Yesterday was my birthday.
As far as birthdays go, the day started out pretty uneventful. No balloons, no party, no cake and ice cream.
Seeing as I am one year away from entering a new decade, I don’t make a big deal out of my birthday any more and I just don’t need that kind of birthday hoopla. For me, it’s just another day in the life, turning one year older and hopefully, wiser.
Now a real day for celebratory mode happened last month when Mother’s Day rolled around on the calendar. Mother’s Day is special to me because I am the mom of three grown children, a mom-in-law to three more special people, and I remember with love and fondness my own mother and mother-in-law who are no longer with us.
This year, Mother’s Day proved a true celebration because all three of my offspring and their spouses traveled all those many miles that keep us apart to come home to our house for that weekend. This blessed me immeasurably because it was their idea to all converge on the home place.
Mama’s Empty Nest was a full house once again. Full of those I love. Full of happiness. Full of laughter. Full of conversations. Full of noise! Full of fun and good food and the joy of being together as a family.
As each couple arrived, my joy-meter soared and it continued that way through the entire Mother’s Day weekend. Eloquently written, meaningful cards and a perky springtime bouquet of flowers were bestowed upon me and while, the gifts are lovely, the family time spent together means so much more.
That weekend was just full of happy, happy, happy. Chats on the couch, stories shared, and friendly competition while bonding over video games, which previously laid unused and forgotten, proved to be highlights of our weekend. That and remote control helicopters flying around the family room!
Sunday brought a full pew end to end at church with all eight of us squeezed in together for worship. We enjoyed a sumptuous brunch afterwards and one by one, each couple climbed back in their vehicles for their long drives back to their lives elsewhere.
With that under my belt, you can understand why my birthday wasn’t a big deal. My family had just been here a few weeks earlier. So I expected a quiet, uneventful birthday and that’s what I received.
But oh, there were still blessings poured into my quiet day. My near-by sister treated me to lunch after church. My far-away sister phoned me to sing Happy Birthday greetings.
One my one, my children and spouses called to tell me they loved me and wish me a happy day. My dear 96-year-old friend also telephoned me with birthday wishes.
My personal Facebook page blew up with happy greetings and well wishes. And hubby and I spent a nice peaceful day at home on a beautiful summer-like day just like I love – sunny but not hot with a cooling breeze wafting through.
So it really wasn’t uneventful after all because I felt loved and cared for, content and happy to spend a little time conversing with the ones I love and being remembered. Isn’t that how every day should be spent?
And that made me think how many people exist that not only don’t get many birthday celebrations, they don’t feel loved or that their lives even matter to anyone every day. For whatever reason, their days are spent in loneliness or regret or illness or unhappiness. And that reminded me how blessed I truly am and that I must do my part to bless and encourage others whose lives I might touch.
Today is June 3. It’s one day after my birthday. When I positioned myself at my desk this morning at work, I turned over the leaves on my daily desk calendar on which are printed many of the quotes and scriptures I love.
As I did that, I stopped to read what was transcribed on the date of my birthday. This is the quotation I read from Stephen Grellet, Quaker missionary: “I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer not neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Those words written long ago transformed themselves into a message just for me, a message deemed to be an excellent way to commence the first day of another year of life. I pray I remember the message each and every day.
One of my favorite memories of Grandma is when she and I would squeeze ourselves into her chair – the upholstered rocker with the wooden swan head arms – and rock our blues away while singing hymns.
One of those old church songs was “Showers of Blessing” and after 50 years, the tune and the words still echo in my mind. When I close my eyes, I can picture my gray-haired grandma and my skinny, bespectacled eight-year-old self rocking and singing together.
For over a week now, that old song replays again and again in my mind or I catch myself humming the tune. Since May rolled around on the calendar, it’s been an emotional time for me. The first of our family weddings is just days away now. Middle daughter will walk down the aisle escorted by her father and marry her true love.
In addition to the emotion of elated happiness at thinking about my daughter getting married, I’ve also encountered a touch of sadness. I’m really missing my parents, even more than usual, as we prepare for all of these weddings in our family.
I find it a bit heartbreaking that my children have no living grandparents to attend their wedding ceremonies. My mother would have been so excited over all of the preparations and so willing to help. My father would have been proud of his grandchildren and their choices in marriage partners. My husband’s parents would also have welcomed these family events with enthusiasm.
But the church pew reserved for parents and grandparents will only hold two people – my husband and me – for all three nuptials. I’ll admit the thought of that has brought me to tears a few times.
Mulling over middle daughter’s recent bridal shower and that old hymn’s words taught to me by my own grandmother (who didn’t live long enough to see me get married either) provided inspiration for me on this day in my Opportunity book. It reminded me how many showers of blessing have been bestowed upon us as we prepare for our daughter’s wedding.
Continuing the vintage theme my daughter loves and has incorporated into her wedding, we used a few family keepsakes at her shower. Lacy tablecloths that once belonged to my mother and mother-in-law adorned tables. The shower goodies, lovingly prepared by oldest daughter, my sister, and me was served on old fashioned dishes that once graced the tables of my grandmother, my mother, my mother-in-law, and even a great aunt. All of those items represented blessings handed down through generations.
But it just wasn’t about things. As friends and family gathered to shower my daughter with gifts for her new life with her true love, they also showered her with blessings of love.
From one spectrum to another, blessings flowed and I can still picture each one. Two of my oldest and best friends from childhood, my tried and true friends, attended the shower. Joining them was the mother of one of those best friends, my next door neighbor while I was growing up and in many ways my ‘second mom.’
The mothers of two of the bridesmaids also were in attendance, fellow moms who watched our girls make their way through junior and senior high school together, moms who welcomed my daughter into their homes and hearts.
And then there were my daughter’s college and high school friends – spread near and far, yet gathered together to celebrate the bride-to-be. Good friends I’ve made since moving back to the homeland, including my prayer warriors and confidantes, were also included.
One special blessing was the presence of my mother’s best friend, a dear lady who has known and loved me since my birth and who just last month celebrated her 95th birthday. She was so tickled to be included in this celebration. Her daughter, such a part of our family that she almost seems like a sister, also attended.
Family is a huge blessing to me and that included my sister, my oldest daughter, my soon-to-be daughter in-law, my niece (wife of my nephew) and happily rounding out the festivities, my adorable 16-month old great-niece.
Thinking back over that wonderful day, how could I feel anything but blessed? And that’s when it dawned on me not to focus on who was missing for the celebration, but to give thanks for the blessings that were there showering us that day.
I find it fitting that I give thanks for those blessings this week as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day. I’m so grateful for the mothers who came before me, mothers who’ve come along beside me, and the young ladies, future mothers, who will carry the torch forward into the future.
Thank you, Grandma, for teaching me ‘Showers of Blessing.’ May blessings be poured out and showered over all of you mothers out there this Mother’s Day weekend.
There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.
There shall be showers of blessing,
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.
There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing,
Come, and now honor Thy Word.
There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!
There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.
Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
“When you become a mother, you stop being the picture and start being the frame.” ~ Unknown
Today is Mother’s Day and also the birthday of the third woman, born in May, who impacted my life in a significant way.
This young woman is beautiful, articulate and adventuresome in spirit. Tiny in stature, demure-looking to the world, but if you invoke her anger, watch out because she possesses a fiery, feisty and very passionate side.
Intelligent, but not in a nerdy way, she has compassion for those less fortunate than herself, which is why she volunteers regularly at a soup kitchen mission, encourages a young underprivileged girl as her “big sister” in the Big Brother/Big Sister program and has served others on mission trips.
And oh, does she love to travel to exciting places! She’s ventured to a majority of the United States and experienced trips abroad to France, England, South Africa, Mozambique, and Honduras. If she acquired enough financing, she would travel all over the world because visiting every continent is inscribed on her bucket list.
Her highly organized style makes her a keeper of lists – lists of things to do, lists of adventures to take, lists of things she’s accomplished, lists of ordinary occurrences. Her talents include singing (although she does so quietly) and playing piano beautifully with gusto and emotion.
She understands complex molecular biology yet has a knack for writing with humor and insight, and she loves country line dancing. She owns an outrageous sense of humor and provides family and friends with lots of laughs. (Ask her if gullible is written on the ceiling – sorry, that’s an inside joke.)
She loves God first and her family second, and probably her cat ranks third on that list followed by her friends. And sunflowers are her favorite flowers. I know this young woman so well because she is my daughter, my first-born child.
My daughter and I bonded long before she actually entered this world. While her military daddy was stationed across the globe, she, as a tiny baby developing in my womb, helped me stay focused during the time hubby and I were apart.
My life centered completely on hers during that time. To ensure her health, I concentrated on mine and consumed nothing that wasn’t healthy even abandoning my beloved tea for decaffeinated.
I talked to her each day as she squirmed and performed somersaults inside of me. I wrote daily letters to her daddy describing preparations for the new life that would be joining ours.
When her tiny foot or knee or fist protruded and formed a knot on the outside of my abdomen, I caressed that spot with my fingers to assure her Mama loved her. I knew music would play an important role in her life because she “danced” each time I played piano and stopped immediately when the music halted.
One Saturday night, after many hours of labor, my oldest daughter emerged as a tiny, delicate mixed version of myself and my hubby and presented herself to me as my Mother’s Day gift. Born less than an hour before Mother’s Day arrived, my little one gave me the gift of motherhood in time for the holiday.
Every single concern or doubt I fretted over about becoming a mother totally evaporated when that amazing little baby girl was placed in my arms. In that moment and in the years to come, I finally understood the meaning of unconditional love.
No matter what she or her younger sister and brother may have done, I neither would nor could ever stop loving my children. Becoming a mother gave me insight into how God loves us without condition.
“The mother love is like God’s love; he loves us not because we are lovable, but because it is His nature to love, and because we are His children.” ~ Earl Riney
As I reminisce on this Mother’s Day about all the years I’ve spent as a mother, I realize I never could have accomplished this task without God’s guidance, without prayer, without the understanding of a mother’s ferociously intense love for her child. And I’m hopeful that I’ve done my very best with the lessons I have learned in motherhood. I agree with Ruth Bell Graham when she said: “As a mother, my job is to take care of what is possible and trust God with the impossible.”
So as I celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday in my book of Opportunity, Chapter 5, Page 8, I give praise and thankfulness to the One who gave me the gift of life first, then blessed me with the gift of motherhood, not just once but three times.
Happy Birthday, my dearest Oldest Daughter! Thank you for teaching me to be the frame for your beautiful picture! May your day be blessed with the knowledge that you are loved beyond comprehension by God and by your mother.
Her birthday passed by just the other day and I thought of her, even though she’s been gone for such a long time. She is the second incredible female born in May who influenced my life in a wonderful way.
Often when I remember her I wonder, “Did I tell her enough how much I appreciated her? Did she realize how much she meant to me?”
She welcomed me into her life with open arms. I can’t remember one time when we had words of disagreement. She only offered me approval and affection and she always seemed genuinely glad to see me, hug me tightly and kiss my cheek.
She was my mother-in-law. When I hear others criticize or complain about their mothers-in-law, I cringe. I honestly never had those kind of opinions about the mother of my husband. She never gave me reason to.
She didn’t interfere with our lives or decisions. She didn’t offer advice unless we asked for it. She was a thoughtful, quiet and unassuming lady who treated me with great kindness. And I think she loved me like a daughter.
When we visited my husband’s parents, my elderly mother-in-law became so excited. She stocked her pantry with food she knew we liked;, she loved to cook breakfast for us each day. She treated us to our favorite things, and enjoyed visiting other relatives with us. She would cry when we arrived for a visit, and she would weep again when we departed.
She greeted the arrival of her grandchildren with great love and pride, taking picture after picture of them (sometimes inadvertently cutting their parents’ heads out of the frame with her camera aim). But she never cut me out of her life. We chatted long-distance by phone often and she eagerly wanted to hear the latest escapades of our lives.
She never forgot a birthday or our anniversary and she was extremely generous. One of the loveliest gifts she ever bestowed on me was a ring. Her ring. It doesn’t hold much monetary value, but soars in sentimental worth.
Set in a simple gold band is an opal, a gem I’ve always loved. Purchased by my father-in-law for my husband’s mother shortly after their marriage, the ring adorned her finger for over 55 years.
Once I remarked how lovely it was and apparently, she never forgot that. During one visit, she surprised me by confiding in me that she wanted me to have her ring. And shortly after my father-in-law passed away, my dear mother by marriage, presented the ring to me. I have treasured it ever since.
But more than that worn ring, I treasured her. How could I not love the hands that lovingly held and nurtured my beloved one? How could I not respect and honor the mother who guided that little boy to become the outstanding man he became, took him to Sunday School and church to learn more about the God he serves?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Men are what their mothers made them.” To not love my mother-in-law seemed equal to not loving my husband. She treated me as a much-loved member of her family, the daughter she never had as the mother of all sons. And I loved her back.
The last time I spoke with her before she passed away, we talked briefly on the phone. Even though she was very ill, her concern was for us. “How are the kiddies?” she asked. And I related the latest news of her grandchildren. The last thing she asked me that day was “When are you coming home?”
“We’ll come see you soon,” I assured her. But it was too late. The next day she went home to be with the Lord.
When I catch a faint scent of Chantilly perfume wafting by me, I always think of my mother-in-law as it was her favorite cologne. On this 7th page in Chapter 5 of my Opportunity book, I contemplate the fact that next year I will become a mother-in-law for the first time.
I hope to follow in my own sweet mother-in-law’s footsteps since she lovingly demonstrated with her words and deeds what a blessing a mother-in-law can and should be. Those are the lessons she taught me.
Happy Mother’s Day, mother of my beloved; I miss you still.
“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”~ Goethe
With Mother’s Day approaching, reflections of all three of these incredible women dart in and out of my thoughts, so I’m writing a three-part blog dedicated to each of them.
The first woman born in May was my own mother who I lost over 10 years ago. If she were alive today, she would celebrate her 92nd birthday later this month. I imagine my mother was an ultimate surprise when she was born to my grandparents after 19 years of marriage and no children. She surely was the apple of their eye as their only child.
She certainly was the apple of mine. Washington Irving said it well when he wrote:
“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”
I loved and admired my Mom so much, it’s difficult to express in words. I watched her with awe and respect, especially in her last year of life as she bravely and without complaint battled the cancer that was taking her body captive.
Mom was one of the strongest, most determined people I’ve ever met; she had a feisty spirit and she was fun (ask any of her grandchildren!). She loved God, her family and her home. She was happiest when she was whipping up goodies in the kitchen and watching her loved ones enjoy her home cooking.
Crafts, sewing projects, quilting, crocheting – all right up her alley. Any ideas to enhance her home or anything she could make with her own hands to give as a gift caught her attention – just one of the ways she demonstrated her love. She especially enjoyed planting flowers in her garden and watching her six grandchildren flower as well.
When I was a squirrelly teenager, my mother suffered through menopause. The combination wasn’t exactly compatible so we butted heads often. Sometimes, she just made me so mad, I would stomp up the stairs to my room and cry my eyes out. And I know I made her just as angry. But not once, did we ever stop loving one another.
As an adult, I realized first-hand the stresses my mom endured. And I sadly recall wounding my mom so badly one time during my teenage years. After yet another ridiculous battle of words I waged with her, I had shouted, “You don’t love me and you never did!”
I’ve never forgotten the look of horror on her face as she recoiled from my venomous words. She seemed to wilt as she slowly sat down and tears quietly streamed down her cheeks.
I don’t believe I have ever regretted words more than those ugly ones I flung at her that day. The power to reduce my mother to tears did not give me satisfaction, instead it made me realize what a spoiled brat I was being and I never hurled hurtful words like that to my mother again!
But through those trying years, Mom never stopped encouraging me, giving me good advice when I needed it and loving me. She urged me to be the first person in our family to attend college.
Without admonition, she expected me to try my hardest at whatever I endeavored. I remember many late summer nights, swaying gently back and forth side by side on the front porch swing, having conversations with Mom about boyfriends, what college life would be like, and dreaming about my future.
Later, I would make my mother cry again. When I married my true love and we loaded our belongings into a U-Haul trailer to move half-way across the country, my mother wept. And every time we visited my parents from our home away from home, she would once again cry each time we said goodbye.
My Mom was always my rock. She was the one I turned to for help, to vent, to rail against the injustices of my world because I knew she was always on my side. And she always knew what to say to pick me up, dust me off and send me back on my way.
She provided the strong arms of comfort into which I collapsed with hysterical tears in an airport ladies room after sending my military husband off to a foreign land for a year’s tour of duty. Pregnant with our first child and saying goodbye to my husband, who would miss the birth of that child, was the most heart-wrenching task I had ever endured.
And it was Mom, who held me tight, rocked me in her arms even while she cried with me, and whispered in my ear, “You’ve got to think about this new little life you’re carrying inside of you. You’ve got to be strong for the baby.”
I didn’t want to be strong. But I learned to be. And that’s one of the lessons I learned from my mother who portrayed strength every day, even as she lay dying all those years later.
Today in Chapter 5, Page 6 of my book of Opportunity and on Mother’s Day, I will miss my mother terribly. But I can almost hear her whisper, “You’ve got to think about your own family, your children. You’ve got to be strong for them now.”
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Give Jesus a hug for me.
“I miss thee, my Mother! Thy image is still
The deepest impressed on my heart.” ~Eliza Cook