That’s easy for you to say

FBIMG_0313Way to go Word Press photo challenge! Just as the Christmas season starts ramping up big time, you announce that this week’s challenge is relax.

Relax, you say. Just mosey around looking for a photo to capture that encapsulates the word relax. Uh-huh. In December. The busiest month of the year. Three weeks before Christmas. The crazy rush season.

Relax.  You only have a to-do list a mile long. Shopping to finish. Gift wrapping to ensue. Christmas cards to get in the mail. But first stand in the long line at the post office to purchase stamps.  And oh, yes, finish writing that annual Christmas letter to insert in the cards.

But relax, you say. When there’s holly to haul out and Christmas storage bins littering the house. When the greenery and twinkle lights must deck the halls inside and outside must also be spruced up with strings of tangled and probably non-working lights as well as holiday finery.

Relax.  While the Christmas tree stands naked in the living room and scads of ornaments await to adorn it. And each ornament invokes memories from this place or that.  From this child or that one. From this family vacation or that trip.  And you want to take the time to savor it all but….

Relax, you say. There’s only the Christmas dinner menu to decide upon. And major grocery shopping list to make. And then to brave the crowds at the supermarket.  And oh, yes, cookie baking days to plan.

Relax. Chase after a nearly two year-old. Keep her entertained with Christmas stories and playtime. Chase her away from the Christmas tree which she tries to re-decorate. Follow her around the house plugging in all the lights she wants to see just because when they’re off, she cries with dismay, “Oh, no!!”

Relax, you say. When the spaces fill up on your calendar faster than you can utter the words of Tiny Tim, “And God bless us, everyone!”  When you’re anything but relaxed, and that’s why there’s now a doctor appointment in the works.  And somehow, someway, you have to attempt to squeeze in a hair appointment because really, the mop on top of your head that resembles hair is way, way out of control.

Relax. When you’re on pins and needles awaiting that phone call from your son and daughter-in-love saying they’re heading to labor and delivery  because your second grandbaby is making her arrival. And you must determine when you can gather the family together to make the long distance trip to meet the little miss and cradle this beloved one in your arms for the first time.

Relax, you say. Find time to capture a photograph of relaxation? Really? Maybe if it was in the middle of summer or spring or even fall, you could do so.  But now?

Not happening. So my way of coping right now with this photo challenge is to delve back into my photo archives for the one photo I can think of that encourages everyone to just relax – especially this time of year. Unfortunately, I’ve published the photo above here in my blog before, but maybe, just maybe, Mama’s Empty Nest readers won’t remember it.

Relax.  I want to. I need to. I should de-stress and not frazzle my last nerve. I want to be calm and collected as we enter the Christmas season.

Relax, you say. Okay, I’ve admitted it.  I want to relax. Because my focus this season should be on the reason my family celebrates Christmas. Because of a Savior. Because of God’s greatest gift to us.

Because the world won’t collapse if I don’t accomplish every single thing on my Christmas to-do list. But I would collapse into utter despair without hope if it weren’t for my faith in Jesus.

So I will relax and trust in Him.

I will relax and spend time with Him in prayer and reading of His Word.

I will relax and enjoy my family and friends, not the trappings of a ‘perfect’ Christmas.

And I will toss my to-do list. (Okay, at least I’m going to try!)

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” ~ Sydney J. Harris


Board not bored

blogimg_8870-2At our house when the family all gathers for a holiday dinner, there’s no cause for boredom. Even if the turkey makes you over-stuffed and sleepy, there will be no naps taken.

That’s because when we all congregate around the table for good food, good fellowship, and good times, you can be sure a few good board games will follow. 

Not bored games. Oh, no! Not at our house. Our family really gets into games; it’s just how we roll (pun intended).

This past Thanksgiving, we hurriedly cleaned up the dishes, put away the leftovers, and plunked ourselves down at the dining room table for some serious game playing. First, we HAD to try playing middle daughter’s new Oregon Trail card game.

All of Mama and Papa’s children spent many hours playing that computer game back when they were young’uns. They especially liked it because we had followed the Oregon Trail ourselves by moving from the Kansas City area to Oregon. 

And years later, we actually visited some sites along the trail in Oregon and Nebraska during our trek cross country as we relocated from Oregon to our home here in Pennsylvania.

So over Thanksgiving, we tried….and we tried…and we tried….to make our way successfully on the game trail from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  

We used our supply cards of medicine, food, clothing, spare wagon parts, laid down our trail cards, forded many rivers, but along the way, we succumbed to the usual – snake bites, cholera, dysentery, drowning. Yep, one calamity after another.

Some of us ‘died’ early in the game, some unfairly just as the end of the trail was in sight. We laughed and we groaned and we worked together as a family team to try to beat the trail game’s hardships.  

And the Oregon Trail kicked our butts. Out of several games played, we only arrived at trail’s end one time and, if truth be told, we only did so because we didn’t quite stick to the rules of the game.

Along the way, we chose some 19th century names like Jedidiah, Hortense, Zeke, Eliza, and the like.  As each of us surrendered to the lethal skull card of death, we had to write epitaphs on the grave markers provided with the game.  We tried to be as silly and clever as we could be.

I’ll share a few examples with you: 

“Cholera called, he answered.”

“She got the cold shoulder.” (froze to death)

“Dysentery – now she’s in dys-cemetery.”

“Fangs for the memories.” (snake bite)

“She was dys close to Oregon.” (dysentery)

“This bites!” (snake bite)

“She went for broke.” (broken wagon axle)

“It kicked her grass.” (no grass for oxen, everyone died)

From that crazy game, we moved on to one of our favorites – Settlers of Catan.  Our oldest daughter and son-in-law introduced this game to us a couple of years ago and we’ve been hooked ever since.  And a ‘newbie’ at the game – my neice – won this time!

Games aren’t for everyone. I think whether or not you enjoy playing games depends on your background.

When I was growing up, one of the ways my family had fun together was playing games whether it was a board game, a card game, an outdoor game, or even just putting a massive jigsaw puzzle together.

Life is difficult enough – just read about the original Oregon Trail trekkers and your life might seem like a piece of cake – so why not spend a few hours playing?

What better way to spend time together as a family than gathered around the table focusing on one enjoyable activity? None, if you ask our family.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” ~ Michael Jordan


With a thankful heart

blogthanksOn this Thanksgiving Day, I wish you many blessings and I thank you, my readers, for the many ways you have blessed me through your likes and comments and in some cases, sweet friendships outside of this blogging world.  

But I also pray that you all take time to think about all you have for which to be thankful.  We have an abundance of blessings; share them with someone less fortunate. Take a moment, click on the link below, and watch this video.  

Happy Thanksgiving from Mama’s Empty Nest! 



Magical moments




First snowfall of the season

Back in the day before playlists on cell phones, before iTunes and Pandora, before ipods and MP3 players, even before portable CD players, this Mama and Papa listened to music on the radio and on our home stereo.  

We had quite a collection of LPs (for those of you too young to know what we’re talking about, they were long-playing vinyl record albums). 

That record collection was considerably downsized when we moved from one side of the country (the Pacific Northwest) to the other side of the country (the East coast’s Mid Atlantic region), but we still own several of these old blasts from our past.

In that record collection, we had at least one album by the group ELO – Electic Light Orchestra – an English rock band from the 1970’s. And one of their songs immediately came to my mind when I noticed that this week’s photo challenge is “Magic.”

Oh, oh, oh,
It’s magic you know
Never believe it’s not so

Magic. The word may conjure up visions of stage magicians pulling rabbits out of hats or pulling off a colossal illusion like making the Statue of Liberty disappear.

Or maybe you think of Harry Potter magic or the properties of mythical creatures like fairies, leprechauns, and elves…or even Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Defining magic is simpler than performing it. The word can mean “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces” or something “wonderful or exciting” like this magic moment, which invokes yet another song by The Drifters to come to my mind.

This magic moment while your lips are close to mine
Will last forever, forever ’till the end of time

Magic may mean different things for different people, but when I think of magic, I don’t think of magicians or wizards or fairies.  I think of God’s creation and all of the magic moments He provides to us.

Magic happens right in front of my eyes every day.  Never believe it’s not so.

It’s displayed in that magic moment when the morning sun arises and casts out darkness for light in yet again another day of living.

Magic happens when the sun sets and provides a most stunning, multi-hued picture painted by the supreme Artist.

Magic happens when trees that once wore their clothes of lush green leaves miraculously change into coats of many colors of reds, oranges, rusts, and gold.

Magic happens when the bleakness of winter transforms into the vibrancy of spring as dull, lifeless grass converts into lush, verdant carpets of green and flower buds open into brilliant and aromatic bursts of color.

Magic happens when a blanket of darkness descends on earth and I gaze upwards to view a display of countless stars and an iridescent moon.

And magic happens when the first snowfall of the season arrives like it did last week at my house.

Those are magic moments that will last forever, forever ’till the end of time.

For me, there’s something magical about snowflakes and it makes me rush to the window just to catch a glimpse of them, grab my camera to try to capture some of their magic, and offer up a prayer of thanksgiving to God, the Creator of all, for providing a bit of enchantment each day of life.

Because really, isn’t life the best magic of all?

“Magic is not about having a puzzle to solve. It’s about creating a moment of awe and astonishment. And that can be a beautiful thing.” ~ David Blaine, magician, illusionist & endurance artist




Not just a 50-cent word

blogdscn1570Have you ever used 50-cent words? You know, those obscure kind of words which describe something simple but make you sound like you aced the vocab section on your SATs.

Fifty-cent words are those terms that the average Joe just doesn’t use in normal conversation. And I ran across one of those words – transmogrify – when I scanned through an email announcing the theme for this week’s Word Press photo challenge.

Okay, so I’ll admit there are a plethora of words I don’t normally use and probably don’t know.  But transmogrify? That word just wasn’t on my radar screen and I had to admit I thought to myself, “Is that REALLY a word?”

So skeptical me, I didn’t take the challenge’s word for it, I looked transmogrify up in my desk dictionary – not listed.  Aha, I thought. But then I dusted off THE dictionary, our large volume of Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language College Edition, dragged if off the book shelf, and searched its pages for this word.

Sure enough. It’s a word. Transmogrify, a transitive verb meaning to change completely; transform, especially in a grotesque or strange manner.

Well, I can certainly identify tons of objects, aspects, ideas, etc., that change completely. All I have to do is look outside my window. The maple trees in our yard have transformed from being clothed in verdant green leaves to vibrant orange-red ones. And they are beautiful.

But that’s not strange because it’s a change of season. Summer’s kaput and fall is all the rage.  And it’s definitely not grotesque either. Autumns colors are a beauty to behold.

Frankly, I’m not into grotesque.  Ugly, bizarre, monstrous.  That’s what I think of when I imagine something changing grotesquely. Ugliness doesn’t capture my attention. No thank you, I’d rather look for beauty in this world because there is just way too much ugliness promoted by us human beings.

So the chances of my having a photo depicting transmogrification (I told you it was a 50-cent word!) in the true sense of the word are slim to none. And I’m in no mood to venture out in search of a photo op of something bizarre.

But then I realized that an object that would be considered grotesque could also mean something distorted or misshaped.  And a photo I took a couple of years ago came to mind.

Walking through a lovely local park one late summer day with my camera in hand, I passed by a tall, sturdy tree that caused me to stop. What stopped me wasn’t how pretty the tree was, although it certainly was a worthwhile giver of shade. 

What caused me to pause was an ugly blemish on that tree. Obviously at some point, the tree had been pruned and what remained was a knobby, gnarly, bizarre-looking growth over the place where the limb had been cut off. A one-time normal looking tree had morphed into something distorted.  

I snapped a photo of it because it just looked so strange to me and naturally, I thought maybe I could use the picture in a blog post someday. Well, someday has arrived over three years later.

Transmogrify? I think so. And it reminds me of myself. I can have a pleasing appearance yet if I let my heart harden with sinful behavior or thoughts, part of me transmogrifies into something ugly and grotesque, just like this tree.

Yet, God, in His everlasting gift of forgiveness, still sees beauty in me. Enough to call me His own.

Even though I have transmogrified many times in my life, I can still be transformed by His saving grace. And for that I am thankful.

“The extent of God’s grace always eclipses the extent of my grotesqueness. Therefore, I can never be bad enough for God to tell me that He’s had enough.” ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough