What does it look like to live a fruitful life in the empty nest years? What do I do now? What does my day-to-day life look like? Am I needed anymore? These are questions that raced through my mind as the empty nest season approached and was quickly upon me.
You can read the post below (8-minute read) or listen to the podcast (38 minutes) where I share more content.
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I don't have all the answers, but I desire to share some thoughts with you on lessons the Lord has taught me and what He continues to teach me in this season that I've grown to cherish much more than I initially thought I would.
Do you desire to flourish in your empty nest years? What about my younger readers? Please don't pass this one up because it will hopefully give you something to think about and to encourage you as you interact with the older women in your life.
For those in this season with me, I hope you'll either read the post below or join me over at the podcast where I share a bit more thoughts as we work through what it looks like to lives older, wiser women of God.
An Empty Emotional Nest:
I can still picture myself walking into each of my kid's rooms after they had left home laying in their beds and just missing them with such heartache, bawling my eyes out and smelling their pillows. Looking around the room and picturing those late-night talks. Picturing bedtime stories and prayer time. Regular hugs and kisses. Missing the extra bodies at the dinner table and the extra laundry. Yes, I miss the laundry because it meant they were here.
It took me a bit to settle into what home now looked like. My emotions were all over. There were days where loneliness was heavy and others where the freedom this season brought was something new and exciting. Our marriage was healthy, so I was thankful for the time my husband and I now had together alone, but I still missed hearing “Mom” called out daily from my home.
So, as we come to grip with our emotions and begin to bring the focus back to one that is biblical, we're reminded the Lord isn't finished with us yet. You are still a wife and a mother if you have children and even a grandmother or great-grandmother. I know we've poured our lives into our children but have we poured them into our marriages? Into our church family? Into the younger women in our church? This is the season friends.
We should desire to be known as women who live lives of purpose with eternity set in our hearts. Our lives shouldn't become self-centered, but we need to continue to live others-centered.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
~ Philippians 2:3-4
God has work for us to do, and it's not the time to just stop living and sit down. If that thought comes into your mind, be reminded of Elisabeth Elliot who at 63 years old started her Gateway to Joy radio program.
This is a great season to serve, and my encouragement is not to just go out and get a job if it's not needed. Seek your heart and talk it over with the Lord and your husband before you do. I know this isn't a popular statement, but you have much to offer the younger generation in terms of your time and experience. You may also allow yourself the freedom to care for aging parents or help your grandchildren. I can attest I feel busier now than I did when my kids were home.
Marriages in the Empty Nest Season:
We can wrongly assume our husbands are going to meet all our needs or fill the void that is in our hearts from our children leaving, but that isn't their job. Our identity has to be rooted and grounded in Christ; we know this is where our contentment is found. If we look to our husbands for fulfillment, we're just going to find ourselves disappointed and critical of them, and that's not going to go so well for us.
This is a season we need to draw near to one another. To look for common interests to spend time together. He's adjusting to this new season too so offer him much grace and make sure communication is a strong part of your relationship. This is the man you have committed to staying with “til death do us part.”
Busyness can set in so be intentional in planning your time together. You may have freedom now to be spontaneous. Continue to date and enjoy your time alone away from the house. We can get caught up in routine and forget to enjoy one another.
Make sure to battle selfishness and to pursue the life that God intends for you, and you will be a better lover of your husband. This is an excellent season for romance, and you have an empty house to have all kinds of fun in!
Our marriages should be a model for the younger generation of what a godly marriage looks like. As our adult children and others see a couple who loves each and other and aren't living for themselves, it gives them a vision and desire of what to strive for.
“I make the choice to give my husband the benefit of the doubt, to not comment on everything he does or doesn't do, to focus on the things I appreciate about him, and to verbally express gratitude.”
Make sure to cherish that man you're with and fondly remember back why you married and chose him in the first place.
Make sure to pray together daily. There is no better way to connect than through prayer.
Parenting Adult Children:
This was a harder adjustment than I anticipated it to be. As moms, we continue to pour into our children when they're home. They're seeking our guidance, and we are happy to give them all the advice they need. The transition to having an adult child on their own and realizing they may not want all the help I feel they need was a new one for me.
Learning to speak and when not to speak and how to speak when you need to is a skill to work on. I'm still working on it.
Your children are now responsible for their choices. They may choose to do things differently than you, and the reminder different isn't always wrong, it's just different.
It can be harder to trust God in this season because we seemingly controlled so much when they were under our roof, but we're not there now to feel “in charge.” of their lives. This is a great season of our lives to grow in that area of our relationship with the Lord—learning the meaning of the word trust.
Watching our children make mistakes can be challenging but be reminded we learned the most from the mistakes we made, and it is part of the maturing process.
Pray for your children and pray before you speak to them when it may be a difficult conversation. Sometimes when you pray, the Lord makes clear that you don't even need to have the conversation.
My first thought here is to love them well. Share with them about the Lord when the opportunity arises but not continually because they already know the truth, and we don't have to bring it up every time we're with them.
Pray and be reminded that the Lord is working all the time. We may not see anything, but He is working.
If there is an area you need to own up to from something in the past, make sure you apologize and seek their forgiveness. Humility is always the best way.
Pray for the Lord to bring others into their lives that will share the truth with them.
This Next Phase:
What does it look like to live a life that is kingdom-focused in these years? We have the opportunity to pour into our husbands and children and grandchildren, but we also have the opportunity to pour into the younger women the Lord has put in our church families with us.
To my younger women, I encourage you to seek out older women and have teachable hearts ready to listen and learn. And to my older women remember we can learn much from the younger women, so let's do the same. It is iron sharpening iron, and we are called to encourage one another.
Point the younger women not to just your opinion or experience but God's Word (Psalm 78:2). To do this, you must be a student of the Word. This is a great season to dig deep into bible study and learn and share all your learning with others.
Be open with the younger women about the mistakes and failures in your life but don't stop there. Praise the Lord and how you say Him work through them (Ps 78:3). Don't keep the focus on your mistakes but on the One who makes all things new and continues to mold us more into His image as we walk with him through the challenges of life on this fallen earth.
We are all teachers. Pass on the biblical principles you have learned and disciple the younger women in your life. It doesn't have to be a formal bible study. Application of God's Word and knowledge of it comes from doing life day to day alongside each other. Sanctification takes a lifetime.
Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Time in the Word and prayer is something we now have the time to commit to on a daily basis and for longer lengths of time. This is where true wisdom is found for our own lives and the wisdom we desire to pour into the lives of others. May our lives point to Christ and bring Him honor and glory.
Barbara & Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates
Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne Mack
The Art of Marriage Study @Family Life Today
Flourishing in the Empty Nest @Revive Our Hearts
12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child @Desiring God