Who Are You When Your Nest Is Empty?

Elisabeth Klein

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Updated Sep 14, 2021
Who Are You When Your Nest Is Empty?
I’m a mother who, after 20 years of hands-on mothering, only kind of has an outlet for mothering. I’m pretty much done and yet also not really quite yet.

I’m feeling weird these days.

So, my kids are gone. Ish. My specific two are away at college. Which basically means just when I’ve gotten kinda used to them being gone, they come home again. And then I kinda get used to them being home, and they leave again. Our general five children are all spread out and are in and out of our lives to various degrees.

So, I’m a mother who, after 20 years of daily, hands-on mothering, only kinda sorta has an outlet for mothering. I’m pretty much done and yet also not really quite yet.

It’s messy and uncomfortable and, to be honest, I don’t like it.

And yet, this IS my current reality for probably another, say, three to six years or so, until they’re all finished with college and out in the world.

But that’s not the only part.

I’m 46. Okay, 46-1/2 to be precise. I don’t want to say middle-aged, not because I hate that word but because that implies I think I’m going to live to be 93 (or even want to).

But I’ve done the things you do in life. Went to college, check. Got married, check. Had babies, check. Raised said babies to young adulthood, check. (Got divorced, check. Got remarried, check.) Kids launched, mostly check.

But I haven’t just done the typical cultural things. I’ve dreamed some big dreams and they have come true. Wrote a book, check times ten or so. Started a speaking career, check. Began a women’s ministry, check. Hired on staff at a church, check. Traveled to a few third-world countries, check. Launched a website, check. Created some e-courses, check. Helped women who are hurting with the comfort I’ve been given, hopefully check (and only by the sweet, sweet grace of Jesus).

I’ve dreamed all my dreams and they have all – for the most part – come to pass. (Yes, yes, I’ve led a charmed life, I know… trust me, I know.)

Okay, yeah, so now what?

Who am I now?

I know who I feel I am:

Lost. Blah. Boring. Bored. Stuck. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Washed up. Dreamt out. Unnecessary. Unneeded. Obsolete. Old. Done.

As of today, after lots of thinking and praying and journaling and reading and asking God "what’s next?" and "please do a new thing in me," I’m underwhelmed to say I’ve got nothing.

So, this is what I’m choosing to do, trying to do at least, and maybe some of these ideas will help you too if you also feel even a little bit of what I’m feeling these days:

Enjoying the present moment. I tend to worry or at least think a lot about how to fix my problems and what-if’s and what’s up ahead. But I am practicing just enjoying the moment I’m in. A walk with a friend or my dog, sitting on the couch with a book, sitting on the couch with my husband, out pickin’ with my husband, or creating an essay for my blog like I am right now. This moment right in front of me is a gift. And it’s mine. And it’s undeserved and the next one isn’t promised.

Being beyond grateful for all the good. I am melancholy. And when I’ve got relational messes or circumstantial upsets in my life, I can sink a bit lower. I had lunch with a friend recently and I had about eight or ten life updates, with only one positive. That’s just life. But I ended by saying that even though all these things aren’t totally great right now, I know that I know that I know how much good there is in my life every single day.

I am alive. I am breathing. I am healthy. I have a husband who loves me. I have children who love me. I have friends who love me. I have work I love. I have a home that is my refuge. Etc. You get the picture. You can probably rattle off a list filled with good things too.

Not filling up the quiet space with distraction and empty-busyness. This one is harder for me. I feel like if I’m not doing something productive, I’m just taking up space, I’m not earning my keep. Though I love to read, I don’t like to read in the middle of the day because it feels like I’m wasting time when I should be, I don’t know, wiping down the floorboards or something. So, I am on my computer almost all of the time. Sometimes that is good and needed and I’m actually getting real productive work-related or life-related things done and sometimes I am just filling up the boredom and quiet with utter distraction. So, I’m working on this one. On trying to bust through the myth that I must fill up every single second with a task.

Using the “little” I have to give now as opposed to waiting for something new and big and exciting to come along. I am no longer in my prime. I have – in a very real sense – run out of things to say.

(Let me explain: I was in a difficult marriage and wrote a couple booksabout it; I went through a divorce and wrote a couple booksabout it; I was a single mom and wrote a bookabout it; I tried dating after divorce and wrote a bookabout it… But I got remarried and have not and probably will not write a book about it. And I am a stepmother and we are living as a blended family and I have not and probably will not write a book about that. My life seasons have run their course as far as my material goes.)

Okay, so back to what I was saying. What I have to give these days seems little to me. In fact, I really resonated with my recent reading of Jesus’ story of the widow giving away her two mites, her only two mites. I feel like all I’ve got is two mites. Small things. I have some time. I have some wisdom. I have some words. I have some love.

And so I am trying to pour out my little into those around me who want it, and that circle seems smaller these days, and maybe that’s okay.

Still asking and waiting and watchingI’m not saying I’m closing up shop. I am willing. I am open. I will do whatever Jesus wants me to do and however he wants me to do it and whenever he wants me to do it. So, I’m still asking and waiting and listening.

And in the meantime, I just keep loving God, loving my husband, loving my kids in new smaller different ways, loving my friends, and I keep walking.

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. (Luke 16:10)

Elisabeth Klein lives with her sweet husband, Richard, in Illinois. Together, they are parents to five children, fifteen through twenty-six. They attend Community Christian Church in Yorkville.  She fills her time with writing, speaking and mentoring women. She has written several books, all of which are available on her website (www.elisabethklein.com). She also offers e-courses and private Facebook groups for women in difficult marriages or those going through divorce. You may contact her at elisabeth@elisabethklein.com.

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