Words for Wednesday: Keeping Christmas

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It’s the day after Christmas, but I’m not ready to let go yet. So these pictures show you just a few sights I captured with my camera this season.

It’s the day after Christmas, but I’m not ready to let go yet. And who says we must? We should keep thoughts of Christmas in our hearts all year long.

Thoughts of kindness.

Thoughts of sharing.

Thoughts of goodwill towards men.

Thoughts of love.

Thoughts of hope.

Thoughts of peace.

And thoughts of the King of kings – Jesus. Because even though we just celebrated His birthday, He gave us the ultimate gift when He died on the cross for us. His gift of salvation lasts forever and ever and ever. Hallelujah! 

“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.” ~  W.T. Ellis

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A Christmas Blessing

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To  all my faithful readers and friends,

Merry Christmas

from Mama’s Empty Nest!

“May you be blessed

With the spirit of the season, which is peace,

The gladness of the season, which is hope,

And the heart of the season, which is love.” ~ Old Irish Blessing

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Empty nest Christmas Eve

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It’s true that Mama’s Empty Nest will be empty this Christmas. My loved ones are flung far and wide.

Oldest daughter and son-in-law embarked on yet another adventurous excursion in another part of the world over the holidays.

Middle daughter must take care of the ill and infirm during her hospital shift as a nurse while Little One visits her other grandparents in another state.

Son, daughter-in-law, and Second Little One are celebrating with DIL’s family this year in yet another state.

So it’s just Papa and me keeping the home fires burning and the Christmas lights on.

But I refuse to be sad because this is a holiday to celebrate my Savior’s birth. Hence the poem I’ve written below.  (With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, the author of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the empty nest 

Not a creature was stirring, there wasn’t one guest. 

Two lonely stockings hung by the chimney with care,

With no hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled elsewhere all snug in their beds;

While visions of their own Christmases danced in their heads;

And Papa in his pjs, and Mama not stressed, 

Had just settled in the bedroom for a good night’s rest.

When out on the lawn there wasn’t a sound,

But I decided to see just what was around.

Away to the window I walked so slowly,

And opened the blinds to look out and see.

The moon shined brightly like any other night,

But there was absolutely nothing, nowhere in sight.

No extra cars in the driveway, no human tracks in the snow,

There was only a deer darting through the yard below.

It wasn’t a reindeer but the usual kind,

And Christmases past began running through my mind,

When the house was full of laughter and fun

And all our children were home, yes every single one.

More rapid than eagles the memories came,

And I smiled as I remembered and called them by name.

That Christmas time spent with our first little child,

How excited she became and was no longer mild.

Then the second one arrived and doubled the fun

When two stockings hung by the chimney instead of one.

Our Christmas holiday became even more merry

With another bundle of joy in our arms we did carry.

As the years flew by in the snow bank of my mind

I thought how our family has been blessed oh so kind.

Three children God gave us to make our lives full

How I cherished each one of them every single Yule.

As I recalled special moments from all of those years

My eyes started filling with melancholy tears.

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

There’s no reason for sadness, no reason to bawl.

The blessings are many this cold Christmas night,

And I must keep them all clearly in my sight.

A husband who always stays by my side,

Whose love and support does constantly abide.

Three wonderful children who’ve grown up so well,

Their love and concern for me makes my heart swell.

And spouses for them that make our family complete;

The time spent with them all is truly a treat.

Included in the circle two sweet granddaughters dear

Who call me their Nana and make my heart cheer.

To add to the blessings in quite an array,

Is a new little life that will join us in May.

A family so loving, good friends far and near,

My home, good food, there’s no need to be drear.

Plentiful blessings abound in my life,

On this eve before Christmas, there’s no need for strife.

For the most wonderful gift has been given to me,

And it didn’t come from Santa nor was placed ‘neath the tree.

A gift full of indescribable love so divine

It came from a good Father, a gift to call mine.

For tomorrow we celebrate Christmas, it’s true,

And the reason we do so I must keep in my view.

My house may be empty of loved ones this year,

But my heart is overflowing with joy so sincere.

The reason for the season, it’s Jesus, my King,

And because of His love for me, it makes my heart sing.

On this night so holy, one to revere,

A Savior was born; at midnight it’s clear,

Christmas Day will arrive here in our empty nest,

But sadness will not prevail, instead I am blessed.

I will celebrate my Savior, let joy fill my heart,

Even though most of my loved ones and I are apart.

So I’ve put an end to my empty nest woe,

Christmas memories come and Christmas memories go.

But what is important is the joy we can find

When we look to a Savior and leave sadness behind.

The message is simple, no matter what your day brings,

Giving thanks for the Savior is what makes your joy ring.

On this quiet Christmas Eve, these thoughts my insight,

Merry CHRISTmas to all and to all a good night!

On Christmas Eve, I will not wallow in my empty nest. Instead I will sing Joy to the World, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and the First Noel

And I will give thanks to God the Father for His precious gift to us, His Son Jesus. Emmanuel. God With Us.

“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father’s face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift.” -John R. Rice

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: global

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A child. A tiny babe. Born in an animal shelter of the lowliest way and laid in a feeding trough – a manger.

Yet a King. A King to save the world. If only the world would receive Him.

The Messiah. The long-awaited One.  God in the flesh. A global gift.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

(What Child Is This – words by  William Chatterton Dix, 1865)

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.  Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”~ Luke 2: 1-7

May all the world rejoice! Let earth receive her King.

“The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.” ~ Rev. Billy Graham

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Filling the stockings with thanks

blogIMG_6536The stockings are hung.

Just like in the famous Christmas poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore.

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.” 

Even though our three offspring are all adults over 30, Papa and I fill stockings with little essentials and yummy treats when they all come home for Christmas. It’s fun for us and likewise for them to dump out their stockings and feel like a little kid on Christmas morning again.

This year, only two stockings hang on our mantle – one for Little One and one for Middle Daughter – since the others will not be celebrating with us this year.

As I cozy up on our family room love seat these chilly winter nights leading up to Christmas and catch a Hallmark movie on TV, my eyes are drawn to the fireplace mantle where those two stockings hang. 

Stockings. Why do we have this tradition of hanging socks for Santa Claus to fill on Christmas Eve?

The popular legend describes a poor widowed father of three girls worried that because his girls would have no dowry, they would not be chosen for marriage even though they were beautiful girls.

Saint Nicholas happened through the widower’s town and heard this sad tale and decided to help them anonymously. So he slid down the family’s chimney one night to leave gold coins for them.

Finding the girls’ stockings hung up to dry on the chimney, he filled them with the coins. So every Christmas Eve, children began hanging stockings up for St. Nick to fill.

 A lovely little legend, isn’t it? When I read it in numerous sources, I began reminiscing about my own childhood Christmas stocking.

As a child in the 50’s and early 60’s, I always hung the same red felt stocking with the words “Merry Christmas” printed in white in hopes of finding goodies inside on Christmas morning. “Santa” always filled it with the same kind of items, yet I was thrilled to empty my sock to find them.

A juicy orange, a shiny Red Delicious apple, some walnuts in their shells, candy canes, assorted Christmas candy, maybe a small trinket toy, and one other item in particular – chocolate ‘coins’ wrapped in gold foil.

When my own three were young, they too received an orange, Christmas candy, and assorted little toys or trinkets in their stockings. And one more thing – chocolate ‘coins’ wrapped in gold foil.

Every year, I managed to find little net bags filled with the coins to include in my little ones’ stockings just like my childhood stocking held once upon a time. 

I continued this tradition until my three became adults. However, I never knew the significance of those little chocolate treats until I read about the legend of St. Nick filling stockings with gold coins.

The memories of Christmases long past still swirl through my mind and I enjoy the traditions that the holiday brings, just like those little gold foil wrapped chocolate coins in the stockings.

But as I ponder the true meaning of Christmas, the joy that filled the world at the news of a heavenly King born on that day, I have to pause for a moment to be thankful.

Thankful for a Savior. Thankful for the freedom to celebrate Christmas because of that tiny babe born in a manger. Thankful for family. Thankful for traditions that have meaning.

And yes, even thankful for filled Christmas stockings. But even more so, thankful for the legs that fill our socks.

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?” ~ G.K. Chesterton

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Jesus won’t stay in the corner

blogIMG_6521On one of our travels this past year, we ventured into some Christmas stores. You know, those shops with nothing but Christmas décor for sale year round.

I love Christmas, I truly do. And I do enjoy decorating the Christmas pine in a festive way with special ornaments, many from places we’ve lived or traveled to and collected over our 40+ years of marriage. 

In addition, every year since our first child’s birth, I’ve purchased some kind of special Christmas ornament for each of our children. When they were small, my intention was to accumulate these ornaments, adding to them each year, so that when they grew up and left this nest called home, they would have a box of ornaments to put on their very own Christmas trees.

As they got old enough, I would let them choose their own ornament. So each of our three left home for adulthood with a box of Christmas memories.

And even though it’s been many years now that the last fledgling flew out of our nest, I still look far and wide for a special ornament to gift them and have added our two granddaughters to the Christmas ornament search list as well.

So, if there’s a Christmas shop handy, I’m in it, gleaning over the shelves, searching for just the right bauble.

One shop we visited on a trip this past summer looked promising. Entering the store, Christmas music was playing and the place was loaded with joyous Noel items everywhere.

Honestly, there seemed to be every kind of ornament imaginable – any theme, you name it, they had it. Some of the ornaments I felt were questionable to pass as Christmas tree decorations, but you know, to each his own.

Papa and I would just shake our heads at many of them and move on to the next shelf. We looked high, we looked low. And we finally did find a couple of ornaments to purchase – one for our oldest daughter and her hubby and one for a friend of mine.

But in all of our searching and perusing of the items in this Christmas shop, something was noticeably missing.

Where was Jesus – you know, the reason for the season? The Christ. The Savior of the world that Christmas is named for.

In the very back room of this store with many rooms, in the very far left corner of that room on a shelf down low below your eye level, a couple of small nativity sets occupied a tiny space.

That was all.  I had to bend over and practically touch my shoulder to my ear to even see them sitting here in that forlorn little corner.

No other decorations proclaiming the meaning of Christmas could be found in that shop. None. Nothing about Jesus other than that tiny little baby in the two or three crèches. Just that and absolutely nothing more.

So what did Jesus do to deserve being put in the corner, out of the way, where no one would see Him?

He had the audacity to fulfill ancient prophecy as the Messiah – the long-awaited Savior.   He exhibited absolute obedience to His Father by allowing himself to be taken to slaughter – this Lamb of God – hung on the cross in place of every sinner, dying for the love of His life – us.

He had the purest, unadulterated form of love for mankind than anyone else who has ever walked on this place called earth has ever possessed. Because He surrendered Himself for me. For you. For every single soul who chooses to believe in Him and accept His free and unconditional gift of grace – salvation.

Some day He won’t be put in the corner – forgotten and dusty. Because someday He’s coming back. And all of those Christmas ornaments that seem to gleam and glitter and catch our attention will be worthless.

They will not matter.

Because every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And He is the reason for the season.

“The great challenge left to us is to cut through all the glitz and glam of the season that has grown increasingly secular and commercial, and be reminded of the beauty of the One who is Christmas.” -Bill Crowder

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

My wish every year

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Christmas 1957 – the doll Santa brought me

The Christmas Season Present

Every year at this time, this season of merriment, these days leading up to Christmas, my thoughts return to days of yore. Back to my childhood, to those simple celebrations with my family.

A simple Christmas. An old-fashioned one compared to the glitz and overabundance the holiday is now. And that’s what my heart longs for.

Every year at this time. 

So that’s why I’m reposting some thoughts below from what I wrote back in 2013. 

The Christmas Season Past

Maybe it’s just my middle age.  Maybe it’s the empty nest thing.  Or maybe it’s just that I have more time on my hands to spend reflecting on the past.  Whatever it is, I find myself singing the words to an old Frank Sinatra Christmas song.

“Give me an old fashioned Christmas, an old fashioned Christmas,

 Family faces, wide open spaces, covered with snow.”

In my heart,  I’m longing for an old fashioned Christmas – one with less hurry and scurry.  One with deeper meaning.  One with a simpler celebration.  And I’m determined to accomplish it.  Oh, my Christmas to-do list bounces around my brain but I’m simplifying it.  

I’m sticking to the basics but even abbreviating those.  

Why? Because I long for the Christmas I recall as a child.   Do I remember anything fancy?    Do exquisitely wrapped packages with expensive gifts inside come to my mind?  Fine cuisine?  A beautiful and elaborately decorated home?  Do I recollect an over the top celebration?

What I remember from childhood Christmases are simple aspects.  My father would usually bring the Christmas tree home with him one day after work.  Sometimes that wouldn’t be until shortly before Christmas and one year I remember actually decorating the tree on Christmas Eve.

After my older sisters married, they spent Christmas Eve with their in-law families so that meant my parents and I usually attended candle-light service at church to welcome the Christ child.  Before the service, my father would drive us around our area to see neighbors’ homes Christmas light displays and we would ooh and aah over those that glowed the brightest.

No fireplace existed at my childhood home, but I still hung up my stocking over the knob of the front door.  I would be so excited for Christmas morning that I could barely sleep.  When Christmas Day arrived, my stocking bulged full of goodies although not with toys, gadgets, and gizmos.  

Dumping it out, I would discover a huge juicy orange, a shiny red apple, mixed nuts in their shells, candy canes, and other Christmas candy.  And I would be delighted with the yummy treats even though they were practically the same every year.  Nestled beneath the Christmas tree, I’d find one or two specially requested simple toys – a doll, a game, or one exciting year, a beautiful blue bicycle –  just for me. 

That afternoon brought our entire family gathered together and crowded into the living room around a simple Scotch pine real tree covered in old-fashioned strings of lights with colored bulbs, metallic icicles, and the same ornaments year after year.  It wasn’t a fancy themed tree; instead a hodge-podge collection adorned that prickly-needled fir which filled the air with the pungent scent of pine.

We exchanged a few gifts – real honest to goodness gifts that were purchased with thoughtfulness and consideration instead of gift cards or envelopes of money.  And we laughed, and we exclaimed over our wonderful presents, and we thanked one another with smiles and hearty hugs.

My mother prepared a simple but abundant and appetizing meal displayed on the dining room table – no fancy recipes, no exquisite table centerpieces/decorations to make it look like a photo spread from a magazine.  And we bowed our heads thanking God for the most precious gift of all – His Son Jesus Christ – and for our provision of food and family.

After dinner, one of us occupied the bench at our upright piano to plunk out Christmas carols while the rest of us sang the well-known tunes over and over again.  We’d eat dessert and commence a few rousing rounds of cards or games or sometimes just putting a new jigsaw puzzle together.

A simple Christmas.  Not photo worthy because of the food, the glitz, the gifts, or the amount of money spent.   A Christmas worth remembering because of love, gratitude, and joy felt and appreciated when a family assembles to celebrate.

That’s my idea of an old-fashioned Christmas and that’s what I wish for every Christmas. Every year. 

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”  ~ Bob Hope

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: Approaching Christmas

FBIMG_0313I. Just. Can’t.

Somewhere between writing 30 thankful posts in November, hosting  Thanksgiving dinner for 15 members of my family, and falling captive to a nasty cold afterwards, I’ve just lost all motivation for not only writing posts for this blog but for preparing for Christmas as well.

Thank goodness for Papa. The other day when we had a warmish day of temperatures, he hauled out the twinkly lights and bedecked our home on the outside. It looks great as he always does a wonderful job of hanging the lights.  But this year, not once did I step outside to give him a helping hand as I was socked in on the couch blowing my nose endlessly.

Middle daughter rummaged through her belongings stashed in our basement and located her Christmas décor and she and Little One decorated the inside of the house. Last night, Papa set up our artificial Christmas evergreen and Daughter and Little One hung their own ornaments on it as I watched.

So most of my Christmas decorations are lying dormant in their plastic storage crates. Christmas cards, which are usually sent their merry way by now,  sit on the dining room table still unaddressed and I haven’t even begun to think about our annual holiday letter I tuck into the cards.

I’m just not feeling it.

My Christmas spirit is waning…no, let’s be honest, it’s non-existent. I can blame it on feeling under the weather. I can blame it on being worn out from helping daughter do some renovating to her new home she hopes to move into soon (we’re talking massive wallpaper stripping, repairing walls, sanding, washing down the walls, and finally painting).

Or I could blame my lack of Christmas spirit on the fact that most of my family will not be here for the holiday this year, so we had a bit of Christmas gift exchanges at Thanksgiving time.  So it almost feels like Christmas is over for me.

Whatever the cause, I feel a bit like I’m possibly turning green, Grinch-like. Or maybe I’m feeling prone to saying bah-humbug to the holidays like old man Scrooge.

But truly, that’s not what’s in my heart. I love Christmas. I love the sights, the smells, the lights, the tree, the special ornaments, the greetings that come in the mail. But most of all, I love that we celebrate the birth of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Maybe I just need to slow down. Take some time to reflect on that. To read the first few chapters of Luke in my guidebook for life, my Bible, and remind myself of that very first Christmas so long ago.

Maybe this year, Christmas just needs to be simple. Simply rejoicing in the gift God gave the world. And filling my heart with that joy.

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” ~ Roy L. Smith

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Once a year

blogIMG_0131(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 2012.) 

It’s so easy, isn’t it?  That’s what you’ve been asking yourself this past Christmas season.

Pull into a crowded parking lot at the nearest mall, cruise the lot for an empty spot, jump out of the car with your long list of must-haves to join the throng of Christmas shoppers.

On the way inside the store, you hear the familiar ringing of a bell and you spy the volunteer bell-ringer with the Salvation Army kettle.  You’re in a hurry, but you reach in your pocket or wallet or purse and dig out whatever you can find – some change or a couple of bucks. Throw it in the kettle, accept the “thank you, Merry Christmas” and scurry on your way.

You walk inside your house of worship. There’s an “angel tree” in the foyer. Gift tags with the only identifying items such as “3-yr-old girl wants a baby doll, wears size 4T clothing.” You choose a tag, purchase a few items, and send those off to be distributed to the child in need.

Your civic group participates in Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s Purse. You dutifully find shoe boxes, shop for small toys and school supplies, soap and toothpaste, cram the boxes full, and write a check so the boxes might be shipped to the other side of the world into a child’s eager hands in time for Christmas.

Your favorite hair salon/doctor/grocery store sponsors a food drive to replenish a  food pantry and another local business holds a winter coat drive. You pack up some canned goods, drop them off. You rummage in the front hall closet and dig out those still good but unwanted winter coats and donate them.

You might even take your kids for the day to volunteer distributing bags of groceries with Christmas dinner items packed inside to families in need of food.

And you call this charity. You call this good will. You call this helping those in need. You call it whatever you want to call it because it makes you feel like you’ve done something to help. Something to serve. Something.

And this something proves easy when you do this once a year.

It’s Christmas. We think about those who go without during this holiday season and it’s easy to open our hearts and our wallets or check books.  Because isn’t that what we should do? Isn’t that what makes us feel like we’re spreading Christmas cheer? Or isn’t that what makes us feel good?

Yes. Yes. And yes. But…..you ask yourself…why do you only perform these good deeds at Christmas time? Where is your generosity the rest of the year?

And what would happen if you actually gave all through the year? In March. Or August.  Or every month of the year.

What if you provided a summer picnic to a needy family? What if you purchased a fan to cool off a summer’s day for someone who can’t  afford one?

What if you donated food staples to the food pantry all year long because really, are people only going hungry at Christmas time?

What if you helped a child, one who needs food, clothing, school supplies, and a little toy to bring a smile to his or her face, for 12 months or 12 years?

What if you gave your time to spend it with someone who is lonely?  Someone who is hurting, someone who is grieving?

What if you prayed every day for God to help those who desperately need Him in their lives and to use you in any way He sees fit to teach them about His saving grace?

What if you focused on the feelings of those in need instead of focusing on your own good feeling when you give?

What if you opened your heart every day of the year and not just once a year in December?

Wouldn’t that be something?

Once a Year by Josh Wilson

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com