Years ago I asked my friend’s mother, who was in her early 80’s at the time, what it was like to look back over her life. Did it seem long? Did the years pass quickly? After pondering for a moment she replied with a twinkle in her eye, “My life seems like it’s been one long weekend.”
I’ve thought about her comment often over the years. Time is a funny thing – sometimes it crawls at a turtle’s pace. Sometimes the moments fly by and we wonder where the time has gone.
Peter and I have just come through a major event that has launched us into a brand new season in our lives. Our daughter, Bethany, our youngest and the last of our 4 children to get married, tied the knot with a wonderful young man 10 days ago. This past week Peter and I have been recuperating from the activity and emotion of being surrounded by family and friends. It was a high time, a fun time, a busy time.
Now the celebration is over. The parade that began 34 years ago with the birth of our son, Joe, has passed. The pets are dead, the kids are gone, the house is empty and quiet. Everyone has grown up and gone their own way.
It seems only yesterday that our home was teeming: babies, kids, teenagers, young adults. Coming and going, meals galore, cleaning, laundry. Good times, scrappy times, heart aches and heart breaks. Joyous laughter, jokes and puns. Grief so deep it seemed the tears would never end. A grand parade it was: anticipation bubbling, busy bodies, excitement squealing, requests unending, sleepless nights and blurry days. Friends passing through. Homeschool. Parties and prayers, singing and sighing. The calm between the storms. Bandaging scraped knees, soothing wounded souls. Emergency trips to the hospital to mend broken bones. Never changing changes.
Those were the days! Love was the theme that tied it all together, faith the fuel that kept us going, hope the beacon at the journey’s end.
Now Bethany is married, and away on her honeymoon. Simeon and his family have gone home to Kansas City. Joe is back at school and living life with his wife and little girl. Reuben and his wife are on holiday in Europe. Our home feels like a deserted street after the parade has passed. All the ticker tape has fallen, the crowds have dispersed, and here we are left standing by ourselves on the sidewalk.
The other morning I was sitting alone with just my cup of tea for company. My thoughts turned to what it means to feel empty. It’s like a piece of you is missing. It’s when you’ve given everything you’ve got, and then it’s over, and it’s just you. There’s a space … that once was full.
Like many experiences in life, feeling empty can lead one of two ways. It can make you bitter or better. It can be a curse or a blessing. It can lead to death or to life. It can cause you to turn inward or outward, to become selfish or selfless, to face reality or live in denial.
For me, the emptiness I’ve been dropped into has become a cause to reevaluate my life. It is a wake-up call to go back to God and His promises. When I surrender each day to the persistent Lover of my soul, I can totally trust Him to fill me with whatsoever He chooses – and I know it will be good because He is good.
Yes, my home nest is now empty of the children I birthed and raised. But it’s something empty that’s waiting to be filled again — with children who visit, grandchildren, and friends; with those God brings who need a listening ear, some love and a prayer; with the joy and laughter of new relationships that will build more precious memories in my heart.
My empty nest is a gift that I can now see with expectant eyes and anticipation. Fullness and fruitfulness await as I focus on the One who never leaves me.
Seems like yesterday it all began. After 34 years of living with our kids, Peter and I have come full circle. We’re back where we began – just the 2 of us – the same and yet so different: more age, hopefully more sage. Everything has changed, but nothing has changed. Peter still rolls the toilet paper under (and I change it). I still don’t neatly stack the spoons in the spoon tray (and he changes it).
Time is indeed a funny thing. One particular parade – a big one indeed – may have passed. But if I listen carefully I can hear another one coming. The fun isn’t over yet.
In the end it’s gonna be one fantastic long weekend!