It reminds me of those dusty, abandoned bird nests I find around the yard. What was once a place of birth, life, growth, and potential is now an empty void. Soon, my noisy, rambunctious house will be a tidy museum of what has been.

I’m trying hard to see this as a transition, a new chapter potentially as full and adventurous as the ones before it. Even as older parents, David and I statistically have a quarter of our lives left, and we get to decide how that will look.

Hello, Stranger

Surely God’s not through with our marriage yet. Why not make this a time to reconnect and zip off to romantic getaway weekends? The past several years were defined by our roles as a mom and dad. Now, it’s time to be husband and wife again. Being attractive and interesting to one another can begin with pursuing some interests we didn’t have time for, while the kids were at home. Instead of spending our nights at the ballfield, we could take ballroom dancing lessons. Instead of logging volunteer hours with the PTA, maybe I’ll find a pottery class. Just as God showed us years ago, He wanted us to adopt Jonah, we’re asking Him what plans he has for this next chapter of our lives.

What Now, Lord?

Parenting is a noble calling, and I’ve loved 99% of it. Yet it’s only a part of what God’s calling us to do. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on Matthew 22:35-40, when Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” — “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

How will that look now? Just as Jabez prayed for God to expand his territory, we’re coming into a time of life where our energies can be focused in many directions, toward many people. What can I do with the time I used to spend keeping up with four busy, messy, chatty — and yes, I’ll admit — spoiled kids? I found such joy in looking for ways to express my love to them. Surely, God can give me joy in loving others, too.

Seeking Guidance

The main verse God used, 17 years ago, to lead us to adoption was Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” We prayed and invited God to cause us to desire whatever He desired for us. In that case, it was a roly-poly baby boy. I have no idea what it will be this time. But I’m trying to be open to it — whatever it is.

Parenting Adult Kids

Of course, our kids aren’t exactly through with us. One thing that has weighed on me, over the years, is the fact that no one is going to pray as fervently for my kids as I do. Even if that’s the only thing I do for them now, that’s huge. I might be finished parenting them in the flesh, but as long as I have breath, I’ll never stop “parenting them in the spirit.”

Lastly, I’m holding on to Philippians 1:6, which says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I can’t wait to see where that good work will take us next. And, Lord, if that includes grandkids, you won’t hear me complain.

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