By Jodi Hiser
Back when my children were little, my mornings were tedious and exhausting. Every child needed me from the moment their eyes opened to the new day. The hours that proceeded were often filled with missing clothes, milk spills, sibling spats, diaper explosions, and temper tantrums.
Older women would say to me, “Enjoy these days! They grow up so fast!”
I would think to myself, “When?!? When will they grow up? Oh how I wish they would grow up even just a little right now!”
The trenches of motherhood often left me feeling like I had stepped into a war zone. My living room exhibited an explosion of toys and clothes; the noise level seemed to match the decibels of many cannons; and my heart felt as worn out and sometimes as defeated as a wounded soldier.
But the older women were right. My children did grow up fast. And as I look around my breakfast table each morning, I can’t believe we’ve finally arrived. It was as if I blinked my eyes, and all of a sudden, my kids grew mature.
Now that my kids are older, I love our mornings together. Mornings are a time for a hearty breakfast, a homeschool history discussion, a time of poetry, a passage in scripture, and a moment of prayer. Afterwards, we clean up breakfast and cuddle in the living room for literature and tea time. It is a delicious way to start the day. And it has become the anchor that steadies us for the upcoming busy-ness of our daily schedule. However, it is in these tender moments where I also ache the most, because I look across the table, and I see an empty seat.
Our oldest daughter recently left home to pursue her college studies overseas. And it is in the simple moments of the morning routine that I miss her the most. I miss talking with her, having her be a part of our family’s conversations, and seeing her laugh and smile.
When I gave my daughter the dreaded goodbye hug on the day she departed, I realized that our family would never be the same. Our daughter has taken definite steps into adulthood, and our tight nuclear family unit is forever changed. Yes, she will come back—one day. She will visit—one day. But our daughter no longer belongs to us. I must share her with the calling and purposes God has for her in the world.
And that emptiness is, ironically, the harvest of motherhood.
We raise our children to leave. Nest-building is only temporary. Our homes are meant for releasing. I have heard it all. I thought I had prepared myself. But nothing can prepare a mother for truly letting go of her cherished fledgling. For me, it is an act of faith, as I hold my breath and watch my daughter fly.
And in her flight, I look around and feel the vast void: an empty chair at the dinner table, a silence coming from her bedroom, an absence of her presence in the evenings when I would look forward to our late-night conversations. It all feels so bare. And yet, her leaving has been the goal all along; it is called ‘good’. But oftentimes, this is a goodness that I cannot feel or see, because the goodness of harvest went with my little girl across the world. The harvest is in her. And all I can do is trust the Lord to take the feeble offerings I poured into her life and pray that He multiplies them in His grace.
The harsh reality I have learned in this season of motherhood is that harvest can be painful. Harvest can feel like emptiness.
And as I look around the breakfast table, I have come to realize that one day, I must release each of the children that still remain. And so I ask myself, will I have any part of my heart left when the last fledgling flies away?
From this perspective, my job of motherhood feels rather hopeless. Sometimes, in dread, I wrestle with thoughts of despair. This is the plan? Am I simply to give my heart away piece by piece and call it a job ‘well done’?
Dear Sister, if you are in this season of motherhood, there is hope in this next chapter. There is new joy in these quieter days, because God is still working in all of us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Our job, as always, involves keeping our eyes focused heavenward. This is imperative in the vocation of motherhood. If we work only for the love and acceptance of our children, we will be defeated. If our identity is in the success of our children, we will be disappointed. But if we keep an eternal focus, working for the Lord Jesus, being faithful in His callings for every season of our life, then our job has purpose. His mercies are new every morning. And every morning, He has a plan for the work of our hands and hearts. What new work is God calling of you?
Our family unit may never be the same, but our God is faithful, and He never changes. Lord willing, His faithfulness in our daughter will have an eternal impact for God’s kingdom and for His glory. She is like an arrow, shot from the quiver of our home, sailing into a world that is lost and dying. May God use our treasure of a daughter to bring His light into a dark world.
The harvest is in my daughter, shining God’s light across the ocean, in another continent that is another world away. But the harvest is also in me, for in this privilege and honor of being her mother, I have learned the value of loving with ferocity, and I have learned to trust in letting go.