“What are you going to do with an empty nest?”
“Will you downsize?”
“The house will be so quiet now!”
“You are going to miss your kids…”
The day was fast approaching when a new season would begin for my husband, our daughter, and me. Friends had shared their genuine concern.
When I scheduled a trip to Michigan the weekend before we were to move Tori into her first dorm room, I wondered if my decision was indulgent. “What if she doesn’t have all she needs?” “Should I stay just in case?” “Is wanting to connect with Victor and enjoy time with dear friends selfish?”
The voices of doubt threatened to kill the trip. Creating space to enjoy love and connection often fuels a tug of war in my brain: my need for care versus caring for the needs of others. I scheduled the trip anyway.
It is hard to believe just two weeks ago I sat on a bench overlooking Lake Michigan, watching and listening as white-capped waves crashed against the rocks. The lake looked like it was raging, and yet it was so vibrantly alive. My eyes caught the movement of a small wasp hovering above the bushes, its yellow-and-black body highlighted by the white of the waves behind it. The small, the big, and the wild—I took it all in.
“The lake is angry today,” observed Mary Jane as she welcomed Victor and me to her home. We walked through her back door, and she said, “I’ve made breakfast if you’d like some.” I noticed the variety of food atop her kitchen counter and the details of her care and hospitality. Abundant love and kindness for my heart to take in.
“What happened to the lake?” I asked, seeking an answer for the abrupt change. Just the day before, the lake had been calm and peaceful. “This is not typical and usually doesn’t happen until November,” she replied. I felt privileged, as if God had changed His calendar of events to bring a view of his power and awe into my world.
After breakfast John, Mary Jane’s husband, drove us around the beach and into town, a generous offering considering the Blueberry Festival was in full swing and parking hard to come by. We stopped for delicious drinks and skewers holding small meals, and afterwards, we walked together to the nostalgic red lighthouse at the end of the pier. Huge waves crashed up and over a retaining pier across the channel, nearly capsizing a “pirate boat” full of people. Relieved, I watched as the captain steered the leaning ship through the waves and into the safety of the channel.
The lake looked even more wild and angry than it had that morning.
Soon it was time to go. As we navigated our way back to the car, Victor stopped to take a picture of a young girl with blueberry pie all over her face. She had won second place in a pie eating contest. Her innocence was delightful.
The weekend was full of spaces and places of delight, including real conversations that nourished my soul.
The last morning of our trip arrived. While sharing conversation over coffee, Victor read aloud the news of the riots in North Carolina. Like the waves in Lake Michigan, anger began crashing abruptly into my world. The anger began to dissipate as I started putting words to my tender feelings and longings for God’s justice. I believe righteous anger over the injustices of our world is appropriate. But I also have learned through recovery that anger over injustice, if left unattended, can supply fuel for murderous contempt.
Understanding of my contempt came as I began sharing my story and connecting with the innocent and tender heart of the little girl I was before betrayal left me unprotected and I began using anger as a tool for survival. Today when my contempt flares (because it still does), I can choose to react in anger or respond with vulnerability.
As I move into this “empty nest” season, I will do so knowing I can choose to listen and stay connected to love.
I can choose to embrace all the big, little, and wild ways God invites me to fight for justice on behalf of others.
When I fail, I can stand with pie on my face knowing that God will receive me as I repent and receive his kindness.
I wonder…Do you ever have pie on your face? Does it happen when the wave of injustice comes crashing into your world? What if you chose to remain open to the goodness of your heart and receive the kindness God so freely gives?
Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.