I’m a musician by training. In my early years as I finished up my degree at Butler University, I imagined myself teaching high school music for many years to come. That was my plan, but it wasn’t God’s plan. Within a few short years I launched a ministry to moms that went global. I then found myself leading an organization I didn’t intend to start which provided an unexpected platform that led me into writing and speaking. Quite honestly, I’m glad God had a better plan.
I loved performing in musicals and I’ve directed a few community theater shows throughout the years. One of my favorite parts of a musical is the encore which often happens as a reprise—a recap of the best of the songs from the show. I love this because it’s a surprise. People think the show is over, but it really isn’t. There’s still more to come!
That’s what I now call the empty nest season of life—it’s the encore season of life! It’s when you get to sing the songs you love once again, or you get to sing new songs if you want. If you loved nurturing, encouraging, cheering on, mentoring, teaching, loving, and listening, you can still do that with children at church, in your neighborhood, or even your own grandchildren if you have them. However, you get to sing the best parts of those songs without having to sing all the “verses” like being up all night with a crying baby or trying to figure out why the toddler is fussy, or managing homework, or worrying about them driving by themselves for the first time. You can, in essence, play to your strengths more and more as the nest empties.
The encore season of life is sometimes the best time to sing new songs. This is when many will venture into speaking, writing, and leading because they now have the time and energy to pursue something they’ve wanted to do but didn’t have time for before. There are so many who started things late in life that we’re not even aware of.
Did you know Vera Wang was a figure skater and journalist before entering the fashion industry at age 40? Today she’s one of the world’s premier women’s designers. Donald Fisher was 40 and had no experience in retail when he and his wife, Doris, opened the first Gap store in San Francisco in 1969. The Gap’s clothes quickly became fashionable, and today the company is one of the world’s largest clothing chains. Then there’s Sam Walton who didn’t start Wal-Mart until his mid-forties and Julia Child who didn’t become the world renowned chef we know her as until she was well into her fifties and sixties. There are so many encores to be sung!
In my book Empty Nest Full Life I ask readers to finish this sentence: In life I have experienced _____________________________, therefore I understand _____________________________. Until we do an audit of our life experiences and connect the dots from those experiences to what we now know and understand, we often underestimate what we have to offer the world. One way that God uses our stories and experiences is by bringing empathy, wisdom, and encouragement to others walking a similar path. We’ve seen our leader, Carol Kent, do that with prison ministry and what she does with Speak Up!
So today I want to encourage you in one of two ways:
First, if your nest is emptying or is already emptied, there’s still a lot of possibility ahead of you. You have some songs to sing in your encore season of life. Maybe that’s why you’ve tapped into the wisdom Speak Up offers. If so, stay steady. Keep singing. Your voice is needed! Your hard-earned experience and wisdom need to be leveraged for kingdom work.
Second, if you’re a leader, you are leading those who are in the encore season of life. They need vision. They need encouragement. They need to know their voice is still needed and that they still have songs to sing. They need you to invite them to leverage their voice, wisdom, and experiences.
When it comes to kingdom work, if you’re not dead, you’re not done. Let’s encourage one another in lifelong work that makes a difference in people’s lives!
Question: What about you? What’s one way you can put this message into action today? I look forward to reading your responses.
Challenge: If you’ve launched your kids and you’re ready to move forward, consider enrolling in this course as your next step: Empty Nest Full Life.