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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Thanks in all circumstances

blogIMG_5878You know this blog is named Mama’s Empty Nest, right?

Way back in 2010 when I launched this blog, that was my current state of affairs. My nest was empty. I was feeling discombobulated entering a new season of life. Our youngest graduated from college and began his career in a state next door, and our other two offspring were already established in their careers and living away from home.

Three of the four bedrooms in this house were empty – oh, there were still beds and stuff in them, but the three children who inhabited those rooms were off on their own. The fledglings had all flown away from the nest.

It took me some time to work through all the emotions and sense of loneliness and yes, even loss. But Papa and I muddled our way through it, supporting each other as we always do, no matter what.

So the empty nest has been my thing for several years, but I have a confession to make to you readers who don’t know me personally.

Mama’s Empty Nest hasn’t stayed empty. For the last couple of years, this empty nest was a little fuller.

Something very painful happened to our middle daughter. I’m not willing to share details so publicly about what transpired, but suffice it to say a distressing occurrence changed her life in a blink of an eye.

Shattered dreams became a new reality.  Happening on the cusp of just becoming a new mother to her very first child, it was an emotionally charged and heavily draining event, full of betrayal, anger, sadness, and even depression.

Because we are a close-knit family, it took its toll on all of us. But also because we ARE a close-knit family who relies on the almighty and omnipotent God, we’ve become even closer despite the struggle. We have cried together, we have prayed together, we have hoped for the best together even when it looked like a good resolution would not actually happen. And it didn’t. 

So we rallied together when daughter needed help to pick up the pieces of her life that were broken and splintered causing so much pain.  She and baby girl came to live with Mama and Papa in this cozy nest we call home. This place where they could be sheltered, nourished, and in time, emotionally restored with the love of her family, but more importantly with the healing balm of a Savior’s love and provision.

It’s been a long journey for her. An upheaval with so many changes. Sacrifice even. Discovering a new dream for her future. But there is light at the end of the tunnel as she moves forward. She has found a new home to call her own. A place for her and her wee one to put down their own roots firmly yet branch up and soar into the future.

“When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?” ~ George Canning

Soon we will send her off with blessings and thanksgiving and this nest will once again be empty. I am so grateful that we could help her, so grateful for the opportunity to have both her and our granddaughter live with us temporarily. I’m so thankful for our family and close friends who prayed for and supported her during this time.

And I’m so very thankful for the God of mercy and grace who walks us through life’s difficult journey.

My heart is full of thanks giving on this 29th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, even though the going was rough, the emotions ran high, and the upheaval was challenging. Because my favorite passage of Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 –  tells me this:  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine) 

“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Trip to thankfulness

blogIMG_0253Have husband, will travel.

After many years of family vacations, Papa and I discovered a few years ago how much we enjoyed traveling together, just the two of us, especially in the off season when families don’t usually make vacation plans.

Since one of us is basically retired from the working world – that would be me – and one of us only has one foot in it still – that would be Papa – we have found time in the last couple of years to travel more often than we did in the lean years when we put three kids through college and paid for weddings.

Travel. It’s become a pleasurable aspect of life here in Mama’s Empty Nest.

“If you never learned the lesson of thankfulness, begin now. Sum up your mercies; see what provision God has made for your happiness, what opportunities for your usefulness, and what advantages for your success.” ~ Ida S. Taylor

Today in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m so appreciative and grateful for the opportunities to set our sights on new horizons and take some trips together outside of the nest. As I sum up my thankfulness for our excursions in the last couple of years, I decided to share a few of my favorite photos from those journeys in a slide show below.

From week-long vacations to weekend jaunts to day trips, Papa and I have been blessed by our travels by car, by plane, by boat, and by train. And I hope we have more opportunities in the future for those blessings.

“All that we behold is full of blessings.” ~William Wordsworth

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©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

 

Family connections

blogOld photoIf you can believe all the ads on TV and the internet, more and more folks are wondering just where they came from.

Those ads inform you where you can send your DNA to have it analyzed and receive a report indicating what part of the world you descended from. I can understand why that information would be intriguing if you don’t know much about your family history.

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated about knowing my ancestry. Shortly after Papa and I married, we purchased a family tree print which we filled out as best as we could with the limited information we had. We framed it and it has graced our living room wall for all of our married life.

Since both of our sets of grandparents passed away either when we were young or before we were even born, our knowledge of great-grandparents and further back in the family lines was very limited.

My father did possess a treasure trove of family lineage on both sides of his family and he passed that information to my sisters and me. But pertaining to my mother’s lineage, we had very little to go on beyond our grandparents.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been even more determined to find out more family genealogy but am limited with time to do so. It’s quite a task, even if you join one of the online genealogy sites. There’s a lot of misinformation, dates in error, etc. that can lead you down the wrong path and I have felt frustration over some of that.

Enter my cousin. I have one living first cousin left; all the others are deceased. My cousin’s father and my father were brothers and our families were close when I was growing up. Recently, cousin and I have had more opportunities to see one another and talk about family remembrances. And he just so happens to have done a lot of research on our fathers’ family.

A couple of months ago, my cousin came for a visit and brought along his three-ring binder full of his research, which is more extensive that what I have. He showed me how he had collected all of the information and formatted it into a binder, not just on our shared family history but on this mother’s lineage as well.

I was impressed and expressed that to him. We shared stories and many remembrances of family members long gone. Hearing my cousin’s stories – many of which I never had heard – made me even more determined to seek out more of my family history (and my husband’s as well), get it put down in writing, and prepare a similar notebook to be passed down to my children if they are interested.

But time. Or the lack of it. That is my problem. It’s been a busy season of life for us here at Mama’s Empty Nest even though I basically am retired from working outside the home and Papa is semi-retired, only working at a part-time job. Taking care of our granddaughter while daughter works takes up a good bit of my time. And there are always church activities and other commitments that also claim my free hours as well as writing this blog.

Recently, my cousin visited me again. I never imagined he would arrive with a complete surprise in his hands. He prepared a family history binder for me as a gift. Not only did he include all of his research and photographs from our shared family lineage, but he had done significant exploration into my mother’s (his aunt by marriage) family.

What an amazing gift! My cousin gleaned through ancient census reports, vital life certificates, and other information to complete my mother’s family tree. Then he printed all of his collected findings, formatted the family lineage, and placed it all in sections by family name in a three-ring binder.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

To say I am thankful for what he did is an understatement. His gift touched my heart in so many ways. I’m beyond grateful for my cousin, for the ways we have felt connected in our family ties, for the stories he has shared, for the vast amount of time he spent compiling all of the information he acquired.

My cousin gave me a treasure. A treasure I can pass on to my children in hopes they can pass it on to my grandchildren. A treasure of family connection. The past with the present. And into the future.

Just one more thing to be grateful for in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

 “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” ~ Henry Van Dyke

©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

Thankful for The Word

 

blogIMG_6942The leather-bound volume is well-used. It was a gift to me from the Papa of this empty nest many years ago to commemorate a wedding anniversary.

Its binding is starting to crack. Its pages are thin and dog-eared in places. The silver edges on the pages which once added to the richness of this book’s appearance are practically non-existent. The words printed on the pages are underscored in different colors of pen. Handwritten notations, some from days past, some from present days, fill the margins.

It is a book which has been used over and over again. It is a book that has been well-loved for its contents. Recently, when noticing this book was starting to fall into some disrepair because some of the bound pages are getting loose, Papa asked me if I didn’t want a new one. A bright shiny, unmarked version of this book with a binding that is intact and not cracked and one with fresh, crisp pages.

And I promptly said no way. I will use this particular volume of this book until I can use it no more. I will read it until my eyes no longer can focus on the words written there. I will continue marking important passages and insights I gain in this book.  Why? Because this book which actually consists of 66 books is my companion. It is special to me because of the notations, the underlined passages, the well-worn pages that I’ve read so often.

This book is my Bible. This book is the Word of God spoken by men, written and transcribed by men, but truly inspired by the very voice of the Almighty God. It is meant to be our guidebook for life. It is meant to encourage us, reprimand us, inform us, give direction and guidance to us, but most of all, to let us know how loved and cherished we are by the triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Every day, not just this month in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I am thankful for this book. I am grateful for the words written there. I am refreshed by it; comforted by it; inspired by it.

And I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

It’s where the passage I claim to be my life verse is found – in the New Testament, the Book of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, Verses 16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  

If you’re not familiar with the Bible, my hope is that you understand you can turn to it when you too are in the middle of difficult situations. Here are just a few passages of Scripture that may help you:  

When you need peace of mind – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

When you are discouraged – “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalms 31:24

When you are troubled – “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.” Psalms 107:13

When you are lonely – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

When you are worried – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

When you are fearful – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” Isaiah 12:2

When you seek forgiveness – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. 

When you need guidance – “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6

When you hold a grudge or resent others – “And when you stand praying if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

When you feel insecure and frustrated – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

When you are weary – “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

When you feel burdened – “Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.” Psalms 55:22

When you need strength – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

When you are confused or upset – “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” Isaiah 32:17

When life feels hard – “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When you need salvation – “Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

“For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace, and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase; for those who are grieving o’er life’s sordid plan; for souls still believing in heaven and man; for homes that are lowly with love at the board; for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord!” ~Walt Mason

©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

May your table be filled with thanks

blogthankscard

It’s Thanksgiving Day. The day we set aside to give thanks for all of our blessings and gather as family and friends to commemorate the day with a bountiful table laden with a feast.

My hope for this 22nd day in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving is that amidst the hustle and bustle of food preparation, assembling those you love around the dinner table, parades on the television, and football games galore, that you take the opportunity to pause, express gratitude for your many blessings, and remember that every day should be a thanks giving day. 

Because we have this treasure – a gem really – given to us each day we live to give thanks. 

Happy Thanksgiving from Mama’s Empty Nest. May you be blessed this day.

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” ~ E.P. Powell

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Words for Wednesday: Thanksgiving table

blogIMG_6569 (2)

On this 21st day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m thankful to be able to prepare not just one table to gather my loved ones around for a feast of good food, but the room to set another table as well.  Fifteen family members will gather to give thanks in our home.

Family. A warm house to gather in. Enough food to satisfy our hunger. And faith in the God who provides it all. 

What more could I be thankful for?

“If I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Host of this universe, Who daily spreads a table in my sight, surely I cannot do less than acknowledge my dependence.”  ~ G.A. Johnston Ross

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com