Thanks Giving: for bridges

bogIMG_4528Bridges.  I take them for granted.  I assume as I drive down the highways and byways in my neck of the woods, that those bridges which span from one side of the river, or creek, or lake to the other will be there so I can continue my journey.

And around these parts, we have lots of bridges because we have wide rivers to cross and an abundance of creeks as well.  Our fair city nearby alone boasts 446 such spans. 

Without a bridge, I couldn’t drive from my house to my hometown.  Without a bridge, I would not be able to cross the many creeks that zigzag through the countryside.  And without those bridges, I would not be able to visit my grown children.  Papa and I must drive across many bridges before we arrive at any of their homes.

But bridges don’t just provide a means to travel from one place to another.  They  provide a way to build relationships as well.  I’ve often read that we humans sometimes build more walls than bridges, and I, for one, would much rather be known as a bridge builder than a constructor of walls.

So on this 17th day into my 30 days of thanks giving, I’m grateful for bridges of all kinds.

“Love is the bridge between two hearts.” ~ Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Thanks Giving: for the pile

The piles stack up. There’s the good stuff pile and then there’s the not so good stuff pile. But I’m thankful for the piles of my life.  Because I am loved. And so are you.

Please watch the thanks giving video below.

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things.  The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make  them unimportant.” ~ Doctor Who

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanks Giving: for this man

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My husband, the Papa in this empty nest in which we live, has been my life companion for 37 years of marriage.  We dated for three years before we tied the knot, so I’ve known this man for 40 years.  And in these 40 years, I’ve learned a lot about him.  

He is and always will be a student of history.  I often think he may have missed his calling – he should have been a history teacher/professor.  He’s constantly reading, studying, learning about historical events, persons, and places.  If you perused his book shelves here in our home office, the titles in his collection attest to this interest of his.

One of his favorite things to do is visit museums and in our many years of marriage, we’ve walked through more than I can remember in various areas of our country.  Everything in such a place captivates my husband’s attention and he can be found reading almost every display card in an exhibit.  I, on the other hand, scan the exhibits for something that stands out and piques my interest, reading about that particular item, and then moving on.

I usually end of up at least one room ahead of my husband during our walk through a museum, sometimes even further ahead.  Last weekend, we used a Groupon for a two-for-one admittance into the Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian,  a place hubby has wanted to visit for quite some time now in our nearby city.  He enjoyed our afternoon there immensely, and as usual, he was always behind me while examining the exhibits.

I stopped periodically and waited for him to catch up with me,  and once I snapped this photo of him deeply involved in reading about one aspect of a display.  He didn’t even know I’d taken his picture.   It’s typical him in a museum – always captivated by something and always behind me.

And one more thing that’s also typical him is this:  he’s always behind me, no matter what happens, no matter the circumstances, this man always has my back.  He supports me, listens to me, encourages me, is my loyal and trusted friend as well as husband. That’s just one of the reasons why I love him so much.

And one of the reasons why I’m so thankful to walk through this life with this man.

“We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.” ~ Theodore Reik

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanks Giving: for the storm

blogIMG_1086A dark and threatening storm brewed just like the one we had weathered and persevered through in the past, but we had to admit this time it appeared more daunting.

With a shaky economy and on our way to senior citizenship yet not in a position to retire, the outlook wasn’t promising when my husband lost his job a few years ago  – again. 

As a sales rep with nationwide companies, he was accustomed to the changes that career often brings.   When sales are good, they’re really good, but when the economy takes a turn for the worse, your job becomes frustrating and job loss threatens.  

Previously,  my husband had persevered through several company downsizings yet always managed to retain a job.  Even when the corporation he worked for sold to a competitor and his sales position eliminated, he still managed to snag a new job with a former customer.  Sixteen years ago we decided to sell our Pacific Northwest home and relocate across the country to care for aging parents, yet again my husband fortunately found a new sales job back in our home state.   

Thanking God for provisions to enable us to acquire our home, raise three children, and send them off to college, my husband didn’t expect to find himself jobless again, but as our last offspring neared his final year of college, unemployment loomed once more.      

It’s difficult for anyone to lose a job, but it’s even more so for a husband and father, the provider for the family.   Like it or not, our work does define us because it provides a sense of well-being.  And when the rug of identity and security is pulled out from under someone losing a job, it more than knocks him off his feet; it undermines his confidence causing him to feel like an unworthy failure.   

Losing a job once is hard enough, but to experience it several times can be demoralizing, unnerving, and even devastating.  Worry sets in and sleepless nights ensue.  As the joblessness period continues month after month, one searches every means possible to find a job and fight discouragement.  Even so, searching can prove overwhelming and extremely disheartening which leads to depression and even more anxiety. 

My husband battled the unemployment enemy just as surely as he had been trained as a former Army officer to battle foes.  He sent out resume after resume by any means possible.  He registered with internet job search sites and spent considerable time each day scouring opportunities online.  Newspaper ads, job fairs, networking with friends and acquaintances in the sales field – he attempted them all. 

And yet, nothing surfaced.  Cover letters and resumes appeared to be ignored.  Networking failed to make connections that led to interviews.  Job fairs proved fruitless because he was told countless times that he was overqualified for the entry-level jobs being offered.

It seemed that the door to job opportunity wasn’t just closed, it was slammed shut.  We battened down the hatches to weather this storm by curtailing our expenses.  Now as we faced a longer season of unemployment, we tightened our budget even more severely eliminating all non-essentials.  

We opted for no health insurance and hoped we stayed healthy.  After paring down our household bills to a bare minimum, we calculated how long we could continue paying our mortgage and contributing to our son’s education.    My part-time salary at a community non-profit organization did not cover necessary monthly expenses, so I began searching for full-time employment too.  

We formed long-term contingency plans.  Realizing home wasn’t just the house where we lived but where our family gathered together, and that could be anywhere, we discussed selling our home, even though we had hoped to live the rest of our lives there.  If need be, we would sell.  If downsizing proved imperative, so be it.  We even deliberated over relocating to another state where jobs might be more plentiful.  

We examined all options and kept praying, focusing on our faith in Christ Jesus.  Somehow, through God’s provisions, we continued to meet necessary expenses.  Our son received a huge blessing with a good-paying summer internship and a scholarship which would finance his senior year of college.  

We prayed for guidance, and instead of surrendering to despair, my husband awakened early each morning commencing anew his job search, no matter how unsuccessful it seemed.  He structured his time searching for jobs part of the day but spent the rest in an entirely different fashion.

He opened His Bible and delved deeper into God’s Word.  He read, he studied, he contemplated, and he prayed not just for us but for others and their needs. And he praised and thanked God for His goodness, thanking Him even midst the difficult circumstances.

Following this new regimen of Bible study and prayer, my husband’s outlook changed.  He experienced that peace that passes all understanding when we place total trust in God and His Word.  He started sleeping better at night and his newly-found calm demeanor about this season of life eventually rubbed off on me, a chronic worrier.  I too felt assurance that whatever transpired for us was God’s plan.  And I knew that I must not just give lip service to my favorite passage of scripture about being thankful in all circumstances.  I must put it into practice.

We purposely thanked God daily because even through this trying situation, He was faithful to provide our needs, although not necessarily our wants.   We wholeheartedly trusted He would show us what was on His horizon next and realized that He was asking us to totally rely on Him, do our part, and wait for His perfect timing.

Our pastor approached my husband and asked him to lead a Bible study during this time.  Praying about this opportunity to serve God, it became clear that He was opening a door, not for employment, but for my husband to grow in his spiritual walk, deepen his faith, and learn to rely, depend, and trust even more in God’s plan for the future and encourage others to do the same.

Now my husband spent part of his day preparing to lead weekly Bible study while still searching diligently for employment.  He was living out his favorite scripture too:  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

As my husband waited and submersed himself in the Word, God’s perfect timing appeared.  An interview led to a job offer with a small, local company.  While it wasn’t a high-powered position with a large salary and perks, we already realized we could live on much less and it would meet our needs.

The position required little to no overnight travel, something that had wearied my husband in the last few years of his sales career.  A blessing for both of us.  As empty nesters, I looked forward to spending more time each evening with my husband instead of being home alone.  

This answer to prayer blessed us in ways we hadn’t even thought about.  The Lord already knew our needs and how He would provide them.  And amazingly, my husband encountered an emotion he hadn’t felt for a very long time – he was excited to work! 

Now, a few years later, we thank God for His provisions, but we are even more grateful for how He strengthened our faith during difficult times.  Being jobless doesn’t mean being hopeless when your trust is in Christ Jesus.  

“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” ~Albert Barnes

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanks Giving: for our veterans

blogDSCN8280This flag waves and unfurls itself in the wind as it flies outside the home of an American patriot or on a flagpole located at a government building, school, or office building.  A flurry of red, white, and blue also flutters in the cold, crisp November wind in a quiet cemetery.

This flag is displayed every day of the year, not just on holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, or today – Veteran’s Day.  It represents not just this great country but all those who have protected it, guarded it, and in many cases, given their lives for it.

And this flag sometimes moves me to tears.  My husband is a veteran of U.S. military service and although he did not see combat during his time in the military, he most ardently would have given his all for his country and his very life had he been given the opportunity to do so. 

At Sunday worship in our church, our veterans were asked to stand and be appreciated for their service and as I gazed around the sanctuary noting the men standing there, including my own husband, I had to fight back tears.  We owe these fine people so much.

I wonder how often we truly are thankful for our veterans and give them the honor and respect they deserve.  We often see soldiers in uniform in public places but how many times do we approach them to shake their hand and thank them for what they do for us?

I am just as guilty as anyone for failing to do so  and I know first-hand the sacrifices our military men and women make.  And as I give thanks for all our veterans on this 11th day of November in my 30 days of thanks giving, I’m reminded of something I witnessed a few years ago when my husband and I were on a trip.  

We had boarded our flight and settled into our seats in the coach section of the plane when a soldier in uniform boarded and sat in front of us.  A few minutes later, a well-dressed suited businessman emerged from the first class section of the plane, walked back the coach aisle, and stopped in front of the soldier.  

Quietly and without fanfare, he shook hands with the young serviceman, spoke privately with him, and then traded seats with him.  That businessman gave up his first class seat so that soldier could enjoy a privilege the businessman probably uses every time he flies.  And I have never forgotten that act of kindness and honor shown to a vet that day.

As I gaze at Old Glory flying high on this day set aside to honor and appreciate our veterans, she reminds me to express my gratefulness to every man and woman who sacrifice so much to keep our freedoms intact.

Thank you to each and every veteran for nobly serving our country and keeping us free.  We owe everything we have to you.  May God bless you and hold you safely in the palm of His hand.

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”  ~ Elmer Davis

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Thanks Giving: for freedom to worship

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On this second Sunday of November, I pause to give thanks for church – a public place of worship, a place where I can gather with my fellow believers, study the Bible, pray, and worship the God I believe in when millions of people around the world must do the same in secret. 

While they must hide away from governing authorities and worship, pray, and study underground because their belief in Christ is dangerous and their worship of the one true God threatens their very existence, their home, their families, I am free to publicly declare my faith and worship how I want, when I want, with whom I want.

May I never take that freedom for granted not just in my 30 days of thanks giving but always.

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” ~ Hebrews 12:28 ESV

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Thanks Giving: for the gift of song

It’s day eight into my 30 days of thanks giving.  As I dig deeper and deeper into this month-long November blogging project, so many aspects of life for which to be thankful come to my mind.  Yet the realization that others have so little when I have so much tugs at my heart and calls for a change.  And the despair and disappointment that often describe our world threatens to dampen my thankful spirit.  How to put it all into words can be a struggle.  

That’s why today, I’m thankful for the gift of song.

I’m sharing a video of a song sung by Josh Groban (and isn’t his amazing singing voice something to give thanks for?) because it portrays my thoughts today.  

There’s so much to be thankful for.

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com