Raising children is an important job that can easily consume most of your time and energy when your children are at home. Like any parent, you probably hope that your years of parenting will result in children who have grown into the young adults God hopes them to be, ready to live their lives to their fullest potential.

After they leave home to pursue God's will for their lives, you can celebrate. But you may also be thinking, "Now what?" There's no longer any need for you to prepare lunchboxes, drive to piano lessons and soccer games, or help with homework. You're free, but you may you may feel empty. God will fill the void in your life with new adventures He has planned for you if you trust Him to lead you into this next season.

Here are some ways you can make a fresh start after your children leave home:

  • Pray regularly for your children. Remember that God is always with them, no matter what, and that you can trust Him to guide and protect them when you can't be there. Rather than focusing on the circumstances in your children's lives, focus on God's character, remembering that He is their ultimate parent and loves them deeply.

  • Encourage your children to depend on God rather than on you, in as many ways as you can. Embrace God's goal of maturing your children into adults who will trust Him and enjoy dynamic relationships with Him. Let your children live the lives God has for them, not the lives you would prescribe for them yourself.

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal how God sees you as a whole person - not just as a parent - and to help you see yourself that way. Think and pray about how you can best grow as a person and contribute to others in ways that don't involve parenting. Then get started on some new endeavors to which God leads you. Create a fulfilling life that is distinctly separate from your children's lives.

  • Broaden your sense of community. Pursue significant relationships outside of your immediate family, developing and nurturing friendships with people in the larger body of Christ.

  • Be open and honest with your adult children, so they know who you are. Invite your adult children to share their own thoughts and beliefs with you, including how they feel about you and why. Respect your children as individual adults. Be willing to listen ask for their advice at times.

  • Rediscover your spouse. Proactively schedule time together to focus on each other and rejuvenate your marriage. Date each other, strive to learn new things together, etc.

  • Acknowledge your regrets as a parent, but move on from them by asking forgiveness from your children and God, then accepting that forgiveness.

  • Thank God for the great memories you have of the years you spent with your children at home, and celebrate those memories.

  • Don't settle for the status quo. Constantly seek new challenges to keep growing as person, and encourage your adult children to do the same.

Adapted from Taking Flight from the Empty Nest, copyright 2001 by Mary Jenson. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepubl.com, 1-888-501-6991.

Mary Jenson is a board member of Moms in Touch International ad the San Diego Christian Writers' Guild. She is the author of two previous books and the mother of two grown children, Matt and Molly.

How has your life changed since your children left home? What has been most challenging and most rewarding about the transition for you? What new adventures has God brought into your life during this new chapter in it? Visit the Books Forum to discuss this topic. Just click on the link below.