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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Her little hands…

It’s her little hands. They just amaze me. To be honest, I love her little neck the most; there’s nothing quite like a little baby neck, is there? The way it smells, and the tiny-ness of it.
My first granddaughter, Josie has changed my whole life.

Once upon a time, I was the kind of momma that couldn’t share my babies well because I couldn’t stand to miss a moment. They were my whole world, one at a time and collectively. The way they smelled, the way they chattered and hugged me and held my hand. I just simply couldn’t get enough. And I honestly thought that I’d never feel that again.

But, I do love that much again, and it’s amplified because while I get to love her so so much — this time it’s absent of my responsibility. I don’t stare at her and hope we will be able to afford all she needs or wonder if I’m doing it all the right way. I just simply get to love her and make her laugh. And remain in awe of the amazing parenting I see in my daughter and realize I had a part in that.
Okay, before this sounds like this is all about me, I’ll get back to my point.

Her little hands.
When I was the momma, I somehow missed what I’m about to share. Perhaps it was the constant need of me that caused a zombie-like state, but back then I just didn’t have the perspective to notice their little hands.

Josie’s little hands began by being her own worst enemy. When she was born we had to protect her from them as they operated as if by some strange masochistic remote control and scratched her own face and eyeballs to the point of tears. Tiny, beautiful, delicate, claw-like hands whose only capability was to hold the finger of someone she loved.
As she grew, we became amazed when her eyes would connect with something and her little brain told her hands to reach toward it! You could practically see the wheels spinning in that little mind as she so vaguely realized that she could control the tiniest bit of her world.
It wasn’t long until she realized those little hands could effectively be a vehicle for bites of yum to get to her face. How handy!

Today, at 16 precious months, she can do a myriad of things with those beauties. She can rip apart Easter window clings in no time flat! She can almost open a child-proof baby gate! She can color on a wall quite brilliantly! She can oh-so-gently stroke her Momma’s face to show so much love that just waited all this time to come out. She can reach for my hand when a step is coming, knowing she needs a little help. She can finally pet Lily the dog (her partner in crime) quite lovingly and then drop her all of the good food that was supposed to be her dinner.

How she’s grown and changed! From hands that hurt to hands that share and love and create.

Makes me wonder about the power my hands have. I have had these same hands within my control for decades and though they are looking a bit tired these days, they serve me quite well.
They have loved and served and swatted and written words and made music and held and soothed and nourished and wiped many a tear, both my own and others’.

I think back to my parents’ hands. I know exactly what they look like even after all these years absent. I remember wanting so badly to hold my daddy’s hand, but it wasn’t very available. Though I knew both of their hands well and though they were hands that worked hard to provide me with food and a place in which to live, they weren’t hands of love.

I have certainly experienced hands of love, however. My father-in-law once grabbed my hand safely in his when we arrived at his home far from ours. He held it all the way from our vehicle to his door and called me “Sweetheart.” Still makes me cry.

I sat in a hospital room with a very ill husband and my mother-in-law wiped my tears and held me close.
Those are hands of love.

A beautiful woman I know hugged me once when I was dealing with one of the heaviest issues of my heart and her hands were like the very hands of Jesus — healing my heart-wounds.

A friend of my heart held my hand in the back row at the funeral of one I recently loved dearly. And another friend provided both my children and me food in a desperate time of need. You just cannot put a value to that kind of love.

My sweet man and his hands have literally ministered to my heart and rubbed away stress-pain and held mine through moments of trauma and sheer joy. His hands were the first love-hands I ever knew.

The hands of my babies, though stretched out some, have never changed. Except now, they serve me and reach for me and see me and validate me.

It’s a circle too beautiful for words.

We hold so much power within these tools at the end of our arms. It’s an awareness, isn’t it?

How to use them to love.
How to leave an imprint that matters.

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