Reflecting on the blessings

blogIMG_1006Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard once wrote:  “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Just yesterday morning, I visited for a short time with one of my dearest, long-time friends. The one who’s constantly in my prayers because of her serious health diagnosis about a year ago and her latest brush with a dire emergency that almost cost her life.

Since she was in the area for a short visit with her mother, we sat in my friend’s childhood home on the same living room couch where we spent many hours in the past chatting with one another as young girls, teenagers, and young adults. If the seat cushions of that couch could talk, they would divulge countless stories of our times together upon them.

Often when my friend and I converse, we spend much of the time reflecting. And yesterday was no exception.  In many ways, my visit reflected the past, the way life used to be.

And since I brought my Little One (granddaughter) along with me, we glanced at even more reflections of our childhoods past when my wee one played with some old toys that have called this place home for numerous years.

As we were leaving, we walked outside onto the front porch to say our farewells. And that’s when Little One spotted my friend’s mom’s bright green gazing ball resting on a pedestal in the yard. 

Little One was absolutely fascinated by it and laughed at her own reflection in the ball.  Over and over again. And then at our reflections as well, going round and round the shiny orb never taking her eyes off of those images she spied within it.

It’s ironic that this week’s photo challenge theme is reflecting when I’ve been ruminating over that word – one which evokes a couple of meanings in my mind.  Of course, there’s the obvious one of an image being mirrored.  And then there’s the one that connotes thinking or seriously considering.

Like thinking of and seriously considering the past. Similar to my little one circling that gazing ball, often my mind goes round and round those reflections of times gone by. Over and over again.

Reflections of the way we used to be.

And that phrase prompts the ongoing radio in my mind to play an old song by The Supremes:

Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The love you took from me

And even though that song expresses a sad tale of lost love, happiness ripped away, and painful reflection, I find valuable reminders in those lyrics.

Through the mirror of my mind
Through these tears that I’m crying
Reflects a hurt I can’t control
‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holding on
To the happy times
Oh, when you were mine

Isn’t that how we so often view yesteryear? We attempt to remember only the pleasant moments and the joyous occasions when we reflect on times past. We keep holding onto those memories and that helps us through the present.

And that’s how my friend and I recall our childhoods.  Contented times, hours of fun playing together as children, sharing secrets and dreams as teenage girls do. Easy times of no responsibilities, no earth-shattering worries or occurrences, an idyllic age really.

Through the hollow of my tears
I see a dream that’s lost

Reflecting back now as adults, many of our hopes and dream for the future did not come to fruition, but some did.  And we both have had a blessed life, but not one without struggles and difficulties. This last year, my friend’s life has been a complete upheaval. 

In you I put
All my faith and trust
Right before my eyes
My world has turned to dust

In one consultation with her doctor, my friend’s world seemed to turn to dust. And it just kept splintering into pieces, one experience after another sawing its way through her strength leaving mounds of accumulating sawdust. 

Procedures, medications, treatments, hospital stays, medical emergencies, more hospital stays, therapies, home health nurse visits. At one point, when I sat beside my lifelong friend in the hospital, she confided her weariness over not having a normal life.

But here’s where my friend and I differ vastly from the song lyrics. Because instead of putting our faith and trust in another person (because honestly, we humans do let one another down often), we put our faith and trust in God.  All of our faith. All of our trust.

Because He never forsakes us. Never lets us down. Never stops loving us. He is the Great Physician. The Healer. The Savior. The Lover of our souls and Listener to our prayers. The One who is granting my lifelong friend’s desire to start to feel “normal again.”

So instead of singing “reflections of the way life used to be,” I believe I will change the song lyrics to “reflections of the way life needs to be; reflections of the love God has for me.”  And for my cherished friend.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Thanks Giving: when he pumps the gas

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We woke up to snow on the ground Monday morning, a little icy residue under the snow engulfing our car, and we had a long trip to make home after spending the weekend visiting our daughter and son-in-law a few states away.

And as I sat in our vehicle, nice and toasty warm with those heated seats, my husband got out into the blustery snowy weather to fill our tank with gas.

It was a day for thankfulness.  Thankfulness for safe trips to visit our loved ones.  Thankfulness for heated car seats when the weather turns arctic.  And thankfulness for hubby when he pumps the gas in all kinds of weather.

“All that we behold is full of blessings.” ~ William Wordsworth

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When chores turn into blessings

blogIMG_4356I was on my way to accomplish a chore – really, a chore. Another to-do item on my list and this one cost me not just time but money as well.  I’ll be honest and admit, it made me a tad cranky.

On top of that, it wasn’t my kind of day weather-wise.  Overcast, drab skies as far as the eye could see.  Lack of sunshine muted everything from the coats of many colors displayed on the trees to my mood.  Sometimes days like this just make me want to cocoon inside my comfy, cozy home not wanting to venture out.  Yes, it was that kind of day.

But this chore needed accomplished ASAP.  So I put on my ‘happy face,’  grabbed my purse, and headed out.  Even with subdued surroundings though, I couldn’t help but notice the fall foliage around me as I drove.

I arrived at the place where the chore needed completed and wouldn’t you know it?  Those confounded computers that held the key to accomplishing my task decided to be finicky.  Just my luck.  The lady who helped me tried everything and it took much longer than necessary to accomplish the task.

But I made a choice.  Either I could continue being grumpy and complain which wouldn’t help the situation and would probably make that business’ employee grouchy as well or I could laugh and joke about the situation.  I chose the latter.

She laughed along with me and some of the other co-workers kidded, “You two are having too much fun out there!”  

I left smiling.  Yes, it took time out of my day.  Yes, it cost me dollars I didn’t want to cough up.  And yes, it took way longer than necessary.  But my outlook changed because my disposition improved.

I started humming on the drive home even while the windshield wipers beat a monotonous cadence.  And then I began to really see  the scenery along the way and that visual side of me noticed some spots that demanded capture by my camera. 

As soon as I got home, I grabbed my camera bag, threw it in the car, and headed back out again in the countryside for another drive.  I pulled over at the side of the road and stepped out of my car.

Sure it was drizzling.  And it wasn’t exactly warm with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees.  And there were mud puddles everywhere.  I could get dragged down in the murky dismal day if I let myself, but again I made a choice.  I chose to keep wiping the rain spots off my camera lens and continue clicking. 

I doubted whether my photos would have punch because I feared I had waited too long to shoot those fall reds, yellows, rusts, and oranges.  Already many leaves have fallen off the trees.

blogIMG_4366But I still kept walking along and shooting.  I came upon a parked pickup truck with company signage on the side of it and a gentleman came around the truck asking me if where he had parked was blocking my access to a driveway (he thought it was mine).  I answered no, that I was just taking some photos and pointed in the direction of a stand of trees.

And he replied, “Isn’t it beautiful?”  So we stood there in the misting rain on a day that seemed so lackluster and discussed the leaves and their finery.  He worked for an engineering company and shared that he sure enjoyed the scenery on his trip down here to my neck of the woods.  That’s when I noticed his license plate – Vermont.

“Oh,” I replied, “I bet our colors don’t hold a candle to yours.”

On the contrary, he said the leaves this year just turned brown and fell off the trees where he lived.  That’s why he was enjoying our fall foliage so much because he missed seeing theirs.

After a friendly wave goodbye, I walked back to my car and drove home thinking over my afternoon.  Going out for that chore turned into a blessing.

I believe God used that chore just to remind me that no matter how dismal things look, a change in attitude does wonders.  And He placed that engineer in my path so I would remember that even when the world seems dim, He gives us so much for which to be grateful.

Even rainy, downcast days.  Legs to use for walking.  Eyes to see His beauty.  Cameras to capture that beauty.  And a truck from Vermont to remind me to appreciate what the Lord provides.

“The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment; it is the fruit of a thousand choices.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

From our house to yours

Here at Mama’s Empty Nest,

we all wish every one of our family, friends, and blog readers

a most blessed Merry Christmas

from our house to yours!

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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 Isaiah 9:6

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Showers of Blessing, Part 3

Mama’s daughters

It echoes in my mind.  The words.  I find myself humming the tune.  The music.  And I see it manifested right before my eyes.  The blessing.

Showers of blessing.

Showers of blessing continue to fall, pouring out the promise of love.  Showers of refreshing blessing, precious in abundance.

We celebrated this season of love with the last of the bridal showers.  It did not escape me that my oldest child, the one who brought me the joy of motherhood first, is the last to enter matrimony.

This one, this one who has waited for so long for her true love.  This one, who I kept praying for and believing and yes – even promising – that God would send her beloved if she would just trust Him to work out the details.

This one is being blessed.  As the old hymn replays in my mind, I sing these words over her:

“There shall be showers of blessing, if we but trust and obey; There shall be seasons refreshing, if we let God have His way.”

And God did have His way when she turned it over to Him.  He orchestrated a meeting of two young people from different places – two people with a love for travel, who desired to serve those less fortunate than themselves.

He placed those two people next to each other on a bus headed for short term mission work among the least in the far-away country of Honduras.  And God took that meeting, watered the friendship that sprouted during it, and provided room for the friendship to grow for a couple of years before it blossomed into true love.

My middle child, the already married one, will serve her older sister in love by being her matron of honor.   Along with the other bridesmaids, we planned a most beautiful bridal shower celebrating not only the joy of an upcoming marriage but the other love my daughter has – her love of travel.

It was travel to that third world country that God used to bring two souls together, so it seemed a perfect theme.  We used her chosen wedding colors of royal blue and white (the colors of the Honduran flag) and integrated them into the shower decorations.

Road maps became banners and covers for glass votive candles.  Items from travels to other countries, including the wedding dolls brought from Korea by the bride’s daddy when she was a baby, added to the theme.

Atlas pages, small world globes, and glass etched world candle holders served as table centerpieces while vintage luggage became trays to be used as serving pieces for the food.  Keeping with the theme, we used royal blue paper napkins printed with international flags on them.

Our menu reflected a few of the places the bride has traveled.  France: mini quiches and French pastries.  Honduras: mango salsa with chips.  Wooden bowls of nuts signified her trip to Africa.

We added saucy meatballs, fresh fruit kabobs with dip, croissants filled with her favorite chicken salad,  and blue and white decorated cake balls, baked by her sister,  to the spread.  A citrus tropical punch was the perfect beverage along with coffee and tea.

Favors were train and airplane shaped sugar cookies also baked with love by middle daughter.  We attached ‘luggage tags’ to the bagged cookies with one side of the tag covered with a road map and the other printed with this message, “Thank you for joining us in wishing a world of happiness to [daughter’s name]  as she journeys to her new adventure – marriage with [fiancé’s name].”

Fiancé’s sister printed exquisite photos from her own travels to make post cards which we  provided to guests so they could write marriage advice for the bride-to-be as she embarks on this brand new journey of life.  The post cards were deposited into a small trunk to be read by the bride later.

Friends of the bride, mothers of friends, and friends of her own mother did not disappoint with their wise advice.  She’s given me permission to share some of their words.

  • “Always forgive and forget! And most of all put God first.”
  • “ If you’re both seeking God with all of your hearts, everything else falls into place. (Trust me! Pray for your husband a lot!)”
  • “Marriage is full of ups and downs…sometimes you’ll think he’s the best thing in the world and other times you won’t like him at all! Ride it out – the bad times will eventually turn to good times again.”
  • “Love, honor, respect and enjoy each other…You’ll never go wrong if you follow God’s commands.”

My travel-loving daughter, who’s not into the typical white lace and pearl type bridal décor, loved it all!  And our labor of love brought her much joy and happiness along with all the well wishes and lovely gifts from the guests.

Maya Angelou once said, “When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness…all the good things.”  Those thoughts echo my prayers for all three of my children in this wedding season we’re finding ourselves in.

And the blessings keep pouring down for which we are so very grateful, so abundantly thankful to the One who provides them all.

“An attitude of gratitude creates blessings.” ~  Sir John Templeton

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Showers of Blessing, Part 2

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)

That Bible teaching from my childhood has echoed through my thoughts for my entire life.

I’ve discovered over the years that wise admonition is so very true.  Life seems just so much more abundant when I bless others by giving, not just the gift of money, but through gifts of service – time, energy, friendship, love, and devotion – as well.

This past month, I’ve encountered that feeling of being incredibly blessed.   It’s as if these words written by American essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie have sprung to life – “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

There is much talk of love – true love – and marriage at our house as hubby and I witnessed our middle daughter’s marriage to her only one in June and will watch our son marry his betrothed next month, while our oldest daughter will wed her beloved before the end of this year.

For our family, it does feel like the whole world is engulfed in a conspiracy of love, a season of love…and bridal showers…and weddings.   And many, many blessings.  Showers of them.

Our showers of blessing continued when I hosted a small bridal shower in my home a couple of weeks ago for my son’s fiancée.

Since she is not from our area, she doesn’t personally know many of the people we included on the wedding invitation list.

So I wanted to give her an opportunity to meet and be blessed by some of my closest friends and family here and for them to see for themselves what a wonderful addition she makes to our family circle.

This sounds hard to believe but when my future daughter-in-law came to our home to meet us for the first time over a year ago, I knew she was different from the other girls my son had dated.  She immediately fit into our family in that easy way that seems like she has always been a part of us.

This bridal shower prepared with much thought was one of the ways I wanted  to show her how much she is accepted and loved. I’m pretty certain I succeeded.

Son and fiancée traveled abroad last year, and I think that during an excursion to Italy, their love for one another really bloomed.

So I incorporated an Italian theme with her wedding colors of purple and black and white damask into the bridal shower.  Grapes and grapevines with lanterns and candles completed the decorations.

Small corked bottles, which I filled with olive oil and tied purple ribbon tags on with the printed message,  “What did [son’s name] say to [fiancée’s name] on their Italy trip? O-live you!” served as guest favors.

The menu was simple. Linguini salad, warm from the oven garlic bread sticks, fresh fruit salad, pods of grapes, Italian crackers with three kinds of cheeses  – one with basil, a herb my son relishes and one which symbolizes love in Italy.   The story is that when an Italian suitor wants to demonstrate his love, he places a sprig of basil in his hair to win his heart’s desire.

Desserts included Italian style cookies:  cream wafers, clothes pin cookies, and almond and lemon pizzelles. White and purple grape juice mixed with ginger ale proved to be a tasty and easy to make punch.

As a special dessert, I baked brownie cups in damask cupcake wrappers and served a purple scoop of black raspberry ice cream topped with a piece of Godiva dark chocolate.  Check back tomorrow for my Wordless Wednesday post and you’ll see a picture of them.   They were a big hit!

But even more important was the love shared that day, shown in so many ways:

When fiancée’s mother and sister joined us in the celebration.  When two of my friends who’ve held 50-year-old friendships with me attended.  When guests shared their thoughts about my son to his beloved.

When my daughters warmly welcomed their new sister and catered to her every need.  When my sister and my cherished friends bestowed beautiful gifts upon the bride-to-be.

When one of my mother’s best friends, a sweet 95-year-old lady, shared her lemon pie recipe (which our son loves) with the soon-to-be wife.  When my treasured friend gave the loveliest and heart-felt prayer of blessing over the upcoming marriage.

Love permeated the air in my house on that day.  I could see it.  I could taste it. I could feel it.  And as I gave thanks for it, showers of blessings poured over me like refreshing rain over a dry, parched land.

“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 blessing.”  ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Beautiful June day

My dad playing ladder golf on his 90th birthday.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is a gorgeous day here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

I’m sitting outside on my back yard deck in the cool low 70’s temperature of the afternoon.  The sun is shining and warms my face.

When I look up from my laptop, the view that greets me is baby blue sky dotted with the fluffiness of cottony clouds and different hues of green in the trees and expanse of yard behind our house.

Next door is a corn field, newly planted by the farmer, and sprouting stalks already.  I close my eyes and inhale the scent of blooming peonies and cut grass and I think about my father.

It is a beautiful June day and I am blessed.   Not only have I just celebrated our middle daughter’s wedding but I celebrated yet another year of life since my birthday was the day after the nuptials.

I spent those two days surrounded by family and friends making memories that will last a lifetime.  And for this birthday, I received a special gift – a son-in-law.

My father as a young man around 1940.

Today in my book called Opportunity, I whisper to the God I love, the One who sustains me, the Heavenly Father who provides, the Friend who never leaves and is always with me.

I tell Him how grateful I am for this beautiful day, this life He has given me, these treasures of family and friends and I thank Him.

But today is another special day, it is June 7 –  the anniversary of my own earthly father’s birth.  If he were still alive, my dad would be 93 on this day.

As I think of him today, I give thanks that God blessed me with such a fine example of a man to be my daddy.  He was kind, he was loving, he was generous, he was respected by all who knew him.  He was a man of integrity and fine character and he taught me so much.

Even though I miss him still, so much so that I cry, I see his influence all around me.  I see it in the good common sense he taught me that I put into practice; I think of him as I balance our check book, a skill he taught to me at an early age.

He comes to my mind when the fragrance of  freshly cut grass reaches my nose.  And I see him reflected in my son’s face, who I think resembles my dad when he was a young man.

And in my mind’s eye, I see my dad, sitting on the porch, straw hat in hand, resting a bit after mowing the four acres of his homestead and enjoying a beautiful June day just like today.

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Showers of blessing

When I was just a little girl, my maternal grandparents lived with us.

One of my favorite memories of Grandma is when she and I would squeeze ourselves into her chair – the upholstered rocker with the wooden swan head arms – and rock our blues away while singing hymns.

One of those old church songs was “Showers of Blessing” and after 50 years, the tune and the words still echo in my mind.  When I close my eyes, I can picture my gray-haired grandma and my skinny, bespectacled eight-year-old self rocking and singing together.

For over a week now, that old song replays again and again in my mind or I catch myself humming the tune.   Since May rolled around on the calendar, it’s been an emotional time for me.  The first of our family weddings is just days away now.  Middle daughter will walk down the aisle escorted by her father and marry her true love.

In addition to the emotion of elated happiness at thinking about my daughter getting married, I’ve also encountered a touch of sadness.  I’m really missing my parents, even more than usual, as we prepare for all of these weddings in our family.

I find it a bit heartbreaking that my children have no living grandparents to attend their wedding ceremonies.   My mother would have been so excited over all of the preparations and so willing to help.  My father would have been proud of his grandchildren and their choices in marriage partners.  My husband’s parents would also have welcomed these family events with enthusiasm.

But the church pew reserved for parents and grandparents will only hold two people – my husband and me – for all three nuptials. I’ll admit the thought of that has brought me to tears a few times.

Mulling over middle daughter’s recent bridal shower and that old hymn’s words taught to me by my own grandmother (who didn’t live long enough to see me get married either) provided inspiration for me on this day in my Opportunity book. It reminded me how many showers of blessing have been bestowed upon us as we prepare for our daughter’s wedding.

Her bridal shower was truly lovely and my oldest daughter, the maid of honor, did an outstanding job planning it.  Surrounded by good friends and some family, I noticed blessings pouring over us.

Continuing the vintage theme my daughter loves and has incorporated into her wedding, we used a few family keepsakes at her shower.  Lacy tablecloths that once belonged to my mother and mother-in-law adorned tables.  The shower goodies, lovingly prepared by oldest daughter, my sister, and me was served on old fashioned dishes that once graced the tables of my grandmother, my mother, my mother-in-law, and even a great aunt.  All of those items represented blessings handed down through generations.

But it just wasn’t about things.  As friends and family gathered to shower my daughter with gifts for her new life with her true love, they also showered her with blessings of love.

From one spectrum to another, blessings flowed and I can still picture each one.  Two of my oldest and best friends from childhood, my tried and true friends, attended the shower.  Joining them was the mother of one of those best friends, my next door neighbor while I was growing up and in many ways my ‘second mom.’

The mothers of two of the bridesmaids also were in attendance, fellow moms who watched our girls make their way through junior and senior high school together, moms who welcomed my daughter into their homes and hearts.

And then there were my daughter’s college and high school friends – spread near and far, yet gathered together to celebrate the bride-to-be.  Good friends I’ve made since moving back to the homeland,  including my prayer warriors and confidantes, were also included.

One special blessing was the presence of my mother’s best friend, a dear lady who has known and loved me since my birth and who just last month celebrated her 95th birthday. She was so tickled to be included in this celebration.   Her daughter, such a part of our family that she almost seems like a sister, also attended.

Family is a huge blessing to me and that included my sister, my oldest daughter,  my soon-to-be daughter in-law, my niece (wife of my nephew) and happily rounding out the festivities, my adorable 16-month old great-niece.

Thinking back over that wonderful day, how could I feel anything but blessed?  And that’s when it dawned on me not to focus on who was missing for the celebration, but to give thanks for the blessings that were there showering us that day.

I find it fitting that I give thanks for those blessings this week as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I’m so grateful for the mothers who came before me, mothers who’ve come along beside me, and the young ladies, future mothers, who will carry the torch forward into the future.

Thank you, Grandma, for teaching me ‘Showers of Blessing.’  May blessings be poured out and showered over all of you mothers out there this Mother’s Day weekend.

There shall be showers of blessing:

This is the promise of love;

There shall be seasons refreshing,

Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:

Showers of blessing,

Showers of blessing we need:

Mercy-drops round us are falling,

But for the showers we plead.

There shall be showers of blessing,

Precious reviving again;

Over the hills and the valleys,

Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing;

Send them upon us, O Lord;

Grant to us now a refreshing,

Come, and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing:

Oh, that today they might fall,

Now as to God we’re confessing,

Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,

If we but trust and obey;

There shall be seasons refreshing,

If we let God have His way.

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com