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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49 for 25 (and some turtles)

My youngest daughter isn’t sure it’s fair.  She thinks that twenty-five years of happiness is reward enough.

But darn it, twenty-five years of happiness is stinking hard work!  Yes, it is most certainly a gift in and of itself, but big ol’ dollops of grace, some serious stubbornness determination, gobs of love sometimes pulled out of nowhere, and best friends deciding to make every effort to remain head-over-heels in love are things worth celebrating.

And did we.

The two of us ventured off to our 49th state last week (yup, only one more to go!), and had the time of our lives. One of my best girlfriends says it’s okay for me to show pictures because it’s inspiring for other folks to see not only is it possible to stay together, but it is possible to thrive together.

This was our first time with an entire week, just the two of us, since our honeymoon.  We were young parents once, and quite happy to wait until *someday when our kids were grown* to begin our travel together. We invested all we had into them and into my husband’s career (he had such a hard time taking time off when he worked for other people due to his intense desire to be the best employee he could be), but now the time is here and right and ours.

tunnels beach

Thanks to the advice of some dear friends who found Eden on the island of Kauai, we got tips and pointers for the best beaches, and soaked it all up for seven perfect days.  We’d wake up early, my sweet man would go get coffee for me, and we’d head out for the day — tasting all the local foods, exploring the tropics by water, land, and air.  He made my dreams come true with a helicopter ride deep into the canyons of the island, and we flew with the doors off and the wind in our hair, and as the little girl sang in my headset about how dreams really do come true somewhere over the rainbow, I wept.  As a little girl and a young mom, I would have never dreamed that I would ever be so lavished upon.  I beheld the breathtaking creation from my flying glass bubble and worshiped a God Who would do this just for me.  All at once, I felt so small, yet so significant that I should find myself in this moment.

We motored around in a little catamaran for half a day, backing into sea caves, and jumping into the cobalt blue waters.

Cave

na pali

Christian got a full view of a breaching whale — quite a miracle two months after their season.  We got massively sunburned and then brown as acorns.  We laughed and best-friended and read novels and spent days at the turquoise beaches, swimming and snorkeling alongside majestic sea turtles.

our snorkeling buddy

our snorkeling buddy

We went to a coffee plantation. We ate fruits we didn’t even know the name of from the farmer’s markets.  We often found ourselves with pineapple juice running down our chins and arms.  We picked and ate bananas fresh from the tree, and took about a gazillion pictures of tropical flowers.  We ate pig from a pit at a luau and more than our fair share of shave ice. We marveled at the shaking hips of dark-haired Hawaiian beauties dancing the hula.

We desperately missed skinny-arm hugs from our grandbabies, and loved being missed by, and missing, our now-old children.  :o)

We came home with our bags too heavy with shells, and bamboo t-shirts, and sarongs, and maracas, and hula skirts, and flowery leis for our sweet family and all reunited with laughter and pictures and much joy.

We experienced so many full-circle moments.  God has such a way of weaving a tapestry of legacy and love and intertwining all of the threads in a life with color and beauty amidst the threads of pain and trials.  Some perspective from a few thousand miles away on a mountainous island and thirty-thousand feet up in the clouds really helps you see some purpose in each of the pieces of the puzzle that make up this lifetime.

We have struggled, we have crawled sometimes, but we have survived.  Like the little sea turtles that make up the 10% that survive from their hatched egg-self to their ancient-eyed, full-grown self, we are proud of ourselves for not getting distracted by the other starry lights that distract from the goal, and purposefully scrambling toward the water with all we’ve had in us and with the most thankful of hearts.

To my love who has lived up to more potential than anyone on this earth had imagined as a husband to me for this quarter of a century, I am grateful for the love with which you lavish me.  I’m thankful for the tough times that grew us, the good times that cemented us, and the fact that somehow, we still haven’t run out of interesting words for each other.  For the times your heart beat with mine, the times it beat for mine, and the times it beat against mine, I thank you.

To our Daddy Who wrote our love story, I am, as always, in awe. What an amazing Author You are.

To those who read these words, I pray nothing more than that you first find your True Love.  The One Who both created your heart and its longings, and holds your tears in a bottle.  If your heart is searching for its mate, be sure your Daddy knows and has the absolute best in store for you.  I can attest, that dreams really do come true.

 

yes, it's a thing

yes, it’s a thing

hula dancers

hula dancers

luau

candlelight dinner with a view thanks to a dear friend

candlelight dinner with a view thanks to a dear friend

dressed for dinner (finally out of our swimsuits)

dressed for dinner (finally out of our swimsuits)

yeah. that hurt.

yeah. that hurt.

luau

luau

flowers

eating poke (raw ahi tuna)

eating poke (raw ahi tuna)

the roosters are everywhere there. even starbucks.

the roosters are everywhere there. even starbucks.

fruits from the farmer's market.

fruits from the farmer’s market.

me in the water

me in the water

coffee tasting at kauai coffee plantation

coffee tasting at kauai coffee plantation

coffee

4 million coffee plants growing us our brew.

4 million coffee plants growing us our brew.

wameia canyon

falls

view

view

shave ice

shave ice

art walk, downtown hanapepe

art walk, downtown hanapepe

heading home...

heading home…