Wednesday, November 5, 2008

God is Faithful in all Seasons

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

With the majority of the leaves having fallen now, I’ve been amused by all the vacant bird nests throughout the trees and bushes here in the woods. In late fall, I always enjoy scouting out the woods looking for nests. It's interesting to see how many different birds have nested nearby that I was unaware of. Seeing all the vacant nests reminds me of the nearness of my own approaching “empty nest.”

I have to smile when I think back to the baby and toddler years and how I thought those busy days would never end. I remember elderly ladies in the grocery store (as I struggled to restrain a two year old in the midst of a temper tantrum and break up a fight between school-age boys) smiling and saying, “Enjoy them while they are little honey, because they grow up so fast!” At times I felt irritated with them for saying those things. I used to think that it was easy for them to say that, because they weren’t struggling to juggle children and groceries and get everyone to the car in one piece. Now I’m the older woman in the grocery store telling young mothers to enjoy their children because they grow up fast. It’s funny how time changes things and we find ourselves in new roles and new seasons of life, all in such a short time. One day it just seemed to happen; somewhere between changing diapers, nighttime feedings, wiping off sticky fingered toddlers, endless peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches, helping with homework, juggling after school sports schedules, and the trying teen years, the nest grew emptier and emptier and now the baby is almost eighteen.

Lately, it seems we are constantly experiencing the end of certain events that have been a part of raising four children over the past 32 years. This year our youngest was the last of the four children to get a learners permit. The last one I had to teach to drive. September marked the “last” first day of school for us and the last child to enter her senior year. The last parent-teacher conferences will be attended this year. She will be the last to graduate. Monday night marked the last Halloween parade that she will be participating in with her dance studio, and next spring will mark the last dance recital. As I drive her to dance lessons and to her job at the dance studio, I cherish every trip knowing the time is so very short. Soon, she will have her license and won’t need me to drive her anywhere. It’s a strange feeling after spending so many years driving children to sports, games, and dance lessons.

I’ve been given a glimpse into the empty nest over the past year when the youngest started dating. My husband is a long distance trucker, rarely home, which means I’ve been spending more and more time home alone. It’s as if God is slowly preparing me for this new approaching season. It's been a learning process for me, and I'm finding it helpful to talk to other woman who have already experienced the empty nest, or who are close to experiencing it.

I received an e-mail several weeks ago from my friend Kathy, who lives in Alabama. Her wise words were such an encouragement and a blessing to me. She is also facing the nearness of the empty nest, as her youngest is a senior this year. Her e-mail was a much-needed reminder for me to continue trusting in God and waiting to see what He wants me to do at this new season rather than thinking about filling up my alone time with “stuff.” With her permission, I share the following from her e-mail:

“I know you and I share a bond because I’m spending a good bit of time alone too. My son is working at the Y and is a senior in high school, so he always has something going on. My husband works long hours at the store, so I’m learning to spend my afternoons reading my Bible while sitting on the deck watching the hummingbirds and squirrels. It has been a HUGE change for me, but the Lord has constantly reminded me that,”I’m all you need Kathy.” So instead of fighting it with busyness, I have finally said, “Okay, Lord, here I am!” I’m trying to spend time with Him during my new found alone time. “

I was encouraged by how she simply chose to surrender this new season of life to God rather than filling it with more stuff and activities. How often do we say, "Okay, Lord, here I am?" Too often we are quick to fill up those empty places in our life with other things that may not be part of Gods plan for us. We are quick to act without taking the time to seek God's wisdom for our life. Our culture today is so busy and fast paced that we often don’t think about just waiting and being still before God to see where He leads us.

This new season of life has already been a season of incredible grace and spiritual growth for me personally. I’m learning the importance of letting go gracefully, and I’m learning to accept things, knowing that God is in control. I don’t know what the future holds or what God has planned for me and that is okay. I can trust Him and rest in His promises as the empty nest draws near. Like my friend Kathy, I am also learning to say, "Okay, Lord, here I am, use me in this season as You desire." Though life is ever changing, God does not change. He is faithful, always, in all seasons of life.

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