The empty nest

“And He shall be the stability of your times…” Isaiah 33:6

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We took our youngest to college last week. The looming empty nest is now under foot and a reality to be walked in rather than something to dread. People kept asking if I was ready. How can anyone be ready for what they don’t know?

We were accustomed to a social calendar automatically filled with weekend events and our sons’ friends in and out of the house. Our lives no longer revolve around school activities and sports.

We live away from family, so when our immediate family is not here there’s no family here. Life seems to keep cycling back around to where we were before, back to pre-kid days when close friends became family.

And was the house this quiet before children? An unsettled feeling hangs in the air. I’m reminded of something my mother-in-law used to say: Life is about change and those who adjust to it do the best.

For followers of Christ there is stability through all life’s changes. He was my stability through years of infertility and failed adoptions when we were trying to fill the nest, through a couple decades of the nest spilling over with boys and bandaids, and now, in the once again quiet nest.

He is forever faithful. He has provided good things for me to do and there is hope for my future. I move forward with Him. The winds might howl and these bones might rattle and shake in a nest left empty, but he is my stability.

For I know the plans I have for you…plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me…” Psalm 138:8


Undeserved protection

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from troubles and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

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“Come see what God did for us,” my husband said. A classic Midwest thunderstorm raged outside—complete with roaring thunder, pounding hail and close lightening. The storm woke both of us in the middle of the night.

I followed him downstairs thinking the damage we were spared couldn’t have been too bad because his voice remained steady. Yet, I was uneasy.

Looking out our downstairs window, I saw our big tree toppled over the street like a fallen giant. It had taken two tall pine trees down with it, and amazingly, they had all fallen away from the house.

After a phone call, the street crew arrived with a bulldozer. They pushed the tree and its debris away from the road and onto the sidewalk.

The next morning we got a closer look at the fallen trees. The angle of the big tree’s break told us it should have hit our house—but it didn’t. Instead, it fell in the opposite direction. I can only imagine the damage that giant tree could have done!

God spared us. The tree was old and we knew it needed to come down. We had even gotten an estimate from a tree removal company, but dragged our feet as we dealt with what we thought were other priorities.

Our gracious God protected our home—and possibly our lives—when we didn’t deserve it.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for protecting us from trouble and granting deliverance in the middle of a Midwest thunderstorm.


The difference maker

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 14:16

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The small country church I attended as a child didn’t have air-conditioning in those early years. Hot summer days and nights found us cooling off with open windows and hand-held paper fans. On one of those fans, I remember a picture of an angelic-looking girl kneeling with hands folded in prayer.

That little girl’s image captures my idea of one who is fully committed: constant in prayer, sinless, unaffected by the world and all while serving others. She’s too much! My life doesn’t match up.

But when the Lord is searching for hearts fully committed to him, as in II Chronicles 14:16, I’d like to be found faithful and don’t want to miss out. I’d like to be in the receiving line for his strength.

Am I going to be skipped over because I fall short of some ideal? He knows I’m not perfect, and no one is, so how can anyone be worthy of receiving anything from him? There is a gap between who I am and who I want to be.

This separation reminds me of the father who pleaded for Jesus to heal his son of an evil spirit—if he could. Jesus told him that everything is possible for the one who believes. “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” Mark 9:24

Jesus healed the son. He made up the difference where the father fell short.

Likewise, he makes up the difference for me. There’s no way I can be a 100% fully-committed all the time. I’m human. But, I know the one who fills the gap.

Lord, strengthen me today and where I fall short, be the difference maker.


When you’d like to give up

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and enables me to stand on the heights.” Psalm 18:33

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Steep inclines and switchbacks can make climbing a challenge. The journey becomes discouraging when there’s no end in sight. If the hike grows difficult, it’s easy to wonder if the view is going to be worth it. And is this even the right trail?

A challenging climb doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. Hard journeys teach lessons and perspective not gained by taking the easy road. Difficult situations change us. We become stronger. We learn where to stand and how to keep our footing. We discover how to keep going when we can’t see around the next bend, and hopefully, we learn from our mistakes.

The Lord gives guidance in the midst of long and difficult treks. He wants to strengthen us when we’re weak. He longs to encourage when we’d like to sit down and give up. He enables us to stand in places we wouldn’t be able to stand alone.

And maybe that’s the thing. I can’t do it on my own. He enables me to put one foot in front of the other and keep going when I’d like to quit.

And oh, that he would train me to stand on the heights, that I might know his perspective and catch a glimpse of his view.


He still stoops low

But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built.” 2 Chronicles 6:18

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Nothing Solomon built could contain God. Can the one who made the trees be held by their wood? Can the one who set gold in the rocks be adorned by its grandeur? The one who placed wool on sheep has no need to be covered with its warmth.

Would He stoop to dwell in a temple built by man? And yet, he did come, like a parent thrilled with what his child had made.

When our boys were little they’d make tent houses by spreading blankets across the ottoman and couch cushions propped up around the room. Grandpa would bend down and join the fun. He was thrilled with the shelter his grandkids had thrown together; it gave him great joy to be with them.

Like Grandpa, God stooped low to enter what man had made. God would do just about anything to be among us. He even gave his Son, Jesus, as a way to connect. Before Jesus, God chose to dwell in the temple. Today, Jesus gives his Holy Spirit to live in the temple of human hearts.

Yes, he still stoops low.


When God interrupts

And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:14

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The glory of the Lord filled the temple in the form of a cloud. Did the priests fall on their faces in adoration, or inwardly fume because their day was interrupted? Were they upset because they couldn’t serve God?

Sometimes God shows up unexpectedly. Life is interrupted and my plans have to change. What appears to be a hindrance, or road block to my goals, could be divine intervention. It may be of God when I can’t do what I want to do, even if it’s something I wanted to do for Him.

He is not so concerned with my service and to-do list as He is my heart and its inclination to His will and timing. How many times has He intervened and I’ve missed Him, right in front of my face?

Lord, when you show up in all your glory don’t let me miss it! When my plans are divinely interrupted help me to recognize your presence in the moment, and then to bend, to accommodate the glory of the Lord.


Like a tree

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither…” Psalm 1:3

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If a tree is planted by a flowing stream, its roots will be nourished. Fruit will come in due season and its leaves won’t wither, even on hot days.

The Word is like a flowing stream of living water. Those who plant themselves beside it will be encouraged spiritually. A life sustained by the Word will bring a harvest of fruit in due time. Good will come.

As is the way of creation, every plant or tree rooted by the stream benefits. The water doesn’t pick and choose which roots to nourish. So too, God’s Word is a blessing to all who have a continual intake of its wisdom and truth.

His Word is there, rippling and waiting, for everyone who’ll plant themselves beside it—or better yet, in it.

Thank you, Lord, for your life-giving Word. Thank you for giving us your thoughts in written form. May they daily flow fresh into my life.


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