Pause. Pray. Ponder. (Or...Finding The Way Back To My Right Mind!)

It's been a long time since we had back to school days!
It's been several years since I experienced kids leaving home for college or work, but with all the FB posts of pictures and parents sharing both woes and excitement, it's got me thinking back to my early years of being an empty nester. I've said before that I was prepared to miss my kids and figured I would feel sad and even a little lost for awhile. I was surprised, though, by some other feelings and struggles that showed up along the way.

One of the hardest things for me in those first years was accepting and truly appreciating the role that other people would naturally play in my adult children's lives. Funny enough, while Nick and Kati lived at home, I encouraged their relationships with other adults and especially with their teen ministry leaders.

I understood that they needed other influences in their lives and that they needed safe people to confide in and learn from that were not mom and dad. I welcomed and was very grateful for any input and attention they received. I accepted that Tom and I could never give them everything they needed, that they would flourish best and live most victoriously by gathering around them many advisers as God directs us in Proverbs.

But some switch flipped inside me after they left.

All of a sudden I found it hard to trust. I felt a myriad of emotions.

I was fearful of them getting "bad" advise and making "bad" decisions.

I was jealous of the relationships they were building that didn't include me.

It occurred to me that other people might usurp the role of main influencer in their lives and that left me feeling insecure and unsure of my role in their lives.

While I knew what I was thinking needed to change, I was also stumped by my reactions. That transition exposed my controlling nature and, yes, a pretty deep pride as well. The root of it, though, was a lack of faith and trust in God's hand in my children's lives.

God was taking me to new levels of surrender that at first I was unwilling to go.

On top of it all, I was embarrassed to admit what was really going on inside.

Here I was, an elder's wife, struggling often and sometimes losing those emotional battles. Me. The woman who taught classes about untying the apron strings and letting them go. The woman who confidently told her friends how much she was looking forward to special time alone with Tom again!
The one who expected to take advantage of all the freedom and extra time that came with an empty nest.

I knew we were raising our kids to leave and be independent and live lives that would be separate from Tom and I. I understood it intellectually, but my heart had a hard time catching up. I prayed often about getting them ready and God graciously answered that prayer. I guess I should have prayed more about getting mysef ready!

How many times over the years had I counseled other women as they went through similar transitions? Yet here I was, stuck in a mess of emotions and resisting the advice I had sagely meted out to others.

Speaking of being an elder's wife...That blessing revealed another unexpected struggle for me. It took me down a road of entitlement I hadn't anticipated. In my heart I expected certain things of the ministries my kids moved to. As hard as it is to admit, I expected a bit of special treatment and "looking after."

There is just so much wrong with that way of thinking! It would have been unhealthy for my kids on so many levels! Each of us has to make our own way in life. Each of us has to figure out how to be in the world and not of the world. They needed the freedom to explore life and build their own reputations.

Don't get me wrong - both my kids loved their experiences after leaving home. This is a disection of my heart, not of any one else. I know that every parent believes their children are smart and special and amazing and should be treated as such. And I know that the book of James warns me rather strongly against showing favoritism. I know my attitude was wrong. And maybe I'm the only mom who has struggled with such thoughts...

It would be so pleasant to just wrap everything up in a nice package, but unfortunately life isn't always a nice little package. Life is messy and we often struggle to find our way through to the other side of transitions. That road is sometimes paved with realizations of how far we are from thinking and loving like Jesus.

My road may look different than yours. Every parent has to find their way after the kids leave home. Some of us find it easier than others. I was comforted on my journey when another mom told me she "couldn't believe how much God was working on her after her kids left home."  Her struggles were different, but it helped to hear I wasn't alone.

When my friend told me her story it helped me find the courage to surrender. It helped me to change and find my way back to living in my right mind. Now I can share my story and maybe help another parent. Maybe we share similar struggles.

There are other parts to this journey I will probably write about. Some of the bends in the road have been fascinating. Those twists include things like dating and matters of opinion and finding the faith and confidence to humbly submit when you disagree. For now, let's go back to the title of this story. Pause. Pray. Ponder.

Pause. I had to learn to stop in my tracks and pray about everything I was feeling and the weird and wacky (sinful) thoughts that tried to overtake me. Instead of reacting and acting on my impulses to control and "protect," I had to reason through my fears and find the right answers in the Bible. I'm so thankful God gives me a way out of my temptations and doesn't leave me hopeless!

"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." (Psalm 25:4-5)

Pray. No matter what I faced God was right there with me. He already knew my heart and it didn't scare him. He loved me enough to show me where I was and helped me get to the other side.

"What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is with us whenever we pray to him?" (Deuteronomy 4:7)

Ponder. Who else could I trust with the treasure of my children but God alone? God created them and loves them even more than I do. I have given and gotten "bad" advise over the years. I'm still faithful and have learned great lessons. God is big enough to meet the needs of my children. Taking the time to reason and think about truth helped me grab the irrational thoughts and lay my fears at God's feet.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens. They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you (and your children) are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"" (Luke 12:22-26, emphasis added).

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