Words for Wednesday: sorry, not sorry

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Social distancing in more ways than one

Believe it or not, I haven’t had much spare time to write posts for this blog.

Yes, we are sheltering in place at home, social and physical distancing, flattening the curve, etc., doing our part to help contain the virus that has most of the world in its grip.

And you would think by being at home and having nothing on the calendar except cancelled appointments, I would have ample opportunities to sit down at my desktop computer and compose. String words together to make sentences galore. Fill up the screen with my thoughts in written word.

Huh. Not happening. Why?

Because a five-year-old now lives with us for the duration of this crisis. And five-year-olds don’t allow for much peace, quiet, and alone time. Five year-olds go non-stop from the time they awaken in the morning (“Papa, Nana, it’s morning time, get up!”) to when they finally fall asleep at night (while you read countless stories over and over again).

On warmer, nicer days (and we haven’t had many so far this spring), we play outside and go for walks. But our indoor activities are chock full of made-up games of pretend, daily challenges (and she makes up the challenges!), doing workbook pages of letters, numbers, dot-to-dot, and kindergarten lessons (even though she won’t attend kindergarten until fall), coloring, painting, play-dough creating, Lego building, and games, games, games.

Our granddaughter LOVES games. And since we have played games she has here (Trouble, Sorry, Guess Who, Daniel Tiger Bingo, and Frozen Match Game) so many times, we resorted to our cache of games from our kids’ childhoods that were stored away in the basement. So Little One now has learned how to play Uno, Jenga, a card game called Waterworks, and even Battleship. And she’s caught on quickly.

She’s truly proved it might be genetic because we are a family that plays games every time we are all together. And you know what? Even though I’m tired (and so is Papa) from our 24/7 child care duty during this time, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that we are enjoying time with our granddaughter when so many grandparents can’t visit with theirs in person. I’m grateful that we can see and converse with all of our family, including our other two younger grandchildren, on a group FaceTime like we did just the other evening.

We had the best time talking, laughing, and just generally being silly with our entire immediate family all on our cell phones. And it warmed this Nana and Papa’s hearts to hear our three-year-old grandchild yell into the cell phone, “I want to see Nana and Papa!!”

Is it easy staying home? Not too difficult for us retired folks, but it does have challenges. Is it hard to be physically separated from our loved ones and friends? Yes, it is.  But we have phones and other ways to communicate. And I’m grateful for that.

Last month, I had planned to once again lead a ladies Bible study in my home. Well, obviously, that didn’t happen. So this week, I’m especially thankful for our computer guru son-in-law who gave instructions for this non-technical person on how to video conference online with my group and get our sessions started in the next few days.

I do feel sorry that we all have to endure this difficult time. I’m sorry that hardships have come our way. But I’m also not sorry because as we stay home, we must find reasons to feel gratitude. To express thankfulness. And we will.

I will leave you with words recently written by American retired teacher and chaplain Kitty O’Meara, that’s been making the rounds on the web. You may have already seen it, but I urge you to read it once more because you can find reasons that make this all worthwhile.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

On this thankful Tuesday

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

It’s Tuesday and it’s Holy Week for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. And because of the situation stretching all across the globe, we are struggling.

We struggle with knowing what news reports to believe when there seem to be so many conflicting stories on the airwaves and internet.

We struggle with emotions as we hear how many thousands of souls have perished and how many thousands are sick with this vile virus.

We struggle with moments of fear and maybe even panic wondering if/when the pandemic will hit our hometown and worse, our families and friends.

We struggle with self-isolating, physical distancing, being still, and decisions whether to wear masks or not.

We struggle with loneliness caused by orders to stay home, self-isolate, shelter in place, flatten the curve.

We struggle with selfishness and hoarding.

We struggle with job losses for some and worry over the health of those essential workers who must continue to work.

We struggle because instead of enjoying fellowship in our houses of worship with other believers, we sit in front of our computers alone listening to our pastors’ messages online.

In the last couple of weeks, we all have struggled and it looks like we will continue for some time before this crisis is over.

Personally, I’ve tried to stay positive while staying home. I try to encourage others through this blog, on social media, through text messages, FaceTime, and phone calls. But I too have struggled.

I’ve fought surrendering to a waterfall of tears as I witnessed our nurse daughter succumb to sadness and – to be perfectly honest – a bit of fear when forced by these circumstances to place her 5-year-old child with us, the grandparents, for the duration of this crisis.

blogseparationBecause her hospital has COVID-19 patients, our daughter chose to protect her child and us, her parents well over 60, because we are caregivers for our granddaughter while Daughter works. 

Our daughter is concerned that she might expose us and in order to protect us, she separated indefinitely from her child. Not something any loving mother ever envisions having to do willingly.

Watching my daughter shed tears as she held tightly to her child when she left for work that day was heart-wrenching. Little One knows there are “bad germs” out there making people very sick and her mommy must do her part to help care for them.

Daughter, a nurse for over 10 years now, has never been afraid to work in a hospital setting until now. But she believes she is called by God to do her job. To help those who need it most. To ease people’s suffering and give comfort and care.

I struggle watching her selflessness amidst a world with so many who are selfish. I don’t think I could be as self-sacrificing as my daughter is and I even struggle with that fact.

We all struggle throughout this time yet that is what life entails in the fallen world in which we live.

Struggle. And it is real. And it’s gut-wrenching. And it breaks our hearts.

Yet…it is Tuesday. It is Holy Week. And as I prepare my heart and mind to celebrate Resurrection Sunday this weekend, I also remember my Savior praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

God with us in human form, He too struggled with willingly suffering and dying on the cross in my place as the perfect atonement for sins.  (You can read this account in a copy of the Bible or even online in Matthew 26:36-42 and Mark 14:32-36.)

Jesus knows exactly how we struggle. He experienced it himself.  Luke 22:44 tells me that as Jesus prayed in that garden, knowing what He would face in the days to come,  “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

So I run to Him, my Savior who understands all my emotions and anguish, and I place all of my struggles, worries, and cares in His capable hands. In doing so, I will not struggle to find aspects of life for which to be thankful. There is much for which to be grateful even now. 

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to all the amazing healthcare workers sacrificing their own health and safety for those who need them most. I am thankful for each one of them.

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to the gifted and motivated medical researchers working so diligently for treatments and vaccines. I am grateful for them.

My thankfulness extends as well to all the essential workers who place their own safety on the line for the sake of others, for us.  Those grocery store, pharmacy, and banking workers, the truck drivers who haul supplies from one end of the country to another, to the countless and often forgotten cleaning people at hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.

You are all heroes in my eyes and I pray that God keeps you safe and well. I am thankful for each and every one of you.

I am thankful that even though my daughter and my grandchild are physically separated during this time, they can see and talk to one another through technology –  FaceTime.

I’m also thankful for something as simple as the glass in our front storm door. Daughter can come to our house, sit outside on our front porch on one side of the physical barrier while our granddaughter is on the inside of the door. They smile at one another, they talk, they even play made-up pretend games, and they laugh.

It makes all of our hearts glad and thankful.

It is Thankful Tuesday of Holy Week and I will not struggle to express gratitude this week nor in the weeks beyond.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” ~ Epictetus

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Throwback Thursday: retirement ramblings

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Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

Today’s post is a Thursday throwback to the year 2010. Back in the summer of that year, I began this blog, Mama’s Empty Nest, never expecting that I would continue it for 10 more years. But once a writer, always a writer and I’ve been writing since the time I was able to hold a pencil and put words together to make a sentence.

Much has changed since 2010 and I’ve decided to share throw-back posts from the earlier years of this blog every now and then. Sort of a walk down memory lane.

One of life’s aspects that has changed since I first wrote the post you will read below is that Papa and I actually are retired now. Well, I am. I categorize my husband as semi-retired since he works part-time at a low-key, less stressful job just for something to do and a little extra income to bolster our travel fund.

Papa and I just got back from a trip out west. That’s the fun part about retirement. You can pick up and travel whenever you want. But back in 2010, here’s what I had to say about retiring:

Dreaming of retirement?  Apparently you can make all those dreams come true if you read articles about retirement.

But most of them address only the financial aspect of this stage of life, it seems to me.

My mind’s been roaming and roving around on a tangent about this milestone in life because I have a friend who recently retired.  What sounds like bliss to the rest of us, who still must endure the daily grind, isn’t exactly idyllic to her, and she is struggling with the day-to-day aspect of retirement.  I know she will eventually discover her way on this path because she is one smart cookie.  But for now, retirement is a considerable adjustment for her.

I remember when my father retired.  My mother, who was a stay-at-home mother and homemaker extraordinaire, confessed to me that Dad was driving her nuts!  He was accustomed to a job that kept him “on the go” all day; Mom was used to her daily routine at home which did not involve jumping in the car at the drop of a hat to “go somewhere.”  It took some time, but soon they adjusted to this new phase of their lives.

I’m the “baby” of my family, the youngest of three sisters.  My oldest sister and brother-in-law just retired.  They closed the doors of their business with finality and for now are traveling around the country in their RV and enjoying time with their children and grandchildren.  They are deliberating about spending winters in Arizona and perhaps heading back here to the homeland for summer time.

My other sister and brother-in-law are also living the “easy life.”  After years of hard work, they are taking pleasure in this time of relaxation and respite.  They keep busy with hobbies, interests, and friends and seem content doing so.  They have a first grandchild due to make an entry into the family near the end of this year, so they will be morphing into grandparent-hood shortly.

My hubby and I are not approaching retirement age quite yet.  Matter of fact, the economic prognosis in our country right now makes retirement for us seem like an almost unobtainable goal, remotely existing in the distant future.   I just researched a government website for information on when you can retire and take full social security retirement benefits. 

For most of us baby boomers, the magic age is 66.  For my hubby, who is only one year younger than me, it is 66 plus two months.  Of course, you can retire earlier if you want, you just don’t receive full benefits.  Hubby and I pessimistically think by the time we are ready to retire, social security will be insolvent, and we’ll probably get nothing.  Sounds dismal, doesn’t it?

I suppose that’s why a good portion of retirement advice dwells on finances.  But it also occurs to me that many of these article writers assume everyone wants to live “lifestyles of the rich and famous.”  

Do they all suppose we want to sell our current homes and retire to some exotic island where we can purchase a villa — smaller of course than what they think we own now, but way more expensive?  They must believe we desire to travel “around the world in 80 days” and then do it again every year after that.

Of course, I believe if you have the money, the inclinations, and good health in your retirement years, why not live it up?  You deserve to enjoy that period of your life.

But if you are anything like me, you might just want to live a simple life instead.  Sure, throw in a couple of fun trips to wherever you’ve always dreamed of visiting.  But for the most part, enjoy the freedom to indulge in your hobbies and interests. 

Enjoy spending time with your family.  Enjoy friends.  Give back by volunteering at some place that really needs your help and expertise.  Learn something new.  Share your godly wisdom you learned on this journey in life with those who can benefit from it.   Teach your grandchildren things they won’t otherwise learn.

There’s a wacky study, performed by some psychologists from one of those places in academia, which says retirees do not find their happiness spending time with their children and grandchildren.  I say, “Bunk!”

Naturally, I don’t adhere to the belief that your progeny should provide your only source of happiness, but I do think we gain much, much joy from our family ties.  So I don’t think retirement should be time for complete self-absorption.

To me, retirement is your time to spread your wings and fly if you can.   But also ground yourself from time to time with those you love the most on this earth.   This Mama is hopeful that once retirement comes for us, the empty nest will still be open, waiting to be filled up from time to time with young birds’ visits and maybe someday, grandbaby birdies too.

So here’s what’s different today 10 years later in 2020:

  • My oldest sister and brother-in-law did decide to take up residence in Arizona where Papa and I just recently visited.
  • In our own retirement, Papa and I thoroughly enjoy traveling and taking more time to do so. 
  • Mama’s empty nest certainly is still open and happy to be filled up from time to time with our grown children AND grandchildren. Three of them!!
  • And I definitely can de-bunk that study that said retirees don’t find happiness spending time with their families. I beg to differ. Some of my happiest days are spent with those loved ones.

And here’s what hasn’t changed – I still believe what I wrote about retirement in 2010:

  • Enjoy the freedom to indulge in your hobbies and interests.
  • Enjoy spending time with your family and friends. 
  • Give back by volunteering at some place that really needs your help and expertise. 
  • Learn and experience something new. 
  • Share your godly wisdom you learned on this journey in life with those who can benefit from it.  
  • Teach your grandchildren things they won’t otherwise learn.

“Retire from work, but not from life.” ~ M.K. Soni

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: changes

blogIMG_4399Changes loom on the horizon.  

Even though the scene outside my window is not a typical autumn view with brilliantly colored leaves on our trees because the leaves turned brown, dried up, and dropped like flies this year, change is smack dab in the middle of my viewfinder. 

A change from the usual fall we experience and I’ve been a whiner about that. My attitude needs to change.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

As the weather shifts into more winter-like temperatures, we must adjust to more changes. Put away the warm weather clothes and haul out the cold weather attire.

There are other changes in life at Mama’s Empty Nest, but I will save that for a later blog.

For now, I’m concentrating on yet another alteration. For the last several years, I’ve only posted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Tomorrow is the first day of November – Thanksgiving month.  A new month. A new chance for change.

I’m hoping to publish a new post every day in the upcoming month. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I’m willing to try.

A change that will require a lot of my time in a season when I truly have a lot of other important tasks to accomplish.

But I feel the need to express something I don’t do nearly enough.

And it all starts tomorrow as a new month of this dwindling year is ushered in.

Meet me here. Tomorrow. On Mama’s Empty Nest.

And I’ll explain what I have in mind.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Digging up the past

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I caught up with my past today.  It was buried deep in cardboard boxes high up on a shelf. Dusty and forgotten for so many years.

I hauled it down, blew off the dust. And all the years and memories unfolded in front of me.

There were cards and letters, trinkets, and junk with meaning only I would remember. But the past became as vivid as today’s raindrops beating on my window pane.

When my youthful diaries revealed so many faded memories, the joy and pain of adolescence gripped my heart once more as I read of long-lost friends and school girl crushes. So much teenage angst.

Hurt, rejection, misunderstandings swirled together with excitement, thrills of shared smiles, first kisses, first love. It was all there written down for safe-keeping in my own handwriting on lined pages in small books entitled “My Diary.”

I read them from start to finish while scenes from the almost forgotten past floated through my memory. Of course now, looking back on those days with grey-haired wisdom, I marvel at how fickle youth truly is.

Love him today, hate him tomorrow. Best friends now, not friends at all as time marches on. As I read the short passages written in between empty spaces, I observed with hindsight and a little sorrow how easily a young girl can be manipulated as well.

Yet, those long ago years seem so romanticized. They seem golden in my mind. They shout fun, exuberance, and excitement of being young in times past. When life was as simple as worrying about what to wear to school tomorrow and whether that cute boy in history class was really looking at me or merely out the window beside my desk.

And I laugh out loud at my girlish thoughts which I put into written words.

It’s true I wouldn’t want to return via time travel back to those days of my youth. There were lessons to be learned, some the hard way. A lot of growing up needed to be accomplished.  Some dreams were foolish; some were worth achieving.

But what’s passed is past.

 “You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”  ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

So today I find myself placing those youthful memories back in their box, back where they belong. But before I do, I realize that I am grateful for those times, those long-ago events that shaped me into the woman I am today.

What that young, naive, and flighty girl has become. Wife of a good, faithful husband, Mama of three wondrous children, Nana to two precious grandchildren, Daughter, Sister, Friend.

For what’s written in the past made future me the present me.

“The past was always there, lived inside of you, and it helped to make you who you were. But it had to be placed in perspective. The past could not dominate the future.” ~ Barbara Taylor Bradford, Unexpected Blessings

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Get off the worry track

blogIMG_4531 (2)My family is small in comparison to others.

My mother was an only child, so no aunts or uncles there as well as no first cousins. My father was the youngest in his family and when he passed away at 90 years of age, all of his brothers and his sister were also deceased. So I have no living aunts or uncles. 

In addition to that, every one of my first cousins was older than I was since I was the last cousin born.  And now all but one are also deceased.

So I only have this one cousin left.  Growing up, he was my favorite cousin and I’ve always felt a special kinship with him. Maybe it’s because he was the closest in age to me (even though he’s seven years older) and most of the other cousins were old enough to be my parents. Or maybe it’s just because we were the youngest in the family. Or maybe it’s because we just seem connected.

Cousin and I don’t get to see each other very often even though he and his wife don’t live too far from me. But when we do manage to run into one another here and there, it’s like we can’t stop talking.

His grown children and grandchildren live far away from our hometown just like some of mine do. So Cousin and I spend some time chatting and catching up on how the kids are all doing and what’s new in their lives.

Since he has done a lot of research about our family genealogy and I’m also very interested in that, we discuss that quite a bit as well. He has even visited the place in jolly ol’ England from where our family came and I find that fascinating. Cousin is a wealth of information on the subject and I always enjoy when he shares what he’s learned with me.

But then we get to reminiscing about days gone by as well. Since he is a bit older, he remembers family stories that I don’t know or that happened when I was too young to remember.   

Just last week, my cousin and his gracious wife attended a social function where Papa and I also just so happened to be present.  And after the hugs and handshakes, we got an opportunity to sit down and chat. And chat. And chat.

So much to talk about and not enough time to do so is how it felt. One of the comments my cousin made struck me as particularly poignant and it has stuck with me ever since. 

He has had some serious health issues in the last few years which culminated in major surgery. He seems fine now, but I do believe his health concerns caused him to consider his mortality and changed his outlook on life somewhat.

He told me he’s really questioned himself over the way he lived his life when he was in his younger decades. Don’t we all do so when we arrive in the fall and winter seasons of life?

We start looking back over the years we’ve passed through and wonder if we’ve done enough. If we’ve lived enough.

If we’ve made an impact in someone’s life.

If we chased all the wrong elusive butterflies like prosperity, social status, impressive careers, material possessions, or whatever else we thought was important.

Did our lives make a difference? Did we fulfill a purpose here on this earth? And if we consider all of those things we worried and fretted over as we journeyed through life, did they really matter?

Even those aspects of life we may have neglected can prove a bit worrisome as we reflect back over years past. And worry tends to become a focus for the future as well.

Pondering over my cousin’s remark and considering all of the uncertain aspects of the future I find myself stewing over, I’m reminded of what Jesus tells me in the book of Matthew.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~ Matthew 5:25-34

As He always does, Jesus speaks truth. Why do we waste our time worrying?

I must remind myself it’s futile worrying about the past. What’s done is done. Finished. I can’t change it by worrying or by wishing I would have lived it differently. Only through God’s grace in the gift of a Savior can our slates be wiped clean from past wrong doings.

Likewise, it’s in vain to worry about the present. My God will provide all I need and I must focus on doing His will, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. That means I should live this time of my life with purpose and concentrate on what the Lord leads me to do and in the direction He guides me.

And what about the future? I do tend to fret about what may happen, but I must remember the words of my Savior: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” 

Tomorrow will come. Who knows what it may bring. But I place my trust and faith in a Savior who will see me through whatever happens.

I am certain I’m on the right track because as I contemplated this idea and started composing this post, several quotes about worrying appeared on my social media news feed.

And then as I sat in Sunday morning worship at our church, our pastor, in his message,  used other scriptures about anxiety and worry that had crossed my mind while I was working on this post. 

Coincidence? I think not. God always lets me know when I’m on the right track.

“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” ~ unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

If I call you friend

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Me (front right) with some friends on my 13th birthday. 

Friend. It’s the weekly photo challenge theme.

And the timing of the challenge is perfect because I recently received a surprise long-distance phone call from a friend wishing me a Happy Birthday. 

My friend lives all the way across the country from me. My friend is someone I spent a lot of time with over 20 years ago. She is someone who I haven’t seen in person for about 15 years.

Time and distance separate us, but yet when I have the chance to talk with my friend, it’s like time and distance disappear. We pick right up where we last left off and away we go. There’s never a lull in conversation. Never an awkward moment. Never enough time to talk as much as we want it seems.

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I can think aloud.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friend. How many people can I attribute that title to?

Friend. If I look on my blog stats, I have 1000 friends because so far, that’s how many people follow my blog. But a huge majority of those people are folks I’ve never met or shared any kind of conversation with online or in person.

So, even though I appreciate each and every one of those who follow my blog regularly, I can’t really call those readers my friends. What you know of me is only what I write publicly and very few of you even know my name. And what I know of you is probably much less.

When it comes to Twitter, it’s the same story. Many followers, but only a couple that I actually know. So friends? I don’t think so. Not so long ago, I deactivated my account because Twitter just seemed so senseless to me. (I know what people believe about having writer’s platforms, etc., etc., but it’s just not for me.)

Turning the social media page to Facebook, at last count, over 100 people like this blog’s fan page. Some of those are personal friends, some are not. Some are complete strangers to me. 

On my personal Facebook page, I have only 245 friends – small potatoes compared to those who have thousands of “friends.” But I purposely keep my personal Facebook page limited to people I actually know, those who have personal connections with me,  and folks from the past with whom I’ve continued to maintain a friendship. 

So if I call you friend, who are you?

Friend. Childhood friends come and go, but three of my childhood and teen years friends have always been there for me, sharing happiness and sorrow, disappointments and accomplishments.  True steadfast friendships that have endured to this day. Lifelong friends.

Friend. College friends seem like your best friends during those years because you share living spaces, new experiences, heartaches, and fun times with them. But only a couple of those friendships have stood the test of time.

Friend. During my season as a young married military wife, friends who shared the same hardships and the ups and downs of standing alongside husbands who served their country became lifelines. Some of those friendships have prevailed over the years, others have not.

Friend. In my career years, gals I worked with were my supportive and understanding friends. Ones with whom I could share frustrations with over lunch or on break or during a shopping trip. But many of those friendships have faded over time.

Friend. Then came a season of stay-at-home motherhood and I found myself in a new circle of friends. Moms like me with families and a home as our priority. These friends provided a listening ear, a helping hand, and much support since we lived so far away from family. Several of those friendships remain intact even though we are separated by distance, we connect on Facebook.

Friend. And then there were my friends of faith, particularly when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest. How precious they were to me as they helped me cultivate contentment in my circumstances, or how to be thankful in all things, or how to pray consistently and effectively for my children. Those friendships always remain special to me.

Friend. As my season of life changed yet again with a move back to our native state, friends helped sustain me through the illness of my mother, both my mother and mother-in-law’s deaths, and getting acclimated to living in a rural setting once more after so many years in suburbia.

Friend. While working for a non-profit ministry, I gained another new set of friends. Mature and spiritual friends with whom I regularly prayed. Friends who anointed and laid hands on me for healing when I faced my own cancer diagnosis. And to quote a Michael W. Smith song, “Friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them.”

Friend. The empty nest, when the last of my three children graduated from college and moved away, literally knocked me for a loop following the death of my father.  I felt adrift in a turbulent sea without a rudder to steer by. 

I struggled with the concept of friendship during that time because those relationships I had with my children’s parents changed dramatically.  My heart ached for like-minded friends who were willing to be soul-sharing kind of friends, not just acquaintances.

That’s when I turned to blogging to pour out words which seemed trapped in my head, heart, and soul. And that’s when the Lord orchestrated another crossing of paths in the pursuit of friendship.

Friend. I never would have thought that I would find good friends online. People whom I’ve never met in person, yet are so dear to me for their encouraging words, thoughtful emails, and in one case, even handwritten letters, texts, and phone calls.  Only a handful, yet you know who you are.

Friend. Being friends requires a lot of giving of oneself. Friends require understanding. Friends must travel a two-way street.  Friends need one another. Friends are good sounding boards, cheerleaders, and sympathetic listening ears.

Much about this life is uncertain, but one thing is clear. If I call you friend, you truly are just that.

Friend.

“To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed – that can make life a garden.”~ Goethe

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Swiftly fly the years

blognewborn

Our son with his newborn baby girl

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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

All by myself

blogdscn0241Solitude.

Now there’s a word that scared the daylights out of me.

The thought of being alone stirred up a restlessness inside of me that soon heightened to nothing short of anxiety. Being secluded or separated from other people caused me to feel trepidation, which I managed to hide well for a very long time.

I grew up the youngest of three sisters in a relatively small family. No aunts or uncles on my mother’s side since she was an only child.  My father was the youngest of his family and most of my cousins from his side were old enough to have been my parents.  So my fate was always to be the youngest in a family of older folks.

Even my own sisters were considerably older than I was. When I was a youngster interested in playing ‘house’ with my dolls and tootling around on a tricycle, they were teenagers interested in boys, music, and their friends.

Honestly, I experienced a lonely childhood being the youngest.  My sisters were beyond the age of playing with me or even having the arguments and little spats that most siblings experience. In essence, it felt like I was an only child.  By the time I was six, my oldest sister got married and by age nine, my next sister joined the ranks of wedded folks.

I can still feel how loneliness washed over me time and time again even though I lived in a loving home with two parents and my maternal elderly grandparents until they passed away when I was nine.  And I can distinctly remember the scary feeling of finding myself…well… by myself.

Embedded in my memories are incidences when I jumped off the school bus after a day spent learning, skipped home, and couldn’t find my mother, who was either in the basement doing the laundry or somewhere where she wasn’t in clear sight when I walked through the kitchen door.  Near panic seized me and I would run frantically through the house shouting for my mom only feeling at ease again when I heard her familiar voice calling back.

Being alone.

Didn’t like it. I avoided it as often as I could. And that mode of operation continued through my teen years and even into adulthood. Oh, I would sequester myself into my bedroom reading, listening to music, or daydreaming alone just like any normal teen girl but I still felt assured when someone else, either mom or dad, was at home with me.

Because I didn’t want to be totally alone. Privacy was one thing but isolation was the scary monster lurking around any solitude.

Feeling off balance from that loneness was one of the hardest obstacles I encountered when I graduated from college (never had to be alone then as there were always friends and a roommate nearby), secured a teaching job in a town a couple of hours away from my family, and moved into an apartment alone.

I hated it. I dreaded coming home from a long day of teaching middle schoolers to an empty and lonely apartment with absolutely no one there. No family. No roommate. No pets. Nothing. Just me and the solitude of an attic apartment on a quiet street in a town where I didn’t know a soul. 

Just so I had someone to converse and spend time with, I became fast friends with my neighboring landlady whose husband worked night shifts.  She was kind and didn’t seem to mind when I showed up at her door so I didn’t have to endure an evening by myself. 

My phone bill (in those days long before cell phones) was high with long distance calls to my parents, my boyfriend (who lived quite a distance away from me), friends, anyone to talk to so I wouldn’t feel so alone. One lonely evening everyone I telephoned wasn’t home. Since there were no answering machines, the sound of the ringing phone in my ear just droned on and on while no one answered. It felt like I was the only human being on planet earth. Again that scary feeling of isolation reared its head overwhelming me.  I literally cried myself to sleep many nights hating the seclusion and separation I felt, totally forlorn.

Being by myself seemed like the worst solitary confinement on earth. I came to the realization that my idea of never marrying was ridiculous. I was not equipped to live life alone without a loving spouse to share it with.  So I was ecstatic when my boyfriend proposed to me. Married, I wouldn’t be alone.

Fast forward several years. Three children growing up in our household in the suburbs meant lots of activities and a noisy household filled with people.  And even though my husband traveled overnight in his position as a sales rep, I wasn’t completely alone since children, friends, and neighbors were always around, and I kept busy all the time so I wouldn’t actually have much ‘by myself time.’

Recently I found an old journal from a ladies’ retreat I attended one weekend many years ago with my church. I recall how lovely and fun it was socializing and studying God’s Word with the sweet gals there, but one of our scheduled activities was to go off and find a quiet spot in the idyllic setting – a retreat center in the woods of the Pacific Northwest – and spend time alone.

Alone?!? 

I can still recall how unsettled that made me feel.  This is what I wrote in that journal dated September 24, 1996 – exactly 20 years ago this week:

We talked about waiting for the Lord, quiet time, and solitude. The retreat center here is perfect for this. But solitude and quietness are scary to me. I’ve realized I tend to fill up my time with chatter and being with others. I would really like to change that. I desire quietness sometimes because of all the noise and hustle and bustle of our household but I also fear the silence.  Sometimes I feel like I’m on sensory overload between the kids, the TV, the noise of traffic, etc., and I’m angry when someone interrupts what little bit of silence we get by turning on the TV or stereo. Right now, I enjoy the quietness I have in the mornings after my husband’s gone to work and the kids have gone off to school. But still a part of me doesn’t want to be alone in solitude. I’ve feared that all my life. I do realize though that I’m not alone. The Lord is always with me if only I choose to be with Him.

Apparently, what I wrote then I soon forgot because after that retreat I continued to fill up my time so I wouldn’t be by myself. Classroom volunteering and parent teacher organizations at my children’s schools, sports boosters, church activities galore, leading Bible studies, social engagements, lunches with friends, and even 13 years spent filling up my ‘spare time’ with a part-time position in a ministry I had a real passion for.  I wasn’t happy unless my calendar spaces were full of things to keep me from spending time alone.

I think that’s why the empty nest hit me like a ton of bricks, knocking me off center, and honestly, freaking me out. Our home, which had been a busy beehive of activity for so long, sat silent when our last child graduated from college and moved out of state to begin his career. My last living parent, my beloved Dad, passed away the year before that. My husband was still working long hours even though he wasn’t traveling any more.  But suddenly, I was alone.  Really alone. A lot.

That’s when I turned to this blog and pouring my heart and soul into writing posts for it.  Still filling up those moments of solitude by reaching out to you, my readers, via this online highway of connectedness.

Circumstances have changed significantly lately. My home is no longer a picture of quiet solitude. For the last 18 months, our daughter and granddaughter have found sanctuary from a heartbreaking situation by living with Papa and me.  Our home is filled with busyness, laughter, and noise again with our sweet little one.  My quiet time is sparse because while her Mama resumes doing what she is so very good at, her hospital nursing career, Little One is under Nana’s care.

Other life changes once again derailed our train of well-made plans when my husband was unwillingly forced into semi-retirement at age 61 this year, but he is happy and contented working part-time in a position where he just fulfills his job duties at work and then comes home and can forget about it.  The weighed down boulder of responsibilities he once had has been lifted and he no longer brings his job and its problems home with him. Peace of mind is priceless, it’s true.

I haven’t had much alone time for over a year and a half, and I’ve shocked myself by actually missing some solitude. But even in the midst of all these changes and the return of a busy household, I do get snippets of time when Daughter and Little One are away and Papa, working various hours in a more random schedule,  is also gone and I am alone.

In solitude.

I can do whatever I feel like doing or not.  I can sit on the front porch swing uninterrupted and read.  I can clean out a closet and reminisce over the things I find there.  Or I can just curl up on the family room couch, enjoy the silence, and do nothing. And here’s the shocking revelation – I like it.

I’ve come to appreciate those moments of solitude, something I never thought would happen. Finally, in my quiet alone time, I realize that I’m not feeling lonely, or isolated, or fearful. It’s a surprise to me. And a welcome one at that.

I truly do have the best company and always have.  His presence wraps around me like the warm, fuzzy fleece throw that is draped over our easy chair. He has promised to never leave me, never forsake me, and never leave me feeling alone. The issues and problems of life still continue but He helps me face them and persevere through them.

I like the way devotional author Erin Keeley Marshall once wrote of Him, “Next time loneliness hits, imagine yourself resting in the shelter of his palm, and realize being alone is an impossibility since his hand never lets you go.”

Who is He? My Savior, my Redeemer, my Jesus. And I believe I’m finally accepting and yes, embracing the lesson about solitude He’s tried to teach me for all of these years.

 “Isolation is aloneness that feels forced upon you, like a punishment. Solitude is aloneness you choose and embrace. I think great things can come out of solitude, out of going to a place where all is quiet except the beating of your heart.” -Jeanne Marie Laskas

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Thanks Giving: for the migraine

blogquote1What power do a mere set of words have? Tremendous power when they become a catalyst for change.

On the first post of my 30 days of thanks giving, I promised to share the story of why a particular set of words, the very words that challenged me to begin this monthly project, changed my outlook.

Years ago, our family lived in the Pacific Northwest and we attended a small, evangelical church.  Being newcomers we eagerly got involved with our family of God and began participating in musical productions there.  Papa loved to sing and music has always been an integral part of my life.

Every year at Easter, our church presented a dramatic, musical pageant telling the life of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross through drama and song. We practiced many long hours learning the music, helping build sets, and assisting with various aspects of the production.  One particular year, our family of five – my husband, our three children, and I – were all in the program.  I was one of the few who sang alto and since I’ve always enjoyed singing and performing, it satisfied my ‘inner actress.’

We had already performed the pageant on Good Friday and Saturday evening but expected an even larger crowd for the Easter Sunday morning program.   I eagerly anticipated this last presentation because we had invited friends to attend.

And then it happened.  I woke up Easter Sunday morning around 5 a.m. with one doozy of a headache.  I groggily made my way out of bed and popped some medication.  It didn’t help.

If anything, my headache worsened and then my stomach started churning.  The pain was so intense, dizziness ensued, and as I scurried to the bathroom to ease my nausea, I realized I had a full-blown migraine headache.

Not today!  I prayed.  I begged God to take the excruciating pain and sick stomach away.  I cried, I moaned, and in my mind I was screaming, “Why me?  Why today?”

Instead of feeling better, I got worse.  I couldn’t even stand upright but was relegated to my bed while my husband and children prepared to leave for church and perform in the pageant I so longingly wanted to be in.

After they left, I curled up in my bed gripping my pounding head and weeping.  Why did this happen today of all days?  Why did it happen to me?

The phone ringing on the nightstand jarred me out of my misery.  The harsh sound seemed to make my head pound even more as I crawled across the bed to answer it. The soothing, calm voice of a close friend from church greeted me.

Learning from my husband that I was suffering with a horrible migraine, something she often experienced as well, she called before the program commenced.  She sympathized with me, assured me that I was truly missed, but then she did something that totally startled me.

She prayed with me on the phone.  Of course, she asked God to relieve my suffering and pain, but she prayed words that Easter morning that I have never forgotten and I don’t believe I ever will.

She thanked God for my migraine headache.  What?!  My groggy brain thought I wasn’t hearing her correctly.  Did my friend just thank God for my pain?  For my suffering?  For the fact that I couldn’t participate in praising the Lord on Resurrection Day? That I was missing the opportunity to perform those songs I had practiced so long?

Yes, she did.  Her words are etched in my mind.  She prayed, “Lord, we don’t always understand the things that happen or why they happen but we know you have a reason.  And your Word tell us that we should…”

And then she recited this passage of scripture as she prayed over me that Easter morning: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances (even for headaches), for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Okay, I’m human.  You know what I was thinking during all of this, don’t you?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  Be thankful for a throbbing migraine headache that was causing me not to be able to see straight and making me throw up?  Be thankful that I couldn’t perform in a program I had spent many hours preparing for? Be thankful that I wasn’t with my family on the most glorious day of the year celebrating the resurrection of Jesus? HUH?? Was she a crazy nut?  A religious fanatic?

My mind couldn’t wrap around why she prayed over those particular verses.  But weeks later, as I pondered my friend’s prayer and read that scripture passage again…and again…its truth sunk into my soul. And that passage of scripture eventually changed my outlook and became my ‘go-to’ verses for life because I finally realized that even painful or difficult circumstances can be used by God to bring us closer to Him, to seek Him, rely on Him.

Today on this third day of my 30 days of thanks giving, I give thanks for that circumstance over 20 years ago because it changed my way of thinking.  It changed my life. I give thanks for a wise friend who followed God’s leading to call me and pray His Word with me.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my story. And I am thankful for that migraine headache.

“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask but when we are challenged to be what we can be.” ~ Morris Adler

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com