Prayer from an Empty-Nest Mom
I said lots of goodbyes this past year. And this year has started out much the same.
I guess that’s the way it’ll be from now on, won’t it, Lord? Goodbyes with the start of every new college semester and the end of every college break. Goodbyes with summer mission trips, internships, and visits to faraway friends. Goodbyes with new job opportunities. Goodbyes after holiday visits. Goodbyes as more of our family moves out of state. Goodbyes as they start new jobs. Or marriages. Or other adventures yet unknown.
When our five were younger, our house overflowed with shouts and giggles and messes and dirty clothes. And those times late in the evening when, for what seemed like the first time all day, no one was moving or crying or needed me to do something RIGHT NOW? I lived for those.
And yes, God, I confess that I didn’t always appreciate the constant pressing-in, the rounds of questions, the brother-sister and sister-sister bickering. The coughing, nose-running, feverish-and-miserable trips to the pediatrician. The difficulty of navigating a grocery store with three or more helpers. The effort it took to buckle and unbuckle carseats. The challenge of keeping a newborn and toddler quiet and happy in the library while the older three made their choices. (Yes, for a few years, we brought along a double stroller to fill with children and books). What burdened me then has become cherished memories now.
And so in this season, God, as my nest grows more and more empty, will you teach me to cherish the hellos? Because if they didn’t come home, I wouldn’t get to say goodbye. If they hadn’t wanted to see us for Christmas, I might not notice my empty bedrooms today. If they didn’t love our family traditions, I might not have a home to undecorate.
If I didn’t love them so much, I wouldn’t miss them the way I do.
So in this time and at this moment, Lord, I thank you for the goodbyes as well as the hellos. I thank you for the silence. The peace. The ability to work at my desk uninterrupted. The ease of considering the likes and dislikes of only two people when planning dinner or a trip to the store. And I thank you for the promise of so many more hellos and goodbyes in the days and, as you allow us, years ahead.
My focal word for this year is treasure, God. Help me, like Mary, to treasure these family times in my heart. Allow my aging memory to hold onto the tender and true as I gently release anything else, anything less.
Help me look to you to fill me up whenever I feel a lack. And please, dear Jesus, make me more ready to serve them, to love them, to care for them when they come back again—and even when they don’t.
In Your name I pray—