In two months and seven days, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. I’m shocked that it is coming so soon. I remember when the age of 23 seemed ancient, and now I’ve more than doubled that. As milestone birthdays approach, I reflect back on all that has happened in my life and look forward to the years to come. More than ever before, I want to use my life strategically to love all I can, influence all I can, and leave a legacy that will outlast my lifetime. I can’t wait to ponder and share my heart about the aspects that are nearest and dearest to me. Come visit me for the next 30 days, and together we’ll explore how to live a life that counts!
This post is part of a 31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty. Please click here to find all the posts in this series. You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!
I think I was born scared. My parents told me stories of my terror at my first Independence Day fireworks when I was less than 7 months old. I remember hiding under a blanket when the theme song to “I Dream of Jeannie” blared through the television, dreading the moment that the animated genie was sucked into the bottle. I was hesitant to ride a bike, jump in a pool, or call anyone on the phone. As I entered adolescence, I became preoccupied with my fear of other people’s opinions of me.
I let each fear and concern hold me back from taking risks or enjoying new activities. Then I became a mom. I delighted in my children’s new experiences and marveled at their bravery as they stepped into the unknown with more faith than fear.
As my children left the nest, I made the choice to push past fears. Instead of worrying what others thought or the worst case scenario, I would let my yes supersede my no. I had to remind myself that the chances of a mishap were small and that mishaps occurred even in everyday life. Sometimes I’d tremble and be close to tears but I’ve now driven an ATV, gone on a Segway tour, participated in 4 half marathons, rappelled into an underground cave, and zip lined. I have no idea what God has in store, but I plan to follow him boldly!
Abigail and Joseph, picture by Katelyn Owens photography
I awoke on July 8 with the weight of the world on my shoulders yet great anticipation. Today would be one of the biggest day of our lives as we celebrated our daughter entering into married life. My daughter told me that all she asked is that I would not be sick or stressed on this momentous day. I took comfort in my usual morning routines of a quiet time with Jesus, some brain games, and a quick breakfast with my vitamins before preparing myself to go to the church. I loaded up the car with last minute supplies and prayed with my husband before I headed over to the venue across town.
Abbie had a detailed schedule of the day for all of the people involved in the wedding, and the schedule told me to arrive at 10:30am for hair and makeup. I am not a girly-girl by any stretch of the imagination but had researched hairstyles that complement my hair length and color. Lexie, our amazing hair stylist and one of Abbie’s childhood friends, worked wonders on my hair. Likewise, another one of Abbie’s childhood friends, Emily, brought out features in my face that I didn’t even know existed. We had many hours of preparation and relaxation before the ceremony.
The entire day passed by in a joyful blur of love, music, smiles, laughter, pride, tears, activity, embraces, pictures, fun, reunions, dancing, waiting, celebrating, and waving goodbye. I had asked my friends to pray that the triple digit temperatures would miraculously decrease, thinking that would ensure the day’s “success.” God taught me a valuable lesson by not lowering the temperatures but lowering all stress and tension instead.
For any mothers anticipating their daughter’s weddings, I have some tips of what worked well for us.
- If financially possible, get a hotel room for the bride and her closest bridesmaids the night or two before the wedding. This gives them independence and a last chance for bonding and gives you much needed peace and rest.
- Bring a wireless speaker to the room where the bride is getting ready and play her favorite Pandora station. Music can soothe nerves and promote joy. My daughter’s request was the John Mayer station.
- Order deli trays from the local supermarket to have in the bride’s and groom’s dressing rooms around lunchtime if the ceremony isn’t until mid to late afternoon. If a friend offers to help, have them pick up the deli trays and even split them between the bride’s and groom’s rooms.
- Bring a small assortment of childhood toys to the dressing room if there are children in the ceremony. We had Legos and Fisher Price toys, and they were not only beneficial to the flower girl and ring bearer but also to the children of the pastor and worship leaders, not to mention some of the adults with a childlike heart. My husband and I had so much fun playing with 3 delightful little girls during the sound check, and we found that it relaxed us and reminded us of precious time spent playing with our daughter.
- Take fun and candid pictures during the day, but don’t get in the way of the official photographer.
- Don’t insist on your own way. This is your daughter’s wedding. Being right isn’t worth more than your relationship with your daughter.
- Enjoy yourself! This is a great day where you get to see many people you love. Let them know what they mean to you and how honored you are that they are in attendance.
- Stand back and observe the precious moments of the day, and tuck those memories into your heart for days when you are missing your little girl.
With much love from the father and mother of the bride!
I have talked to hundreds of other women in my position, devoted stay-at-home mothers whose children are now confidently walking in adulthood. No matter the circumstances, every woman first question and concern is, “What Next?” Now that our time, energy, thoughts, and arms are much emptier than they once were, what should replace the gaping hole that exists where our children once occupied.
The answer to “What Next?” varies widely among women. Some begin a new career. Some travel. Some go back to school. Some focus on neglected marriages. Some volunteer. Some focus on long-lost hobbies and creative pursuits. Some become caretakers of their elderly parents or their young grandchildren. Some grow in their faith. Some get involved in addictive or destructive behavior. Some get in better physical shape than ever before. Some go to therapy to deal with unearthed pain from their past. Some sleep. Some spend extra time with friends. Some continue attempting to control their children with guilt and manipulation. Some try new activities to satisfy their bucket list. Some organize their homes. Some even downsize and move now that the home has less occupants. Some mourn. Some rejoice.
I have found that my new “empty nest, abundant life” consists of a unique combination of many of these activities. It has slowly changed over the past six years since my firstborn left the nest. I have pursued some paths with great success and some with dismal failure. I’m learning what works for me and my family and what doesn’t. I’m learning what drives me and what dries me up inside.
Once most of us reach the empty nest stage, we have lived more years on this earth than we have remaining. This gives me such a sense of urgency and purpose. How will I leave a mark on this world that remains long after I have departed from it?
What is next for you?