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Living Forward As The Nest Empties

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She used to say, “When I grow up, I’m going to buy a house right down the street from you.”

Oh what sweet words for a momma’s heart! Secretly, I cherished her words.

Outwardly, my job as her momma was altogether different. Her good my highest aim. Her independence and ability to realize her highest potential of utmost importance. 

As parents, our job is to give our children wings and teach them to fly

In our family, God’s plans and desires for our children trump our own. So when our daughter, then our son, chose to attend Texas A&M University – a ten-hour drive from home – we acquiesced.

Getting in the way of God’s best for them was never an option.

During their years at A&M, we watched their faith, their character, their personal lives, and their relationships flourish. And we watched Texas keep them.

Many times I have questioned our decision to allow them to go so far away to school. The implications of them staying there are more far reaching than I could have imagined. Only now are the full implications of that reality beginning to sink in.

Every time I begin to question our decision, a truth smoldering down deep in my soul rises to the surface to remind me God’s ways are above my own. And God assures me that he knows my heart. He will comfort and sustain me for my faithfulness in letting them go. (Psalm 55:22Psalm 147:3)

Recently I’ve become acutely aware that for the past six years I’ve been in a long, drawn out period of grieving. Grieving for the life I once had when our children were home and our family was under one roof.

For the nights when I kissed them goodnight and went to my own bed with the comfort of knowing they were safe in their beds.

For the mornings when days began with the sight of their sleepy faces and the feel of their hugs.

For the constant stream of friends who flowed in and out of our home with them.

For the laughter – and the arguments.

For the constant clutter and messy rooms.

For the faces around our dinner table each night.

For the conversations in the car on the drive home from school.

For the Sunday mornings sitting elbow to elbow in church.

For the family trips, soccer games, dance recitals, and watching our daughter cheer.

For happy times on the lake together.

For the way we did everything together.

For the dramatically different life our youngest son has without them here.

Most of all, I miss our whole family unit.

Yes. I miss our family being together as a whole family unit. So much it hurts.

And I have done battle – no, war – with the thought that the best is yet . . . behind me.

Since their departure, a part of me kept waiting for the day they would walk through the door and everything would return to normal. It was an innate expectation borne out of a familiarity with the family life we once knew. My mind knew it would never happen, but my heart kept intuitively going back to that place.

It would be so much easier if my kids lived closer. I could have absorbed their absence if the distance were small enough to allow mini visits now and then to go shopping with my daughter or have coffee or lunch. To visit them when they struggle and miss home life. To be a mom when they wanted me to mother them.

This summer was our last time for extended visits from our two oldest children. Our daughter taught school for the past year and a half, but recently accepted a job with a large church. No more summer vacations for her – or full weekends. 

Our son graduated college in May and started his full-time career at the end of July. 

the warming house

 We soaked in the moments under the sun.

the warming house

Our children bring so much “light” into our home. When they leave, there is a big, empty void. Their voices. Their laughter. Their humor. Their hugs. Their energy. Their shining personalities. Absent.

This season of life is much more agonizing than I ever thought it could be. They don’t write books on it. At least not many I’ve found.

There are two things God has shown me lately that I’d like to share with those of you who are in the same place in life.

1) Celebrate This Moment

The night before we moved our son into his new apartment (a moment I had dreaded all summer) God made me aware of something. In a flash, my son’s life flashed through my mind complete with all the struggles through the years with his health, bullying, social issues, and all the moments I prayed scripture over his life. I was reminded of how I doubted, wondered, worried, and trusted God for the man he would grow up to be.

In that moment, I felt God saying to me, “Well done Momma. He’s grown up beautifully. You’ve done what I asked of you. You’ve launched him well. He’s embracing his own life. You need to enjoy this moment. The fruits of your labor are right in front of you.” 

I know full well I didn’t carry out my responsibilities as his momma perfectly, yet God still allowed me to feel his pleasure – and to experience the celebratory truth in that moment of time.

That retrospective moment was a gift from God. It carried me through the next day as we moved our son into his apartment then watched him grow smaller and smaller in our rearview mirror waving goodbye to us as we began our long drive home.

Whether your child has turned out exactly as you had hoped or not, you have done your job. You have launched them. To see them realize fullness of life on their own is our goal. When they do, that is a moment to celebrate.


As the nest empties, we really have to focus on gratitude for those sweet moments raising our babies. But we cannot get stuck there wallowing in the past.

As hard as it is to turn our hearts from the past to the future, God reminds us there is plenty of life for us to live and so many ways we can be productive and engaged.

Serve. Find new hobbies. Chase deeply held dreams. Travel. Go back to school. Go on dates with your spouse. Enjoy your children as adults. Embrace life.


As our kids started leaving and the wrinkles deepened, we began chasing a dream and bought property to develop a family ranch! Life is becoming full again. And exhausting. And exhilerating. And full of new friends. 


That’s your word for the day. From God to me to you.

Are you in the season of life I am? What are you doing to adjust to this new season?

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10

Holding you in my heart friends,






  1. Nancy Benson says:

    Thanks for this, Lisa. It brought tears to my eyes as we took our youngest, Steven, off to OSU. 🙂

  2. Kathleen says:

    I totally relate! I was there. Our two children also attended the same university far away. What did I do? I became involved in ministering to inmates at the county jail and in doing college campus outreach, starting a Christian Fellowship at our local community college. There is so much we can do in serving the Lord.

  3. Anna E says:

    Hey Sweet Lisa!! It’s always a blessing and just what I needed to hear. Boy our God has amazing timing and guidance!
    I’m headed in that direction in just a few short years. I already miss family dinners and weekends together with just “us”. . I now have to share my son with his girlfriend and her family and it’s hard not to grab a hold and try to keep him for just me!
    Thank you for you honesty and words of wisdom. Even if it made a few tears drop as I read your post, I know God has a plan for my kids life and it won’t always have me right at their sides but hopefully they’ll keep me close at heart. Blessings to you my friend.
    Hugs and prayers!

    • Lisa Button says:

      Anna – Thanks for your kind words and transparency. I always love hearing from you, friend. Your kids will certainly hold you close to their hearts no matter where they go. You are a beautiful woman and an awesome momma! The investment you’ve made in their lives, and the way you’ve selflessly loved them has built a strong foundation underneath them. They are blessed to have you. 🙂

  4. Jamie B says:

    Lisa, I just found your blog. This post brought tears to my eyes. My 2 boys just recently left out nest and although it has been a wonderful time for my husband and myself to discover who we are as individuals and as a empty nest couple there is a part of me that has been in a state of mourning. Thank you so much! It is very comforting to remember that God is with each of our boys and has a plan for them that goes far beyond anything I could ever imagine.

    • Lisa Button says:

      Hi Jamie! I appreciate your comment. It seems there are many women like us who cherished the years investing in their children. It is nice when we can connect and realize we’re not alone in our feelings. I wish there were more books on the subject!

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