Craft yourself a Merry Christmas

blogIMG_4543(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2010.) 

It’s hard not to be crafty at Christmas. 

Oh, I don’t mean being crafty in the sense of the definition of the word: sly, shrewd, cunning or deceptive, although I suppose you could call many people crafty at Christmas time.

There’s the shrewd way some people act at the mall when they slide into a parking spot first while you were patiently waiting for the previous car to vacate the space. 

Some people are downright cunning as they push and shove their way through crowds to get the very last [insert newest, hottest selling toy here]. 

And often times, we are very deceptive as we hide the Christmas presents or even the Christmas cookies so they won’t all be eaten before Christmas arrives!

No, I don’t mean that kind of crafty.  I’m thinking more about those who are like Martha Stewart. Wait a minute, she did go to jail once….perhaps she was cunning or deceptive, huh? 

Well, let’s concentrate on her ability to take an ordinary branch off her juniper tree and turn it into the most amazing shimmery addition to a boring centerpiece that you ever have seen. That’s what I mean by crafty.

Some people can just take scraps of this, leftovers of that, add some ribbon and glitzy stuff and voila! A lovely Christmas ornament for your pine tree.

Or there are those people who actually make Christmas gifts for family and friends. I admire their creativity and tenacity!

And then there are the items that were lovingly handmade at school or in Sunday School class by your children when they were little. Crafts and Christmas just seem to go together.

I was thinking about that the other day when I finally finished decorating our Christmas tree. (Yep, I succumbed.  I just couldn’t leave a bare-naked tree in my living room!) There are a lot of crafty ornaments residing in my Christmas décor boxes. 

Here’s the round painted one oldest daughter made in second grade, if I remember correctly. It hung on the mayor’s Christmas tree at City Hall in the town we lived in then. 

Middle daughter made candy canes out of red and white pony beads and pipe cleaners one year with her fellow Girl Scouts. Son constructed a baby Jesus in half a walnut shell in Sunday School way back when.

Several handmade ornaments that I purchased at craft shows or holiday bazaars also congregate in my boxes, some of those I even managed to make myself. 

Others were gifts bestowed upon me like the clear glass ball with a sketch of Jesus inside from a friend or the half egg shell with a Christmas scene displayed inside of it, a gift from my mother many years ago.

Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at crafting other decorations as well, including a nutcracker wreath, a garland of felt stars with homemade buttons fashioned out of clay and baked in the oven, and who knows what else lurking in those boxes. 

When I unpack these items, it brings back a lot of delightful memories – some of my mother, some of my children as they were growing up, and some of friends, now far away.

When I was a little girl, my mother belonged to a “Home Extension Group,”  ladies who met monthly at each other’s homes for a demonstration of home arts and a lovely lunch. 

Most of these women were my mom’s age or older and I vividly remember being the only youngster at those meetings until I got older and trotted off to school. Even then, I would be excited to jump off the school bus and enter my home to see the ladies from home extension there and taste the yummy leftover dessert.

These women gathered to craft or learn something new in the fine art of homemaking.  Sometimes a representative from the state home extension office would visit and give a demonstration, perhaps on home canning or sewing.

I still remember the year they made large white candles shaped like snowballs for Christmas. Whatever they were making or eating, this group of friends always seemed to enjoy their time together.

Several years ago when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest, I told this story of Mom’s home extension group to some of my friends and we decided to resurrect the concept. A few weeks before Christmas, we met at a friend’s home, spent the morning crafting together and sipping hot coffee or tea, then shared a tasty and delicious lunch.

Once we designed nutcracker wreaths. We all convened at the craft store to choose scads of items to hot glue onto our wreaths of artificial greenery. Festive ribbons, little nutcrackers, Christmas birds, glittering balls, shiny strings of beads, twigs of fake holly…it looked like the Ghost of Christmas Present had thrown up all over the table!

But oh, the fun we had! We chatted and laughed as we crafted, enjoying each other’s company so much, giving advice about the placement of tinsel tidbits, which was beneficial because the more savvy decorators among us could give direction to those of us who were craft-deficient.  

Having relished our day together, we decided to continue the idea each week as we launched another Christmas craft. For the first time, I truly understood why my mother belonged to her “home extension group” for all those many years.

It wasn’t about the finished product, although that was nice. The real joy came from time well-spent with dear friends, savoring one another’s company with laughter and merriment yet sharing burdens and sorrows as well. It was about gathering for a lovingly home-cooked lunch together as neighbors who had more in common than just the neighborhood where they lived.

Yes, it was a simpler time when my mother and those sweet ladies, whose faces I can still recall even though every one of them has left this world, convened every month for camaraderie and cake. 

But those simple times can be recaptured – my friends and I did it that one special time at Christmas. We just have to want to live a simpler life, to take time to visit those we treasure, and make memorable moments happen.

It’s Christmas. It’s time to slow down. Spend time with your closest friends and family.

And while you’re at it, though you may not be “crafty,” make something special together – even if it’s just lovely memories.



Looking up for Christmas

FBIMG_0313(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2010.) 

Color of skin – not green.  Heart – normal size.  Miserly ways – don’t think so.  Crankiness – well…sometimes.  Conclusion – I’m a normal human being, neither the Grinch nor Scrooge.

Really! Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Honestly!  To me it IS one of the “most wonderful times of the year.” Truly!

Somewhere in my rants about not feeling up to decking the halls and proclaiming ho-ho-ho with mistletoe, I think I have left my readers with the mistaken belief that I’m not a Christmas person.  Completely untrue.  It’s just that this year instead of being a Christmas fanatic, I’m in more of a reflective mood about the season I love.

I celebrate Christmas to commemorate the greatest gift God gave mankind when over 2000 years ago, a tiny babe was born in Bethlehem.  That baby was the Messiah, Emmanuel, God With Us, Jesus Christ.  But as I get older, I have to question what the hoopla we’ve made Christmas truly has to do with worshiping our Savior.

Many of the Christmas customs we utilize have nothing to do with our belief in Jesus.  The light displays, the adorned Christmas tree, the over-indulgent feasts, the even more over-indulgent presents.  What does any of it mean?

Every year the commercialism of the season grates on me.  The frantic rush to the shopping malls to spend outrageous sums of money on gifts that we really don’t need saddens me when I know millions of our fellow human beings in the world are starving or have no decent housing.

The fulfillment of Christmas wish lists with gift cards and money make me sadder yet.  Why don’t we just exchange money instead of calling it a gift? 

To me, a gift is something you thoughtfully consider.  You think about the person you are giving the gift to, and you know that loved one well enough to choose something that will touch his or her heart and show how much you love and care for that person.  But that takes time and consideration and in the crazy frenzy (only 14 more shopping days till Christmas!), it’s easier to just fulfill the items on a list.

My family is no different from any other families out there; there have been some wish lists being emailed back and forth and we have succumbed to this way of shopping.  Oh, we try to give to the needy whether it is donating to the bell-ringers of the Salvation Army, shopping for gifts to bestow on a family who is having a difficult year, filling shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse to be distributed to needy children, or purchasing “gifts” of animals, clothing, or other necessities to be sent world-wide through World Vision.

But is that enough?  I think that’s why I’m feeling a little rebellious about this season of Christmas.  I want Christmas to mean more.  I want it to be revered, not just as a cherished tradition, but as a time when we stop focusing on the foolishness, ponder the wonder of God coming to earth to live among us, and give thanks for the saving gift of grace that our Lord Jesus Christ is.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus thinks about our elaborate celebrations and I’m reminded that He was born in a simple, lowly place.  He lived His life here on earth in a plainly simple way, but oh, how much He accomplished!

He did not require jewels, fancy robes, or tables set before Him with an amazing array of food and drink.  He did not expect exquisite decorations in the homes He visited.  His focus was simply on people – the weak, the infirm, the needy, and the lost.  He didn’t ask for gifts, instead He gave His life as the ultimate gift when He took the sins of the world upon Himself and sacrificed His life on the Cross for us. 

I’ve been reading a non-fiction book called Extraordinary Faith by Sheila Walsh.  It’s not a new book and I’ve had it on my shelf for quite some time.  I read it for a while, and then get busy and put it down, but I keep coming back to it because I really want to finish it.  It’s good stuff.

Yesterday I took a little bit of time to open the book’s pages once again.  And what I read in the chapter called “When We Fix Our Eyes on Jesus” imparted great truth to me.  Ms. Walsh writes, “Faith here is a call to look up, to gaze at our Savior.  Faith is a passionate gaze at the only One who can save us.”

She continues and then adds a passage of scripture, “Perhaps the greatest call to gaze on our Lord appears right after the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11: ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 12:1-2)”

That’s what I think is often missing at Christmas.  We fail to look up, to gaze at the One who was sent on our behalf to save us from eternal separation from God. We don’t fix our eyes on Jesus.  This year, I want to forego the trappings of Christmas.  I want to throw off those things that hinder me from looking up and gazing at my Savior.  I hope I can encourage you to do the same.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” ~ Psalm 24:7

I want to fix my eyes on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords instead of gazing at a landscape of luminous lights, garlands of greenery galore, a bedecked and bedazzled balsam tree or the panoramic plethora of presents stacked beneath it.  Instead of spending all of my time time baking and cooking and shopping, I want to feed my soul and the souls of others with the Word of God.

For those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ, the season of Christmas should be first and foremost a season of faith – faith that is sufficient for everything we need.   

God had His fingerprints all over the gift He gave us that very first Christmas, His Son Jesus Christ.  And today, centuries later, He still has His fingerprints on us. Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

I pray that this Christmas you will fix your eyes on Jesus, that you will allow the Word of God to speak to your life amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.

“Faith is not wishful thinking or theatrics.  Faith is born in us as we fix our eyes on Jesus and as we recognize the fingerprints of God the Father all over our lives.”  ~ Sheila Walsh


Hauling out the holly


Image ©

(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2011.) 

What a difference a year makes.  That statement may sound cliché, but it’s true.

Here’s how I know this.

Last year (2010) around this time, my attitude was notably different than my attitude is today.  Don’t believe me? Read this.

Last year, I was:  (Pick one)

  1. Grumpy
  2. Grinch-like
  3. Melancholy
  4. Suffering from empty nest syndrome
  5. All of the above

If you chose “E,” you get the gold star! 

Last year at this time, I struggled to drum up some Christmas spirit.  The crates full of holiday decorations lay idle strewn through the house, but I didn’t possess the motivation or desire to bedeck the surroundings.  My mind, kidnapped and trapped by melancholy, continually persuaded me to ignore the approaching season of joy just as surely as my heart, harbored in sadness, agreed.

Empty nest syndrome and grief over my father’s passing reigned.  My husband erected the artificial Christmas tree and strung it with twinkling lights, but it sat forlorn in the living room with no ornaments sprucing up its bare branches.   Garland did not festoon anything nor were candles blazing in the windows.   If it weren’t for hubby accomplishing the outside light decorating, our house would have sat as dark and dreary as I felt.

I was able-bodied, but always seemed tired, cold, sleepy, or lethargic.  With no kids in the house anymore or elderly father to check up on, I sure had the time, but I just couldn’t muster up the inclination.  This lackadaisical attitude towards the Christmas season was as foreign to me as meeting up with an alien from outer space on my front lawn….it just doesn’t happen.

I’m one of those people who loves Christmas.  I usually have all of my greeting cards addressed, stamped and the annual missive to friends and family printed and tucked inside the envelopes ready to mail by December 1. 

Shopping is accomplished early and by early, I mean way before Thanksgiving.  Christmas tree and all of the other festive decorations  garnish and embellish our house the weekend after Thanksgiving.  But last year, I literally and finally forced myself to do….something… and half-heartedly prepared for the most beloved time of the year.

Thankfully, this year is different.  I’m not so able-bodied (still suffering with some back and hip problems); I don’t have quite as much time; but I’m raring to go.   Our house is ablaze with Christmas lights and finery outside; hubby and I finished that Thanksgiving weekend.

The tree sparkles in the living room with all its treasured ornaments resting on its branches.  Christmas cards are addressed and will fill the mailbox soon (should be working on that Christmas letter instead of this blog post!).   With any luck, we should complete our shopping this weekend.

So what has changed from last year?  My attitude.

I can’t change the fact that my kids have grown up, moved out, and have their own lives. I can’t change the fact that there are beloved faces missing from my family gathered around the Christmas tree.   But I can change one thing….me.   I can be a Scrooge, a Grinch, a Grumpy Gus, but I don’t have to be.

All it takes is a little Christmas and the knowledge that God loved us so much, He sent His only Son as the most perfect gift on that first Christmas so long ago.

Okay, I’m off to haul out some more holly and this year, the Christmas village will once again adorn the kitchen.  So in case you’re a little low on Christmas spirit, I’m sharing my all-time favorite Christmas decorating song with you because we need a little Christmas right this very minute.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou



I need more time!

blogDSCN8533(2)So here’s the thing.

Writing in this Mama’s Empty Nest blog is really important to me. Crafting words into something worthwhile for readers to take time to peruse, maybe mull over, and possibly even experience a moment where their hearts are touched by my writing means so much to me. I love what I do here.

But…it’s the Christmas season and in the words of Dr. Seuss:  “How did it get so late so soon?”

My calendar tells me it’s December 5th…..ALREADY! It’s only 20 days until Christmas!! And this Mama will have a very full nest in just a matter of two weeks!

Yep, all of the chicks and roosters, including the two young peeps, are all coming home to roost for the holiday. And you know what that means?

This Mama has a to-do list about a mile long. This year there’s a real, piney-smelling evergreen tree which just got brought into the house yesterday and so far stands naked waiting for sparkly lights, strings of red beaded garland, and shiny ornaments to bedeck it.

There is Christmas shopping to finish, then there will be a plethora of gifts to wrap.

The Christmas cards need sent on their merry way via our trusty mail carrier, but first they need finalized and walked up to the mail box at the end of our driveway.

The outside decorating is finished – thank goodness and thanks to Papa – but the indoor décor is still sitting in storage bins here and there just waiting to be sprung from its year-long hiding spots.

Christmas cookies must be baked. We can’t leave store-bought cookies for Santa for goodness sake.  Mealtime menus for several days must be decided upon and that means a major grocery store shopping trip and lots of cooking and meal preparations.

Throw in some Christmas parties, church activities, a few festive holiday excursions we want to take Little One on, and a special first birthday party for our other Little Two to be attended, PLUS an assortment of other Christmas activities for the family that Mama (in her crazy thoughts one night when sleep eluded her) decided to plan while we’re all together.

Whew! So while I’m long on things to do, I am short on time to do them in.

Which brings me back to this blog. Usually, I have blog posts written in advance and all lined up for a couple of weeks at a time.

Additionally, I spend a considerable amount of my time thinking over ideas to write about, taking or choosing photos from my picture cache to match my main idea, and also just plain writing and often re-writing again and again.

Then there is editing and proof-reading to present the best blog post I possibly can for you, my dear readers. Okay, you might say I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my blog, and you might be right.

But anyway, I don’t have any new posts written for this month – this season of Christmas.  And doing so takes time. Time I don’t seem to have right now. And again as Dr. Seuss once wrote: How did it get so late so SOON?”!!!!!!!! (Emphasis mine!)

So instead of taking a three-week long hiatus and being totally absent from the blogging world and not connecting with my readers this Christmas season, I’ve decided to do something else. 

Christmas is special to me. It’s a time when our family celebrates the birth of our Savior. And what better time to connect with my readers through my blog than this season of goodwill and cheer?

So, I still will share one of my own photographs on Wordless Wednesday each week in December, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will delve back into the last seven years of writing my blog and share old posts from Decembers past.

Some of my previous posts will be new to more recent readers. Some of you ‘old-timers’ may remember them, but my hope is that as you read them again, something makes you smile.

In the meantime, I must get busy with urgent matters at hand for Christmas, but it doesn’t mean I won’t be spending time on what is truly important – Jesus, the true meaning of the season – and thinking of you, my family, friends, and blog readers.

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” ~ Stephen Covey


Cause for alarm causes thanks giving

blogIMG_1711(2)The holiday of Thanksgiving is behind us now, but the thanks giving continues as it should. Each day we are given blessings for which to be thankful for, even though we often take those gifts for granted.

If you awaken each morning from a night’s slumber, that’s a gift of life and a blessing to be thankful for.

If your basic needs are supplied each day, that’s a blessing of provision; again something for which to give thanks.

The majority of us here in the USA are blessed beyond measure, yet we whine, complain, and over extend ourselves monetarily by purchasing more material goods than we need while our fellow human beings across the world suffer from hunger, lack of clean water, poverty, homelessness, war, strife, and persecution.

And I wonder are we truly thankful here in the land of plenty? Not just on Thanksgiving, but on each and every day of the life we are given? 

On Thanksgiving Day here at Mama’s Empty Nest, we feasted with our traditional meal of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade noodles, yam, corn, peas, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls, topping it all off with pumpkin, cherry, and lemon meringue pie and Thanksgiving decorated mini cupcakes.

Eleven of us, missing a few of the family who couldn’t join us this year, gathered around our dining room table laden with plentiful food and gave thanks to the One who provides our needs. We ingested our bounteous meal, shared stories, laughed, and spent an evening doing what we usually do when we gather together – played games.

All blessings for which we are thankful.

The day after Thanksgiving, some of us headed back to work while some of us packed up suitcases to travel home in another state. By late afternoon, just Papa and Mama were left in the quiet empty nest.

We decided we would just enjoy an evening of rest, change into comfy clothes, eat Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, and maybe snuggle down on the couch and watch some Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel.

Low key. An evening of quietude. Chillaxing.

That’s when we heard and noticed a tanker firetruck parked on our road in between our house and our next door neighbor’s. By then, darkness had descended and the flashing lights seemed ominous as they reflected in our windows. 

A police car appeared and started redirecting cars to turn around and go back the way they came. Flares were set out to stop traffic from traveling past our house from either direction. 

Papa and I stepped outside to try to ascertain what was happening. We didn’t smell smoke so we knew there wasn’t a fire, but we watched as one of the firemen walked to our next door neighbor’s house and I became even more alarmed.

Had something happened to him? One by one, his house lights went out. The fireman walked back to his truck, then started coming down through our yard towards our home.

He informed us that two doors down, someone had backed a truck over a gas meter and natural gas was spewing out underneath the vehicle. Yikes! Suddenly, I had visions of our houses blowing up in a huge explosion.

The fireman said he thought the best and most cautious thing to do was evacuate our home. As he spoke, we watched next door neighbor drive by in his vehicle as he was evacuated as well.  We agreed and gave our cell phone number to the fireman so he could call us when it was safe to return.

We hurriedly prepared to leave, grabbed coats, slipped on shoes, turned off the TV. I glanced around my home thinking should I take something with me? What if it’s all gone when I come back? I turned to my husband and asked him that.

His response – things can be replaced. And he’s right. Even though some material things are precious to me like photos of my loved ones and simple family “treasures” from my folks’ home and my in-laws’,  and I would be sad to lose those items, they are just things. I could retain them in my memory.

Racing out of our home and driving to a restaurant to eat dinner, I thought about what it must have been like for all of our fellow countrymen who had to evacuate their homes because of the wildfires this past summer, the horrible hurricanes,  and flooding that ensued.

My heart ached for those affected by the disasters even more than it did while those events were going on because I better understood now the panic they must have felt at losing their homes or possibly their lives.

And I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving because in all of my years on this earth, this was the first time I’ve ever had to leave my house and wonder if it would still stand when I returned.

I’ve experienced several tornado threats including one that set down not far from where we lived and even a minor earthquake and some tremors, but thankfully escaped with no damage.

I was so grateful we were spared from disasters in the past, but time has a way of making you forgetful, making you less cognizant of all those blessings once bestowed upon you. 

Later that evening, we received the fireman’s all clear call and returned to our home. The only remnant of the event was the gas company truck still working at the scene. Firetrucks gone, flares removed, police car off to help someone else no doubt.

So my heart was filled with gratitude.  I’m grateful our home was still standing and intact and so were our neighbors’ houses.

I’m grateful for first responders that keep us safe and protect us from harm and in doing so put their own lives on the line. This is even more on my heart since just before Thanksgiving, a young police officer in our region was shot and killed while on duty.

And I’m grateful to the gas company workers who may have had to leave their own leftover Thanksgiving dinners, family, and homes to fix the problem.

Friday night’s cause for alarm supplied a cause for thanks giving.

And my heart is grateful.

 “The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” ~ Henry Ward Beecher 



Thanksgiving Wishes


You are a blessing for which I give thanks.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude for the many readers of this blog. And what better time than Thanksgiving Day to tell you so?

You, my readers and friends, have blessed me each time you click on my posts to read the words I write and double bless me with your insightful and encouraging comments.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

May God grant you grace, peace, and love on this day when we Americans pause to give thanks for the many blessings we have. My wish is that you take time to give thanks this day and give to others who are not as fortunate as we are.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.” ~ Amy Grant