Posted in inspiration, Life, Love

Words for Wednesday: message in a balloon

It’s just a word.

It’s just a word but it says so much.

It’s just a word but it can have more than one connotation.

It’s the word love. Those of us who think, speak, and write only in the English language are at a disadvantage when it comes to this word. We have only word for love which is exactly that – love.

But how many varying aspects exist that encompass that one single English word?

I love the fall season. But that love is entirely different from the love I feel for my family.

I love donuts but loving to fill my belly with a tasty treat is not the same as the heartfelt caring, respect, and admiration I have for my husband.

I love a temperate, sunny autumn day with blue skies abounding but the love I have for my fellow humans is quite unlike that.

I love where I live in my country home, but my love for my Savior is so much greater.

And the love He has for me is infinite, unchanging, unconditional.

That is hard to wrap your head around, isn’t it? How can a love like that exist? How can we know we are loved by an everlasting, ever-existing God of the universe? Especially when we often feel so unworthy, so unlovable, so unloved in this tired, volatile world where there is much strife, discontent, anger, and just about every horrible and wicked aspect that comes to mind.

On those days when I feel distressed, weighed down and burdened by this world, I look for something to cross my path that I may have not noticed before. Something that brings a smile to my face, a bounce to my step, a moment of joy to my heart.

And I usually discover one. Do I think those little bright moments just happen? Coincidence when I’m feeling low? When I’m feeling unloved? When I seem churlish and bad-tempered? Or feeling unlovely and well…frankly, unlovable?

I don’t consider those uncanny glimpses of something ordinary becoming extraordinary as a coincidence at all. Instead, I find them to be simple signs in everyday life that might be unnoticed by most, overlooked by some, or even disregarded.

For me though, I count them as just a hint, just a little sign, just a nudge from the one and only true God, letting me know He hears me, He cares about me, and He loves me.

Unfortunately, I don’t always take the time to be observant, to listen, to watch for those signs from Him. But recently, one of those tiny taps on my shoulder arrived. And in a way that most folks would probably ignore.

During my daily morning walk with my long-time friend, I noticed something in the distance flitting and flapping around in the breeze. At first, all I could distinguish was its red color as it swooped and swayed, sometimes alighting on the street, sometimes sailing back up into the air again. It tossed and turned as the wind carried it to and fro.

As we neared it, we could ascertain what it was. A bright red mylar balloon, once filled with helium, but deflated and tossed aside. (Although since there are no residences in the area we walk, who knows from whence it came?)

I stopped to examine it, pulled out my cell phone to capture a photo, and read the message on the balloon.

I Love You.

Valentine’s Day was long ago, so chances are it’s not a leftover from that holiday. Perhaps it was part of a birthday bouquet of balloons.  Who knows?

The message was simple though. I Love You.

And as I silently read those words, certain thoughts immediately came to my mind.

You are loved. You are my beloved. I love you with an everlasting love.

Words that seemed to evolve, not from my own mind, but from the heart of the One in whom I believe. Jesus, my Savior.

Coincidence on a day when I felt an overwhelming sense of burden for the times we live in? I don’t think so.

Upon returning home, those thoughts remained with me throughout the day and beyond. I opened my Bible and sought out a few passages that reminded me of God’s eternal love given to us through the gift of salvation offered by His very own Son, Jesus Christ.

  • “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below — indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)
  • “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him.” (1 John 3:1)
  • “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5:5)
  • And finally, these words from Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

I am loved. But I am not the only one. You too are loved. Beyond measure. How do I know this? A stray balloon and God’s Word told me so.

“God is unchanging in His love. He loves you. He has a plan for your life. Don’t let the newspaper headlines frighten you. God is still sovereign; He’s still on the throne.” ~ Billy Graham

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in family, Life, Love

A valentine special

Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash

When February rolls around on the calendar, a lot of folks’ fancy turns to celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Love it or hate it, this holiday is a mushy-gushy popular one with the masses if you consider all the merchandise available in stores and online.

Papa and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day with each other any longer. After three years of dating and 43 years of marriage, I truly don’t need a stuffed teddy bear wrapped up in a big red bow holding a fragrant or fake rose or a box of chocolates to tell me that my husband loves me.

He demonstrates his love for me every single day by the way he treats me, the loving ways he supports me, and in his kind manner of doing things for me. And I strive to do the same for him. So, we banished the cards and gifts a long time ago as truly not necessary because really, shouldn’t every day be like Valentine’s Day?

One of our offspring doesn’t care much for this holiday, not even when she was a teenager. To her, Valentine gifts and mushy greeting cards just seem overly showy and even insincere. I fear she resembles her mother when it comes to outlandish, unnecessary gifts and grandiose words of affection because those things don’t fill our emotional tanks like they do for some folks.

Instead, show us how much you love us by your actions – kind of ‘put your money where your mouth is.’ And by that I mean, don’t spend money on gifts, just mean what you say and prove it with your actions.

But since Valentine’s Day is fairly successful as a consumer-driven holiday, obviously many people enjoy the gift, card, and flower buying and receiving. Now please don’t think I’m berating those of you who love receiving or giving gifts, I’m not. I understand each person has a different “love language” and that may be yours. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Of course, the focus of Valentine’s Day seems to center on romantic love, but not everyone has a romantic relationship. So, maybe the holiday would prove more meaningful for everyone if we included demonstrating our love for our families, love for our friends, love for our neighbors, love for our fellow humankind – the way God intends for us to love one another.

When I recall Valentine’s Day in the past, I remember using construction paper to decorate a shoebox which I took to elementary school to be used as a “mailbox” for simple Valentine cards from my classmates. But two other fond memories of this holiday are foremost in my mind and both came from my father’s actions.

When I was just a youngster around three or four, my daddy sent me a big Valentine card in the U.S. mail. He could have just brought it home with him that day but instead he mailed it because he knew it would make me feel special. What a surprise that was and how excited I was to receive my own personal mail addressed just to me! That experience was such a treasure that I actually still possess that card – one I’ve kept in a safe spot for over 60 years.

The second memory is what my father did every year. On Valentine’s Day, he always brought home a big heart-shaped box of chocolate candies for my mother and three smaller ones for his three girls – my sisters and me.

This tradition continued even after my sisters, who were several years older than I was,  married. Dad still bought all of us Valentine candy. Years later after I married Papa and moved out of state, I continued receiving a package in the mail just in time for Valentine’s Day. A heart-shaped box of chocolates from my Dad.

At some point, we told Dad he could stop buying us candy since we really didn’t need those extra calories. I don’t know if he was disappointed with our decision or not. But now, I realize that those red and pink boxes bedecked with ribbons and filled with chocolates wasn’t the point.

It was the thought that counted. It was a loving husband and father reminding his wife and daughters that he loved and cared for them and in his eyes, they were special.

I remember my father’s loving gestures, which extended far beyond Valentine’s Day, with some melancholy tears brimming in my eyes, as I prepare little packages filled with Valentine goodies for my three grandchildren.

Do they need those little gifts? No, not really. But since two of them live in another state and Nana and Papa can’t visit them as often as we’d like (especially now), we must send Valentine greetings by mail.

All three of our grandchildren will receive special mail addressed just to them and those packages are reminders from Nana and Papa that we care about them, we love them, and they are all so precious to us.

So, in a way, we will celebrate Valentine’s Day this year by sending our love in a special package by mail.

“A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it – A song’s not a song ’til you sing it – Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay – Love isn’t love ’til you give it away.” ~ Oscar Hammerstein

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com  2021

Posted in Love, marriage

Love and marriage

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Engagement ring bridal shower cupcakes

Marriage is on my mind this week – if you’ve read my last two posts, can you tell?

Maybe it’s because Papa and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary this month.

Or maybe it’s because two of our grown offspring are also celebrating anniversaries this fall with their spouses. Year seven for both of them.

Or maybe it’s because I just viewed Facebook photos that two of my blogging friends proudly displayed of their sons’ recent weddings. Such love and joy radiated from those pictures.

Or maybe it’s because I recently attended a bridal shower for the daughter of one of my best friends. That sweet young lady will be marrying her true love this fall.

Or maybe it’s because my lovely great-niece is walking down the aisle soon to wed her own handsome prince.

So wedding invitations decorate the front of our refrigerator and my thoughts have turned to RSVPs and gift buying…and marriage.

Weddings are the fun part of marriage. All of that planning and prepping to make that special day just perfect. That is definitely exciting and kind of fairy tale like.

But after the big day is over, real life sets in. It may take a year or two, but eventually, that couple in love realize marriage isn’t like a Disney movie; it’s hard work to live happily ever after.

The shine and glitz of that wedding day can wear off and romance may even wane. But that’s when the two, now become one, have to dig their heels in, look each other in the eye, and say, “We are going to make this work.”

And that’s what I wish for these young couples starting off life together.

I wish they would never allow the realities of life to cause their love for one another to fade.

I wish for perseverance when the tough times come to them.

I wish they understand that you don’t just find the right one to make a perfect twosome, you be the right one.  

I wish them love, not just the fluffy, stars in the eyes, giddy feeling of butterflies that the movies portray, but real, honest-to-goodness love.

The kind of love that makes each one of them remember to insert his or her own name in place of the word “love” in this well-known passage from the Bible.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Because that passage easily describes how a marriage can last until death do you part. May all of these marriages be so.

“True love stories never have endings.” ~ Richard Bach

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Posted in Life, Love, marriage

Thumbs up for the ride

It’s been 42 years today. Over four decades now since two young whippersnappers, who thought they knew it all, stood at the altar of a country church and said those words of promise, “I do.”

Those whippersnappers are now retired folks (well, Papa is semi-retired) living in an empty nest home which once rang with the noise and laughter from three children, now grown and living their own lives and probably thinking they know it all just like their parents once did.

The whippersnappers from all those years ago learned a lot through life’s lessons in the last 40+ years. And no, we certainly did not know it all especially when it comes to the hard work of marriage. Because it IS hard.

It’s hard to deal with the day-to-day aspects of wedded life that gets your shorts in a knot. When he can’t seem to remember not to throw his dirty t-shirts yanked inside out into the clothes hamper or she always leaves the pantry door open. When she gets impatient and cranky over computer/technology glitches and he gets grouchy and rants about politics.

It’s hard to realize you will have disagreements. That you won’t see eye-to-eye on everything.  When you’re newlyweds, it’s difficult to imagine that you will sometimes think, “I don’t really like you right now” in the middle of an argument. 

It’s hard to suffer disappointments in one another because after all, we are human and we will disappoint even our beloved spouse from time to time.

It’s hard to endure changes and setbacks and finances and relocations around the country.

It’s hard to put your heads together and plow through job losses and deaths of parents and heart-wrenching difficulties that threaten your children’s happiness.

Marriage is just plain hard sometimes. Marriage is not a fairy tale or a Hollywood movie. Marriage is real life which sometimes gets awfully messy. But hanging in there, working together through life’s complications as they come, encouraging one another, and bringing out the best in one another while not dwelling on the worst is worth every effort.

Take it from a 42-year veteran.  Papa and I both give a hearty thumbs up for marriage today on our wedding anniversary.  It’s been a worthwhile ride and we look forward to more to come.

“The great secret of successful marriage is to treat all disasters as incidents and none of the incidents as disasters.” ~ Harold George Nicolson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life, Love

Love abides

blogIMG_6959It’s Valentine’s Day. That one day a year where the world supposedly focuses on love.

Hearts and flowers. Chocolates and stuffed animals proclaiming “I Love You.” Sentimental greeting cards gushing with words of affection. The aisles in the stores are full of these items.

All to proclaim love for the one who receives the gift. For some, those gifts truly make their hearts sing. For the receivers. And for the givers. Those folks who claim giving gifts or receiving them as their love language are feeling mighty good about all of these Valentine goodies.

For me, those things don’t matter. If you give me a gift, I’ll be appreciative that you spent the time thinking of me and I will thank you profusely. But gifts don’t really float my boat. They’re nice. They’re lovely. They often are extremely thoughtful. But they don’t necessarily bring joy to my heart. 

Several years ago, I asked my husband to stop spending money on gifts for me, especially on Valentine’s Day. Flowers fade and die. My black thumb kills plants.

My expanding waistline doesn’t need chocolate candy. Greeting cards pile up and then what do you do with them? Throw them away.

Jewelry is lovely, but honestly, I have enough. Trinkets proclaiming love just clutter up the house and I certainly don’t need anything more to dust. I’m not a foodie, so even going out for a nice dinner doesn’t make my heart swell with appreciation.

So Valentine’s Day gifts just aren’t my thing. I’d rather my true love do one or both of these ways that show love – spend engaged time with me either at home or on an adventure or do some act of service for me. And after all of these years of marriage, the Papa of this empty nest, finally gets it.

Love, for me, is showing me you care with actions. Listening to me. Being there when I need you in good times and bad. Through thick and through thin. You know, that for better or for worse thing that so many of us married folks said in our wedding vows.

Years ago, before carpal tunnel and arthritic hands, I enjoyed doing cross stitch projects. The photo above is a piece of that kind of embroidery I completed a long time ago and is an insert on a wooden shelf that has hung on our entry hall wall ever since.

It simply says love abides. And isn’t that the truth? Real, honest to goodness love does abide. Love, no matter what day it is whether it’s Valentine’s Day or just any old Thursday, is what carries us through life.

My Valentine’s wish for you is that you find and keep that kind of love. And you share it with those around you.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers.

“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at all times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.” ~ Wendell Berry

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life, Love

When thoughts turn to love

blogDSCN8695 (3)This week of February when we will celebrate Valentine’s Day brings thoughts of love to our minds.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Those profound words about the human emotion of love come straight from God’s Holy Word, the Bible, in the book of First Corinthians, Chapter 13, often called the love chapter.

Those words often come to my mind, not just during February when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, but all year long.

And if I want to consider whether I really am being loving, I insert my name in that passage in place of everywhere the word “love” is used like this:

Mama is patient, Mama is kind. Mama does not envy, Mama does not boast, Mama is not proud. Mama is not rude, Mama is not self-seeking, Mama is not easily angered, Mama keeps no record of wrongs.

Mama does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Mama always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails if Mama is adhering to these words.

“How sweet the words of truth breathed from the lips of love.” ~ James Beattie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Posted in Life, Love, marriage

WordFULL Wednesday: Then and Now

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“I want to feel your hand in mine as we walk through life. Together.” ~ Unknown

 

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“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

 

In celebration this month of October for 41 years of marriage, the words in these quotes hold true for the Papa and Mama of this empty nest. 

May it always be so.

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Love

How do you love?

Love you collage.jpgIt’s the love month – February – and I often wonder why we don’t celebrate love all the rest of the 11 months of the year? Surely this world would be a better place if we were reminded to show love all year long, wouldn’t it?

Yeah, I know, we celebrate love and affection this month because of Valentine’s Day which is tomorrow.  But today, I’m considering why we even celebrate this holiday at all.

I know the day is named for Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome during the third century and secretly performed Christian marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers and their wives.

At the time, Rome was ruled by a pagan emperor who outlawed marriages for his soldiers because no doubt he believed their only focus should be Rome and protecting it.

Valentine was imprisoned for his so-called crimes and eventually executed on February 14. His focus on the importance of love survived and became the stuff of legends.

When Rome became predominantly Christian 200 years later, the Catholic Church, in an attempt to abolish a pagan ritual which had been annually held in February, proclaimed this day as Saint Valentine’s Day.

And so a holiday began. Now all these centuries later, it’s a highly commercialized money-maker. If you visited any store shortly after Christmas – and in some cases even before – store shelves teemed with Valentine greetings, gifts, candy, and all kinds of merchandise pertaining to this holiday.

Buy your sweetheart this fancy card declaring your love. Or this gargantuan stuffed animal. Or this massive heart-shaped box of chocolates. Or a dozen (or more!) red roses. Or this glittering diamond jewelry.

All purchased and delivered to demonstrate your love.

Well, gifts are nice. They can be lovely and yes, certainly heart-felt tokens of affection. And some folks’ boats are definitely floated by receiving gifts. It’s one of those five love languages first written about back in the 1990’s in a book by Christian counselor Gary Chapman.

But for me, purchasing a Valentine doo-dad off the Wal-Mart shelf just doesn’t measure up to showing how much you love someone.

Instead, my go-to for demonstrating love – any kind of love, not just romantic – comes straight from one entire chapter in my Bible.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 New International Version (NIV)

How can I show love every day of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day? 

By being patient with those around me. Being kind to others and not envious of someone else’s success. By not boasting or being prideful about myself.

By honoring others and putting them before me. By being even-tempered and keeping short accounts when it comes to wrongdoings done to me. By seeking truth and rejoicing in it not in evil actions.

By always being faithful to protect my loved ones. By trusting, hoping, and persevering through difficulties with them.

My litmus test? Inserting my name in place of the word ‘love’ in a passage of that scripture. Example: Mama’s Empty Nest is patient. Mama’s Empty Nest is kind, etc.

Because when I do these things, I open up my heart to love – real, honest-to-goodness love. Love to last beyond Valentine’s Day.

“Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside.” ~ Margaret Walker

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com