THE PAIN OF THE EMPTY NEST

My grandmother gave birth to twelve children, and of those twelve she lived to bury three of them. Two died as children, and my father passed away as an adult. Of the remaining nine, all left home, married and settled in various areas of the country. She survived my grandfather by fifty years, which wasn’t uncommon for women in the South over seventy-five years ago. The one child who remained was my mentally challenged uncle, Curtis Quince.

As a child I would go to “Mama Lula’s” house with my brother, Patrick; we would sashay into her front door, sit down and talk for a few minutes, then get up and run outside to play. I loved escaping to her house because it was a breath of fresh air from the noise of my seven brothers and sisters. I’m sure the quietness and refuge that I cherished, she had come to hate. There were days I would come by and see her sitting on the porch with a forlorn look on her face: it wasn’t only a look of loneliness and despair, the look said, “no one is going to rescue me from this.” Even as a child, I sensed “Mama Lula’s” relief when Patrick and I would show up, I sensed her thankfulness, and I was equally grateful for the sense of history and peacefulness she had given to me.

It is true that we can spend all our lives as employees, parents, and productive citizens, and one day wake up to realize we are in the house alone. I realized my “nest” was empty after I dropped my youngest daughter off at college. My ex-husband had left a year earlier to build a new nest with a younger, new wife and two other children. I didn’t have time to be bitter; the time that I possessed was spent trying to find a career in post-mid-life and trying to keep two daughters in college.

I joined several meetup.com sites, became an avid hiker, a prolific dancer, and began to explore the singing skills that had lain dormant for a long time. I found the self who had been buried beneath the needs of children and the expectations of a neglectful spouse. I returned to school and acquired a certificate as a drug counselor. I got a job working at something that required skill and thought. It was a great accomplishment. My days were filled. The nights and the weekends became the gaps. I suddenly realized the children had filled the nights and the weekends until now: they had filled the gaps for ten years plus. Overwhelmingly, I began to crave sharing the most insignificant events. A sunset, a cup of coffee, a walk in the park, a walk anywhere; these things became monumental events set against a backdrop of emptiness.

The gaps are here and I refuse to fill them with minutia. I refuse to fill the gaps with things that I’m not passionate about. I spoke with a woman  I met and is in a similar situation with the children and the spouse gone;I said, “It’s amazing how much space another person takes up in your life, and when they are no longer there how much space is left.” So I must fill the gaps with Joan. I must fill the gaps with whom I choose to be with and what I choose to give my time to. Time is the most precious commodity of an “empty nester”; use it wisely, make it work for you and you will see the valuable return of your investment.

 

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The Meaning of Motherhood

If someone asked me what my greatest achievement in life has been, I would have to say it is being a mother. The highest calling in life is to have the privilege of giving someone life and having the opportunity to nurture that life into adulthood. A mother is a child’s first contact with the world, and if that contact is warm, trusting, and nurturing it can make the difference in whether the child reaches their full potential emotionally as well as physically.

I remember when I first realized that raising my children was a calling, and that I would need the grace of God to do it right. I was in church, and the pastor’s wife relayed to me how God had given her wisdom in how to train her children up in the Lord. I went home and looked up every scripture I could find on child training. I then began reading the scriptures to my oldest child at the time. I wanted the children to know that what I was doing had a Biblical base; that I wasn’t just making things up out of my head. The first scripture I recall teaching the children was from the book of Ephesians, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” I would make a pointed effort to pray where the children could hear me, in addition to praying with them and teaching them to pray on their own.

Motherhood to me meant a responsibility  to help my children reach their God-given potential as well as instilling in them an understanding of who God is. No parent no matter how much they teach and train a child can give them faith; only Jesus Christ can do that. There were many nights I spent singing, reading, and brushing hair before bedtime. There were planet and star stickers that I pasted to the ceiling, and the children and I spent many nights staring at the ceiling trying to count the stars.

There were also the days and nights spent calming a frightened child, breast feeding a newborn, and soothing chicken pox with calamine lotion. The time that Jaynae developed chicken pox I slept with her on the couch in the living room for two weeks. In between all the sickness there were the prayers taped to the bedroom walls to help Ima remember to pray for healing each time she was sick, and help Uyime recite scriptures when she had headaches also. The years of getting physicals for school stand out in my mind, as well as the years of disputing with school officials of my right to refuse vaccinations for my children.

When you give birth to your child, you risk your life, after the child is born your heart is at risk forever. As a mother I was there for each tear they shed in my presence and some of them they shed without my presence. When their hearts broke, my did too, when they were overjoyed, I became ecstatic also. My mind reflects on every dance practice, each dance recital, all the music concerts,(as well as the music practice), and all the violin strings which broke. Oh yes I remember every violin I had to purchase also. By the time the years of teaching them to drive and going to buy prom dresses arrived, I felt that I’d already lived three lifetimes.

I questioned why I was still here after the death of Jaynae, I didn’t want to comprehend my living and her lying in a grave. I was grateful that she’d had a wonderful life. Yet I had difficulty finding the meaning of mundane things in life after her passing. She had taught me so much; even though I was the parent. Even now, when I look at her life, she is still teaching me; she is saying, “Mom keep singing, keep living, keep hoping, I may no longer be with you, but you still have mountains to conquer.”

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The Meaning of Courage

The main characteristic of a leader is courage. Yet, courage isn’t the absence of fear. In the Bible, all the heroes of the faith were confronted with  dilemmas and they didn’t know how they’d be solved. However, they faced conflicts with courage, and let God be their guide, even when they didn’t know the outcome.

The greatest obstacle to being courageous is facing the unknown.Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.What can man do to me?” Even when we don’t know what people will do, we can be assured in what Jesus will do. Our faith in Christ stands on his word to us; and if our confidence is in God, we don’t have to fear anything that human flesh can release upon us. In other words,” God has our backs.”

The one thing that the heroes of the Bible had in common when it came to exercising courage, was that they faced situations and they didn’t know the outcome. When God told Abraham to leave his relatives and his country, he didn’t even know where he was going; yet he trusted God who assured him that he would lead him to a better country to dwell in. After David was anointed king, he had to wait decades before he could take the throne to rule Israel. While he was waiting his life was threatened many times because King Saul was determined to destroy him before he could become king. When Queen Esther went before King Ahasureus she didn’t know if he would receive her or kill her; yet she was willing to die to obey God and save her people from certain death. And then Mary, the mother of our Lord, was just a teenager and engaged to be married when God’s angel told her that she was going to have a baby, not an ordinary baby, but a baby whose father would be the Holy Spirit. Imagine the courage of that young girl, and the trust that she had in her God that he would take care of her and provide everything that she needed to bring her child safely into the world.

Courage cannot exist without fear; for in order to exercise courage, there has to be something we need extraordinary ability to face. Having courage means thinking outside of the box, and sometimes going against what popular opinions say. Think of all the people who changed things in the world; Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Edison, The Wright brothers, and the list is endless: none of those people would have changed the world had they been more concerned about staying in their place, and not causing a disturbance. No change has ever taken place without disruption or conflict. The most courageous man who ever lived was Jesus Christ. He came on the world stage and by living out who he was,1379787402609 he split history in half. Here are some characteristics of the courageous:

  1. Courageous people are not conformers.
  2. Courageous people are willing to take chances, even when the odds are against them.
  3. Courageous people speak their opinions when others keep silent.
  4. Courageous people are willing to defend the downtrodden and the helpless.
  5. Courageous people are selfless and greatly sacrifice for others.
  6.  Courageous people are confident of their identity and are not threatened when others challenge them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OVERCOMING A SHATTERED LIFE

I looked around my home at all the memories and wondered how a life that was once whole and complete became shattered. There were so many pieces of a life that no longer existed. I saw the pieces of a twenty-four year marriage that no longer existed. I felt the stab of pain when looking at the pieces of Jaynae’s life that had prematurely ended. I believe the Holy Spirit revealed to me that sometimes lives are shattered in order to build new ones.

In my pondering about the all the loss and brokenness around me, I thought about Job. Job was a God’s servant and he was in love with God. He sought to please God in all that he did. Job even made sacrifices for sins that he thought his children had committed. He was devoted. God even boasted of Job to the Devil. So Satan said to God, paraphrasing, Do you think that Job serves you for nothing? Take away all that he has and he will curse you to your face? So God gave the Devil permission to take away all Job’s possessions, riches, and even his beloved children. What Job said at all this was, The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, and he still blessed God. Then the Devil came again to God and asked permission to afflict Job’s body. Job got sick and his body was covered with sores. His wife then came to him and told him to curse God and die. Job said to his wife, you speak as a foolish woman. Job still did not speak against God or curse him.

I haven’t suffered nearly what Job went through, but sometimes the Devil has come to me and said, why don’t you give up. I am not in the habit of answering the Devil, but my answer to any temptation to give up is that Jesus has already won the battle, the fight isn’t mine; it’s God’s. I read the end of the Bible and Jesus wins.

If God never gave me anything else or never worked another miracle in my life, what he did for me on Calvary would be enough. Yet I know that he will do more for me because his word has promised me so many times all the things that he will do. Psalm 34: 18,19 says, “The Lord in nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth such as be of a contrite,(crushed) spirit.God loves everyone; human beings can not comprehend the depths of God’s love. However, God has a particular affinity to align himself with those whom everyone else has forsaken. Remember the scripture that says, “If God be for us who can be against.” (Romans 8:31) The person who already has family members. a large circle of friends, money or social prominence may not feel the acute need for God as someone who is alone, orphaned, poor or imprisoned. Yet God’s word says that he places the solitary in families, he is a husband to the woman who has none, and that he is a friend that stays closer than a brother. So even if someone is orphaned, poor, or alone, Jesus promised that if we belong to him he will give back what evil has taken away from us: and many times it is ten times over what we lost. When God restored Job, he was given twice what he lost.

Jesus showed me that the rebuilding of a broken and shattered life can be compared to an old edifice that needs restoring. One can not begin construction on a totally new building if the old one is still standing. The old building has to be taken down for the new one to be built.

At least two things are key to overcoming brokenness, one is to forgive and not allow bitterness to grow in your heart. Hatred and bitterness can kill. The second thing is to strive to move forward in life. God put our eyes in front of us which indicates that we shouldn’t spend time looking backward.  Praying, walking in God’s Spirit and meditating on God’s word is extremely helpful in moving forward in life.

Finally, realize that it is humanly impossible for you to pick up all the pieces of a shattered life; allow Jesus Christ to help you in putting together what you can not piece together yourself. He is there and he is willing and able.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,4) who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5) For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (II Corinthians 1: 3-5)