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.

 

Advertisements

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)