Posted in joy, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: joy makers

Joy. What gives you joy?

I’ve been thinking about that lately as it seems there is so little of it in the world today anymore.

You sure don’t find joy from watching, listening, or reading the news. Or even walking down a street where you hear folks gripe and grumble about this or that.

But exuding joy does our hearts and minds a world of good. God’s Word tells me that in Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

I once read an article that described joy as an attitude instead of an emotion and I think I readily agree with that definition. Happiness is an emotion, but it can be fleeting and often times depends on our circumstances.

Joy is deeper and a more constant outlook. For me, joy comes from another source other than my circumstances, my surroundings, or even my relationships with others. Joy comes from God, from knowing His presence is constantly with me.

It sounds like a contradictory statement, but I can experience joy even when I’m not necessarily happy.

And as I mature, not just physically by age but also spiritually, I find the smallest aspects of life fill me with joy.

A simple act such as catching the aroma of lavender wafting by on a sunshine-filled day.

Or being a passenger in our vehicle traveling down a blue highway, propping up my foot and extending it out the window wide open, fresh air blowing my hair all willy-nilly, and sunshine warming my face.

Or noticing miniature artwork some unknown person painted on the sidewalk under my feet.

Or beholding a peaceful, idyllic countryside scene from a quiet hillside spot.

Or noticing a beautiful multi-hued sunset sky right off my backyard deck like the one pictured at the beginning of this post.

Sometimes we find joy by just slowing down, taking our time, not rushing into the next thing on our to-do list, but noticing a little treasure of blessedness right where we are.

I don’t think we come across those snippets of joy by accident like the little town so named in Maryland Papa and I happened upon on a day trip.

I believe those smatterings of joy are laid before us, just waiting to be discovered.

And that’s when I give thanks to my Joy-Giver who provides them.

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” ~ Bill Watterson

© 2021

Posted in joy

Through the eyes of a child

Grandbaby with her auntie

If you’re a long-time reader of Mama’s Empty Nest or even if you just tuned in this past year, you probably know that I became a grandmother for the very first time in 2015.  I haven’t posted much in this blog about my adorable grandchild for a couple of good reasons.

First of all, I want to maintain and protect her privacy.  After reading way too many articles about people abusing social media and stealing photos of children online and a bit of privacy invasion happening to my older daughter (some sicko created a social media account using her name with a stolen photo of her and her baby niece), I decided to limit what I share for all the cyber world to see in both words and photos of my sweet little one.

But mostly, even I have a difficult time putting into words the absolute joy my baby granddaughter brings me.  Folks tried to forewarn me that becoming a grandparent was like riding a skyrocket of love to the moon and back.  I would nod my head and listen but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the overwhelming love that one feels when a grandchild is placed in your arms.

Each and every day, I have the privilege of watching my daughter being the best Mama to my grandbaby – and really, that’s what she is, a grand baby.  

What does this privilege bring to Nana and Papa’s lives?  Oh, so very much.  Absolute joy… unconditional love…grins and giggles…excitement and elation….the list could go on and on indefinitely. 

I just can’t find adequate words to describe what overwhelms my heart when my grandbaby snuggles against me, when I cradle that sweet, downy head in my hand, watching her face light up with that huge toothy grin when she sees me, or when she reaches our her little arms for me.

Yes, it’s a love affair.  I love my precious grand-daughter and I love being her Nana.

And now, it’s the Christmas season.  Her very first one.  And I’m seeing Christmas again through the eyes of a child. 

Even though she’s still a baby not even one year old yet, she’s excited about Christmas. Each morning as her mama brings her downstairs after awakening, baby points to the Christmas tree in the living room and tells us in her baby babble that she wants to see the lights. 

Lighting up the tree brings her joy evidenced by her smiles, happy noises, and when she reaches out to gently touch the tree boughs and what seem to be her favorite ornaments (the ones that jingle make her particularly animated). 

Next we visit some of the other lighted decorations around the house, the sleigh bells hanging on the front door, her snowman stocking hung on the fireplace, and the nativity scenes nestled in greenery (and more lights!) and gracing the top of the piano. All bring her delight and in turn do the same for me.

The shiny outdoor lights adorning our home equally enthrall her.  That’s why we decided one evening last week that she wasn’t too young to take her to a drive-through Christmas light display at a county fairgrounds in a nearby town.  Scads of other folks decided to partake of the display too and we inched along in a miles-long queue of vehicles waiting to get into the display.

Baby got a bit antsy.  And so did we.  We listened to Christmas music on the radio and sang along as we slowly advanced towards the entrance. Sweet little one loves music so this pacified her for a while.  Finally, we paid our way and entered the display which was an intricate light show perfectly timed to Christmas music.

Oh, the squeals of delight that filled our car!  Since we literally were traveling less than five mph, daughter freed baby from her rear-facing car seat so she could see the displays from her mama’s arms.

As vivid lights burst forth on both sides of the roadway, our precious one couldn’t contain her excitement.  She laughed, she shrieked happily at the top of her lungs, she pounded her little hands on the car window like she wanted to reach out and grab those brilliant arrays of color.

Even though it was getting late in the evening, past her bedtime, and she had been weary and a tad cranky during the long wait (and she wasn’t the only one), all of that disappeared as the excitement of Christmas filled her eyes (and ours).

Christmas through the eyes of a child.  What a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of yet another child – our Savior come to earth, Emmanuel, God with us.

I’m thankful yet again that the Lord blessed us with our own sweet little grandchild.  And my heart is grateful for the most precious gift of Christmas, God’s only Son, that baby born in a manger so long ago.

“In the eyes of children we find the joy of Christmas. In their hearts we find its meaning.” ~ Leland Thomas


Posted in dreams, hope, joy

To make a dream come true

blog0538Many years ago, I read the poem Dreams, written by Langston Hughes.  The words of this poem have stayed with me to this day:

“Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird  that cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go

Life is a barren field frozen with snow.”

I’ve been thinking about dreams during my day of Opportunity today.  I’m sure that all three of my grown-up children are floating along in a kind of dreamlike state,  believing their dreams have finally come true.  They all have found their true loves and a trip down the matrimonial aisle is imminent in the very near future.

Do dreams come true?  Yes, often.  We must work to make some dreams happen,  summon up the courage needed to forge forward to make them reality.   But what about the dreams we experience while we sleep? Those nighttime dreams, do they ever come true?

I dream a lot while I sleep, but I’m not much of a day-dreamer.  That practical, realist side of me usually wins the day, so instead of passing time imagining a dream world, I’m usually busy actually doing something, but often I wish I could learn to day-dream a little more.

Day dreaming seems creative and surely must give one a strong sense of escape and relaxation, which sounds good to me.  My night time dreams can give me that same sense, but there’s always the possibility of nightmares lurking in the subconscious and I’ve had my fair share of those as well.

Occasionally, I have a faint recollection that I dreamed something and can’t quite recall what it was, but for the most part I usually remember my night time dreams.  The moving pictures in my brain can be pretty zany at times making absolutely no sense at all.

Other times, they are vivid and so realistic, I awaken thinking the event actually occurred.  (Ask my husband how many times I’ve awakened angry at him for something foolish he did only in my dream!) Often, I can relate my dreams to something I’d been watching on TV, or reading, or even pondering.  Even the jumbled up, mish mash sequences that constitute my dreams can often be explained this way.

Every once in a while though, I have a dream that just seems to emerge out of nowhere.  Its source is as vague and foggy as the setting for a mystery movie might be.  When that happens, it puzzles me and one night last week, I had such a dream.

My family knows a young family who has a special needs child, a delightful, joyful little one who in her current condition cannot walk.  The family actively pursues therapy that has enabled this child to make some amazing strides from where she once was and I keep current with these milestones through Facebook (see, it is good for something!).  I know it is this family’s dream for their child to reach her fullest potential and they are working so diligently to make that happen.

I haven’t had much time lately to check out her progress on her Facebook page though.  Facebook is such a time-sucker for me.  And free time is a rare commodity right now, so I’ve been purposely staying away from this social networking media.

This blog is linked to my personal Facebook page and each time I publish a new post, it automatically shows up on my wall, so it looks like I’m on FB when really I’m not.  If I remember, I log into my blog’s FB fan page and update my posts manually there, but that’s about the extent of my Facebook interaction these days.

So, I haven’t been reading any updates on this special child’s progress as of late.  But yet, I dreamed about her.   In my oh so realistic dream, my hubby and I visited her family and were enjoying being outdoors with her mother, father, and this sweet little one.

Suddenly, this child with the million dollar smile crawled over to me.  I helped her stand up and she gave me a hug.  Her father spoke, “Oh look, she really likes you!”

And with that, this child, who can only crawl short distances, started walking on a circular sidewalk.  She walked and walked and walked while the rest of us marveled and exclaimed at the miracle we witnessed.  But that’s not all.

Suddenly, she grinned and took off running!  Round and round in circles she ran and she ran and she ran!  Freely.  And happily with strong legs and body, laughing all the way.  And we all clapped our hands and laughed with her!

Such joy.  Such indescribable joy shone on her dear little face as she ran.  And I woke up smiling and amazed at this truly unforgettable dream.  Several times a day since, this particular dream comes to my mind.  As it does, I’m reminded to continue to pray for this child and her family because this is one dream I pray really does come true.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”  ~ Walt Disney

Copyright ©2012

Posted in joy

A side order of joy to go

I watched as the pair shed their bulky winter coats, wooly hats, and gloves and settled themselves at the table.

They faced one another in a booth near the restaurant’s middle section.    Both warmed their hands briefly around their paper cups of hot coffee.  And then they began, along with the other Sunday diners, to eat their lunch.

Despite the winter weather, the restaurant was full – families with children,  jean clad young people,  a couple of men in camouflage hunting jackets, middle and older aged people dressed in their Sunday best church attire.   Hubby and I had stopped after worship service to grab a fast food lunch en route to another commitment.

When the older couple first ambled past us, I thought I recognized them.  At a second glance, I realized that no, I didn’t know them, but they did seem familiar.  Seated directly behind my husband,  they were in my view each time I looked up from my hamburger to converse with my spouse.

I glanced their way several times, still trying to identify them.  The older woman caught my eye and smiled warmly at me.  I sheepishly smiled back, a little embarrassed that I had been staring at them all the while trying to place them in the catalog of people I’ve met along the way that’s lodged in my brain.   I finally remembered that I had seen this couple in this eating establishment before.  He was the whistler.

Once as my family grabbed a bite in this local fast food spot, this gentleman and his wife were seated nearby.   All of a sudden, we heard warbling noises that sounded exactly like a bird had somehow entered the restaurant and was serenading us.  Instead, it was the quirky man sitting across the restaurant, whistling like a whippoorwill.  His amused wife just watched as people turned around, looked at the ceiling, and tried to locate a runaway bird.

I wondered if we’d be treated to some whistling this time.  People came.  People ordered food.  They ate and they left.  There was nothing of significance to take note of or remember until my husband and I were finishing our meal.  That’s when I heard it.  Music.

I stopped chewing and listened.  I glanced at the continually broadcasting television sets hanging on the restaurant walls.   Melodious sounds were not emanating from there.   The music, strangely different, also wasn’t coming from someone’s laptop or an ipod turned up too loudly.

I quickly recognized both the notes being played and the source of the music.   Someone was playing a harmonica,  and the tune was clear and well-known and directly coming from behind my husband.

My mind sang along to the notes,  “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.”  

Those were the words to the melody I was hearing.  My husband wore a quizzical look.  Others in the restaurant began noticing that unusual music permeated the air.  I peeked around my husband and watched as the older gentlemen, who I had dubbed the whistler, played a shiny mouth organ.

His wife just smiled at me as if to say, “Yes, he’s playing a harmonica in the middle of a crowded fast food place.  That’s what he does.”

And she nonchalantly continued to drink her coffee.  I smiled back at her again in a way that I hoped conveyed that I didn’t think her husband was crazy as her companion launched into an old hymn,  “At the Cross.”  

“At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away…”

Several people glanced around, many ignored him and his music.  Some seemed amused,  some didn’t seem to be fazed by it or they were just too astounded to react.  Some just hurried up, finished their fries, and departed.  But no one said a word to him.

We lingered.  We sipped our drinks.  I quietly sang in whispers along with the harmonica music and smiled encouragement at the older gentleman.  In between his Sunday afternoon praise session, he nodded, then continued his concert.   As we gathered our belongings to leave, he played “Grace Greater Than All Our Sin.”

“Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within;  grace, grace, God’s grace,  grace that is greater than all our sin.”

My hubby flashed a smile at the couple as he emptied our tray in the trash bin;  I told the gentleman we enjoyed his music; and we departed with lilting notes resonating in our ears, words of truth about the pardoning, cleansing grace of God ensconced in our minds, and joy planted in our hearts.

I tucked this unusual experience away in my ‘things to write about list’ and as I share it with you today in my book entitled Opportunity, I marvel.  I believe God sends us joy in places we least expect it.  I certainly did not anticipate finding evidence of joy in the middle of a crowded Wendy’s on a Sunday afternoon.

But that’s indeed what unfolded.   One older gentleman shared his joy and an unashamed declaration of love for the Savior when he pulled a harmonica from his coat pocket and played his heart out in the middle of a fast food joint during the busy lunch hour rush.  Doing so gave him pleasure and most assuredly gave me, his listener, a serving of joy that I took with me to savor for some time to come.

Why did he play songs of faith on his harmonica in a fast food restaurant?  I don’t know.  I just know that I enjoyed it, packaged it up, and took the experience with me.

Joy to go.

“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate.”   – Thornton Wilder

Copyright ©2012

Posted in joy

Riding the joy train

blogDSCN8437I think I’ve been like the little engine who could.

Like him, I’ve been chugging my way along focusing on what I need to do using “I think I can, I think I can” as my motto.  But perhaps I’ve chosen the wrong track – the selfish one.

I’ve realized recently that I write often about my own experiences or daily occurrences in my book called Opportunity that inspire me or give me cause to pause in wonder.  And this year, I vowed to concentrate on detailing those experiences that grant me joy.

As I’ve contemplated what gives a person joy, I’ve discovered something I hadn’t considered before.   I believe joy is like love, it’s meant to be shared.  But you can’t share if you’re being selfish.

What supplies joy for another human being?  For my grown up children, I’m certain they find joy in their relationships with their beloveds in their newly engaged statuses.    For some people, serving others provides joy.  Some think they find joy in owning material goods.  For those of us who are believers in Christ, new life in Him sustains us and imparts joy like no other.

Just lately, I’ve realized even the simplest act or encounter can send our hearts leaping into merriment – that happy, happy, joy, joy state of mind.  A few weeks ago, I watched my husband of 34 years get as excited about something as a little child does in a candy store.

blogDSCN8442My husband’s father worked his adult life on a railroad, so my spouse grew up listening to much talk about trains and he knows a lot about them.  As a child, he rode the train on a free pass with his parents from time to time.   The sound of a train whistle and the cavalcade of passing cars on the railroad tracks have always held my hubby captive.

For much of our married life, this man also has been enthralled with model trains. His dearest wish would be to build a model railroad someday, and he already owns an HO train engine just waiting to link up with more railroad cars and chug along a track.

When we were young marrieds, we enjoyed a few short excursions via steam engine trains during vacations.   These trips excited my husband while I just thought they were something different to experience.

blogDSCN8452With our children, we’ve also ridden trains as well as visited numerous train-related sites including a railroad museum or two.   Although they were interesting, they just didn’t hold the allure for me like they did for my beloved.

I like museums, but I tend to move along at a faster pace, only stopping to read about items that pique my curiosity.   But my history loving husband lingers at each exhibit case, reading every card of information, sauntering and generally taking his good old time.   I’m usually a room or two ahead of him when we visit such establishments and become a little agitated when he’s lollygagging behind.

So with all of that in mind, I confess I groaned inwardly when my husband informed me that he would like to attend a model railroad display not far from our home.   He’s mentioned this before, but somehow we just never got around to going.   So one weekend, he remarked again that he wanted to view this particular display at a model railroad museum and he wanted to go that day.  Would I go along?

Part of me wanted to say no, you go right ahead.  I’ll stay home and….blog or work on our daughters’ wedding plans.  But in my spirit, I felt God was challenging me in my newly announced quest for joy.  Did searching for joy only involve me and my feelings?  Absolutely not!  Why wouldn’t I be willing to participate in something that might grant a little joy for my spouse?

So I said yes, let’s go!  We spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon examining and exclaiming over a rather large model railroad display that continued through several rooms of the museum.  My hubby was over-joyed.  He grinned from ear to ear.  He chatted with an older gentleman, who happened to be one of the model railroad club members, and listened carefully as the enthusiast explained aspects of the elaborate set-up.

I marveled that we stayed together, side by side, viewing the display.  I didn’t forge my way ahead of him and wait for him to catch up; I remained at his side spotting and inspecting all of the tiny details the creators had painstakingly taken to make the display realistic.

blogDSCN8433The display was amazing, but something else became amazingly apparent as well to me.  As we left the museum later that afternoon, my husband declared happily, “That was really fun!”  And you know what?  It was.

Watching my husband – this man who has put up with me all of these years in good times and not so good; this man who agreed to change his career track and move back to my hometown not his; this man who has worked hard to always provide for me and our children – watching this man, my beloved, derive a bit of joy himself from the simplest outing gave me joy.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.  Just as it should.

“A joy shared is a joy doubled.” ~ Anonymous

Copyright ©2012

Posted in joy, Love, weddings

Brides R Us

blogDSCN7843My regular followers may have noticed Mama’s Empty Nest has been a bit absent on the blogging scene the last few days.

Matter of fact, for two consecutive days, Mama didn’t even turn on her laptop.  That has to be some kind of record!

Never fear though, Mama’s not MIA (missing in action).  I am, however, definitely in action – wedding planning action, that is.

In between chiropractor, dental, and car maintenance appointments, and – oh yeah – that crazy little thing called work, the last week or so has been chock full o’ nuts activity.

Mama’s feathers are ruffled, not in an agitated way but in a feverish mode, from a flurry of flying here and there.

With one family wedding scheduled for late spring (middle daughter) and two – yes, two! – planned for fall (son and oldest daughter), the nest is ensconced in a full tilt tizzy.  It’s a joyful tizzy, but still a tizzy nevertheless.

Can I declare right here and now that I’m ever so relieved to have only two daughters, not three?  Way back when son was born, we felt fairly certain we would be dealt “three of a kind” and our third child would be another girl.  Pleasantly surprised with a son instead, we were given a “pair and a spare.”

I didn’t think much then, when our children were 5, 2 ½, and a newborn, about their future weddings.    But wow!  I’m sure thinking about that now! Being the mother of a groom is a piece of cake (pun intended) compared to the responsibilities of the bride’s parents.

So as son and fiancée start planning their nuptials, I’m happy to just come along for the ride. But my ode to joy isn’t just because I only have two daughters’ weddings to plan; joy’s derived from the pleasure of watching all three of my children find their true loves.

So on to the flurry!  Both of my girls ventured out of the city back to our country empty nest for a wedding planning marathon last weekend.   Starting out Saturday, we launched a gift registry mission for middle daughter with a trip to the suburbs.  Her groom, swamped in time consuming grad school classes in the state next door, is pretty much unavailable for preparation activities such as this until just shortly before the wedding.

First let me mention that this is the daughter who truly dislikes shopping.  She’s one of those “get in, get what you want, get out” type of shoppers.  Definitely not a shop til you drop kind of girl.

With that knowledge fully recognized, this mom expected to have to convince, cajole, and coerce to keep my darling daughter focused on the task at hand – completing a gift registry.  Imagine my shock and awe when I realized we were in one store completing her bridal gift registry for a grand total of five hours!  You read that correctly – five hours!

We had an amazingly helpful store associate assisting us in our quest (until her shift was over!).   And we truly had fun!  It overjoyed this mama to see middle daughter so excited over choosing prospective wedding gifts from china patterns to pig-shaped bag clips and oldest daughter helping.  We laughed, we oohed, we joked, we aahed, we marveled, we zapped her finds on the hand-held register.

It was akin to an episode of the three musketeers.  Armed with the store device instead of swords, we came, we divided, and we conquered!  And then the weary wedding planners headed home to recoup because the next day guaranteed to be another day of going bridal.

Sunday we ventured back to the ‘burbs for a large bridal show.  Vendor after vendor paraded their wedding fare to both of my girls.   As we approached each booth, the vendor would ask, “Who’s the bride?”

My girls would smile demurely and I’d reply, “Both of them!”

Vendor would ask my daughters, “Are you friends?  Sisters?”

“Sisters!” came the happy answer.  “Getting married in the same year.”

Vendor’s attention refocused on good ol’ Mama, eyeing me up carefully saying, “Ooooooooh!”

I then laughingly retorted, “And that’s not all!  My son is getting married this year too!”

Their eyes widened, mouths forming that proverbial O, and probably money signs appeared in their brains with that cah-ching sound.  I firmly believe that when you admit the items you seek are for a wedding, the price suddenly sky-rockets, and then take that times three!  Cash cow!

But what a day we had!  We sampled wedding cakes, cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered pretzels, and candy favors until we were dizzy on a sugar high and oldest daughter developed real food hunger crankiness.

We saw everything you can imagine you might want to rent/purchase for a wedding and then some.  Flowers, gowns, venues, photographers, DJs, limos, decorations, services ranging from dance lessons to make-up to chiropractic to wild bachelorette party ideas.  You name it, it was there.

After registering for every door prize being offered in addition to a slew of other give-aways, we tasted macaroni and cheese cupcakes and tiny toasted cheese sandwiches with a tomatoey dipping sauce from one caterer.  Both were scrumptious, by the way.

And just as the weight of our shopping bags full of brochures, catalogs, and coupons became a heavy load to carry and our legs and feet tired from all the standing and walking (especially Mama) we welcomed the chance to sit and enjoy an hour long fashion show featuring wedding gowns, veils, bridesmaid dresses, and tuxes for the men.

Alas, my girls didn’t win one give-away item (I really hoped one of them might win the all-expense paid honeymoon cruise) so we loaded our tired selves into middle daughter’s car and headed home to the nest.  And there, we hauled out all our gleanings, searched for more ideas on the internet, and the girls pinned their finds on Pinterest.

It’s official.   Wedding planning has taken over our thoughts, our discussions, our very lives, at least for the women in the family.   But don’t worry, Papa had his moment in this marriage madness.  While Mama helped middle daughter register for wedding gifts, Papa was getting measured for the tuxedo for her nuptials.  He also was pleased to hear we found a reasonably affordable DJ for the first wedding in the line-up.

I think he enjoyed hearing his daughters gush about our two days of going bridal but realistically plan their lovely yet affordable weddings.  He loves his girls and wants them both to have a memorable wedding day.

And that’s what it’s all really about – love – because I know that every day in my book of Opportunity, love gives us such joy.  And love is a beautiful thing.

Copyright ©2012

Posted in joy

Step back to the 80’s

blogDSCN8479I walked up my steps today.  And that gave me great joy!

What may sound like a normal, everyday occurrence to most people has been extremely difficult for me in the last several months.

My out of whack body (neck, back, leg, and hip) and an ailment in my right hip have prevented me from climbing the stairs in usual fashion.  Going down stairs didn’t hurt, just ascending them did.

Each attempt brought such pain in my right hip, I couldn’t navigate the steps normally.  Instead, I scrambled up stairs using my left leg as the leader on each riser and dragging the right one to follow or I sort of half crawled up the steps.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve tried shifting as much body weight as possible to my right arm instead of my right hip,  while clinging to the banister railing, and attempting to go upstairs normally.  Still hurt like the dickens.

But today I came home from my chiropractor’s appointment and walked up my steps.  Using both legs equally.  Not using the hand rail.  Triumph!!  It wasn’t completely without a little twinge in the hip, but still definitely is significant progress.  And I am thankful and joyful in my book of Opportunity.

While my chiropractor adjusted my back, hip, and neck today, we discussed making wise choices.   He, of course, is all about having a healthy body and we conversed about raising children and steering them into nutritious eating choices.

While we chatted…push…crack…turn…push…pop…turn…he asked me if I had heard about a particular well-known football player in the 80’s who had been raised in a  strict, healthy environment yet got caught up in drugs and ruined his life.

My response?  Never heard of him. Because it was back in the 80’s.  I told my doctor I don’t really remember that decade.  He may have wondered what the heck I was doing then, so I promptly explained that was my having children decade,  so I can’t recall too much else.  Chalk it up to being sleep-deprived, overly stressed, whatever, but those 10 years are a blur to me.

I know that the 1970’s are sometimes referred to as the “me decade.”  Well, the 80’s, in my case, were the “anything but me decade.”    I rarely had time to myself, let alone time for myself.  Let me explain.

I became pregnant three times and gave birth to all of my children during those years (our first child was born when my husband was on the other side of the globe), so I spent much of my time being hormonal, experiencing significant body changes, not to mention weight variances, undergoing natural childbirth, and nursing three babies.  THAT I remember.

I was a stay at home mom with little ones under the age of 7 and my days (and nights) revolved around taking care of children, cleaning up after them, washing countless loads of laundry and endless loads of dishes, cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning house from top to bottom, AND packing up and moving six times during that decade, with a healthy dose of church-related activities thrown in.  THAT I remember.

My husband left the military and landed a stressful, demanding job which required much overnight travel, which meant I was home alone A LOT with three young children and no family nearby to help.  THAT I remember.

My health took a tailspin and after doctor’s visits and medical tests, I endured major surgery and a hospital stay.  THAT I remember.

I stooped over to pick up my baby son one day while I raced to get to an appointment on time when I felt a searing pain rip through my back.  That night when I looked into my mirror, I saw that my body was askew.  Really, really askew, distorted so that my hip was crooked.  I made my very first trip to a chiropractor the next day.  THAT I remember.

There were car break-downs, household break-downs, and emotional break-downs as I tried to cope with a stressful life in the 80’s.   THAT I remember.

But I don’t remember what happened in the world outside of my home.   I don’t remember much about politics (except that Ronald Reagan was President).    I don’t recall major world events or even local ones for that matter.

I don’t remember what songs were popular on the radio or what television shows we watched (unless you count Sesame Street and those Christmas specials I blogged about previously).  I don’t remember what movies came out. (Did I even GO to the movies?  I don’t remember.)  No wait, E.T. must have been a big draw at the movie theater because my oldest daughter was terrified of him.  (“NO E.T. Mommy!!  NO E.T.!!!”)

Yep. That was the 80’s or what I remember from those years.

And as much as I remember the tough times I endured in that decade, I remember the joy I experienced as well.  Yes, there was joy in the middle of all of that stuff.

There was the joy of three normal pregnancies resulting in three perfectly healthy, wonderful babies.  There was joy in developing new friendships in new places to live.  There was joy purchasing our very first home together.  There was joy in finding a church family to belong to.

And there was joy in the middle of everyday life in between the dirty diapers, play-doh stuck to the carpet, ink drawings on the entry way wall-paper, toys strewn everywhere, and the noise.  There was the joy of raising a family.

And that I wouldn’t trade for anything….even a trip back to the 80’s.

So if you’re a tired, stressed young mother out there, take heart.  If I survived an entire decade (and more) of such a life and can still find the joy it brought, so can you.   All you have to do is take time to let it register in your memory bank so you can recall it when someday you find yourself in the empty nest.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” ~ James 1:2-3

Copyright ©2012

Posted in joy, Love

As friendship blossomed

blogengagementIt all began in an impoverished third world country over three years ago.

She was on a short-term mission trip there, ministering to the needy.   Her earlier trip to Africa ignited a growing desire within her to help those who had so much less than she did.

So when an opportunity arose at her church to travel on this trip, she was determined to go.  Once there, she boarded a school bus with her companions en route to an area of need.   In her own words, she sat beside a young man already on the bus because he “was cute.”

That meeting between the young man and young lady turned into a friendship and they kept in touch even though they lived in different states.  The next year, they both journeyed again to this foreign land for another short-term mission and their friendship continued to blossom.

Somewhere along the line, long after their first meeting, friendship developed into a dating relationship.  Eventually, their admiration for one another evolved into a deeper, richer emotion…love.  Someone once said, “Love is a friendship caught on fire.”  That statement could aptly illustrate this couple’s relationship.

The young lady waited a long time for her true love to come along.  She’s learned a lot about herself in the meantime, and she’s experienced her share of heart break in the past.   Because of that, I imagine she probably protected herself a bit in the beginning of this relationship, not wanting to rush into anything blindly.

But this young man didn’t give up; he persevered.  He just kept being her friend, encouraging her, making her laugh, treating her with kindness and respect, and hoping and praying that someday she would feel for him what he felt for her.

A passage from the Bible found in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, is often quoted when people write about love.    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.   It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails.”

I believe you could insert both of these young people’s names in place of the word love in this passage and it would be an accurate description of their relationship.  How do I know this?  The young lady is my oldest daughter and the young man is her newly betrothed.

I’ve watched from afar as he patiently waited for their friendship to blossom into a romantic relationship.  My husband and I have witnessed firsthand how this man cares for my daughter, how he honors her and wants to be certain she is safe and protected.  Her father and I believe this young fellow, who shares a deep faith with our daughter, will cherish her as his wife.  That is one of the reasons we gave our blessing to him when he asked us for her hand in marriage.

Yes, there is another engagement in our family!  On New Year’s Eve, oldest daughter’s best beau proposed to her in a clever, sweet way and she said yes!  We are blessed beyond measure because all three of the children who grew up here in the empty nest are soon to be married!

On the first day of this brand new year of life, I wrote about the word I’m pursuing in my book of Opportunity –  joy!  Talk about joy!  It overflows from my heart, my smile, my words!

It will be an incredibly busy year with not just one wedding, as we planned, but three!  I’m sure my stress level will increase, but you know what?  So will my joy level!  Actually, it will triple as we gain another family member in our circle of love.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

And one of those beautiful things felt with the heart is joy.

Copyright ©2012

Posted in choices, joy, new beginnings, New Year's, Uncategorized

Do you see what I see?

blogDSCN0265A new day.  A new year.  A new opportunity.  Isn’t that what New Year’s Day signifies?

For some, it’s the opportunity to make resolutions perhaps to commence a healthy diet, lose weight,  stop whatever bad habit they’ve acquired, or change some aspect of their lives.

For some, it’s a new beginning, time to put a year of difficulty or sadness or trial behind them.

For some, it’s just another day….whatever.

On January 1, here at Mama’s Empty Nest, we usually take down the festive Christmas trimmings that adorn our home inside and out.

Papa handles the outdoor lights and carefully stores them away for next year’s use.  I pack away the indoor garlands, lights, and other Christmas festoons.  Together we will tear down the tree and place the ornaments safely in their packages where they rest undisturbed until the day after Thanksgiving.

There’s something about clearing out the reminders of holiday festivities though that brings out a cleaning streak in me.  I get the urge to purge when January rolls around on the calendar.

Once the boxes of Christmas are stashed away, I want to clean the house top to bottom, closet by closet, room by room, and de-clutter.  I’ve been this way for as long as I’ve been married.   In the last few years though, I feel the intense desire to undertake all of this, but don’t always possess the energy to actually accomplish it all.  But I try.

This yearning to clean up and improve my physical surroundings reminded me of this quote from my trusty old notebook:

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ~Ellen Goodman

Isn’t that the truth?  As I walk through my house after Christmas is over, room by room, I notice the things that need attended to, items to repair, unnecessary fluff to discard or pass on to someone who could truly use it.

But how often do I walk through the rooms of my life as that writer suggested?  Do I examine my heart, my actions, my words, and my motivation as closely as I scrutinize my house?

I liked Goodman’s last premise, “not looking for flaws, but for potential.”   I find it as easy to determine the flaws I harbor in my being as it is to identify imperfections in my home that require attention.   But this year I want to look earnestly for potential in my days… yes, I will say it, the opportunities.

Last year, I opened my book I called Opportunity on New Year’s Day.  Today on this first day in 2012, I’m still leafing my book open to prospects, but I’m adding another aspect.  I’m searching for the potential for joy each day of this new year.  No, strike that – I’m choosing joy each day this year.

Yes, that’s it!  I am choosing JOY.  And I’m taking a clue from Dr. Seuss when he wrote, “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own and you know what you know.  And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

So it’s decided.  I’m opting for  joy.  I will examine each circumstance as it comes my way (and there will be many I’m sure!) and I will ask the Lord to show me JOY in the midst.

For years, I’ve claimed this scripture from the Holy Bible as my life verse:   “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Did you catch that?   Be.  Joyful.  Always.  Not just some of the time, not just when situations make me happy or conditions are right or surroundings are pleasant, but always. No matter the circumstances.

I know you might be shaking your head thinking, “Oh, wow, she’s crazy.  This is not going to be easy.”  You’re right, I know it.  But I’m still going to try and with God’s help and direction, with prayer and searching His Word, I’m setting sail on a journey of joy.  Who’s coming with me?

If you’re coming along, go back up and look at my picture at the top of the page.  Do you see the word “joy” like I do?  It’s written with sparklers on the right hand side.  It proves to me that all I have to do is look for joy and I’ll find it!

Copyright ©2012

Posted in empty nest, joy

The aftermath

blogDSCN8399‘Twas  two days after Christmas and all though the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  (Callie’s a good deterrent.)

The stockings were empty, abandoned without care

Because Christmas was over and they were quite bare.

The presents that previously decorated the tree,

Were spread out over the living room for all to see.

Wrapping paper wrinkled and stuffed in the trash,

Proved evidence that there had been a big bash.

When what to Mama’s eyes did suddenly appear

But mountains of dirty towels and sheets she did fear.

So off to the washing machine she flew in a flash,

Stuffed it full of linens and tightened her robe sash.

And sitting in her kitchen with a hot cup of tea,

She surveyed her quiet nest where once was activity.

The goodies were eaten; there were only a few left,

But that certainly wouldn’t cause her to feel bereft.

The children were off to their work and their play,

But soon they’ll fly back home for yet another day.

Mama’s not sad as she straightens the nest,

blogDSCN8392But Callie’s looking lonely without all the rest.

This Christmas was different, yet joy reigned here,

And hopefully, that joy will last into the New Year.