Embracing Joy

blogIMG_2372It’s time to haul off the holly.  Drag it down.  Pack it up.  Store it away for another year.

The season of joy is over….or is it?  We finish celebrating the Christmas season and ring in the New Year with revelry or just a quiet, contemplative evening at home.  And then when New Year’s Day arrives, we clean it all up.  We tear down the Christmas fa-la-la and return our homes to ‘normal.’  Often they look bleak and stark without the festive finery sprucing (pardon my pun) everything up.

After it’s all gathered and stored away, my house looks stripped bare.  And I have to admit, sometimes my heart and soul seem bare as well.  It’s the big after Christmas let-down and I’ve often suffered from this malaise.  After a month-long season of making merry, the long stretch of winter weather looms ahead and can appear anything but full of good cheer. 

Especially when you live in an empty nest.  You awaken each morning in darkness and nightfall descends by late afternoon.   You settle back into the same old routine of living in a silent house with just the two of you and one extremely sleepy cat. 

You vacuum up the cookie crumbs.  Corral all of those stray plates and glasses into the dishwasher.  Scour the bathrooms until they’re sparkling again.  Set the washer and dryer to a frenzy cycle laundering all the sheets and towels. 

Gone are the overflowing suitcases.  Gone are all the shoes tossed willy-nilly by the door.  Gone are the purses, gloves, car keys, and overabundance of electronics that were strewn throughout the house. Gone are the three out-of-state licensed cars in the driveway. 

And you might think joy flew right out that opened door when the last ones hauled all of their belongings and themselves through it as they departed. 

But you know what?  Joy only expires if you want it to.  Joy lingers when you embrace it.  I find it no coincidence that this week’s photo challenge is ‘joy’ right when I want to write about that very emotion.  Right when I want to seize it, hold it dear to my heart, and never let go of it.

Joy shouts through my house at remembrances of times spent together as a family.  Joy rings with laughter as it recalls stories told and games played and meals enjoyed around the table and gifts exchanged. 

Joy remembers the sight of three grown adults with spouses sprawled around the family room watching old video tapes of the Christmas television specials they loved as children.  Joy resonates when it’s captured on loved ones’ faces through photographs.  Joy explodes in the heart when a simple text message is received:  “Just got home.  Thanks for the awesome Christmas.  Love you!!”

The sights and sounds of Christmas may be put away for another year but joy remains.

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.” ~ Richard Wagner, German composer

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

The aftermath

blogDSCN8399‘Twas  two days after Christmas and all though the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  (Callie’s a good deterrent.)

The stockings were empty, abandoned without care

Because Christmas was over and they were quite bare.

The presents that previously decorated the tree,

Were spread out over the living room for all to see.

Wrapping paper wrinkled and stuffed in the trash,

Proved evidence that there had been a big bash.

When what to Mama’s eyes did suddenly appear

But mountains of dirty towels and sheets she did fear.

So off to the washing machine she flew in a flash,

Stuffed it full of linens and tightened her robe sash.

And sitting in her kitchen with a hot cup of tea,

She surveyed her quiet nest where once was activity.

The goodies were eaten; there were only a few left,

But that certainly wouldn’t cause her to feel bereft.

The children were off to their work and their play,

But soon they’ll fly back home for yet another day.

Mama’s not sad as she straightens the nest,

blogDSCN8392But Callie’s looking lonely without all the rest.

This Christmas was different, yet joy reigned here,

And hopefully, that joy will last into the New Year.

 ©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Every day

blog028Sometimes when we utter the simplest words they can evoke profound meanings if we just think about it.

Have you ever noticed how easily we banter words around?  Often we say things without even really contemplating what the words mean.  Or even what they may sound like to another person.

That’s why there is so much misunderstanding among us humans.  In this great age of communication, we still have trouble really communicating.  We say things without thinking.  Instead of considering how we should answer a question thoughtfully, we just spout off the first thing that comes to mind.

I answered a question my husband asked me recently in that way.  Off the cuff.  Speaking without forethought.  And as soon as the words left my mouth, I realized what I said wasn’t what I truly meant.  Let me explain.

In my urge to purge state, I’ve been doing some much-needed cleaning around the house.  Especially after Christmas, I’m inclined to spruce up the house with extra care.  While dusting and vacuuming the living room, I picked up the “coffee table” book and decided to replace it.  Does anyone else besides me place a “special” book on that table?

For all the years we’ve been married, we’ve kept a fine-looking book on the living room coffee table right next to the crystal dish hubby and I received as a wedding gift.  We’ve collected a few of these type books and I rotate them every few months.

Our collection includes books with stunning photographs of places we have lived over the years, a book of Robert Frost poems flanked with corresponding pictures, a Norman Rockwell compilation showcasing his art and a book entitled Portrait of Jesus.

That book embellished our table during the Christmas season.  I picked it up and as I deposited it back on the book shelf, my husband asked me what I was doing.  I flippantly replied, “Putting Jesus away.”

As soon as the words rolled off my tongue, I thought, “What a statement to make!”  I tried to correct my thoughtless remark to my husband by adding, “Of course, I’m not really putting Jesus away.”  And then my mind started to veer off as it so often does.

I wondered how many of us do in fact put Jesus away after Christmas.  During the holy season, we talk about Jesus, we sing about Him, we perform acts of charity in His name, we read our Bibles about Him and we talk about keeping Christ in Christmas.

But what about the days that follow Christmas?  Do we still talk about and to Him, sing about Him, do good in His name, tell others about Him?  Is He the vital aspect of every day of our lives?  Or is His place of relevance simply put aside until Easter?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not putting Jesus away, today on this 13th page of Chapter One (January 13, 2011) in my Opportunity book or any day.  Every day I’ll walk with Him.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Opening the book of opportunity

blogDSCN8183It is after 5 p.m. and Chapter One, Page Two (January 2nd) in my book of Opportunity is more than half-way completed.

This second day of the New Year produced a blessing to make my heart glad – all six seats around my kitchen table were full. 

Six? Yes, all of mama’s young adult children plus one – middle daughter’s boyfriend – joined hubby and me for one last home-cooked meal before departing the nest for their separate ways.

The Christmas-New Year holiday is officially over for us.   The decorations and lights have been dismantled and packed away until next year.  We endeavored and succeeded at having a first-rate holiday full of wonderful memories of our time together.  But now, reality must set in and sometimes, reality leaves us feeling as bare as the house looks without the festive trimmings.

It’s back to work for me, back to the empty nest, back to every day demands, back to facing whatever life throws at us.  During the last two weeks of the old year, hubby and I received some news for which we weren’t prepared. 

Life is not proceeding as we had planned, but that’s the way real life happens.  We are encountering some difficulties, some bumps in our journey along the road of life, a set-back.

Unnerving? Yes. Worrisome?  Of course.  As often happens when life throws us for a loop, it takes a little time to recover, to right yourself after being knocked sideways or, as may be the case, down on your backside.  We will need to adjust and determine what our course of action will be and pray for wisdom and guidance.

But we’re granted a new start each day that we awaken and we must make the best of that.  And through the struggle, the uncertainty, we must give thanks and praise to the One who grants us each new day and provides our needs. 

So on this day, I choose not to be downtrodden nor depressed.  Instead,  I choose to be thankful for the food on my table, the opportunity to gaze at my loved ones’ faces around that table, and the moments our family enjoyed together this Christmas season past.

I choose to view the change in our life that we are currently encountering as an opportunity for something new.  And even more importantly than that, I choose to believe the message a dear friend texted me after our disconcerting news: “Lots of opportunities for God to show His power.”

And it is in God I place my trust.  I trust that He will provide for our needs and He will provide new opportunities each and every day.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

One could sit like this forever

blogDSCN7262All’s quiet on the western front.   Hubby and I live in the western part of the homeland and we were spared the gargantuan snow storm that blew through our neighboring states.

We do have a blanket of the white stuff; actually we’ve had snow on the ground for a few weeks now, but we didn’t get the blizzard this time.

So the weather has been calm here and now our house is quiet and serene as well.   The happy festivities of the Christmas season are over and for those few days we celebrated together as a family, our time was merry and bright.

Our Christmas spirit meter zoomed upwards significantly on Christmas Eve.  At first, we were all subdued and somber as we dined early because middle daughter was scheduled for the night shift at her hospital.  But then, she received the magical call stating she was free – staffed down and not needed!  We literally cheered aloud and immediately, our spirits soared.  It was like we were bi-polar!

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis (pseudonym used by the late William Vaughan, columnist).

We had some serious Christmas celebrating to do as a family!  The rest of the evening was lovely.  We laughed, we teased each other, and we followed our tradition of choosing a gift to open on Christmas Eve.

Later, perched in church pews at candlelight service, we joyfully ushered in Christmas Day at midnight with candles glowing, voices raised in carols, and the old country church bell pealing through the crisp, dark night.  Greeting our fellow believers with hugs and “Merry Christmas!” ended our evening on a high note.

Christmas Day found us feasting and cradling a newborn baby in our arms.   My nephew and his wife were blessed with their first child a few days before Christmas, a precious little girl – the princess.  (Read here if you missed why she is the princess:  http://mamasemptynest.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/continuing-to-give-thanks/)

Baby girl’s grandparents on both sides and my family of five gathered at my nephew’s house with dishes of food, plates of goodies, and good cheer eager to meet and greet this new family member.  And she won over all of our hearts; she is adorable!

After church on Sunday, we indulged once more with yet another home-cooked meal of our favorite Christmas food, spreading out the holiday to make it last a little while longer.   But now, since the plentiful presents have been presented and the delectable delights doled out, Mama and Dad are left home alone once more.

Middle daughter departed Monday morning for the city and her nursing job.  Today son set off for the next-door state and oldest daughter joined him for a couple of days.  She wants to see his new residence and the two of them will venture into the big, big city for some sightseeing fun.

This time around as the nest emptied out, even Dad got a little melancholy.  But they will all return for New Year’s Day dinner.

It was nice to forget about our troubles during the season of Christmas, spend time with our family and focus on the reason for the season.  For now though, it’s back to reality land, where there are more challenges facing us.  Charles Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge proclaimed in A Christmas Carol, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year.”

That is what we need to do – keep Christmas in our hearts all year.  “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month,” wrote Harlan Miller in Better Homes and Gardens.

I think we can do that.  Instead of putting love, joy and peace in jars, we can put the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts where we can use them every month of the year.  So hubby and I are going to try with all our might to retain “that holiday feeling” as we face what the New Year has in store for us.  But most of all, we’ll continue to remember that we have a Savior who will never forsake us.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com