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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Put your behind in your past…

At least that’s what Pumbaa said.

Man, I sure know a few of us that need to turn our heads forward sometimes.  I honestly wonder how we get around at all with our eyes firmly fixed on what is behind! You’ll notice that I am including myself in the mix.  It’s a pattern I can quickly fall into if I’m not careful.  It’s the pain.  It’s always what hurts that keeps us turned the wrong way.

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We have a ridiculously fat, old cat named Rhetta.  She is embarrassingly large — so large, in fact, that she can no longer wash her own back and has mats that form in her fur.  We call them dreads so as not to make her feel ashamed.  We feed each of our cats the same amount of food per day.  Rhetta, however, is sneaky and discovered the dog food years ago, and helped herself a bit too often.  She is also scared of everything.  She’s been kind of a nasty personality for years now.  You just never know when you’ll get bitten — even if she seems pleasant.  She HATES the other pets and prefers her dark, little corner of the world where she hides and growls and spits at anyone who gets too close.  We think the addition of each pet and each life change (including the 12 hour drive to a new home a few years ago) really messed with her.  She just seems broken.  We just love her and shave her back now and then and try to get her through.  Sad, isn’t it?  She just can’t step out of what hurt her into enjoying even a little bit of life.

I look around and realize we all have things that scarred and tried to break us.  Tricky mommy and daddy issues, folks who promised to love us and didn’t follow through, physical and emotional abuse, folks who pointed out our flaws and created ugly thoughts that seem to stay on repeat, the loss of someone we loved deeply, insecurity…this list could go on ad infinitum.

No one is immune.  But some have found a way to move on.  Have you noticed that?  Some folks seem to take it stride or heal faster or something.

As I’ve looked around with this in mind, I realize that folks tend to use their pain to either justify their behavior or as a catalyst to change.  Yeah, that’s tough stuff, but if we’re being honest, we know it’s true.  Either we repeat patterns or we break the chains.

I have cross-country skied since I was three years old.  It has always been just for fun and I’m too out of shape now to want to let anyone see me trudge/glide along.  I had stopped for decades and recently came back to it thanks to my kids and their gift of equipment.  Then some stupid health stuff gave me excuses to sit instead of ski.  My husband got me out the other day and in the middle of a winter weather advisory, we went for a walk/ski together.  We got about 16 inches of fresh snow that day.  The plows couldn’t keep up, and since we live in the middle of absolute nowhere that was no surprise.  Our area is mountainous.  I was on the last day of one of the worst colds I’ve ever had and had been coughing ridiculously for days.  Perfect set-up to get back into things.  Haha.

A half mile in, huffing and puffing, I had a decision to make.  I could turn around and go home (which sounded mighty good).  Or, I could commit to the next three legs of equal length and make *the square* which would bring me back to my driveway.  The square consists of huge inclines and I was already sucking some serious wind.  But darn it, I wanted to have proven it to myself that I could do it.  So I committed.unblazed trail

I've got this

halfway

{I had to document it with photos because I could just feel my thoughts brewing as my lungs burned!}

This journey we are on is daunting!  Pitfalls and mountains and the overwhelming-ness of it all can make us just want to go back to somewhere safe and easy!  Sometimes, we gloss over the pain of our past and live there emotionally just to not have to face what is in our front view!  Often, it’s just too hard to breathe where the path hasn’t been broken for us, and we quit and take off our gear and camp out.  I get it!  I’ve done it!

But the past has passed!!!  It’s just our catalyst to a great story!  It’s not a dwelling place or a camp or a place we even want to stay!  The mystery, the beauty is in the new trail!

The triumph is in only the glance back where we see our tracks and rejoice in the accomplishment!  When we see that there was always at least One Who walked alongside us, cheering us on!  When we get a new story — a renewed sense of victory and hope.

a glance back

No one wants to continue to hear my sad stories.  I have a million.  They’re getting old though, and it feels just like stench at this point.  Those stories are just my stepping stones into who I stepped up to be.  Yes, they hurt, but I worked hard to survive and I am determined to look forward to the new, unblazed, fresh and beautiful path into who I am now — despite and because of those obstacles!

I glance back only to be thankful for how far I’ve come.  I refuse to trip over them any longer.

Anyone with me?