Category Archives: Empty Nest

Sad, But Not Broken

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Sad, But Not Broken

I was there when she first wriggled her little embryonic toes. I felt her first attempts at somersaults as she safely floated in warm amniotic fluid. I was there when she took her first breath, took her first steps, said her first word. I was there for the first lost tooth, the first haircut, the first day of school, the first blush, the first boyfriend, the first job.

But I wasn’t there when she first pledged herself in marriage.

My 21-year old daughter decided to get married on a Friday night. Just her, her boyfriend of two years, and two of their friends. No parents. No grandparents. No siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, life-long friends.

I wasn’t excluded from this momentous occasion because we aren’t in relationship. It wasn’t because we had a fight or because she was bullied into it by her new spouse.

They both have a bit of social awkwardness, and they are both very private about their relationship. They don’t hang all over each other, make others nauseous with their googly eyes, or post private moments on social media. For months, they had been saying they just wanted to do a small, private ceremony. Because they didn’t want to hurt their parents, they were trying to accommodate. Once they made up their minds to get married, they wanted to do it right away. Their original plan was to do a small ceremony in my backyard with just parents and grandparents, to be followed by a reception in a few months, allowing everyone to coordinate their schedules. Finding a time that worked for even this small group was proving frustrating for the couple.

So, I removed myself from the equation.

I gave her my blessing to get married without me there to witness it. Her grandparents are hurt and angry. My mom told her I didn’t deserve to have my heart broken. When my daughter asked me to respond to this I told her she knew there would be repercussions for her decisions, that I didn’t understand the need to get married so quickly and have an after-party, but that because I love her, I had decided to give her the gift of removing myself from her stress. That gift, however, did not come without a very high cost. I told her I was sad, but not broken. I’ve been broken before, and this is nowhere near the same.

Sure, I sat on my couch that night and cried for hours. I recalled her standing on the kitchen counter counting, “one, foo, free!” as her brother stood yelling, “Jump! Jeanna, jump!” and I caught her two-year old body in midair. I remembered her in a tiny pink tutu taking control of the 3-year-old dance class, “I’m Jeanna and I like pink and purple. What’s your name and favorite color?” I thought of her taking four years of Junior ROTC in high school, winning Best Female Athlete and being asked by Marine recruiters to come and teach their female recruits how to do proper pullups and pushups. And I thought about her always standing up to and for her older brothers, as well as spending months in Africa ministering to orphans and graduating college as a certified welder.

She is a strong woman. This is a person who has rarely taken the path society expected of her. So why would I expect her nuptials to mirror everyone else’s? Besides, how many times have I expected God to remove Himself from my plans so I could have what I wanted? How many times has He taken a step back and allowed me to work it out on my own while He lovingly stood ready to listen and lead? And while I was weeping about my momentary sacrifice of love for my only daughter, I remembered that my sacrifice is pale and paltry in comparison to His sacrifice of His only son for our eternity.

So, I dried my eyes and I prayed for her, and for her new husband. I asked God to protect them, to bless them, to teach them, and grow them in strength and honor and commitment. Because even though I was there for so many of her firsts, God was there for her befores, He was there for her marriage vows, and he’ll be there for all of her todays and afters.  He loves her more than I do, and He has sacrificed far more than I. If I’m willing to trust Him with her eternity, I have to trust Him with her todays.

The First Four Dozen

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Several years ago I was asked to speak at a women’s retreat. As I prepared, I realized that my life stages could be broken into twelves. Each of my four dozen years have been marked by a major life event.
My dad was in the Navy for the first twelve years of my life. He came home from six months at sea and couldn’t tell my twin sisters apart. Looking at my mom, he said, “a father should know his own children.”

The next twelve years were spent growing up in Goshen County, Wyoming. Another dozen years began the day of my wedding and ended the day our divorce was final.

This year marks the end of the fourth dozen years. I’ve spent the past twelve years as a single mom. I have now been divorced as long as I was married, and my youngest child has graduated high school and moved out of the house.

So here I stand. I’m on the threshold of a new era and feel simultaneously empowered and paralyzed.

Earlier this year I told a friend I was a little bit jealous of the 18-22 year olds that have frequented my home over the past several years while hanging out with my kids. They are young, attractive, ready to jump into their futures. Their whole lives are in front of them with endless possibilities. They have the excitement of falling in love, having their first child, buying their first home, and so many other milestones to look forward to. They can be and do anything they want. They are the authors of their own unwritten stories.

“But you are in a much better place,” my friend said. “You’re at the time in your life when you can choose to do ANYTHING, and you have the benefit of wisdom, education, and financial security. These kids envy YOU.”

My friend challenged me to read the book “Halftime” by Bob Buford, and to begin journaling and praying and asking God to show me what He has for me in the second half of my life. I’m feeling the restlessness that often accompanies a shake up in the status quo, but I don’t yet know what’s on the other side of this threshold.

My cousin told me I need to get in touch with my heart. His theory is that I’ve spent so much of the past twelve years being smart and doing what I HAD to do that I’ve lost touch with what I WANT to do. Now I’m able to do whatever my heart desires, and in order to do that, I need to feel rather than think what is important to me.

I told my son this. He said, “He’s right. You think too much. You want to get in touch with your heart? I’ll show you how to get in touch with your heart.”

He forced his toddler into my arms and said, “Riley, go play with your grandma. That’s how you get in touch with your heart,” he said with a pointed look.

Yep, the boy fights dirty. I have no idea where he gets that.

So I play with my granddaughter, I read books, I pray, I dream, and I try to get in touch with my heart. We’ll see what it comes up with…

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you do to get in touch with your heart. Please take a minute to share in the comments.