Forty years together in the dance of life. That’s what Papa and I recently celebrated when we marked our wedding anniversary at the beginning of this autumn-filled month.
My favorite season is fall, when deciduous trees boast of their brilliant jackets of red, gold, and orange leaves, and I was pleased that the timing was right for an autumn wedding all those years ago.
This past weekend, our grown children, their spouses, and our two sweet grandgirls were all here in Mama’s Empty Nest to help us mark the occasion of Papa’s and my anniversary. Our home was bursting with noise, laughter, hugging, storytelling, playing with the little ones, and even cuddling with Barley, our son and daughter-in-law’s dog.
Papa cooked a big breakfast for everyone Saturday morning and then we all jaunted off to a nearby farm where there was a pumpkin patch festival. For the littlest one, at 10 months, this was her first time in the pumpkin patch and for our 2 ½ year old, it was most exciting.
The afternoon proved to be one of those glorious sunny fall days, a trifle warm but still comfortable. After visiting the farm animals and climbing on the huge hay bale pile, we all climbed aboard a large wagon pulled by a farm tractor for a hay ride out to the pumpkin patch.
Yesterday, I posted a photo of the lovely countryside where we were. All around us were farmland, rolling hills, and trees beginning to burst forth in their autumn colors. We picked our pumpkins and posed for tons of photos to satisfy both this Mama and all of our kids’ social media platforms.
Before taking a return hay ride back to the farm, some of us headed to the corn maze – a labyrinth path cut into the cornfield. While riding back on the hay wagon, I sat on that somewhat uncomfortable bale of straw and just gazed at my loved ones.
All of them. In one place. With me.
Once again, I was amazed at how blessed I truly am to have such a loving family. What did I do to deserve such happiness? Nothing. I don’t really deserve it. Each one of my family members is a gift from God to me. And I continue to be thankful for my bountiful blessings.
We spent the entire afternoon at the pumpkin festival watching Little One get a happy pumpkin face painted on her cheek, playing games, cavorting in the corn pit (a large area with dried, shelled corn to play in), climbing up stacks of hay bales with her much loved uncles and over and over again slipping down the sliding ‘boards’ fashioned there.
We cheered for those of us who attempted corn shooting – a air-compression chute that shot ears of corn at bales of hay targets in the distance -and again when even Little One was brave enough to try.
We laughed at the pumpkin launching, via slingshot style devices, when the pumpkins landed in the pond rather than over the pond to hit the targets. All the while Littlest One watched and smiled and laughed, not wanting to miss anything by taking a nap.
Afterwards, we returned home and Papa and I received a thoughtful anniversary card and gift from our grown children that made me cry.
But just like those infomercials on TV, that’s not all!
We conversed over a good food with a delicious family dinner at a nearby restaurant and our youngest, our son, surprised us with some serious questions about Papa’s and my 40 years together. Inquiries like how did we know we were the ones for each other, what was our happiest moment in our marriage, and what was the hardest.
Much laughter and even some tears ensued as we answered the questions thoughtfully. I wholeheartedly agreed with Papa’s answer to “what advice can you give for us about how to make our marriage last?”
Papa immediately replied, “Just always remember there are three of you in your marriage – God and the two of you.” I nodded and added, “And always put God first.”
For the rest of the evening, we gathered again at home and just enjoyed each other’s company. We heard about oldest daughter and son-in-law’s recent trip to Peru and viewed some of their photos before heading to bed.
Sunday morning found us all together to worship our Lord in the same little country church where Papa and I committed ourselves to each other those 40 years ago one lovely autumn day. All too soon, it was time for some to leave, to say our farewells once more until the next time, to send them off to their lives elsewhere with well wishes and prayers for safe travels.
And even midst the tears that I choked back while saying goodbye to them, I felt a blanket of happiness encircling me with the warmth of gratefulness and love as I recalled the maze of life I’ve traveled to get to this point.
It truly has been a-maze-ing.
“Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life, impels us through all its mazes and meanderings, but leads none of us by the same route.” ~ Charles Caleb Colton
I sit here in our home office at the desktop computer in quietude.
The only sound reaching my ears comes through the open window. An occasional car or truck rumbles by. A bird tweets (in a much more pleasing way than 120 characters). A slight rustle through the leaves of the trees faintly catches my attention.
This house, recently filled to the brim with people, laughter, and lively conversation interspersed with little girl squeals of joy, babbles of baby talk, and excited tail wagging and loving licks from the grand-doggy, now sits silent. For over two weeks, it’s been a hot bed of activity and I enjoyed every single second of it.
Shortly after Papa and I safely returned home from our vacation, my oldest sister and brother-in-law arrived from out west for a long overdue visit. It’s been two long years since my two sisters and I have all been in the same place at the same time. And we are a close family, not in miles but in heart.
When the three of us are blessed to be together, we always plan a “Sisters’ Day Out,” which includes going out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and lots of shopping and sharing in between. This time we had more than one opportunity for sisterly togetherness.
My oldest sis, B, has a lovely hobby – she makes and sells the most beautiful jewelry. As we three sisters sat at my kitchen table one afternoon, B showed us hundreds of pieces that she had brought with her. My middle sister, C, and I picked out the ones we liked best and then the thought occurred to me that we should share B’s talented gifts with friends.
So on the spur of the moment, we planned a jewelry show open house in my home and invited friends to come take a peek, enjoy a glass of lemonade and a homemade cookie (thanks to sister C, who is gifted with the cooking and baking gene), and just have a little bit of fellowship in the middle of the week.
Wow, it was fun! I enjoyed opening my front door to all the lovely ladies who joined us and they seemed to love viewing and buying my sister’s handiwork.
A few days later, our back door opened and we welcomed our oldest daughter and son-in-law from down South and our son, daughter-in-law, and baby granddaughter #2 from the state next door.
All came in to celebrate the 4th of July holiday/weekend with us and spend time with their aunt and uncle from afar. Sister C and her family, including my nephew, his wife, and two sweet little girlies joined us as well.
Much good picnic food, fellowship, and a few fireworks, followed by an evening bonfire with sparklers and s’mores, made the fun complete. We even threw in a few hysterically funny and boisterous games of Speak Out and Apples to Apples. Some of us laughed so hard our jaws ached!
While we sat in the cool of the summer evening, watching the fire, catching glimpses of fireflies in the dark, gazing up at the stars above, and licking sticky marshmallow off our fingers, I couldn’t help but stop for a moment to give thanks for moments like those.
Moments – even though there aren’t as many as we would like since our loved ones are stretched out across the country – when we can sit in the comfort of our family circle with love and feel that all is right in our world. At least for the moment.
Blessed moments. And at the risk of sounding like a sappy Hallmark card, those blessed moments, surrounded by my family, are what makes my heart happy.
And better yet, I know to whom I must whisper my prayers of thanksgiving – the One who provides every moment of love, grace, and gratitude.
The holiday and family visits are now over. One by one, vehicles packed with luggage and people drove up our driveway after hugs and even a few tears mingled with Papa’s and my goodbye waves.
Yet even now, in the quietness of an empty house, my mind sings the old hymn refrain: “Blessed quietness, holy quietness, blest assurance in my soul,” and I whisper my gratitude to God.
Because even in the quietness, He gives me assurance and peace and yes, happiness for moments like these.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” ~ Denis Waitley
Remember back in grade school when the teacher would give an assignment to create an acrostic?
You wracked your brain trying to compose a poem or some type of composition where you used the first letters of a name or word to form a line of other words describing the vertical word or name.
Like the one I composed above. Thoughts of MOTHER – Memories Of The Happy times Easily Remembered.
Mother’s Day is slated on the calendar for this coming Sunday. And as usual, this holiday honoring our moms always brings forth a tidal wave of memories for me.
This month marks a very special page in my book, not just because of Mother’s Day but because three special women in my life were born during the merry month of May.
One was my own mother. Another was Papa’s (my husband’s) mother. And the third was my first child, who being born just 45 minutes before it actually became Mother’s Day, bestowed the title of mother upon me.
So once May rolls around on the yearly calendar, sweet memories always leisurely float their way to the surface of the ocean of my mind.
Memories like my mother fixing a tiny tea party for a childhood friend and myself when I was around four years of age and the scent of fresh, clean soap when my mother held me close.
Memories of my mother-in-law, who was more of a mother-in-love and herself the mom of three sons, confiding to me that she considered me her daughter and the surprising day she gifted a ring, given to her by my father-in-law and one she wore each day, to me.
Memories of holding my first sweet-smelling baby in the labor and delivery recovery room after giving birth and listening as my brand new daughter immediately stopped crying when the nurse placed her on my chest next to my wildly beating and excited heart.
Memories. Happy, joyous times but also bittersweet moments as well.
Memories like the one of my beloved mother lying in her hospital room succumbing to that dreaded disease – cancer – and me being the last one to leave her side one evening. As I leaned over and kissed the cheek of the one who had held and kissed me in comfort and love so many times before, she lovingly took my hand in hers and whispered in my ear, “Pray for me.”
Memories of one last long-distance phone call to my dear mother-in-law as she soon would breathe her last breath. And the question, which was most pressing on her wandering mind, for me: “When are you coming home?”
Memories of bringing my little one into this world without my husband by my side while he was serving his country in a land on the other side of the globe. And memories of that sweet, tiny baby growing up into the loveliest of daughters, setting off on life’s adventures far away from her home and her mama.
Memories that make me smile. Memories that make me laugh. And yes, memories that make tears well up in my eyes and cause a catch in my throat. They all are memories of motherhood.
“The best things you can give children, next to good habits, are good memories.” ~ Sydney J. Harris
I find myself writing frequently about family because it’s a topic near to my heart. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for the close-knit family I have and it grieves my heart for those who don’t have that blessing.
During the almost 40 years of marriage to the Papa of this empty nest, we lived over half of those years away from our parents and siblings. So those times we actually were able to spend with our families created special memories we hold dear.
Because of that, we tried our hardest to create a sense of family togetherness with our three children. We made it a point to attend events together as a family whether it be a Little League baseball game or a musical choir concert.
Papa and I attempted to instill in our three that family means supporting and loving one another no matter what because so much of the time, it was just the five of us alone. Our children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins all lived too far away from us to be part of our daily lives.
Long distance phone calls were the only means we had to stay in touch back then, along with the occasional trips back “home” or when family came to visit us.
So gatherings with the extended family became precious because they were so few.
And now, it seems that history is repeating itself. Two of our adult children and their spouses live several hours away from Papa and me. Again, time spent together is such a blessing – truly something memories are made of – especially now that we have two adorable grandchildren in our family.
This past Easter weekend, Papa and I loaded up the car, left the empty nest, and headed west to our son and daughter-in-law’s lovely home to celebrate the holiday. Our oldest daughter and son-in-law traveled a couple hours from their home to join us as well. Unfortunately, our other daughter and first little grandchild couldn’t be there with us and their presence was sorely missed.
But we were grateful for the time most of us got to spend together this Easter.
Loving and cuddling our newest grandbaby, snapping family photos, recalling funny family stories, taking a walk as a family to the nearby park, the guys’ skeet shooting outing, sitting together on the deck one evening just conversing, preparing and cooking meals in the kitchen together, attending church to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior.
Those were the highlights of the weekend. Those moments don’t sound exciting but they fill my heart with such bliss.
And make me feel so very blessed. Isn’t that what a family should be? A true blessing. This family gathering was my special Easter blessing.
“What greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering than the family and the gathering.” ~ Robert Brault
Our son, our last born, celebrates a birthday this week. When I think of him, I smile and remember what a surprise he was when he emerged in that delivery room. A boy! We had expected another girl and only had a girl’s name chosen.
But surprise! The doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” and we were actually shocked. The one thing I remember saying to Papa, who was right by my side through labor and delivery, after our son’s arrival was, “But he doesn’t have a name!”
We deliberated awhile and finally chose the name that my own father suggested. It is a good, solid name. And I blinked and that baby boy grew up and turned out to be a good, solid man.
When I stop to think about the stage of life he’s in now (almost to his 30’s), the lyrics to the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof automatically come to my mind:
Is this the little girl I carried,
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty,
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days.
When did that little boy who played with Legos, cars, and Star Wars toys as well as every sport that came his way, the son who made his parents proud with all his accomplishments, grow to be so tall?
And now after all the sunrises and sunsets that have passed, he is a parent himself.
He and our lovely daughter-in-love just had their first baby – our precious second granddaughter – right before Christmas. How can it be that baby that I once held in my arms – my last one – is now all grown up and holding his own beloved little one?
Because the days, just like in that song, do flow by swiftly. And the years follow in suit.
My dad used to tell me how quickly time flew by for him in his 90 years on earth. When I was a youngster, it seemed that time passed by slowly.
A friend and I were just discussing this recently. How when we were girlhood friends, we couldn’t wait for school to be left out for summer recess or we couldn’t wait until Christmas. Or when we couldn’t wait to become teenagers. Then we couldn’t wait to drive. Then we couldn’t wait to graduate from high school. And then we couldn’t wait until we graduated from college….got married…had a career…or a family….or…..
We just couldn’t wait to grow up!
Before we knew it, we were grown up, our children became adults, our parents passed away, and we found ourselves to be the older generation. And now we wish time would slow down.
Just like that. [snaps fingers] Time goes by. And continues to do so. Which is why it’s so important to make the most of our time before it runs out.
“Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it and so quickly if you are aware of it.”~ Marc Bolan
I know. Be merry?
The date on the calendar reads January 24th. And the Christmas holiday is long over. So why am I posting about Christmas when the month of February is looming right around the next corner?
Our family has been making merry for almost two months now. We are one of those families that start decorating for the holiday the day after Thanksgiving. Out come all of the Christmas totes and boxes of decorations, the tree goes up, and Christmas carols and songs ring through the house.
This year, Papa, middle daughter, and I outdid ourselves with lights and décor because Little One (our almost 2-year-old granddaughter) delighted in it all. Each morning upon awakening, the first thing she asked us to do was plug in all (and I do mean all) of the Christmas lights.
We celebrated Christmas with her and our daughter (her mommy) a few days before the actual holiday because of daughter’s job and other circumstances beyond our control.
Christmas Eve found Papa and Mama at our church late night candlelight service and on Christmas Day, we celebrated yet again with my sister and brother-in-law at their home.
Then just a few days later, we hosted another Christmas celebration and dinner in our own home with our oldest daughter and son-in-law and their sweet, newly married Australian friends who had traveled to the United States for their honeymoon.
And the season of giving just kept on giving.
Just recently, we celebrated Christmas yet again at our son and daughter-in-law’s home in one of the states next door. Because granddaughter number two (who will be known henceforth in this blog as Little Two) was making her arrival just a few days before the holiday, we had already planned to delay our family gathering until the new parents and baby could get a bit adjusted to their exhausting new lives.
So a weekend celebration in January was planned for all of us to converge on their home and provide all of the meals and fun and exchange Christmas gifts to celebrate not only the birth of our Savior but the dear new little life that has joined our family.
What better reason than that to be merry? Whether it be in December, January, or all year long, Christmas should stay in our hearts.
“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans