Brighten your corner

blogimg_8942-2As I write this, it’s the second week of January. In a brand new year. One I haven’t yet become accustomed to as I still automatically write 2016, not 2017.

Just yesterday it seems we were all up in arms and worried about the year passing from one century into another one – you know, a new millennial, Y2K– the year 2000. Fear and apprehension over that coming year ran rampant. The result? The year 2000 chimed in with barely a blip on that worry radar.

In the year 2000, our oldest graduated from high school and we sent her off to college that fall with excitement and trepidation. Even though our other two were still in high school and middle school, that was the beginning of what would eventually become this empty nest of mine.

In the year 2000, Papa, employed as a sales rep for a national company, endured a lot of overnight travel with his job while I held down the fort and kept the home fires burning.

In the year 2000, my father was still alive and at age 80 keeping himself busy after my mom’s passing the year before by learning a new skill. He bought himself a computer and was figuring out how to use it and amazing us at his new found hobby.

In the year 2000, our family moved into our brand new house built right here on this farmer’s field putting down roots like we never had before since previously the longest we ever lived in any of our homes was six years.

In the year 2000, this Mama ventured back into the work field initiating and developing a program for a non-profit local ministry where I devoted my time and passion and energy for 13 years. 

So here we are seventeen years later. 2017!

Seventeen years into a century I couldn’t even imagine when I was just a kid because it seemed so distant into the future. And there are new concerns and alarms spreading out there in the big, bad world worse than Y2K, but I refuse to listen to or embrace them.

As a person born in the 1950’s, my generation has had our fair share of worrisome events and downright fear promoted in this world and hanging over our heads.

From the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and air raid drills in school to the assassinations of public figures including President John F. Kennedy to worrying about family members serving in the Vietnam War to race riots to the Kent State protest shootings in the turbulent 1960’s, we experienced fright.

From blackouts and gasoline shortages to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island to hostages held in Iran in the 1970’s, we experienced panics.

From Mount Saint Helens volcanic eruption to the space shuttle Challenger explosion to a myriad of natural disasters like earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes to the Iraq war and threats of others in the 1980’s, we experienced trepidation.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to mass shootings to economic crises to numerous plane crashes in the 1990’s, we experienced qualms.

And to the most horrific day of them all, September 11, 2001, we’ve experienced terror of the highest magnitude at the hands of terrorists.

All of these frightening events have crossed my fear awareness screen and are permanently etched in my memory.  

And it’s safe to say, there will be more to come. But I cannot worry about what may happen in the future because as we take the good that happens (and there have been just as many amazing events that have occurred in my lifetime too), we must also take the bad. 

I can’t join in with all of those who say our world is going to ‘hell in a hand basket” because really, hasn’t it always been so? Since the beginning of time? If you don’t think so, open up a factual history book and take a gander.

Or better yet, open up God’s Word – the Bible – and see that mankind has been heading that way ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden.

Terrible events will always happen. It’s a given. It’s life. But how we respond to those events is what matters most.

In just three short years, we will reach the year 2020. What will the world be like at this milestone? Will we humans be any wiser? Any safer? Any more peaceful? Or will we still allow fear, misery, and anxiety to rule over us?

Just as this brand new year lies ahead of each one of us, so does a choice we each must make. We either choose to focus on the negative aspects of living or we take the higher road.

We can dwell on the ills of this world and allow them to frighten us into inaction or wring our hands as we hibernate from the world or we can choose to be bold enough to speak out against evil and make a difference by striving to be a light of peace, joy, kindness, and helpfulness even amidst the darkness – right there in your own little corner of the world.

“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ Ina D. Ogden

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

What is Christmas

blogimg_8931

It’s Christmas Eve.

Not a creature is stirring not even a mouse.

Those stockings are hung on the fireplace.

The brightly-lit and adorned Christmas tree waits quietly and patiently for gaily wrapped packages to appear beneath its boughs.

Freshly baked cookies perch on a special plate while a mug of milk sits nearby for Santa’s visit and, not to be forgotten, a carrot for Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

It’s Christmas Eve.

The house is ablaze with lights and Christmas finery everywhere.

A basket of happy Christmas tidings in the form of greeting cards from family and friends rests on an end table right next to the snowman decoration.

The sweet music of Christmas carols rings through the house as all gather back home.

And after a sumptuous dinner, Mama in her kerchief and Papa in his cap settle down for a well-deserved winter’s nap.

The house becomes silent while visions of sugarplums and fluffy white snow dance in grand-baby’s head.

It’s Christmas Eve.

But all of these things are not what Christmas truly means.

What is Christmas if we don’t remember the reason why we celebrate it?

What is Christmas? The answer is found wrapped in a manger.  (Click on the following link.)

This is Christmas

 

It’s Christmas Eve.  

And at midnight, we welcome in the day named after our Savior.

THIS is Christmas.

“Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeer, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas.”  ~Ronald Reagan 

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

We wait

blogimg_6827-2This week’s WordPress photo challenge, “anticipation,” is appropriate for the week leading up to Christmas.

Anticipation.  Something we look forward to. Something we wait for.

Anticipation. We wait. 

When you’re a child and your family follows the custom of jolly old St. Nick visiting your house via the chimney on Christmas Eve to fill your stockings and load up the floor beneath the tree with gifts, this photo definitely personifies ‘anticipation,’ especially when that plate is loaded with homemade cookies and that mug is filled with milk.

Anticipation. We wait.

It’s what we believers in Christ do as we celebrate the Advent Season leading up to Christmas Day. We wait. We anticipate that holy day to celebrate the most miraculous gift of all to all. A Savior born into this world named Jesus Christ.

Anticipation. We wait.

And even though our Savior came to earth as a wee babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a lowly manger long ago, we still wait.

With anticipation. We wait. Why? Because someday He’s coming back to this earth in all His glory. That will be a day worth waiting for. 

“Anticipation is a gift. Perhaps there is none greater. Anticipation is born of hope. Indeed it is hope’s finest expression.” ~ Steven L. Peck

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Our family Christmas present

blogimg_8922Just the other day Papa and I received a most wonderful early Christmas gift – one all wrapped up with love. 

We’ve actually been expecting this present for several months and knew the arrival of the gift would be sometime before Christmas.

The givers were also the receivers. And while they gave this lovely present to us, they in turn received the same miraculous gift from a gracious and loving God.

What was this wonderful present for both receivers and givers?

Our second grandbaby is that most precious gift.

When son and daughter-in-love texted us from the hospital to say our newest granddaughter was arriving into this world that evening, exhilaration and joy overflowed in this empty nest.

Since they live several hours away from us, we had to experience this exciting news and the impending arrival via cell phone texts and photos.

A lot of text messages flew rapidly through cyberspace between the hospital in the state next door, a state down south, and our home right here. Aunties and uncle were anxiously awaiting the news as well.

Technology is something to be very thankful for in situations like this! We could see that mommy and baby made it through the birth process well and that son is one proud daddy.

This new fresh from God baby girl is beautiful.  She has been given a beautiful name to match.  And her parents are over the moon with love for her. 

And so is this Nana even though I haven’t yet held her in my arms to whisper in her ear how very much she is loved.

Years ago shortly after the birth of our son, a friend gave us a picture to hang on his nursery wall which included a quote by poet Carl Sandburg. I’ve never forgotten that inscription and you can read that line Sandburg wrote below.

It’s just as poignant to me today on the occasion of our granddaughter’s birth as it was when her daddy became a baby blessing to us in this thing we call life.   

Our family’s Christmas blessing arrived just in time to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

Welcome, little one!  And thank you, Lord, for this blessing of life.

“A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.” ~ Carl Sandburg

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

A gift for Christmas

blogimg_1376-2

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” ~ Roy L. Smith 

I have this life-long friend. She’s been in my closest circle of cherished ones from way back when.

We played Barbies and a myriad of other pretend games together as children; lounged by her folks’ swimming pool and dreamed of our weddings as teenagers; were actually in each other’s weddings as young adults, and laughed and cried together as we have matured into older adults.

If I could give her the best gift ever this Christmas, I would give her a do-over of this stressful year she’s experienced all wrapped up in gold, glittering paper and tied with an enormous red fluffy bow. Because as crazy as my year has been, hers has been a doozy.

Not only has she endured surgery, chemo, and radiation in her battle against that dreaded disease – cancer – this year, she also lost her father just a few weeks ago. Her husband is still recovering himself from some orthopedic surgery.  Her grown children live hours away from her. And now, she’s hospitalized in excruciating pain from a complication that she never saw coming.

Sometimes this life on earth is just… Too. Much.  And I cry for my friend because I do understand. Often we face the proverbial straw that breaks that camel’s back, the one that breaks our will, breaks our hearts, breaks just about everything in us.  And we truly have to fight the hardest battle ever just to overcome our brokenness.

And on top of everything else, it’s Christmas. Ho. Ho. Ho. The most wonderful time of the year. Joy to the world.

Christmas, when there is so much to do in preparation. Cards to send. Gift shopping and wrapping to be done. Decorating. Baking. The list goes on….and on….and on.

And accomplishing those things are just a few of the holiday preparations that my friend truly enjoys. Christmas makes her happy.  But not this year.

This year, she lies in a hospital, a good hour and a half away from her home, in pain and fretting over all the things she hasn’t been able to do.  And yes, by her own words, having herself “a pity party.”

As her lifelong friend, I wish I could make it all better for her. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make her pain disappear but even the doctors can’t do that – they’ve cautioned her that recovery will take time.

I wish I could sprinkle magic fairy dust over her home, quite a distance from mine, and all her decorating and holiday preparations would be complete.

I wish I could say some magic words that would conjure up a Christmas elf to buy and wrap all the gifts she wants to give her family.

But I cannot. I am only human. I have no magic powers or instruments. I can’t even visit her in the hospital because the flu has infiltrated my home and I don’t want to be the bearer of bad viruses and compromise her already delicate immune system, so I must visit with her via cell phone.

So I do the only thing I can do.  I listen. I let her vent her frustrations, her sadness, her disappointment, and yes, even her anger at this latest attack on her health. I tell her through my own tears that I’m sorry, that I hate that she has to go through this time.

I tell her not to fret, not to worry about what doesn’t get accomplished in time for Christmas. I encourage her to just concentrate on getting well and being able to go home soon.

But I don’t tell her the words she doesn’t want to hear, even though they are right there on the tip of my tongue.

“Don’t tell me things will get better,” she says. “I don’t want to hear that.”

So I close my mouth and swallow down those words, those words of platitude that we so often use, when honestly, we don’t really know what else to say.

And then I do the only other thing that comes to my mind, to my heart, to my soul. I ask her if I can pray with her right here, right now on this wireless device that connects us audibly even though our hearts are and always will be connected by friendship and love.

And she says yes.

And I hope and I pray that for just those few moments of prayer, Christmas – the one without all the preparation and fuss – flourished in her heart as it did mine.

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Birthday blessing

blogimg_8904

Uncle T delighting his niece

He met our daughter on a bus.

He was on his annual short-term mission trip to Honduras with his church.  She was on her first ever trip with her church.

They sat together on a school bus traveling to the next site where they would be the hands and feet of Jesus. And a friendship bloomed. 

After they returned to their separate states, their long-distance friendship kindled over the next couple of years until the sparks of romance became a flame.  

We met this funny, endearing, and godly young man not long after that. And it’s safe to say he not only won over our daughter’s heart but our family’s as well.

What can I write about this wonderful young man? Not nearly enough.

He has a kind heart and compassion for others. He lovingly supports and encourages our daughter in all things. He treats her like she is the most special gift and makes her coffee every morning – even when they are visiting us here in our empty nest. 

He tickles her funny bone and makes her laugh. He comforts her when she cries. He prays with her each day. And he’s willing and excited to travel the world with her, experiencing new adventures along the way.

He treats us – her parents and family – with love and respect and genuine affection. And I know we have his parents to thank for that. They raised a most wonderful son who is the perfect complement to our daughter.

He has stepped up to the plate by being a godly influence and general all around crazy fun uncle to our little grand-daughter who giggles with delight at his antics and cries ‘more, more’ when he chases her around the house.  She loves her Uncle Tay-Tay for his funny faces and the smiles and shrieks of glee he produces in her. (see photo above)

He is my son-in-love.  And today – amidst the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season – is his birthday.

I don’t want it to be forgotten or glossed over because this man is so very special.  I want the world to know he is the best son-in-law any parents of a daughter could ask for. 

Our daughter waited a long time for a strong man of faith to come into her life. God blessed her with this young man as her husband four years ago.  And God blessed us by making him a cherished part of our family.

Happy Birthday, T!

May God continue to guide and direct your path. Thank you for all the ways you lovingly participate in our family in both joyous and difficult times. We love you!

“You may not have been born into our family, but you seem to have been born to be a part of it.” ~ unknown

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tradition

blogimg_4741

Our family Christmas Eve tradition

Tradition.

That word reminds me of a scene from Fiddler on the Roof when the character Tevye says, “And how do we keep our balance? I can tell you in one word. Tradition.”

He continues by saying, “Because of our tradition, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years…You may ask, how did this tradition get started. I’ll tell you. I don’t know but it’s a tradition.”

Traditions. We all have them and they pop to the surface and call attention to themselves at Christmas time. If your family is anything like mine, there are just certain Christmas traditions you don’t change or mess with.

Some of those traditions were passed down through our family from one generation to another. Some are traditions Papa and I started ourselves and our grown children say it’s just not Christmas without them. You know, keeping the season balanced, I guess.

I’d like to share just a few of our Christmas traditions with you. Like Tevye though, I don’t know how some of them started.

Bird ornament. When I was a little girl, I remember that my mom always had some kind of bird ornament hanging on the Christmas tree.  I don’t know why, but I recently discovered that such an ornament represents happiness and joy.  I do know that if you look near the top of our tree, you will see a tiny little white bird trimmed in red with wings outstretched. 

Hanging mistletoe.  Again as a small child, I remember mistletoe, which is not native to our area, hanging in a doorway of our family home.  I always giggled when someone kissed beneath it and as a teenage girl, I longed for someone to kiss under that greenery.  You just might receive a little peck on the cheek at our house when you stand beneath the mistletoe in the hallway by our front door. 

Candlelight service. One of my most favorite traditions is attending our church service at 11 p.m. Christmas Eve welcoming in the day we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child at midnight by candlelight while singing Silent Night.

Opening one gift.  Our children actually started this tradition of choosing and opening one gift only on Christmas Eve. When we lived in other areas of the country away from our families, packages would arrive by mail and rest under the tree.  Our kids had a hard time waiting until Christmas Day to open them, so we acquiesced to their pleading and allowed them to open just one the night before.

Christmas dinner menu.  Certain foods must be served or my kids are disappointed. In addition to the baked, glazed ham and twice-baked potatoes, there must be one of two salads – either their favorite frog eye salad or a special molded, multi-layered rainbow colored jello salad that takes forever to make. Growing up, Christmas dinner just wasn’t complete without my mom’s 24-hour salad – a tart fruit salad with homemade mayonnaise. And I believe I was the only member of the family who didn’t like it. So that’s why our traditional salad is different.

Cookies. There must be cookies – lots of Christmas cookies.  They can include old favorites like my mom’s tea cakes, peanut butter blossoms (Papa’s favorites), and M&M cookies, or new recipes but the tray must be full.  And there MUST be sugar cookies in the shapes of stars, trees, Santa, snowmen, and bells, and they must be iced and decorated.  This is a tradition that my kids loved growing up because they got to help cut out the shapes and decorate with scads of sugars and candies.

Candles in the windows. Even Papa inquires whether we’re placing candles in our windows for the Christmas season and we do, every year. Each window in the front of our home is lit up by one solitary electric candle.  This tradition came from my family. When I was young, my mother placed red wreaths, made out of some cellophane type of material, in each of our windows. In the center of those wreaths was an electric candle. I’ve heard that a candle in the window in colonial times meant you were welcome in that place. For us, it also represents welcoming the Christ Child into our lives.

Advent calendar.  Not just any old advent calendar marking the days until Christmas, but one that when you open each day’s door, you find a chocolate candy goodie waiting for you. There’s one in the kitchen right now that little one (our nearly two-year-old granddaughter) is enjoying.  A tradition she’s learning about already.

Chocolate oranges. Somewhere along the line, we started the tradition of having dark chocolate oranges – a chocolate candy flavored and shaped like an orange that you break apart into ‘slices’ for the holiday. As a child, there was always an orange in my stocking and I think it stemmed from that.  Just the other day, our middle daughter arrived home and said, “guess what I bought?” Yep, a chocolate orange to savor on Christmas. Another tradition we will probably be passing down to our granddaughter.

Christmas Eve sundaes. This one is an absolute must and our grown kids always ask to make sure I have all the ingredients for the special sundaes we eat only on Christmas Eve. Unlike some of our traditions, I know exactly where this one came from and how it started.

Back when Papa and Mama were young married folk with only one child, we lived in Oklahoma. Papa’s parents came to visit us for the holiday and we took them to Tulsa for a sight-seeing trip. 

We visited a quaint little ice cream shop – I can’t remember the name of it but do remember the sundaes we ate there. And those sundaes were recreated into our family Christmas Eve sundaes which we serve every single year after dinner.

Our sundaes consist of scoops of green chocolate mint chip ice cream with Hershey’s chocolate syrup in between the scoops. Whipped cream tops them off garnished by a red maraschino cherry, red and green sugar sprinkles, and either a mini candy cane or peppermint stick.  All served in a fancy glass as shown in my photo above.

Traditions. Good things with good memories.What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

“At the heart of every family tradition is a meaningful experience.” ~ unknown

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com