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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Going Home

With no warning, we went back.  I can’t say back home, because it is no longer our home, but back to what was always home until we moved just a few short months ago.  I’m not sure if it was the suddenness of being in the place to which we had said goodbye, the seeing of things once so familiar, or the absolute culture shock from where we now live — most likely a combination of these — that was so jarring to our minds.

Christian and I left a day after we heard the news that my dear friend’s grandma to whom she has been caregiver for many years, was quickly passing from this world to the next.  Needing to see my friend’s face and needing to help in any small way drove us to make the journey back.  Our kids opted to stay home and care for things here since it wouldn’t be the kind of trip for visiting and such.

We drove all day to arrive in the evening in the place we had always known as home.  But now, it looked different with the new perspective we have.  The place in which we now live has very little traffic, no suburbia, and very few chain stores or restaurants.  Heck, the nearest Walgreens is almost two hours away.  Hustle and bustle are foreigners here.  But there — everything is within reach.  I thought I had missed some of that.  Turns out, I hadn’t.  It felt like so much stuff — chaos and noise and folks so busy running here and there that they can’t really see the folks around them.  I know, I know.  I hear it in myself.  I sound like Sasquatch coming out of the woods.  It did feel a bit like that.

We’ve been gone this long before.  Like my dear friend pointed out, this is how long we were on our RV trip.  And even when we were baby snowbirds we were gone quite some time.  But then, we were wanderers and returning was coming home.  This time was backwards and upside down in our minds.

“I think what you notice most when you haven’t been home in a while is how much the trees have grown around your memories.” — Mitch Albom

We stayed just a couple days with a day of travel added on to each end.  I got precious stolen moments with my friend in the midst of this journey upon which she finds herself.  I’m so very proud of her as she continues to pour out love in a way that is both precious and heart-wrenching.  In the quiet hospital room, she whispered words of love, and remained ever-present, and made sure the Gaithers sang GG home.

And there’s that word again — home.  For GG, I know of  a few of the places that she called home.  The southern home in which she grew up and lends cadence to her words, West Michigan where she spent her married years, and then in her granddaughter’s home where she thoroughly enjoyed watching her great-grandchildren live and play.  Now, however, she got to really go to the home she longed for.  At 96, she will get to meet her mother that she only knew for 6 short months.  At 96 she begins again with her beloved Jesus — no longer hampered by the results of  life and its living.  Can you just imagine what her homecoming felt like?

“…No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it.  No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” — 1 Corinthians 2:9

Having done all we could, we began our journey back.  Back to our children and our pets.  Back to a leaky drainfield pipe and wood to collect for winter.  Back to the vistas and views  of a gazillion stars and the absolute hush of the woods.

“Does it feel like home yet?” my husband asked me about halfway here.  It does.  I surprise myself by longing for it.  My heart has found its new place.  From being the one of us who didn’t want to leave her house for so long to now being the one who feels settled was a pleasant surprise.  I asked him the same.  He’s getting there.  As we got closer and closer, it felt more familiar — and as our kids welcomed us back, I’m absolutely sure there is no longer a question.

This is it.  This is where we establish a residence for our hearts and our happiness and the unity of our family.  It’s where a legacy begins. Here, families will begin and live out their own love.  Hearts and tummies will be nourished as we laugh and share around a common table.  This is our home.

altar

“‘I wonder if it will be — can be — any more beautiful than this,’ murmured Anne, looking around her with the loving, enraptured eyes of those to whom ‘home’ must always be the loveliest spot in the world, no matter what fairer lands may lie under alien stars.” –L.M.Montgomery