Empty Nesters

If you stand on your tiptoes, strain your neck, and look through some tree branches, you can just see the lake from our youngest son’s fourth floor dorm room.

“Lakeview living,” I teased him, “must be nice.”

College freshman Move-in Day: We packed and unloaded what he needs to cope with college – his mom was insistent on plenty of disinfectant wipes, for instance. With his roommate’s family, we assembled lofts, stretched out rugs, offered decorative suggestions to the roommates’ rolled eyes, hugged them up good, and left campus. And only one “Mom, where did you put my…?” text so far.

Photo: Move-in day, guy style with Carter Wilson, Timothy N Angel Morrill Dennis Tedder

So, we are “done.”

Yeah, right. We are not “done” being parents at all. Nor would we want to be. My wife and I are empty nesters, though we are a call or text away from both our sons (It could happen, especially when funds run low.) And we both know that growing and grown children can come back home, sometimes for extended stays.

But even if not, wherever they go in the world, both of our sons carry us with them, of course. All those repeated parental aphorisms they routinely ignore but cannot entirely forget — “Get to class early,” “Eat a good breakfast,” “Don’t wash colors and whites together!” “Check your oil,” “Think for yourself” among them. For our sons, there are so many memories, life lessons, and ties that bind, packed away, perhaps, but close at hand if needed.

Our sons know they will never lose our love, no matter how far they travel or full their lives become. Most of all — we know that God’s love clings closely and embraces them tightly, even when Mom and Dad can’t do so in person.

As the risen Jesus Christ sends God’s children out into the world as his disciples, he reminds them, “I am with you always.” The living God is never “done” with us.

And we empty nesters are not done, either. After all, our sons still check in and check on us, and they still need unconditional support or occasional tough love, a timely trip home for Mom’s hash brown casserole or Dad’s “brilliant” insights, and our daily prayers. We are blessed by two faithful, joyful, and grateful sons, thank God.

So, though our nest is already emptier, quieter, and has fewer shoes strewn about, we will enjoy our empty nest stage, celebrating that love never ends and is never “done,”

And, as my youngest would say if he were here, “Enough, Dad. After all, I’ll only be 30 minutes away,”

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The Note on the Mirror

One morning this week, I spotted something different in the bathroom mirror.

Well, ON my bathroom mirror actually. My wife had taped a note to my bathroom mirror, guaranteeing that I would see it, even at my groggiest.

We celebrated 31 years of married life this week and in all the time leading up to this particular morning (wonderful, blessed time, dear!), she has never taped anything to my bathroom mirror. Until this week.

What greeted me in the mirror that morning, and ever since, is a short paraphrase of some reassuring New Testament verses.

mirrorpic

Of course, plenty of folks leave themselves notes and reminders on their bathroom mirrors and more than a few of us conspicuously post key Bible verses on mirrors or refrigerator doors or about our homes.

My wife and I, life-long Christians and long-time church servants, have certainly shared Scripture verses more than once. Just never on the bathroom mirror.

But this week, as we gave thanks for one another and our life together, I also experienced a particularly demanding week of pastoral responsibility and challenges. A good week, but a time of testing.

And my wife’s note, positioned alongside my unshaved face and sleepy eyes, shared a word from God: … switch your focus from the problem to My Presence. Stop all your striving and watch to see what I will do. I am the Lord! (Interpretive paraphrase of Romans 8)

This scriptural reminder was not an implied criticism, though after 31 years of life with me, my wife may have found a few minor faults — her note on the mirror is a loving reminder, from a loving God, relayed through my loving partner in life and ministry. And a VERY timely one:

“Switch your focus from the problem to My Presence,” says the Lord God.

At no time in my life, including 31 years of marriage, has that word not applied. So, whatever milestones you are passing, a note on the mirror may be just the thing to keep you on track.

And a pretty good anniversary gift, too.