Jenna finished her last day of high school today. Our homeschooling journey is over. And almost over are the most active years of daily parenting.
Life is not a progression of fixed points.
In fact, stables times actually are the exception; transition is the norm.
In What’s Next? H. Norman Wright is trying to convince me that transitions are friends, not foes.
I do believe him; I’ve been through enough to know that the other side can bring great joys.
But the transition points themselves aren’t always easy.
I’ve already been crying. Like when Jenna danced for me Thursday night a preview of her senior dance recital to “The Finish Line.” And when I plunked out a choral version of “Jesus Loves Me” on the piano so she could practice for her last chorus concert. Because I remember when she was 3 and she’d twirl in circles until she fell down. And when she’d belt out “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of her lungs at the zoo.
For every change ahead, you leave something behind. And while I’m not leaving my children behind per se, I am leaving behind a season of life.
instead of saying “That ended…” you said, “This started”?
That’s not ignoring or denying the end; it’s conveying that you won’t let it consume your life, that you won’t permit it to keep you from heading forward.
We can fixate on endings…or we can focus on beginnings.
Accepting the ending of a phase is a beginning!
While the book can be useful to anyone in transition, it’s geared toward those of us in the middle-years.
Some of the chapters:
- The Never-Ending Seasons of Parenting
- Midlife Matters
- “The Empty Nest,” or “The Emergence”?
- The Second Half of Marriage
- Your Purpose Now
I’ll admit the chapter on “The Gathering of Losses” is a tad disheartening (although it’s not about anything I’m not already seeing):
[In later years] losses will occur faster....Limitations begin to be a standard part of living.
...Another characteristic of loss during this phase is finality. As we age we’ll probably grieve several losses at once, and some won’t be fully resolved while on earth.
...One characteristic of loss during this time, though, is that most losses can be anticipated.
But he tries to make up for it in the next chapter, “You’re Older: Rejoice!” (although I consider myself still too young to relate to much in this chapter). These principles are relevant though:
Be present with (not absent from) life.
…There’s discovery of a new purpose and the setting of new goals. There is meaning, based in how we’re living for the furthering of God’s kingdom.
Perhaps the best lesson I learned from this book, though, isn’t so much about what’s next one or five or ten years down the road (I really haven’t a clue), but about how I’m handling the transition in the moment. When you lay your head down at night, ask yourself this question:
“Have I loved well?”
Wright quotes Ken Gire,
“Have I loved well?
Has love been the beating heart pushing through all my activities? Can it be heard in all my conversations? Seen in my yes? Felt when other people are in my presence? Was the the truth I spoke today spoken in love? Were the decisions I made today based on love? …
Have I loved well?
If we can answer yes to that question, it is enough.
It may not be enough for our employer…our fellow workers…all the carpools and committees and other things on our calendar.
It may not even be enough for us.
But it is enough for God.
And that should make it enough for us.
So what’s next for me?
I can’t spell it out—I’m guessing more miles on my car back and forth to Auburn to see my girls and son-in-law, less time in the kitchen, more flexibility with my schedule—but regardless, my goal is to love well in it. To absorb the grace and to pass it on.
That’s worth looking forward to.
* * *
What’s the most recent transition you’ve been through? Was it hard or easy?
Thanks to Bethany House
for the free review copy of What’s Next?