The Empty Next

My daughters were recently on a mission trip in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I was so proud of them. My husband and I prayed they would experience spiritual growth and that God would break their hearts for what breaks His.

They were gone, in another country, without me. The house was quiet, and the days were long. I missed them terribly. And it didn’t help when my husband kept talking about the fact that our kids we be gone in three short years.

My husband and I are approaching the “empty nest.” As I was typing, I accidentally wrote, the “empty next.” As I looked at the words in front of me, I realized, this was exactly how I felt about it.

Three more years and both girls are off to college. At which time, I will have been a stay-at-home mom for twenty years. Twenty years is almost half my life. I hardly remember who I was prior to having kids.

I love being “mom” to my girls. It’s been a joy and I don’t want to give it up—not that I have a choice.

How do I create a whole new person with a whole new life, practically overnight? And what if I don’t want to?

I was getting a taste of life without them, and I didn’t like it. There are seasons, I know. It’s just more comfortable being in the middle of one, than at the end. It’s hard to say goodbye.

My book, Pouring In, comes out toward the end of the year. This project has been a blessing to me. And I know God is laying the foundation for my next ministry. However, for me, nothing compares to my role as mom.

After a few days of the kids being gone and feeling sorry for myself, God brought to mind the scripture where the Lord called Abraham to go to another land.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

He had to leave everything behind, everything that was familiar and comfortable. And Abraham didn’t know where God was sending him.

The thought occurred to me, am I willing to do the same?

After contemplating what God asked of Abraham, two words came to mind; joyful and expectant.

God is calling me to be joyful and expectant about the good things that are waiting for me around the corner. But, I have to be willing to turn the corner, and leave the street I love and am so familiar with.

The next season of my life will be just as good as this one. Of course, I can’t imagine it. Nothing could be better than this. Even though it hasn’t been easy, and we have had many ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade these last seventeen years for anything.

So, while my girls were mixing concrete, building walls, playing with Honduran kids, and drawing closer to God as they served a thousand miles away, I decided to be joyful and expectant of what God was doing in their lives, and mine.

Even though I couldn’t be with Emily and Jessica for those ten days, He never left their side. He is a good, good, Father.

They are now back safe and sound, and life is good again. As I cherish the next three years with my girls, I will also be joyful and expectant about what God has for me in the next season of my life.

My girls don’t belong to me, they belong to God. How easily I forget. I only get them for a time. A precious season. And I thank God for every moment I have with them.

Our job is to teach them how to follow their true Father, their true Master. Then we let go because we have returned them to their rightful Owner.  —Francis Chan, You and Me, Forever

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How Important Is Self Esteem?

A few years ago, my daughter went on a junior high retreat. When she got home, I asked her what they talked about in their large group sessions. The only thing that she could remember was self esteem.

Self esteem has been a hot topic since I was a teenager in the ‘80s. Anywhere there is a gathering of kids or youth, this seems to be a hot topic.

I have always been a people pleaser. Humility is a natural thing for me almost more than pride is . . . almost.

Am I always humble? Absolutely not. I will always struggle with pride, with wanting what I want, and being selfish. I am human.

However, I had many challenges in childhood that caused me to think less of myself, or have “low self esteem.” Is this a curse? Or is this a gift?

Is it possible that I am capable of more humility than most people because I started out with such a low image of myself? If that is the case, then thank you God for low self esteem!

Because of my humble beginnings, I have been open to seeing how enormous God is. I didn’t have to “get over myself” quite as much when elevating God in my life. I was never as much about myself to begin with. And God has been showing me my great worth in Him and because of Him.

God has not built me up through the years, He has been revealing more of Himself to me. I no longer care how small I may be. He is great and mighty and that gives my soul peace and freedom. Yes, I still believe that I am wretched, but I have been redeemed by an almighty God.

Self-confidence, popularly conceived is not a virtue. It is a vice. It has at its root pride. —Paul Gould

We must teach our kids to highly esteem God, not themselves. That is what God asks of all of us. He asks us to be a servant to all. Just as Christ was.

He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:7-8 (NIV)

While self esteem focuses inward, God teaches us to focus outward and upward.

Those on the self-confidence bandwagon are placing their identity in the wrong thing! We ought not to be so confident in the self.  —Paul Gould

Are we teaching our kids to love themselves? Do we realize that God’s Word teaches the exact opposite?

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25

Teaching our kids to love themselves contradicts the Word of God. And it can lead to pride.

Instead of teaching kids that they should think highly of themselves, we should teach them about the greatness of our God. Instead of focusing on praising our kids, we need to focus on glorifying God who above everything and everyone. What if we taught our kids not to focus on themselves, but on the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ?

All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. Philippians 3:8-9 (The Message)

If we taught kids mainly about God’s worth and the joy of knowing Him instead of loving themselves, the emotional health of future generations would greatly improve.

So, I am not going to teach my kids to love themselves, or worry about their “self esteem.” I am not going to go over the top with praise, or continuously feed their egos. I am going to teach them the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. And that because of Him, they have great worth as God’s beloved children.

Our kids’ worth should come from being sons and daughters of the King. And their worth should come from knowing that God loves them so much that He sent His Son to die for each one of them.