Fear had its clutches on me. I tried to deny it. I tried to ignore it. I tried to twist it, reshape it, negotiate with it…but it wasn’t working. I was captured by fear.
Weeks out from our youngest sons—and last to leave—departure for college was consuming my thoughts, leaving me with unrelenting fear. Our twenty-eight-year journey of parenthood was about to come to a close.
Oh how I loved being a mom. I loved every season of it. I didn’t want it to end. Much of my identity had been in being a mom, caring for others, mothering, if you will. Oh yes, I loved being a mom. And now, sweeping in like an unwanted storm, it was about to be over.
How would I endure the next season? The empty nest? The quiet house? No more, good-morning SUNSHINE! “Mom, really? it’s way too early.”
No more, where are you going? “Mom, seriously? You know where I’m going.”
No more, what happened to my kitchen? “Mom, don’t worry, I’ll clean it later.”
No more, where’d Dad go? “Mom, he’s right outside fixing…”
Yes, I loved it all.
Our family started the day I said “I do” to a young, handsome, semi-long-wavy-think-blonde-haired man. We were so young, and he had a lot of hair back then. Now, my prince has much less hair, and it’s not blonde, it’s “silver,” but he’s just as handsome, if not more. Two stupid and naïve kids figured out how to love through three kids and thirty-four years. Our love has grown. Our understanding has grown. Our self-centeredness has diminished. Our marriage has lasted. And now we are about to embark on a new season of marriage. The empty nest years and I was scared because I thought I was “losing” something.
Then, something happened…
My daughter visited us while we were camping. Yes, camping! Alone. Just the two of us. Camping alone had been on my husband’s bucket list since we started camping with our children over twenty-five years ago.
Monica asked, “How has your camping trip been?”
Full confession: I hadn’t been “overjoyed” to go camping in the heat of August, but relinquished at the sight of my husband’s excitement.
“Well sweetheart, it’s been surprisingly perfect. Probably the best trip we’ve ever taken. I am loving it. Absolutely. Loving. It. We are having the best time!”
“Glad to hear it, because this is what your life will be like once you drop Joe off at college. Your life will be like this all the time.”
“What?! Can you say that again please?”
She chuckled, “It will be just you and Dad. This is your new life.”
LIGHTBULB! SIREN! FLASHING RED LIGHTS!
She was right! This was my new life and I LOVED IT!
Instantly, my fear vanished! My next season was my crown.
The empty nest years would be glorious because I had what was always my most important relationship still preserved and totally intact: My marriage!
And it was stronger than ever!
WHOA! This season is going to be G-R-E-A-T!
What were the elements that delivered us to this point? What were the truths that sailed us to a happy-lasting-thriving marriage?
- We always made time for one another. No matter what season we were in, time together was a priority. No matter how busy work got, no matter how many events the kids had, no matter how strong the time-thieves of a busy life, we made time for each other. Date nights. Coffee dates. Lunch appointments. Late night talks. We took charge of time and gave it to the other. Make time for your spouse.
- We always sought to understand the heart of the other. When things got “hairy” we did our best to view the wreck through the other person’s eyes. It’s quite easy to get in touch with your own pain, betrayal, heartache, offense, hurt, but an entirely different discipline to step into the hurts of another and look at it from a different vantage point. Seek to understand the heart of your spouse.
- We always allowed each other to be different. My husband and I rarely even laugh at the same things. Seems everything I find hysterical and roll-on-the-floor funny he scratches his head wondering what the fuss is about. The list of our differences could go on and on. We’ve learned to accept our differences. Unconditionally. Lovingly. Embracing the other fully. Men and women are exceedingly, wonderfully, excitingly different. Embrace the differences.
- We always wholeheartedly forgave each other. Completely. No matter how deeply an offense hurt, we forgave. More importantly, we always knew we’d be forgiven. We always knew we’d offer forgiveness. Fully. Sincerely. Lovingly. Instead of keeping track of times offended, we kept track of times we were forgiven. In marriage you will be hurt. You can count on that. The great marriages, and the ones that last, are couples who are expert forgivers.
- We always kept our love exciting. We never stopped doing thoughtful things for the other. We never stopped doing the small kindnesses that brightened the others day. We never stopped putting the other first. We never stopped offering our best. In marriage we must offer our best and we must do it daily.
And now, as we enter the empty-nest-hood season we can look forward to many years of fun, delight, joy, and enchantment. There is no need for fear, for this is my crown.
Until next time, love your spouse with your best.