The fall season of life: Our daughter Leah moved out

Last weekend our youngest, beautiful, precious daughter Leah moved out of our house, to her own home to be close to her new job as assistant baker at a coffee shop/deli, about an hour north of us. So I am (again) in empty nest. While Ray and I love Leah so much and really miss her, we pray she’ll spread her wings and soar. I’m praying daily for her (as usual).

Our beautiful daughter Leah at the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

It is not easy for me, because my children are my heartbeat and I love them so much. I believe that being a mom is the most important, sacred job in the whole world. I’m also a homeschooling mom.

I homeschooled our daughter Heather the last two years of high school until she graduated and attended Youth With a Mission; homeschooled our daughter Eden one year in elementary school; and homeschooled Leah for all of her 12 years in school.

No worldly “success” that I could ever achieve as a speaker and author could compare to being a mother. Next to my salvation in Christ, it is the greatest gift God has ever given me.

Heather, Eden, and Leah
Our 3 beautiful daughters Heather, Eden, and Leah are my very heartbeat

I’m also a recovering control freak and I worry too much. My family can attest to this. Our kids often tell me, “Chill out, mom!” or “Stop freaking out!”

To this day, I still worry about our oldest daughter, Heather, who is 38 years old, a college graduate, and a mom of two of her own girls! I battle with being one of those annoying helicopter moms. 

My oldest daughter Heather with me, at her college graduation. I still worry about her!
Me with my daughter Heather before her college graduation ceremony

But I’m learning to let go and let God. He loves our three daughters even more than Ray and I do. He’s got their backs!

You may have heard the expression, “Once a mom, always a mom.” I’ll probably never stop worrying completely about my kids. It’s what (good) moms do!

But this is a new chapter for me. God has great new things, for me, too! I’ve realized recently that this is the fall season of my life. 

falling leaves
falling leaves

Here in Missouri where I live, it’s beautiful right now. It’s my favorite season. I love the cooler weather and the colored leaves in shades of orange, red, yellow, and brown. Yes, I know the leaves are actually dying. But they are glorious.

tree with orange leaves
our tree with glorious orange leaves

 

Blue sky with yellow, brown, and orange leaves
Blue sky with yellow and orange leaves
Red, yellow, and orange leaf

It is like me in middle age and now empty nest. I’m not a spring chicken any more–no longer that young, hot girl that my husband Ray fell so madly in love with 27 years ago, who survived on Coca-Cola’s and Snickers chocolate bars all day and still staying a size 3, and who stayed up all night long to cram for the next morning’s college social work class or to watch a marathon of chic flics making her cry and laugh and hope.

I’m in the fall of my life now.

The grey hairs are coming in faster now (I earned every one of ’em, from the intense stress of our marriage and our kids worrying me to death), and I notice more facial wrinkles, especially around the corners of my mouth. I wonder who that older woman is, staring back at me in the mirror with sad eyes and a perpetually worried brow. Cinderella, I am not.

Yet I realize that even as my youthful physical beauty is fading, I am growing closer to Jesus every day and believe my inner beauty is increasing, becoming more glorious like the fall’s colored leaves.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

tree with yellow leaves
tree with yellow leaves

I’m in the Autumn of my life, no longer a baby like the season of spring with its new birth of flowers and animals, or like summer with the warm, golden sun (those skinny, tanned, long-haired girls in bikinis come to mind; I used to be one of them!), or like cold, barren winter (the elderly with silver hair, reading glasses, and brimming with life’s wisdom, on the threshold of Heaven’s door).

Leah when she was a child –so precious!
Time flies fast, so savor the moments!

I’m in the fall season of life, a transitional phase, with its crisp, cooler weather, Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, apple pie-scented candles, pretty feminine scarves, fun corn mazes, comfy loose hoodies, soft sweaters, and delicious s’mores over campfires. A time of pause and reflection and reevaluation. An in-between time of life. A letting go season. Especially of my children.

A lesson I’m learning over and over. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my entire life. Motherhood is a precious gift, but why does it hurt so much sometimes? I feel as if my heart and guts are being ripped out of my body sometimes.

When I was young, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a mom and a writer. I am both. But who am I besides being a mom? They are such a huge part of my identity, yet my true identity is in Jesus Christ.

I have realized sometimes my children can be idols. I must love God more than even them. I can have no other gods before Him.

Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.

I must let go, for my sake and theirs. I realize that if I don’t let my children go, to soar on their own as adults, it will cripple them for life. I did my job raising them, loving them, and pointing them to Jesus. Yes, I screwed up a lot, but I repented fast to God. Now it is time for them to live their lives and make their own decisions, whether good or bad. I pray they always choose to follow Jesus. And they know how much I love them!

Fall is a letting go season. A time to pause, reflect, and reevaluate your life. I’m learning to let go. A lesson I have to learn over and over again.

But I’ve tried to make our last few weeks of memories and this move as pleasant and smooth as possible for our daughter Leah. I don’t want her to move out yet. But I sure didn’t want her driving back and forth an hour on ice and snow to get to work each day–it is too dangerous! She needs to be in the city where she works. She reassured me that sometimes we’ll still get together for lunch or to do fun things, as is our habit.

Leah and I at lunch for Mexican together, something we enjoy doing for fun

As Leah prepared to move, she realized that she owned a lot more stuff than she realized. This is usually what you find out when you move!

Leah had a lot more stuff than she thought!
A big, pink stuffed dog that Leah’s previous manager gave her for Valentine’s Day last year and other stuff

Since Leah works full time, is taking graphic design online college classes, and takes weekly violin lessons, and is tired from her full schedule, I helped her by wrapping fragile items she owned in old newspapers that I got in bundles at the local Shopper paper office and packing boxes. She appreciated this. I confess that I sometimes cried as I packed!

Leah’s musical instruments and other belongings

Leah rented a U-Haul in town to move. God gave her favor. The company gave her a bigger size truck for the same price as a smaller one that she originally rented. The smaller one was still rented out the morning we needed it. Good thing, too–we filled up the truck with boxes! Moving tip: you always have more than you think when you move! You might sell, give away, or throw away things before the moving process.

The U-Haul Leah rented to move into her own home.

I had carefully wrapped glass and other fragile items. I pray God carefully wraps her heart, mind, body, and spirit in His tender love. But Ray found rope in our garage to secure these boxes that we placed on the shelf in the back of the U-Haul. For a moment, we argued over the best way to tie the rope. Just like old times!

Ray securing boxes on a shelf in the back of the U-Haul, with rope

Ray had given Leah a sleeper-sofa for her new home’s living room. I had also bought her items for her kitchen and bathroom that she would need, as going-away gifts. The sofa was downstairs and weighs about 200 pounds. I had gotten a lot of her things packed when she was at work. On moving day, while Leah was at work, Ray and I loaded the U-Haul as much as we could with her furniture and boxes.

I didn’t think we’d ever get that sofa up the stairs! I’m not as strong as Ray and Leah. This made me realize I really need to exercise and work out! We were all sore the next few days from the move! But we got it done! God answered my prayer for clear weather–no rain, snow, or ice!

The U-Haul and Leah’s car in our driveway as we loaded
Ray and our beautiful, precious daughter Leah before she moved

I’d written Leah a long letter with encouraging Scriptures and practical life tips that I’d given her the night before moving day.

Since Leah was working the day of the move, as a favor I had also taken her cat Jax to the vet to get her annual Rabies shot and her claws trimmed.

Leah’s cat Jax in the pet carrier at the vet for her Rabies shot and to get her claws trimmed
Leah’s adorable cat Jax. Ray and I will miss her so much, too! She’s so sweet, playful, and funny!
Leah and her beloved cat, Jax

I noticed the words above her head in the picture above (with the U-Haul) read, “Where will you go next?” How prophetic. I pray many new, exciting adventures for Leah!

I hugged Leah and told her I loved her before she drove off into the sunset to start her own life. Ray, Leah, and I got everything loaded, then the three of us went to eat Mexican lunch together. We came back home and it was time for her to go.

I waved goodbye as Leah and Ray drove out of our driveway. He, Leah, and her room mates would unload the U-Haul at her new home. I then went inside and cried again at her now very empty room! My heart and life feel just as empty. Recently I found a wonderful blog by my friend Rose for women in mid-life, whose children are in college and/or grown. You can read it here. I need to fill the emptiness I feel now with God.

Ray and Leah leaving our driveway for her to move to her new home
Leah’s now empty room

Words are inadequate to express to Leah how deeply God and Ray and I love her and how much we’ll miss her here. But I pray, precious, beautiful daughter, Leah, these things: that your biggest dreams come true, you live an exciting adventure, you find true peace and joy, you succeed greatly in your art and music, and that you soar high, fulfilling God’s great purpose for your life. I’m cheering you on to the finish line all the way. And every day, I’m here praying for you.

Leah blowing catnip bubbles for her cat Jax, who loves to look at them and pop them

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