Building New Community in the Empty Nest…

In every place I’ve ever lived, I’ve needed community. I haven’t always looked for it where it was given to me, and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve actually turned my back on friendship in the past. Sometimes my expectations were too specific – what my friends should look like, where they might come from, or hiding myself away because of past sins in my life….I THOUGHT I’d rather be alone than have to be authentic in day to day life…and who would “like” me, all broken and restored and constantly making mistakes.
{Now before you go thinking I’m a HUGE snob, please hear me out! I’ve wanted them to “look like” my own age – desiring community with other women who are 50ish and loving it!! I’ve always leaned towards building relationship with “the least of these”, and was actually criticized for not dressing up enough when I volunteered in the school when my kids were young (I was on my hands and knees with kids, why would I wear a dress?), and I’ve grown to realize that we ALL make mistakes – and can love each other – warts and all!!}
We have made several significant moves in our married life, and one of the biggest moves was a few years ago, when we made our first move as empty nesters. There was an element of feeling like we were abandoning a place that our grown (and even married) kids knew as home; leaving the small town area that they grew up (although they didn’t feel very connected to the community there). They knew that there was the chance we would move, and fully supported our prayerful decision. God moved us quickly, almost effortlessly, and we were able to relocate completely within a month!
The first connection in community I was able to make was at church, meeting another woman a little younger than me (over 10 years!) who had a teen and a toddler. Our connection was a shared passion for missions and prayer, and God blessed our friendship as we discovered other things we had in common – a LOT of other things, although she wouldn’t have met my criteria if I had held her to my standards of just a few years before. More friendships were found and nurtured through women specific ministries, although most of my time was spent with women younger than me (with the exception of a small group of older women).
The surprising area of community I made was through a group of women who were married to men that worked in the same location as my husband. They welcomed me with open arms, despite the fact that I was, for the most part, more than 10 years their senior. Some were homeschoolers, some career minded. All had moved there from someplace else, and many of them have moved on to other places since. Again, we were all in different stages in life; but God blessed the relationships, and a few of them are still treasured. One in particular is like a daughter to me, and she and her husband have even become close to my kids and their spouses.
Another area of connection was through the small group that we got involved with through church. Mark was asked to lead one that would be geographically set up, for those of us living across the river from the church (we lived in Kentucky, and the church was across the Ohio River, in Indiana). Since it was set up for those that lived in our area, we knew that it might draw a variety of people age wise, and it did! In the midst of the menagerie of people, was one other couple our age – and they quickly became out best buddies. Never in our marriage have we had another couple become so dear to us so quickly. We were able to double date, and often stayed out venting about parenting our adult kids, encouraging each other in life, and praying for each other during the rough days. Although we’ve moved again, their friendship will go with us over the years.

True love is a friendship set on fire…

Probably the MOST important connection for community that I’m learning about, is this newest one….which is my OLDEST one…. my husband! After 25 years in an industry position that demanded 24/7 on call, and the past 3 years working nearly 7 days every week, I’m having to learn how to be friends with my husband again. His new position requires that he go out of town a few times a month, but he’s home most nights, and OFF ON MOST WEEKENDS! He longs for the opportunity to spend time together, discover things together, plan for the future….it sounds wonderful, right? But I’m having to learn to trust again, after always feeling that I was the last one on the priority list (it’s been God/work (in work he’s considered himself a “missionary in a chicken plant” for years), kids, me). I am concerned that we don’t have much in common any more, but he’s willing to get involved in ministries that God’s been using me, and he’s a great encourager and amazing source of inspiration. I’m willing for God to change me, He will HAVE to! I’m so used to living day to day life on my own, volunteering at church – sometimes daily – and writing, crafting, or just being an (in)courager online – at home alone. Now I have lost a lot of that “alone” time, so we are learning to share it. I’m grateful that he gets to travel, and once we are settled in this house, and have a source for dog-sitters, I hope to travel with him, and discover more about the areas that he’s traveling (it’s the same 2 locations, over and over). While he’s working in the plants, I can go out and discover the cities, or after his hours of work, we can go out together. While he’s working, I can still work on my blogging, (in)couraging, quilting…or just sleep in!
As I continue to pray for God to provide friendships, I don’t want to close myself off and miss any opportunities. He is growing me, and bringing people into my life to help me through this season. He has shown me His faithfulness, and I will walk close to His heart with desire to be changed. I look forward to His growing my marriage with my husband, and discover this (old) new friendship again; not only in this season of empty nesting, but laying a foundation for the rest of our life together, that “growing old” thing.
What have your experiences been, making friends and building community? Are you married to a workaholic too? How do you keep your marriage alive after the kids are gone? Any ideas that I can learn from??
Please be praying for both of us as we grow together in new ways, and learn to love each other through this new stage in life, in a new city, job, and church. Pray that God will provide other “couple friends” for us to do things with, create community with, and work in ministry side by side with…


One thought on “Building New Community in the Empty Nest…

  1. Yep–I too am married to a workaholic. I do love to travel with him when I can. A year or so ago, i would’ve said I dreaded the empty nest. But, now, I can’t wait! Kent & I have grown so much closer during this time. I think sharing the worries about our kids, the impending grandparenting life, etc. has rejuvenated our relationship. I do think being in ministry together is a great way to build upon the relationship. But also having individual interests so that you have something to talk about 🙂 i really am excited about this next phase of our life and what God has in store for us.

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