Driving down a country road, I spotted a sign that said, "Empty Nest Garage Sale." That sign said it all - for parents like me whose children have grown up and left home. While we're happy to see our children start a new chapter in their lives, it's tempting to feel left behind and purposeless.
I had those feelings once. While I was happy to see my daughters progress, I also felt a huge hole in my heart. The phrase "empty-nest syndrome" seriously resonated with me, so I did what I usually do when I'm feeling miserable. I prayed and found two words coming to mind: "empty" and "full."
Empty is defined as containing nothing; void; not occupied or inhabited; having no purpose or result; useless. That summed up the way I was feeling.
Full is defined as containing as much or as many as possible or normal; not lacking in an essential; perfect; satisfied.
That's how I wanted to feel.
I remembered a time when one of my daughters was feeling very discontented. I had reasoned at that time that as God's child, she includes all the happiness she could ever want or need as His spiritual reflection, and neither of us would be tempted to believe otherwise. It wasn't long before she was her normal, happy self.
So now I turned to God with my whole heart and stated emphatically, "God, I need a daughter!" The reply came back, "No, you don't need a daughter, you need to mother!" I was surprised. That wasn't the answer I'd been wanting, but within a short time, I received two telephone calls that clarified this message.
The first call came from a former college student of mine. After 10 years of wanting a child, she and her husband had just had a baby boy. My friend was ecstatic and wanted to share the news with me. Her own mother was going through a difficult time and wasn't communicating, so my friend said she had thought of me as someone who would be pleased to hear about her son. I felt honored, to say the least, and we're still in touch today, five years later.
Then, another young mother called and also wanted to talk. It seemed her mother wouldn't reinforce the positive things my friend was trying to do for her child. So I listened and offered a few spiritual ideas I knew she would appreciate as a student of the Bible. For the next couple of years, she often called and stopped by for encouragement.
Eventually, we moved near a university. My husband learned there was a need for mentors for foreign students, and he persuaded me to sign up, even though I thought it would involve a lot of work.
We were assigned two students from Taiwan, and while one seemed very comfortable in her new setting, the other one turned out to be a "long-lost daughter."
I took her grocery shopping, fed her, and helped her get acclimated to her new surroundings. Yes, there was a lot of work involved, but I never noticed because she made giving such a joy.
If you're feeling a temporary hole in your heart, ask God to reveal to you whom you can mother or father today. You don't have to wait until your "own" children show up on your doorstep. Instead, "Enlarge the place of thy tent," as the Bible recommends (Isa. 54:2), and receive those who need to feel God's love, care, and affection today.
It may not be long before you'll have all the sons and daughters you could ever want.
the dearest spot on earth,
and it should be the centre, though not the boundary,
of the affections.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)