parenting

Is your nest emptying? Guest post by Susan Yates

This is a guest post by the author/speaker Susan Yates. Email this post to a friend and CC us (christy@theologicalhorizons.org) and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a copy of Susan and Barbara Rainey's book for both you and your friend!

Are you getting ready to send a child off to college or preparing to send your youngest to all day school? Or have you just had a wedding? If so, you may be an emotional mess. The empty nest hits us in different ways, at different times, and often when we least expect it!

How well I remember dropping our last child Susy off at college and beginning the long drive home. The week before, we had left her twin sister Libby at another college so not only was I sending off my last two at once, but it was the first time the girls, who are very close, had been separated. My husband John thought this would be a celebration of sorts for us! All those years of daily parenting five children would be finished and now we could focus more on us. So he planned an overnight on the drive home at a romantic lodge in the mountains. Ha.

As we pulled away from the college campus my tears started to flow. I felt like my life was over. My main job of parenting was done. What was my purpose to be now? I ached for the sadness the girls were experiencing in being separated. It had been their idea to go to different colleges but none of us anticipated the pain this would cause. In the midst of my tears I tried to explain my feelings to my husband. Feelings I couldn’t even understand. I felt lonely in my misery. I felt guilty. After all, this was a good thing! And I had a great husband who was trying to please me. Yet I was miserable. Needless to say our romantic getaway wasn’t very romantic!

You may not experience sadness at having just sent a child off. In fact you may be thrilled. Each one of us is different and we never know when the emotions of the empty nest will hit us. It may not be until your last child is married. Or you may grieve when they begin high school. This season is not neat. It’s messy. And there’s not much written about it to guide us through it. But God does have a new plan for each of us as we approach the empty nest. And it is exciting.

                                    *******************

If you are about to drop off your college freshman here are 4 great tips:

  1. Before you go to campus research the fellowship groups on the campus. Groups like Cru, RUF, Christian Study Centers, Navigators, IV. Find out when and where they meet and tell your child that you want them to visit two at least twice and then join one. The same thing applies to church. Visit 2 and then commit to the one that feels right. This should be a clear expectation, similar to going to class. You are likely financing some of their costs and you have a right to make this a condition. They should commit to a fellowship group and a church within the first 2 months. Statistics show that the first 10 days of college life are crucial in determining what “group” your student will hang out with. We want to encourage our kids to seek healthy relationships.
  2. Many college fellowships have move-in day luncheons. Sign up to attend one. You and your child will meet other believers and hear about fellowship groups on campus. The Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, VA has one such lunch that my daughter Libby and I helped start nearly 20 years ago! 
  3. When you move in wear a t-shirt from a Christian camp or some logo. When our daughter Libby moved into her dorm she had on a Young Life t-shirt. Another girl moving in recognized this and the girls realized they were both believers. This was a huge connection for their first day!
  4. Be positive, even if you are sad and your child is too. Communicate to your child that he or she is about to begin a great adventure and it is good! And continue to pray daily for them and for their friendships.

Barbara Rainey and I wrote a book which deals with various challenges of the empty nest including loneliness, redefining marriage, how to let go of your child, etc. The book contains a 4-session group study. We hope you will invite some friends to join you in an Empty Nest book club.

What Does Every College Kid Need? Good Friends. - Jodie Berndt

We are doing a book give away of Jodie's new book, Praying the Scriptures for your Adult Children! Email us your name and mailing address by midnight, Friday, January 12th and we'll announce the winners early next week!

I remember the high school counselor asking Robbie and me what we were looking for in a college for Hillary, our eldest. He expected, I guess, for us to say something like “affordable tuition” or “strong academic reputation” or even something lofty, like “opportunities to pursue bio-medical research.” I think the guy was a little stunned when I gave him my answer:  I wanted my daughter to go someplace where she would make good friends and enjoy strong Christian fellowship.

Fellowship is a tricky word. Author John Ortberg says it is “churchy,” and that it “suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversations.” I get that. But I also understand what Ortberg means when he says that fellowship is something we can’t live without. And when the time came to send Hillary—and then later, her siblings—off to college, my first prayers were for them to find life-giving friendships, the kind marked by things like loyalty, joy, and a vibrant commitment to Christ.

God answered those prayers, but the road to connectedness has not always been easy, or quick. I remember dropping Hillary off at U.Va. on Move-In Weekend. Someone had chalked a cheery greeting on the sidewalk steps: 

 

Steps.jpg

The words held such promise! But, two months later, as the newness wore off and homesickness set in, they seemed almost hollow. Hillary had a great roommate and her life swirled with classes and social activities, but she had not yet discovered “her people.” There was friendship space that had yet to be filled.

Our kids need good friends. We can’t make them for them, but we can certainly ask God to provide. And as we pray for this need—as we partner with God to accomplish his good purposes in our kids’ lives—let’s look to the Scriptures for insight on what matters most. There are, obviously, all sorts of ways we might pray; here are three of my top friendship requests:

Constancy. The Bible offers several portraits of friendships marked by loyalty, dependability, and faithfulness:  Jonathan and David. Ruth and Naomi. And of course Jesus, the one who promised to be with us “always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let’s ask God to give our kids faithful friends and to draw them into a life-giving relationship with Jesus, the one who gave up his life “for his friends” (John 15:13).

Next, Transparency. When I was a student at U.Va., I had two roommates (Susan and Barbie), and we gave each other permission to be what we called “brutally honest.” It didn’t matter if we were critiquing an iffy outfit or confronting each other about a questionable behavior; we spoke the truth. We tried to do so with love, but even the gentlest rebukes sometimes hurt. “Faithful,” Proverbs 27:6 says, “are the wound of a friend.” Let’s ask God to give our college kids friends like that—friends with whom they can admit their mistakes and find restoration, forgiveness, and genuine love.

And finally, let’s pray that our kids will enjoy friendship with other believers, the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 13:14, the kind that fosters connection, not just on the natural level, but also in the deepest recesses of the soul. Friendships forged around common interests (sports teams, Greek life, good books) are wonderful, but when the common ground of eternity comes into play, the most satisfying relationships—the kind that transcend things like race, age, and socioeconomic background—can take root. Let’s ask God to surround our children with friends who will “spur them on toward love and good deeds” and run alongside them as they “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” (Hebrews 10:24, 2 Timothy 2:22)

If you like praying this way—taking the words we find in the Bible, and using them to give shape to our prayers—you’ll find hundreds of prayer prompts in my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. In addition to the prayers about friendship, the book covers grown-up needs like getting a job, resisting the party culture, and making the transition to adulthood with wisdom, purpose, and grace.

It doesn’t matter how old our kids are, or how far away they may go. We never stop loving them. We never stop wanting God’s best for their lives. We might not be able to pick their friends (or anything else they might choose), but we can pray. We can slip our hand into God’s—the One who loves them enough, and is powerful enough, to do more than all we could ask or imagine—and trust him to do what he promised.

It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

_____________________________________

Jodie Berndt is a 1984 graduate of The University of Virginia and a former co-chair of the U.Va. Parents Fund Committee. The author of nine books (including the popular Praying the Scriptures series), Jodie is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher. Find her writing at JodieBerndt.com, or connect with her on Facebook (Jodie Berndt Writes), Instagram (@jodie_berndt), and Twitter (@jodieberndt).

Jodie and her husband, Robbie (Class of 1985), have four Wahoo children and two Hokie sons-in-law. Which, except during football season, is not such a bad thing.