Posted in Christmas, family, grandparenting, photography, Uncategorized

Words for Wednesday: dear Santa

blogIMG_0023.jpgA trip to a nearby farm to choose a real Christmas tree for daughter and granddaughter also provided a fun visit to see Santa Claus. And an opportunity to write him a Christmas letter. blogIMG_0053

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blogIMG_0061Our little one truly has been very good this year so I imagine those special wishes she whispered to Santa just might be fulfilled.

“Dear Santa, I hope you and your elves been very busy, because I’ve been very good.” ~ unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Christmas, photography, travel

On a silent night

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Silent Night Memorial Chapel, Frankenmuth, MI

As one season ends, another begins. It’s that way in nature and it’s that way in life as well. Autumn is past and I must say farewell to it as we enter into winter.  I must also say farewell to my recent postings about our trip to Michigan.

As I wind up this series while preparing for and anticipating Christmas, I find it serendipitous that my last post highlights a well-known Christmas song, Silent Night.

You probably know the one: Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…

That beloved hymn, originally written in German and titled “Stille Nacht,” was composed by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr in Austria in 1818. Mohr, a pastor in Oberndorf bei Salzburg had written a poem and was hopeful that his friend Gruber, the church choir master and organist, could set the words to music for Christmas Eve’s midnight mass. 

It is absolutely amazing that this beautiful song was composed in just a few hours and first sung on that same Christmas Eve. However, because of a flood, the church’s organ had been damaged and could not be used.

So instead, Gruber composed the music to be accompanied by guitar. The church, which had its foundation damaged in the flood, was later demolished and when a new church was built, a small memorial chapel was also constructed, the Silent Night Chapel.

Many decades later in 1945, a man named Wally Bronner opened a CHRISTmas Wonderland store in Frankenmuth, Michigan. As his store succeeded and grew, Bronner began importing Christmas ornaments and on a trip to Europe, he visited the Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf, Austria.

An idea became reality for the Christmas store owner. He had reserved space on his many acres site where his store is located for something to thank God for blessing his business. Bronner acquired permission from authorities to build a replica of Austria’s Silent Night Chapel.

Built and dedicated in 1992, Bronner’s memorial chapel stands 56-feet tall and is open for visitors every day during store hours; there is no admission charge to enter the chapel. Inside you may view a lovely altar behind glass and the words to Silent Night are portrayed all around the chapel walls in many different languages.

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Altar inside the replica chapel

Click here to see a video of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel.

It’s a tranquil spot to sit and meditate on the lyrics as the song, both vocal and instrumental versions, plays quietly in the background. Another interesting fact is that every Christmas Eve, carolers gather inside the chapel to sing Silent Night, first in German and then in English.

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Two of the stained glass windows

We found the chapel to be an inspiring place to visit and it definitely reminded us of the real reason why we celebrate Christmas, the purpose for setting aside this time to recall what happened on one silent night over 2000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem.

That silent night became the most miraculous silent night of all time, when the Messiah, the Son of God, was born as a “holy infant so tender and mild” and was named Jesus. 

Bethlehem was just the beginning. I call Jesus Christ’s next appearance, Bethlehem, Act 2. No silent night this time, however. The skies will open, trumpets will blast, and a new kingdom will begin.” ~ Max Lucado

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Posted in Christmas, photography, travel

Christmas wonderland

blogIMG_9801That calendar on my wall tells me it’s December already. I know it sounds so very trite, but honestly, where DID the year 2019 go?

Regardless of my incredulousness at it being the last month of the year, that calendar also shows me there are only 19 days until Christmas.  Yikes! This empty nest Mama needs to get her Christmas preparations jump-started.  

The empty nest will be filled to the brim with three grown up offspring, their spouses, three adorable grandchildren, and a grand-doggy for several days over the Christmas holiday. And my heart is so very happy about that!

But there is MUCH to do – hauling out the holly, illuminating the outside of our country home, decking out the halls, adorning the Christmas tree, menu planning for meals (carefully due to one family member with celiac disease who must eat gluten-free), grocery shopping, gift wrapping, and devising Christmas fun activities for the family to enjoy.

Thankfully, three items are already checked off my list – the Christmas cards have been signed, sealed, and are in the mail to be delivered, gifts have been purchased, and Papa handled the majority of the outside decorations.

Yet Mama’s plate is full of plans to make our home this year a Christmas wonderland, especially for the grandchildren.

But while I embrace this blessed season, I still have a couple more stories and pictures to share about our autumn trip to Michigan. Appropriately, the subject is Christmas, “the most wonderful time of the year.”

When we stopped at the quaint town of Frankenmuth, MI, our goal was to visit the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, which has been in business since 1945.

blogIMG_9802And what a wonderland it truly is! The store is open 361 days a year and is gigantic (they claim it’s the size of one and a half football fields!) and filled with everything you can imagine that has to do with the Christmas holiday.

I’ve shopped in many Christmas shops, but I’ve never been anywhere that comes close to Bronner’s with 50,000 decorations and gifts in 15 store sections.

The half-mile lane leading into this huge store is lined with thousands of lights and outdoor Christmas displays everywhere you look. We arrived in the morning as the store opened, so I can only imagine what a spectacular sight it would be to view the lights at night (dusk until midnight).

Onsite adjacent to the Christmas store is the Silent Night Chapel, a replica of the original chapel in Austria where, on Christmas Eve in 1818, the well-known Christmas hymn Silent Night was first sung.  (I’ll highlight that in an upcoming post.)

Papa and I spent at least three hours just browsing, being amazed, and purchasing some gifts and special ornaments to add to our Christmas tree.

Tree ornaments are grouped by categories in some sections, by colors in other areas, and by country in yet others. And there is a large area with ornaments that can be personalized (free while you wait).

Looking for Christmas jewelry? It’s there. Nativity sets? For certain. Nutcrackers? They’ve got them. Advent calendars, wreaths, Christmas trees, stockings, garlands, ribbon, cards, angels, lighted village sets, books, linens, snow globes, figurines, lights and displays, Santa suits….you name it, Bronner’s has it.  

It’s a Christmas treasure trove and certainly puts shoppers in a merry spirit for the season no matter what time of year you visit.

Even though I have a checklist a mile long to prepare for Christmas with my family, I pause for a moment to remember our visit to that Christmas store, admire the ornaments we purchased there, and smile as we enter into the “hap-happiest season of all.”

“Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.” ~E. C. McKenzie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in celebrations, Christmas, Faith, photography

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

Posted in Christmas, empty nest, Uncategorized

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

 

Posted in Christmas, photography

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

 

Posted in Christmas

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

Posted in Christmas, Faith

Jesus won’t stay in the corner

On 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