One of the greatest blessings of my blogging has been meeting friends who are not “virtual” at all, but who are real. Mark Szewczak has been one such friend for me for a year or so. Together with his wife, Nancy, he has inspired me with his ongoing faith, his honesty about his struggles, and his unconditional support. Today, he shares a reflection about his role as a father in an almost-empty nest.

Mark, with his wife Nancy

A few days ago after a windy, stormy night I came across a bird’s nest lying on the grass. It was from last season and the storm had dislodged it. It was still one of God’s marvels even after having spent the winter high in a tree untended and falling 40 feet to the ground.

Looking it I felt a twinge of sadness. The fine weaving work, now discarded and a bit rumpled, was once the nursery for a family of birds. What happened to those babies? Did the parents survive the rough winter?

But there was also a deeper, more personal sadness. I am a dad of three adult kids and our youngest will be leaving home next year to marry and start her own family.

My wife and I spent have spent most of our married time raising these kids to be adults. We (mostly she) did the day-to-day work of cooking, laundry, carting them from place to place — you know the drill.

Somewhere in the spare minute when we weren’t too tired, my wife and I would speak of the why behind our daily what, where, when, how. We reminded each other that these children were on loan to us. We needed to prepare them to leave their home and go into the world and do good, honoring Christ by serving their neighbors.

I won’t pretend we were perfect or always confident about it, and we sure made our share of mistakes. Somehow through the grace of God in our lives, time passed, our children grew, and now we are facing the ”empty nest” time of our lives.

I think it’s OK to feel a little lost. In the midst of the complete love we share as a family and as individuals, it is a life change for my wife and me. We have shifted from caregivers and nurturers to confidants and advisors.

While my wife and I are relearning what it means to be a couple, the excitement of being able to consider “what’s next” is now part of what we think about before falling asleep or during daydream moments.

Both of these observations are grounded in what I continue to learn from our heavenly Father. He is my confidant, my safety net, and my Dad, who makes me smile, who tells me I am worthwhile, who loves me so completely that it’s crazy.

He taught me what it means to be a dad. He was there when I didn’t know what I was doing.

Now I need to remember to trust Him with the next phase of our lives, the “empty” part. I suspect He has plans for us so that life won’t be empty at all. Alone I give into the sadness of what has ended, clutching the remnants of the past. My prayer these days is to embrace this season, let go, and follow His lead.

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” Eccl 3:1

© Mark R. Szewczak, 2010