Sharon Von Fange, the author of this post is a missionary member of our church with her husband Steve. They have three sons: Brian, Josh & Jesse.
Dear Empty Nesters:
I am fifty-two years old and have been married to my high school sweetheart for thirty-two years. We have 3 amazing (though sinful like us) sons in their low twenties. One is newly married, another is preparing for medical school and the youngest is finishing undergraduate studies. So, I am still adjusting to this empty nest thing.
We recently downsized from the family homestead of two and a half decades to a downtown condo. Can you say, “CHANGE?” I am a person who likes to prepare for things and take things very slowly.
This is not what happened.
What felt like my only real preparation for the transition consisted of a brief visit with the best mom I knew at the time who had already experienced this season. We met for a late breakfast and her advice was, “They will all come back at least once, and it will be when you least expect it!” I laughed at the time, and thought she was just being funny.
Now, I’m starting to see what she meant.
Though she was talking more long term, what this has looked like in my world has been unplanned texts and phone calls. They usually start innocently enough: “Hey Mom! What are you doing?” And are quickly followed by the real agenda that requires a quick response time or a listening ear. It could be lunch, help with a quick errand, confession of some error… or the whopper so far; “Hey Mom…Yes, there are some very good reasons we are getting married next week rather than in a few months like we planned...and, since we’re both living in a communist country on the other side of the world, we know you all can’t get visas in time to come over for the ceremony…I just wanted to run all this by you, what do you think?"
A Good Reminder
In all of these moments, I am so thankful that God pursued me and rescued me from my sin in Jesus. Because of Jesus, I am a child of God. My heavenly Father already knows what each day will look like for me. He planned good works for me to do before He created the world (Ephesians 2:10). He has already prepared and equipped me for any phone call or text that could come my way (Psalm 32:8). The most important thing for me is to stay connected to God (John 15:1-17) and to do these things with God, not on my own.
I’m such a homebody that left to my own desires, I could hang out with God, my family and my interests and say, “To heck with everyone else.” But I’ve also learned, especially in this season of the empty nest, that God has placed us in a spiritual family as His earthly hands and feet (1Cor. 12:7-26). I need to be around and “on call” for my spiritual family, knowing that God uses me to communicate love to them and in turn, He uses them to communicate love to me. If I close my life off to other people, there’s a lot less of God’s love flowing.
Some other practical things I’ve learned:
- Change is good. God allows it, and even plans it (Eccles. 3:1-8).
- There will always be a new lingo of vocab words that I don’t understand. The on-line “urban dictionary” is my friend.
- I still like my husband, and we are back to living like newlyweds! It’s awesome just like I remembered, but there are these things called menopause & aging that are double edged swords for both of us.
- It’s been hard to figure out how to do ministry together with my husband, because we both have very different hobbies and interests and can be quite independent. God has shown us how we are good apart but that we are even better together. Jesus uses this to encourage us to do more together.
- I need to maintain healthy boundaries and margin in my life. Aging parents, health issues, weddings, retirement and, maybe, grandchildren are just a few of the things around the corner.
- I love not having to maintain the yard & exterior of a house and have shifted a good portion of that time into investing in people. I’m so glad God led us to downsize to an urban condo to maximize our ability to love people!
- My metabolism has officially flat-lined!
- I am still a mother even though my children have left the nest, because there are spiritual children in my life and around me who need nurturing. And, yes, my “kids” still need me, too, just in less hands-on ways.
I’m enjoying this season of life, and I’m so thankful that I don’t have to go backwards and repeat any of the previous seasons even though most of them were very good. I’ll look for you running alongside of me or ahead of me in the race of life. Let’s slow down and walk and talk or “do lunch.”
I can’t wait to hear your story.