An ending is the beginning

30 days of thanks3I made it!

I accomplished my goal of writing posts dedicated to thankfulness in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving. Thirty posts. Thirty days.

A month-long offering of gratitude and thankfulness because I didn’t want to forget how very much I have to be thankful for and to whom I must give my offering of gratefulness.  

“He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.”  ~J.A. Shedd

My days of thanks giving shouldn’t just appear in the month of November though. Each and every day that I breathe, I need to keep this attitude of gratitude.

Even though we have reached the last day of November, thanks giving will continue because I am determined to continue taking a moment to pause in gratitude for all I have been given by a good, gracious Father in heaven.

Soon another year of life will come to a close. One more month left in this year and then we will begin a fresh, new year – 2019. Can you believe it?

When it arrives, my hope is to carry thanks giving as a way of life into next year. No, I won’t be blogging about gratitude every day because there are so many other aspects of life to write about, but rest assured I will be grateful. And I hope I’ve influenced my readers to be thankful as well for life’s blessings, no matter how great or small.

“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” ~Native American saying

I will be back to my normal posting schedule starting in December and into next year. However, I do have an announcement about the new year. Something new will arrive in 2019. Something wonderful and joyful and oh, so precious.

Papa and I will become grandparents for the third time! Our son and daughter-in-law are expecting a new little one to join our family next spring.

As we head into the Christmas season, my heart is full of thanks for a new little life to become part of our family circle and it is also full of gratitude for that little baby born so long ago. The one that came to give us new life.  Jesus. The Messiah. The long-awaited One. The Savior of the world.

A gift of love to be celebrated with joy.

“In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and all I have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.” ~ Henri Nouwen

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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A nugget of thanks

blogIMG_5989 (2)Often we don’t just look down. Or up for that matter.

When we’re on a mission, we have tasks to accomplish. Or places we need to be or people we must see. And when that’s the case, our focus is straight ahead. Keep your eyes on the prize. We can be so absorbed with what we must take care of that we don’t stop and truly look around at our surroundings.

What do we see under our feet? What do we observe above our heads? It’s a question I’ve learned to ask myself since I initiated taking photos as a hobby in recent years. I like to look at aspects placed into my vision from a different perspective.

Look down. Look up. Look at something from an unusual angle. And when I remember to do so, I’m not often disappointed. Usually, I find a unique photo opportunity. Or in many cases, I discover a source of inspiration for a blog post.

Last month, our family convened for a get-together at our oldest daughter and son-in-law’s home in another state. All of us were able to travel there for an entire weekend and just enjoy each other’s company, take a fall excursion to an apple farm/pumpkin patch, see some sights we hadn’t experienced before, and worship together at a well-known church.

One of our excursions was to a fossil bed beside the river that runs through their neck of the woods. We climbed over rocks searching for the embedded fossils and explored the area. While photographing some of our finds, I came across a lone nut just lying on the rocks. 

There were no other nuts there since there were no trees on the rocky river edge. Just this hard-shelled one nut.  It almost seemed petrified, but our son-in-law managed to crack it open so we could see what kind of nut meat it contained. The inside was blackened and hard. (above photo)  It looked like this nut had fallen off a tree a long time ago.

But I noticed something else. The nut meat was heart-shaped. And that prompted me to contemplation. 

When has my heart been just like that? Hard as a rock. Blackened with ill thoughts or feelings. Envy. Anger. Bitterness. Jealousy. Selfishness. Hostility. Argumentativeness. Boastful. Critical. Judgmental. Prideful.  The list is long.

Far too many times my heart looks just like that nut meat. Dark and ugly and hard. But my heart can be cleansed, restored to health and goodness. Confessing my shortcomings to my Father God and allowing the redeeming work of His Son, my Savior, to wash my heart clean.

“God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart.” ~ Izaak Walton

The thing is I must choose that. I must choose to get up each day and opt for goodness instead of evil. I must protect the state of my heart against the darkness of sin. It’s called free will and I possess it.

On this 27th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I choose a thankful heart. A heart full of gratitude. A heart that follows my Savior. A heart of thanks giving. This is my prayer.

“O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”  ~William Shakespeare

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Believing

blogDSCN8257I’m a believer.

When it comes right down to it, I believe in a lot of things. I believe in love. I believe that each day is a gift. I believe that, despite its shortcomings, I live in one of the greatest countries of the world.

I believe.

I believe in the aspects written in the lyrics of an old 1950’s Elvis Presley song with the same title, “I Believe.”

I believe in giving thanks.

But first and foremost, I’m a believer in my Savior Jesus.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” ~ Jesus Christ in John 14:1

I believe that He is the Messiah. I believe He is the Son of God. I believe that He died for all of our sins. I believe He offers the free gift of salvation to those who choose to believe in Him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

And on this 25th day in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m thankful for salvation. I’m thankful for this faith in my Savior that was taught to me at an early age whether it was by Sunday School teachers at my church, or by my elderly grandmother singing hymns about Him with me, or by my parents’ examples.

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 106:1

I’m thankful for the faith that has sustained me for most of my life and I’m thankful that God’s love endures forever.

What are you thankful for?

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

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Black Friday thoughts

people crowd walking

Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

It’s Black Friday.  The day after Thanksgiving when many of us feasted on way too much food. We lounged (unless you are one of the unfortunate who must work on Thanksgiving) around the house with our family and friends watching football or Hallmark Christmas movies and rubbing our overly full, distended stomachs. We were warm and cozy in our homes with plenty of heat, electricity, and running water.

We Americans have so much and hopefully we took time yesterday to give thanks for our abundant blessings. But today is another day. Today we go back to life as usual. Or do we?

Millions of us will spend this day chasing down bargains – getting up at the crack of dawn to go Black Friday shopping. I’m going to be up front right now and share that I don’t do Black Friday.  Actually, this day when there is a frenzy to be the ultimate consumer and spend, spend, spend on supposed money saving deals bothers the heck out of me.

bloggraphicNovI do not shop on this day — I stay as far away as I can from the maddening crowd.  I think it brings out the worst in us humans – greed, rudeness, gluttony, overindulgence, call it what you will. 

And the fact that stores opened on Thanksgiving to accommodate this craziness and fill their coffers with more money instead of respecting the holiday and giving their employees the day off makes it even more offensive to me.

So, I am being completely honest by admitting I am not thankful for the shopping mania of Black Friday itself here in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.  But that Bible verse that fuels my life, that one that says be thankful in all circumstances, prompts me to express gratitude on this day. 

Yes today, Black Friday, a day that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Why?  Because the consumerism of Black Friday reminds me that I already have what I need in this life and so do the ones I might Christmas shop for.  It’s called abundance. And we here in America have been blessed beyond measure with it.  

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, there are countless fellow human beings out there in our world who have even more hardships, many right here in our own country.  Many are our brothers and sisters across the globe who live under persecution.

Some live in war-torn areas of the world. They face being killed for their faith. They may be captured, tortured, and imprisoned because of it. So many of our fellow humans here and abroad don’t have shelter or enough food or clothing or even clean water to drink.

And as the Christmas season approaches, I’d rather spend my time on something more meaningful than shopping on Black Friday, filling my shopping cart with consumer goods for my own family and friends.

I am thankful that research is available at the tip of my fingers via my computer keyboard to show me where I can help the most. I’m thankful there are legitimate organizations that exist where I can share my blessings with others who need so much. I thank God that I can impact another person’s life in a positive way to provide a bit of comfort or satisfy a need.

In my guidebook for life, the Bible, Jesus tells me this: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” ~ Luke 12:48

That verse tells me that I am held responsible for what I have, for all I have been given.  If I am blessed with a certain talent, I’m expected to use it. If I’m blessed with time to serve God and others, I need to do so. If I’ve been blessed with monetary goods, I should share those to glorify God and also to benefit those less fortunate. 

I am thankful that because I have been given much, I have much to share.

So on this day after Thanksgiving I have to ask myself, “Am I truly thankful for what I have been given?” And when I realize the answer is affirmative, then it’s time for action.

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” ~ W. Clement Stone

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

If not for this

asphalt auto autobahn automobile

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

For almost 30 years, my husband, the Papa of this empty nest, worked as a sales representative for national companies. Yes, he was a traveling salesman.

He somehow managed to draw large sales territories encompassing more than one state and when you live in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, that’s a lot of miles to cover by company car.  No airline travel for him, his job required that he drive all of those numerous miles from place to place making sales calls. And that meant that he spent several nights away from home, alone in hotel rooms, away from our family.

I must confess I hated when Papa needed to make his sojourns overnight for a couple of nights a week because it left me alone to cope with our three children, the house, and the day to day grind of everyday life without my spouse to give a helping hand.  Some days it seemed like an endless and thankless task and I wished that we lived near our extended families so I could ask for a little bit of help from them.

I truly sympathize with mothers whose husbands are absent or travel for their jobs because I understand the difficulties they face. And working single mothers without a spouse? I don’t know how they do it.  

When Papa traveled for business, it often seemed like I encountered the most difficult circumstances. And this was in the days before cell phones. Car accident resulting in the car having to be towed? Papa was away on business. Emergency room visit and overnight hospitalization? Papa was away on business. Automobile breakdown on a highway in the middle of nowhere in 90 degree heat? Papa was away on business.

Sometimes he had to miss the kids’ activities because of his job as well. Often times, both of us were so exhausted by the time he came home, we neglected each other. And sometimes, I complained just way too much about our situation in life at the time.

I was ungrateful. I was self-centered. I was weary and feeling sorry for myself. I longed to have lives like some of my friends whose husbands found jobs that provided a living wage near their hometowns and families. I envied those who could call on parents and grandparents to take their children for a fun day and give Mom some peace and quiet.

I was anything but thankful. Anything but grateful. Anything but content with my lot.

But you know what? I’m thankful now.

As I reminisce about those years, I’m thankful for the traveling sales positions my husband held then. I’m grateful his job provided a comfortable living for our family. I’m thankful that it enabled me to be a stay-at-home mom for many of those years when our children were young.

I realize something else from those times in my life. When trouble arose, I learned to be more self-sufficient and take care of problems myself. I learned to ask friends for help when I needed it. I learned to cope and accept the tasks placed before me.

But even more importantly, I learned to rely on my faith in God. I learned to place my trust in my Savior, Jesus. That faith helped sustain me during even more turbulent times when Papa lost his jobs due to company downsizing and other unforeseen events.

Had I not experienced those trying times, I might not have appreciated when Papa acquired an inside sales position with very little overnight travel meaning we were given more time to be together.

I may not have valued how hard my husband worked to provide everything we needed for our children and ourselves – enough food to eat, a pleasant home to live in, clothes to wear, and times of vacation and fun.

And I wouldn’t have learned to treasure time just to be with my husband as I do now. You know what they say? What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Well, I believe it also makes your marriage stronger. Just one more aspect of life to give thanks for during my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

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

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Heated thankfulness

snow covered red sedan

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

There was a time in my life when my body temperature ran way too hot. Without being too specific to scare away any males reading this post, I bet you can imagine the times I’m referring to. Even in the dead of winter with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit or below, I would be in the throes of a hot flash.

I vividly remember stepping out onto the front porch several winter nights dressed in a lightweight summer nightgown after awakening with the feeling that I was going to spontaneously combust. Snow covered the ground yet you could find me standing on the porch just trying to chill out.

Back then, having heated seats in an automobile sounded like torture. Why on earth would I ever need such a thing? When Papa and I considered purchasing a new vehicle, I remember telling him that heated seats were an extra component we could do without. I surely didn’t need heat in my seat because I could provide my own heat and I would be the primary driver of that new vehicle.

Flash forward a few years. Happily for me and all those around me, my hot flashes were relegated to the past. Again, it was time to shop for a new car and the particular one we liked the most came with heated seats.

Papa and I agreed to purchase that specific car, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t imagine ever using that feature because cold temperatures really didn’t bother me. Plus we park our vehicles in our attached garage, so they aren’t often sitting outside in the cold, wintry weather we get in our neck of the woods.

But one blustery winter day, our car had been parked outside for several hours. It was freezing and the wind chill blew right through me as if it would cause my blood to thicken and my bones to rattle when I walked to the car. It was that kind of a day when the wintry air has a real bite to it.

I climbed in the car, shivering even in my heavy winter coat and gloves. In a hurry, I flicked on the switch to the heated seats and within seconds, warmth radiated through the car seat and settled into my back.

Ah, that warmth was such a relief. I never dreamed I’d be grateful for heated seats but they are such a blessing on a blustery day. On my 12th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m so grateful for something that seems so trivial, yet it’s worth a mention of thanks.

“I find that the more willing I am to be grateful for the small things in life, the bigger stuff just seems to show up from unexpected sources, and I am constantly looking forward to each day with all the surprises that keep coming my way!” ~ Louise L. Hay

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Sound of silence

blogIMG_4396 (2)The sound of silence.

The folk rock duo Simon and Garfunkel released a song of the same name in the early 1960’s. The words to the seemingly haunting music are still embedded in my brain like the vision Paul Simon wrote about in the lyrics:

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.  ~ Lyrics by Paul Simon

All those years ago when I was a young girl and even into young adulthood (before children), the sound of silence bothered me. I didn’t like it.

If it was completely quiet, I needed to have noise. Music from the radio or the stereo floating through the air in melodic harmony or sometimes crashing loudly in the form of rock songs filled the silent surroundings.

Or turning the television on just for some background noise did the trick. It didn’t matter what made noise, just so there was some.  I just seemed to need some sound to break the eeriness of complete silence.  That need probably stemmed from a little fear that niggled in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to be totally alone.

When I found myself in a solitary mode, I filled silence with conversations either on the phone or in person with a friend, neighbor, or family. Anything to eliminate silence.

But then along came children – one, two, three – and our home was saturated with noise. Crying, sibling squabbles, boisterous play, and a houseful of neighborhood children adding to the mix eliminated silence.

Our kids’ teenage years brought even more noise – loud music and video games ruled the air. Chatty teenagers lounged in our family room, wrestled with one another, played round after round of Dance, Dance Revolution. Our house was one noisy place!

By the time the empty nest loomed in my future, I was more than willing to accept the sound of silence. But oh, that empty nest was sooooooo quiet. As the lack of noise became reality, I found myself wandering through an empty house in complete silence. For a while, it unnerved me. It saddened me. It made me feel as if that old loneliness called  solitude enveloped me once more.

But I adjusted. I learned to accept the new version of my life. One with the sound of silence. I found I enjoyed time alone. Quiet time to think. Tranquil time to read unhindered. Peaceful time to pursue aspects of life that fulfilled me, like writing in this blog, reading my Bible, capturing photographs.

And in my serenity, I also found that the sound of silence provided me with something that had been missing in a major way in my life. Time to be quiet and listen for the Lord’s voice, His direction, His guidance, His inspiration.  Time to be alone without the noisy interference of the world and to relish the sound of silence.

On this eighth day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m thankful for the sound of silence and for finally learning to accept it with an open heart, mind, and ears to listen.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: sunrise gift

blogIMG_5902

Watching the sunrise 

It occurs each and every day of the life we are given.

We crawl into our cozy beds weary from a long day of whatever we must accomplish, eager to acquire some rest, and if our minds will just slow down and allow us, we fall into slumber.

Night draws its dark curtain around us as we succumb to relaxation and our bodies and minds absorb the much-needed respite they need. 

And then without warning or fanfare, something miraculous occurs in the eastern sky.

The sun slowly makes its appearance on the horizon, chasing away the shadows of the night, adorning the sky with magnificent colors and rays of light shining through the clouds.

It’s sunrise.

Another day granted by the Creator of the universe. The Master Painter of our skies. The great and omnipotent Lord of all. The One who gives us life and determines when it will be no more.

Life. Another day. A gift we take so much for granted. A gift we often fail to be thankful for.

A gift I lift my words of gratitude and my heart and soul up with thanks to the Almighty Father on this seventh day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?” ~ William A. Ward

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Foggy thanks

person walking on road between trees

Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

Early one day last week, my friend and I were taking our morning walk. The temperature was brisk, so we bundled up.  And since it was before we changed our clocks (fall back for Daylight Savings Time), it was still dark outside when we left our homes.

We knew the cloak of darkness would dissipate even though it was overcast and cloudy because the sun would arise soon. However, visibility was hindered immensely because it was foggy.

Really foggy. Thick as pea soup foggy. By the time we finished our jaunt, my hair was actually damp from walking through the thick fog of misty air.

Fog. It can be dangerous when you’re driving because you can’t see very far ahead of you. It can be dangerous as a walker crossing the street because an oncoming vehicle may not be able to see you.

Sometimes the fog is so dense you can’t see where you’re going or where the road even is located. Headlights don’t illuminate enough or cut through the murky haze. 

Fog makes you feel disoriented because you can’t get your bearings. It seems the same when you’re in a fog mentally as well. You feel out of sorts, unsettled, befuddled. Which way do you turn? It’s so hard to discern.

But you know what? I’m thankful for the fog on this fifth day of my 30 Days of Thanksgiving. Yes, it can make life difficult. It can make your path on your journey confusing. It can leave you perplexed. But the fog set before us doesn’t last forever.

As soon as the sun actually came out later that morning, its warm, bright rays burned off the fog. The vaporous surroundings lifted and unhampered passageways could be seen easily once more.

When the fog finally lifts, it’s like you can see with new eyes. Everything looks well-defined and sharp again. 

So why am I thankful for fog, of all things? If it weren’t for the murky, foggy days or nights, would we feel gratitude for and appreciate the clear ones we experience the rest of the time? 

I think not.

Fog reminds me that even when things around me look unclear and confusing, when I’m just trying to move forward, one cautious step at a time because I can’t see where I’m going, the God of the universe lights my way, is a lamp for my feet, and will lead me through the fog.

“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” ~Albert Barnes

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

30 Days of Thanks

blogthanksFour years ago this very month, I attempted something different while writing this blog. I decided to post every single day of November but each post was written to share something I was thankful for each and every day.

I called it 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

I could try to explain once more why I feel called to attempt this endeavor again, but I find the words I wrote back in 2014 still hold true today as this year – 2018 – starts winding down to close.

So I am re-posting an adapted version of what I wrote on November 1, 2014 as a means of explanation:

It’s November.  The 11th month of the year. 

In one way November reminds us the year is winding down and the garden’s growing season has come to an end. Most things of color turn brown and either die or go dormant. We feel a shiver in the air as the season whisks autumn’s leaves from the trees scattering them to the ground while we prepare to settle in for winter.  

Another year of life is drawing to a close.

On the other hand, the onset of November also reminds us to gear up because Christmas is coming and there’s so much to be done. Holiday frenzy will soon be upon us and we will find ourselves stressed to the max preparing for the big event, then toasting out the old year and welcoming in the new.

I’ve always felt that November gets the short stick, squeezed in like a thin piece of American cheese between two thickly sliced hunks of tasty fresh-baked bread.  It’s overlooked, it’s forgotten.  

It just doesn’t have the appeal or commercial factor sandwiched in between Halloween and Christmas.  November holidays – especially Thanksgiving – somehow get lost in the shuffle. Only important enough for one day of celebration.  And that bothers me…a lot.

So it’s November.  And with the change of season, I’m in need of a change – in my heart and in my blog. You see, I take too many aspects of my life for granted, I spend too much time on myself, and I don’t spend nearly enough time in thanksgiving. 

I don’t mean ‘Thanksgiving’ – preparing a feast, sitting at a well-appointed table, and gorging myself with turkey and all the trimmings.  I mean thanks giving.  Two words. Giving thanks with joy.  Giving thanks with prayer.  Giving thanks in all things to the One who provides all things.

For many years I have claimed my life verses are a passage from the Bible found in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5.  You can read those words in the graphic I designed to accompany this post.  

While these verses do guide and direct me and hold profound meaning, my heart tells me – no, my heart demands that I cease using lip service for this passage and commence putting these words that sustain me into real action.

This month, this very month of November, this month of thanks giving, I will attempt each day to post with words, photos, and maybe even a video or two about aspects of life for which I am most thankful.  

Some aspects may be awe-inspiring; some may be just simple everyday occurrences, objects, or feelings causing you to wonder why I’m thankful for such small things.

Some of these thankful blog posts may describe events or experiences that are considered difficult and trying. But see that’s the thing. God’s Word tells me to be thankful for ALL things, not just the good stuff.

Join me this November as I chronicle my thanks giving not to glorify myself but to give glory and honor to the One who deserves my praise and grateful heart.  

My prayer is that you’ll find the month of November causes you to pause and be full of your own thanks giving as well.

Remember to come back to Mama’s Empty Nest every day in November for a new post each day in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.” ~Robert Caspar Lintner

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com