Filling the empty nest with joy

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

My husband and I huddled over the computer screen. We had just received our first Instant Message from our son. He had begun his freshman year at college, and we were excited to be able to use this computer conversation to connect with him. We'd kept the IM line open all evening in the hope that we'd hear from him.

After a few back and forth messages, my husband pointed out that we really shouldn't be too quick to respond. Our son might think we were too eager and didn't have anything else to do. So we sat there and watched the clock until two minutes had passed. Only then did we reply, and at least give the appearance of nonchalance. Sound pathetic? Well, it felt pathetic!

Whether your child is away at college for the first time, is taking those first bus rides to elementary school, or is back at school after a leisurely summer, those left behind can be left with an empty feeling.

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Even though you know that they have no foundation, those little suggestions sneak in: "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?" "Where's the laughter going to come from?" "How will I face Friday nights without all the kids in the house?" Silly questions? Perhaps. But they came to my thought in those first quiet hours. How was I going to cope with the ache in my gut that came from the fear I felt about turning this page in my life?

The basic premise of all these questions lies in the notion that a specific person is the source of joy in the house. But is a person – any person – really the source of joy?

I found wonderful instruction from the teachings of Jesus. He often spoke of the "kingdom of heaven" – peace, joy, well-being – as being within, and not something outside us that we need to find.

John's Gospel tells of a time when Jesus shared the wonderful news that God's love and blessing are ever-present and enduring. This love is the real source of all good, including joy. Jesus assured them, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (15:11).

Joy, which is evidence of the kingdom of heaven, remains with us continually. It is not something that is "out there" somewhere. Happiness is not dependent on the presence of another person. Instead, it is part of the fiber of our being as the image and likeness of infinite good, God, the source of joy. And we can each expect this joy to be full – running over, fresh, and constantly renewed. I consented to the fact that joy is always present as a quality of my identity. The kingdom of heaven – happiness and peace – is within each of us. And the kingdom of heaven is consistent because God, the source of all good, is ever-present.

Recognizing that all the good, joy, and adventure I could ever need was already within my consciousness, I began to watch for new ways to help others. I was inspired by a statement from Mary Baker Eddy in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it" (p. 57).

My husband and I became more accomplished at previous interests and found new activities that kept us fresh and progressing along with our college student. Soon life was filled with joy.

As a family, we found a common link in our forward outlook on life as well as our loving and tender prayers for one another. When our son came home for his first holiday, he was impressed by the changes we'd made in the household – in our new interests, in the books we had read, and other blessings we shared with him. It felt as if we were progressing individually and together. All of us are following the purposeful course the Father, God, has set in front of us.

Adapted from an article posted on www.spirituality.com.

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