The Empty Nest Season

After parenting for almost three decades, my youngest son—Nathan (an “ours” child), graduates from high school this month and my husband and I will begin empty nest. It’s an eery feeling.

Difficult Stepfamily Seasons and Learning to Trust God by Gayla Grace

I was three months shy of 40 years old when Nathan was born—the only child my husband Randy and I have together. We had been married six years and our four older kids ranged in age from eight to sixteen. Stepfamily life had settled down with relationships finally beginning to come together. We thought our hardest season was behind us.

We were wrong.

About a year after Nathan was born, we learned that my stepchildren’s mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer. Within a few short months, she became very ill. Sadly, one year after her diagnosis, she passed away.

Stepfamily life took a drastic turn.

We entered a very hard season.

My stepdaughter had just started college and it made sense for her to stay where she was, although she lived out of state from us. My stepson, Payton, was only 14, however. He had been living with his mom and stepdad more than 300 miles away. My husband naturally assumed his son would come live with us to finish high school.

The knock on the door one Sunday afternoon revealed something different. I opened the door to a sheriff with papers in hand. “Is your husband home?” he asked.

I trembled as I listened to the conversation between the sheriff and my husband. After a few short sentences, I watched Randy shut the door with a baffled look and tears in his eyes. He had just learned that his son’s stepdad had filed for custody of his son! It made no sense! Randy and I were capable and willing to bring Payton into our home.

Difficult Stepfamily Seasons and Learning to Trust God by Gayla Grace

An Unsettling Season

We entered a hard, unsettling custody battle. We waded through a long period of confusion and anxiety. At times, Randy and I didn’t see eye to eye.

Tension mounted.
Tempers flared.
My faith wavered as I faced trying circumstances I couldn’t change.

That season finally ended with Payton coming to live with us.

But wounds from a hard-fought battle didn’t heal quickly. Our relationships took years to recover. (But we DID recover.)

Seasons are unpredictable.

Although the calendar might tell us it’s spring, an unexpected snowstorm can show up in certain areas of the country.

The seasons of life are no different. Although we might expect and yearn for stepfamily life to get easier as the years go by, there is no promise of that. An unforeseen circumstance that leaves more questions than answers could be lurking in the shadows.

But one thing we can be certain of: We can trust God and His divine plan—even when we don’t understand it—in every season. 

During that tumultuous season after my stepchildren lost their mom, I tried to control the agony of our circumstances. I wanted to make sense of confusing dynamics. Finally, I let go. I surrendered to God’s plan and I trusted His guiding hand.

Peace came when I gave up the need for control and trusted God with the outcome.

I’m learning that lesson again right now.

I face a new season with empty nest clamoring for my attention. Some days, I’m excited about a newfound freedom with only my husband at home. But other days, I find myself anxious and sad. Just last week, tears flowed freely as I watched a mom with her young, blonde-headed son on the soccer field. That season has passed for me. What lies ahead, I wonder.

I don’t know exactly.

But one thing I’m certain of: I can trust God and His divine plan in my new season.

What about you? How have you seen God’s guiding hand through your stepfamily seasons? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.



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