As I awoke this morning I realized that it is still raining! “Great,” I think.
This is a pretty big deal. You see, here in Southern California we have been in a drought season for some time now, so this watering is very needed.
“Thanks Lord,” I pray as I sit here watching it come down. I’m thinking about how pretty the rain drops are, as the water glistens from the bit of sun shining on the bright green leaves, of the tree outside my window. Next my prayers to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are for my relief from the drought I feel in my soul.
The Merriman Dictionary terms drought as “an excess period of dryness,” even one that can cause extensive damage. It is also said to be “a prolonged or chronic shortage or lack of something expected or desired.”
Hum?! Dried up is very much how I’d define how I feel right now. I also feel very damaged as well. I feel as if I’m out in one of our deserts here in California. Alone and parched. I need some refreshment for my soul.
You see, I am officially and probably forever an “empty nester.”
I’ve decided the definition for the term “empty nester,” must be similar to a desert drought. At least that is how it feels to be one. Dry, empty and void of life.
Walking out to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee, I stop and stare into the room that used to be colorful and filled with the evidence of life. And it hits me that it really is empty. Sure there are signs someone used to live there. There are nail holes, blue sticky gook where the posters hung and a few small items that had been left.
You see, my youngest daughter, lived the past 7 plus years of her life there in that room and others just like it.
I’ve always wanted this time to come for Alyssa. And I knew this time would come for us as well. The day Alyssa would move out our home. That the time would come when she’d finally be ready to step into a life of her own; on her own.
That she’d leave us alone.
Recently I’ve had so many mixed emotions. Ups and downs over her leaving. One minute I am so excited for her and in the next the gloom roles in like a foggy day and I’m left feeling all alone in my sadness.
I find myself not thinking about her at all and then breaking down in tears as I notice her empty closet. Or the space at the kitchen counter where she’d join us for a quick dinner before running off to work or church. Then there’s that spot on my bed where she’d sit and tell me about the latest “cute” boy she met or the wacky customer she had at work. Then the tears start flowing again. Or maybe it’s a TV show that we both watched together. Or that I’d taped for her is no more to be saved. And there is no more picking out Mangoes at the farmers market for her either.
Alyssa’s hearts desire had always been to meet the man she’s been writing to in her ” to my husband” journals for many years. The man she doesn’t know yet, but knows God has for her. To fall in love and get married to this forever love. But now at age twenty-seven her man is still out there somewhere waiting for her and she for he. And her prolonged desire, as the second definition of drought states, has still not come to fruition.
For either of us.
You see, this was something I’d always dreamed would happen while she still lived at home. That we’d experience her special day the same way I did with her sister and brother. I dreamed of sharing this time of her falling in love with the man that God has for her. All the fun we would have sitting up late talking about him and perusing all her wedding magazines. Making plans and tasting cake. Then as time went on I’d be there as she got ready for the day she’d always dreamed of. That she’d ride off and out from under our protective wings in the arms of her forever love.
But this is not to be.
That is not how she left us.
I praise my God and the Father of my soul that like other parents of children that either were taken away for some reason or died, Alyssa left of her own accord. She left our home healthy, happy and ready to take on the world! Ready for a whole new beginning in a new place. Her own place. Alyssa flew out of our nest to feather her own in Nashville Tennessee.
I don’t remember having this drought kind of feeling when she was away at college.
Of course she was only a few towns over and we saw her regularly when we went to watch her Basketball games. She was close by. She came and she went and all was well.
Until it wasn’t!
Through the years since Alyssa was fifteen years old she has battled a mental illness called Bi-Polar and eventually 7 and a half years ago she had to come back home to live. There were times we thought she might never lead the normal life of a vivacious and sane young woman. But God is beyond amazing and He has allowed her to be the woman she has always wanted to be. Now she’s living life to the fullest!
My Alyssa is now on her own and so am I.
The busyness of the planning for her move. The research. And the legwork I did for her is over.
She’s settled, she’s busy with work and making new friends. She’s met a “cute” boy that’s invited her to church. She’s even loving the soft snow that falls there in Tennessee. Who’dathunk? A Cali girl enjoying scrapping ice off her car!
I have heard it said that whether a child actually dies or simply leaves home for good, that the emotional feelings are the same. I believe it. It still hurts a month later.
While Alyssa’s new life away from Mom and Dad isn’t exactly the way we’d envisioned it, her days of drought are ending. And it feels like mine have just begun.
Her dream of life on her own is now being watered by the excitement of new experiences and friendships.
She’s still writing her letters to her future husband, just in a new nest still believing he’ll soon walk through some door one day. I pray he will. I believe he will.
Life was a constant buzz of busyness getting Alyssa ready to move away. But now it’s not. Like a heavy storm, when it ends here in California, I am left wanting it to still be raining. To have her still here in the midst of what was.
I’ve decided that I am in mourning. I am grieving being Alyssa’s every-day-hands-on-kind-of-parent. It’s a dry desert kind of place in my heart. This space that caring and helping her daily held. But I think the sadness has finally been replaced by acceptance now that she is really gone. But where does an everyday hands on mother go from here? What do I do with the new found time I have, not doing for her anymore?
The depth of this pain I’ve been experiencing is similar to the desperation I felt when we first heard Alyssa’s diagnosis. I fought the truth and the facts of this new found reality. But this time I am not really desperate for the diagnosis to be different, just for the pain of this new life I have without her to stop. My eyes nor my husband can take it any longer. I want and I need to feel alive again. And I don’t think staying in bed and crying all day is what Alyssa would want for me either.
I thought about it one day and realized she certainly wasn’t sitting around in a pool of tears and lonliness. So I begged God to show me, “What is next?” And because He is so faithful He’s answered me. I believe the Lord is calling to me to spend this time I now have with Him. He’s invited me to come and spend this desert experience with Him. In His Word He tells us that He will never leave me nor forsake me and will always be by my side. I believe Him, so I think I’ll take Him up on His invitation. Sounds good. Some slow and quiet time just Jesus and me.
Time to cry and remember, but also to regroup and recharge. Time to spend time in His Word, time to journal and to pray. I guess I need it. I guess I’ll take it.
It’s strange though. I feel like I’m in this place of prolonged waiting too; although she really hasn’t been gone that long. It’s strange how long the days are with nothing to do. I used to crave these slow empty kind of days, but now that I’m in this space in time I’m wanting to feel alive again. Feel like I have a purpose. Feel the joy that comes from whatever that purpose is again.
Jesus spent forty days alone with the Father when He was in the desert, so I guess I shouldn’t hope for my time to be any less or anticipate the length of time this grieving thing may take. So I’ll patiently try to be at peace with the necessary time this process takes. And then I guess I’ll move on. But move on to what I’m not sure yet.
But I am sure of this. God will reveal to me what His purpose is for me when the time is right. I know all things are best served in His time not mine, so I’m ok with the waiting.
And I am sure Alyssa is fine. Is happy. Is wanting me to be happy again.
So until the desert flowers bloom for me in my new life whatever that’s to be, I’ll watch the taped show of the Bachelor with Jesus by my side. He and I will sit together on my bed and He’ll speak to me of the wonders of His great love. And as I shop He and I will converse about what avacados to choose. And then I’ll FaceTime with Alyssa about it all!
You see, no matter where my children are. No matter where your children are. The Lord will always be there right beside us to fill that void they left. To help us re-feather those nests. To give us a new purpose in the life He created us to live.
There is more He has for me. There is life beyond my children. Beyond my daughter. Wow! Did I say that?
Maybe I am really moving on through this process! Maybe I’m almost ready for what ever it is that God has for me beyond being a mother!
But for now I’ll stay right where I am and watch the rain knowing that God’s love is still watering that dry and dusty spot of loneliness. And as I wait for the spring of my new life as an empty nester:
“It is well with my soul.”