Cup of kindness

blogIMG_47632New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. Another year will soon be upon us and many of us may be singing this line:

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.

Christmas has come and gone.  The empty nest is emptied out again and things are settled down and quiet once more.

The real pine tree adorned with lights and sentimental ornaments is looking pretty droopy. Soon all the festive finery that spruced up our home will be taken down, dismantled, boxed up, and secured away again until next year.

But I’m hoping one thing remains. Something that actually surprised me during the Christmas season. 

Good cheer and random acts of kindness. 

Let me say right up front that I do not enjoy any kind of shopping once Black Friday descends upon us.

The crowds, the noise, the hard-to-find parking spots, the long lines at the check-out, the crowds….oh wait, I already said that. The crowds. The older I get, the less I can tolerate crowded places. And rude people.

And let’s face it. It just seems to go hand in hand when everyone and his brother and fourteenth cousin twice removed is out there shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts.

This year, I was forced to do some Christmas shopping…well…during the Christmas shopping season because I didn’t complete it as I usually do before Thanksgiving. And I must confess, I actually dreaded going.

But I put my happy face on, grabbed Papa by the hand on one of his days off (luckily a week day), and off we went to brave the crowds in the shopping trenches, I mean centers.

Well. I was surprised. I expected crowds, rudeness, and nasty people. I found none of those. The stores were not crammed full of irritable shoppers which was a plus, matter of fact they weren’t crammed with people at all.

Score one for me.

Then I actually found people to be pleasant and congenial. Shocker, I know!

Score two.

And even kind. Folks held the doors open for one another. A lady checking out ahead of us in one store turned to me, held out a 20% discount coupon, and asked me if I wanted it.

“Are you sure?” I asked incredulously. She nodded yes, so I accepted the coupon and thanked her most kindly and wished her a Merry Christmas.

She responded in kind and said, “Every little bit helps.”

Score three.

So I guess that little slogan I read this past week on the tag of a Salada tea bag is on to something.

“Kindness is the oil that takes the friction out of life,” that tag proclaimed.

I’ll take that cup of Christmas kindness any time. Let’s hope it lasts all through the coming year.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” ~Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Once a year

blogIMG_0131(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2012.) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn’t that be something?

Once a Year by Josh Wilson

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Hauling out the holly

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Image ©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2011.) 

What a difference a year makes.  That statement may sound cliché, but it’s true.

Here’s how I know this.

Last year (2010) around this time, my attitude was notably different than my attitude is today.  Don’t believe me? Read this.

Last year, I was:  (Pick one)

  1. Grumpy
  2. Grinch-like
  3. Melancholy
  4. Suffering from empty nest syndrome
  5. All of the above

If you chose “E,” you get the gold star! 

Last year at this time, I struggled to drum up some Christmas spirit.  The crates full of holiday decorations lay idle strewn through the house, but I didn’t possess the motivation or desire to bedeck the surroundings.  My mind, kidnapped and trapped by melancholy, continually persuaded me to ignore the approaching season of joy just as surely as my heart, harbored in sadness, agreed.

Empty nest syndrome and grief over my father’s passing reigned.  My husband erected the artificial Christmas tree and strung it with twinkling lights, but it sat forlorn in the living room with no ornaments sprucing up its bare branches.   Garland did not festoon anything nor were candles blazing in the windows.   If it weren’t for hubby accomplishing the outside light decorating, our house would have sat as dark and dreary as I felt.

I was able-bodied, but always seemed tired, cold, sleepy, or lethargic.  With no kids in the house anymore or elderly father to check up on, I sure had the time, but I just couldn’t muster up the inclination.  This lackadaisical attitude towards the Christmas season was as foreign to me as meeting up with an alien from outer space on my front lawn….it just doesn’t happen.

I’m one of those people who loves Christmas.  I usually have all of my greeting cards addressed, stamped and the annual missive to friends and family printed and tucked inside the envelopes ready to mail by December 1. 

Shopping is accomplished early and by early, I mean way before Thanksgiving.  Christmas tree and all of the other festive decorations  garnish and embellish our house the weekend after Thanksgiving.  But last year, I literally and finally forced myself to do….something… and half-heartedly prepared for the most beloved time of the year.

Thankfully, this year is different.  I’m not so able-bodied (still suffering with some back and hip problems); I don’t have quite as much time; but I’m raring to go.   Our house is ablaze with Christmas lights and finery outside; hubby and I finished that Thanksgiving weekend.

The tree sparkles in the living room with all its treasured ornaments resting on its branches.  Christmas cards are addressed and will fill the mailbox soon (should be working on that Christmas letter instead of this blog post!).   With any luck, we should complete our shopping this weekend.

So what has changed from last year?  My attitude.

I can’t change the fact that my kids have grown up, moved out, and have their own lives. I can’t change the fact that there are beloved faces missing from my family gathered around the Christmas tree.   But I can change one thing….me.   I can be a Scrooge, a Grinch, a Grumpy Gus, but I don’t have to be.

All it takes is a little Christmas and the knowledge that God loved us so much, He sent His only Son as the most perfect gift on that first Christmas so long ago.

Okay, I’m off to haul out some more holly and this year, the Christmas village will once again adorn the kitchen.  So in case you’re a little low on Christmas spirit, I’m sharing my all-time favorite Christmas decorating song with you because we need a little Christmas right this very minute.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Cause for alarm causes thanks giving

blogIMG_1711(2)The holiday of Thanksgiving is behind us now, but the thanks giving continues as it should. Each day we are given blessings for which to be thankful for, even though we often take those gifts for granted.

If you awaken each morning from a night’s slumber, that’s a gift of life and a blessing to be thankful for.

If your basic needs are supplied each day, that’s a blessing of provision; again something for which to give thanks.

The majority of us here in the USA are blessed beyond measure, yet we whine, complain, and over extend ourselves monetarily by purchasing more material goods than we need while our fellow human beings across the world suffer from hunger, lack of clean water, poverty, homelessness, war, strife, and persecution.

And I wonder are we truly thankful here in the land of plenty? Not just on Thanksgiving, but on each and every day of the life we are given? 

On Thanksgiving Day here at Mama’s Empty Nest, we feasted with our traditional meal of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade noodles, yam, corn, peas, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls, topping it all off with pumpkin, cherry, and lemon meringue pie and Thanksgiving decorated mini cupcakes.

Eleven of us, missing a few of the family who couldn’t join us this year, gathered around our dining room table laden with plentiful food and gave thanks to the One who provides our needs. We ingested our bounteous meal, shared stories, laughed, and spent an evening doing what we usually do when we gather together – played games.

All blessings for which we are thankful.

The day after Thanksgiving, some of us headed back to work while some of us packed up suitcases to travel home in another state. By late afternoon, just Papa and Mama were left in the quiet empty nest.

We decided we would just enjoy an evening of rest, change into comfy clothes, eat Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, and maybe snuggle down on the couch and watch some Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel.

Low key. An evening of quietude. Chillaxing.

That’s when we heard and noticed a tanker firetruck parked on our road in between our house and our next door neighbor’s. By then, darkness had descended and the flashing lights seemed ominous as they reflected in our windows. 

A police car appeared and started redirecting cars to turn around and go back the way they came. Flares were set out to stop traffic from traveling past our house from either direction. 

Papa and I stepped outside to try to ascertain what was happening. We didn’t smell smoke so we knew there wasn’t a fire, but we watched as one of the firemen walked to our next door neighbor’s house and I became even more alarmed.

Had something happened to him? One by one, his house lights went out. The fireman walked back to his truck, then started coming down through our yard towards our home.

He informed us that two doors down, someone had backed a truck over a gas meter and natural gas was spewing out underneath the vehicle. Yikes! Suddenly, I had visions of our houses blowing up in a huge explosion.

The fireman said he thought the best and most cautious thing to do was evacuate our home. As he spoke, we watched next door neighbor drive by in his vehicle as he was evacuated as well.  We agreed and gave our cell phone number to the fireman so he could call us when it was safe to return.

We hurriedly prepared to leave, grabbed coats, slipped on shoes, turned off the TV. I glanced around my home thinking should I take something with me? What if it’s all gone when I come back? I turned to my husband and asked him that.

His response – things can be replaced. And he’s right. Even though some material things are precious to me like photos of my loved ones and simple family “treasures” from my folks’ home and my in-laws’,  and I would be sad to lose those items, they are just things. I could retain them in my memory.

Racing out of our home and driving to a restaurant to eat dinner, I thought about what it must have been like for all of our fellow countrymen who had to evacuate their homes because of the wildfires this past summer, the horrible hurricanes,  and flooding that ensued.

My heart ached for those affected by the disasters even more than it did while those events were going on because I better understood now the panic they must have felt at losing their homes or possibly their lives.

And I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving because in all of my years on this earth, this was the first time I’ve ever had to leave my house and wonder if it would still stand when I returned.

I’ve experienced several tornado threats including one that set down not far from where we lived and even a minor earthquake and some tremors, but thankfully escaped with no damage.

I was so grateful we were spared from disasters in the past, but time has a way of making you forgetful, making you less cognizant of all those blessings once bestowed upon you. 

Later that evening, we received the fireman’s all clear call and returned to our home. The only remnant of the event was the gas company truck still working at the scene. Firetrucks gone, flares removed, police car off to help someone else no doubt.

So my heart was filled with gratitude.  I’m grateful our home was still standing and intact and so were our neighbors’ houses.

I’m grateful for first responders that keep us safe and protect us from harm and in doing so put their own lives on the line. This is even more on my heart since just before Thanksgiving, a young police officer in our region was shot and killed while on duty.

And I’m grateful to the gas company workers who may have had to leave their own leftover Thanksgiving dinners, family, and homes to fix the problem.

Friday night’s cause for alarm supplied a cause for thanks giving.

And my heart is grateful.

 “The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” ~ Henry Ward Beecher 

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

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Spectacular sunrise at my home…but still no inspiration.

Sometimes, here in the blogging world, those of us who weave our words together to create posts for our readers to enjoy just get stuck.

Speaking for myself when that happens, I fear perhaps that I’ve run out of things to say. Creative impulses seem stymied. The juice that I squeeze out of my thoughts which provides the ‘ink’ for my words showing up on your screen just doesn’t flow.

I sit idly staring at my own blank wall – the desktop computer monitor where I compose my blog posts – and no spark of inspiration ignites in my brain.  

You can call it writer’s block. You can call it no inspiration. You can call no light bulb moment.

You can call it a lot of names, but to a blogger, it’s discouraging especially when you’ve boasted in cyberspace that you will have a new post up so many days a week.

So what to do, what to do? I look through my list of ideas that I’ve jotted down in the past. Sometimes one of those ideas leaps off the page and smacks me in my cerebral cortex and words coagulate together to form some kind of cohesive expression.

Other times, I glean through my trusty notebook of quotes and someone else’s words will jumpstart my inspiration motor and I race to get the words in writing before they disappear round the bend.

Often a photograph I’ve taken visually provides blogging fodder and I manage to combine the written word with a visual picture to produce a meaningful blog post.

But occasionally, nothing works. That’s when I get by with a little help from my friends.

I run in a tight little circle. What I mean is I have a small circle of blogging friends that I follow.  I log into my WordPress account just about every day and I click on links to read blogs from my circle of writer/photographer friends.

And sometimes, something they’ve posted provides a little jolt of stimulus or plucks at a thought in my mind that could possibly be developed into a new blog post of my own. It’s what we bloggers do, we help each other even when we don’t realize we’re doing it.

I’ve been pretty wordy since the beginning of this month, this November Thanksgiving season, but I needed just a few more brainstorms to complete this month’s posts.  And the insights, the creativity, the vision of what to write just wasn’t coming to me.

Maybe because my plate is full with other things including preparing plates of Thanksgiving goodies for my family. Maybe because I just lack motivation because I’ve certainly been there before and have the T-shirt to prove it.

Whatever the reason, my friends helped me out, and that’s a good reason to be grateful. So I add my blogging friends to my thankfulness for Thanksgiving list and I want to share with you my friends who helped me get by.

First of all is my friend Beth Ann who writes at It’s Just Life.

Her posts are always entertaining and often showcase something I didn’t know or see before. On top of that, she generously donates to a different charity each month based on the number of comments she receives on her blog. How cool is that?

She and I share an affinity for teapots among other things. Recently, she too encountered an ‘hmmm…what shall I write about moment’ and the result was a list of ‘what am I’ statements which provided her readers a little peek into her life at the moment. I thought it was a fun thing to do, so I’m copying her following in her footsteps.

Her statements, my answers:

What I am reading: More than one book at a time including a few open on Kindle and my ongoing project of reading my way completely through the Bible in a year. But right now, I’m reading and intrigued, for personal reasons, by a newly published book, The Rose and the Serpent by Ron Shafer. I know Ron and have known him since I was a child. He’s a brilliant scholar, a fellow believer in Christ, well-versed in literature and the Bible, and a world traveler. He happened to be my college freshman year English professor and also my adviser. But more than that, I’ve known him to be my friend. And I’m excited that he’s launched a book series of his own. Ron’s debut novel can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or on Westbow Press and also on Nook and Kindle. 

What I am listening to: I confess I don’t listen to much lately unless it’s the constant chatting of my sweet little granddaughter. Often, I just like silence. But if I’m in the mood for music, I may log in to Pandora and listen to some oldies. Yeah, I’m a throwback. And as soon as Thanksgiving is over, Christmas music will be in the air at my house.

What I am watching: Okay, confession time. Guilty pleasure is watching Dancing with the Stars on TV. Honestly, I don’t watch much else except this time of year, I do tune in regularly to all the Christmas shows on the Hallmark Channel. Groan if you want to.

What I am doing: Walking three times a week or so with one of my best friends — good for my body and my soul.

What I am looking forward to: The holidays. I can’t wait to celebrate my second grandchild’s first birthday soon, see her sweet little face, and cuddle with her. I’m also excited that all of my chicks and roosters will be back in the nest for Christmas this year. The perfect Christmas gift for me.

What I am writing: I’d like to say I’m writing my novel and a devotional book I started a couple of years ago, but both are on the back, back, way back burner. I’m lucky if I can churn out these blog posts right now.

What I am looking at: You know what they say – a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m looking at the photos I took this fall.

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Glorious autumn right in my own back yard

What I am excited about:  Papa cutting back some hours at work come January and the two of us traveling a bit next year.

And now, let me share how another friend inspired this blog post.  Robyn, who writes at Believe, is a young friend.

I can’t even remember how our paths crossed but I’m so blessed that they did. This teenaged girl faces her own adversity every day yet always inspires me as I read her words. And she is a very gifted writer for someone so young.

Recently, she honored me with a peer blog award. It’s one I’ve received before, so I could have just thanked her and moved on.

But because she has become such a sweet friend, I wanted to show how much I appreciate and respect her nominating me. The award is called the Liebster – a German word for favorite or beloved. It’s just a lovely thing to call a fellow blogger a liebster, so thank you, Robyn.

In receiving the award, the nominees are to answer questions provided by the nominator. So here goes, another peek into my life as I answer Robyn’s questions. And let me tell you, I had to seriously contemplate to answer a couple of these!

If you could write the soundtrack to your life, what would be the first three songs? (Click on the links below to hear the songs.)

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

Crazy Love 

Homeward Bound

What is the one book that has most inspired your life? Hands down, it has to be my Bible. No other book inspires me, guides me, touches my soul, and sometimes makes me cry more.

If you could live anywhere you please, without that pesky restraint called money, where would it be and why? As hokey and corny as it sounds, I’d live right here where I am but I’d make sure all my family and many of my far-away friends lived right here in my area too.

Where would you go on your dream vacation? I suppose many folks would choose some exotic, tropical, beachy place and while that would be fun and enjoyable, it wouldn’t be my dream vacation. No, send me off to often chilly, sometimes damp England, home of my forbears.

What’s your favorite thing about fall? EVERYTHING. Okay, seriously… just about everything. Cooler day temperatures. A chill in the air. Sunshine causing the changing trees to radiate with the colors gold, red, and orange. Lacy glimmering frost on the grass in early mornings. The crunch of dried fallen leaves and acorns under my feet. Nighttime bonfires. Pumpkin bread baking in the oven. Hay rides to the pumpkin patch. The smell of fall, yes there is a distinct aroma in the air. I love it all and it is my favorite season.

And my blogging friends are some of my favorite people. I do get by with a little help from my friends.

“Encourage, lift and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spread to one will be felt by us all. For we are connected, one and all.”  ~ Deborah Day

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday gratitude

blogblank page (2)Thowback Thursday. That’s what it’s called when you post a photo from the past on social media with that moniker on it: #Throwback Thursday.

Well, it’s Thursday. It’s also halfway through this Thanksgiving month of November. And I haven’t written a new blog post to share with my readers for today. So I’m heading for the throwback category.

With a click of the mouse, I traveled back seven years ago to the year 2010 when I first launched Mama’s Empty Nest on Word Press. I called up some of my old blog posts from the month of November that year, read through a couple of my entries then, and noticed that I was writing quite a bit about being grateful.

I still am…grateful, that is. But for some reason, words just aren’t flowing out of me right now. So I’m reposting (with a few tweaks here and there) one of my old November 2010 posts today:

Often friends encourage me without them even knowing they’ve done so, and sometimes they humble me as well.

Today a friend told me she keeps a gratitude list.  She’s been keeping it for four years.

I started a gratitude journal way back in 1998.  Want to guess how many pages I wrote in it?  Nine and a half. 

What’s odd is that I enjoy writing tremendously, so why couldn’t I fill all the pages of that journal full of words of thanksgiving and gratefulness and start another one?  

Actually, I should have an entire bookshelf of gratitude journals by now.  [And by this date, TWO bookshelves full.] But I don’t.

So I’m feeling humbled by this friend who has so much more faithfulness than me at being grateful and documenting her thankful thoughts.  It’s obviously something I need to improve upon or at least attempt.

I rummaged through my desk drawer and dug out my lovely 1998 gratitude journal, a gift from a good friend.  

On the front page, she wrote this:  “Take a moment each day and write down five things you are grateful for.  It could be a moment, event, or just something that brought a smile to you today.  Let me start by sharing how much I appreciate your support and friendship.  You are truly ‘a very best friend’!”

This friend and I became acquainted through our children’s elementary school when we both served as PTA officers.  I jokingly told her when we met that we would become “best friends” as we would work so closely together on school functions. 

We laughed about that a lot, but we really did become close friends and even now, so many years later, we still sign our Christmas cards “from your very best friend!”

I noted that her entry in my journal was dated April 5, 1998.  I wrote this three days later:  “I am so thankful for friends like K [she gave me the journal] who brighten my day; friends like KL who can give me godly and wise advice; that Mom is experiencing God’s power and peace while she’s dealing with her cancer diagnosis; that our gracious and loving Lord not only hears our prayers but answers them; for my children’s, husband’s, and my good health.”

I continued to write a paragraph or two from April through June.  And then the writing stopped.  Is it a mere coincidence that I discontinued writing the day after my family and I moved back to the homeland? 

I don’t know.  Life was extremely unsettled then and my mother was dying of cancer.  I spent a lot of time in prayer during that time, but maybe my feelings and emotions were just too raw to put into ink on paper.

Over the years, I’ve picked up this small bound book with the floral design on the front, read what I previously wrote, and closed the book again without writing one paragraph.  [And still haven’t written any more.]

I could excuse myself by saying I was too busy planning my new home, raising my children, running to sports events, getting involved in church and school volunteering, but I know I was thankful for many, many occurrences, large and small, in my life.  So why didn’t I take a moment to chronicle them?  It’s a puzzle to me.

Perhaps it is a lack of discipline on my part.  I failed to note over 10 [now almost 20] years of thankfulness in written form in that gratitude journal, but looking back over those years, I can recall much for which my heart is grateful. 

But the day-to-day items, the usual but not insignificant blessings I’ve experienced, those are tucked away in my mind’s memory bank like old, faded mementos buried in a dusty trunk in the attic and forgotten.

And there’s so much to be thankful for.

That was so true back in 2010 and still spot-on now in 2017. Even on Throwback Thursday.

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

It may sound corny

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The goldenrod is yellow,

The corn is turning brown,

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.

~ Helen Hunt Jackson (American poet/writer)

This poem easily describes the sights I see this time of year. Those simple words paint a picture that personifies the season of autumn, don’t they?

I’ve said it before and I’ll just keep reiterating it. I love the fall season.

And one of the things I love most about living in the rural area where I do is that I have ample opportunities to see nature at its finest during any season of the year.

But fall, oh fall, especially fall.  Nature puts on a grand show in you.

Considering our age, I suppose you could say Papa and I are in the autumn season of life as well and one aspect of this season is becoming semi-retired.

Papa is still working some and I’m still busy as Little One’s babysitter and an occasional stint as a substitute teacher, but I’m carving out snippets of time here and there to just do whatever I want.

On one of those days of freedom, I loaded myself and my camera into my car and embarked on a photo ops search mission to capture my favorite season before it fades away because for me, fall never lasts long enough.

As I was traveling down one country road surrounded by farmer fields that pretty  autumn day, I suddenly felt the urge to apply my brakes, pull my vehicle over to the side of the road, put my flasher lights on, grab the camera, and jump out.   

Corn fields surrounded me. Once lushly green through summer, the corn’s now turning brown, drying its kernels to provide winter feed for farm animals. The browning fields forming a sort of abstract pattern amidst green grass made a lovely photo. At least I thought so.

NovblogIMG_1594And even though I’m in the autumn of my years, spending time doing something I love – taking photos – during the season I love – fall – made me feel just like this photo of my grandchild cavorting through a corn maze.

blogIMG_1259Happy.

Carefree.

And in this month of thanksgiving, most grateful for little snippets of joy.  As corny as that sounds, it’s true.

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.” ~ Anne Bronte

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Oh my deer heart

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Maybe cute here…..but not when they do this!

Recently, a caught-in-the-headlights willy-nilly deer ran into my daughter. You read that right – the deer hit her. Well, not her but her car as she was driving home around midnight from her evening shift as a hospital nurse.

The stupid deer literally plowed into the passenger side of daughter’s car causing damage that necessitated a trip to the auto body shop.

It’s not the first time someone in our family, including myself, has tangled with those woodland creatures.  Blessedly, none of us ever were injured in these deer vs car collisions.

I know many people out there think the white-tailed deer that populate my neck of the woods are so cute and endearing. Bah. If you think that, you’ve never encountered the absolute scare-you-out-of-your-skin and make-your-heart-startle moment when they dart across the highway in your path.

According to some car insurance sites,  last year’s statistics show that my state is the third most likely place in the US to hit a deer and the odds are 1 in 57 that you will do so causing on the average about $4000 damage to your vehicle.

Oh, dear deer!

But you know what the positive side is? Your damaged car can usually be fixed. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, it’s a pain to have to call your insurance company to report how that stupid deer ran into your car. But as long as the vehicle is the only thing broken, it’s fixable.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a broken heart could be as easily mended? Hammer out the kinks and dents. Slap a little putty on it. Prime and repaint. Or if the damage is more extensive, just get a new part like the new fender on your car. Voila! Good as new!

But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Just the other day while steeping my morning cup of hot tea, I noticed the little saying on my tea bag tag. Usually, I’m in a rush and don’t pay attention to the quotes printed on those tags, but I read this one and it caused me to stop and think.

What breaks in a moment may take years to mend.

Hmm. Wisdom from a teabag.

The emotional trauma we suffer from the words and actions of others isn’t mended in a jiffy, and in a moment, it stops us in our tracks just like suddenly spotting a deer as it crashes into you.

The damage isn’t always repaired even if we receive an apology for the wrong done to us. And if the apology and remorse from the one who broke our heart never comes, it can take years to ‘get over it.’

Or we never do. We never seem able to fix what’s broken, but I think that is by choice. Our own choice. Our choice to continue suffering in the pain of what shattered us. Our choice to allow what damaged us to overwhelm and defeat us.

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” ~ Unknown

 

I speak from experience. As a person of faith, I’ve found myself crying out to God way too often asking Him why he doesn’t heal a loved one’s broken heart, or why He doesn’t take away the pain betrayal causes in another, or rid the anger from my own heart over an offense, or….the list goes on and on.

It would be nice if God would just act like a genie and grant our wish for heart healing in an instant or wave a magic wand over the parts of us that hurt and immediately we would experience mending.

But He doesn’t work that way. Not that He can’t heal us in the blink of an eye because with God anything is possible. Jesus said so in scripture (Mark 9:23): “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Yes, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing God of the universe could easily touch what is broken and mend it in a moment, and sometimes He does. But I think He asks us to do some of the work…ourselves.

I think He desires for us to examine ourselves, examine our own hearts that may harbor bitterness and unforgiveness. I think He asks us to present our brokenness to Him with no strings attached, meaning we give it to Him and don’t snatch it back later so we can stew some more over it.

I think He lovingly disciplines us and, if we truly want to receive that healing, that mending, that repair of the heart, then we must open our hearts completely and fully to be filled with Him. Because only faith in a Savior can truly fill those gaping holes in our hearts. Can repair the damage done. Can make us brand new.

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.” ~ Psalm 147:3

 

The walking wounded are everywhere. Shell-shocked souls who have been hurt beyond belief, who are shattered by despair, emotional pain, broken relationships, and broken lives. 

They walk through this world with huge holes in their heart wondering if they will ever be mended again. So they turn to alcohol or drugs or sex or whatever ‘magic potion’ makes them ‘feel better’ for the time. 

Anything for that quick fix which is anything but a quick fix.

My prayer is that those of us who know the way to be mended step out of our comfort zones, step out of our churches, step out of our Christian bubbles, and reach out to the hurting and share how Jesus can mend our broken hearts.

Because we’ve experienced it ourselves and with God’s help have leapt over the very thing that caused us to be wounded.

“A wounded deer leaps highest.” ~ Emily Dickinson

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just a peek

blogIMG_3659We have a hider in our family. 

Our oldest granddaughter, who will be turning three in just a couple of months, likes to hide. She hides behind chairs or the family room loveseat. Sometimes she just pulls a blanket over her head and hides that way. And she loves to peek out to see if you’re coming to find her.

Peek-a-boo. It’s a fun game for babies and toddlers and I’d venture to say most of us have played it over and over with a little one.

Lately, the sun has been playing this game around these parts. Some days, it shows its beaming face readily and gifts us with its warming rays. Other days, it hides completely behind dreary rain-filled clouds. Still other days, it peeks out from its hiding spot for a bit just to see if we’re watching.

Last Friday, I was out gallivanting with a good friend, one of my lifetime pals who has been in this friendship with me for 50+ years. We attended a Christmas craft open house in an old barn  – I’m still boggle-minded over the amount of items (and people) crammed into that space! – and then we treated ourselves to lunch and visited a nearby shop’s open house as well.

During our little excursion, the sun kept up its peek-a-boo game with us, sometimes causing me to don sunglasses, only to take them off again. At the end of our trip as we neared my home, the sun dropped its blanket of clouds and shone mightily.

Right on my house.

Literally, the sun’s rays were like laser beams focused on my house.  My white-siding house practically glowed like a brilliantly illuminated star and my friend exclaimed, “Look at your house! It’s shining!”

It was as if my house, and only my house, was hogging the spotlight. Gleaming. Practically sparkling.  Radiating light. It was kind of weird, yet amazing at the same time.

Later as I recalled that moment, something occurred to me.  Maybe that’s what heaven will look like.  As we near it, we’ll have the sense that we are home.  And home will be shining.  Light-filled. Dazzling in brilliance.

Nothing will be hidden. All will be once and for all brightly illuminated.

And the Light of the World (Jesus) will be there to welcome us home.

What a comforting thought.  And now as I recall that moment when I saw my home encased in sunlight, I’m thankful that the sun peeked out through the clouds just for me. I only wish I had had my camera with me, but of course, when I entered my home to retrieve it to try to capture this unbelievable sight, the sun had slipped back undercover once more.

That little moment in time – that peek — was gone for now, but my friend and I perhaps experienced a glimpse of things to come and peek  just happens to be this week’s photo challenge.  

“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrow currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Still enjoying the ride

blogtraincollagePapa’s and my 40th wedding anniversary month is now relegated to the annals of nostalgia as the calendar page has turned a leaf into the month of November.

We were blessed to spend more than one day celebrating these 40 years traveling together on this journey called marriage and I wanted to share another anniversary gift we experienced last month. 

Papa has always enjoyed anything at all about two modes of transportation – ships and trains.

It you could sit in our home office, which used to be my husband’s business office, you would notice several indications of his interest in railroads. Framed prints of train engines grace the wall and the still-encased-in-its-box HO Scale locomotive bearing the Pennsylvania Railroad insignia sits in a place of honor on the book shelf

My husband fondly recalls traveling by train as a youngster from his city home to the big city of New York a few times. Since his father worked on the railroad, passes to travel by train were easily accessible.

As a married couple, we’ve taken a few train rides together. Some of the more outstanding ones include the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad trip, which we took as young marrieds in the mountains of Colorado; a couple of rides on the Strasburg (Pennsylvania) Railroad, which boasts being the oldest continuously running railroad in the western hemisphere; and a fun ride on the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway with our children when they were young.

One day a couple of months ago, I was wasting time, browsing on Facebook and I notice an ad for an October fall foliage train tour on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad located in the heart of Pennsylvania oil country where the first oil boom rush in the United States occurred when oil was discovered there in 1859.

After checking out the railroad’s Facebook page, I immediately thought what better match made in heaven for the two of us than a trip on this train? Papa’s love of trains and history combined with my love of the fall season’s colors and photography seemed like a perfect anniversary gift to ourselves.

As soon as I mentioned it to Papa, his eyes lit up and he responded, “Yes! Let’s buy tickets.” We discovered tickets sell quickly and the dates for the excursion were filling up rapidly.

But we snagged two tickets and rose early on a beautiful sunny fall morning to travel to the train station, allowing ourselves plenty of time. While waiting to board, Papa checked out some historical displays while I snapped photos and browsed the gift shop.

We thoroughly enjoyed the three-hour ride through the woodsy area soaking in the scenery while sunshine and cool fall air wafted in through the open train window. Papa listened attentively to the historical narration as I scanned the scenery for photo ops and pointed my camera out the window.

Perfect match. Perfect day. Perfect way to celebrate our anniversary yet again. This semi-retirement thing is working out nicely for us. 

Just the two of us, sitting side by side, gently swaying back and forth with the movement of the train, enjoying the ride, the day, and our time together and hoping for more times like this in the days and years to come.

“There’s something about the sound of a train that’s very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.” ~ Paul Simon

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com