Posted in gratitude, Life

As the year winds down

You know those letters that are tucked into Christmas greeting cards? You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Some folks find them boring, some folks call them boastful.

Personally, I truly appreciate getting those letters from friends and family at Christmas time because it gives me a little peek into what the year was like for them.  Plus, it seems more personal than just signing your name on a greeting card.

As a natural-born writer, I’m keen on writing Christmas missives and have been doing so for…well, as long as I’ve sent holiday greetings by mail (43 years of marriage). Back in the day, I hand wrote all of those letters – what a task! – but as we joined the home computer rage, it was easier and more efficient to type our greeting and print it out on Christmas themed paper.

This year – this crazy, abnormal as can be year when it seems like our world was topsy-turvy – I still managed to write my annual holiday letter.  Even though we spent a good majority of the year social distancing, sequestered in our home, etc., believe it or not, I still found worthwhile things to share.

How? By concentrating on thankfulness. Why? Because my desire was to encourage those who received our letter to do the same, to remember this year’s aspects that made them grateful.

And even though this Christmas is now relegated to our memories, I’m sharing my 2020 holiday letter with you, not to brag or boast, but instead to demonstrate how we chose to look at the challenges we faced, although I recognize many of you experienced more hardships than most.

As this year winds down, many of us review what transpired before we put the past year to rest, and that’s simply what I did in this letter. But more importantly, my hope is that you may find my words a source of encouragement to reflect on your own past year and find gratitude for something in it, no matter how small or insignificant it seems.

So here goes – our annual holiday letter for 2020:

We sincerely hope this greeting finds you and all your loved ones healthy and well in body, mind, and spirit. What can we say about this past year? Most of us will be happy to see it in our rear view mirrors.

Despite the challenging year it’s been, here’s our attempt to place a positive spin on 2020 because my favorite passage of Scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Notice God’s Word says give thanks in ALL circumstances, not just the pleasant ones.

Our year commenced as usual – providing child care for our oldest grandchild and sometimes driving her to preschool while our daughter worked. As the new year arrived in order to escape the winter doldrums, Papa and I ventured into Pittsburgh to tour the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History and on another occasion, we accompanied daughter and grandchild to the Children’s Museum. Little did we know, outings like those would become non-existent in the coming months…BUT we truly enjoyed those experiences.

Our family celebrated our grandchild’s 5th birthday and as March arrived, Papa and I prepared for an upcoming planned trip. Then news of the corona virus hit the air waves…BUT we already had flight tickets purchased, rental car and hotel accommodations booked so off we flew to Arizona.

After arriving in Phoenix, we drove to the Grand Canyon National Park, a place neither of us had ever visited. Drizzling rain and extremely foggy conditions met us there preventing us from catching a good view of this amazing natural wonder. We feared we would not actually see it…BUT the sun came out and the fog cleared to give us some spectacular sights.

From there, we got some kicks on Route 66 and eventually arrived at my sister and brother-in-law’s home for the rest of our trip. Pouring rain and some unheard of flash flooding (in the Arizona desert) greeted us on our first day there. Adding to that, my sister suffered some back pain issues which nixed all of the sightseeing she had planned…BUT we had already seen many sights on a previous trip there, the guys were able to go desert ATV riding, Papa and I enjoyed morning walks through their neighborhood each day, and we had a relaxing time just spending it with our loved ones.

By now, the pandemic panic increased and our kids frantically texted and called us imploring us to be careful and urging us to fly home sooner than planned…BUT since we were mostly staying put with only my sister and brother-in-law, we didn’t have to worry about being exposed to crowds.

As shut-downs occurred, concern for driving our rental car to Phoenix, staying the night in a hotel, and flying out of a crowded airport the next day or finding our flight cancelled loomed…BUT we managed to find an open drive-through place to get our dinner, a fairly empty hotel, and social distancing in place while waiting for our flight, disinfecting as we went, and because many people cancelled trips, we had a row of seats to ourselves on the plane.

We safely arrived back at our nearly deserted home airport, collected our bags, and were picked up outside by family members. Due to stay at home orders, our nearby city looked eerily like a ghost town…BUT with no traffic on the highway, we made it home in record time.

As you may recall, our middle daughter is a hospital nurse. She was extremely concerned about being Covid-19 exposed and thereby spreading it to her child and us as caregivers for that child, so she made the difficult, heart-breaking decision to separate herself from her child and us for the next 8 weeks…BUT Nana and Papa enjoyed every minute of being with our precious little one 24/7, playing games, make-believe, crafting, preschool learning at home, and thanks to nice weather, being outside.

During that time, our daughter actually was exposed to Covid-19 positive patients and endured a case of the virus herself AND a middle-of-the-night trip by ambulance to the ER while ill…BUT she recovered well, passed a painful kidney stone to boot (ER visit), and experienced so much love and concern from others with prayers, meals, gifts, and well wishes delivered to her mailbox and front porch.

Being apart from the rest of our family (our other grown children and grandchildren who live in other states), for special holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, our littlest grandchild’s first birthday party, and middle grandchild’s fourth birthday certainly wasn’t easy this year…BUT we were grateful for technology providing video conferencing and virtual parties.

As things seemed to calm down and cases subsided by the end of May, our entire family reunited at our son and daughter-in-love’s home in the state next door for a family gathering weekend where we still practiced tons of hand washing and sanitizing…BUT it was so good to see each other in person, spend quality time together in beautiful weather outside on their lovely patio, and watch our three grandchildren play and have fun.

Our family had long planned to take a 2020 beach vacation, renting a house big enough for all 10 of us in order to spend an entire week together. Before the pandemic, we had already booked a place for August. Since virus news continued, we bantered back and forth discussing with angst about what decision to make…BUT all of us decided to go anyway.  We stayed sequestered in our rental; brought food and ordered groceries online; cooked all our own meals; enjoyed the very unpopulated beach where it was easy to social distance every day; and spent time with our little ones in our private swimming pool while the adults enjoyed the private hot tub. We relished relaxing together as a family and it helped our sanity and outlook. Some of us may have cried when it came time to depart for home at week’s end.

This has been a year unlike any other we’ve experienced…BUT we are very grateful for so much:

  • Being retired and able to stay at home;
  • No one in our family lost jobs;
  • Attending church via online worship;
  • Both of our daughters were able to have necessary surgeries and recovered well;
  • Oldest grandchild started kindergarten this fall in school and loves it;
  • Middle grandchild gave her heart to Jesus at the tender age of almost 4;
  • Youngest grandchild learned who Nana and Papa are in person by spending a week with us all at the beach;
  • Because of other activity cancellations, we’ve finished home projects and have time to pursue our hobbies;
  • Taking day-long car trips to get out and about, no need for masks/social distancing when we’re in nature by ourselves and eating picnic lunches outdoors;
  • I managed to lead several women’s Bible study sessions via video conferencing, thanks to my son-in-love who provided tech instructions on how to do so;
  • And that so far, everyone in our family is staying healthy and managing as best we can to endure this time.

We hope and pray that, despite the hardships of this year, you find many reasons to be thankful and that you are blessed beyond measure with peace, love, joy, and mostly HOPE.  May your 2021 be a truly happy and healthy New Year.

My wish for you, my readers, is the same as the one above sent to our family and friends. It’s my daily prayer.

“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” ~ Germany Kent

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Posted in Life, thankfulness

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

Posted in Life, Thanksgiving

How happy people live

astronomy dark dawn dusk
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

Giving thanks. It’s not really difficult to do. It’s not daunting to find aspects of life to be grateful for if you truly try. If you look at your blessings instead of your trials.

Priscilla Maurice, an author from the 1800’s, penned this advice:  “Begin with thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving. If you cannot begin with anything positive, begin with something negative. If your whole lot seems only filled with causes for discontent, at any rate there is some trial that has not been appointed you; and you may thank God for its being withheld from you. It is certain that the more you try to praise, the more you will see how your path and your lying down are beset with mercies, and that the God of love is ever watching to do you good.”

Being thankful, no matter what. It’s how happy people live. It’s how I want to live my life as I reflect on my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

It’s how the elderly gentleman in the video below lives his life.

Thanks giving is more than a just a holiday. And happy people live lives full of gratitude.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Life, thankfulness

Cause for alarm causes thanks giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All blessings for which we are thankful.

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

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

Low key. An evening of quietude. Chillaxing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And my heart is grateful.

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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Posted in Life, memories

A 40-year-old blessing

blogScan_20171022It was a typical Sunday morning when we walked into church. Greeting folks along the way, we made our way up the center aisle to an open spot in a pew – left side, where we usually sit.

From the pulpit, our pastor bid us good morning and began announcements. Still settling in a bit with our Little One (granddaughter), my attention peaked when Pastor welcomed a visitor, someone well known to our congregation, and his wife.

Immediately, I turned around in my seat and eagerly scanned those sitting behind me to find this person. Not just a visitor, but a former pastor of this country church. This place so steeped in my heritage, not only where I grew up worshiping God, but where both my parents grew up, and where both sets of my grandparents also called their church home.

And then I spied him. Oh, he looked a bit different…older as he’s getting up in years. But then, I certainly look different…and older…too. 

He had become a widower a couple of years back, so the lovely white-haired lady at his side was his second wife, someone I’d never seen before.  I couldn’t wait for fellowship time to greet this man and welcome him back to our church even though it was just for Sunday morning worship.

See, this pastor, this man of God, has always been someone special to me. He came to our church in my late teenage/early adulthood years. To me, he was the no-nonsense, straight from the Bible kind of preacher from whom I learn most. 

And in the month of October some 40 years ago, this pastor performed the marriage ceremony for Papa and me as you can see in my photo above.

Prior to our wedding day, the two of us sat in Pastor’s office as he questioned us about our beliefs, goals, and roles in marriage. And he gave us godly advice on how to begin our lives together and keep our marriage intact.

As soon as we said “I do,” Papa whisked me off to another area of the country where he served in the military.  We didn’t get back home as often as we liked, but when we did, we managed to attend church services and listen to Pastor’s messages.

He always welcomed us back with smiles and hearty greetings. One summer when we visited my parents, I remember Pastor and his gracious wife invited us and my parents to their home for dinner. 

While there, our oldest child, who was just about the age our oldest granddaughter is now, sang a Vacation Bible School song she had just learned. Pastor and his wife enthusiastically cheered her on and clapped when she was finished and she loved the attention they gave her. 

A few years later, this pastor was called to minister in another area of the country, but we still managed to keep in touch. My parents and their friends traveled to visit Pastor and wife in their new home and I recall seeing my Dad’s photos from that trip and hearing my Mom share about their lovely visit.

We even experienced a wonderful surprise ourselves from Pastor and his wife after that when they  stopped to visit us and our three children in our Midwest home.  

Through all of these many years between our wedding in 1977 and now, I have faithfully sent Christmas cards with a letter to Pastor and his wife and always received one in return. Even after his spouse passed away, I continued to send cards figuring he would enjoy receiving them.

Apparently, he did. Because this past Sunday when I shook his hand and reminded him who I was, he smiled and said “Ah, yes.”

I told him that Papa and I had just celebrated our wedding anniversary and that he had performed the ceremony 40 years ago this month right there in that church to which he replied, “I remember.” 

And then he added, “Keep those Christmas cards coming.”

Sometimes the simplest things touch us the most. And they are blessings.

Just like the blessing of seeing my former pastor again in that place, which is once again my church home,  in this particular month – Papa’s and my 40th wedding anniversary month.

“Remember all the people in your life who helped guide you on your road to success. Thank them sincerely and often.” ~ Robert Cheeke

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Posted in thankfulness, Thanksgiving

With a thankful heart

blogthanksOn this Thanksgiving Day, I wish you many blessings and I thank you, my readers, for the many ways you have blessed me through your likes and comments and in some cases, sweet friendships outside of this blogging world.  

But I also pray that you all take time to think about all you have for which to be thankful.  We have an abundance of blessings; share them with someone less fortunate. Take a moment, click on the link below, and watch this video.  

Happy Thanksgiving from Mama’s Empty Nest! 

Thankful

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in Uncategorized

Correcting blurred vision

blogIMG_3541 (2)Sidetracked.  Have you felt like that every once in awhile?  Happens to me fairly often. 

It reminds me of that old saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees.”  In the past, I’ve found myself so fixated on a problem that had arisen, that I didn’t stop to consider what impact, if any, it might have for the future.

Usually, the problem really isn’t something that will matter five or ten years from now or even 20.  Over the last few years, I’ve finally learned not to sweat the small stuff. 

Call it maturing, call it getting older, call it wisdom.  I don’t know what eventually caused me to realize that, but I’m ever so glad I learned to let go of trivial matters and consider what’s truly important for eternity.

A situation has been bothering me for some time now, soon it will be an entire year.  And I’ve still not muddled my way through it nor ended the feelings it provokes.  It’s time.  It’s past time.  Will it alter the future?  Yes.  But it’s something I have to learn to live with.

As always, I turn to prayer when problems surface.  I also usually ask friends who are steadfast prayer warriors to join me in praying over the issue. I just recently enlisted their aid once again when anger, frustration, worry, great concern, and hurt threatened to overwhelm me.  I’m thankful for the many friends who jumped on my prayer wagon to storm the gates of heaven.  

Some of my far-away friends sent me encouraging private messages on Facebook. Others texted me with words that proved to be exactly what I needed to hear and needed to focus on – words like, “It doesn’t get easier. You just have to live through it. You will get through this even when you think you can’t, you will. You are a strong woman of God and He is right by your side.”

See, sometimes my vision gets clouded.  Clouded by trouble.  Obscured by emotions.  Blurred by things I cannot change.  Veiled by worries.  Overshadowed by situations that cause me distress. Eclipsed by circumstances beyond my control.

And that’s when I must stop being sidetracked.  Stop letting the trees prevent me from seeing the forest.  Stop focusing on how I feel and instead turn my attention to all the many blessings I have for which to be thankful.

I am blessed that my friends help me remember that – they keep me on track. They help me see clearly and I’m so grateful that God provided these friends just for me.  

As always, I return again to a passage of Scripture that I’ve embraced and embedded in my heart and mind. 

And I like this translation of that passage in The Message: “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Some concerns, no matter how urgent or difficult they seem, should be left in God’s strong and capable hands. What I do, how I react, and what impact I make on others is what truly counts for what lies in the future – for eternity.

It’s a lesson I continue to be taught, to re-learn, to completely understand and absorb.  I’m hopeful that I will allow God to correct my blurred vision. In this new year of new beginnings, are you like me?  Does your vision need corrected? 

“Like steam from a cup of hot tea that fogs our glasses, false urgency of matters at hand blurs our vision to important things in the distance.” ~ Terri Guillemets

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com