Our latest blog comes from Nancy Isenberg, a mother and grandma, who recently became an empty nester after thirty years of having children in their home. Today she shares about how God has met her in this new and challenging season of life. We know you’ll be encouraged by the rich wisdom, hope, and beauty she shares about God’s faithful hand through it all. Nancy writes:

I took a long walk today, air pods in ears, listening intently to the familiar sound of my own recorded voice. The walk was triggered by my need for some happy endorphins sure to be provided by vitamin-D- laden sunshine, exercise, and a trip to the hope chest. The hope chest, that place in our hearts where the truths of God’s character are stored and easily accessible. I had recently delivered a teaching on the said hope chest, describing the tradition that was popular in earlier generations when a girl literally would fill a chest with sure-to-be needed items such as linens and china in anticipation and preparation of when she’d ‘hopefully’ have her own household. Figuratively, we each have a hope chest, our heart and mind, and the responsibility to fill it with what we anticipate to be needed. Not treasures made of porcelain and fine cloth, but the treasures of God-truths and promises, ready to be retrieved and applied to our lives. The spiritual hope chest overflows with confident expectation of God’s love, faithfulness, and shepherd heart .

While  preparing for this talk I mentioned to my daughter that the random verses, stories, and musings I’d gathered on the topic of hope reminded me of puzzle pieces that would somehow fit together. She quickly assured me, “God knows how the finished puzzle picture of the sermon will look because He has the top of the box.” Her words proved true. God worked the puzzle.

Today I needed a fresh taste of hope. Not just a nibble, but a banquet. So I indulged. I feasted on the truths pulled from the hope chest. The consumption didn’t change my circumstances, rather it healthily fed my perspective and a healthy perspective nourishes everything. I had originally prepared this “hope banquet” for younger mothers but the truth is I am hungry (at times starving) for fresh hope because the fare I consumed yesterday has been digested. I am again famished. Quite honestly, weary. Isaiah 50:4 says, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary…” I know that I, too, am weary, ravenous for the Lord’s sustenance that hope provides.

What was necessitating the hefty helping of hope today had to do with the stage of life I’ve found myself in the last three years. That’s when our 4th child graduated and happily transitioned to college, marking the first time in 30 years that we hadn’t had a ‘child’ in our home; 30 years of nurturing, hosting, and serving. I had worked part-time prior years, though I ALWAYS considered myself a “stay-at-home-mom”.  Upon his leaving we knew it was time to sell our large home and downsize. Multiple college educations and weddings, combined with the roller-coaster of my husband’s commission-based job had left us thin-pocketed to support one final four-year college tuition. The sale of our home didn’t go as we’d expected. My new reality defies my identity as a “stay-at-home-mom.” I now find myself with a full time job, no house of my own, and no children at home.

Today as I finished my walk, I once again analogized about a puzzle, the unfinished puzzle of my life and especially the unexpected circumstances accompanying my empty nest. Recently we visited my husband’s 88 year old father. Pops enjoys working puzzles but he routinely reports that ‘they’ left some of the pieces out of the box. Upon his recent account I offered to take a look. What I observed was that like most of us, he was first interlocking the border pieces. A few were awkwardly smashed together, forced rather than easily interlocked.  Together we removed those and found their rightful spots. Sure enough he was missing other pieces that would complete the border. I asked to see the unused puzzle pieces. He handed me the box bottom filled with various jigsaw parts. Quickly I located six straight-sided edges… the ones that had been reportedly “left out of the box.”

It occurs to me that I have coerced and smashed pieces of my life together, forcing them to interlock in cumbersome ways, declaring that “all the pieces aren’t in the box”. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve failed to retrieve the items from my heart’s hope chest that would perfect my assessment of the puzzle’s picture. The smashed pieces are placed correctly when accompanied by the truths stored in the hope chest. The Psalmist noted, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5). Indeed God has the top of the box, and with his hand upon me he has already interlocked the pieces that form the border, the hem of my life. God’s love and faithfulness form this imperative framework that securely holds together the surprising and sometimes unsettling fragments of my life. When I lack faith that the border is placed correctly, then I struggle to believe the adjacent pieces fit into the intended beautiful picture. God holds the box bottom and at just the right time places the pieces not yet revealed. Truly the puzzle pieces of God’s love, faithfulness, and shepherd heart border my life, effectively hemming me in, keeping my life from unraveling.