Practicing The Empty Nest

Between June 29 and July 22, I have only three days with a kid in the house…otherwise, it’s just my bride and me, and the dog, alone, for the first time in nearly 19 years.

David is off with Jeremiah Project, working through the summer as their intern, finding projects for the kids to work on. Sarah is in Europe right now, with her school trip to Madrid, Barcelona, Provence and Milan…then she too will be on JP duty with her brother for a week.

In the meantime, we get to be just us. We get to go out to dinner together, which we did hours after taking Sarah to the airport. We get to have friends over, and make the foods *we* want to have, like we did tonight. We get to go hang out with good friends elsewhere, without worrying about the kids or having to get anyone anyplace. And we begin to get a sense of what it will be like in a couple of years when we’re doing this full-time, as the yearlings will actually take flight.

We get to sleep in on weekend days or days off, not having to rush anywhere, We get to curl up with the dog and absolutely make her day with all the attention. And if we decide to pop over to a movie, or go out for a drink…there’s nothing stopping us.

I really think I’m going to like the next chapter!

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The Call of the Water

I just love being able to get away and go down by the water. Whether it’s a river or, ideally, the ocean, there’s something calming and peaceful about a gorgeous sunny day and sparkling water drifting by.

This weekend my bride and I celebrated our anniversary at a waterfront inn in Maryland. It wasn’t long at all before all the stresses of the workweek, and the life we left (temporarily) behind, could all fade away to the gentle sound of the lapping of the Chesapeake Bay.

On the two-hour drive here, Mary asked, out of nowhere, if I’d ever contemplated getting a vacation home. It turns out we both have: someplace we can come to again and again to recharge and to retire to, perhaps, in several years. As we talked, we discussed the pros and cons of the beach versus the mountains, both of which we enjoy. Later, at the water’s edge at the inn, I commented that I think the beach is the better choice.

I think I’m drawn to the water because I need that peace. I spend ten hours a week just commuting, plus another fifty at the office, and that’s before the time required to be any sort of dad to two teens. The world gets hectic, it pulls us in, it pushes our eyes down to just what’s in front of us instead of the majesty around us. And being able to spend a weekend down by the water often is enough to let me face a few more weeks of the world. The soft clanging of sailboat lines on masts, the bell of a boat heading out, the waves…I can feel my blood pressure dropping by the minute.

Water feeds a spiritual need. It speaks to me in a different language than the mountains do: to be honest, it’s a more fundamental one. In our baptismal liturgy we speak of Christ having been born in the water of a womb and then baptised in the waters of the river, to become the living water that he promised the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:14. When I’m connected to the water, I’m not only able to relax, but I’m also reminded of that living water and what it can mean to me in my life. It also reminds me, visibly, that the things that are won’t always be: I can’t look at the always-moving, always-changing surface of a river or the ocean without being reassured that whatever “the world” screams at us is transient, impermanent, and I can let it all go.

Jesus taught all around water, and used water frequently in his teaching. He called fishermen to his side, he walked on water, he calmed the sea. And when he had returned from the grave, he met his disciples by the shores of the sea, to connect with them one more time. “Let’s go down to the river to pray,” the old spiritual goes, and for me, there’s plenty of healing there, plenty of renewal, plenty of strength to lift my eyes past “the world” and back onto Christ again.