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Dear 7th Grade Moms & Dads,

With school starting up again, I want to let you in on a little secret…

I know, I know… middle school parents typically don’t get a lot of attention. You are certainly not newbies, and at least one of your offspring is not yet on their way to high school either. 

So, why you?

I am writing to you because it’s time to let you in on a phenomenon that will begin happening six short years from now. 

How do I know? Because without fail, it happens every year. 

No one wants to talk about it, but I guarantee that one day, you will hear the whispers. 

It sneaks up on unsuspecting parents, sometimes seemingly without warning.

You see, sadly, six years from now, soon after these hormone-crazed 7th graders graduate high school, you will begin to hear that “so and so” is getting divorced.

You would never guess by all the happy, smiling family pictures blanketing social media at graduation each spring. It is like a secret—hidden in plain sight.

So why am I letting parents of 7th graders in on this sad reality? 

Because multiple studies have found that “couples typically allow problems and resentment to build up for 6 years before seeking help and beginning to work on resolving their differences and improving their relationship.”

Some of you have told me how “you tried everything.” Especially when addiction, abuse, and adultery wreaked havoc on your family for years. 

You and your kids invested valuable resources and all your emotional energy into helping your spouse with their addictions to no avail. I feel for the families that did not get the results they worked and prayed so hard for. 

But there’s another group of you out there…the ones like me who never think it will be “us” getting divorced. The ones who are so busy living parallel lives as wonderful parents but are not so great at being lovers. It is to you that I hope this message serves as a wake-up call.

These “waited till the kids are out of the house divorces” pain me beyond measure because I know if my husband and I had not sought help twenty years ago for our own marriage, it could have easily been us. 

If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to find ways to reconnect with your spouse now. Do not wait until the kids are out of the house to “deal with this.” I can assure you that it’s not easy to face challenges as a couple, but it will definitely not get any easier if you wait. 

Get the help you know you need before it’s you telling a friend, “I am just done,” as one woman recently wrote to me. “I was tired of being lonely in a loveless marriage.” 

The Gottman Institute, a renowned relationship think tank, notes that “timing is an essential element in whether marriage counseling works. Unfortunately, most couples wait too long before reaching out for help.” 

Today, you and your spouse have six years before your 7th grader graduates from high school. There is still plenty of time to change the trajectory of your marriage. You may not know how—you may not even be sure your spouse will be on board—but you do have the added benefit of time and, possibly even more important, “awareness” on your side as well. 

If your youngest is in high school or even a senior, I assure you there is example after example of couples who have done the hard work, and their marriages are stronger today because of it. It is only too late if one of you decides it is.

Why do we think we should have all this relationship stuff figured out? 

How many of us witnessed empathic and effective communication between couples growing up? Most likely, not many.

Some of you may have had the added blessing of being raised by parents who seemed to really like each other. Regardless, the chance that they openly discussed their issues and modeled how they successfully resolved them would have been extraordinary. This is not intended to blame, but it does begin to explain each generation’s lack of problem-solving abilities.

So if any of this resonates with you, where do you start?

Based on experience, I recommend starting with a “well-timed conversation.” In the case of my own marriage, I give 100% credit to my husband for bringing up the initial discussion almost twenty years ago. Although we both now agree his tone was a bit off—we can even laugh about it—but his message was painfully clear. Something needed to change, and we could no longer figure it out on our own.

There is never a perfect time to have a difficult conversation, but here are some things to consider:

1. Timing, Tone & Intention are everything: 

  • Find a time when emotions are not running high, and neither of you is stressed out.
  • Use the tone you would be most open to when receiving this type of information. Your tone will significantly affect how well your message is received.
  • Check your intentions. If your desire is to find ways for you both to improve your relationship, then you are off to a great start.

2. Work together with a licensed marriage/relationship counselor. 

  • If your partner doesn’t want to go, you go first. The therapist should be able to help you understand why you each react the way you do and help resolve conflicts. 
  • I realize it is hard to find one; keep trying. I know it’s expensive but getting divorced is much, much more. If you are buying a coffee drink a day—STOP—and most likely, you can divert that expense toward counseling.
  • Ideally, you would each have an individual counselor to work with as well. 
  • If the first counselor isn’t a good fit, try another. It can take a while to find a good match—we’ve had at least five over the years. *Remember, we are all individuals, and none of us absorb information or grow at the same rate—have lots of patience.

3. Three books to consider:

  • How We Love—Book & Workbook— by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. If you are tired of arguing with your spouse over the same old issues, this one is for you. https://howwelove.com/
  • The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D., is very comprehensive. I highly recommend going through this as a couple or with a group. https://www.gottman.com/
  • The 80/80 Marriage by Nate and Kaley Klemp—This book offers a new, refreshing way to embrace your relationship. It is the “lightest” read of the three. https://www.8080marriage.com/   

4. Three Podcasts to consider:

  • Search podcasts with “Esther Perel”: She is a Belgian-born licensed therapist with a wealth of knowledge on preserving relationships
  • Small Things Often: The Gottman Institute offers relationship tips in 5-minutes or less. Also, search podcasts with “John Gottman.”
  • Tied for 3rd Place: Sexy Marriage Radio, The Naked Marriage, One Extraordinary Marriage, and The Stronger Marriage Podcast.

These recommendations come from my personal experience from my 30-year marriage to my best friend and are intended for educational purposes only. Please do not hesitate to reach out at lisa@idoparttwo.com if you have any questions on how my husband and I approached a particular challenge.

My sincere hope for you is to enjoy more friendship, love, and intimacy with your most important person. Love, Lisa

🎊 Starting off the year with an introduction—I have sprinkled this page with bits and pieces about my marriage⛪, family, and myself this last year, but I have never made a bona fide introduction as the creator behind I Do Part Two. 

Thank you so much for following along! I’m Lisa.✋ I grew up in the days when no one locked their doors and our parents had no idea where we were all day.“Just be home by dinner,” my mom would say. I went to middle, high school, and college all in the ‘80s—graduating from the University of Oregon in 1990. (If you’re a Gen❌er yourself, this alone tells you a lot about me.) 

I am 53 and met my best friend and husband of almost 30 years in college.💘 We have three grown kids—25👦, 21👦, and 18👧—two are in college, and one is working hard. Our oldest has autism🧩; he’s super independent and has the best disposition in the universe. 

Aside from my family—I love sugar-free vanilla lattes☕, travel adventures🌴, lying on the couch with my hubby binge-watching the latest, Jesus, coffee with friends/Girls Weekends, visiting our kids at college, listening to books 📘 while I walk, and connecting with other creators online. My guilty pleasures are eating nacho cheese sauce🧀 and sneaking mini-Reeses cups.

I started I Do Part Two when our youngest was a junior in high school. (💡If you are nearing empty-nesting, and are thinking about a new venture, I highly recommend beginning something before your youngest leaves the nest.) Yes, it can be scary to try something new. I still find it hard to put myself out there at times, but rewards have been innumerable.🏆

I Do Part Two is all about discovering YOU 💟. For many of us, it’s more about REDISCOVERING ourselves AGAIN. It certainly was for me, with some nuances that surprised me along the way. 

Our lives are made up of many chapters 📕, and at midlife, we still have exciting adventures to write about. I Do Part Two is just a catchy way to ask, “What’s next?”

What is your Part Two❓   

This page initially started as a blog to share marriage stories from a variety of perspectives but it has grown and changed over time. (Just like us.😉) I still plan to share stories but also much more about making the most of the years ahead, adventures in empty-nesting, and so much more.

I’ll share tips from my own thirty years of marriage, as well as advice from experts on moving toward your passion, having fun empty-nesting, and keeping the passion alive and well in your marriage.

I hope this page inspires💫 you to better understand yourself, your partner 🥰, and what energizes💥 you to get out of bed each morning. 

Thank you again for joining me on this journey, lisa@idoparttwo.com

* I’d love to hear your thoughts about marriage, midlife, and empty-nesting. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, and if you’re a writer or aspiring to be one, I’d love to consider sharing your story on I Do Part Two—Empty Nesting & More.

Glow-ups are all the rage on social media and certainly make an excellent visual. Search #GlowUp, and you’ll see a plethora of before and after images of people who seem to have conquered their weight loss challenges, and kudos to them. 

I am sure many of them DO feel as amazing on the inside as their outside suggests, but sadly numerous studies conclude, many do not.

So what does this have to do with marriage and empty-nesting? 

EVERYTHING! 

It’s hard to feel great about yourself when you’ve been busy doing everything for everyone in your life—EXCEPT YOU.

As our big kids leave the nest after the holidays, it can be especially hard if our identity has been primarily wrapped up in parenting. Almost overnight, the house becomes eerily quiet and a little bit lonely if we haven’t found other passions to pursue as well.

So, how does it affect our marriages? Well, most experts agree it is challenging to feel completely loved when we don’t feel loveable or at least when we don’t feel like ‘ourselves’ anymore. 

When was the last time you did something for yourself without making sure everyone else was taken care of first? For many of you, it has been way too long.

I love being a mom. I will always be “mom” to my three kids, now 18, 21, and 25, who I enjoy raising with my husband of almost 30 years. We’ve had quite a ride—it hasn’t always been ‘perfect’ but we figured it out, and had a lot of love and laughs along the way.

Even so, somewhere between playdates and PTA meetings, I lost what makes me—“me.” My life felt pretty complete with a wonderful husband (most of the time), great kids (some of the time), good friends (to laugh and cry with), a roof over my head, and two cars in the garage. Still, I felt like a little something was always missing—and honestly, I felt really guilty about it. 

Who was I to complain? Shouldn’t I just be grateful for all I have? What more did I need anyway?

I never stopped being ‘busy’ long enough to think about why I felt something was missing. I didn’t even mention it to my husband (except maybe with little passive-aggressive well-timed grunts here and there)—it was my guilty little secret. Like many GenXers, the thought of asking ourselves how “we are feeling” is like speaking a foreign language.

Friend, I am here to tell you firsthand, if there was any time in your life to learn a new language, metaphorically speaking—midlife is it. 

We have to change our internal dialog and start asking ourselves how we are feeling?
What do we think is missing in our life, or what might light us up again?

God willing, at fifty, we have thirty-five to fifty years left on this earth. If you haven’t asked yourself how you want to spend the remainder of your time yet, now is the time! 

As I began to get back in touch with who I was before I was a wife, a mom, a classroom volunteer, and an auction chair—I started feeling better about myself on the inside. 

It’s a work in progress, but I am more aware of my feelings and continue to ask, “Why am I feeling like this right now?” If this is not something you’ve already been asking yourself, you might try it. 

If you’ve also been wondering what else this season has to offer, here are some questions that might help direct you to discover your own ‘Part Two’:

1. What did you like to do in your teens, twenties, or pre-kids?

2. What would you like to do more if time and money were not an obstacle?

3. When do you feel best about yourself? Serving others or getting lost in an activity or hobby, or both?

4. What do others say you are good at? If you don’t know the answer to this one, ask a few good friends.

5. If you are not currently working outside the home, would you consider it, and what areas might interest you if there were no barriers to entry?

6. Is anything else holding you back from pursuing something new? Fear? Imposter Syndrom? 

7. What are one or two things you would like to add to your life this year that would have the most immediate and positive impact on your life?

A few years ago, I told a counselor I felt like, “I had lost the woman I set out to become in my twenties. I didn’t know who I was outside or being a wife and mother.” 

After asking me many of the questions above and I, not having a clue how to answer most of them, said, “Lisa, interesting people do interesting things. I want you to try something new—anything.” Mentally I repeated…’ interesting people do interesting things.’

What?! I was already doing lots of things. Dang it, I was busy—he kind of ticked me off!

But you know what? He was right. 

So, I started taking a few classes at my local community college, experimented with different types of exercise, joined a writing group, started snow-skiing again, and even signed up for a hip-hop class with friends. I found out I like to write, but you will not find me channeling J. Lo anytime soon.

If you truly don’t have an inkling about what you might like to do. Then, grab a friend and try ‘something.’ An evening with friends painting, creating, and sipping wine is a great place to start. 

Research confirms that learning something new forms new connections and neurons in our brain, giving us a rush of dopamine, aka “the feel-good hormone.” Who wouldn’t like more of that?

Since I’ve started exploring what lights me up and what motivates me to get out of bed each morning—my husband has noticed changes as well. He’s encouraged me to continue my journey and has become my biggest supporter. Feeling better about myself on the inside has also led to greater intimacy in our relationship, which we definitely want to continue to nurture.

We talk more often about what we both want more, or less of, in our relationship. We made a goal to put ‘fun’ back into our lives—spontaneous getaways, dinner with friends, visiting our kids, and finding new activities to enjoy together—some of which were unintentionally put aside in the busyness of life.

My only regret—is not having started my ‘Glow-Up’ sooner. The good news for all of us is that “it is never too late to start something new.” With love, lisa@idoparttwo.com

By Whitney Westbrook

You should see the pictures on my camera roll.

Pictures of things I use to try and fix me.

Things like steaming mugs of coffee.

And the first fire in the fireplace of the year.

And the best Mexican food in my neighborhood.

And, of course, my dog, sleeping peacefully in the sun.

These are signs of warmth when I need comfort, things that tell me I’m full when, really, I’m empty, and pictures of blissful rest that escapes me when I feel restless.

Not to lean too far into introspection, but I sometimes wonder if my infatuation over capturing the perfect still life is just exactly that: My infatuation with the Perfect Still Life.

Like somehow the Perfect Still Life subconsciously means to me that imperfections are absent from my life, that my circumstances are perfect in that moment, and that everything about and around me is “fixed”.

Let me tell you what, my people.

There is nothing picture-perfect about midlife.

That perfect cup of coffee and a cozy fire, that insanely delicious guacamole (that I didn’t make) and the dream of an uninterrupted nap in the sunshine – these things might be just what the doctor ordered, but the “perfection” they offer is simply a mist.

It evaporates behind the lens in real life.

I always need to start over with fresh coffee the next morning. Fires require tending or they dwindle. And everybody knows guac turns nasty overnight.

And a nap? Are you kidding me?

If I could EVEN still my mind enough to sleep midday, you and I both know 72,000 people would pick that moment to need something RIGHT NOW.

Friends, I don’t know – and I don’t want to know – what’s on your camera roll. But I’m guessing like most people, you capture the images you want to see because they speak to you.

Things that speak peace in your life.
And things that spark hope.
And things that inspire joy.
And, of course, things that emote love and good cheer.

These things – the coffee and the food and the fireplace and the patch of sunshine on the floor – these are all good things.

Scratch that. These are all GREAT things.

But I’m convinced these snapshots are gifts that represent something far greater, far more sustainable.

Something far more PERMANENT for which I’m forever accidentally but undeniably searching.

And that something is the Perfect Love of God who shines through all the cracks of my imperfect life and a very broken world.

Photo by Canva

Friends, I offer you this thought: It’s absolutely right to celebrate all of your misty gifts, even while you still struggle with all the imperfections of your (not so) still life.

Enjoy your gifts in whatever images they present themselves tonight, and rest in God’s Perfect Love fully in those moments.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 (NIV)

By Whitney Westbrook

1. Be silly!

2. Let your voice be heard. Don’t subdue your voice to make others comfortable.

3. Always wear a black shirt while doing a presentation… sweat stains are a thing.

4. Hydration is your friend.

5. Falling in love is breathtaking.

6. Pass out compliments.

7. Floss!

8. Move your body each day.

9. Pay close attention to your gut.

10. Eat ice cream without any guilt.

11. Smile… you never know who needs it.

12. Putting on comfy clothes after a long day can change everything.

13. Sometimes all you need is a hug.

14. Reach out to a friend who has been distant and make sure everything is okay.

15. You can do anything for a short amount of time.

16. Make your bed each morning and open up the shades!

17. Sending a love letter in the mail is a beautiful thing.

18. Get fresh air each and every day, no matter the weather.

19. Own your opinions and feelings.

20. Always be your authentic self.

21. Sometimes a pink starburst can add a little bit of joy to your day.

22. Be open with your friends… you will all benefit.

23. Always challenge yourself.

24. Ask… the worse you can hear is no.

25. Laugh and laugh some more.

26. Hold hands.

27. Sometimes calling mom is all you need.

28. Love yourself beyond measure.

29. Take time to rest your body and mind.

30. Always know the world needs you!

Xoxo

“You’re posting all these stories about empty-nesting, and I haven’t even gone back to school yet—you aren’t really empty-nesters,” joked my twenty-one-year-old son.

As if I wasn’t already suffering from imposter syndrome as a want-to-be-blogger. Now, I was being called out by my own kid—for my ‘𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝘁𝘆 𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵.’

“Well, your sister is fifteen-hundred miles away, doesn’t that count for something?” I tossed back. (I can’t believe I am actually having to justify whether or not I can call myself an ’empty-nester.’)

“Not really,” he shook his head, not giving an inch, “and then there will always be John…”

“Yes, that may be true,” I agreed. John is our twenty-four-year-old son who has autism and still lives with us. He does not want to move out, and we love having him here, so it’s a win-win.

However, at times I do feel like we have a renter upstairs. John has a busy life with work and daily activities, so when he’s home, he likes to retreat to the peace and quiet of his ‘apartment’—“No Visitors Allowed.”

So maybe by some standard, we at least qualify as ‘quasi empty-nesters’?

All joking aside, this is a new season for us, with our youngest having just left for college—I know it is a new chapter in many of your lives as well. For most of us, there have been years of these little bursts of energy swirling through our lives, our homes, and most importantly, our hearts. So after the whirlwind of laughter, late-night snacking, football, soccer and basketball games, tennis matches, and band practice subside, there is most definitely…a void.

Of course, they’ll be back for the holidays—thank goodness. For turkey and stuffing smothered in grandma’s special gravy, their favorite apple pie, and opening gifts on Christmas morning. Sure it’s a magical time, but it’s still not the same as when they lived under our roofs full-time…(insert ‘a sigh’ here.)

Fortunately, in an effort to help me prepare for this new chapter in my life, my mother gifted me with a golden piece of advice a few years ago. She told me to “find something you would like to try, or you would love to do and get started BEFORE your youngest leaves for college.”

And, so I did that just that when I launched this blog, I Do Part Two—Empty Nesting & More, about two years ago. Maybe for you, it’s not about writing or blogging or podcasting, but I hope you will see this time in your life as a chance to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Now, is a great time to rediscover interests you may have set aside while you were raising kids.

Ask yourself–

What did you use to like to do?

What do people ask you to get involved in or compliment you on?

What kinds of books, podcasts, and activities do you gravitate towards?

What lights you up?

What leaves you drained?

“Listen to the whispers,” a friend tells me, because everything you do or decide not to do, is leaving you clues.

I truly believe if we stay open to the possibilities, this season in our lives can be a time of amazing growth, new connections, and beautiful opportunities. The world is waiting-you are never too old, and it’s never too late—to discover who you were truly meant to be.

P.S. Just for the record, my son is back on campus. Maybe now, we can officially call ourselves ‘quasi empty-nesters.’

A few weeks ago, we took our youngest child to college. I confess I started counting down the weeks to that moment even as the summer days appeared endless.

This transitional season brought with it plenty of questions and grief for me. While I knew my son’s new place of residence was where God wanted him, I wasn’t ready to let him go. It meant recognizing the end of a parenting season, a change in our relationship, and a noticeable absence in our home. However, I clung to my long-held faith that he is God’s child first. Releasing him for God’s purposes is part of parenting.

So on move-in day, we drove those three and a half hours to a city with which our family is not familiar. It is nowhere near either my husband’s or my hometown. No relatives live there. It is a small town and agricultural and we are used to the city and suburbia. Three and a half hours felt like a way longer trip into foreign territory.

After moving him into his huge dorm in the middle of unfamiliar land and saying our goodbyes, we made the trek back home. Understandably, the sobbing commenced as I made a beeline for the car. The ride home felt just as long as the ride there.

As the flood of both emotions and tears continued, I wondered. Why did this trip feel so long when my own hometown is about the same distance? My oldest son goes to school there but it does not feel so far. How does releasing your child in an unfamiliar place equally far away feel so different?

I think of all the parents around the world releasing their kids at various times for God’s purposes. Some of those places are way farther than three and a half hours. I remember the mothers in scripture who did so not knowing how deep in their souls that separation would later feel. Their narratives have been lifted up by me as inspirational. But now I sit with them. I feel their conflicting emotions more than I could have expected.

Leaving our kids in a foreign place feels counter instinctual.

Our whole lives we sought to straddle the line of protection and empowerment. Of course, we know that it will all come to fruition at that moment far down on the horizon. And then we realize it has arrived. All that we believe about God, provision, protection, and purposes looms in front of us.

Those goodbye hugs symbolize all that we have known all along. There is a time to hold tightly and a time to let go. Releasing from the embrace, I watch him walk towards his home. And my husband and I go towards ours. In all of it, I know that it’s where we are all supposed to be.

*Photo courtesy of Canva

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Jen Thompson, author, on her wedding day

One of the biggest fights we’ve had happened just a few short months after we were married.

We had traveled to see family over the weekend and had just returned home on a Sunday evening. We walked inside, both holding as much as our arms would carry.

The bags were put in our room and my husband proceeded to walk into the living room, turn on the tv and sit down.

Wait. What?
What was he doing?
What about the rest of the stuff in the car?
What about work tomorrow?
We need to unpack. This is priority number one.

Right?

For me, yes.
For him, no.

And in that moment a battle ensued.

I went on and on about why he should be doing what I wanted him to do and he went on and on about why he should be doing what he wanted to do.

Our words flew over and around each other, landing on ears unwilling to listen. We were both so sure we were right. We both knew the other was wrong.

And we just had to get our points across.

It was imperative the other didn’t necessarily understand where we were coming from, but really just changed their behavior.

This is the only fight I remember in the history of our relationship that ended with him leaving the house.

He just left.
He couldn’t take any more of the badgering and out the door and into the car he went to drive and to think.
And I was left alone to cry.

This was not the wedded bliss I imagined.
What was happening here?

It didn’t take long for us both to recognize all of the unspoken things we brought into our marriage. The ways we grew up. Our living habits we never thought to communicate when we weren’t living together. The things we brought into the marriage that we didn’t even know we were carrying. The expectations we had that we didn’t even know we had.

Like you always unload the car completely and unpack immediately after returning from a trip. Like watching your team play takes precedence and whatever needs to be done can be done later.

Fast forward to today and unpacking rarely happens the night we return from a trip.
And it’s definitely possible to miss games, and happens all of the time.

We have grown and we have changed and our priorities have shifted. We have learned to listen to what the other needs and try to compromise instead of being unwilling to budge.

We have learned that there is no such thing as over-communicating.
We speak our needs.
We share our concerns.
We listen.
We budge.

We know we are two imperfect people who will always be growing and changing and learning and the things that matter now, may not matter as much tomorrow.

The key is that we grow and change and learn together.

That fight stands out in my mind and I can see how wrong I was. My husband says he can see how wrong he was, too.

And that’s the beauty of it.

This was a learning moment in our marriage.

We won’t always see eye-to-eye, but the important thing is that we are willing to listen, to admit our wrongs, and to change our ways if needed.

Because our goal is no longer to be right.

But to love each other as best as we are able.

Two birds in nest

Shortly after saying a tearful goodbye to our daughter on a campus far away, her older brother decided to join my husband and me for a few days of golf, paddle boarding, and relaxing at our cabin in the mountains.

As parents, these are the moments we breathe into with gratitude—when time blesses our hearts.

Soon he will be headed off to school as well, but thankfully at a college less than an hour away. He is close enough to golf 9-holes with us in an afternoon, then grab a bite together, and still make it back to campus in time to hang with his friends for the evening.

As our adult children spread their wings, many parents, like us, are finding unique ways to stay connected with their kids.

Our oldest son, who has autism, has chosen to continue to live with us, and we feel truly blessed. We’ve turned the upstairs into “his apartment.” When we are all home, he comes downstairs to tells us “he loves us,” and heads back up to his sanctuary. Fortunately, he’s very independent and loves his daily routine of work and activities, which keeps him fulfilled and engaged.

I saved the best of our ‘𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘵𝘺 𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵’ for last—my husband.

We. Are. Still. Here. Together.

We built this nest, and we are looking at this next phase as an exciting opportunity—rather than an empty one. We have been intentional about what we would like the next few years to look like, and are excited to experience this new chapter as it unfolds.

We are looking forward to more spontaneous outings, dinner with friends, and a renewed intimacy. We also know, just as we become accustomed to living with two fewer bodies in the house, the holidays will be upon us, and we’ll all be together again.

And isn’t that what is really important? It doesn’t matter if we are all ‘home’ in the same nest or not. We are a family because of our love for each other and because we choose to stay connected no matter where we all live. And that is the kind of nest that will never be empty.

Debbie Prather, Author, and her son

A mother’s love letter to her son and daughter-in-law on their wedding day—

“I love you, mom.”

“Hmmm?”

(A little louder) “I love you, mom.”

“I love you too, honey, so very much.”

I’d been deep in thought, listening to the song we were slowly dancing to.

I knew this mother/son moment of ours was supposed to be the time to say all the things, but this boy and I had already said all the things, so the lyrics to the melody played in our ears:

Hold the door say please say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but…

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but…

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

As we moved from side to side, I felt in a dream and took in everything my senses could hold: the supportive, joyful faces looking on; the army of twinkling lights decorated throughout, reflected in the antique mirrors on the opposite wall; the warmth of his strong arms as we held each other.

𝙃𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙆𝙞𝙣𝙙–

𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗲, 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗻, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝗳𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗲.

I recall Spring Break of 2017. We traveled down to warmer weather and spent time with Brett, who, at the time, was living and working in Orlando.

He had recently been out with Abby, another student he knew in college when they were part of the same circle.

She had visited Florida, also, and messaged him, just two friends reconnecting, and they went out to eat together before she headed back to the midwest.

When he and I sat on the beach in St. Petersburg about a week afterward, I asked him to tell me all about their time.

He lit up, told me a bit, and then said, “I don’t know, I just have a really good feeling.” Because of his words, I did too.

When we met Abby that summer, I immediately saw the qualities that Brett had used to describe her: kind, thoughtful, playful, smart, beautiful.

Brett fell for her fast, and so did we.

Brett’s gut instinct was right.

Our daughter-in-law, Abby, gives us all good feelings because she’s funny, sincere, creative, empathetic, hard-working, faith-filled, and full of love.

She has a special tenderness for dogs of every type, and she gives the best hugs! Unfortunately, she and I have experienced similar past heartache.

Like myself, Abby lost a parent to cancer at the time of her high school graduation.

We talked often about those profound losses in the early days of getting to know one another.

Abby’s grief was close to the surface, as it’d been six years since her mom passed away at the time we met.

With over three decades out from losing my dad, I could express to her that the pain lessened a little more each year, although, never completely.

I suspect Abby was an old soul even before her mom went to heaven, but that event, and her awareness that life is fragile and precious, make her even more so today.

She’s the perfect match for Brett: the match we’ve prayed for since he was little.

As hard as it is watching our children grow up and leave the nest, there’s nothing better than seeing them start their own family, by marrying the one God had planned for them since the beginning of time.

The night of the wedding, when Brett and I were finishing our dance, the end verses struck me.

Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line.

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

For many long years, to get where I was going, was to plead with God to give Craig and I strength and wisdom to raise our kids up right.

Now that they’re all but grown, I don’t take one second of it for granted.

I think of the generations that have gone ahead of us: their words of encouragement, their silent and spoken prayers, their admonitions and stories, their smiles and reassurances; extended from those who walked before and then alongside, getting us to this place.

Craig and I plan to assist, pray for, tell stories and jokes, and be there – please God be willing – in any way our children want or need in the years to come.

With a heart of gratitude, I thank the Lord for the blessing they’ve been to us, and for every single treasured, unique member that makes the love in our family vast and abundant.

𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗻𝗼𝘄, 𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗴’𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲, 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗮𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗽 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲.

It’s a privilege, an honor, and an undeniable gift.

So are the riches of having humble and kind young adults that make me drop to my knees in gratitude . . . I’m a wealthy woman indeed.

Proverbs 22: 4 The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.

Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

All credit for Humble and Kind goes to Tim McGraw for his vocal talents and the writer of the song: Lori McKenna for her beautiful words.

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