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On the Side - February 2012

How Empty Is The Nest?
by Sharon Chatwell

So, you might call us “empty nesters”… and you’d be right… because we soon will be. With three of our four nestlings already having “flown the coop” we have only one more left at home. And, Anna, the littlest Chatwell, will be “taking flight” soon enough! We are already beginning to feel the effects of this looming transition. For example: A few weeks ago, while all the other kids were gone, she went skiing with a youth group for the weekend. My husband and I were at home alone for the first time in… well, we’re not really sure… we think it has been years!

What a strange and unusual feeling! How glorious and uncomfortable all at once! My good friend, Lynn, once described it this way: “We raise our children with the goal of them becoming independent, productive, Christian adults. And yet we are surprised when they do just that and leave home to lead their own lives.” She went on to say that we really had no right to be disappointed when it happened, especially since we’d been praying for it and working towards it all these years. My friend, Lynn, is very wise. And, of course, she is right.

My life has changed twice… well, three times, now. The first time was when I realized that Jesus actually loved me: that He came and sacrificed Himself on the cross in order to save me and others. When I realized this, my life changed; all for the good.

Another time my life changed was when I became a full-time mom. My husband and I had been classmates in medical school and gone through our training years together. Now we had two little guys at home, and I decided that I needed to stay home with them. “After all,” I said, “two pagers going off in the middle of the night is one too many.” Even though I was confident in my decision, I felt my life changing, almost as if it was slipping away from me. I found the courage to ask my husband if he would feel the same about me, when I wasn’t a practicing physician anymore, especially since we had started off as colleagues. Immediately he stopped what he was doing and gave me a big hug. He assured me that what I was proposing to do was at least as important as anything he would ever do as a physician, and that he admired me for doing it. When I realized this, my life changed; again, all for the good.

And now I feel my life changing again… having identified myself as a mom for nearly 30 years… what will I be now? Am I old and washed up? Will my children begin to talk about me in the third person, while I’m sitting in the room with them? (“She’s doing really well today, don’t you think?” or “I think her oxygen needs to be turned up a little.”) Well, maybe that’s how it will be soon… but not yet!

Rather than trying to hold on to the past, and watching it slip through my fingers, it is better for me to let go of it and to wave good-bye with a smile. After all, I realize that my life is changing and that once again it is all for the good.

It’s OK! After all, I have other things to do now. I know that Jesus, the One who changed my life in the first place, has other plans for me. Ephesians 2:10 says: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I write. I have a website that helps Sunday School teachers. I’m on a committee or two… (I don’t know exactly HOW I got on these committees… but I’m on them.) I have a play that I’d like to see produced. I’m active in church. And of course, I’m taking care of TWO dogs, both of which seem to need more attention than I can possibly give either of them… so, see… I still have stuff to do… and I haven’t even started looking for anything new ... yet ...

As I’m thinking about all of these things to myself, the phone rings. It is my brother and sister-in-law. Could they come over and visit for the evening? And, if it’s not too inconvenient, they would like to stay overnight. “Sure,” I say, “We have plenty of empty rooms.” And, even as I am saying this, one of my college students pulls up in the driveway: home unexpectedly for the weekend. “Hi, Mom! I’m home!”

Wait a minute… How empty is that nest?

Sharon is a physician’s spouse, who is alive and well and writing in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is happy that Jesus remembers that she is only made of dust, and that He does not let her be tempted beyond what she can bear.