The Not-So-Perfect Storm
Twenty-six years ago, my husband and I embarked on a journey not all that uncommon for many people. We got married. Three years later, we welcomed our first son. Within four years, we had three sons. Life was full of change. Most of it was fun. Some of it was tiring and frustrating, and involved patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the next phase of childhood. There were moms’ groups, field trips, baseball, soccer, basketball, band concerts, and piano recitals. My boys’ baptisms seemed to be quickly followed by confirmations, then graduations. And then it happened. They left.
For us, this transition was a whirlwind of an exodus that included a high school graduation, a college graduation, a wedding, a move nine hours away, a departure for boot camp, and a return to college seven hours away. This all occurred in under 90 days!
Our life had been comprised of school and church functions, sports, music, and volunteering. Our calendar was filled to the brim. And then it stopped. Abruptly. Shockingly. What now?
The house was hauntingly quiet. With three boys, quiet is not what we were used to. Our calendar was suddenly open. We had nothing that we had to attend. I can honestly say that I was unprepared for what was happening. I felt that I had lost my identity. I definitely went through a period of depression, a sense of loss, and grieving. I did not want this change in my life. I loved being a mom, being busy, volunteering, going to my children’s events, and seeing them regularly. But having said all of that, I really didn’t want my children to live with me forever, either!
I must admit that at first, I just didn’t want to think about it. I worked lots of hours, started cleaning out bedrooms (which stopped almost as fast as it started), tried to figure out how to cook for only two people, and felt lost. My children were gone, and a part of me left with them. Sure, they will return home when they can to visit, we will text and FaceTime, and we will travel to see them, but that will still leave plenty of time to fill.
A former employer liked to say that he had an “opportunity” for me. Of course, this was his way of adding more to my already full plate, but I like challenges and I must admit that those opportunities took me to places that I never imagined going. So as I began to think about my new reality, I started to think about my opportunities. A Bible class topic regarding our true citizenship (Philippians 3:20) started me really thinking. Our time on earth is short. I prayerfully asked God for guidance and to show me how he wants me to serve in the next phase of my life.
So I have set about exploring my opportunities. Some of them are more for me, such as reviving my neglected garden, training for a half-marathon, and completing projects around the house that I simply did not have the time to get to. I am planning, putting the time on my calendar, and setting deadlines for completion. While all of the above are enjoyable to me, I know that I need something more. God has given me (and you) talents and abilities that we are expected to use faithfully. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the talents. He tells us to be faithful, and promises to give us even more in return.
So through much prayer and contemplation, I am going to take some time to really look at my opportunities and make the best decisions that I can as to how to serve. I want to make wise decisions with my time, talents, and treasures. In her book The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, Lysa TerKeurst says, “Imagine this opportunity as an amazingly attractive but fast-moving river. There is so much that looks extremely appealing about this river, you’re going to be tempted to jump right in. But once you are in the river, you have diminished your ability to make decisions. That river is moving so fast that it will take you where it is going. And if you haven’t carefully traced out in advance whether you want to go through and to the places that river flows, you’ll be in trouble.”
The last thing I want is to fill my schedule with busyness and miss the point of why I am committing to something, or end up neglecting those that I love as a result. I plan to take time to assess what I really enjoy, what I am good at, where I think I can BEST serve. I am going to try out a few opportunities without a long-term commitment to see if we are a good fit. And I will pray that God guides me in making decisions that ultimately serve Him and His kingdom.
In the meantime, here is a short list of action items that have helped me realize that each phase of life gives us opportunities to explore and grow in our faith and our ability to serve:
- Prayer—I have many opportunities to pray for my children as they find spouses, pursue careers, struggle with their own challenges, and celebrate the blessings of God.
- Reconnecting with my husband—Time together was extremely rare. We now have lots of it! I have noticed our interactions shifting from conversations solely about our children to conversations about us and plans for our future.
- Hobbies—I can pursue hobbies that I used to enjoy, or explore new ones that I simply wasn’t able to until now.
- Exercise—Signing up for a race gives me a deadline and commits me to training. I realize that this is not for everyone, but committing to regular daily exercise has so many benefits, including better physical and mental health.
- Travel—Since our children now live far away, we have places to go and explore!
- Volunteer—I can look for opportunities to serve and commit to helping others, whether they are small, one-time commitments, or commitments in a greater capacity.
Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is inevitable. But be still (Psalm 46:10). Listen. God will be there through it all.