Empty Nest – Bittersweet Farewell!

This Monday our 5th and last child, Cassie, turns 18. She is officially, and in the eyes of the law, an adult. On Tuesday morning she and I will board an airplane and fly to Chicago where she will be attending school. I will fly home alone – to a newly empty nest. For 32 years I have been a full time stay at home wife and mother and now, suddenly, my job is pretty much done. The hand’s on part of parenting is finished.  It’s time for this mama bird to kick the last baby out of the nest. This is bittersweet for me – sorrow for the end of an era mixed with intense joy that things are going well and Cassie is taking this next step toward growing up.  The mixed feelings are a bit of a surprise to me, because only a year ago things were very different. I was literally counting the days until Cassie turned 18 and, if I could have gotten away with it legally, I would not just have kicked her out of the nest, I would have thrown her out forcibly, slammed the door behind her and screamed at her to never come back. To put it mildly, Cassie went through a bit of a tumultuous time  during the past few years. Starting from around 13 years of age, she became so out of control that she drained Rick and I dry spiritually, emotionally and financially. She got in trouble with the law, spending a total of 3 months in Juvenile Detention. She spent several months wearing an ankle bracelet on house arrest. She was on probation and intensive probation (for the lucky uninitiated, intensive probation is where they assign your child a probation officer who can, and does, literally, show up at your house any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week- to make sure the child is actually there.) She ran away several times between the ages of 13 and 16 – once for an entire month. We had no idea where she was during that time and did not know who she was with. It finally got to the point where something drastic has to be done and we sent Cassie out of state to a therapeutic boarding school. There are not enough positive things to say about Shepherd’s Hill Farm. They loved and disciplined Cassie in a controlled environment for 15 months and when she graduated from the program she came home and toed the line – for about two months. Then things started to spiral out of control all over again. Cassie began spinning a web of deceit that took Rick and I months to unravel. In the end our only choice was to send her back to the boarding school, but because she knew what we were doing she refused to comply and we actually had to have her kidnapped by a company who specializes in these things (yes, a company exists that will kidnap your child and take them where you want them to go….trust me, this was not on our radar either! It’s amazing what you learn as you go through trying times!) During Cassie’s second stay at Shepherd’s Hill Farm the therapy she received there seemed to reach her. She began to really grow in her Christian faith and desire to know God more. She started reading her bible and her attitude began to change. Those things added to some good old growing up, changed her. She rededicated her life to Christ and began a  real walk with Him. She began reading her bible and making plans for the future. She joined the rest of the family for a week in July for our family vacation and we were happy to notice a real change in our daughter. The petulance and defiance were gone and in their place was a sweet, funny teenager who loved her nieces and nephews and could interact with the entire family. It was truly a beautiful thing to behold! Shortly after our vacation Cassie shared her dream with us. She had been seriously considering going away to a school called Fire School of Ministry- where she would take classes and also be immersed  in actual ministry. She had long felt called to inner city work and felt that this school would be a good fit. We researched it and agreed that this would be an excellent place for Cassie – a place where she would be in close community with other Christian young people working together in ministry with the built-in camaraderie that comes from working, studying and living together. We talked at length with the school’s director and as we learned more about it got more and more excited about Cassie going there. Then the director called and told us he had found the perfect living situation for Cassie (the school is very new and they do not have dormitories-but they help students find housing.) She will be living in a Chicago Brownstone with 3 other women, all in their late 20’s and already working in their careers, who want to take a Fire school student into their home. This was clearly a “God thing”! As a Mom, taking my daughter to a huge city and leaving her there is a bit scary- but knowing she is living with capable older women who are strong in their faith makes it much less so!

So, yes, this is a bittersweet event. But watching what God has done and continues to do in my beautiful daughter’s life has been such a joy! Cassie is by no means perfect. She is still a very normal 18 year old woman –  overly concerned with boys and her hair, fashion and what’s going on at the mall. But now I she is moving in the right direction toward maturity and has a genuine faith in God and I can see what she is becoming. I like what I see! What an exciting time this is! I will keep you posted on how things go!




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