Thursday, October 4, 2012

Empty Nest Moms: Could the Best Be Yet to Come?

Could the best be yet to come?
I didn’t think so seven years ago when I entered the empty nest. My active mothering role had come to an end. On top of that, my mother died.
These natural, yet heart-rending life events sent me into a head spin. I pondered my twenty-five year journey of training my three children to be God-honoring, well-balanced, responsible adults, and realized in some ways I was still a child myself. With my mother gone and my father close behind her, I felt a free fall into maturity I did not fully want to take.
I was it—the next generation carrying the baton and responsible to faithfully pass it off to my progeny when my time arrived to step into heaven.
The message God kept bringing to my mind: Enjoy Me. In this new season of life, enjoy Me! The best is yet to come. But in my written plans (yes, I charted out goals) to enjoy Him, I struggled to wrap up in His love. He allowed me to go to some deep places in order to press me deeper into Himself.
Working my way through journal entries I penned during that transition time, I retrieved a letter my husband, Chuck, wrote to me. He expressed his joy at the gift God had given him in me. He wrote: “We’re on the ride of our lives and I’m excited! I know the best is still ahead!”
At the time, I didn’t share his enthusiasm. Tired emotionally, I entered the second half of life drained and vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. After two weddings, two graduations, caring for aging parents, starting a new business in addition to writing and speaking, losing my mother, turning 50, and entering menopause, I simply needed some good old fashioned rest. But my typical reaction to grief—get busy—blindsided me, hindering me from the admonition God had been working into my life ever since I was fifteen years old: Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10a).   
 All my good intentions were to enjoy God, Chuck, and life as it now presented itself. But most of my planned “enjoyment” required work. I needed to give myself permission to rest in order to regain my emotional equilibrium. For me that often means sitting and staring into space, reading a good book, pulling the covers up over my head and sleeping an additional hour or more, taking long walks to pour my heart out to God, visiting with a friend over coffee, curling up in a warm blanket with a hot cup of tea, or doing something girly just for myself, like buying a new outfit.
I also now realize that the passage to the empty nest requires celebration. While I helped my children celebrate their milestones, and rightfully so (I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way), I forgot to plan a party for me! In the back of my mind, I kept saying, I’ll be okay.
During my time of transition, I fear I focused too much on the deficits and not on the pluses. I now know there are many: three sons-in-law, six grandchildren, a more relaxed schedule, developing my talents and ministry potential, dancing with my hubby (a pursuit we took up shortly after entering the empty nest), and renewed commitment to friendships with other women.
In my book Second Chance, my central character Mave, a recent empty nester, struggles with the question, what’s next? In the beginning of her journey, she wonders if there even is a next. Her quest takes her on a path both humorous and dangerous.
After reading Second Chance, blogger Rhonda Nash-Hall shared the following:
God certainly has a plan in what He has me read.  I am 50 years old and feeling very lonesome, sad, and useless in my "empty nest.” Second Chance arrived a while ago and got pushed far underneath a piece of furniture. I discovered the book last week. As I began reading, I thought to!  A lot of what Mave is experiencing is quite similar to my life right now . . . This book truly moved me . . . it touched so "close to home" for me at this point in my life. There is encouragement to minister in some way as well. You don't have to be in your "Empty Nest Years" to enjoy this book. I am already planning to share it with my 79 year old mother as I think she will thoroughly enjoy it too!  

Part of the inspiration behind the novel was my own processing of the empty nest. How thrilling to think that God is using the story He laid on my heart to help women discover His platform in this new season of life. When we make the journey with Him, the best is always yet to come.  


Anonymous said...

As a fifty something, soon-to-be empty nester I appreciate your honesty and words of wisdom, Eileen

Eileen Rife said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kelly! I pray that soon-to-be empty nest moms can avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced.

It is a grieving journey, for some more than others, but the path eventually opens the way to a sense of new life and potential.

I'm learning that God always uses the transitions in life to teach and grow us.

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