Hey Guys, I'm back! We finally made it home from our long, life-changing trip. We spent 4 months wishing we were in our bed in our little home and here we are. I have to say, it is as awesome as I remembered. There truly is no place like home. I've heard it said that home is where your family is and for the most part that's true but there are exceptions.
We're home now, here in out cozy little house on the mission field and all seems right, except for the fact that just two of us live in this house now. We are officially empty-nesters. You know what's so strange is that when our kids were babies we often thought about what it would be like to be just us again. How our day would be so different and would flow at our pace, how we'd have tons of time for just us, and how we'd lay around in each other's arms all day. What's crazy is that I never thought it would come this soon. It seems like yesterday we arrived here in Croatia with 3 little ones and now we sit here in Croatia with 3 grown children that live 5,735 miles away. Life has flown by and now we are empty-nesters.
I love the note on the definition of empty nest below.
I have learned a lot my first week of life in an empty nest. Coming home to an empty house is an eye-opening experience for sure. Here are some of my observations from my first week as an empty-nester.
1. Quiet is not necessarily a good thing.
We have good missionary friends who have 13 children, yes, I said 13. Anyhoo, when we would go see them back in the day, I was always amazed at how quiet their home was. I mean really, 13 kids? That place should have been a mad-house but it wasn't. It was peaceful and quiet. On the other end of the spectrum was our house. We had a whopping 3 children and it usually sounded like we had 13. We have two boys now 23 and 20 and a sweet little girl who is 18. When they were little they were constantly on the go. They were running and hiding, laughing or crying but there was always noise. I used to pine for quiet and peace and now, well, I have lots of quiet and peace and to be honest, I'm pretty sick of it. I seriously miss the laughing and even arguing that was commonplace around here. Our daughter Hannah rose every morning (EVERY MORNING!) singing. She started as soon as she could talk and she never stopped. She sang from the time she woke till she fell asleep. Can I tell you the truth? I know you're going to think I'm a bad mom but I had to tell her often, "Please Hannah, just a little while with no singing, please!" Wow, how the tables are turned. I would love to wake up to her singing in the kitchen or playing an instrument. I have realized, quiet is not necessarily a good thing.
2. When I clean something it magically stays clean till we mess it up.
Take hope dear sister, there will come a day when your cleaning will no longer be in vain. It's amazing how much time I save not cleaning and doing laundry. It's a magical and very freeing fact of being an empty-nester.
3. I am so thankful for a solid, loving relationship with my husband.
I have always heard about couples falling apart after their children leave the home and what a danger that is to the new empty nest but I can honestly say that somewhere along the way we did something right. I love my husband with all my heart but I also really really like him. He's not just the man I'm married to he is really my very best friend. There is nothing he doesn't know about me. We sit for hours just talking at night and he thrills me
as much more than he did when we first married 24 years ago. I love his face and could listen to him laugh for hours. He is my heart's desire and fulfills all my needs. Hold on a second, don't think that this just happened, it didn't. We worked hard at preferring one another before ourselves. It's taken years to get to this Utopia but it's possible. This #3 is vital for the success of the empty-nest. If you don't have that sort of relationship with your husband then you need to start now cultivating it. You may feel like your empty-nest is way far in the future and you have time but you'll be surprised how fast it comes, I was.
4. Our children did more than I remember.
We were sitting on the patio after a long day and I remembered the clothes needed to come in from the line and my first instinct was to call Hannah. Then the other day while cleaning up after dinner it hit me that I had double the work now that my girl is gone. Johnny isn't loving being the sole man in the house. It's tough when a half meter of snow falls and he's the only one here to shovel it, the fire wood needs to be stacked or when the grass needs cutting. That's man's work and well he's the only man here now. Our children did a lot more than we remembered.
5. Empty bedrooms are both blessing and curse.
When our middle son left to go to college in the States we gave his bedroom to our daughter and then I took her room and made it my office/sewing room. 4 short months later we moved to a much smaller place and all my goodies went into boxes in the garage. Since then I've dreamed of using our daughter's room after she left for my little office and here I am with an empty room ready for whatever I choose. The crazy thing is that I can't stand the door to be open. The first couple days I would shut it and not even think about it but then I realized that it seriously bothered me to see her room empty. I guess empty rooms are a blessing and a curse.
6. I only have to run my dishwasher twice a week!
I'm not kidding. I think I ran the thing daily before and sometimes twice! I think the price of water should probably go down shortly now that I only have to run my dishwasher twice a week.
7. No need to cover my dining chair upholstery when there are no kids in the house.
I got smart, or lazy early on and covered my dining chairs with clear plastic. Yes, I know it's tacky but recovering them every year was getting seriously old. I guess since Johnny and I are somewhat neat eaters there's no need to cover my dining chair upholstery and more.
8. The end of 20 years of teaching home school is......Ah-mazing!!
When I was a child and my friends and I would play school they never had to worry about me wanting to be the teacher, no, I always wanted to be the
bad *ahem* high-strung child in the class. I have to admit this and I know there are going to be many gasps but I hated home schooling! There I said it. I know you guys love the opportunity to teach your children and you savor every morsel of intellect you can share with them but I did not enjoy home-schooling. I mean, don't get me wrong I did my best but I just thank the good Lord above for giving me smart kids. Now that it's over, I can say, it's Ah-mazing! As I read everyone's "first day of school" posts and see all your photos of your adorable little ones with their books and new clothes I can only think.....Praise the Lord I'm finished!! Think what you will but the end of 20 years of schooling is Ah-mazing!
9. Freedom is awesome!
Okay this is a biggie! Have you ever heard people say, "I wish I knew then what I know now."? Well we are there. We are to the point in our marriage that we don't fight anymore and when we do they are quickly resolved. We are comfortable in our skin and secure with what the other thinks about our body. We love being in each other's company; I like him and he likes me. We love going to town for coffee and just sitting and watching people pass. We like not having a chaperon. We make our own curfew. I am realizing after 23 years of being parents and being controlled (in a good way) by the well-being of our children, that freedom is awesome!!
10. I'm not as strong as I thought but that doesn't mean that I'm weak.
I grew up in a very turbulent home. Neither of my parents were Christians and there was a lot going on that should not have been. We moved every 3-6 months of my life until I left home at 17. Life was crazy and sometimes all I could do was just buck up and roll with the punches. I learned to stand strait and deal with whatever I had to at that moment. I was molded by my childhood to dig-in and stand strong when times were hard and that has stuck with me through the years. It has enabled me to stand here on the mission when times were really tough and I'm thankful for that. On the other hand it has always made me see emotion as weakness. I am realizing that I am not made of stone. God gave us emotions for a reason and emotions in themselves are not a sign of weakness. Only when we let our emotions control us do they become a problem.
I've shed more tears through this whole empty-nest thing than I thought I would. I hid them in the beginning and felt ashamed but now I know what I always knew, emotions are from God and for our good. I know now that there is "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;". I may not be as strong as I thought I was but that doesn't mean I'm weak.
So there they are, ten of the many things I've learned this first week of living in our empty-nest. Life is living and living means changing. Our home has changed and I'm thankful for this new stage in life. It's already been tons of fun. It's kinda like being newlyweds again and there's very little chance of the little birdies returning to the nest, being 5,735 miles away has it's benefits!