From the time my first child entered the world, purple as a grape because she didn’t yet know she had to breathe, I have dreaded the day my children left home. God would speak his grace over me. “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” Isaiah 8:12.
That first baby girl pulled my heart right out of my body when she was born, and she wrapped it around herself like the blanket that swaddled her from head to toe. I knew it was hers for eternity – that part of her mother that she could always claim as hers. I could hear her say, “I have my mother’s nose, and her smile – oh, and that eternal part of her that I will never lose - her heart.”
I knew right there in that moment – that moment when she turned from purple to pink with a walloping cry of protest at the thought of independence (What do you mean I have to breathe on my own?) that my heart would always belong to her. And when a few years later she declared with every intention of her little body that she would NEVER leave home – and even after I laughed and said that she would want to leave some day – she proclaimed with tears, “NEVER! If you make me, I will live RIGHT NEXT DOOR!”
Even then in that moment . . . I knew that one day she would no longer protest that independence. (Mothers are often right. God gives them “knowings” deep in their souls. Suffice it to say, I do not find TN, Thailand, or even DeKalb to be “right next door.”) I knew, even as she entwined her arms and legs around me in protest at EVER leaving me – that if by God’s grace I did it right, even just a little bit right, my children would transfer their dependence on me, their mother, to God – their Eternal Father.
Over time, God added more children to our quiver. Each child stole my heart just as fiercely as her sister. It amazed me that I had that much heart to give – that I could give all of it to each one of them.
But then – my heart really never belonged to me anyway. It belongs to my Creator. He has given me a heart that overflows in love – boundless, borderless – flowing out of the love that He first gave me. You see, when I offered God my heart, he filled it with a love that never ran out – it would just overflow like the infamous widow’s oil – never running low on supply.
And now – empty nest.
I knew the day would come when I would send them out – like full-grown birds – to migrate around the world – spreading seeds of the Gospel – calling their beautiful calls for the glory of God.
There is a nest that sits under the eaves of our house. It has been there for years. Most of the year, it waits - empty. But here is a little secret. The birds come back – every spring, year after year. Sometimes a robin – other times a dove. The nest is open to any small bird that needs shelter and a place to lay its head. They move in and redecorate – adding new twigs and fluff for their babies.
Right now, the “nest” that Nate and I built is quiet, but it is never silent. The leaves of the tree outside my bedroom window whisper their enchantments and bird songs bring back memories of tree fort days when rustling leaves couldn’t be heard over the shouts of children. Carpenter ants aided in the demise of the tree fort recently, beginning the demolishing work that Nate finished last weekend. But like the parent birds, he is hoping to rebuild someday -for the next generation of children – who will come back and add unique touches to “their nest.”
I wish I had trusted God more – believed him that all would be well – that I need not dread – that he would be there with a plan when the nest was empty. I wish I had believed him that life didn’t end with empty nest. That there would be more mission.
To think that I even LIKE empty nest – it almost sounds like a sacrilege to utter it – after all those years of fearful dread. But it is true – I LIKE the restful, peacefulness of home – the quiet sanctuary of my secret garden where I meet God.
There is tranquility in our home now, as if the entire house is resting between acts of a play. And in that resting, I find my soul finding its peace and acceptance of the conclusion of Act 1.