My twin boys’ bags were packed. College supplies were stacked next to the door. Colorful multipacks of Gatorade and snacks were organized and boxed up. Laptops and coffee makers were carefully stowed in the car.
At breakfast, I went over every possible thing they might ever need to know for college. Again.
Strangely, the boys ate very quickly and seemed eager to get on the road.
My last two children were heading off to college, leaving the nest, leaving me. The August day was hot, but inside my heart felt cold and fragile. Two decades of day-to-day mothering came to a screeching halt the moment they pulled out of the drive. My nest was empty, except for a few leftover “feathers”: football cleats, fishing rods and faded t-shirts.
Emptiness moved in right after they left. My first trip to the grocery store was actually quite painful. I didn’t know not buying their favorite foods would even affect me. Oddly, my cheaper grocery bill caused tears in the checkout line, instead of joy. Change often comes with a surprising sting. I had been a 24/7 mother for…almost my whole life, it seemed, and I really didn’t want to change. I wanted my life to stay exactly the same.
About that time, a pair of doves built a nest on my trellis. I could walk out on my porch at any hour, and find the mother dutifully sitting on the nest.
A Real Nest That Mirrored My Own
At first, the mother dove sat isolated, giving the eggs constant warmth. Every so often, she and her mate emitted a hushed coo. When the babies hatched, the nest hummed with activity. The parents worked constantly to feed the hungry chicks.
Now they cooed loudly over their nest, showing their pride. Their full nest seemed to make them feel alive, totally engaged in the cycle of life. The babies grew seemingly by the hour. Soon, the nest became so overcrowded, the birds had to hop onto the trellis. They ate great amounts and fluttered and preened their new wings. They were never still.
Until moving day…
One morning, the nest sat quiet and empty; the job was done. They had all moved on, not just the chicks I noticed, but the parents as well. Like the birds, God designed both children and parents to grow, spread our wings and fly. Childhood is supposed to end–this is life’s natural order (even though it feels pretty unnatural).
Beyond the Nest
The doves showed me that flying beyond the nest is so much better than trying to stay in it. At some point, the nest just becomes too small–both for children and for parents. Remaining in “nest mode” after the children leave only creates problems. That’s because God designed nests to be temporary, not permanent. Hovering over my grown children only thwarts their growth or pushes them further away. As they transition, I must, too.
Solomon explains life transitions this way: “For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven.” (Ecc. 3:1, VOICE)
Once our “nesting” time is past, it’s just not right anymore. Trying to keep things the same only causes our lives to become stagnant and impure. Embracing the new season enables us to grow and learn new things. Helen Keller said:
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
After my children left, I finally decided I didn’t want to long for closed doors anymore; I wanted to open new ones. That meant I had to stop pining away for the past and accept that my life had changed. I had to create a new routine, stretch, grow and even take some risks.
God sent the birds my way to show me the importance of moving on. Eventually, He helped me mentally leave my nest behind. Since then, I’ve started a new writing career, taken classes and done some traveling. Accepting change was painful, but once I did, it’s actually been exciting. I’ve met the most interesting people and learned to do a lot of new things.
You may be facing an empty nest for the first time, right now. Maybe your kids recently boxed up their things and moved on to college, a new career, or marriage. You might be feeling a little lost. You may be struggling to accept change or longing for doors that are now closed.
Perhaps it’s time for you to stop holding on to the past.
Remember, if God cares for the birds, then He cares for and loves you so much more. God has more for you, if you are willing to fly on. Draw closer to Him as you work through change. He can teach you how to fly beyond the past and into a whole new season.
Be willing to fly. Then go and encourage others to fly, too. God plans good things for His own–in this life and in the next. One day in the future, as you soar effortlessly in your new season, you’ll suddenly realize that change can be one of God’s greatest blessings.
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Beautifully written May! And so true. Thank you for your insight.
This can be applied to many different types of loss. Thank you May for your precious words! They were a great encouragement to me❤️
I’m glad this encouraged you, Kim. I’ve struggled with change for most of my life, but I am trying to change that (ha). Thank you for sharing my post–hoping it will bless others as they send their children off to school and deal with other life changes. Embrace your new season!
May, This is a wonderful illustration!! I think God has much in store for you in the writing department!!
Thank you Mary Ann! I know you’ve been there–thank you for your encouragement.
Oh my sweet friend! So beautifully said! Your insights to such a difficult time in the life of so many of us who are blessed to be mothers has brought tears to spring into my eyes! Thank you for sharing your journey. I love you my friend!!
Glad it touched you LaNette, I’ve seen you fly on to do many good things thanks for your example!
What a beautiful reading. And so very true for so many. Life is about change. To embrace it with open arms to God & His love flowing thru us to others is comforting. Enjoy your writings. You have a gift❤️
Thank you Margaret!
Just what I needed to hear! Thanks, May!
Beautifully written May.
Great job May! Such a sweet comparison that we can all relate to. Keep sharing your words of encouragement. They are a blessing to us all. Love you,
May, you’ve written another wonderful and uplifting piece that will bring strength and encouragement to everyone that reads it. God has truly blessed you with the ability to evolve and enhance your true abilities to do His will. Thank you for these inspiring words. God bless you, sweet friend.
Thank you for the kind words, Shelia. I thank God that it blessed you.
Wonderful thoughts to share. Beautifully written, as well! My “baby” has been gone for 4 years and I’m still working on finding my new normal. #turnthepage
This is beautiful May. Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure it has helped many mothers especially at this time of year. You truly have a gift for writing!
I’m glad you walked through a new door! You’re a gifted writer. I love this article, You certainly captured the thoughts and experiences of many and put words and meaning to them all. Keep writing!
Words of wisdom?
I loved reading this! Lots of doves here at my house, among other birds, and I watch them sitting on nests and watching them learn to fly…and then fly away. I wish my Michelle were still with me!! She stayed home and graduated UAH; married; very happy, and I am happy for her. She has a wonderful life. I cried and cried during her wedding ceremony, because I didn’t want her to ever leave me!! Was happy for her but sad for me; had been with me all her life (25 years). That is our wonderful Savior’s plan: children must have their own life. May, I love your beautiful, inspiring writings! The Lord has blessed you immensely with beauty, family, intelligence, your Biblical teachings! Love Jones Family!!❤️❤️❤️
Hi. I “found” (I really know God brought me) your website after I googled “how to move on when an adjult child moves away”. Long story short…. My husband and I moved with our three children 18 months ago from South Dakota to Florida for many reasons. The kids were 21, 18, & 14 at the time. The 5 of us along with my daughters 2 labs have lived together since moving down here. It’s been good but also hard. Well, flash forward 18 months and my now 16 year old son is lonely and longs for his friends back home and doesn’t want to stay. My now 20 year old daughter, who has autism, does not have services or opportunities in Florida like SD and wants to go back. And I have been fairly homesick for family after the 6 month honeymoom of excitement wore off. So moving back would be simple but my oldest daughter, now 23, LOVES it here and is excited for her single life in Flordia- she has new friends here and her bestie from SD is actually moving here in a couple of weeks. So…. we’re moving back to South Dakota and my oldest daughter is staying and I’m sooooo sad but am soooo happy for her to spread her wings. She is stronger and braver than me. I am so proud of her, but I want nothing more than for her to move back with us! Anyway, I needed a “me too” mom encouragement, so I am so grateful God brought me to your website and blog! Nearly 6 years later your post is helping someone!! God is good- all the time!
Amen Tami, God is so good! I’m glad my post helped you. Facing the empty nest that I’d spent a lifetime building and loving was really hard for me. BUT God led me through it and He will lead you through it, too. May He bless your move! Thanks for commenting.