Tuesday, January 18, 2011

empty nest

[for those of you who might be confused by the order that these blog posts are appearing, i am actually back-filling. i had several ideas for posts that i started but never published, and after a busy streak in the schedule, i suddenly realized that i had gone several months without an update. i'm trying to complete them and put them in at the appropriate spots. -b]

some of you know that i was concerned about n heading off the university -- not so much for her sake (i figured she'd do great) but for m's and mine. the prospect of the empty nest was pretty daunting. m and i love each other and have for over two decades now, but pretty much everyone knows it's been a bumpy ride at times. thankfully, we're in a much better place than we were many years ago, but i wondered how we'd do 'on our own.' i had heard the stories of many couples who seemed to have nothing left to share after the kids were grown, and i had a certain amount of anxiety about how things would turn out for us.

not to worry. in the fall, i was delighted to find that the empty nest was actually pretty enjoyable. it's not that we didn't miss the girls -- of course we did -- but we savored our more frequent conversations, the simplified driving schedule, a new, healthier diet, and regular evening prayer together. it was surprisingly... nice.

when b and n returned for christmas break, we reveled in being a family all in one house again. among the highlights of the time: our family reading of the libretto of handel's messiah to celebrate christmas and a family prayer retreat. how cool is it to be able to really worship and seek God with your kids?

n was only home for a couple of weeks because she went on a caribbean excrusion with grandma p. her stay with us was far too brief, but i'm reluctant to complain about anyone getting a chance to cruise the caribbean! when we dropped her off at the airport, i felt conflicted about her leaving, mostly because her university experience has been a mixed bag, and i worry just a bit. but all of the concern was for her, which felt right to me.

the strange experience was taking b to the airport on monday. her stay with us was twice as long as n's, so we got in lots of time together -- working out, great conversations, and lots of eating. but as i unloaded her suitcase, i suddenly realized that i wasn't sure when i'd see her again. unlike n, who plans on coming back for spring break, b has other plans. and it's not certain that she'll come back at the end of her school year either; she's spent the last two summers in new york city, and she's still hoping to spend this one in washington d.c. as an intern at IJM (a christian non-profit dedicated to combating human trafficking,and the organization for which she may someday work). so maybe she'll come back in august for a visit?

a visit. ay, there's the rub. our daughters don't live here anymore. they come on break; they're great about calling (and as of the start of the new year, texting). but they have their own life, and much of it is happening elsewhere, in places we've only visited with people we don't really know. they're adults.

we hugged b, got in the van, and drove away. i couldn't see her in my rear view mirror. my melancholy was palpable. the minivan -- and the four bedroom house we live in -- suddenly felt embarrassingly and unnecessarily large.

don't get me wrong. i'm glad the girls are flying more and more on their own. i celebrate the amazing opportunities God has opened up for them. cheering them on and praying them up from a distance feels good, and it feels right. but the emptiness of the nest, while no longer daunting, is tinged with a just bit of heaviness.

only take care, and keep your soul diligently,
lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen,
and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.
make them known to your children
and your children’s children
(deuteronomy 11:19)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

turning 29

no, i'm not being vain about my age. december 25th was my christian birthday. 29 years ago, i first gave my life to Jesus.

i still remember vividly the pangs of regret at having waited so long to come to Christ. i honestly felt like i had wasted 19 years of my life. all of those years, living for things that didn't seem to matter much in light of eternity. i learned later that those years hadn't been wasted after all; even though i hadn't known my Creator, he had always known me and had been present and at work in my life. he had already been shaping me, already preparing me, already pouring out his grace upon me, though i hadn't recognized it.

for me, becoming a christian wasn't just a change in my way of thinking. it meant receiving forgiveness and experiencing the love of Someone Great who is really there -- and a commitment to trust and live 100% for him -- or as the scriptures say, with all of my heart, with all of my soul, with all of my mind, and with all of my strength (mark 12:30). that commitment has led to some interesting choices over the years, many that i never would have chosen otherwise. along the way, i've had the privilege of seeing God work in some extraordinary ways.

i wish i could say that i've always lived up to my word. i have discovered over and over again that the world isn't what i thought it was, that i am not who i thought i was, and that God isn't who i sometimes make him out to be. that's an awful lot of unlearning. after 29 years, i know more than i've ever known, and i am more acutely aware of just how relatively little i know.

still, i thank God for what i do know: that he is real, and that he loves me -- and not me only, but all people everywhere and all of creation. that his love is not just a warm feeling, but that he put himself on the line to redeem us. that our relationships with one another matter to God almost as much as our relationship with him. that salvation is more than a ticket to heaven; God is renewing more than me and more than people, but creation itself. that the church, as imperfect as it is, is meant to be a window into eternity for all to see.

in the bible, Jesus says that we will know the truth, and that the truth will set us free. every year, i discover a bit more about what he means by that -- thank God.