Here we are, a full year into the phase of life commonly referred to as “the empty nest”—some of you are nodding sagely and others can’t begin to imagine such a time will come. I’m no expert (one whole year) and to be honest, I feel a bit of a cheat as our youngest was home from Uni for the summer, but the nest is in empty mode again and I can hear my fellow empty-nester moms collectively sigh. Part heartache, part relief, part anxiety. So listen in as I share how the hubby and I plan to navigate the nest with a new rhythm…
We are learning as we go, but here’s what we have figured out already: we need to be intentional. Now in the empty nest more than ever, we need to be intentional about time spent on our marriage, our parenting (albeit from afar), our walks with Christ, and our work habits. Where to begin?
“Take one day at a time. We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelou
I had envisioned our empty nest life as a succession of long, blissful evenings and lazy weekends, our house a haven of hospitality with a carefree calendar for just the two of us to navigate. Oh, bless my heart.
Yes, we crammed in some amazing memories and absolutely loved the two-of-us part, but what we didn’t foresee was how our work-life would suddenly bubble over and invade spaces we had previously protected in the name of “family time”.
As an author, I didn’t anticipate how the editing and launching of two novels and writing a third all in the space of nine months would wring me out. It was exhilarating and exhausting. And because my husband owns a business, it’s difficult to have an “off” button with this newfound freedom and no kids’ schedules by which to adhere.
Therefore, we both had our heads down in deadlines and missed much by failing to lift our eyes.
Honestly, I’m fearful that in this stage of life, we might be tempted to navel-gaze and rest on our laurels. To have an attitude of mature entitlement. But that is not our hearts’ desire.
In Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus offers rest and recovery to the weary and burned out (which sounds appealing at any given moment of the day to me!) but here’s the thing—He doesn’t say “lie down here, take a nice nap, and I’ll make it better.” No. He says,
“I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.” (v.29)
Did you catch that? WALK with me and WORK with me. Friend, this life takes intentional effort as we walk with Jesus and do His work… but He WILL show us how to rest and live our best lives for His glory.
And so last week, after more goodbyes when the nest was once again very empty and my poor old battered heart craved rest and renewal of some sort, I took it upon myself to book a few days away with my honey at the ocean. Your soothing place might be the mountains or the hum of the city or the countryside, but for us it’s the comforting lap of water on shore, the ever-changing skies upon never-ending horizon, the salt in the air and that air filling lung. It’s soul rest.
But this was more than just a mini-vacay. This was the intentional reset we needed as a couple. To look back over the summer and evaluate what had been wonderful and what had drained us. To figure out how much work was too much work and who we wish we had spent time with. To discuss what God what teaching us, confess regrets, and celebrate milestones.
And then with all the reflection of the summer in mind, we looked at the coming autumn season. What could we do to set work boundaries? Who could we invite over for dinner? Which ministry opportunities was God calling us to? What did we need to let go? What would our long-distance parenting look like? How could we serve one another better and maintain date-nights? How could we take notice of the everyday graces in our lives?
“A wonder-filled life is grateful attentiveness to the awe in our ordinary.” Alia Joy
Best of all: we decided to make this together time a quarterly practice. Set in the calendar at the end of each season so we can take stock before launching into the next.
It’s our prayer that this regular reset rhythm as a couple will help prevent spiritual atrophy and physical apathy.
This might look differently for you, but for us—we need to get out of town. Chase the fun. Away from distractions at home and work. And heck, the nest is empty (sorry, bulldog) so we can do that. Preferably overnight if we can swing it. Maybe we’ll even take the bulldog with us. Maybe we’ll tag it onto a visit with the kids. But I know we need this. Perhaps you do, too.
We all want full hearts in the empty nest.
And Jesus beckons us to come—even as empty nesters—and keep company with Him, and then He will show us the way to:
“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
In marriage. In parenting. In Him.
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