When my firstborn graduated high school, I could not believe we had survived and that she was a thriving adult on the cusp of college and a bright future. I watched with pride and tears as she left for her first day. The family nest was changing. I still had four completely different learners at home though, and they kept me busy.

My firstborn would come home from school and talk about her teachers and the classroom setting she’d never experienced before. She loved the challenge, and I loved being able to help her now and then. We had great discussions and our relationship grew and changed. I was still a mother/mentor, but now we were experiencing something new, too. I was no longer telling her what to do with her life, but coming alongside to encourage her, and to help her determine the Lord’s path.

When she started seeing her future husband, our conversations changed again to the serious topics of marriage, commitment, children, and what that life decision would mean for her. It was a wonderful time of growth for both of us.

Then she got married—and left. My mama heart was hurting. Even though we loved her choice of a husband, believed in her future with him, and wouldn’t change a single thing about their choices—we were still grieving the loss of something every-day beautiful in our lives. Our beautiful daughter was gone from our home for good.

There is an anonymous quote floating around the internet that speaks to me on this: 

To raise a child, who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.

This is the end goal. As moms, we are to work ourselves out of our jobs! No one told me it would be so painful to love and lose at the same time. All those reminders from the older moms to enjoy it because it is gone in a flash—they were absolutely right. I blinked and she had transformed into a magnificent woman.

The blessing is that now, at 23, she is one of my best and deepest friends. She understands me like no one else, and our conversations are rich and threaded. I would not trade this time for anything, and I would not go back to change anything either. The fruit of a life lived together in the home, schooling, laughing, loving, and reading good books together has come forth—and I get to reap the rewards!

But they do keep leaving, and the challenge continues. That’s the funny thing about stair-step children; they are not that far apart, so things tend to happen with quick succession. Our second moved out shortly before her sister married so we lost two children from our home in two months’ time. To say that was a difficult transition is an understatement. My husband and I did not know how to handle it all. As Christians, we turned to the One who knows all things and pleaded with Him—”Please be with these people we love so deeply, and please help us not to feel so bereft!” This was the end goal all along—to make self-sufficient adults—but it happened so fast!

In 2017, our second daughter joined the Marines. Talk about a walk of faith! If we did not have Christ, we would be lost in more ways than one. But we do have Christ, and He is sufficient to meet us where we are—in times of joy and in times of fear or sorrow. As Paul shared with the Corinthians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

When our son signed up for the Marines in early 2018, I spent a long night in tears before the Lord knowing this was really goodbye to our third child. We knew he’d go to boot camp, and upon graduation have a ten-day leave, but then that would be it. There would be no more late-night talks in the living room, working through the ins and outs of college life or potential girlfriends, but that he’d be a man grown and gone. Poof. Just like that, child number three was an adult and on his own. Wait! Slow down! It felt like sand through the hourglass. What took so many years to build—these amazing adult children at 19, 21, and 23—it took so very short a time to see them go.

But what adults they are! What an honor it has been for me to watch them grow up. I’d not have traded it for the whole of the world or for any career! We are incredibly proud of the adults they have become and look forward to watching them change and grow as they get older and live their chosen pathways. We believe in their choices, but it still does not diminish those feelings of being left behind.

It has helped me to share with my close friends and to ask for prayer. One of my dearest friends, Gena Suarez, the Publisher of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, shared this with me when I was struggling: 

Find your peace in the Lord. He is glorified. He has all of this stuff wrapped up, pre-planned, and WON already. Rest in Him. Now it’s the Lord’s hands they’re in, and that is a GOOD place to be.

I needed to hear that truth. They are in the Lord’s hands—and His hands are far more capable than my own! He is at work in them just as He is in me. Sometimes I forget this, but as Isaiah so eloquently states, we have no reason to fear.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

I have two high schoolers left at home and three more years of homeschooling. Then this crazy, amazing, transforming, and powerful journey of active daily mothering and teaching comes to an end. What does the future hold for me when the nest is well and truly empty? I don’t know, but I do know that God will get me through that time, too. He will create in me a new pathway and I will walk in it.

To be a mother has been the joy of my life, but we are only temporary guardians of the gifts from God we call our children. He has plans for them only He can bring to fruition and when they go, we have done our part—but He continues His work. This is what keeps my heart from being overwhelmed—knowing that He who began a good work will be able to complete it. Not just in my children, but also in me. He is ever Faithful.

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! Psalm 117:2

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

Kate Kessler

Kate and her delightful husband Mark, an IT mastermind, enjoy their five splendid children. As a Classical/Charlotte Mason homeschooler, she enjoys a varied curriculum, historical fiction, and the many discussions that come up as a result of learning together.