I pulled into the school parking lot this morning, whipped into the nearest space, and opened the automatic van doors so the kids could run to their classes. It’s Day 7 of the school year, and we’re already running late.
While the doors were opening, and the kids were grabbing their things, I reached into the console to check a text that had come in while we were driving. In that quick movement of my arm, the kids were gone. Out of sight. Including Little Bit, my kindergartner.
He doesn’t want me to walk him to class. I didn’t even steal a kiss.
My car was eerily silent. Too silent.
The pit in my stomach returned.
As did the sting of tears in my eyes.
These have come and gone the last few months as I’ve prepared myself to “empty nest” during the school day. Something I haven’t done in almost 12 years and something that, quite honestly, I’m not excited about, nor am I prepared for.
I thought it would be a downhill stretch after Day 1. But it turns out that grief isn’t like that. It doesn’t ratchet up, culminate in a big event, and then disappear.
It stays with us. When the rest of the world has returned to normal and the day is just seemingly “another day.” Except that to us, it’s not a normal day.
To us, it’s another day marking the beginning of a new season. A new era in our life. And while it will be chock full of good things to come, every day that passes is a reminder that our life has changed. And not in a way that we wanted or hoped for.
It’s hard change.
For almost 12 years as a part-time lawyer/part-time SAHM, I’ve either been at my job or had children following me around like a school of fish.
And while there were many, many days these last 12 year when I wanted to lock myself in my bedroom (OK, I actually did that on occasion), I know now more than ever before that the days are long but the years are short.
In just seven of them, my oldest will be off to college, and quite frankly, I can’t fathom that happening and don’t know how we’ll pay for it. Time is passing by at warp speed, and where we are isn’t where I thought we’d be.
Add to this that I know the last three years haven’t included my most shining moments in the parenting and marriage department, and it puts a spoon full (or two or three) of regret into the mix.
It’s just fantastic really.
But as I sit here, with tears streaming down my face, trying to put into words what I’m feeling in my heart, I know deep within the soul God gave me that this doesn’t define the rest of my life, even though I’ve asked that question to myself and out loud many, many times in recent days.
Deep down in my soul, I know that good things are to come. And I know God will use me in new ways in this new season.
I know that in exchange for releasing my youngest child to the school system, I can embrace with a renewed commitment extra margin during the day to explore the things God has stirred up in my heart these last few years.
Like writing here on this blog.
And returning to women’s Bible study.
And platforming for artisans around the world through Noonday Collection.
And connecting with neighbors, friends, and members of the congregation we serve.
And finding new ways to serve the vulnerable in our community and around the world.
And exercising and improved self-care.
These are things God stirred up in my heart over the last few years that left me nothing short of frustrated as a result of the limited time I had to give to them. (Which is ironic in light of the fact that now I do have time, and I’m sad about it. A pretty poignant commentary on the human condition, don’t you think?) Continually I had to remind myself that my kids are my mission field and that, this, too, shall pass.
Well, it has passed. At least during the school day.
And in God’s infinite wisdom, He sowed the seeds these last few years, knowing that a day would come when I would need these things to help me embrace a new season that includes a quiet, empty home during the school day.
On the first day of school, I attended the Boo-Hoo Yahoo breakfast for kindergarten and senior moms. (Bet you can guess which side of the aisle I sat on.) There were two speakers: a kindergarten mom who was crying her eyes out…I could totally relate to her…and a senior mom who was fully embracing this as a yahoo moment.
I’m so thankful to both of these women for sharing their hearts.
But I needed to hear what the senior mom had to say. Her perspective, having just dropped one child off at college, and beginning senior year with her second, was unique to me, so I leaned in.
She challenged the senior moms not to spend this school year grieving every “last” thing. But to instead, lift their heads and soak in all the moments of celebration that will occur as their seniors prepare to fly the nest.
That resonated with me.
We should always look for the things for which we can be thankful, for the things we can celebrate. That’s a spirit of gratitude. And that’s the spirit with which God desires us to live our lives.
But I don’t think it’s either/or.
I think it’s both/and.
Grief is an important part of our journey through this life too. If we don’t grieve, then we can’t live fully into what God has for us in each next season we will face. Yes, scars will remain, but scars are not just reminders of how we’ve been hurt. They’re also reminders of where we’ve been healed.
So today, I will grieve. I will grieve. I’ve cried a bucket-full of tears, and it’s only 10:15.
But I’m also writing this blog post.
And this afternoon, I’m having lunch with a Noonday Collection friend. We’re planning a big event in September, which should result in finding new hostesses to help us platform on behalf of our artisan partners around the world. They need us to sell their jewelry so they can have jobs.
Then, I’m visiting the doctor to get my final Hep A and B shot so that Kory and I can leave for Nicaragua on Sunday. There in partnership with Living Water International, we’re leading 10 additional members of our church to dig a water well in Rivas. We would appreciate your prayers.
I’ll pick my kids up from school. We’ll come home. Do homework. Make lunches and dinner. And then I think we’ll snuggle on the sofa for the rest of the evening, watch some episodes of The Kitchen and Fixer Upper, and eat popcorn.
Lots of popcorn.
Are you embarking on a new season in your life? If you are, would you mind sharing with me how you’re feeling about it and how you’re coping with it? I’d love to hear from!