Two things happened this week which have brought a chapter in my life to a close. The first was the death of our “big, blue bus.” It’s not altogether un-resuscitable, but the cost is prohibitive. This bus had come to define our family vacations and was the vehicle (pun intended) of many good and happy memories.
The second event began last night around 8:00 pm, but didn’t fully sink in until this morning when I woke up.
I probably made the wrong choice to not attend church this morning. Dana and I had been in the Cities, dropping off our youngest at school. We got in this morning at 2:00am (thanks entirely to Dana’s ability to stay awake and God’s good sustenance). We had gone to church last night at Bethlehem before leaving the Cities and with school workshops beginning tomorrow, I felt I could use the time to finish up some preps for the week ahead. So in my groggy state this morning, I decided not to get up and go with Dana again to church here at home.
However, I got up to a too-quiet house and walked passed much too-empty rooms and bedrooms and I feel very lonely this morning. You see, today my nest is empty. I can’t help but think of this once-bustling house and recognize that from here on, life will be different. No doubt the house will bustle again from time to time, but from here on, my job description is forever changed.
I remember my eternally optimistic mother-in-law commenting once when she was at the same spot I am, that all the stages of life are good and have something to offer us. I’ve repeated that to others in the last month, the last week, the last day as I’ve tried to make myself believe it. But today it doesn’t feel that way.
The foil of life is that we can be given the keys to such great truths by those who go before us, but until we actually walk through those doors ourselves, we can not really comprehend those truths. How often as a young mom I was told how fast the years fly. It didn’t feel that way as the days and hours seemed to lengthen in a kinetic, exhausting (but joyful) blur.
But today there is no one who needs an early morning feeding or a shoe tied or help with their school work or lunch made or clothes ironed or a drive to an activity or papers signed or …
At the risk of sounding too depressed (I don’t think I am) or too pathetic or melodramatic, I wonder who I am now. I’ve actually been wondering this for some time as I watched my youngest go through all of her high school “lasts” and I tried to steel myself for this day. If I’m not a full-time mom anymore, who am I? I definitely don’t want the new me to be defined by my career. I do not wish to replace family and home duties with those of the job. I am glad for my role there, but I do not want that to be what defines me.
I guess I’m finding that my roles as wife and daughter of God are those that bring me the most hope right now. As I have watched my dad and Dana’s dad both lose spouses, I know that our self-selected futures are not promised us and that in this life we will have trouble. To the extent that I am mortally able, I try to hold the future with an open hand, because, as Corrie ten Boom has said, “it hurts so much when God has to pry our hand open.” But I do hope for the time ahead—that it will mean a renewal for Dana and I—a time to begin making new memories for the two of us. I don’t imagine that we will revert to those (relatively) carefree, early pre-children days because the world…and our world…has developed too much gravity for that.
But I do hope for a new picture of Dana and I to emerge in the days and weeks ahead. I also hope that the Lord will see fit to give us a ministry we can enjoy together. Apart from the ministry of parenting, we have not really had an opportunity to serve side by side in a mutual calling. From my present short peak, I can imagine future work with The Voice of the Martyrs or The Center for Christian Thought (a new, proposed undertaking of our church). I could imagine following Dana to seminary some day and can only imagine the avenues that might open. And then there are the possibilities of what I can’t imagine. But for now it is enough that God not only holds but actively designs our futures and we will (we must) move ahead now trusting that his Word will be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.
I’m sure there are still those ahead of me who would warn how fast these years will fly. I pray that the older and wiser me will be mindful of the preciousness of the time I’m given and I will lift my head more often from the day-to-day of “life” to be grateful and hopeful.
[Photo from 2009; camping trip to the ND Badlands.]