Celebrating the Empty Nest

How to survive—and thrive—after your kids fly the coop
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Although we didn't transform their bedrooms into a sewing room or home office, as many people do, we took a few posters off the walls and made their rooms more comfortable for guests. This change gave us a whole new opportunity to invite people into our home, offering them the privacy of a bedroom instead of a sofa bed in the family room.

Tweak Your Family Traditions

I've always relished family traditions. When our children were young, I pulled the same predictable decorations out of storage every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Fourth of July. We celebrated in traditional ways, too. Though the number of faces around our Thanksgiving table varied each year, our family of five formed the nucleus of this celebration of feasting. We spent the day preparing food. We got out the fancy white tablecloth, good china, and silverware, and the kids made place cards for our guests.

I dreaded our first Thanksgiving alone, because I feared their absence would magnify the emptiness of this new season of life. So we accepted an invitation from friends, and for the first time in 20 years, I didn't cook a turkey. I anticipated withdrawal symptoms, but to my surprise, I enjoyed the freedom from responsibility! Now Lynn and I look forward to all the new ways we can celebrate—such as serving turkey to the homeless at our church, or taking a cross-country ski trek—thanking God not only for food, but the blessing of his creation.

On our first Valentine's Day as empty nesters, we realized going out for dinner alone was no longer unusual. So we invited a single mom to share dinner with us at home. Our first Mother's Day and Father's Day alone also felt a bit odd, so Lynn and I began to honor each other for the role we played in our children's lives, instead of depending on them to set the pace. As we learn to hold our children more loosely, we're growing closer and opening ourselves up to what God has in store for us in the future.

Tweak Your Time for God

The Bible tells us there are many seasons to our life. For years, I've lived in the hectic, demanding, childrearing season of life. But in our quieter empty nest, Lynn and I are enjoying the tranquility of more stillness. Other than getting involved with some mentoring relationships with younger people, we haven't rushed to fill our extra time with lots of outside activities. Instead, we're relishing the opportunity to have more time for thinking, reading, or praying, without inconveniencing anyone else.

I especially enjoy having more time to ponder some of the memories I've stored in my heart over the last 20 years. As I journal them and reflect on them, they become tangible reminders that God, who has so richly blessed us in the past, surely will continue to bless us in this season of the empty nest.

—Carol Kuykendall has written several books, including A Mother's Footprints of Faith (Zondervan). A vice president at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International in Denver, Colorado, she has three grown children and is enjoying her "empty nest" with her husband, Lynn.

"Celebrating the Empty Nest," by Carol Kuykendall, was originally published in Virtue

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