I won't pretend this has been an easy season but some of the things that have been challenging about it have surprised me. For example, Larry and I have struggled being stuck feeling sorry for ourselves because we won't get to experience the flexibility, spontaneity and other benefits that many other "empty nesters" have. Even though Carly doesn't graduate from high school for another 3 years, our lifestyle won't change as much then as it is now because she will always be completely dependent on us to ensure she's well cared for. (For readers who don't know, Carly has Angelman Syndrome.) So the changes we are experiencing this year as our second youngest moves on to college may well be the most significant parenting-related life change we'll have until grandchildren.
Now please don't get me wrong. We are absolutely DELIGHTED! We have had such a blast being parents. We've thoroughly enjoyed every stage, are really excited for our adult daughters and are now having a lot of fun watching their independent lives unfold. And I'm not afraid to admit I'm looking forward to some "simplicity" at home with fewer mouths to feed, fewer calendars to juggle, less laundry — and even a different kind of quiet. It's just that it won't even be as easy to run to the restroom or Target when I can't call to one of the girls, "can you please keep an eye on your sister for a minute?"
I'm used to looking for the silver lining in tough circumstances. I wouldn't say it comes naturally to me to be optimistic but it is a learned skill I am grateful God has been developing in me. Nonetheless, I've spent a lot of time this summer hiding myself away in the bedroom or on the deck writing in my prayer journal, singing and crying out to God asking Him to move me out of this woe-is-me place that I am so sick of!
It's been one of those seasons like I experienced when Carly was a few years old and we began to worry that we were wearing out friends and family with our consuming, high-maintenance life. I became afraid to pick up the phone, meet a friend for lunch or ask someone to pray because I was so wrapped up in my own head that I didn't want to inflict anyone else with it. Larry and I have to be — GET to be— in this for the long haul but I don't expect others to stick around. We are humbled and overwhelmed when some do but we don't expect it. I will say that I believe Jesus would want His people to stick around for each other when life is hard (even if hard lasts a lifetime) but reality often veers from God's good design.
Well, now my dining room is full to the brim with boxes and the U-haul is rented. We'll head out to make the first dorm delivery in just a few days and I'm relieved to report that I'm feeling tearful but experiencing a sweetness with Jesus that is such a blessing. I sense him so tenderly allowing me to simultaneously experience weeping and smiling. I've sense Him insisting that I sit with Him in my aching and let Him breathe something new into me. My mind and body are not easy to slow down. I tend to hurry through those melancholy conversations with Jesus and spend more time in let's-getter-done mode. So it's been a gift to be still, soak in His nearness and allow God's Kingdom perspective to move me out of my concerns about the future.
In the background while I write, Clay Crosse's new song "Good Morning Lord" is playing in the background and I'm moved again to tears. (God has brought Clay Crosse's new CD Rededication to me in His always timely fashion.) Another tender touch from heaven.
God has also allowed me to see and hear so many special treasures to re-assure me that His loving tenderness has been planted all around me and will continue bearing fruit for years and years to come. One such moment occurred a few weeks ago as my daughter Erin and I were throwing our last items into suitcases before heading to the airport. We were going to be attending her college orientation for two days and our oldest, Alex, had offered to stay home caring for Carly.
While helping Carly dress, Alex explained, "Yup, Erin is getting ready to visit her new school. She's going to be moving to Nashville at the end of the summer. She'll be a long way away." Carly had been whining but settled into listening with a rather stern look on her face. She doesn't like to see people around the house packing.
Then I heard the part that made my heart swell — with pride, with love, with a little laughter — at Alex's tenderness and cleverness. She said, "That so lame. Should we just skip it? Naw! We have to be grown-ups."
What a beautiful picture of Jesus' tenderness towards us when change is hard. He lets us whine and vent to Him but invites us to hunker into the comfort and empowerment of His teaching and wisdom. He sets our mind and heart on the bigger picture of things that matter most.
Things like the profound gift of sisters who love each other very much.
Colossians 3:1-4 and 15-17 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.