5 Things Runways Can Teach Us About Midlife and Empty Nest

Midlife Monday 10-30-17

In last week’s Midlife Monday, I wrote about letting go and moving forward when empty nest happens. (You can read more about that here: link)

Today I want to focus on helping you take the next step in discovering your true, authentic self and how to help ‘her’ rise above the surface.

Every year, over 800 million people travel the world over on an airplane. Which means, everyday single day of the year, people throughout the world hustle and bustle through traffic, airports, TSA lines just  trying to get from one place the next.

Business men and women meeting; families vacationing; lovers marrying; bridal parties celebrating; children visiting; teams competing; family members grieving; recruits enlisting; adventurers adventuring; so much coming and going and doing and being.

In your pursuit to become your true authentic self, it’s helpful to think of your life as one long runway.  In the world of flying, runways are everything!







5 Things About Runways and what they can teach us about empty nest and midlife

  1. All runways are not created equal.
  2. Runways serve one purpose.
  3. Runways must be in good condition to function properly.
  4. Sometimes runways must shut down.
  5. Runways are amazing!

1) All runways are not created equal

One size does not fit all. A Boeing 777-300 aircraft requires a much longer runway than a Boing 737-900 or even the smaller regional planes. The bigger/heavier the aircraft, the longer the distance required for takeoff and landing.

And just as all runways are not created equal, the same is true for you.

 Your life story is unique to you, and you alone.

Some of you have had to overcome incredible challenges: health issues; marriage issues; parenting challenges; tragic loss; financial hardship; change and transition of all kinds.

Collectively, we have life experiences that would translate to countless volumes of both tragedy and triumph.

Stop let’s just stop right there, friend!

Consider all you have survived! Consider all you have overcome! Pause and give thanks to God for the way he has lifted you above the storms of life’s trials!

I think I can say with great confidence that God has been writing an amazing story of grace and hope in your life. And the that fact that you are still standing, considering all you have overcome, should alone give you hope for the future story being written on the runway of your life.

2) Runways serve one single purpose.

The one and only goal of every flying passenger is simply to get from point A to point B. 

No rocket science degree needed here folks, but this is what I do know about runways:

without a runway, no one’s getting anywhere fast.

Entire airports are strategically designed and built around runways!

What good would a beautifully designed, state-of-the-art terminal be without a runway? Yet, in and of themselves, runways are useless and it would be a complete waste of space if they were not used for the purpose for which they were designed.

In the Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminds us of the importance of knowing our solitary purpose in life. In Philippians 3:13-14 he writes….

“I do not consider myself to have embraced it yet. But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead… I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s story is pretty amazing, but no less amazing than yours, midlife friend.Considering your own beginning and you consider Paul’s.

He was a hater of Christians. But after an life-altering encounter with the One he was persecuting (Acts 9:5) Paul was radically transformed by the love and call of God on his life.

He was not only a messenger of God’s hope, love and salvation, he was also a tent maker,  writer, strategist, a theologian, student, teacher. So many hats – all under the diving umbrella to love God and the people he was called to influence using the gifts and talents God had entrusted to him.

Paul’s life and example serve as a good reminder of how the many aspects of our life make up the whole.

God’s choosing Paul was about God wanting to accomplish his purpose in Paul and through Paul. And that should be the overriding theme of our lives as well. Paul knew his purpose once God intervened to help him realign his vision and purpose. The main obstacle in Paul’s life was that his focus was on the wrong thing. There were problems with his understanding and thinking that kept him from fulfilling his primary purpose in life to glorify God and make him known.

And you are more than a mom!

As you make the runway turn to head down a new runway, think about the many talents you have developed and utilized while raising your family. Administrator, chef, bookkeeper, life/calendar manager, chauffeur, stylist, professional shopper, cleaning lady, life coach, counselor. Some of you have had to be both mother and father; have had to hold down a full-time job; have gone back to school to learn a new skill or career.

And quite honestly, some of you are just tired. You want to move forward but, your just not in the right mind-set either mentally, emotionally, or physically. And that’s okay to admit and I encourage you to do so if this describes you.

 3. Runways must be in good condition to function properly

Runways are essential to getting off the ground but they must also be safe and in good condition if airplanes are going to take-off and land safely.

Every year, millions of dollars and resources are invested to ensure that runways remain in excellent condition. Any crack, undetected obstacle, or defect could lead to a fatal ending if this were not the case. Runways are continually maintained to ensure they are free of dangerous obstacles, ice, & people.

So can I ask you to ask yourself…

What kind of obstacles have you overcome in your life? And this…what kind of things are still hindering you from the living out the one purpose you are here for?

Have life’s demands robbed you of pursuing something you’ve always thought of doing? Have your own insecurities held you back from exploring ideas and interests of things that make you come alive? Have negative thought patterns stolen your joy to create a life that has margin and white space in which to play and create and explore? Have physical health challenges limited your ability to take action? Have relational challenges kept you from stepping into new territory? Is there any wrong thinking in your life that needs God’s healing so that you can be free to soar and become the person he created you to be?

4) Sometime Runways have to shut down.

In the world of flying, nothing can dampen the spirits of flying passengers (and crew) more than flight delays.

Runways will always shut down when it comes to ensuring the safety of passengers, crew members, and ground control.

No one likes to hear the captain come over the sound system to inform the crew and passengers of a lengthy tarmac delay, mechanical issues, medical issues, or weather challenges to prevent take off or landing.

It just leaves a pit in everyone’s stomach. For the flight crew, it usually translates to “late hotel arrival, minimum crew rest, not getting home as planned, etc. For passengers, it often means missed appointments, family time, connections to other cities and delays of all kinds.

When bad weather immanent, the red light is given to halt all operations; runways close, ground crew take cover, flight towers reroute or divert planes to other cities; and crews timeout ….and this is where things get very interesting and potentially chaotic for the airline industry.

Flight Delays and Life delays are part of the human experience.

As a flight attendant, I have a set list of responsibilities to ensure that passengers arrive safely to their destination.  And every flight crew knows that all plans to take off can come to a quick standstill when certain things are in play.

Waiting for Takeoff Requires Patience.

When I was a young mom, I would allow myself to get easily frustrated by interruptions of all kinds. When things didn’t go as planned, I would feel my stress level rise. But I remember an insight I gained one day while in the middle of sewing some little sun-dresses for my girls. After a bazillion interruptions of kids needing a snack, a diaper change, and answer the word “MOM” for the 100th time, breaking up boy fights, and wanting to throw in the towel, I began feeling like my life (meaning the things I wanted to do) was up on a shelf. But in that moment the thought came to “Betsy, your life is not up on a shelf….this is your life.”

No one wants to take off in a plane that is mechanically unsafe, or a runway with black ice, or in winds that are too gusty, or in the middle of a bad storm. It would be horribly unwise and dangerous.

So learing to embrace delays is something we all must learn to do with grace. Sometime life happens and we can’t control the outcome. On the other hand, delays can bring incredible blessings.

As recently as yesterday, I was flying home from a writing weekend with my community of other Hope*Writers. The lady I sat beside ended up getting the second last seat because of an earlier delay out of Atlanta that morning. I received the very last seat available right next to her. She was flying to Cleveland for a family funeral and I was going home. We talked the entire ride home and ended up having so much in common that before the plane landed, we ended up exchanging phone numbers and made plans to stay in touch.

The delays of life, when embraced, can end up being a gift, to you and to others.

5) Runways are amazing!

Something I started doing since I began my fly-life, is taking each of my grandkids on a fun one day trip to Chicago to celebrate their 6th birthday. Nothing thrills me more, than watching their reaction during takeoff and landing. It’s the best!

Momentum is Where the Magic Happens

It’s amazing how it all works…when that moment of lift and the wheels leave the ground and you climb toward the sky.

So it is with our lives, too. Not only do we all have a unique journey to take in life.

We also have a unique way of getting from here to there.

Just as our lives are changed in an instant when we lay eyes on our first little bundle – they are changed once again when they take off on their own runway. In that moment both parent and child must leave what was and head toward new horizons.

And so I say to you struggling momma…just as you launch your young into new horizons, it’s time to do the same for yourself.

It’s time for you to help her “rise above was and soar toward what is yet to be.” 

Preparing to Soar.

In case you’ve been one to doubt God’s presence and involvement in your life (and we all have from time to time), please consider my journal challenge for you this week. Begin by drawing 2 Runways. (Use a separate page for each runway).

Make 2 long horizontal double lines (close together) right through the center of the page, and two outside lines further above and below the double lines to look like a runway

Collectively, these runways represent 2 different takeoff points of your life.

One runway represents your life from the day your last child leaves home (or left home) and the other runway begins where the first one leaves off. The end of the runway represents where God wants to take you in your next season of midlife.

Runway #1:

On the far left side of runway  #1 line write your birthday.  On the far right, “takeoff day” (If you still have kids in school, put an X about 1”-2” in from the far right side of Runway #1.

Runway #2:

On the far left of Runway #2, Write “Right Now” and on the far right write, “God knows what’s up!”

Focus on Runway #1 first, by placing one word descriptions above the center runway line that describes every positive thing that you’ve done or overcome.  Also name unique life experiences or persons that have positively influenced who you have become up to this point in your life.

Below the line place words that describe the challenges and points of pain you’ve both experienced and still struggling with or have overcome up to this point in your life.

Now step back look at take a good long look at your runway of life experiences, the good the bad and the ugly.

Stop to consider the whole of your life experiences up to this point! Amazing, right?

This week, take some time to consider your life from a fresh, new perspective. Consider what makes you come alive. What do you need to rediscover about yourself? What do you find yourself always thinking about? Dreaming about? What did you play as a child?

Start there and see where those thoughts take you.

My prayer is that in your mind’s eye, you will take flight and soar as you consider how God has been at work in your life all these years. Enjoy the view. Celebrate his goodness. Then begin asking him to remind you of your purpose. Ask him for the courage to explore new horizons so that you reach your destination with the remaining time he has given you.

Because of all you have experienced – I know you are in great condition to soar into an above and beyond kind of life.

Until Next week –




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