Throwback Thursday gratitude

blogblank page (2)Thowback Thursday. That’s what it’s called when you post a photo from the past on social media with that moniker on it: #Throwback Thursday.

Well, it’s Thursday. It’s also halfway through this Thanksgiving month of November. And I haven’t written a new blog post to share with my readers for today. So I’m heading for the throwback category.

With a click of the mouse, I traveled back seven years ago to the year 2010 when I first launched Mama’s Empty Nest on Word Press. I called up some of my old blog posts from the month of November that year, read through a couple of my entries then, and noticed that I was writing quite a bit about being grateful.

I still am…grateful, that is. But for some reason, words just aren’t flowing out of me right now. So I’m reposting (with a few tweaks here and there) one of my old November 2010 posts today:

Often friends encourage me without them even knowing they’ve done so, and sometimes they humble me as well.

Today a friend told me she keeps a gratitude list.  She’s been keeping it for four years.

I started a gratitude journal way back in 1998.  Want to guess how many pages I wrote in it?  Nine and a half. 

What’s odd is that I enjoy writing tremendously, so why couldn’t I fill all the pages of that journal full of words of thanksgiving and gratefulness and start another one?  

Actually, I should have an entire bookshelf of gratitude journals by now.  [And by this date, TWO bookshelves full.] But I don’t.

So I’m feeling humbled by this friend who has so much more faithfulness than me at being grateful and documenting her thankful thoughts.  It’s obviously something I need to improve upon or at least attempt.

I rummaged through my desk drawer and dug out my lovely 1998 gratitude journal, a gift from a good friend.  

On the front page, she wrote this:  “Take a moment each day and write down five things you are grateful for.  It could be a moment, event, or just something that brought a smile to you today.  Let me start by sharing how much I appreciate your support and friendship.  You are truly ‘a very best friend’!”

This friend and I became acquainted through our children’s elementary school when we both served as PTA officers.  I jokingly told her when we met that we would become “best friends” as we would work so closely together on school functions. 

We laughed about that a lot, but we really did become close friends and even now, so many years later, we still sign our Christmas cards “from your very best friend!”

I noted that her entry in my journal was dated April 5, 1998.  I wrote this three days later:  “I am so thankful for friends like K [she gave me the journal] who brighten my day; friends like KL who can give me godly and wise advice; that Mom is experiencing God’s power and peace while she’s dealing with her cancer diagnosis; that our gracious and loving Lord not only hears our prayers but answers them; for my children’s, husband’s, and my good health.”

I continued to write a paragraph or two from April through June.  And then the writing stopped.  Is it a mere coincidence that I discontinued writing the day after my family and I moved back to the homeland? 

I don’t know.  Life was extremely unsettled then and my mother was dying of cancer.  I spent a lot of time in prayer during that time, but maybe my feelings and emotions were just too raw to put into ink on paper.

Over the years, I’ve picked up this small bound book with the floral design on the front, read what I previously wrote, and closed the book again without writing one paragraph.  [And still haven’t written any more.]

I could excuse myself by saying I was too busy planning my new home, raising my children, running to sports events, getting involved in church and school volunteering, but I know I was thankful for many, many occurrences, large and small, in my life.  So why didn’t I take a moment to chronicle them?  It’s a puzzle to me.

Perhaps it is a lack of discipline on my part.  I failed to note over 10 [now almost 20] years of thankfulness in written form in that gratitude journal, but looking back over those years, I can recall much for which my heart is grateful. 

But the day-to-day items, the usual but not insignificant blessings I’ve experienced, those are tucked away in my mind’s memory bank like old, faded mementos buried in a dusty trunk in the attic and forgotten.

And there’s so much to be thankful for.

That was so true back in 2010 and still spot-on now in 2017. Even on Throwback Thursday.

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

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It may sound corny

blogIMG_1262

The goldenrod is yellow,

The corn is turning brown,

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.

~ Helen Hunt Jackson (American poet/writer)

This poem easily describes the sights I see this time of year. Those simple words paint a picture that personifies the season of autumn, don’t they?

I’ve said it before and I’ll just keep reiterating it. I love the fall season.

And one of the things I love most about living in the rural area where I do is that I have ample opportunities to see nature at its finest during any season of the year.

But fall, oh fall, especially fall.  Nature puts on a grand show in you.

Considering our age, I suppose you could say Papa and I are in the autumn season of life as well and one aspect of this season is becoming semi-retired.

Papa is still working some and I’m still busy as Little One’s babysitter and an occasional stint as a substitute teacher, but I’m carving out snippets of time here and there to just do whatever I want.

On one of those days of freedom, I loaded myself and my camera into my car and embarked on a photo ops search mission to capture my favorite season before it fades away because for me, fall never lasts long enough.

As I was traveling down one country road surrounded by farmer fields that pretty  autumn day, I suddenly felt the urge to apply my brakes, pull my vehicle over to the side of the road, put my flasher lights on, grab the camera, and jump out.   

Corn fields surrounded me. Once lushly green through summer, the corn’s now turning brown, drying its kernels to provide winter feed for farm animals. The browning fields forming a sort of abstract pattern amidst green grass made a lovely photo. At least I thought so.

NovblogIMG_1594And even though I’m in the autumn of my years, spending time doing something I love – taking photos – during the season I love – fall – made me feel just like this photo of my grandchild cavorting through a corn maze.

blogIMG_1259Happy.

Carefree.

And in this month of thanksgiving, most grateful for little snippets of joy.  As corny as that sounds, it’s true.

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.” ~ Anne Bronte

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Oh my deer heart

deercollage

Maybe cute here…..but not when they do this!

Recently, a caught-in-the-headlights willy-nilly deer ran into my daughter. You read that right – the deer hit her. Well, not her but her car as she was driving home around midnight from her evening shift as a hospital nurse.

The stupid deer literally plowed into the passenger side of daughter’s car causing damage that necessitated a trip to the auto body shop.

It’s not the first time someone in our family, including myself, has tangled with those woodland creatures.  Blessedly, none of us ever were injured in these deer vs car collisions.

I know many people out there think the white-tailed deer that populate my neck of the woods are so cute and endearing. Bah. If you think that, you’ve never encountered the absolute scare-you-out-of-your-skin and make-your-heart-startle moment when they dart across the highway in your path.

According to some car insurance sites,  last year’s statistics show that my state is the third most likely place in the US to hit a deer and the odds are 1 in 57 that you will do so causing on the average about $4000 damage to your vehicle.

Oh, dear deer!

But you know what the positive side is? Your damaged car can usually be fixed. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, it’s a pain to have to call your insurance company to report how that stupid deer ran into your car. But as long as the vehicle is the only thing broken, it’s fixable.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a broken heart could be as easily mended? Hammer out the kinks and dents. Slap a little putty on it. Prime and repaint. Or if the damage is more extensive, just get a new part like the new fender on your car. Voila! Good as new!

But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Just the other day while steeping my morning cup of hot tea, I noticed the little saying on my tea bag tag. Usually, I’m in a rush and don’t pay attention to the quotes printed on those tags, but I read this one and it caused me to stop and think.

What breaks in a moment may take years to mend.

Hmm. Wisdom from a teabag.

The emotional trauma we suffer from the words and actions of others isn’t mended in a jiffy, and in a moment, it stops us in our tracks just like suddenly spotting a deer as it crashes into you.

The damage isn’t always repaired even if we receive an apology for the wrong done to us. And if the apology and remorse from the one who broke our heart never comes, it can take years to ‘get over it.’

Or we never do. We never seem able to fix what’s broken, but I think that is by choice. Our own choice. Our choice to continue suffering in the pain of what shattered us. Our choice to allow what damaged us to overwhelm and defeat us.

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” ~ Unknown

 

I speak from experience. As a person of faith, I’ve found myself crying out to God way too often asking Him why he doesn’t heal a loved one’s broken heart, or why He doesn’t take away the pain betrayal causes in another, or rid the anger from my own heart over an offense, or….the list goes on and on.

It would be nice if God would just act like a genie and grant our wish for heart healing in an instant or wave a magic wand over the parts of us that hurt and immediately we would experience mending.

But He doesn’t work that way. Not that He can’t heal us in the blink of an eye because with God anything is possible. Jesus said so in scripture (Mark 9:23): “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Yes, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing God of the universe could easily touch what is broken and mend it in a moment, and sometimes He does. But I think He asks us to do some of the work…ourselves.

I think He desires for us to examine ourselves, examine our own hearts that may harbor bitterness and unforgiveness. I think He asks us to present our brokenness to Him with no strings attached, meaning we give it to Him and don’t snatch it back later so we can stew some more over it.

I think He lovingly disciplines us and, if we truly want to receive that healing, that mending, that repair of the heart, then we must open our hearts completely and fully to be filled with Him. Because only faith in a Savior can truly fill those gaping holes in our hearts. Can repair the damage done. Can make us brand new.

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.” ~ Psalm 147:3

 

The walking wounded are everywhere. Shell-shocked souls who have been hurt beyond belief, who are shattered by despair, emotional pain, broken relationships, and broken lives. 

They walk through this world with huge holes in their heart wondering if they will ever be mended again. So they turn to alcohol or drugs or sex or whatever ‘magic potion’ makes them ‘feel better’ for the time. 

Anything for that quick fix which is anything but a quick fix.

My prayer is that those of us who know the way to be mended step out of our comfort zones, step out of our churches, step out of our Christian bubbles, and reach out to the hurting and share how Jesus can mend our broken hearts.

Because we’ve experienced it ourselves and with God’s help have leapt over the very thing that caused us to be wounded.

“A wounded deer leaps highest.” ~ Emily Dickinson

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just a peek

blogIMG_3659We have a hider in our family. 

Our oldest granddaughter, who will be turning three in just a couple of months, likes to hide. She hides behind chairs or the family room loveseat. Sometimes she just pulls a blanket over her head and hides that way. And she loves to peek out to see if you’re coming to find her.

Peek-a-boo. It’s a fun game for babies and toddlers and I’d venture to say most of us have played it over and over with a little one.

Lately, the sun has been playing this game around these parts. Some days, it shows its beaming face readily and gifts us with its warming rays. Other days, it hides completely behind dreary rain-filled clouds. Still other days, it peeks out from its hiding spot for a bit just to see if we’re watching.

Last Friday, I was out gallivanting with a good friend, one of my lifetime pals who has been in this friendship with me for 50+ years. We attended a Christmas craft open house in an old barn  – I’m still boggle-minded over the amount of items (and people) crammed into that space! – and then we treated ourselves to lunch and visited a nearby shop’s open house as well.

During our little excursion, the sun kept up its peek-a-boo game with us, sometimes causing me to don sunglasses, only to take them off again. At the end of our trip as we neared my home, the sun dropped its blanket of clouds and shone mightily.

Right on my house.

Literally, the sun’s rays were like laser beams focused on my house.  My white-siding house practically glowed like a brilliantly illuminated star and my friend exclaimed, “Look at your house! It’s shining!”

It was as if my house, and only my house, was hogging the spotlight. Gleaming. Practically sparkling.  Radiating light. It was kind of weird, yet amazing at the same time.

Later as I recalled that moment, something occurred to me.  Maybe that’s what heaven will look like.  As we near it, we’ll have the sense that we are home.  And home will be shining.  Light-filled. Dazzling in brilliance.

Nothing will be hidden. All will be once and for all brightly illuminated.

And the Light of the World (Jesus) will be there to welcome us home.

What a comforting thought.  And now as I recall that moment when I saw my home encased in sunlight, I’m thankful that the sun peeked out through the clouds just for me. I only wish I had had my camera with me, but of course, when I entered my home to retrieve it to try to capture this unbelievable sight, the sun had slipped back undercover once more.

That little moment in time – that peek — was gone for now, but my friend and I perhaps experienced a glimpse of things to come and peek  just happens to be this week’s photo challenge.  

“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrow currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Still enjoying the ride

blogtraincollagePapa’s and my 40th wedding anniversary month is now relegated to the annals of nostalgia as the calendar page has turned a leaf into the month of November.

We were blessed to spend more than one day celebrating these 40 years traveling together on this journey called marriage and I wanted to share another anniversary gift we experienced last month. 

Papa has always enjoyed anything at all about two modes of transportation – ships and trains.

It you could sit in our home office, which used to be my husband’s business office, you would notice several indications of his interest in railroads. Framed prints of train engines grace the wall and the still-encased-in-its-box HO Scale locomotive bearing the Pennsylvania Railroad insignia sits in a place of honor on the book shelf

My husband fondly recalls traveling by train as a youngster from his city home to the big city of New York a few times. Since his father worked on the railroad, passes to travel by train were easily accessible.

As a married couple, we’ve taken a few train rides together. Some of the more outstanding ones include the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad trip, which we took as young marrieds in the mountains of Colorado; a couple of rides on the Strasburg (Pennsylvania) Railroad, which boasts being the oldest continuously running railroad in the western hemisphere; and a fun ride on the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway with our children when they were young.

One day a couple of months ago, I was wasting time, browsing on Facebook and I notice an ad for an October fall foliage train tour on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad located in the heart of Pennsylvania oil country where the first oil boom rush in the United States occurred when oil was discovered there in 1859.

After checking out the railroad’s Facebook page, I immediately thought what better match made in heaven for the two of us than a trip on this train? Papa’s love of trains and history combined with my love of the fall season’s colors and photography seemed like a perfect anniversary gift to ourselves.

As soon as I mentioned it to Papa, his eyes lit up and he responded, “Yes! Let’s buy tickets.” We discovered tickets sell quickly and the dates for the excursion were filling up rapidly.

But we snagged two tickets and rose early on a beautiful sunny fall morning to travel to the train station, allowing ourselves plenty of time. While waiting to board, Papa checked out some historical displays while I snapped photos and browsed the gift shop.

We thoroughly enjoyed the three-hour ride through the woodsy area soaking in the scenery while sunshine and cool fall air wafted in through the open train window. Papa listened attentively to the historical narration as I scanned the scenery for photo ops and pointed my camera out the window.

Perfect match. Perfect day. Perfect way to celebrate our anniversary yet again. This semi-retirement thing is working out nicely for us. 

Just the two of us, sitting side by side, gently swaying back and forth with the movement of the train, enjoying the ride, the day, and our time together and hoping for more times like this in the days and years to come.

“There’s something about the sound of a train that’s very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.” ~ Paul Simon

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

In a roundabout way

blogIMG_10491We go round in circles.

Did you ever give that any thought? Our daily lives do go round in circles. Cyclical because our hours are divided between wakefulness and sleep, between daylight and nighttime, between sunshine and moonshine.

Each day, although it may be different from the next because your activities may change, still is circular. We awake – most of us around the same time each morning – and then we sleep – those of us who are fortunate enough to fall asleep easily usually around the same time each night.

This week’s photo challenge is rounded.  

We go round in circles.

And sometimes, I feel like that’s all I do – go round in circles. Often when trying to accomplish a task, I get distracted by something else or someone else needing my attention. I divert, but then I come back around to finish whatever I started. Even if it’s a couple of days later.

We’ve all been told at one time or another in our lives that we need to be well-rounded. When my children were contemplating college applications, I can’t even remember how often they were given advice to be sure their applications showed how well-rounded they were.

It wasn’t enough to be a scholastic achiever with excellent grades and great college prep test scores. It helped if they showed they were involved in service activities for their school and community or athletic endeavors.

We go round in circles.

How often do we feel like we’re heading in no particular direction? I still remember traveling with my sister on a day trip to a town that I wasn’t familiar with quite a few years ago. No problem, my sis assured me, because she had a GPS.

We found our destination just fine and took a little side trip to find a place for lunch. After that, we started off for home, but that GPS kept confusing us over and over again.  Turn left, it demanded. I turned left. Recalculating, it informed me. Turn left again. I complied. Turn left. Turn left.

And you guessed it, that device kept us going in circles. We finally turned it off and found our own way.

We go round in circles.

Where I live there aren’t many roundabouts –those circular kind of intersections in which drivers travel in one direction around a center island without traffic signals or stop signs. They can be confusing if you aren’t accustomed to driving in one.

Back in September, Papa and I took a mini-vacation of sorts to a historical area, Gettysburg, in our home state. And right there in the center of town was a roundabout. We slid out of the circular traffic pattern into a parking spot to visit a museum where President Abraham Lincoln put the finishing touches on his famous Gettysburg Address.

While walking around the roundabout – going in circles – I snapped a few photos, one I posted above.  I know there was order to it, but watching the traffic flow in that roundabout seemed chaotic to me because I’m not used to traveling in many roundabouts.

But as I recall going in circles around that roundabout, I’m reminded of one thing, that life, even a well-rounded one, is short. Too short to be going in circles without direction, without purpose.

We go round in circles.

Going in circles is what we do when we have no plans, no structure, and probably no goals either. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of going round in circles and I’m willing to deviate from the rounded path, follow a few dreams, live what’s rest of my life with purpose, and ask God to guide me along the way.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” ~ William Shakespeare in The Tempest

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Friendship fruit

blogIMG_1563(2)I flung open the door in my exuberance, probably startling the company coming up the sidewalk to our front porch before they even had a chance to ring the doorbell. But I just couldn’t contain my excitement any longer.

Earlier, I sat patiently in my living room, waiting for that company to arrive and reflecting back seven years ago.

Back in the summer of 2010, I launched this blog on a whim. My writing skills may have been a bit rusty because I hadn’t written much of anything in many years, other than a few articles for a quarterly newsletter at my place of employment.

Oh, I had fiddled around in the blogging world once before writing some “fluff” (what we used to call the non-essential stories when I worked for a daily newspaper eons ago) on another blogging site.

My words weren’t serious with my first blog; I was just passing time while I recuperated from a health diagnosis and ensuing surgery/radiation treatments.  Once I recovered and returned to my job at a non-profit, blogging got relegated to the back burner – way back.

But the lonely empty nest stage of my life hit me hard emotionally a few years later, and once again, I turned to writing. And Mama’s Empty Nest breathed life.

This time, seriously. This time, really pouring out words from my soul and my heart. This time, writing became even more cathartic.

This time, putting my thoughts into words and sending them out into cyberspace for anyone to see although I sincerely doubted that anyone other than my own family would even bother to read what I’d written.

From time to time that first month of blogging, a family member or a friend would leave a comment on one of my posts and how that made me smile! Then one day, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Someone, some anonymous person out there in the internet world, someone I did not know, wrote a comment on one of my blog posts.

A few more instances happened when complete strangers commented, and eventually, I became a part of a little blogging circle community. It was fun and I enjoyed reading other bloggers’ posts and conversing with them by comments, and a few of them have become Facebook friends.

After about a month though, I received a notification that a comment had been left from a new reader. As with some of the other fellow bloggers, all we knew about each other were our screen names and the titles of our blogs.

It was the same with this new reader – only a screen name and a link to her blog – but somehow this one seemed different.  Her comments touched my heart and I often thought, “She really gets me.“

She often understood what I meant when other readers didn’t quite get my implications. And she was willing to let me know she was a fellow believer in Christ.

She read my blog. I read hers. She left comments. So did I. And what followed still kind of boggles my mind.

We became friends.  Real friends. The kind who, not only communicate on each other’s blogs and Facebook, but email, even occasionally talk by phone, and exchange real hand-written letters by mail. 

We became the kind of friends who share things of the heart. The kind of true and trustworthy friends who pray for each other and our families. 

My young adult children were incredulous and teased me because for several years I had issued dire warnings to them about being extremely careful and very wary of friendships made on the web.

After all, who knew what evil lurked in people’s minds and so many online personas could be totally fake. Yeah, they threw all of that right back at me when I told them of my online friendship with one of my blog readers.

The more this reader and I conversed with one another, the more we found we had in common. Like minds and like faiths. And so a budding friendship truly blossomed. We became soul sisters. Sisters in Christ.

Seven years have passed since our first online contact. Seven years in which we have gotten to know one another well, know all about each other’s families, and hopes and dreams and realities and disappointments.

But we had never actually met in person. Until last week. My friend, her husband, and daughter traveled from their Midwest home to visit family in a nearby state. She casually mentioned they would be traveling through our area. 

That’s when I experienced a light bulb moment! Wouldn’t it be the most amazing thing if we could meet somewhere to say hello in person and maybe have lunch?  Kind of an exciting thing to consider.  As we discussed the logistics of doing so, she shared that they could actually travel through my hometown on their way home.

Without hesitation, I extended an invitation to our home for lunch. We knew we wouldn’t have a long time to visit because they needed to continue on their journey homeward, but maybe a little stop at our house would be restful.

So last Friday, I waited for my friend I’ve never met in person to arrive on my doorstep. Homemade beef vegetable soup stewed in the crockpot for their arrival. Sandwiches and dessert were also ready and waiting. Papa didn’t have to work that day, so he noticed their vehicle coming down our driveway and shouted to me, “They’re here!”

And that’s when I flung wide open the door. I don’t even remember what I said to my friend as she stood there, arms laden with thoughtful gifts of freshly picked New York state apples and other goodies, with her husband and daughter.

All I know is that we greeted one another with warm hugs and huge smiles of joy.

We lunched, we talked, we hugged. We smiled as our husbands and daughters joined in conversations. And all too soon, it was time for them to leave.

What remains from our meeting in person that day? The warmest memories. The joys of a continuing friendship. My friend telling me coming to visit was like coming home.

And each time I pass by her delicious gift of apples sitting on my kitchen counter, their fragrant aroma reminds me of the blessing of that sunny October day.

The little Johnny Appleseed song I sang with my children when they were small comes to my mind: “Oh, the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need – the sun and the rain and the apple seed, the Lord’s been good to me.”

And He has been good to me in giving me this gift of friendship (and others as well) by way of this blog. 

Seven years ago, I never would have dreamed that the seeds of a blogging friendship would produce such wonderful fruit.

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” ~ Aristotle

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com