Hendrickson Publishers interviewed Michele Howe about her newly released book Empty Nest, What’s Next?
What is your advice for readers just beginning your book?
I would love for parents entering the empty nest season of life to try and forget all the advice others have told them, especially the false statement that parenting ends when a child turns eighteen. The truth is that parenting, for the most part, gets even more challenging. As I write in the text, “little people = little problems while big people = big problems.” In the same way that our kids grow into adulthood, they also face adult-sized trials and troubles just as us parents do. This is never easy because a mom or dad’s parental heart still beats with the same intensity as when the children were young. If we go into the empty nest season with the expectation that it will be a breeze, then we are in for a painful reawakening when our kids come to us in need with their struggles. This is the most common scenario when it comes to parenting adult children.
What is your favorite aspect of Empty Nest, What’s Next? Why is it your favorite?
My very favorite aspect of the book is that none of us are able to carry through this season of life without the daily strength, support, wisdom and grace that God supplies. My hope is that, through my analyses of problems and scenarios from real life, readers will see that God can redeem even the most horrific situation. I’m also very much aware that God is never surprised by tragedy and sorrow. He isn’t sitting in Heaven wringing His hands in despair (like we often do). This fact heartens me! God is never unaware of what is happening in my life or the lives of those I love. This truth gives me the strength to keep going when I feel like giving up.
What is your most proud parenting memory?
Some years back, my youngest daughter got herself into some real trouble… serious trouble. All of us were heartbroken and burdened. I watched as her three siblings came alongside her and lovingly supported her (they didn’t support her choices or her actions but they support her). It was one of those moments in parenting when the phrase “I’ve got your back” came to life. Since that time, I’ve observed my kids continue to love and support each other in good times and bad.
Why do you think Empty Nest, What’s Next? is essential for newly empty-nested parents?
I felt it was essential because I was (and still am) struggling with the issues surrounding midlife/empty nest parenting. It is a topic that isn’t frequently addressed from the pulpit or in written resources. We breathe this sigh of relief when our child turns eighteen and they head off to college or a job, but then within months it seems some crisis pops up and we’re in shock that our parental responsibilities haven’t ended. This book will help parents gain a more realistic perspective on parenting adult children and it will encourage and offer suggestions in regards to coping with ongoing challenges.
What advice from this book do you think you’ll pass onto your children?
I would encourage them (and hopefully exemplify what it looks like) to cling to the Lord every single day. I strive for my children to get their marching orders from him. How does that play out in the real nitty-gritty of life? Reading God’s Word daily to renew our minds. Praying and asking for wisdom, counsel, advice and then quietly listening to him speak. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people and parents. Casting the cares of every problem at his feet before bed every night.
What advice do you have for parents who are not quite yet at the empty nest period of their lives, but preparing for it soon?
Look ahead and do some creative thinking about what you want the years ahead to bring for you and your family. Pray and ask God to begin working in your heart to bring into fruition dreams, goals, ideas, and plans that perhaps you’ve been setting aside for years while you actively parented your at-home children. Ask God to give you big dreams for the future He has planned for you so that you’ll continue to use the gifts God has placed and developed in you.
If you could receive guidance from any parent in the bible, whom would it be from and what would you ask them?
I would want to talk with Moses’ mother and ask her what those years were like when her son was being raised in the godless household of Pharaoh. I would ask her, “How did you influence him to continue believing in the Lord?” Scripture doesn’t tell us a lot about her and her continued influence in Moses’ life, but I’m sure there’s a back-story hidden there!
What do you hope readers take away from your work?
More than anything else, it is my earnest prayer that readers understand that every season of life is given by God. I want them to realize that he ordains each stage of life, and that we are to honor God with our trust when we confused about his plans. At the empty nest season, so much changes in our lives (and in our kids’ lives), but this is a good thing. Growing up, growing forward, and even growing old are specifically purposed by God. Life is constantly changing and, in the midst of these changes, hopefully filled with growth.
What do you think was the most important lesson that you ended up learning while writing this book?
As I wrote this book I was continually reminded of the phrase, “But God.” If God hadn’t undertaken and offered rescue and help then so many of the stories I shared would have ended in disaster. This truth strengthened my faith. It reminded me that God is always close by and always and forever faithful.
What works can we expect from you in the future?
My books seem to follow the thread of my life’s journey and right now I’m deeply concerned for the negative effect that the media has on my life and of those around me. Having majored in marketing during my college career, I’ve always held a skeptical view of the media reports. My observations have led me to believe that many people are feeling discouraged, depressed, and defeated because of evil’s prevalence in the media. This is a topic I’m eager to write on and help others (as well as myself) strengthen the way they think and change the culture through prayer.
To learn more about Empty Nest, What’s Next?, visit Hendrickson’s website.