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6 Things You Need to Do Today to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Later today, I’ll be dropping my daughter off for the start of her junior year of college, and my wife and I will be entering the empty nest.  (Last week, we dropped our son off for his freshman year of college.)  While I’m sad to say goodbye to my kids knowing their return home will never quite be the same, I’m extremely excited by this next step in our journey together.

Many people talk about the empty nest with negativity.  People imply that life is almost over when the kids leave the house.  Or people wonder out loud about how spouses will handle each other without the barrier and distraction of children.

The empty nest doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  In fact, there are things you can do today to better prepare yourself for the empty nest.

6 Things You Need to Do Today to Prepare for the Empty Nest

  1. Date your spouse while your kids are under your roof.  Many parents fall into the trap of making their parenting more important than their marriage.  This is a big mistake.  When we get married, we commit – we promise – to live life together for the rest of our lives.  When your kids leave the house (as they should at some point), you don’t want to find yourself living with a stranger.  Continue to get to know your wife.  Continue to have fun together.  Continue to grow closer.  Leanne and I have a weekly date night.  This has been a great way to help prepare us for the empty nest.
  2. Parent your children with purpose.  Too many parents make the mistake of trying to be their child’s best friend instead of people their mom or dad.  Also, many parents miss out on the importance of preparing their kids to leave the nest.  Talking to your kids about life after high school or college is important.  Kids need to understand the expectations you have for them as they get older.  Talking about these expectations, modeling expected behaviors, and establishing appropriate boundaries are all critical parts of parenting with purpose and of preparing for the empty nest.  Leanne and I have intentionally approached our parenting aiming our kids at the target and launching them well-equipped to leave the nest and contribute to this world.
  3. Invest in your marriage.  Beyond dating your spouse, you need to make regular investments in your marriage.  Find a mentor couple or two who are ahead of you in their married lives and take time to learn from them.  Spend money and take time to get away on a regular basis to connect with each other, to discuss goals, and to assess progress.  Go to a marriage retreat or conference (ie. Family Life Weekend to Remember) to learn from marriage experts.  Sign up in a marriage class like Dynamic Marriage (Leanne and I are getting ready to lead our next Dynamic Marriage class, and spots are still available).  Leanne and I have done a lot of things to invest in our marriage, and we will continue to do these things as we enter the empty nest.  Our marriage is worth it!
  4. Invest in yourself.  I’m a father, and I’m a husband.  I’m also me.  Our identities are complex.  While you will always be a father if you have kids, that part of your identity will change as the kids leave the nest.  It’s important to learn and grow (to STRETCH) as an individual.  I’m doing this through reading, through podcasts, and through mastermind groups.  In a few weeks, I’ll be launching the next semester of the Stretched Men Group – a mastermind group for men.  If you are a man, consider signing up.  This is a great way to invest in yourself and to help you prepare for the empty nest.
  5. Plan ahead.  Don’t get to the empty nest without plans for the future.  Leanne and I have been making plans for doing things together to have fun, to contribute to our church and community, and to position ourselves for further steps in our married lives.  We’ve created a “Dream Board” to document some of our bigger goals for the future.  If you want to prepare for the empty nest, plan ahead for what you will do once the kids leave the nest.
  6. Pray.  Don’t underestimate the importance of praying together about the future.  Pray for your kids.  Pray for their future spouses.  Pray for your spouse.  Pray for your future together.  God wants to be part of your marriage.  Pray that God would prepare you for the empty nest.

When you take these steps, you too can enter the empty nest with enthusiasm, hope, and excitement.  Don’t wait for the kids to say goodbye, take action today to get ready for the empty nest!

What action do you need to take to prepare for the empty nest?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition – Thursday 2016


Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.

Amy Grant

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  (Monday, I shared the first thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  Tuesday, I shared the second thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  And yesterday, I shared the third thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.)


Today, I’m thankful for my kids.  They have kept me busy and proud this year.


I’m thankful for Hannah, our oldest.  She kept us busy this year graduating from high school and starting college.  We’re excited to have her home this week to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

And I’m thankful for Isaac.  He has also had a year of milestones – his first job, driving, and working on his music and scouting programs.


Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.  Psalm 127:3-5

Who are you thankful for this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition – Monday 2016


If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.

W. Clement Stone

Yesterday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.

On Sunday, I took time to brainstorm my gratitude using the Lighten (mind mapping) application on my iPad, so I’ll be sharing pictures of my Thank You 2016 mindmap to give you a glimpse into my world.


I’m thankful for 2 weeks in Guatemala this summer.  Our family traveled to Guatemala to help build three homes and to continue ministry to widows and orphans in the village of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.




I’m thankful for Ann Flynn who joined our team this year.  Besides the medical expertise and humor she brought to the trip, it was refreshing to see Xenacoj through her eyes.  One of my dreams is to bring others with us when we go to Xenacoj.  I want them to experience what we’ve experienced, and I want them to develop a heart for the beautiful people we serve.  Ann’s participation in this year’s trip gave me hope that this will happen.

I’m thankful for safe travels, and I’m thankful for the people who helped us out on either side of our trip with transportation and pet care.

I’m thankful for the 3 houses we helped build.  More importantly, I’m thankful for the opportunity to engage with the families of Dolores, Maria, and Carmen.  I look forward to visiting them when we return again.

I’m thankful for Hillary.  She’s visited Xenacoj several times in the past as part of medical missions trips.  This was our first trip together.  She added a lot to our first week in Guatemala, and I’m thankful for her medical support when Leanne fainted on the construction site the first day.

I’m thankful for my mornings in Guatemala.  Each morning I had the opportunity to spend time on the roof of our residence before anyone else woke up.  This was my opportunity for Rooftop Reflections – a daily video blog of my thoughts.  I also did a lot of reading in the morning.  I read through I and II Thessalonians and The Promise of a Pencil and Start Something That Matters.  Finally, I had the opportunity in the morning to walk the streets of Xenacoj while Hannah ran on ahead.  These morning walks allowed me to suck in the sites, smells, and sounds that come with each morning in this village I love.


I’m thankful for Hope Haven.  This is where we helped out in their warehouse where they build wheelchairs for people all over the world.  We also participated in a wheelchair basketball game.  (It’s harder than you think.)

I’m thankful for Cruz Ayapan, a small village just outside of Xenacoj.  This village and it’s village are clear reminders that God’s love is needed all over the world and there is still much work to be done.

I’m thankful for our widows walk with German.  It was beautiful to see German’s heart as he ministered to the women in his village who are often forgotten.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet with Mario Aquino, the mayor of Xenacoj.  This meeting provided an incredible time to discuss a vision for our involvement in the future.

I’m thankful for the generosity of so many donors who helped make this trip possible.

I’m thankful for Oreo, the dog who we adopted during our trip.  He lived outside our house, and he always greeted us with his expressive tail and ears.



I’m thankful for protection from witchcraft.  I don’t talk about this a lot, but there were people in the village who weren’t excited to have us there.  I’m thankful we stayed safe during this experience.

I’m thankful for our wonderful translators.  Not only did they help us communicate with the locals, but they became our friends.

And I’m thankful for our visit to Antigua.  This is the tourist village about 40 minutes from Xenacoj.  I’ll always remember the rooftop dinner with our team and the McDonalds date with Leanne while our kids shopped for souvenirs with the rest of our team.0img_0303

Stay tuned for Day Two of my Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition reflections.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

What did you experience this year that merits your gratitude?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition


I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

Henry David Thoreau

Across America, people will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week.

Some people will be watching one of the NFL football games televised throughout the day.  Others will watch a Thanksgiving parade.  Many Americans will be gathering with family and friends to eat a traditional Thanksgiving feast.  A few of you may lace up your running shoes or your football cleats for a Thanksgiving 5K or a community Turkey Bowl game.

These are all great traditions.  I know I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and eating the delicious Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving is more than family, food, and football.  Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful.  While we should be thankful all year, Thanksgiving gives us all the opportunity to more intentional in our gratitude.

For the past 15 years, our family has celebrated Thanksgiving with our Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.

Here’s how it works:

We have a white tablecloth for our Thanksgiving table.  We purchased fabric markers.  Each guest at our Thanksgiving feast traces their hand print on the tablecloth using one of the fabric markers (make sure you put a piece of cardboard under the tablecloth while you are doing this part).  They write their name and the year in the palm of the hand print.  Then each guest writes five things for which they are thankful (one in each finger).  You may want to put a piece of clear plastic over the tablecloth after everyone has finished their hand print.

Each year we pull out the tablecloth, and we read over the hand prints from previous years.  It’s amazing to see God’s provision in our lives over the years.

We are on our 2nd tablecloth.  The tablecloths include names of family members who are no longer with us.  They include the colorful and sloppy handwriting of our youngest family members, and they include the beautiful hand prints from friends who joined us for the Thanksgiving meal.

Over the next week, I’ll be sharing the five things I’ll be writing on my hand print this year.

Start a new tradition this year – The Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  Go pickup a tablecloth and some fabric markers.  It’s good to give thanks.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  Psalm 100:4

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?  Why are you thankful this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me


I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.

James Avery

Friday afternoon at the end of my workday, I received a phone call from my Grandpa.  Grandpa Miller lives in Minneapolis, MN, and I live outside of Philadelphia, PA which means we don’t see each other very often.  And I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t talk nearly as often as we should.  I think we both share the guilt for our infrequent conversations.

One of the things that keeps us connected is my blog.  Every time I publish a new blog post, Grandpa gets an email from me.  He keeps tabs on me in part by reading my blog posts.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I didn’t publish a single blog post last week.  One person did notice – Grandpa.  His phone call on Friday afternoon was a call of concern for me.  Was a sick?  Was I busy?  Was I okay?  Grandpa called to check-up on me.

Grandpa’s phone call reminded me of several important things.

Grandpa and My Niece

Grandpa and My Niece

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

  1. I am loved.  Grandpa’s phone calls always remind me that I am loved.  We may not talk as regularly as we should, but I know we are thinking of each other.  In fact, Grandpa regularly prays for my family and me.  You are loved, too!
  2. I am missed when I don’t show up.  For over nine years, I’ve been writing blog posts here.  I don’t often realize the impact of my writing discipline.  The last couple of weeks have been particularly busy for me, so I decided to put attention to other things besides writing blog posts.  I guess I didn’t realize the impact of my decision.  It’s nice to know I was missed.  And I am reminded to practice the discipline of showing up – even here on my blog.  You are missed when you don’t show up!
  3. My words and actions matter to others.  It is my prayer that my words (and actions) will encourage others and will bring glory to God.  Grandpa’s phone call reminded me that my words do matter.  They keep people informed, and they stretch people to live life with more intention.  Your words and actions matter to others!
  4. I am meant to live in community.  When life gets overwhelming, I sometimes have a tendency to close up.  I’m an extrovert, but I also have a strong desire to be in control.  When I get too busy, it’s easy for me to put on blinders.  I focus so intently on the things on my schedule and my to-do list that I forget to latch into the people around me – my community.  If you’re reading this, you are part of my community.  I need you, and I think you may need me.  We need each other.  I can’t physically be with Grandpa thanks to the challenges of geography and responsibilities, but I can be present with Grandpa by connecting with him more intentionally.  You are meant to live in community!

Thank you, Grandpa, for calling!  It meant the world to me to hear your voice and to know you care.  I love you!

Who do you need to call today?  What are you going to do about it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.