31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Two Natures

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The milkweed pods have rent their hearts wide open, spilling feather-soft seeds into the wind. Everywhere we walk they hover in our midst—silky filament-clad aviators. Bonnie tries to catch them, taking great bounding leaps and biting at the air. But the more she chases, the more she disturbs the invisible current and the higher the seed cluster lifts into the sky. The milkweed seed is surrounded by a crown of silky hairs that act as miniature parachutes when the wind gives flight. These soft halos allow the wind to carry the seed as far or as close as it will. We stand, earth-bound, and watch it drift away.

When we were kids, we would break open the pods and strip the milkweed of her silk. We would stroke the soft tendrils and use them to decorate our mud pies and cakes. I know that if every seed found purchase, we would be overrun by milkweed, which can be invasive. Still, my heart smiles at the thought of the forgotten milkweed seed, growing up out of my mud pie. Perhaps the Monarchs would be happy at this too.

The milkweed is in the genus Asclepias, named after the Greek god of healing. It was named thus because of the many folk remedies it is party to, but as I watch the seed drift higher, I feel a different kind of healing in my spirit. I want to learn from the milkweed seed. How to be so light? How to be lifted by the wind? It’s not in my nature to give myself away like this.

In rest and flight, the milkweed is a thing of wonder. The way the seeds are lined up in neat rows when they are within the pod—like the feathers of a bird—reminds me of the beauty and order that can be found in nature. But when the pod ruptures and the seeds are given to the wind, I am taken by the wild unpredictability.

These two natures—order and unpredictability—have been at war inside of me too during this season. In the almost-empty nest, I have struggled against the urge to hold on—not only to my children and the old ways, but to being at the center of their lives. The more I chase this drifting crown, the further it lifts away from me. Every day is different than the next. I want to grab the rent open heart of my pod and pull its leathery sides together—contain these seeds that cling rakishly by one thin strand—waiting for that devil wind.

But when the wind breaks its thin hold and carries it soundlessly heavenward, the beauty of this sudden abandonment creates tightness in my throat and I know this is the way it is supposed to be.

I must hold hands with wildness and order and let the drifting seeds gather light the way a dewdrop does in the morning.

To listen to this story, scroll all the way to bottom of the page for the audio recording. And forgive my raspy voice? I’m still recovering from this cold. 

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a cool giveaway.

Almost Empty

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Playdates with God: Anniversary Giveaway!

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This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

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When the idea for Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World was conceived, I was a busy mom, working three part-time jobs, trying to figure out how to honor God best with my time. I wanted more of God, but also to be a better mother, wife, worker-person … I was looking for a way to bring my spiritual life alive again, but also to find the road where my faith and my ordinary could meet.

Over the years, I’ve discovered the more I give myself to God, the more he meets me where I am. By setting aside time each week to have a “play date” with God, I’ve opened the door of my life and welcomed him into every moment, every ordinary nook and cranny.

Yesterday, Jeff and I dropped our boy off at his dorm to resume the school year. Our long weekend together was rife with sickness—a yucky virus for him and a terrible cold for me. On the bright side, cleaning up vomit is a little easier when all the senses are deadened by congestion. It was hard to drive away from his pale face, a fresh supply of immodium and pepto tucked into his hands.

Parenting in the almost-empty nest is a tricky business—knowing when to step in and when to step away, always being available but giving space to grow, advising these boys in the ways of the grown-up world. I was commiserating with one of my mentors about this last week. She has two boys who are similar in age to mine. “I find I’m parenting in deeper ways,” she said. And I liked this way of framing it.

I think this is a good descriptor of how God parents those of us who continue to walk with him over the long journey. He takes us deeper if we are willing. He never takes his hand off our lives but trusts us to keep moving closer to him.

This weekend, I couldn’t help noticing all the ways my son has grown in maturity in these short months that he has stepped into owning his life. I can’t help thinking this is God’s design for us—to keep growing, keep learning, never stop exploring this beautiful world he created for us. This is what Playdates with God is about: growing, always, always moving closer to God, never settling in one place in my spiritual life.

Today, I am celebrating the one year anniversary of the release of Playdates with God with a little giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment for a chance to win. If you share about the giveaway on social media, let me know in the comments and I’ll give you and extra chance for each share. The giveaway package includes:

1 copy of each:

Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World by Laura Boggess (of course)
Derek’s Story by Laura Boggess (one of my novella’s for tweens)
Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (book 1) by Ransom Riggs (Who is a Kenyon alum)
When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore

2 copies of:

Thirty Days of Bible Study for Busy Mama’s: Colossians 3 by Pam Forster (one for you and one for your girlfriend!)

1 pair of snowflake earrings from Nature’s Precious Gems that I bought at the Kenyon College bookstore yesterday. (in honor of the snowy trampoline play that inspired my promise to play with God), AND

a couple other little trinkets/goodies for fluff.

Thank you for one year of Playdates with God! This community inspires me to keep my promise to God through all the love and support you leave in this space. You all are a joy and a gift. I’ll announce the winner in next Monday’s Playdates post.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Secret Ingredient

I cannot seem to get my words together today. They rise like birds from my heart and lift away, fly with the wind. Tomorrow we take Teddy back to school and I am trying not to be sentimental about it. Our time together has gone too swiftly. We won’t see him again until Thanksgiving, and all the holidays after that will loom with this joy of expectation. I know the ordinary will breathe again in between; time will stretch out without words and there will be new routines to settle into.

As I tap these words onto the screen I see how beautiful this can become, how life centered on loved ones and longing is a precious gift. I don’t know why the seasons must change for me to understand the loveliness of the now I cradle in my arms. I don’t want to forget this tender urgency, the way everything seems new.

I cannot keep him here, nor do I want to, so I spent the afternoon baking some pepperoni rolls to send with him. I’ll share this recipe later this week at Grace Table, but suffice it to say, the secret ingredient is love. It’s a sandwich immigrant miners carried with them when they descended into the dark, a savory treat that did not require refrigeration and therefore lent itself well to the lunch bucket. And it was discovered right here, in West Virginia.

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So now I send it with him, not into the dark, but to a place of light, I hope. Still, it is a place of stepping into the unknown, requiring courage, and maybe a sandwich roll filled with love.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Disappointment

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This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

“You be thinking about anything you want to do,” I told him, when we spoke on the phone about his return.

“I just want to do the home thing,” he said. “Just be there … Eat good food. You know? Food that’s not made for a thousand people.”

We had plans. Expectations. And just having him here has been enough, but I wanted him to rest, relax, be refreshed.

Yesterday morning, his first morning home, I heard him up before my alarm went off. Some things never change, and even a mama’s sleeping senses are tuned to the stirrings of her young. I knew something was wrong. But he went back to bed and Jeffrey went to school and Jeff and I went off to work.

Mid-morning he texted me that he had been sick all morning long. The vomiting, exhausted, puny kind of sick. And I felt my heart sink. What about the special dinner we had planned? What about lunch with the grands?

“It’s better to be sick here than at school,” he said, when I expressed regret that our weekend might not go as planned.

So, this morning, after sleep, I am re-imagining things.

In sleep we are once again brought back to a state of sweetness,” says Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. “In sleep we are remade. We are reassembled from the inside out, fresh and new as innocents.”

The morning brings the new perspective and I am able to see how, in the almost-empty nest, I can impose my romantic ideas onto relationships. And while it is good to plan and prepare and try to make special, sometimes a transition needs space to just be.

What a gift just to sit with him. To walk down the street with him and his brother and Bonnie and see his pale face shine in the sunlight. I want to binge on taking him in, memorize all his freckles, and the way he moves through this space. But wisdom says, give room. Even this sudden illness is teaching me. I let disappointment rearrange my spirit. Let it remind what makes home home: not the things we do, not what we eat or how tidy the kitchen is, but the people. We are his safe place, the ever-open arms, the morning he awakens fully to, accepted and loved.

This is the best place to be sick. This warm nest. I pray it is always a good place to return to.

The winner of Deidra Riggs’s book Every Little Thing is Darlene! Yay, my friend! I’ll be in touch with you. 

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Full

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This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. Don’t forget about the giveaway on this post.

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This morning, the crescent moon is a lopsided grin in the sky. It hangs under the morning star, looking like a garlic clove, giving fragrant light. Fog nestles in the low places but the sky remains crisp, shining its many beacons down on Bonnie and me as we wade into dew-soaked grass.

We walk around the house and I peer in the windows from the back yard. The kitchen gives a warm glow that begins inside of me. This morning, I am happy.

My family is all under one roof again for a few days. Yesterday, I waited in the van for Teddy outside of his dorm. I drove along the river, past cornfields, under a blue sky for almost four hours to fetch our eldest chick. It’s his first time home since beginning his freshman year and I would have driven to that milky moon and back to get him. On the way home, we talked about everything. And this boy is my quiet one. The look on his face when he climbed into the passenger seat beside me made my heart melt.

“It’s good to see you, mom,” he said, with a smile as wide as the moon’s. I had to restrain myself. He looks thin to me. But he seems so much older. How does this happen in the span of two shortish-longish months?

After the long drive home through the dark, down narrow roads ripe with big trucks and slow-moving vehicles, we all sat in the living room together. Bonnie was beside herself with joy as he munched a piece of chocolate pie left in the fridge by his Grammy especially for him.

It’s strange how this old thing can feel so new. How time changes a family and each season leaves its mark. We are moving slow through these things, but we move together. Like the changing phases of the moon, all that is old is new again, bathed in shimmering beauty.

Almost Empty