If you grew up on a farm as I did, you understand that certain things never change: Your penchant for Levis over Calvin Kleins holds strong. Your favorite recipes contain secret ingredients like “beef” and “corn” rather than “kale” and “quinoa.” Gluten is not something you ask your waiter about at the restaurant; it’s something you add extra to your bread dough on purpose, to improve its texture. And summers still find you in the back yard, eating tomatoes warm from the vine and carrots cool from the earth. No need for washing. Brushing the soil onto your Levis will suffice.

But some things do change as the years pass: Jobs take you away from the town where you’ve planted roots. Your marriage grows stronger through seasons of pain. The gaggle of kids who enriched your life from underfoot in your 20s and 30s grow up and leave the nest in your 40s and 50s. 

Today it’s just me and Scott, my Birkenstocks-wearing doctor/pastor husband of 30+ years. We live outside Chicago, and our five kids live much too far away—four in California, and one, to whom we said goodbye too soon at 19, awaits us in the next reality. We have welcomed the loveliest of grandchildren—a girl and two little boys—who hung the moon in our hearts.

These days I savor dearly the best of things, like the laughter of our grown kids when we are all together, and the velvet touch of my granddaughter’s hand on mine as we make apple pie, and the snuggles my grandsons bestow without hesitation. When at home, I cultivate a vegetable garden that is more about beauty than vegetables. I carve or quilt or search for sea glass on the shores of Lake Michigan, or fiddle around with my fish tank, or figure out how to make stuff most people would be happy to buy in stores, or take little empty-nest adventures with my husband.

And on most days, I write. I’m a writer by trade at Willow Creek Community Church, but when I write for myself, it’s to tell stories. Stories help me understand what I feel. They draw laughter from my belly in the retelling, and they illuminate the fondest of memories—and also the most tender ones. At the end of the day, they bring stillness to my soul.