As summer wains, transition looms on the horizon. Back to school season empties our nests once again, opening the gates to a surge of emotions we may be unprepared for.
Believe it or not, life does not end when our children reach adulthood.
Some days, it feels that way. Our feelings are a part of what makes us human; I am not a robot. Emotions define us as a species, and they are an amazing gift. When life is good, happiness fills every moment. But when it is not, it can be hard to overcome these unwanted feelings. Emotions reflect how we feel, but they aren’t always anchored in reality. They can conflict with one another, but that doesn't mean they can’t or shouldn’t both exist at the same time.
For example: I am happy that my children are succeeding, AND I am sad that they are far away. I’m thrilled they are happy, AND I still miss them.
But the real question is how do we deal with our reactions as we age and enter this new season?
Symptoms of empty nest syndrome include sadness, depression, loss of purpose, and loneliness. It's not a clinical diagnosis. But those are common traits among empty nesters in this transition. It gives us a reason—but not an excuse—to continue living this way. I felt it deeper than I thought I would. My heart goes out to you as you negotiate these feelings.
I’m so glad this is only a temporary time for each of us. Here is a strategy I am finding helpful as I move through this season myself.
Read the following Scripture, meditate on the gift given to us in the verse. It is powerful. Let it empower you to move one step closer toward the woman God sees in you.
Proverbs 31:21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (NIV)
This verse depicts the emotional battle won by our Proverbs 31 friend. Fearless, she knows her loved ones are protected against the dangers of this world. The stark contrast between the white snow and the scarlet clothing reminds us to thrive not just survive. Certainly, we can see this for our physical needs, but I believe it also represents our emotional and spiritual needs as well.
Scarlet cloth represented luxury, abundantly providing for all in her family. Jesus also wore a scarlet robe on the way to the cross. He paid the full price for all our needs including our emotions. Our goal is to take all our emotions and place them at the feet of Jesus. He reminds us that His burden is light. He is calling us, the weary, to Him. He is always to help us into the abundant life in which we will flourish.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that even in emotional transitional seasons, you can make us new. In Ephesians 4:23-24 it says, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Yes, let Your Holy Spirit reawaken us to our designated design. Invigorate us to a fresh new life. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
She staired into her steaming cup of tea, tension creased her forehead. A recent college graduate, she haltingly expressed her concern.
“I love my mom but…”
“But she’s driving me crazy. She is constantly texting, calling, or dropping by. I feel guilty saying this, but she is so clingy!”
The words rushed out; a mix of emotions washed over her face. This wasn’t the first young person to share this complaint, so let’s dive in why is she so clingy?
Launching children into adulthood is a bittersweet event for most parents. If unprepared the parent can get lost in navigating the new landscape. As you mature into your new life of responsibility and independence, mom may not know how to respond.
Dear young friend, like you, your mom is in transition from one phase of life to the next. Her role until now, has been to get you to adulthood. From the day of your birth, her responsibility was to raise you to be an independent adult. This is a bittersweet time for your mom.
True confession, I’ve been tempted to be the clingy mom. I’ve said manipulative, guilt induced things which I later apologized for. Not be most stellar moment. I didn’t expect their launch into adulthood would leave me feeling discarded and old.
The negative emotions surprised me—I had higher expectations of myself. What should have been an exuberant time of my husband and I planning and pursuing our previously set-aside dreams became a dissatisfying lull I learned the Mayo Clinic identifies as Empty Nest Syndrome.
Which means the dynamic is prevalent enough to warrant a name. But since it’s not a clinical diagnosis, there’s not an exact or easy cure.
Your mom is excited for the new life you’ve found. She misses you, but she’s also happy for them. You worked hard to achieve all your accomplishments. Living on the edge of new adventures we call adulthood you are ready to go and she’s wondering what happened!
Remember your mom is more than your mom, she’s a person. She may be experiencing emotions she’s never felt before. As you traverse this new territory, respectfully address your concerns. Think of ways you can support her autonomy without threatening your own independence.
Some moms need time to adjust, and others may never change but they will always be your parent. Scripture reminds us to honor our mother and father, my prayer is you will develop a stronger relationship with your mom that lets you easily honor her.
I love the children’s book The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Originally published in 1930, its message still speaks to us today. Small in stature, I identify with Little Blue Engine. Her determination moved her over the mountain. This age-old story, undergird our own journey by reminding us that our attitude matter. I keep a copy of this book on my desk to remind me of this important truth in furthering my own dreams.
Reflected in Biblical heroes like David, we see the greater advantage of God in our lives. We can because God is. David declared the enormity of God to a giant standing before him (David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17). David defeated Goliath through his trust in God. Living our true selves, reliant on God, glorifies God to all who are in our lives.
I still believe I can do whatever I set my mind to do. I’m not going to go out and run a marathon. I could however, if I trained. Many women my age accomplish this goal, but I don’t want to do that. However, it is a great metaphor for life at this age. It may take longer to do some things but if we set our mind to it, we can. For most of us we may have less energy, but we’ve grown in knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
Now is the time to tap into that knowledge and wisdom Jesus provides for us. Look at the benefit of living a Christ filled life stated in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” Jesus is the source of all wisdom; we need to listen to the part of our spirit aligned with the Holy Spirit.
Knowledge comes from learning God’s will for our lives. The abbreviated version of this is that He wants us to live as His child. That plays out differently for each of us but it is the cornerstone of the knowledge of understanding our identity. Where it becomes more difficult is discerning when to apply that knowledge in each situation with wisdom.
Paul wrote this for us and it is my prayer for you:
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)
How we apply this understanding takes time a practice. You can learn more by studying Paul's words in Colossians 1. In our mid-month challenge video we will explore this further, sign up here so you don'e miss out.
Is it okay that I question things I’ve been taught about my faith?
The short answer is yes.
Does that surprise you? I think we get confused between theology and faith; a tension between the two brings moments of confusion causing us to seek clarity.
Theology is defined as the study of God and religion. Theo means God and ology means study of, it is a pretty straightforward understanding of the word. As believers we seek knowledge to better understand who God is and how to build a relationship with Him. That knowledge, appropriately applied, develops our wisdom as to how to properly live what we know.
Scripture is clear that we are to seek after wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 assures us that the knowledge and wisdom is in Jesus, we just have to look for it. “2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Some of theinformation presented to us can be misunderstood or misrepresented. This is why we test and search out the truth.
Faith, although related, is based on belief in God, spiritual comprehension instead of proof. As it says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith, pistis in the Greek, means a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is God.
Theology is knowledge based while faith is belief based. When we question theology, we are not to throw away faith. On the contrary, when we investigate, we are simply answering the why we believe to grow our faith.
As imperfect beings, we recognize we don’t know it all and we continue to seek wisdom and knowledge through our relationship with Jesus Christ. This builds a better understanding of who He is and who we are to become. Find a trusted friend and investigate these questions together. Accurately applying Scripture, while seeking Jesus, will help you sort out what He has for you.
Ask this Mom is a monthly post that investigates the questions that matter to you.
On a cool summer morning, hinting at the approaching fall, we gathered. Each of us recognized this was a special moment, identifying it as a time worth celebrating. No speeches or toasts were given, just plenty of stories and laughter shared. We celebrated the intimacy of our family bond nurtured over a lifetime of experiences.
It started as a getaway weekend to my sister’s summer home. A quiet place on a river, a perfect escape destination from the stress of life. Within a few days of our departure, we discovered two of my other sisters were camping nearby. Texts flew back and forth as we realized our fifth sister also planned to be in the area. Expectations turned to excitement as we saw an impromptu party become a reality. For the first time all five sisters, with their five husbands, gathered without our children.
An extraordinary moment to treasure, the day remains a cherished snapshot in my mind. A simple backyard barbeque full of love and laughter ensued. Admiring the circle of family and friends, I quietly thanked God not just for them but for the legacy of my mom and dad. Their purposeful pursuit of family identity and unity permeated our time together. Essence of each of them peppered our conversation.
My parents raised five independent women during a tumultuous time in our history. However, their gifts to us remain timeless, a beautiful testimony to those who followed. Although far from perfect, they invited us into an adulthood centered on Jesus and His church with the freedom to choose our own path. Here are four intentional steps you can take, to form a similar legacy.
1. Make encouragement part of your daily lives.
No matter the age, recognizing both the gifts and struggles of the individual emboldens them to move forward in the path God set out for them. Encourage the good choices and coach them through the failures, reminding them that both develop us into our God designed selves.
2. Declare your family identity. I’m not sure when my dad started calling us “the good guys”, but it was a continual title used throughout my life. This is how my parents saw us and this is how we behaved. He set an expectation, through this positive declaration, of our character. When others urged us to step outside our family beliefs, that identity curbed the temptation.
Find a simple phrase that fits your family to undergird your identity. Make it positive and empowering.
3. Make unconditional love the expectation of your household. We were not measured by our achievements but loved because we were theirs. So much of our society rates our worth on what we do. However, a grace filled home counters that pressure, making it a safe place for the whole family.
Unconditional love extended into our poor choices as well. Living out the consequences of those choices impacted each of us as we grew and learned to navigate this world. No matter our choices, home remained a safe place.
4. Ask for wisdom before you act.
Even with all this in place, not all our choices lined up with the beliefs of our parents. Measuring the moment to determine their response took not only grace but wisdom. My sister moving to New York City challenged my parent’s peace, but it proved to be the correct choice.
Taking a moment to examine our own motivations before we comment or correct, helps direct a positive outcome. Measure our words and remember sometimes it is best to say nothing at all.
5. Daily choose gratitude. Living on a salesman’s wages with five daughters held challenges beyond our understanding. Each night at supper, we declared God is good and God is great. Thanking God for what we had permeated our home. Comparisons to friend’s material possessions were quickly squelched.
Thankfulness, demonstrated daily, trickles down to our children. Make a point to invite your children into sharing their gratitude.
Intertwined within our celebration, and our lives now, dwells the promise of Jeremiah 31:13 “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” Building a lasting impact in your family through subtle daily choices will ensure joyful family gatherings even after you are gone.
It’s Good for You
How does celebrating shift our emotional response to day-to-day life? Celebration causes a physiological response in our body, lifting our emotions in the process. Acts of joy release dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters essential for brain health. In their presence we feel happiness. This same response comes with exercise, acts of service, and petting animals. However, our goal is more than a biochemical response, we want it to be an act of worship. A lovely cycle that invigorates us to move forward in life.
According to healthline.com, Celebrating is good for your brain, circulatory system and autonomic nervous system. As pleasure is stimulated in the brain our blood vessels dilate delivering more oxygen to our body. The ANS controls our fight or flight response, joy suppresses stress responses lowering blood pressure and breathing rate delivering an overall calm to the body. Fun is good for you! Now there is something to celebrate!
This physiological response is recognized in Scripture. Elizabeth’s baby John, leapt inside her when he heard Mary’s voice. His joy ignited Elizabeth’s, which in turn encouraged Mary.(Luke 1:39-45) David danced through the streets, emulate the dancing but don’t do it scantily clad.(2 Samuel 6:12-16) No, I’m not a prude, I just don’t want you to get arrested. Even the apostle Paul reminded us to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and to celebrate with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8)
Pick one joyful activity you can do right away, by yourself. What needs to be done to cross that item off your wish list? Now is the time to live it out. Make plans to do that one thing this month.
Second, pick something that includes your spouse or a friend. Work to find a mutual interest and make it an adventure. Keep in mind I’m using the word adventure loosely. Find something that you both are excited about that is out of the ordinary. Celebrate time together.
Third, pick something that will take some planning. What do you need to implement it? How do you need to proceed for it to come to fruition? It brings as much joy to a person to plan out a fun trip or activity as it does to do it, even if you don’t do it! Go for it, set a date, start saving, do what it takes to get this from an idea to action.
Here are some of my ideas:
- I’m going to make something from my Pinterest boards. You know the pins put in place when there wasn’t time to do them? Now is the time. Keep in mind the process is as important as the product. Enjoy the creative part of it, not just completing a project on a to-do list.
- My husband and I do Sunday adventures. We hike in local parks, go to farmers markets or a museum. These adventures include discovering new places and trying new activities. The actual event isn’t as important as getting out and enjoying time together.
- We are planning a trip to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. It won’t be possible for a while, but the planning is part of the fun.
How you choose to chase joy depends on your individual personality. Whether simple or splendid, the point is to do it. God’s goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. The purpose is not to eliminate sadness in our life, it is an important aspect of our humanity. Reveling in the good in our life lifts our spirits so that we don’t ruminate on what we’ve lost but recognize the joyous gains. Take time this month to seek joy and celebrate the good around you.
Each March the chorus frogs song usher in spring. April arrived and we still haven’t heard our frogs. Spring continues to lay dormant. It is a bit irritating. I like snow in February but not April! So, we wait, because we know it will come. It always comes.
Spring reflects the promise we hold dear, new life. It symbolizes Jesus, our hope of life reborn, not just in heaven be on earth as well. (Matthew 6:10) As we wait, we know even when God appears quiet, He is working. After a dark season, it is important to remember that promise. New life is developing in our mind, soul, and body as we learn to love Him more.
The world has tarnished and dented our designed. The Holy Spirit however is at work resurrecting us back to the initial plan. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” Transformation polishes our imperfections, removing sin's damage from both our soul and spirit.
Transition is ongoing. Funny how we can see the need to change in others, but we miss our own need for growth. Improvement continues in the process of life, a slow development into Christlikeness. Embrace the process and yield to Him. Be transformed back to His image, our true self, as we were created.
We cry out, "refine us to reflect Jesus." We stretch to react the way He would in each and every situation with humility, love, and truth.
We wait. We notice it when change is drastic but are frustrated when we don’t see progress. As time and change crawls forward, we need patience. If you are like me, that is hard. I’d rather not see the flaws that remind of the lack of progress. Then I need to go back to my earlier statement, life is a process. Recognize He is good, press into the Lord and let His refining work continue.
The Spirit lives right here, dwelling in us.
Speaking to us.
All while loving us.
We simply respond by listening, yielding to His crafting, embrace the change and love Him back.
Spring is coming. Soon we will see our backyards turn to green, the birds will sing, and the frogs will call. A new season buds, reminding us He makes all things new. Let spring erupt inside of us, as we witness its return to the world around us.
As a young woman, I visited a California beach with my cousin, a Golden State native. His goal for the day included teaching me to body surf. He instructed me from the beach convincing me this sport was easy. I entered the churning water with trepidation. Although only in knee deep water, the waves crested over my head. We dove through the waves to get far enough out. In a lull of the crashing water, I turned to the beach to let it carry me in or crash over me.
The first time wasn’t bad; I made it to the beach. Determined to improve, I attempted another run. This time I didn’t quite time it right. The water rotated my body topsy turvy in a moment of panic it became clear I didn’t know the way to the surface. After a bump off the ocean floor, I found myself spit out onto the beach. A few bumps and bruises but no real damage done.
This is exactly what the last two years felt like to me. Some inconvenience but also great loss upon loss. I found myself in grief counseling feeling like my younger self unable to discern which way to the surface. Therefore, my word for the year is STABILITY, picked way back in November before much of the loss occurred.
Circumstance can overwhelm us. It can get to the point where you go through the motions just to survive the day. BUT and this is important, we cannot allow this to become our habit. This is an unacceptable normal. Survival seasons are just that, seasons. They come to an end. Our roots in Christ (Proverbs 12:3) stabilize us putting a halt to the tumbling in our mind and spirit. We need to fight back to enjoyment and a flourishing full life. We continue to say “we can do this. It is fine. It is better. God is with us” and we need to mean it.
I am determined that the difficult experiences of life will strengthen me through God’s grace. I am struck by Ezekiel 47:12 “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.” Throughout Scripture trees represent people. I choose to hold onto this truth God is stabilizing me. He will use the fruit from my experiences as food for others and the leaves for healing.
Amusement parks are an important part of our family fun. Taking our kids on their first roller coaster ride became a rite of passage. Nervously our middle child waited in line with me. She tried to grasp what this ride entailed, keeping up an excited chatter as we moved slowly forward. As our turn approached, her little hand grasped mine. I promised she would love it.
During the ride, uncertainty dominated her countenance. Her grip on the shoulder harness matched the grimace on her face. Later, I learned her inability to predict the experience overshadowed the ride. Yet, afterwards, she shared her delight and wanted more.
This is how I feel about the last few years. Except, I’m not enjoying the ride. Twists and turns have not brought thrills but pain. With both community and personal tragedies, I’m holding on tight. My ongoing effort to find fun needs to be a healthy adventure. Not to avoid the pain but to invigorate my life again.
Proverbs 14:13 reminds us “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” I am not seeking fun to conceal my pain. If we do that the pain will fester like an untreated wound. I don’t want a puss filled heart. I know, gross, but we must face the sadness and dissatisfaction to live a life of freedom. When sad moments creep in remember that Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) Enhance your life by facing your grief and releasing it to the Lord.
The Psalmist understood grief. They wrote about it in repeatedly. I love that God allows these emotions to be expressed in His word. It encourages me to know that I am not the only one who felt this way. Psalm 42:5-6 “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” A key to the relief of our despair is worship. Praising God reminds us of who God is and He is in charge. It relieves our stress to know He is always there for us.
We need to ask ourselves the same questions posed by the Psalmist. What is the source of my downcast heart? Am I dealing with a real-life trauma or is this feeling wrapped in my self-worth? When we feel discarded, it can lead to depression. Like our Psalmist friend we need to turn to God in worship. He is not done with us! In trauma, God promises to be with us. Isaiah wrote “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10).
After turning to Jesus, turn to a friend. Confide your struggle to someone you trust. Don’t hesitate to seek counseling if you continue suffer. God provides wisdom and compassion through trained professionals. Healing will come, God desires to give it to you. God is carrying us; we need to remember to each up and hold on.