Three years later

Three years ago this month, I had no idea.

I had no idea what the future held and what was in store for me.

I had no idea that I could love another with such fierceness and intensity.

I had no idea that becoming a grandmother would fill my heart with such amazing joy.

Three years ago this month, Papa’s and my first grandchild was born on a bitterly cold, dark, middle-of the night, wee hours of the morning day.

She was tiny, but the love that swelled inside my heart for this itty-bitty darling the first time I held her in my arms was mammoth.

After waiting hours upon hours in the hospital for her arrival, we got our first glimpse of her and held her. And even though we had been up all day and night waiting for her entry into this world, I found myself so excited and thrilled that I couldn’t sleep afterwards.

For months prior to her birth, I wondered how I would take to grandparenthood. I confess that I wasn’t always the best mother, sometimes so impatient with my own children. And I feared I’d be the same with a grandchild.

On top of that, I’ve never really been a ‘baby person.’ What I mean by that is that if given a choice between sitting in a church nursery with babies and teaching a wild group of teens, I’d take the teens any day.

Babies just weren’t ‘my thing.’ Don’t get me wrong, I loved my own three babies and being their mother, but parenting infants and toddlers was a challenge for me.

But that all changed the day my first grandchild gripped her tiny hand around my finger. That all changed when I gazed into her eyes. And when I photographed her teeny feet.

That all changed as I cradled her in my arms. And rocked her to sleep. And felt her warm fuzzy head against my shoulder.

That all changed as I welcomed her into my heart and it swelled to gargantuan proportions with perfect love.

“Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” ~ Welsh Proverb

And now that newborn baby is a child. A child turning three years old. A child with a mind of her own. A child who cracks me up with the things she says. And does.

A child who melts my heart every time she crawls into my lap, wraps her arms around my neck, and tells me, “I love you, Nana!”

So this month, I will not only celebrate the third birthday of my first grandchild, but will celebrate the day I became a Nana. What a wonderful day it was and is.

“If I had known how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren, I’d have had them first.” ~ Lois Wyse



My beloved

blogIMG_2570.jpgIt’s February and now that we’re past Groundhog Day when that famous weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted to everyone’s dismay that we would have six more weeks of winter, we prepare to celebrate the other holiday of the month.

Valentine’s Day. And our minds turn to love.

Love is a word we banter around a lot.  I love this song. Or I love my pet. Love to ski. Love doughnuts. Love this, love that.

It’s one of those words in the English language that we use to proclaim our fondness for all sorts of things unlike the Greek language which has different words for different types of love.

The photo challenge for this past week was Beloved

While deliberating over what photograph to post for the challenge, I asked myself who do I love? Who is my beloved?

My husband of 40 years? Absolutely. My three adult children? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. My two adorable grandchildren?  Oh, yes, indubitably!  

My sisters and their families? Sure thing. Friends? Well, of course. And the list could go on, just like the many ways I could count to say why I love all of these people.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

You may recognize this as the opening line to a famous poem written by Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861). She wrote this sonnet (#43) to her beloved, her husband Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Even though I love those I’ve listed above beyond measure, there’s one I love even more. He is my beloved and I am his. His name is Jesus and he is my Savior.

It occurs to me that I could read this poem and address it to him and it would aptly fit. And he could read it right back to me because he loves me that much.

And he loves you the same, even if you don’t know him yet.

I don’t have a photograph of my beloved to share for this challenge. Oh, there are artists’ renditions out there of him, but we don’t know how accurate they are. But I do have something tangible that represents my beloved and I can photograph that.

It’s my Bible. And when I open it to read it, it tells me what I need to know about the one I love, my beloved, the one who loved me and you so much, he died that we might live.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~  John 3:16 (NIV)

“I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’  ‘This much,’ he answered. Then he stretched out his arms and died.” ~ unknown



Maybe we need Pollyanna

blogIMG_1702(3)I keep hearing about an epidemic spreading across our land.

The opioid epidemic – painkiller and heroin addiction – has become a huge struggle for Americans.  I read about it online, in newspapers (including our local daily paper) and magazines, and see it on TV news. Lots of people are talking about it, shaking their heads, and wondering what to do.

Nowhere seems to be free of this affliction and it’s affecting my own little hometown. This reality reminds me of a Simon and Garfunkel song from the 1970’s written by Paul Simon entitled My Little Town.

It’s a depressing sort of song about growing up in a little town that’s, at the very least, unpleasant. One without any hope or imagination. And the one singing the song can’t wait to escape to a better life because there’s “nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town.”

I wonder how many of our little towns, which used to be so lively and beneficial places to live, raise a family, enjoy peace and experience very little crime, now resemble dead and dying places (figuratively and literally) because of this epidemic that seems to be plaguing even the tiniest of towns.

As a young adult, I left my own little hometown to attend college,  embark on my career, and then marry my husband and I never returned to reside here again until my mid 40’s. Our reasons for moving back to my hometown area were many, but one was to escape the madness and busyness of the suburbs, which is why we found property in a rural area outside of my little town.

This place where I grew up has changed since my childhood, much like other small towns I suspect. Back then, we didn’t worry about locking our doors, let alone home invasions.

We knew all our neighbors very well and knew we could count on them should we need help instead of living among strangers whose comings and goings make one suspect drug dealing activity.  I can remember knowing who lived in every house lined up along our country road and the roads that intersected it.

Children played outside without fear of being abducted or becoming victims of human trafficking. Adults didn’t worry about being assaulted or having their homes or cars burglarized. Public schools were safe places to send your kids.

Maybe it was just a simpler time. But call me Pollyanna, I think we could get back to times like that.

If you’ve never read the children’s book, Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, or seen the 1960 Disney movie starring Hayley Mills, let me enlighten you.

The main character in this children’s classic, written back in the early 1900’s, is an orphan who is sent to live with a wealthy aunt, not a warm-fuzzy person. Matter of fact, auntie is downright cold and stern. No matter what little Pollyanna faces though, she continues to have a positive attitude and exude optimism.

Her philosophy for life proves contagious as her new hometown starts being transformed into a pleasant little burg because of Pollyanna. She plays a “glad game” and by her sunny disposition and example, the townspeople, including her crotchety aunt, begin to change for the better.

What does all of this have to do with the opioid epidemic gripping and destroying so many or any addiction be it drugs, alcohol, or whatever? I’m certainly no expert about addiction, although I truly believe one of the aspects that leads a person into any kind of addiction is a lack of hope.

Far too many of us walk around with gaping holes in our hearts. Despair takes over. We suffer from depression, anxiety, and our surroundings or circumstances don’t help one bit. A deficit of hope causes more despondency and it becomes a vicious circle.

Families are falling apart at the seams. Unemployment and other social ills offer little optimism for the future. Who wouldn’t want an escape from that? And that pill, or that injection, or that drink, or that addiction that has taken over your life seems to provide just what you need to feel better. 

But of course, it truly doesn’t. Addiction just creates a downward spiral of more hopelessness.

As a person of faith, my hope, my relief, my way of coping with the ills of this world is having a personal relationship with my Savior.

I know not everyone sees that as an answer. God gives us free will to choose to do so or not. But I also know God can heal the broken-hearted, lift up the down-trodden, deliver victims into victory, and He can break the chains of despair and addiction.

Not everyone is ready to embrace that solution of turning to God. I realize that because even though I have Pollyanna tendencies,  I am also a realist.

But I can’t help but think that maybe we just need to start with humble acts of kindness. Maybe we just need more of us to be Pollyanna to those who are hurting, those who are living lives of despair. Maybe we just need to reach out with a hand of help and a heart of hope and try to make this world or your own little town a better place.

It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? But maybe it’s worth a try.

“The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious. … People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts.”  ~ Eleanor Porter (from Pollyanna)



Wordless Wednesday: so long January





Stitch by stitch variations


blogIMG_0736Wouldn’t life be boring if it was always the same old same old? We need variety – isn’t it the spice of life?

We yearn for variation from the norm. At least I know I do. This past week’s photo challenge has been variations on a theme.

Several thoughts rolled around in my mind as I considered this challenge and I started scrolling through my photo cache to see if I could locate any photos that fit the bill.

My first thought about variations on a theme was musical. Stored back there somewhere in the archives of my quirky brain are a number of classical music pieces entitled thusly.  Composers would take a basic melody and then write variations composing a unique piece of music built around that one musical theme.

Click on this for an example that I particularly liked : Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky   

My next thought about variations on a theme centered around the age-old art of quilting. My mother was an adept quilter and it was a passion of hers to sit for hours creating beautiful, colorful hand-pieced (rarely by sewing machine) quilt tops which she then put into her large wooden quilting frames and hand-quilted – never quilted by sewing machine.

No doubt my mother learned to quilt from my grandmother who also excelled in this art. Back then, quilting bees were held in which ladies from church or just a group of friends would gather at one home or another and spend an afternoon stitching designs on one quilt. I can actually remember as a young child attending some with my mother.

Stitches produced at these gatherings were variations on a theme because each woman used her needle, thread, and thimble a little differently. Perhaps those who didn’t quilt often used long, uneven stitches but the expert quilters like my mother made small, tight, uniform in length stitches to produce a beautiful end product.

“There are only a handful of basic stitches which are the Adams and Eves of all the others…stem, satin, chain, cross, back, weaving, and filling–upon which untold variations have been built.”
–Erica Wilson

For this photo challenge, I could have opened my mother’s old cedar chest now gracing my own home and carefully lifted out not only a quilt made by my mom, but two very aged quilts made by my maternal grandmother and my husband’s paternal grandmother.

But I decided to save those for another blog post sometime. Instead I’m using other photos I’ve taken that I think personify the theme well.

The top photo is a picture I captured during a visit to the United States Air Force Museum a few years ago. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this branch of service, a huge commemorative quilt was made and hangs in the museum. Each quilt block represents a meaningful aspect of the Air Force but was fashioned by a different person with unique ideas. Hence, variations on a theme.

I snapped the other photo at a Mother-Daughter dinner once held at my church. Attendees were invited to bring some of their favorite quilts to display. And I think it all of those colorful, unique works of art aptly demonstrate variations on a theme as well.

I know I tend to stick to my ‘themes’ in life and share my themes often here in  Mama’s Empty Nest, but I do attempt to spice it up with a little variety from time to time. 

Variations on a theme make life more interesting.

“To me I think artists in general make a statement and for the rest of their lives every album, every book are variations on a theme.” ~ Mark Mothersbaugh



Trying not to drip


Look closely and you’ll see a drop falling from the melting icicle.

Outside my rural home, the month of January has looked much like the land of Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Snow and cold temperatures abound but every once in a while Mother Nature proves quirky and a warm day slips into our frozen surroundings, only to be nudged out again by Ol’ Man Winter a few days later.

That happened again just last week. The sun appeared making me squint like a mole just emerging after weeks in its dark underground tunnel into daylight. Mr. Sun’s rays falling upon us felt so warm and welcomed it not only melted our surroundings but warmed up my spirit as well.  Sunshine always does.

Sitting at our desktop computer in our home office on one of those balmy days, I cleaned up my cyberspace by paring down my email in-box and deleting some old data. Busy with the task at hand, I still couldn’t help glancing out the window at the glorious sunshine and noticing a distinct thawing taking place in our front yard.

Then I spied it. At the corner of the roof, a solitary icicle – about a 9-10 inch long one – hung. As the sun directly targeted that icy spike, the icicle began dripping. Slowly at first, but it soon gained speed, melting away until at last, it disappeared.

As so often happens when I’m intently pondering something, a verse from the Bible crossed my mind and an idea for a blog post lit up in my brain.

“A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm…” ~ Proverbs 27:15 New International Version (NIV)

I grabbed my camera and stepped out onto the front porch and managed to snap a quick photo of that dripping icicle before it met its demise. 

And then again, that verse meandered its way through my mind. I almost laughed out loud because this verse is one I often think about. I actually have joked on occasion with my husband about it as well.

Why? Because sometimes I AM a quarrelsome wife and I suspect Papa just shuts my annoying voice off or at least relegates it to that wah-wah-wah monologue that all the adults sounded like in the old Charlie Brown television specials.

Because really, a constant droning can be totally annoying, can’t it?

Papa and I watched a DVD (Dunkirk) last weekend with very little dialogue and incessant “music” – if you can call it that.  The movie itself telling the true World War II story is good but the relentless music was repetitive, almost monotonous, and loud. This cacophony droned on and on and truly grated on our nerves to the point where we turned the sound way down, gritting our teeth and determined to make it to the end of the film regardless of the irritating music.

But it annoyed us to no end.

And so can persistent dripping. Just imagine when you’re trying to get to sleep late at night and the faucet in the nearby bathroom is leaking.  A steady, unceasing dropping of water.

Drip. Drip. Drip. It can be maddening.

When I was a kid, we actually called people ‘drips.’ A drip was an annoying, irritating person. One that just bugged the heck out of you. “What a drip!” we’d exclaim about someone who was a real pain.

I even recall a silly little rhyme kids in my era wrote in our autograph books: “Roses are red, violets are blue. The rain on the rooftop reminds me of you…drip, drip, drip.”

Not nice, huh? Well, neither are drips. They can be exasperating. Infuriating even. And can provoke us to anger.

And unfortunately, I can be a drip sometimes. Which is why I keep that verse from the book of Proverbs running through my mind. I need to try my hardest not to provoke someone to anger.

That dripping icicle on my roof reminded me.

“The anger came creeping back like the leak from a dripping water tank, the fall of each individual drop passing almost unnoticed until I realized I was soaked with the emotion.” ~ Anthony Loyd




Wordless Wednesday: tea wisdom




Even in silence

blogIMG_2546Silence isn’t always the norm here in Mama’s Empty Nest, not with an almost-three-year-old in the house most of the time. But occasionally, silence occurs, which was this past week’s photo challenge theme.

And it’s golden when I experience silence.  Or maybe even blue.

One morning, our house was completely silent when I awakened. Papa had already left for his very early morning schedule at his part-time job, so I lingered for a few minutes more in my toasty, comfy bed.

Shortly after 7 a.m., I decided to throw off the covers and coerce my body into starting the day.  After making the bed, – yes, I’m one of those people who always does so – I threw open the window blinds to survey the usual stark white landscape that is our yard in the winter time. 

The sun was just beginning to rise over the hill and cast its shiny rays where it would soon cause the snow to glisten. 

Darkness still enveloped a good portion of the sky though so our snowy landscape had a bluish hue to it causing me to slide my feet into my warm slippers, grab my camera, and step outside to capture the early morning view.

All was silent. Not even a car passed by in those few moments I stood outside. No noise. Not even a bird singing. Just my quiet footsteps on the porch and then the sound of my camera clicking. The scene before me was silence.

Sunshine hasn’t been very prevalent this winter, but I know it still exists. My yard isn’t vibrantly colored with green grass, but I know it will once again be so. Silence doesn’t always permeate my home, but I enjoy it when it happens.

Mother Teresa was once quoted as saying, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

I thought of how many times I do encounter God when there is silence and viewing the sun as it arose on my horizon that frosty early morning made me thankful for yet another day of living. Even in silence.

“I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I feel it not. I believe in God even when He’s silent.” ~ unknown    




You can run but you can’t hide


How often have we done it ourselves? Done something that we truly would not want anyone else to know about? We’re all guilty.

Recently, I was reminded of that by a little occurrence here in Mama’s Empty Nest. This Nana watches my not-quite-three-year-old granddaughter when her mama is working. I was busy doing laundry while she was playing, but suddenly I realized she had become very quiet.

Silence and a toddler. That usually means trouble.

I called out to her and asked what she was doing. She gave me her new standard answer. “No thing.”

No thing to her means nothing. Uh-huh. As I unobtrusively stepped out of the laundry room and walked soundlessly to where I thought she was playing, I caught her ripping pages out of a book, one after another.

I startled her when I called her name and again inquired, “What are you doing?”

She grabbed the book, torn pages and all, and scrambling to put them behind her back, ran away from me and tried to hide.

“Don’t see me, Nana!” she cried.

But it was too late. I’d already seen her and even though she was trying to hide not only the damage she had done but herself as well, I’d already observed her wrong-doing. And she knew it.

Typical child you might say. Trying to hide a naughty act. But don’t we adults do the same thing?

We hide what we’ve done wrong. We try to cover up our mistakes, our misconduct, our transgressions, our bad behavior, whatever you want to call it. 

Or perhaps we try to put the blame on someone else. Not just because we don’t want to get caught, but also because we don’t want others to think we’re capable of the offense.

I know of someone who did exactly that – not only hid the offense, but lied and covered up a reprehensible thing the person had done and continued to do.  No doubt, you also could name someone you know who committed a wrong and tried to hide it.

When I heard about the disgraceful act this person had committed, one thought came immediately to my mind.

What you do in secret will always be brought to light.

And it was. The person’s dirty little secret was exposed in a dramatic way. It happens every day – just listen to the news. Many a career has ended because of a person’s indiscretions.

Shameful actions are usually performed in secret. In the dark, so to speak. And the more time you spend hiding things in the dark, the more you start to believe there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing.

But hiding away those actions isn’t going to work. You can run, but you can’t hide forever. Sooner or later, you’re going to get found out. And you will face the consequences.  

I recently read this quote by American actor Steve Kazee:  “When you start hiding things away, that’s when the darkness creeps up. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

I agree with his philosophy, but I’d amend the last part. It’s true sunlight is probably a good disinfectant, but I believe Son-Light is the best way to banish darkness.  

The words Jesus, the Son of God, the Light of the world, spoke in the New Testament in Luke 8:16-17 comes to my mind.

 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Granted, Jesus was speaking about the light of truth in God’s Word, that salvation comes from belief in Christ. Those of us who are believers should be sharing that light openly by both our actions and words so that others can see that light and also be saved.

But He also warned us in the rest of the passage that the light of truth is what exposes sin. 

Far too easily we fall into the darkness of this world – into greediness, self-centeredness, bitterness, anger, hatred, lies and deceits, and a multitude of other wrongdoings that ensnare any one of us humans. Why do people fall into this darkness?

“Men loved the darkness rather than the light for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed.” ~ Jesus Christ in John 3:19-20

God’s truth exposes the sinful hearts we all have. Even the littlest of us. And unfortunately, we tend to hide from God’s light rather than allow ourselves and our tainted hearts to be exposed.

But we can’t hide away indefinitely. What we do in private, what we hide behind our backs and try to conceal from others’ eyes eventually comes out in a very public way. I envision it like the snake that comes back to bite us. We must face the consequences of our actions, ask forgiveness, and make amends for our wrongdoings.

Sometimes we who profess with our words to be believers in Christ are no better than the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. We pretend to be righteous. We act like we’re pious and sinless when in fact, we can allow our hearts to harbor wickedness just as much as the next guy. We act “Christian” in public, but we hide our true selves in secret.

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. They just pretend to be godly. Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftop,” Jesus told us in Matthew 12:1-3.

I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer not to have my transgressions shouted from the rooftop.

It’s a new year. It’s a good time to examine my heart, bring any hidden secrets into light, turn away from those wrong-doings, seek forgiveness, and begin anew. Maybe you feel the need to do the same. 

The only way I know to do so is to put my faith and trust in the Son-Light. His name is Jesus.

“Hateful to me as are the gates of hell, is he who, hiding one thing in his heart, utters another.” ~ Homer