This was the year of the empty nest.
Our fifth and last child graduated from high school and flew off to college. No longer do dancing feet shake the bedroom over the kitchen. No more excuses to make pizza more than once a week. Half the laundry, half the groceries. (I’m tempted to say “half the fun,” too, but that’s not true. Being best friends with my husband means we have no trouble having fun.)
In fact, I’m finding that an empty nest is a nest with room.
Room to include others—like our neighbors from literally miles around that we finally invited to a Neighborhood Christmas Open House. Room to pursue dreams postponed in favor of parenting—like my new freelance writing business I dared to launch at last. Room for long conversations about interests, ideas, and dreams . . .
Endings and Beginnings
So our empty nest signaled both an ending and a beginning. Sure, I grieved the end of my homeschooling career and the absence of our children. Endings like these dredge up memories of other endings, many of which were not nearly so natural or so positive. But even my more painful endings have led to new beginnings of beautiful things. Things I would never have thought to ask for or imagine.
And now one year is ending. What will the new year begin?
Lessons From an Old Year
Business training teaches us to take time to regularly evaluate our strategies based on our outcomes. In other words, take time to figure out what you learned about what worked and what didn’t. Then move forward based on what you learned.
Why? Because without re-evaluation we’ll keep running laps on the same old track instead of actually heading where we want to go.
I am an avid journaller. Are you? I find if I don’t write down what I’m learning, I forget it all. So my method of evaluating what I’ve learned in the last year is to skim through my journals, trolling for tidbits of wisdom that should set my course into the next year. Here’s what I found this year.
New beginnings take strength and stretch-ability.
“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
My journal says that my deepest longing is to be “filled up to all the fullness of God.” That would be a whole lot of “new wine” in me. There needs to be a whole lot of room made for God to continue His sanctifying process. Otherwise, I will be resisting the very thing I say I desire most. (Won’t that mean I desire my comfortable status quo more than Christ-likeness?) I will be a hard, old wineskin ready to crack and burst.
But that’s not what God wants for me. He wants to give me strength for the stretching. How do I know? I found the steps He plans to take to get me to His goal—the fullness of God. Look at Ephesians 3: 16-19 with me. (Emphases mine.)
“ . . .that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory,
to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
Now trace backward up the list, from effects to causes. Do you see what I see? The fullness of God results from being rooted in the love of Christ, which results from Christ dwelling in my heart, which results from being strengthened with power through His Spirit.
He wants to give me strength to stretch, like a new wineskin.
From Thirsty to Expecting Fullness
Last year, my word of the year was “thirsty.” This year, my word is “expectancy.” I expect to see God pour more of His fullness into me, because I trust His Spirit to give me strength for the stretching. With His strength, I can stretch to give Christ more room in me, so I can grow in living from His love. I expect to follow His course through new beginnings that lead to a deeper, fuller life in Him.
Three hundred and sixty-five days from now, what new beginnings will I have stretched toward? I can hardly wait to find out.
What about you?
What endings have you experienced this year? What beginnings might be in store for you?
What lessons have you learned that will shape your new year?
I would honestly love to hear what you’re thinking.
Even if you choose not to add your thoughts to this conversation, I want you to know that I’m glad you were here today. Thanks for reading.