Revisiting the Archives (August 2008)

Today. What a great word that simply means, “On or in the course of this present day.”

On or in the course of this present day, I’m looking back in order to move forward.

This is why I am so passionate about the written word. The power of journaling. The therapeutic effects of the pen (or computer key). Almost six years ago, I wrote down the process of letting go of the last chick in our nest. At the time of that post, I had no idea what lay ahead of me and my family.

The five words spoken at my son’s college freshman orientation, “Struggle is a holy word,” would actually become the theme of the next six years, filled with transitions, major health issues with Brooke and my mom, economic decline, and oh, so much more.

Today, I offer this one more time. Maybe you are in the midst of a struggle that is leaving you feel helpless or out of control or depressed or frustrated or _____________________. I pray these words bring you a glimmer of hope or a ray of sunshine. And if you can, try writing your struggle down on paper. It really helps to let it out.

Experience is never your guide; experience is the doorway for
you to know the Author of the experience.
Get at the knowledge of God for yourself, be a continuous learner
and the truth will open on the right hand and on the left until
you find there is not a problem in human life that
Jesus Christ cannot deal with.
-Oswald Chambers

The Empty Nest

Last Thursday, Rob and I began our journey towards the empty nest. It began with an 11 hour road trip (which turned out to be about 15 hours) to Wenham, MA. to help Grant move into his dorm. As we were passing by New York City, admiring the resplendent skyline, my cell phone rang.

It was Candace calling from London. In the midst of a very hard day, she needed some direction and consolation. All I could do was pray. Catch her tears from afar. Trust that her heavenly Father would comfort her. Take care of her. Make everything work together for good (Romans 8:28). Trying to lighten things up, Rob interjected, “Hey, its the tale of two cities! New York. London.”

Candace responded, “Tell Dad it is ‘The Tale of One Family in Four Cities.”

Being a mother means that your heart is no longer
yours; it wanders wherever your children do.

My boy, May 2008

One Family in Four Cities

Yes, brilliant! I exclaimed. And then it hit me. One family in four cities: London, Suffolk, Wenham, Lynchburg. This is our new life.

  • A life filled with hellos and goodbyes.
  • A life filled with phone calls, Skype messages, emails, care packages and brief whispers of love from afar.

Remember that disorientation we talked about on August 1, “Three Tuesdays in August?” Well, it’s here. In full force. So bear with me as I navigate through this life change. I asked my three children to do the same. You must give me time to let go. Lose control. Surrender each of you to God, trusting in His sovereign care for you.

When we arrived in Wenham, late Thursday, Grant was pretty sick. In the midst of three days of intense soccer tryouts, he caught some kind of stomach bug—or was reacting to something he had eaten. Having to press on, he was spent by the time we arrived. Feeling helpless, to say the least, I realized that I was quickly losing my grip on things.

Candace in London. Brooke in Lynchburg. Grant in Wenham.

I wasn’t going to be able to help them in the same way anymore.

Now, they would have to turn to God. Seeking His help. His care. His provision.

Freshman Orientation or is it “Empty Nest Orientation?”

In an effort to help parents with their “disorientation,” Gordon College held two chapel services during “Freshman Orientation.” Very wise move. Having been through two college move-ins prior to this one, Rob and I both commented on how different this one was. For me, time in their beautiful chapel, was orienting in and of itself.

Struggle is a Holy Word

Time in the presence of God always softens challenge. Puts things in perspective. Aligns circumstances with the Word of God. In the first chapel, Dr. Carlberg, President of Gordon College, and his wife spoke. Mrs. Carlberg shared a profound message entitled, “Struggle is a holy word.”

Struggle takes on several meanings:

  • To advance with violent effort.
  • To contend [to exert oneself vigorously; try hard] with difficulty.
  • A task or goal requiring much effort to accomplish or achieve.
  • To contend [ to make strenuous efforts toward any goal] with an adversary or opposing force.
  • To contend resolutely with a task, problem, etc.
  • (of athletes and competitors) To be coping with inability to perform well or to win; contend with difficulty.

Her primary message being:

As parents, we want to make our children’s lives as comfortable as possible. Take away any discomfort. Any struggle. Any hardship. BUT, it is precisely these things that build their character and bring them to maturity. Don’t get in God’s way. Let Him work in their lives in order to keep them from being deficient in any way. Struggle is a holy word. Know when to help. Know when to step back.

I took her words to heart. I am guilty of trying to keep my children from struggling. Very guilty. So, in that beautiful, luminescent chapel, I prayed. I release my children to You, God. I release them one by one. Candace. Brooke. Grant. They are yours. May the struggles they face, now, while outside our home, bring them to spiritual maturity; enabling them to be well-developed and not deficient in any way. I trust You, Lord.

It was a hard moment, but a great moment. With tears streaming down my face,  I watched Grant walk the aisle of that chapel, sign his name to a scroll of commitment, and begin his journey towards manhood. No longer my little boy, he was becoming God’s man. To God be the glory.

Empty Nest with Janell RardonA boat in the harbor (near Grant’s college). Can you believe the name? God speaks in strange ways.

So often we consider struggle to be our foe. Our fierce enemy. Wanting to quickly dispense of it, we do everything we can to get out of the struggle. But, today, I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to let struggle do its work. There is no greater visual of the power and importance of struggle than the process of metamorphosis. I’ve written so many times that I think every home should invest in a butterfly garden, in order to teach the incredible importance of struggle. As the caterpillar begins to emerge from the cocoon, a beautifully transformed butterfly, the struggle is intense. Blood drips from the cracked cocoon. The butterfly hangs upside down for a very, very long time. The blood forcing its way through the wings in order that the butterfly can fly! It’s painful to watch. I remember. I wanted to cut the cocoon and help the butterfly.

The Holy Struggle is Essential

Make the struggle go away. BUT, the struggle is indeed what enables the butterfly to fly. Without it, it drops dead. It can’t fly. When you have a minute or two, five to be exact, watch the amazing video below. I guarantee you will get impatient. You will want desperately to cut the cocoon. Help the butterfly. But, don’t! Let it struggle. Let God do his work. Then, watch the brilliant butterfly spread its wings. This, my friend, is what we want for our children. We want them to spread their wings and fly. Soar. Mark this world with the imprint of Christ on their lives. Remember, struggle is a holy word.

The Power of a Holy Struggle

Fill out the info below, and I'll send you a link to download the PDF interactive guide, "Why Am I So Angry?" I believe that if you put in the hard work + intentional application of these principles + spiritual fortitude into this healing practice, you will move into a far more meaningful life.

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