Time of The "Empty Nest"
Greetings in Jesus name, the One who has our timeline in His hand. He is the One that can fill our every need, regardless what stage of life we are in. We view our lives as a change of seasons, each one blending into the next; each one is unique and for each of us it has been a journey through time, with birds leaving the nest until the nest is empty. For us we had birds in the nest for 37 years and the nest has been empty for 17 years.
For some of you, older children have remained in the nest, but they have matured and care for themselves. These can be a blessing, too. Or when the last one has flown, God called you into service to be parents to other children.
Let's consider what the empty nest is not: At times it is not glamorous! A young married man often remarked he can't wait until the glamour days come, meaning the empty nest. Webster defines glamour as mysterious fascination, alluring charm, or magic attraction. In later years this man's empty nest brought illness and poor health for both of them and their children did not embrace the values and faith of their parents. How sad. They felt so unwanted and alone.
Sometimes we think life is based on satisfying our appetites, new clothes, dining out, entertainment, living the "good life", having means to purchase whatever we desire. In the end those things leave us empty and unfulfilled. An empty nest sister helping to work in Honduras with a smile on her face and sparkle in her eyes exclaimed, "This is the best vacation I ever had. Doing things for others brings JOY.
Another aspect of being alone together causes us to notice things that make us wonder: When did my husband start that habit? It's so easy to find fault with what he does or what he leaves undone and to fret about the way we think things should be. Why do we wives do that? As Christians we believe there is an enemy of our souls who wants our marriages to fall apart--even in old age. Part of the problem is we don't recognize this enemy or his tactics. We don't look beyond ourselves or our husbands to the root of the cause. This example comes from the Readers Digest and is a little humorous. A husband was ready to hang pictures for his wife, and asked, "Shall I hang them too low or too high?" Do you see the problem? She was hard to please!
Strive to focus on the things we appreciate about our husbands and verbally express gratitude. Accept the fact that we ladies are far from perfect and let's not expect perfection from our husbands. If you find yourself with a critical spirit, take it to the Lord, and receive the help you need. Look for ways to please or surprise the man in your life. It might take effort. It could be such a small thing as making one of his favorite foods. Or give up reading your book when he suggests going for a pleasant evening walk. It's all a part of submission. This is a stepping stone in God's will for us.
I am thinking of two sisters who were especially hard hit with the fact of becoming empty nesters. They both, when looking ahead, didn't know how they could survive seeing their last child leave home. The one by her demeanor, found God's grace sufficient as she accepted God's will. The other sister living in Central America not only watched her children leave the nest, but also fly out of her country to far away places. It was difficult but she experienced God's grace carrying her. This is a quote from Elizabeth Eliot's book--"One who forfeits the grace of God is like a bitter, noxious weed which poisons the lives of others. Refusal to accept God's grace in difficult situations isolates us as a sulking child, wrapped up in his own misery, and refusing comfort. When we accept what is offered by God, we find peace." Even so for us, as we accept the changes of life, we too will feel peace.
The empty nest brings changes--it is a transition from one type of life to the next. There is loneliness and quietness. Instead of taking turns to talk, no one is talking. "One partner might say, "Well say something." Remember the times not too long ago when you thought quietness is BLISS. The baby was sleeping, the preschoolers were playing nicely, and the others were in school. Ah, you could just relax. But now it's different and I'm glad. Together we look forward to the future in glory, yet we become anxious because of the world scene. We can become over anxious for our grandchildren. We vacillate between these feelings.
We can become over anxious. When it's just us two, the wife can fret, now who is going to help me when we have guests? It's amazing how much hubby can help. Years ago he didn't have time for such domestic matters. Who will rave over something you accomplished, be it a new dish, or a difficult sewing project, a new décor? ... The children are all gone! Does anyone care or appreciate? Your husband probably will notice if you point it out to him!
Being a mother identified us in the category as those caring for the little people and bigger ones, too. It got us out of bed in the morning (and in the night). We were needed. Now are we needed anymore, by anyone? One individual confessed to shedding tears every day. "I feel like I've been fired." Another one remarked, "Finally I have time for myself but it can get boring at times." Well I remember how I felt when our last one matured and left home. I told my husband it is so empty around here. He asked me if I didn't enjoy being with just him! I did BUT. Several years later he asked me if I have learned to enjoy living with just him. I replied, “Yes. It just took time to get there.” Don't feel bad when you have feelings like that. It's normal.
We are disappointed when we realize that outward beauty is fleeting with age. Gray hair, wrinkles, the old look, energy level is low and we go for a doctor check up and she tells you that it's your age. At 75 you are well and it's normal to get tired. Shocking but true.
Realization hits when we realize that good things come to an end and people move on. Peers develop health issues. Accepting that your sister is gone because of the ravages of Alzheimer’s but she's present in body yet. Or others pass on to their eternal reward.
Reminiscing about the past may bring to mind the many times we have failed and we wish we could live that chapter of life over again. But Paul in Philippians 3: 13 admonishes to forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before us.
There are four factors which can contribute to loneliness:
• Loss of motivation. We were accustomed to multi-tasking, clean out kitchen cupboards, oversee homework, and at the same time be preparing the evening meal, while putting Johnny and Susie to work. Now it's different.
• Another one is Loss of confidence. Our Mom work in the home is finished. We might feel "Is there anything I can do?"
• Or A Loss of clearly defined community. Once I was in this circle of activity. Now where do I fit in? We lose touch with what is going on and yet we want to be included.
• The loss of identity--our identity was defined by having children at home and being involved in their interests. It's no longer that way. We are in this new season and like it or not we must make adjustments.
Here are some practical helps. Recognize the season principle called "Timeline" Accept the challenges that change brings and choose to focus on the blessings. By doing so we will discover joys God has for us--no
Season lasts forever. If health and strength and soundness of mind permits we want to really live in each unique season…we don't want to miss anything! The path of loneliness may seem to be a wilderness, but it can lead us to God. Proverbs 18: 10--"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe." One way to focus on the good things of life is before getting out of bed in the morning, name three things you are thankful for. In a year that totals to approximately 1,000 blessings. Incomprehensible…
There is an old song called
" It may not be on the mountain's height, or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle's front My Lord may have need of me;
But if by a still small voice he calls to Paths that I do not know,
I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine, I'll go where you want me to go.
Perhaps today there are loving words Which Jesus would have me speak---
There may be now in the paths of sin some wonderer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide, though Dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo thy message sweet, I'll say what you want me to say.
There's surely somewhere a lowly place, in earth's harvest fields so wide—
Where I may labor thro' life's short day For Jesus the crucified.
So trusting my all to thy tender care, and knowing thou lovest me,
I'll do thy will with a heart sincere, I'll be what you want me to be."
This is a time to develop new relationships, too. As your children leave, do not hold onto then in an unhealthy way. We must now LET GO. Their confidant must now be their new spouse, not Mom or Dad. Yet parents must assure their children that they care and are there for them if they need advice or help. We must strive to build a good relationship with the new in-law. Nurture new relationships with families your children have married into. But don't compete with the "other" family.
Now is the time to draw closer to your husband, communicate how you are feeling, you may be surprised to discover he is battling also, but likely responding differently. We will be more likely to give and receive grace, rather than to become critical or hurt.
Now let's focus on the advantages of an Empty Nest. Your work load will become lighter---less cooking, less cleaning, less laundry, less demands, etc. You can set your own schedule, come and go as you please, or even sleep in! You will have more time for each other. Now is the long-awaited time when you can plan getaways, attend retreats or spend time with friends, or husband beamingly announces to others that his wife has more time to spend on him since she isn't so busy with the children. What a compliment! One can spend more time for personal devotions or spend time together in Bible study. One thing I enjoy is just to relax on the loveseat in my husband's study and together discuss the Sunday School lesson. It's easier to do "spur of the moment" activities. Sometimes the wife may feel an infringement on her plans for the day. But remember tomorrow may be too late to do what your husbands suggests for today. If you feel you have too much free time, you may consider doing volunteer work…there are so many needs. One sister confided to being reluctant to accept a request for help which her husband felt led to accept. Let us seek God's will before we respond negatively or affirmatively. Some things look overwhelming, but we are not in it alone. It's surprising how much we will enjoy going with our husbands to his calls for service. One of the biggest blessings for me has been the many times we went South to help in Bible School work. For some the blessing came by going to Honduras, or maybe you can fill a slot by visiting the aged or ailing ones in your local community. Remember if Jesus is Lord of our lives, that place is a holy place of service for Him. Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." God is not so concerned about our happiness as he is in our holiness.
Too often we focus more on the big events of life and consider routine days as unimportant. We must not think of any day as ordinary but live each day fully in the moment. Life is serious, but we need to work at having a sense of humor. Sometimes that can ease the stress. "A merry heart doeth good like medicine." Proverbs 17:22
We were all created to know the Creator and have a relationship with Him. Living the rest of our years with hope and purpose---and none of us knows how many that will be--begins with a personal relationship with God Himself. Can we grow in valuing solitude and silence as a meeting place with Him? As we see the sunset approaching, let's focus more on the eternal reward awaiting us. The empty nest is a blessing.
In closing ponder this poem:
The man whispered, "God, speak to me."
And a meadowlark sang.
But the man did not hear.
So the man yelled, "God, speak to me!"
And the thunder rolled across the sky.
But the man did not listen.
The man looked around and said, "God, let me see you."
And a star shone brightly.
But the man did not notice.
And the man shouted, "God, show me a miracle!"
And a life was born.
But the man did not know.
So, the man cried out in despair.
"Touch me God, and let me know that you are here!"
Whereupon God reached down and touched the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.
The Moral: Don't miss out on a blessing in your senior years because it isn't packaged the way you expect.
God's blessings to all of you no matter which stage of life you are in.