Focus on the Family
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Discovering Hope and Faith in the Empty Nest

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Psalm 127:4

“What am I supposed to do now?” I whispered through my tears on the last day of my last child’s senior year of high school. Soon, Kayla would be leaving for college. I prayed, “I’ve spent more than two decades raising my children. I put aside my own aspirations to be their mom. Now what, Lord?”

A little back story: When our children were young, my husband was a youth pastor. Over the years, they attended youth rallies, camps, and every fun event with us. However, when my husband accepted a position as a senior pastor at a church in California, our activities became more adult-centered. It wasn’t long before I was traveling and speaking for women’s events, leaving my youngest daughter with friends instead of having her join me on my travels.

One weekend, at a pastor’s wives conference, I attended a workshop taught by a Christian Counselor named Greg. Hearing Greg unfold his sorrowful tale of how he had neglected his children for the sake of his ministry broke my heart. Out of resentment, his son had turned away from Christ. Greg’s warning rang in my ears, “Don’t forsake your ministry to your children. They are your priority calling.”

Reassessing Priorities

Driving home from that conference, God impressed upon my heart the depth of Greg’s warning. I thought, I’m going to lose Kayla. If I don’t slow down and focus on raising her, I’m gonna lose her.

With that, I resolved to set aside my speaking ministry to focus on being present with my two younger children who were still living at home. Sure, I still taught Bible studies in our church, and I accepted occasional invitations to speak at a local events. But my attention was foremost on guiding my children to love and follow Christ.

And follow they did.

One by one, they launched onto the path God had ordained for them. But on this particular day, it was different. Kayla’s leaving marked an end of an era that I had adored. And since I had devoted very little attention to my own pursuits, I found myself feeling insignificant and unsure about what to do next.

Maybe you can relate?

A Season of Transition

Waiting for the Lord to give me direction, one word impressed upon my heart, Write. I told God, “But, I’m not a writer. I dangle my participles and run on my sentences. I am not a writer.”

With the thought in the back of my mind, I waited to see how the Lord might lead. That year, at a women’s event, I sat with the keynote speaker, Cindi. As we chatted, I told her humorous stories of the ups and downs of our lives.

Then Cindi asked me, “Rhonda, why are you not a writer?” I responded, “Oh no, I am not a writer. I am a speaker.” Cindi replied, “Rhonda, writing is just speaking on paper. My books go to women in places I’ll never go. And I teach them… on paper.”

My tears began to fall, and Cindi offered to teach me how to write. Soon, she introduced me to her editor. Over time, I signed a book contract for my first book. I thought, God does have a plan for me in this season after all.

The ministry of motherhood is the sweetest, hardest, most exhausting, and exhilarating experience. The days can be long, but the years fly by so fast. If you’re a mom with hopes and dreams that you’ve set aside to guide your children toward their purpose and passion.

You have chosen a noble calling. The time you invested in your child’s life will have a lifelong impact on them, their children, and their children’s children, not to mention the generation into which they will launch.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

When it’s your turn to launch your child, you will experience a bittersweet sense of joy and sorrow, love, and loss. I’ve been there, friend. And you are not alone. God is with you.

I believe that He has something new for you to do. I don’t know what that new thing is, but He does. In fact, Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that He saves each of us unto good works that He ordained in advance.

Your empty nest is not the end; rather, it is the beginning of a new season devoted to knowing Christ, becoming a devout prayer warrior for your adult children, seeking God in Bible study, fellowshipping with older women who have walked the path ahead of you, and remaining faithful to do the next thing God asks you to do–one day at a time.

Not to imply that closing the chapter of raising your children is easy. Allowing yourself to grieve is part of the process. When my house was filled with quiet, lonely hours, I became the weird dog lady. My golden retriever sensed my sadness and lay at my feet morning and night. He and I both put on more than a few pounds as I shared with him my “feeling sorry for myself” snacks.

Launching with Purpose

Facing your empty nest and launching a child with God’s perspective changes everything. Allow me to encourage you with this excerpt from one of my books.

“Missionary Jim Elliot wrote this letter to his parents, ‘Remember how the psalmist described children? He said that they were a heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them… What are arrows but to shoot? So with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly–all of them, straight at the enemy’s hosts.’

When it’s time to pull back the bowstring and release your child, imagine tearfully watching him leave your bow. Holding your breath, you observe and pray as the Holy Spirit, like a mighty rising wind, sovereignly guides him to the bull’s eye so that he might light on fire the generation that the Lord ordained he would live. I can think of no greater way to send my children out into the world, can you?”

Embrace the Sacred Space: Finding Hope in the Empty Nest

Instead of fearing the empty nest, we should see it as a sacred space where we can emerge stronger, wiser and more attuned to Christ. In the quiet hours we can rekindle our connection with God, delve deeper into our faith, and discern His plan for this new season of our lives.

Though the challenges may seem daunting, the opportunities that await us are filled with potential for growth and fulfillment. So, approach this transition with courage, faith, and an open heart, knowing that in bidding farewell to one chapter, we are welcoming a new and exciting journey ahead.

Embrace this season wholeheartedly, trust in the divine plan unfolding before you, and step forward with confidence into the endless possibilities and adventures that lie ahead.

Remember, when you know Christ, He is your guide. Ask God to help you embrace the empty nest with grace and gratitude, for it is the gateway to a future filled with unexpected blessings and surprising opportunities.

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