Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: When you first left home, you still had some growing up to do. So do your children when they leave the nest. Here’s Susan Yates.

Susan Yates: A wise thing that was said to us is, “Remember, they’re young.” You know, we forget that because we relate to our adult children in so many ways as adults. We need to remember they’re young.

We need to grant them the grace and the freedom to grow up. Just hearing that phrase “Remember, they’re young” has alleviated a lot of pressure.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, September 16.

Even if your kids are still young, you’ll still get a lot out of our current series, Life Beyond the Empty Nest: An Interview with Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates. Younger moms need to be thinking about this issue now, guiding their children to adulthood from an early age. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss to introduce our guests and our topic.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our young production crew on the other side of the studio here is very excited about this discussion today. Some of them are young parents, young dads with little children. They’re saying, “Our wives need to be listening to this now so they can be prepared for the time when their children grow up and leave the nest,” which by the way is the goal.

Susan: Yes, that is the goal.

Nancy: This is a biblical goal, by the way. “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth” (Psalm 127:4). The goal is not to keep those arrows in a pack by your side. The arrows do no good in the battle if you don’t release them, sending them out to do God’s work for God’s kingdom for His sake into a day and a generation that you may not live to see, but knowing that you are sending warriors.

I don’t mean by that that you want your children to be warlike. But you’re sending those who will accomplish God’s purposes. That is the goal.

So as you face the angst and the adjustment and the apprehensions and the uncertainties of this era, remember this is a good thing—not easy, but it’s good. It’s necessary. It’s important. It’s part of the process of you leaving a legacy for the next generation.

So as women we want to do this season well. We want to not just become victims or depressed or curl up in a fetal position and hope that everything will go away. There are adjustments. It is a new season. It is a new chapter.

But as Barbara and Susan remind us in their Guide to the Empty Nest, this is a time to discover new purpose and passion and your next great adventure. They say that, not because it’s about you in this season of life. It’s not about you. It’s about what God wants to do in and through your life.

And—what is it—with about 40 or 50 million boomers, the first ones have now hit the age of 60. So this empty nest group is going to be huge, in fact, larger than any other generation that will come in the future because today’s boomers didn’t have a lot of children by and large.

Barbara and Susan are notable exceptions to that, as are others in this room. But by and large we’ve not valued children. So now we have this huge empty nest generation coming up and more potential to serve Christ and influence His kingdom in the next generation perhaps than in any other generation before or yet to come.

Jean: My challenge that I look forward to or don’t look forward to is I’m a homeschooling mom. I have a 17 year old and a 15 year old. So I’m not in an empty nest yet. But my challenge is going to be my identity.

Right now my identity is all about homeschooling. That’s who I am, what I do. My husband and I have talked about trying to find a ministry goal that we can share that I can put my energy into when that season is over.

But just trying to find my identity, who I am. I know who I am in Christ, but just to have a purpose. I think that’s intimidating to me.

Nancy: I have so many friends who are right where Jean is now. They have been very devoted to their children. They’ve been very engaged moms. How can you be a mom and not be engaged? But especially those who have been homeschooling. That’s even extra time invested directly one on one with their children.

Then they get to this season and they say, “Who am I?”

Jean: Exactly.

Nancy: You address this issue of identity in your Guide to the Empty Nest. Help steer us as to how you’ve come to think about this issue of identity.

Barbara: The whole question of identity is really the central issue that we face as women when our children leave home, because our identity was so wrapped up in parenting those children even if you didn’t homeschool and even if you had a full-time career.

Moms think about their children 24/7. They’re always in the back of our mind or the front of our mind or occupying all of our mind: their needs, their questions, their fears, their future. We are living for them in so many ways.

So our identity becomes those kids. So when our children walk out the door, our identity walks out the door. We’ve heard many, many women say that. That’s not just an experience that Susan and I had, but it’s the essence of what happens in the empty nest because our identity became those children.

It’s one of the reasons why we recommend that women take a break and take a season of retreat and take some time to pull back, because you don’t switch from one identity to another one overnight. That’s just not an easy thing to do.

So we need to allow ourselves a season of retreat and rest and evaluation. One of the things we encourage women to do in our book is to take advantage of all of the personal assessment tools that are out there. There are dozens and dozens of them, where you can re-evaluate who you are as a person and say,

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my spiritual gifts?
  • What are my personality strengths?
  • What am I good at?
  • What am I not good at?”

There are so many tools available to us today that we didn’t have 20 years ago or 30 years ago. As women we can get some of those, find out what we’re good at and then look at the opportunities available for ministry and make a really wise, well informed decision.

So it’s one of the things we encourage women to do in figuring out not only what you want to do but what you want to be in the next season of your life.

Susan: Actually, in the book we have a whole chapter that lists about a dozen of these different tools and how you access them and the different types of tools they are that would fit your personality. Some you can do with your husband, some are just for you. So that in and of itself is a really big help.

I admire you for thinking about this now because a really wise woman will begin to think about the empty nest before she gets there. It will make the adjustment much easier.

I think when your last child is a sophomore or junior in high school, you need to begin to think seriously about your own gifting, your own vision. You begin to do research, to pray, to use some of these tools and to ask the question: “God, what is my next career?”

Ask your husband. Ask your kids. That’s very interesting. Ask your children, “What do you see my gifts are? What do you see as the strengths that I have? Where do you see God using me?” Ask your closest friends. Ask those who know you well.

It’ll be interesting to see what they say. Tell them why you’re asking. "As I look to the future, what do you think I’m good at?"

One of your children may shock you by saying, “You’re really a good listener.” Wow. That’s kind of nice to know.

So ask those that know you well. Begin to take some assessments. Then begin to dream with your husband, because it’s a very subtle way also of educating him that there is a big change ahead for you, a bigger change for you than for him. He needs to own that change with you. And he knows you well, too.

So I think those three things can be very helpful as you begin to think about it, but you’re so wise to think about it on the early end.

Barbara: I would also say again, as I’ve said earlier, to really be patient with yourself. I feel like I’m now five years into this. Even though I know a little bit better what I want to do, I couldn’t tell you in two or three sentences what my life’s purpose is from here on out because it’s been such a process, and it’s been such a slow sort of evolution these last four years, of conversations with my husband and conversations with friends and books that I’ve read.

It hasn’t really distilled out into two sentences. I couldn’t really tell you what that was.

One of the other things that’s interesting that I thought of as Susan was sharing is that my husband thought I would make this transition very quickly. I think he thought a couple of weeks, maybe even a month or two and she’ll be fine and we can move onto the next thing.

I think he’s been surprised at how slowly I have moved through this, and that it’s been a much bigger transition than he thought. So give yourself a lot of grace and a lot of patience and be willing to take the time, because it doesn’t have to be fixed and answered and solved in that first semester your child is off in college.

Susan: It also doesn’t have to be permanent. That’s something that’s really fun. You may find that you try something or head in one direction for three months or six months and you learn, “You know, that’s not what I want to do.”

So don’t be afraid. You’re not marrying the next career. You know you can switch. You can change. Sometimes we have to go through periods of time in our life where we learn what we don’t like and what we’re not good at.

That’s not failure. That’s just a part of the piece of the puzzle in God’s leading.

Nancy: There are two things you can know about your identity as a woman in that empty-nest season. This may not be as practical as what you came to get today, but it’s as biblical as anything you’ll get.

Number one: God made you, if you are a married woman, to be a helper to your husband. That is your identity before your identity as Mother. Hopefully in the years that you were mothering you were keeping that identity that you are first a wife and second a mother.

If your whole life was mothering, then you’re likely to be in trouble. I’ve watched this happen with women because then when the children are gone, what do you have to live for?

God never intended for your children to be the number one thing that you live for. They’re really, really important, and there’s huge investment during those mothering years. I’m not trying to minimize that. But I’m saying all those years, that wasn’t your number one identity, or it shouldn’t have been.

So your identity, if you are still married, if your husband is still living, is still that God made you to be a helper to him. You may be able to do that in ways now in the empty nest season that are different than what you could do when you had children in the home. So don’t lose sight of that identity.

Then the other thing—and I know I sound a bit like a broken record here but I’ve been living in Titus 2 for some months now. Before you start thinking about other careers, other passions, other involvements—and God may give you lots of those or various ones—but the one thing you can know biblically is that you are called to be investing in younger women.

That is not an option. It’s not like some women are in the mentoring program in the church and some do other things. You don’t have to be in a mentoring program in the church, but you’ve got to be investing in the lives of younger women somehow.

That can look a lot of different ways and there are a lot of different aspects of influence that you can have in their lives, based on the message that God has put into your life. But ladies, the future of the gospel going to the next generation, the future of motherhood, the future of wives, the future of family depends, humanly speaking, on you being faithful to be passing that baton and not just saying, “What is my next thing?”

If I don’t do anything else, this is a season for me to be teaching younger women:

  • how to love their husbands
  • how to love their children
  • how to be self-controlled
  • how to be pure
  • how to be keepers at home
  • how to be kind and submissive to their own husbands (see Titus 2:3-5).

The Bible even gives you the curriculum. It tells you what you’re supposed to be teaching.

I make it sound really easy. Some of you are thinking, “Revive Our Hearts sounds like a broken record.” Well, so be it. It’s huge, and there’s such a need.

These younger women need—many of them have not been parented. They don’t know how. They don’t have the basic skills and tools and resources. So many of their pasts are so dysfunctional. They’re dealing with issues of guilt and failure and immorality.

We can just wring our hands and look at the statistics and be in despair and say, “Oh, this younger generation, they are so messed up,” which there’s a lot of truth to that. But we’re supposed to do something about it.

Some of you, when your children are gone, have resources in terms of time and wisdom to invest in that.

Okay, I just took the pulpit. Somebody say “amen” and I’ll stop.

Barbara: We did not necessarily have any difficulties transitioning into the empty nest. But we’ve always looked ahead and done just what we’ve talked about today. My relationship with my husband has deepened that much more.

I knew that I had my children for a season and that they belonged to God first before they’re mine. We’ve worked with newlyweds. We have a project together which also promotes the conversation when we have projects together and are pouring into the lives of other people and then the mentoring, like we discussed earlier. I think those things have been so helpful.

But a challenge for me is, after having worked with newlyweds, I thought, “I’ll know how to be a mother-in-law. I heard about it all.” But it has been a challenge.

As far as her love language.

Nancy: Is this your daughter-in-law?

Barbara: Yes. We have learned over time that her love language with her husband is different than it is for anybody else.

We learn our love languages. But we never think about how it can be different with our spouse versus our love language with other people. That was something just new for us and we found it very interesting that it was different.

Nancy: So part of the role of an empty-nest mom is to be a student of, not only her children and their needs at this time, but the in-laws, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, their parents. You’re having to go back to school and learn a whole bunch of new things in this season.

Susan: You are. You’re having to go back and really study the people you love. I love the way Barbara keeps saying, “Be patient. Be patient.” Because it does take time.

A wise thing that was said to us is, “Remember, they’re young.” You know, we forget that because we relate to our adult children in so many ways as adults.

Nancy: Of course, we were never young, right?

Susan: Never.

But when we get frustrated or when it doesn’t happen very fast or when they behave in a way that we just sort of roll our eyes, we need to remember they’re young.

We need to grant them the grace and the freedom to grow up. Just hearing that phrase “Remember, they’re young” has alleviated a lot of pressure.

Barbara: I have a verse that relates to that. There’s a short little phrase in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, where it talks about the men and women of faith. It’s a phrase in reference to Moses.

It says in this verse, “When Moses grew up.” It talks about how he’d left Pharaoh’s household and chose the things of God. But the reference to when he grew up, if you look at the other verses that relate to that, it was when he was 40.

Nancy: That’s a little scary, Barbara.

Barbara: It is a little scary. It’s very scary.

Nancy: Of course, he lived to 120.

Barbara: He did live to 120. But when I first realized that, I thought, “I need to give my kids a chance to grow up because there were many things I was learning in my 20’s and 30’s. I was trying to figure out life, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was making mistakes left and right.

For me to expect my children not to make mistakes is really ridiculous.

Woman: I’m going to totally put a twist on everything that everybody’s been talking about. My husband and I, when we went into the empty nest, had a second honeymoon. We’re still in it.

But there have been some challenges. About two years after our youngest one left—he’s in the military and serving our country—my husband, after 34 years with the same company, was asked to retire. So that threw us into a whole different season of him being at home, even though we’re way too young to retire.

He does have a part-time job, but he’s home now about 80% of his week. So we spend all that time together. It’s been a wonderful experience because—and I want to encourage the younger kids that are maybe listening to this program.

When we got married (we were married when we were 18) and throughout our marriage, we tried to keep the fun in it. It was what attracted us to each other and what little things we used to do throughout the day.

Let your children know that you love your spouse. Play with them and hug them and kiss them openly. Be affectionate—not too much, but modestly. Let them know that you do love one another. It makes that season so much better and more enriched.

The seasons that we have as one was the retirement thing that had come through. But one of the things that we’re going through and the challenges that we’re facing right now is that his parents are older and they are unable to take care of themselves. So it’s almost like we’re the parents and they’re the children. That is one of the things that we’re having problems with.

That’s one of the things that hasn’t been addressed yet today, and I was wondering if that was in your book.

Barbara: Yes, it is in our book. We have a whole chapter on relating to our older parents who are aging and who need our care. So often that’s where many of us do find ourselves, where we are having to parent our parents because they need our help in so many ways.

Do you want to share about that, Susan?

Susan: We also do in the book just very pragmatically have a whole list of what you need to think through as your parents age, from a legal perspective to housing to healthcare initiatives to how you make the decisions. So we do address that because you’re not alone.

There are so many of us that hit the empty nest and have the choice and the privilege of caring for elderly, ill, and dying parents. So it’s huge.

So on the one hand, you’re parenting grandchildren. But you’re also caring for the older parents. How do you juggle it all?

There are opportunities, we have discovered, in rebuilding relationships with siblings, when you have siblings that you can bring in to make some of these joint decisions that need to be made about your parents.

Nancy: This is a quote I used in my book Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free. It’s a chapter in lies women believe about emotions, but it has to do with the changing seasons of life.

I wrote there,

Long before anyone had ever written a book on the subject of menopause or estrogen, Francis Desales, who lived in the late 1500’s and the early 1600’s, wrote words of wise counsel for women of every generation.

“Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear. Rather, look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God whose you are will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto. He has kept you to this point. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand and He will lead you safely through all things. And when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms.

"The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”

Isn’t that good? Be at peace. It’s the presence of God. It’s the grace of God in the season you’re in now with its challenges and, don’t forget, its blessings.

And then the promise that whatever is around the corner, whatever happens to those children, grandchildren, in-laws, parents that you can’t predict or maybe you do know. It doesn’t look good—health issues, financial issues that you may be facing at this season, the loss of a job after 34 years.

That can happen at your empty-nest season when you were hoping to have some discretionary funds. You may realize you don’t have the financial security that you thought you would at that season. Whatever it is, the God of all grace, the God of all hope, the God of all peace is with you and in you and goes before you to face that with you.

That’s why the true woman can look to the future without fear but with confidence in the Lord. It doesn’t mean there won’t be fearful circumstances or difficult or painful ones. But to know that we can walk through those with the God of history and the God of all things past, present, and future is what gives our hearts confidence.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been offering comfort to women in every season of life. We’ve been focusing on the empty nest today, but all of us need God’s grace for each season of life.

One way God provides that grace is through other women who can share their experience and insight, and that’s what Susan Yates and Barbara Rainey have to offer you. They’ve been our guests today, and they’ve written Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest. It’s an invitation to new adventures, new discoveries into who God made you, and new ways of relating to your children.

You’re either headed toward the empty-nest season, or you’re in it now, or you know someone who is. So I hope you’ll take us up on a special offer. Get this new hardback book Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest when you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts. Look for this offer when you visit or ask for the book when you call with your donation. The toll free number is 1-800-569-5959.

The empty-nest season can be rough on a marriage. Learn how to prepare your marriage for new seasons tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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


*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.