A couple months ago, I made my way north to Ft. Collins, CO, home of Colorado State University. My twin sons, both excited and nervous to be driving toward their freshman year of college, followed behind me in their granddad’s 2003 silver Honda.
We arrived alongside a sea of other wide-eyed kids and teary-eyed parents and spent the whole day setting up their dorm room. (Yep, my twin sons are sharing a dorm room. If only I could have seen this day as a mother of preschoolers and known that yes, all 319 million requests for them to PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY LEARN TO SHARE would eventually be taken to heart. Thank God for maturity and miracles, amen.)
After an amazing dinner of the “Lil’ Italy” pizza from Beau Jo’s, we shared goodbyes in the parking lot where I hugged the necks off my boys and told them I’m so thankful for them, I’m so proud to be their mama, and I couldn’t love them more.
As hard as it was to say goodbye to them in Ft. Collins, it was harder to walk through our front door 2 ½ hours later without them. Yes, they aren’t too far away. Yes, I’ll get to see them more than if they went to school, say, on the East Coast. But I don’t get to see them every day like before, and that takes some getting used to.
When we go through a major change, the new normal doesn’t feel normal overnight. Yes, in changing seasons like this one we can hold the hand of trust because God’s presence goes where ours can’t. But I can also acknowledge that it’s okay to be sad, too. Right now, it’s okay for me to tear up when I ‘round the corner from doing laundry and look into their empty bedroom. It’s okay to sigh when I accidentally pull out five plates for dinner instead of three.
But even as the house feels too empty, it’s good to know I’m making it through this life transition. This change has also made me aware of the fact that I need my fill of two important things these days—and every day, really:
I need someone who is a season or two ahead of me in life who offers a hopeful perspective of where I’m headed as well as someone who is a season or two behind me whom I can offer a hopeful perspective from where I’ve been.
I like to call these seasonal bookends.
It’s easy for me to know I need peers within my own life stage, but I don’t always think about intentionally finding those bookends, people who both prop us up and help us keep a healthy perspective about where we are today. People who remind us how to fully and abundantly belong where we are today.
So when Christina asks me how to maneuver teens and dating, I take time to answer her question. And in doing so, I’m giving her a hopeful vision for her future and myself the knowledge that having “been there” helps me belong as an encourager. And when Connie, an empty nester friend, asks me how I’m doing with the boys gone, I take time to tell her. And she gives me a hopeful vision for my own future while affirming her own sense of belonging, too.
While I am generally very content with where I belong today, it’s also true that the older I get, the harder it is to make friends. It was easier when the kids were little, and I found myself around other women on a regular basis. This is true, but I can lean towards dwelling on this till it becomes an excuse not to expand my belonging place during times when I need to. Instead, I want to acknowledge that fact—that it’s harder to round out my place of belonging than it used to be—but not simmer in it. I don’t want to be so busy mourning my former belonging places or become so busy looking at others in theirs that I neglect where God has me right now. Actively looking for these seasonal bookends is one way I do this. It’s one way I stay and enjoy where I am and give good things time to grow in this new season.
Instead of looking to the past or craning our necks toward the future, may you and I become adept at investing in those people and places around us today. Heck, may we even have a boat-load of fun while doing it! May we see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
And in the staying and growing.
This post first appeared at my second online home (in)courage. Read it here. Speaking of (in)courage, they have a new 40 day devotional out called Women of Courage. And right now, when you buy one book you get a second book FREE when you purchase it from DaySpring or LifeWay!
Want more encouragement on finding your place of belonging? Check out my latest book, Back Roads to Belonging, here or at your favorite bookseller. While connection isn’t always inevitable or easy, there is a place where you and I were made to belong. If getting there seems difficult or overwhelming, let me walk with you to your place of belonging through this book’s pages. (Affiliate link included.)