“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m clueless sometimes.
Often as Sunday evening rolls around and I don’t have any blog posts written for the upcoming week, I ponder over what to do. I don’t have a clue about what to write. My blog ideas folder doesn’t prove to be the fuel that sparks a flame of inspiration.
Should I just skip posting for a few days, remain silent, and hope my readers don’t give up clicking on Mama’s Empty Nest? Do I dust off an old post from years before and re-post one I’ve already published? After all, my blogging dates back to an earlier site (2005-06) and here on Word Press since 2010, so a plethora of old posts exist.
I shuffle through them but none demand a re-posting so I resign myself to the fact that there just won’t be any new thoughts published here at Mama’s Empty Nest for the upcoming week. And that’s exactly what occurred Sunday evening.
But by Monday morning, there was a different story. As happens so often, a post idea presented itself to me. I do believe the idea didn’t come from my creative resources, but from the Triune God I worship and trust, the one and true God, God of the universe, God of creation, God of all.
When I awakened a bit later than normal yesterday morning. I had the house to myself as Papa was already off to his part-time job and Middle Daughter and Little One were safely ensconced in their own little cottage. My walking partner had appointments that cancelled our early morning walk, so I lingered just a bit longer in my comfy, warm bed.
So Monday morning found me rising after dawn instead of before as usual. Upon leaving my bed, I followed my daily routine and opened the window blinds to peer outside in order to see what kind of day it shaped up to be.
We had a snowfall over the weekend and the landscape surrounding my home was covered with a pristine blanket of white. My kind of January morning – cold, clear, snow-covered, and with the morning sun beaming down on the front of my house.
Sunshine. To quote John Denver, it “makes me happy.” And sunshine during the bleakness of winter is even more cause for happiness.
I went downstairs to prepare some breakfast and that’s when the idea for this blog post appeared. It stopped me in my tracks. It was visible, right there in front of my eyes. Blazing from the wall of our home office. A kind of writing on the wall, you might say, except the “writing” was an image.
A thought popped into my head immediately that gave me inspiration to write. I grabbed my camera to capture the image before it disappeared.
Now before you imagine that I witnessed some mystical image, I must tell you that what I saw isn’t that unusual. I’m certain it happens every morning when the sun appears and shines directly on the front of my home. But yesterday, it seemed like I was viewing the image with new eyes, with an open mind to what God wanted me to write.
Rays of sunshine radiating through the decorative glass of our front door created a display of light, a design that decorated the wall of a darkened room where the blinds were still closed to the light of day.
And the thought that entered my mind was this: light in the darkness. Light. In the darkness.
There’s always light to show us the way. No matter how dark it becomes, just one little light chases the darkness away.
But we often take light for granted. We assume the sun will rise each morning to send the darkness of night away for another period of time. We assume there will be light to aid our vision when we enter a dark room and flip the light switch to on. I wonder if we truly give thanks for light.
Light. It is such a marvelous gift. It reminds me that no matter how discouraged I get by circumstances that try to dim the light within me, one ray of hope sends the darkness scattering away.
No matter how dark this world appears to me with all of the dissension and depravity created by man, no matter how dreary and weary it becomes just living in these days when the news is full of disasters, wars, cruelty, and evil doings, light shatters the despair of darkness.
And I have that light within me. So do others.
The light of the world is Jesus. I have to do my part to shine light into the darkness. I believe God gave me that message yesterday morning. A message I was meant to share with you.
This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine. Will you?
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu
What day is it anyhow?
Did you ever awaken after a deep sleep and be just a little bewildered about what day it is? It happens to me every so often. I open my eyes and think, “Is today Wednesday or Thursday?” Or “What is today’s date, do I have somewhere I have to be today?”
Yesterday I crawled out of bed at my usual time – early morning before dawn – to go walking with my life-long friend. Upon awakening, I knew it was Wednesday and I needed to don my walking clothes.
But what I didn’t know until I glanced out the window was that it was snowing. We walk no matter what the weather brings unless there is a deluge of rain, so I bundled up and slipped on my hiking boots.
After returning from our morning jaunt, which was so peaceful with snow gently falling, I looked at the date on my calendar because even though I knew it was Wednesday, I didn’t remember the actual date.
Seeing that it was January 9th, I remembered that it was my maternal grandfather’s birthday. And just like that (snaps fingers), memories of Grandpa came back to me.
Grandpa died when I was nine, so my remembrances of him aren’t plentiful, but I do have some treasured and humorous memories of him, like when snow fell in huge, fluffy snowflakes, he would comment, “Look at those big cakes coming down!”
I also remember stories about him that my mother – his only child – told me. Stories that happened long before I was born.
My grandfather was born back in the 1870’s (yes, you read that correctly). Having a birthday in January as he did, chances are there would be a lot of snow on the ground and it would be blustery cold on his special day.
Yesterday’s snowfall on the ninth day of January in the year 2019, 143 years after my grandfather was born, reminded me of a sweet family story about Grandpa’s birthday one year.
My grandparents were married in 1900; my mother was born 19 years later. Since she remembered this birthday story about her father, I know it was sometime in the 20’s or early 30’s but I don’t know exactly when.
Grandpa’s birthday was on a Sunday that year and my Grandmother, who was a queen of hospitality, invited many friends and family members to their home to celebrate Grandpa’s birthday after church. In that particular year, some fortunate folks owned automobiles, but some still traveled by horse and buggy or on foot.
The day of Grandpa’s birthday party, it snowed and snowed and snowed. Cars had a hard time traversing the country roads from church to my grandparents’ home for the party. So all of the invited guests walked through the snow and cold, some for miles, to get there.
And some of them carried pies on their journey. See, Grandpa wasn’t a big fan of cake but oh, he did love pie. So Grandma asked ladies to bring pies so she could cut a piece of pie from each one, arrange them on a big plate in a circular fashion to resemble one huge pie, and present it to Grandpa for his birthday treat.
His eyes lit up when he saw his birthday pie consisting of all of those different kinds of pies. And I suppose the “big cakes” of snow continued to fall as the party continued.
I wonder in amazement about several aspects of this story. First of all, the resilience of those who lived before us comes to my mind. Snowfall didn’t stop them from attending my grandfather’s party. They trudged through deep snow carrying pies and thought nothing of it, making the best of a bad situation. Now we seem to panic when the slightest bit of snow falls.
They could have said let’s not go, it’s snowing too much, but they didn’t. They could have decided it just was too much trouble, but they didn’t. I wonder would we walk through deep snow and blustery weather just to go to a birthday party?
No doubt they meant what they said when they agreed to attend, no matter that the snow piled up high all around. They knew the meaning of the word commitment. Are we still as committed to following through with our promises today? I wonder.
Secondly, how generous they were to all bring pies, carrying them while trudging through snow, to surprise my grandfather. Those folks were so willing to go out of their way to bring a slice of happiness to my grandpa.
Happiness that didn’t come in a wrapped, expensive gift but instead in a home-baked goody. Why do we place so much emphasis on monetary gifts we give or receive instead of just sheer thoughtfulness? Why do we think happiness comes with an expensive price tag?
And finally, this story reminds me that often times we encounter a “blizzard” of unforeseen circumstances in life. But we must trudge through the deep “snow” and make our way to where we need to be, no matter what.
And when we finally arrive, there is something worth achieving.
A piece of happiness. A slice of joy. A portion of gladness. A wedge of bliss.
Grandpa’s birthday story is enough to make me want to eat pie during a blizzard and be thankful for both the blizzard and the pie.
“You don’t really get Jesus saying very often there’ll be pie in the sky when you die. He’s really talking about now and today, and it’s supposed to be like that. You’re supposed to delight in what’s right in front of you.” ~ Greg Boyle
“The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started.” ~ Norman Cousins
A new year means a brand-new beginning and in my mind that means not only a fresh start in life but a fresh start in my home as well.
There’s just something about putting away the clutter of Christmas decorations that makes me want to go through my house, room by room, and start massive cleaning and major purging. I don’t think I’m alone in my quest.
Recently I found this passage from something written in 1898: “Do other people, I wonder, find the same keen pleasure that I do in periodically undertaking a pilgrimage all over the house to wage a war of extermination upon its accumulations of rubbish? “~Chiffon, “The Woman of To‑Day,” To‑Day, 1898 January 15th.
I keep hearing and seeing on social media that the new “thing” is to be minimalist and even have some family members who are attempting to adhere to this way of life. Living simply isn’t new, that’s for certain. It’s just that we Americans don’t always embrace a simplistic way of life in anything and we own far too many material goods and possessions as well as waste too much money on those.
I fall into that-way-too-much-stuff trap, partly because Papa and I have lived in this house longer than we have ever lived in one residence during our married life. Back when we moved often, we decluttered every time, had garage sales to rid ourselves of belongings we didn’t need or didn’t want to move. And we’ve always donated our gently used goods to charities for their thrift shops, believing that someone out there could use what we wanted to discard.
A good idea even back in the early 1900’s when this was written: “Most of us are inclined to keep too many old and useless things in our houses and in our minds as well. Good housekeepers have an excellent custom of going from attic to cellar, at least once a year, and clearing out every closet and drawer. Some shake out and dust each article packed away in box or trunk, only to replace it and repeat the process year after year. How much better to give away the discarded clothing, the bric-a-brac or picture for which we no longer care. The Salvation Army always stands ready to relieve us of superfluous effects.” ~Emily Tolman, “Seasonable Suggestions”1907.
After 20 years of living in this same house, our stuff is taking over….well, it’s not just our stuff because part of that stuff belongs to our grown-up children who use our basement as their personal storage unit. Some can’t be helped as in the case of our oldest and her husband who live in a third-floor apartment and truly don’t have room for some of her belongings nor do they want to haul a piano up three flights of steps. Understandable.
When our son and daughter-in-law settled into their home a few years ago, Papa and I hauled two carloads of son’s belongings to him. That freed up some space in the basement.
But for the last couple of years, middle daughter’s furniture and packed away household goods have been stored there causing it to be full to capacity. I’m not totally obsessive about having things in perfect order and organizing but I do adhere to the old saying – “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
It just seems like everything’s place landed in our basement. And honestly, when I ventured down there to obtain some item I needed, the sheer amount of clutter overwhelmed me. I often retorted that just going down the stairs and seeing all that my basement held made my blood pressure rise!
We still regularly give clothing and other usable household items to charity and even donated several boxes of unwanted belongings to our church rummage sale, but an accumulation of items from our past, our parents’ homes, and just plain ‘stuff’ lurks in our basement.
So now, middle daughter is moving into her own home leaving this nest truly empty once more. There is an empty bedroom again and there is space in the basement. She still has more boxes and junk to go through and like her mama, she wants to purge some of it.
So it seems a springtime mammoth garage sale is in our future. That means this empty nest Mama is going room by room cleaning and eliminating the unusable and/or labeling potential garage sale items as such.
It’s a work in progress and I haven’t even made it to the basement yet. But I will succeed. I am determined.
By clearing away the excess clutter in my home and specifically the basement, it won’t just free up space physically, but also give me some peace of mind in this brand new year.
And that is priceless.
“Clearing clutter—be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—brings about ease and inspires a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility.” ~ Laurie Buchanan, PhD
When the clock’s hands both landed on the 12, I almost missed it.
No raucous party took place here at Mama’s Empty Nest on New Year’s Eve. Instead we enjoyed a simple, quiet evening of relaxation after weeks of busyness.
The Christmas season didn’t add to the hustle and bustle at our house because we devoted hours upon hours of our free time to help our daughter and grandchild prepare to move into their new home.
Renovate, remodel, redecorate. Wallpaper stripping, painting, repairing, and updating the older house she purchased occupied much of our time. Finally, her move-in date arrives this week if all goes according to plan.
Because we have worked on her house for about six weeks now, we all needed some respite time so on that last day of December, we decided to rest. But we did manage to stay awake until 12 o’clock when 2019 arrived.
However, we almost missed the New Year’s entrance at midnight. Engrossed in reading a book, I didn’t notice that the magic hour neared. Absorbed in watching several episodes of Cadfael, Papa also wasn’t watching the clock. Little One was conked out sound asleep, and Middle Daughter rested after a busy hospital shift.
Midnight was approaching in just a matter of a minute or so when our daughter asked, “Aren’t we going to watch the ball drop?”
Papa hurriedly switched over to a station broadcasting from Times Square and we managed to see the countdown.
Time had gotten away from us and even though we were awake, we almost missed the big event. But time marches on with or without us.
“Time is what we want most, but… what we use worst.” ~William Penn
Since my sixth grade graduation, I’ve been bound by time. That’s when I received my first wrist watch – one that had to be wound every night to continue running – as a gift from my parents. And for all of those years that followed since I was 12, I’ve strapped a watch onto my left wrist every single morning.
Over the years, when one watch stopped working, I immediately attained another one, trading wind-up ones for battery operated ones. And when the batteries ran out, I scurried to acquire a new one because I felt lost without my watch.
Those timepieces on my arm kept me going, kept me on schedule. I glanced at my watch several times a day and at night through high school, college, my working career, and into my days as a stay at home mom.
In a way, my wristwatch dictated my life, showing me when it was time to eat, time to go to bed, time to go to work and time to return back home, time to arrive at an appointment, time to get the kids ready for school, time to attend this meeting or that one, time to drive kids to sports practices and time to pick them up, time for church, time to get busy with whatever task was at hand.
A couple of months ago, the battery died in my trusty wristwatch – the gift from Papa that I’ve worn for many years now – and I haven’t replaced the battery yet. And I’m not certain if I will.
After 50-some years of wearing a wristwatch, my arm felt a bit naked at first. But now I’m becoming accustomed to not having a watch, not having to constantly glance at it to see what time it is.
Being watch-less proved to be one reason why I didn’t notice midnight approached on New Year’s Eve. But in this season of my life, knowing exactly what time it is isn’t as important to me. Oh, I still have schedules to follow because I watch my grandchild while her mama works, but my time isn’t as constrained as it once was.
After so many years of busyness, I am content to be still. I am content to use my time in a less ordered fashion. And as a new year unfolds before me, I want to spend more time delving into reading and contemplating God’s Word.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~ Psalm 46:10
To do so, I must be still. I must make good use of whatever time God has granted to me. With a watch or without it.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” ~ Harvey McKay
In this new year, let’s fill it with forgotten things.
“Each New Year, we have before us a brand new book containing 365 blank pages. Let us fill them with all the forgotten things from last year—the words we forgot to say, the love we forgot to show, and the charity we forgot to offer.” ~ Peggy Toney Horton
Last night, December 31st, another year of living was placed in the books for us. If you desire to live a year full of purpose, New Year’s Eve always seems like an appropriate time to evaluate where you’ve been and where you want to go as the New Year descends upon us.
And that is exactly what lies ahead of us today – a full year (God willing) to live a life. A life of purpose. A life of meaning. A life that doesn’t just go through the motions but one that makes a difference in the lives of others.
It’s New Year’s Day. A day filled with promise and hope for what is to come in this year called 2019. I’m not a resolution kind of making person; for me, resolutions are too easily broken. But I do spend moments considering what plans I may have for a fresh new year.
But I before I expound on that, I want to express in writing my thoughts about 2018 as it wanes its way into the past.
On a personal level, last year had its ups and downs, its highs and lows, just like any other year and any other person’s life. Papa and I journeyed on some amazing trips and made memories to last, experiencing sights and activities we hadn’t seen or done before. And I added five more states to my visiting all of our United States bucket list, bringing the total up to 40 – only 10 more to go!
Great family times of togetherness added to our memory banks. Learning another grandchild will join our family circle was yet another highlight of the year and just at Christmas time, we also learned the gender of our wee one to come – another sweet little girl!
In my cyber-world of blogging, I managed to write and post 154 times, but I think my biggest accomplishment was posting 30 days all in a row during the month of November when I chronicled my Thanks Giving each day. I gained new readers in 2018 but more importantly, I was encouraged by readers’ kind words and thoughtful expressions.
All of those aspects added happiness and accomplishment to my life, but at the same time, I found myself letting go of certain entrapments as well.
It may sound trivial but this past year, I decided to stop getting my hair colored. For most of my life, I’ve been told I looked younger than I actually was. And to continue that nice compliment, I started covering up my graying hair several years ago.
As my hair gradually became whiter, those hair appointments became more frequent and more expensive. For what? Vanity? I am the age I am – this new year will be a milestone one when I turn 65 – so why not embrace my age?
My hair stylist worked wonders in helping me make the switch from colored hair to natural. And you know what? I’ve gotten more compliments on my natural white/gray hair than I did when it was dyed.
It honestly has been a freeing experience. I’m not a slave to hair color any longer. Hair appointments take less time since all I require is a haircut now and my checkbook is happier for it as well.
What else have I let go this past year? The checkbook. In the past 40-some years of our marriage, this Mama took care of paying all the bills and managing our checking account because Papa was either traveling for business or just didn’t have time to handle it all. But now with Papa being semi-retired, he has taken over this chore. That too has been liberating for me as it has taken that burden off my mind.
I’ve also released my worry and concern over middle daughter finding a home of her own not too far away. She recently purchased a home very near this empty nest which will make it easier for this Nana to babysit Little One and we will be nearby if they need us.
And finally, I’m unleashing a chain that has kept me bound for too long – a chain of unforgiveness and bitterness. That burden has been most wearisome and I’m more than relieved to be free of it.
It’s a New Year. It’s time to let go of those things that bind, those things that hinder, those things that are better left in the past. It’s time to let go of 2018 and embrace 2019.
Happy New Year!
“When you let go, you are truly free.” ~ Unknown
It’s the day after Christmas, but I’m not ready to let go yet. So these pictures show you just a few sights I captured with my camera this season.
It’s the day after Christmas, but I’m not ready to let go yet. And who says we must? We should keep thoughts of Christmas in our hearts all year long.
Thoughts of kindness.
Thoughts of sharing.
Thoughts of goodwill towards men.
Thoughts of love.
Thoughts of hope.
Thoughts of peace.
And thoughts of the King of kings – Jesus. Because even though we just celebrated His birthday, He gave us the ultimate gift when He died on the cross for us. His gift of salvation lasts forever and ever and ever. Hallelujah!
“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.” ~ W.T. Ellis