A couple of months ago, I made my way north to Fort Collins, Colorado, home of Colorado State University. My twin sons, both excited and nervous to be driving toward their freshman year of college, followed behind me in their granddad’s 2003 silver Honda.
We arrived alongside a sea of other wide-eyed kids and teary-eyed parents and spent the whole day setting up their dorm room. (Yep, my twin sons are sharing a dorm room. If only I could have seen this day as a mother of preschoolers and known that yes, all 319 million requests for them to PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, LEARN TO SHARE would eventually be taken to heart. Thank God for maturity and miracles, amen.)
As hard as it was to say goodbye to them in Fort Collins, it was harder to walk through our front door two and half hours later without them. Yes, they aren’t too far away. Yes, I’ll get to see them more than if they went to school, say, on the East Coast. But I won’t get to see them every day like before, and that takes some getting used to.
When we go through a major change, the new normal doesn’t feel normal overnight. Yes, in changing seasons like this one, we can hold the hand of trust because God’s presence goes where ours can’t. But I can also acknowledge that it’s okay to be sad, too. Right now, it’s okay for me to tear up when I round the corner from doing laundry and look into their empty bedroom. It’s okay to sigh when I accidentally pull out five plates for dinner instead of three.
But even as the house feels too empty, it’s good to know I’m making it through this life transition. This change has also made me aware of the fact that I need my fill of two important things these days — and every day, really:
I need someone who is a season or two ahead of me in life who offers a hopeful perspective of where I’m headed, as well as someone who is a season or two behind me whom I can offer a hopeful perspective from where I’ve been.
I like to call them seasonal bookends.
It’s easy for me to know I need peers within my own life stage, but I don’t always think about intentionally finding those bookends, people who both prop me up and help me keep a healthy perspective about where I am today — people who remind me how to fully and abundantly belong where I am today.
So when Christina, a younger mom, asks me how to maneuver teens and dating, I take time to answer her question. And in doing so, I’m giving her a hopeful vision for her future and myself the knowledge that having been there helps me belong as an encourager. And when Connie, an empty nester friend, asks me how I’m doing with the boys gone, I take time to tell her. And she gives me a hopeful vision for my own future, assuring me that good things will grow in this new season while affirming her own sense of belonging, too.
I am generally content with where I belong today, but it’s also true that the older I get, the harder it is to make friends. It was easier when the kids were little, and I found myself around other women on a regular basis. While this is true, I can lean towards dwelling on it till it becomes an excuse not to expand my belonging place in times when I need to. Instead, I want to acknowledge the fact that it’s harder to round out my place of belonging than it used to be but not simmer in it. I don’t want to be so busy mourning my former belonging places or become so busy looking at others in theirs that I neglect where God has me right now. Actively looking for these seasonal bookends is one way I do this. It’s one way I stay and enjoy where I am and give good things time to grow in this new season.
Instead of looking to the past or craning our necks toward the future, may you and I become adept at investing in those people and places around us today. May we see love, contentment, and — dare I say — joy rising up from the fresh soil of change. May we see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living — and in the staying and growing.
Let’s encourage the livin’ daylights out of one another. Given your own life stage, tell us how you can encourage someone who is a season or two ahead of you or behind you!
We all need seasonal bookends - friends who are a season ahead of us and behind us - to keep us grounded and encouraged in the midst of change. Tag your bookend friends! -@Kristen_Strong: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
What a wonderful word picture – seasonal bookends – I love it! Even as I near 60, I still need and welcome the advice of mentors. We all need a Titus woman who will walk by our side and encourage us to bask in the glow of this season we’re in or remind us that “this too shall pass.” Kristen, I remember the college drop offs like it was yesterday. It was especially difficult when my son, the baby, left. He was always my “velcro” child lol. But you know what, after awhile, I kind of liked having a little more time to myself. I could have an unhurried quiet time in the morning. I wasn’t clutching hot coffee in freezing ice rinks at 6 am on a Saturday. I could leave a room to find it just how I had left a few hours before. No “bread crumb” trails of clothes scattered from room to room. Yes, it all takes a little getting used to, but we adjust and then we can embrace our new normal. Enjoy this time with your sweet hubby! Go on dates. Rediscover why it is that you fell in love in first place. You’ve got this girl!!
Blessings sweet friend,
Kristen Strong says
Dear Bev, your comment here makes me so happy. Thank you for sharing such wisdom and perspective. Adore you so.
Beth Williams says
I love he bookend analogy. Ours is the sandwich generation. We have children we are raising & aging parents we are dealing with. We can certainly use book ends to prop us up & mentor us. Titus 2 talks about older women teaching younger women. I believe God wanted us to mentor each other. We face trials/troubles of all kinds. When we get through them we are to help others going through similar situations. Empty nesters can help those sending their children off to college or marriage. We in between can mentor those with little ones. No matter the season you’re in there is someone behind & ahead of you to assist & mentor. God made us for community. He expects us to do just that.
Love your thoughts here Beth. We are definitely made for community and helping each other!
Kristen Strong says
Right on, Beth! So grateful for the ways you mentor in this community!
My children are currently 13, 9 (turning 10 in two months) & 8 turning 9 in 3 months. I could encourage a friend with younger kids, give advice that way. I would look to someone with older kids for advice I guess. Now I’ve finished my Masters I’m trying to reconnect with friends more regularly as I miss it. I hope you are surviving and settling into this new phase. My kids just went back to school this week and I’m enjoying the time (peace and quiet) after school drop off! I’m also bored waiting for the next Step in Gods plan for me. I need to try and settle into this new normal and waiting time! Thank you for your post!
Kristen Strong says
Here’s to us both settling into these new life phases and waiting on the Lord’s direction on next steps! xo
Alissa Coburn says
BEAUTIFUL! I love this concept. As a mom of 7 children — ranging in age from 21 (with a new baby herself) to almost 2 — I find myself in many seasons at once. Therefore, there aren’t many I can’t learn from and even MORE I could serve. Thank you for the reminder. ❤️
Kristen Strong says
Hi Alissa! I’m praying right now the Lord brings you a mentor with experience in raising children across a similar age-span. After all, you need the encouragement, too. Sending love!
Donna Tuttle says
The bookends are truly a blessing in life! I thank God every day for the friends who are older than me, showing me how to handle grandchildren and the joy in my life is all the young women I know and love. Being a support to a new mother, sharing the energy and frustration of raising teens, and praying with a young woman who so desires a child – is my biggest gift from God. Turning 60 is not easy, life changes disrupt your rhythm and your confidence, but God is so good that he sent me young women to support and love. Our God is so good and so faithful!
Kristen Strong says
Donna, I know you’re an indescribable gift to those younger woman and an indescribable joy to those older friends. Also? You’re a gift to this community. Sending love!
I am not a parent, but this article still resonated with me! Thanks! (Sometimes it’s easy for me to quit reading or not pay as much attention when a writer dives into parenting since it’s not a “season” that’s been part of my life and sometimes stirs up lots of emotions…but I am so thankful God had me fully engage my brain while reading today.)
A friend & I recently opened a business, which meant a change in a career of 18 years for me. Our new business is grounded in walking beside people on their weight-loss journey—and their overall journey to health—body, mind, spirit. This change was totally God-lead so it has been hard as this new season & career change have brought some struggles—emotionally & mentally. While reading this article, some nuggets of wisdom popped out. I can’t let the busy-ness of business things get me “so busy…I neglect where God has me now.” I’ve lost over 100 pounds, so “having been there helps me belong as an encourager.” “Become adept at investing in the people & places around us today.” We both want to keep the people at the forefront of all we do, and this was a timely reminder to do just that—and that God has given us the gifts, life experiences, etc. to do just that. Thanks for the wisdom that reaches so many—in lots of seasons. “Good things will grow in this season.” “Fully & abundantly belong where I am today.”
Kristen Strong says
I love this, Noelle. And BRAVA to you for taking that brave step to open that new business! I’m praying right now you get a tangible preview of what good things God will grow in your new season! xo
What a delight to open this email first thing this morning… as we just returned to Wisconsin late last night from four wonderful days visiting our daughter at CSU in Fort Collins! She is our oldest, and was so ready to fly when she went off to school last year. I didn’t even cry when we dropped her off, as she was more than ready for the new adventure that was before her. This weekend we got to go to her church and meet all her friends and “new family” that she loves and whom help take care of her while we are 1500 miles away. It made it almost harder to leave her this weekend, as I love the adult she is growing into and seeing her on her own! It was loads of fun! Many people had told me how fun it is when your kids become adults. Definitely a new season for us! (And our child at home is a senior this year, so we are approaching an empty nest!) The times we get together becomes less and less as it’s only holidays home from school. And soon, summer school, study abroad, and work will even reduce that time we have together. The greatest gift was that she connected with a ministry group and was taken in and under wing. It helps us feel so much better knowing that she is cared for and loved, not only from her new ministry and church family, but that God has always had her in the palm of his hand and ordained everything for her Colorado State adventure. For that we are grateful! (And Go Rams!) 😉
Kristen Strong says
Candace, how wonderful to meet a fellow CSU mom! Your comment here is so encouraging–thank you for taking the time to write it. We’ve found that our sons’ ministry group has also been instrumental to them getting a good start to the year. May all our children continue to step into God’s best for them during college and beyond. (And yes, GO RAMS!)
I’m a stay at home preschool mom..soon tho these kids will be done school and onto university too. my whole days for years have revolved around them…but I know that I will find my own new interests when they’re out the door to university.
a new season isn’t always bad- just different.
I know I might be nervous facing the new normal around here..but I was nervous facing homeschooling until I got into our routine.
stay positive & face the new season with eagerness to see where it takes you.
volunteer.. finally take up that craft you always wanted to do like knitting or quilting..inside each of us is a mom who needs some time for her..nows the time !
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I have no kids of my own. But I can remember my late Mum saying to my two sisters when they had their kids don’t wish for them to grow up too quickly. As one day you will look around you they be round your feet the next they will be gone doing their own thing. Should be going to Uni or getting Married. Or leaving home because of that Job. Yes when they are at home under your feet you will when have kids of all ages my late Mum used to say have many a row with your kids and many a good moment with them. You will then look round and say where when they have all left home no matter what the reason is. Say where did thoes years go to. Once the house was noisy. Now it is so quite. They all gone. So as parent’s enjoy the times you have with your kids. Kids enjoy the times you have with your parent’s. If you have a good relationship with them. One thing so true if you have good relationship with your parent’s is especially your Mother all the days of her life she will never stop worrying about you no matter where you are. If your Mother is saved never stop praying for you. If you have praying parents one thing you can do is thank God for them. As you have something very special. Just like Jesus he took time to pray. Look at how your Parent’s took time to pray for you and still do. If you have praying parent’s that are saved. Like I said you have so much to thank God for. I one thing have to thank God for my Mum and Dad not saved but they did send me Sunday School. I heard the stories of Jeaus. I still pray for my Dad Salvation. Plus I thank God for all my Mum taught me. That she always loved me no matter what. Just like Jesus loves me no matter what. So I thank God for that. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Nancy Ruegg says
Such an important topic, Kristen! The women of our church just spend last weekend on retreat focused on the importance and blessing of mentoring each other. I was greatly encouraged to see young women anxious to receive the support of older women who are a season or two ahead. They possess “the hearts of discerning” that King Solomon spoke about–hearts that acquire knowledge because they have the wisdom to seek it out (Proverbs 18:15). Their spiritual growth-curve will be enhanced by their eagerness to learn!
So good. ❤️ I have twin girls who are almost 4 (and three boys!) so i love hearing that your twins are going to the same college and even sharing a room!! We are in a season of change too and it is so hard, but oh so good how teachable we are in these places.
I love it! “Bookends”… The old and the young from scripture is what I thought about as I was reading your message. It is important that we give wisdom to those younger than us and obtain wisdom from those who have been where we are going. It’s the cycle of life and God’s wants us to help, support, and counsel one another through our experiences and testimonies. Great message and food for thought. Charisse 🙂
How timely this is! I’m currently going through a divorce and was thinking today that I’d love to have someone who is further along, maybe at least a year further than me (or even more) who could share their experiences with me and that when I make it through this I’d love to be able to help someone else who is where I am right now. It’s a lot of stress, pain, and heartache to go through and it would be great if it had more purpose. I have a young niece who is half my age and I share all of this with her, her marriage is happy but just in case I think it’s good to share my marriage experiences with her because maybe if/when they do have issues it won’t have to result in divorce. Praying that there is someone out there that can feel connected by sharing their experience with me of how they landed on their own 2 feet again and are living a happy and fulfilling life today!
This post is so timely. My daughter is scheduled to begin preschool next week (the day after her 2nd birthday). I can’t believe my baby is 2! I have been home with her since she was born, and I feel ill prepared for the quietness of the house. I keep thinking that I shouldn’t send her – that I should keep her home with me every second that I can. But, as a former educator, I believe in the power of a firm foundation. I really think it will be good for her, but, oh boy, my heart aches!