This empty nest…

A dinner bell once hung here.  It was to be rung when folks needed to be called from all directions around the farm.  It was my noisy way to say, *Hey, Family! I need you closer!*

But changes are happening at the Kirksey abode.  This spring when the hot tub got hauled out of our gazebo by a mass of muscles and sold to someone who likes that sort of thing, the bell needed to be removed for its own safety in the hustle, and it hasn’t found its way back.

The other day, I was looking at the leaves that are too-soon-changing, and glancing through the trees for apples, I saw my empty bell posts, and I had a sad realization.

Our bell is no longer needed.

There are no longer extra folks running around this place.  Christian and I are now as close to empty-nesters as it gets.

Our son bought a gorgeous farm 7.2 miles away after living on adjoining property for the last 3.5 years.  And of course, he took his dog as well.

Our *baby* girl began her schooling and will be staying home only occasionally, but working and staying closer to school most of the time.

Our other daughter created a homestead with her family about 15 miles away, and they bring the grandbabies to play at what is called *Mimi’s house* as often as possible.  

So now, it’s just Christian and me, 2 ridiculous cats, 2 loud geese, 3 adorable ducks, 9 free-loading hens, and 1 obnoxious rooster.

When we moved here 3.5 years ago, we bought a big, ol’ house on a LOT of acres because we are expecting our family to grow — not by our efforts (thank You, Jesus), but in the natural course of the next generation.  We wanted to create a space in which our family could always convene and rest and celebrate and share for all of time.  We did just that!  But suddenly, and for the first time, the number of folks present in this home has dwindled to two, and we feel like we are rattling around in some sort of quiet haze.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits.  I mean, don’t tell my precious kids, but this place is infinitely cleaner! And I am cooking wayyyy less.  And groceries for two are a lot more like eating the rainbow since we both like that healthy stuff and the grocery budget goes farther.  Christian and I are the best of friends and we have literally been waiting for this since we were 18 years old. So, we sit in our little matching chairs with our cups of coffee and act like we mean it.  Or we hop on an ATV together and take some of the apples that fell off our trees and go put them out at our respective deer stands as archery season is only a couple of weeks away.

But sometimes, we get a little teary wondering how the heck we got to this part already.  It seems like a few minutes ago, our babies had Barney shoes and Little Mermaid bikes with training wheels and squeaky little voices with lisps and snuggled on our laps and peppered us with sweet kisses.

The best days include having the whole gang over for a huge dinner, toys strewn everywhere and voices clamoring in the air, and everyone so grateful for the goodness and unity we’ve created as a family.

And THAT is what it’s all about.  Not holding on to the past like some well-hoarded bin of memories.  Not stunting anyone’s steps forward by pulling them all ever-close. Our very plan all along was to watch these not-so-baby-birds fly free — admiring the stunning beauty of the flight we were so very blessed to help facilitate — and making the absolute most of the touchbacks they, and we, most certainly need.

And a lesson I’ve learned from much observation, is that it’s our absolute and profound responsibility as parents to be the kind of folks that they WANT to be around.  They do not owe it to us.  The words family or parent don’t entitle us to a darn thing.  Just like we taught them — you earn what you have.

The earning is initially much harder than the handout, but the reward in having done all it takes to hold something precious and of value that you invested in, is priceless.

When my kids come around because they like to be near me, well, I’m not sure I could have achieved more in this life.

My heart is so grateful.

And now I just have some more quiet in which to consider how thankful I am.

Who am I kidding?  The next guests arrive before I know it amidst hunting season, six birthdays, and travel.

And I have so much rattling-around-in-space to clean.  Perhaps in my underwear! 😀

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Lay it at the cross, Baby Girl…

I have a story to recount to you.  I recently told it to someone dear to my heart and it struck me again — the wonder of it all — particularly this Easter weekend.  Stick through to the end and you will see why.

One lovely summer day last year, I began my day with a phone call to a woman who has been a spiritual mother to me for several years now.  An integral part of my emotional healing, this woman consistently reminds me to stay on the path of thankfulness as I trudge through my journey, she having walked much of the same road as I, just a few years ahead of me.  That perspective is precious and vital — just to know it’s been done and is entirely possible to survive and thrive.  I cherish her more than I can say.

That morning, she listened to my words and tears and empathized beautifully, and she spoke words that felt like they had been written across the sky in blazing letters just for me.

“Lay it at the cross, Baby Girl.  Just give it to Jesus.”

Yup.  That is what needed to happen.  I could clearly visualize setting that emotional backpack I tend to pick up and lug around right down at the foot of the cross.

My heart was a bit tender and sore for the next couple hours and as the day developed, I decided to take advantage of both some rare time to myself and an idyllic summer day and drive to the beach (my happiest place).  I basked and floated and worshiped and prayed and practiced laying it at the cross.  As I floated in my little tube, I had an idea.  I thought it was quite brilliant.  “Lord, could you just show me a stone with a cross on it for me to mark this day?”

Across this country, I have picked up keepsakes — moment markers — as reminders of the precious steps of my journey.  And in this gorgeous place in which I live, there are gazillions of miraculously beautiful stones that I may or may not obsessively pick through on each beach visit.  It seemed logical to me to find a cross stone that day.  But no matter how hard I searched…nothing.  Zilch. Bupkis.

stones

Okay, I could handle this.  Really.  I mean, what more does a girl need than a beach day, stone or no stone.  I felt loved and content.

beach

Eventually, the waves lulled me to a most relaxed state in my beloved sunshine and I rested on the sand.

When out of nowhere, there came my sweet man. WITH A PICNIC!!! Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband does the sweetest things for me often, but romantic surprises are saved for rare days.  So when he shows up with my favorite food, at the beach to surprise me, I was beyond ecstatic.  My perfect day just got over-the-moon, off-the charts, home-run kinda fabulous.  We ate and relaxed, and I considered telling him about my morning and my conversation, but it was still a little fresh and raw and I kinda still wanted it all to myself.

Eventually, we went for a swim to cool off.  As we trudged through the water to the shore to dry off, my sweet man who knew nothing of my morning, looked down and said, “Wow! Look at this stone!  It’s got a perfect cross on it!” and proceeds to fetch it and hand it to me.  Yup.  That happened.  And to top it all off, the cross was in my favorite color.

There is so much to glean from that moment.  It’s so little and so huge at the same time.  How do you possibly explain that story except that I have a God who cares so deeply about my heart that He would begin my day with His love and confirm it entirely His way (not mine) through the loving hands of my husband and give me a little token of love on one of a gajillion stones in the right place at the right time, painted in my favorite color!?

Today, I woke up thanking my God for His gift of love on a cross.  Today marks the day He spent in a tomb after a horrific death and the cruelest rejection.  The Bible says that He (Jesus) “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.”  The joy that was set before Him.

Friends, that joy set before Him was us.  He considered it joy to do anything it would take to offer us a place of grace.  He was brutally beaten and willingly died for me, for you, so that our mess was paid for and covered by His very blood.  A ransom paid.  And the symbol of it for us is an empty cross.  Because He didn’t stay there.  And though there was a tomb, He didn’t stay there either which is what separates our God from any other possible deity.

The proof of His power lies in this symbol of freedom.

Freedom from death.  Freedom from pain.  Freedom from past.

And that’s where I find myself today.  I find myself worshiping at the foot of the cross.

Leaving it all right there at the place of ultimate grace.

And stepping away into freedom.

cross stone 2

Thank You, Jesus.