Revive Our Hearts Podcast

An Early Investment in Marriage

Leslie Basham: Barbara Rainey says when your grown children leave home, it will put some stress on your marriage.

Barbara Rainey: So the question is how many empty places will you have in your marriage when you arrive at the empty nest? The more work you do on your marriage, the more you invest in that relationship, the fewer gaps and the fewer holes there will be in your marriage when you arrive at the empty nest.

So I just want to stress again the importance of building your marriage and then, for those of us who are in that empty nest, to continue to invest in our marriages because that is the primary relationship.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, September 17. For the last several sessions, we’ve been on a topic that touches every mom at some point: adult children and the empty nest. Susan Yates and Barbara Rainey have written a helpful book on the subject called Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest. Now they’re back picking up on the conversation with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: One thing we haven’t really referred to yet, but it’s so crucial, is the role of prayer. Talk to me now, as moms of older children, adult children, and grandmoms, about the role of prayer as you see these needs in your lives.

Susan Yates: I think our responsibility to pray increases as we let them go. For one thing, we’re desperate, right? All we can do is pray. But it’s very helpful to go to the parents of your grandchildren and say—and do this yearly. Usually, I think of the year as beginning in September because we all sort of still live in the academic year. But you can do it anytime. I’ll say, "Okay, tell me some specific things to pray for each of your children in the coming year."

We did this with our kids growing up. We think in five categories:

  • spiritual
  • mental
  • social
  • emotional
  • physical

It’s just a good filter to run through needs. A social need might be: I have a sixth grade little granddaughter who just doesn’t have very many friends. I pray for God to give her one close friend this year. Or perhaps you have a middle child, a middle grandchild, that just feels squished. Pray for the emotional need that that child would feel special.

One of the things that’s so helpful, and it helps our relationship with our adult children, is when we say, "How can we pray for you?" We all want to be prayed for. "How can we pray for your children?" But then also it sort of levels the playing field, so to speak, when we go to them and say, "Would you pray for me? I’m having a hard time, or I’m exhausted."

I shot an email to our kids, our children. The Rainey and Yates kids and all their spouses are praying for you all today and praying for me and Barbara. We need their prayers.

One of the great things about growing in Christ together and one of the reasons I love having adult children is that we don’t really have anything over our kids except age. That’s all. We are all still growing in Christ together. We can learn and minister to one another and pray for one another.

So we can be honest and say, "I’m really frustrated with this project I’m working on. I’m really struggling, and I need some endurance. Would you pray for me to have some endurance this week?" That gives your children the opportunity to pray for and to minister to you.

Prayer is probably the most important thing. Increasingly, we have a little more time. That’s the blessing. We can go to our children and ask them to give us specific things to pray. It’s crucial. You hit on the most important thing, Nancy.

Nancy: Of course, it’s a whole lot easier to stress and whine and try to fix it ourselves, but what’s that old hymn? “Oh what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to Him in prayer.”

I am so thankful for some of the grandparents I know who are really developing a ministry of intercession at this season and going to the Lord about the issues they can’t handle, they can’t change, they can’t fix in their marriage or with their children or their grandchildren or in the culture or in the church. To take up this ministry of intercession is a powerful ministry. It’s a quiet, unseen, unapplauded ministry but may be the greatest impact.

Barbara: I think one of the reasons that it’s such a wonderful privilege for us is because as parents we were so important in our children’s lives, and we want to continue to be important. I think we get confused what that’s supposed to look like. What better way to be important in your children’s lives as they’re adults than by praying for them and then praying for those grandchildren.

They may not see you doing it. They may not know that you’re doing it as much as you are, but you can still be what we all desire because we love our kids so much and we have so much invested in them. By praying for them we can continue to be important in their lives just in a completely different way than before. It’s not that we didn’t pray before because we all did.

The recurring prayers that I’ve sent most recently for my children—and it’s sort of a blanket prayer—but I’m praying that they will be quick to repent when they sin and that they will be quick to deal with it because there are so many things that they’re dealing with in their businesses and their marriages and their children and with their neighbors that I don’t know anything about anymore. There’s a lot of their lives that I’m out of touch with.

But I know that we’re all sinners and I know that the quicker they deal with sin, the better their relationships will be. So I’m finding myself praying those kinds of prayers more for my children than I used to when I knew everything that was going on in their own lives.

Nancy: Or thought you did.

Barbara: Or thought I did. I did know more, but that’s alright.

Susan: Nancy, I have one thing related to that that has helped me not only in this season but other seasons, but it’s increasingly a benefit in the season that we’re in now as empty-nesters. Part of our need to pray is because we can’t fix things any longer. So therefore we are thrust on prayer. That’s a good place to be. We don’t much like it because we like to control and we like to fix and we’re the moms.

Related to this, I think the principle to keep in mind is that God has given us the exact children in the exact birth order with the exact personalities not merely so that we can raise them, but in order that they might be His tools in our life to grow us into the women He’s created us to be.

So He’s given us that child that we just clash with because of how we’re packaged. He’s given us that child with severe disabilities. He’s given us that child that in the world’s eyes is a disappointment. He’s given us that stillborn child. Every child is a gift of God and every child is going to be used by God to grow us up into the men and women He’s created us to be. One of the "growing ups" is our inability to fix.

I remember a time that this hit me very vividly as a new empty-nester. Our two sons decided it would be really neat to bike across America. Now this is not motor bike, but this is pedal bike. From the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean with two friends. Our youngest son had just finished his sophomore year in college. When they proposed this, we just rolled our eyes and said, “No way. It’s dangerous.”

Then they said, “We’ll come up with a plan and then we’ll present it to you, and would you pray about it?” I said, “Pray about it?! I don’t want to pray about this.” But they got us on that.

Through a long process they had a very well thought-through plan, and they did it. One son was only able because of his schedule to do it for half of the country, but the other three boys started with their bikes at the Pacific Ocean and ended with their bikes at the Atlantic Ocean. It was an amazing experience.

God used that letting go in my life because He kept me in Psalm 91, which is a wonderful Psalm of protection, the entire 62 days in the summer that they were biking. So I saw in a very vivid way God use my son and this feeling of letting go and not being able to hover as a mother to grow me up in my faith in Christ.

So I think it’s very helpful for us to ask on occasion, “God, what are you teaching me through this particular child?” It may be a child that you’re in a difficult place with, but we need to see beyond the issue to a bigger picture of what God might be doing in our life. That gives us a bigger vision for how He continues to grow us up as empty-nesters.

Barbara: I totally agree with what she said, but I would just add to that that I think that sometimes we forget that God still wants to do those things in our lives when our children are adults. We know that God’s using our kids to work in our lives when we’re raising them, but I think we forget that when they get married and now we have in-law children that God is still wanting to do the same work in our lives through our married children and the spouses that they choose as He did with our biological kids.

Those married children are no less a gift from God into our lives as our biological kids are. We just don’t think of it that way sometimes. God wants to use those kids who marry into our families to continue to grow us up and to stretch us and to cause us to pray and to trust and to learn things about God that we wouldn’t otherwise.

Nancy: So embrace them as a gift.

Barbara: Absolutely.

Nancy: Say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Barbara: One of the other prayers that I learned to pray for a neighborhood child who was a bully and was a very difficult child for my kids. I learned to pray this because of this little boy who is now an adult. I learned the benefit of asking God to teach me to love the way He loves and to see people the way He sees them because this child was so difficult and he was really very mean and destructive.

I remember looking at him and thinking, “God loves you,” but I didn’t see anything very lovable about this little boy. The Holy Spirit led me to pray that I would love him. I prayed and asked God, I said, “I do not have the capacity to love this little boy. You want me to love him, so You’re going to have to love him through me.” God answered that prayer and I learned to love that little boy. I said, “Help me see him the way You see him.”

I have used that prayer in lots of difficult relationships. I’ve used that prayer with my married children because I don’t know them the way God knows them. I don’t know their background the way God knows it. I don’t know what they’re dealing with, what they’re struggling with. They’re a part of our family but they’re virtual strangers in many ways.

So I have used that prayer with my in-law children too. “God, help me love them the way You love them and help me see them the way You see them.” God has done that. It’s been a wonderful gift.

Susan: I just want to tell you how wonderful the Lord has been to me in this season of my life. My children are in their late 30s and the oldest one just turned 40, so I’ve been in this season a while. What was a part-time job in their growing up years has turned into a full-time job. I’m a piano teacher, and I have had the privilege the last few years of teaching students full-time. Many of the students I’ve had the privilege of teaching for 12 years. They almost become like my children.

When our daughter who is younger married, she and her husband did live away for five years and our son’s in the Air Force, so he’s never been close by. I was okay with that because I felt like that was the Lord’s will for her to be there. But a job change put them back in Little Rock, and so they’ve been back here.

In addition to these precious children, which I teach and I pray for them and I truly love them, I have the privilege this year of teaching my granddaughter piano. My daughter who is a former kindergarten teacher before she had children is also teaching piano. So we work together in this. It has just been so much fun. I just want to give the Lord glory that He has brought so much joy into my life in this period.

Also, my husband is retired but he teaches one class a semester at the university. So we have done some things together that’s fun. No one today has mentioned exercise. We joined the gym. So that’s one of the things that we do together. And then both of us like to sing. He sings in a men’s chorus, and I sing in a city-wide chorus.

So we’ve been able to do this in this period of our life. It’s really been great—great fun for both of us. He goes to my concerts, and I go to his. It’s been great, and I just really want to give the Lord credit. I just praise God. You know He has lots of good surprises, and I’m just so glad He doesn’t give them all to us when we’re young.

Nancy: He saves some of the best things, which reminds me of a wonderful passage in Psalm 31. This might be a good passage to take for yourself as you think about those empty-nest years.

Psalm 31 beginning in verse 19:

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. [That may describe some aspects and challenges of the empty nest season.]

I had said in my alarm, "I am cut off from your sight” [I’m thinking sometimes the Lord does He really see? Does He really know?] But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the LORD, all you his saints! (Psalm 31:19-23).

This is the calling at every season of life. Love Him first. That’s our identity. That’s our purpose. That’s our mission above everything else.

The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! (Psalm 31:23-24).

Barbara and Susan, I want to thank you for writing this book. I know as an author that this has been a labor and a birthing process and no one but the ones who go through it will ever know how much that involves. Co-authoring has its own challenges, especially living in different cities. You have labored to give birth to this book, which is a gift to the body of Christ.

Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest. What they’re really wanting to do is point us to the Guide, the Good Shepherd who knows better than anyone else could how to shepherd our lives through each season. They’re calling us in this book to discover as women in that season of life new purpose, new passion and your next great adventure.

Let’s just take these last few moments, and Susan and Barbara, just any words of encouragement, exhortation, just anything that you’d want to say to encourage these women and those listening.

Barbara: I wanted to say to women who are listening who may not be at the empty nest yet that I really agree with what was said earlier. One of the most important things is to build into your marriage now. I realized through doing this book (we both realized) that all of us will arrive at the empty nest with some empty places in our marriage. I think it’s impossible to arrive and have it just be in great shape.

So the question is, How many empty places will you have in your marriage when you arrive at the empty nest? The more work you do on your marriage, the more you invest in that relationship, the fewer gaps and the fewer holes there will be in your marriage when you arrive at the empty nest. So I just want to stress again the importance of building in your marriage.

Then for those of us who are in the empty nest to continue to invest in our marriages because that is the primary relationship that we go into the empty-nest years with. We want to maximize the years that God gives us and we don’t know how many they will be or how few years we will have together. We want to continue to invest in that.

The third thing that I would say is that there is so much to look forward to. I know I sort of dreaded the empty nest years. I so loved being a mother and I loved my kids and I loved investing in them. When I looked ahead to the empty nest years, there were many times when I was fearful of what might be ahead for me. I dreaded it.

I didn’t really want to give up the influence that I had in their lives. I liked my kids, and I liked being with my kids, and I liked doing things with my kids. Frankly, my kids made me feel young, and I liked that. I wasn’t really sure I was ready to give that up.

Now that I’m on this side of it, and I’ve been on this side of it now for five years, I can really say that there are a lot of good things that God brings us. It’s worth looking forward to. It’s really worth what God has in store for us because He has a lot of surprises, a lot of great gifts to give us.

He does have a new purpose for us in the empty-nest season. He does have a new adventure for us in the empty-nest season. It may be in relation to your family. It may be in relation to your marriage. It may be in relation to a new mission and a new calling for your life. But there is a lot to look forward to in the empty-nest years.

Susan: I think Barbara has really said it just perfectly. I would just add that it is an exciting season. Yet often we think, but . . . That’s the little word that comes to our mind. But.

Then we need to remember the promise of one of our favorite Scriptures from Luke 1:37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” No matter what you’re dealing with whatever season of life you’re in really, God’s still in charge. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever it says in the book of Hebrews. For Him nothing is impossible. So it’s an exciting season to look forward to.

Nancy: Well, it’s been a privilege for us over these days to sit at the feet of two wise and godly women and to learn from them. I feel like sitting here in the studio you have both been mentors to us. Some of us are younger. Some older. Some right in the same season of life, but you shared with us out of your lives. Thank you so much. Has this been an encouragement to you?

The True Woman ’08 conference October 9 -11 will be another chance for you to sit at the feet of not only Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates, but others as well—Joni Eareckson Tada, Janet Parshall, Mary Kassian, Carolyn McCulley on the subject of singleness, Debbie Titus on the subject of hospitality. So for women in every season of life, from young moms, Susan Henson and others will be talking to moms with young children about giving your children a heart for purity and preparing them to become adults.

Dannah Gresh who has co-authored with me Lies Young Women Believe will be doing a special track for teenage girls who want to be true women. So we’re inviting moms to bring their teenage daughters who have a heart for the Lord and want to see them grow.

So instruction and mentoring and encouragement for women in every season of life coming together October 9 - 11 in Chicago— Schaumburg, Illinois, at the Schaumburg Convention Center for the True Woman conference. Hope you’re planning to be there. [The conference is sold out, but you can join us via LIVE stream.]

We will be joined, as I said, by Barbara and Susan and others and just really thousands of women coming together to seek the Lord and to say, “Lord, we’re willing to be salmon swimming upstream in this culture and to see what purpose and mission You have for our lives and how You want to use us.”

So I believe this is a strategic and timely event. It’s in a time when our nation is focused a lot on politics and the election. I think we need to be concerned about that. We need to be praying. We need to be involved. But I’m going to tell you God’s women being true women is what will make as much or more of a difference in this nation than even who gets in the White House.

I really believe that. Not that who gets in the White House is unimportant, but it’s who’s in your house and living out God’s mandate to be women of purity and faith and compassion and women who fear the Lord. This is what really shapes and molds a culture.

So thank you Barbara and Susan for encouraging us, for challenging us. You’ve said some rich things for women in every season of life. I’m single, so I don’t know what the empty-nest season is all about except as I read your book I thought there are lots of things here that are an encouragement to me as a woman going into my 50s and things that I want to be sharing and passing on to other women.

So let me encourage you to get a hold of that book whether you’re facing it now or down the road or you feel like, as some have shared, I’ve already been there a long time but you want to be encouraging other women. Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest: Discovering New Purpose, Passion, and Your Next Great Adventure, by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates.

Leslie: You can get the book Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing by calling us at 1-800-569-5959. When you make a donation of any amount to the Revive Our Hearts ministry, we’ll send you the new hardback Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest.

A lot of listeners have already taken this opportunity and today is the final day we’re making this special offer available. So call us with your donation of any amount and ask for Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest. Or make your donation of any size at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com and follow the easy instructions for getting your copy of the book.

Well, imagine someone was observing your life. They listened to your conversations, analyzed your spending habits and watched the way you spend your time. Would they see God working in your life? There’s a passage of Scripture that shows women how to answer yes to that question. Nancy will open it up for us starting tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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