“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” —Mignon McLaughlin
And that is what Doug and I have done for twenty one years.
So, when confronted with a (temporary) empty nest, we were ready for it because we are best friends.
But first we had a choice to make. Our lives have been in somewhat of a holding pattern lately due to a situation beyond our control. We had hoped we would know something by last Friday…but it was not to be.
Decision time: would we focus only on the one thing God has withheld for us, allowing it to cast a pall over our weekend? Or would we deliberately choose to set our sights on all of the rich blessings He has graciously given us?
We chose the latter.
He is always speaking. He had said no to something we had wanted (on our timetable) but I knew He had so many more “yeses” to share with us that day and I intended to find them.
He had given us a glorious day. We live in a beautiful place. We enjoy a good road trip, so we took off for the North Country.
We told our dog Buddy that we would be gone for the day. He was clearly broken up by this news.
As we headed out to the car, we spotted this:
A huge mama snapping turtle was determinedly crossing our front yard in search of a place to lay her eggs.
All creatures great and small
The Lord God made them all
Our first stop was the Sugar Shack, which was voted the #2 best place for breakfast in our state.
I am not typically a breakfast person but since a good friend and I had walked seven miles very early that morning, I was ravenous.
The staff was no-nonsense, the decor simple and rustic, and the food was delicious.
While we were enjoying our meal, my friend Karen texted me to remind me that the annual Lupine Festival was beginning that day. It was only a half an hour north so we decided to go. We had made the trip last year and it was lovely.
Turns out that this year…not so much.
I am not exaggerating when I say that we saw FIVE lupines. And five lupines definitely does not constitute a “festival.”
Last year, this was the scene at one of the lupine fields:
This year, that same field looked like this:
Not a lupine in sight.
I must admit that I was disappointed that we had driven so far for nothing, but then I remembered a passage from Susan Spencer-Wendel’s book Until I Say Goodbye.
“Events rarely happened as anticipated…but were perfect moments nonetheless. Because I did not have expectations…accept the life that comes…don’t force the world to be the one you dream. The reality is better.” (p. 348).
Accept the life that comes. That right there is a recipe for the stress levels in our lives to drop by several degrees.
Despite the fact that there were no lupines, there were still such beautiful things to see.
On the drive back south, Doug and I talked about our years of parenting. As I looked across the front seat at my husband of twenty-one years, the fifty year old man with silver hair morphed into the man he was when he was a father for the first time at thirty-two. I remembered our mutual wide-eyed panic when my parents left to return home when Josh was two weeks old. Could you do this by ourselves? Raise another human being?!
It had all seemed so scary at the time.
But with prayer, perseverance, and the ever-important sense of humor, we made it.
Were we perfect? Not even close. No such thing.
But we love our kids with our whole hearts and we did the best we could. We are a team. There is such a sweetness to that truth.
Our next stop was to a place called The Basin in the White Mountains. It is absolutely beautiful, peaceful, and serene. I saw the fingerprints of God everywhere I looked.
We ended the day by having dinner with my mom and brother at a local eatery. Jeff joked that they were just cheap substitutes for the kids, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even if my family wasn’t family, I would have them as friends. We laughed the night away. (We also did a lot of shouting to be heard because we were sandwiched between a party of twenty and a party of seven!).
But it’s all good.
That was the first evening of the hockey playoffs between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins. Clearly, we are in Bruins territory but my brother proudly wore his Penguins hat and T-shirt. As we exited the restaurant, there were four guys in a convertible who were clearly offended (but good-naturedly so) at Jeff’s brazen Pittsburgh display.
Noticing this, I raised my arms in the victory sign and yelled, “Pittsburgh!!!”
We native Pittsburghers are black and gold to the bone.
(Sadly, my enthusiasm was misplaced, as Pittsburgh lost later than night. They are currently down two games. Here’s to a win for the third game!).
The last night of our empty nest, I headed to our church for Bible study. On the way there, I was praying not only for the safe return of the kids that evening but for the holding pattern we are currently in with no end in sight. At the church, I was reminded of God’s greatness, His love, and His goodness. That He is always at work, even when we cannot see signs of His hand.
These truths were still ringing in my ears when I pulled into my driveway…and saw this:
Isn’t that just like Him? To send me the sign of His promise, shining right through the storm clouds!
His promise that He is in full control at all times. That He can only do good to those who belong to Him. That He keeps His promises…all of them.
As I said at the beginning of this post, He is always speaking.
At 9:15, the side door burst open and our kids tumbled into the kitchen, full of the energy unique to teenagers. Julia dropped her bags the instant she saw me and literally sprinted across the house to tackle me with a hug.
The next hour was filled with exciting stories of their adventures. As the conversation wound down and fatigue started to take over, they began to head for bed.
“So what did you do when we were gone?” our son asked. “Did you spend your all your time crying and missing us?” He was kidding. (I think).
I smiled at him and said, “Missing you, yes. A little bit of crying too. But Daddy and I had lots of fun.”
He returned my smile as he hugged me good night,
“The two of you always do.”
I would say that Doug and I will be ready for the empty nest when it comes for good in two years. We have lots of plans.
Of course, we won’t fully be alone…
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”—Elizabeth Stone