Just another silent night

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Ring around the moon – photo credit: Randy Miller

Just another silent night.

Darkness descended its cloaking curtain over the land.  All that seemed to shine across the landscape were the twinkling of Christmas lights gracing the outlines of homes and trees.

Just another silent night.

The roadway was fairly deserted with almost everyone already having arrived at their destination or tucked away in their beds for that long winter’s nap until the arrival of morning when revelry would begin again.

Just another silent night.

Strapped into our car seat belts, we all seemed in a daze from too much dinner and sweets and a day chock full of activity.  Perhaps there were visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, but I think not.

Just another silent night.

Baby, confined in her car seat and dressed in her jammies yet wide awake, proved quiet as well as we drove along without noise.

Just another silent night.

We pulled our vehicles into the parking lot and climbed out one by one and even our tones were hushed.  It was, after all, late at night.  Almost eleven p.m.

Just another silent night.

When suddenly, one of us spoke in an excited voice.  “Look! Look at the moon!”

We all craned our necks searching the darkened sky for that orb of light displayed on that silent of nights.

And the sight we witnessed brought “oohs” and “ahhs” as we observed the almost full moon with a large and distinct halo of light encircling it.

Just another silent night.

No, this wasn’t just another silent night.  There was something different in the air, even though it wasn’t the crisp, cold weather we are accustomed to.  This was a different night.

This was a night when we witnessed an unusual phenomena – that ring around the moon.

This was a night when we put all other activities and bedtime aside to make our way to our little country church.

This was a night when our family, all of us together for just a short time, traditionally attend a candlelight service from 11 p.m. to midnight.

This was no ordinary silent night.

This was THE silent night. The night we celebrate the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to this earth as a wee baby.  The night we hear the Good News read from the Bible.  The night we raise our voices in song singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

This was the night when we light the white Christ candle in the Advent wreath – the candle which provides light to each individual candle throughout the church building.

Yes, this was the night.

This was our silent night. 

As the clock hands turned to 12 o’clock, the old church bell pealed out through the silent night in joyful noise welcoming Christmas day.  With faces glowing from candlelight, we lifted praise and prayer to the Lord while singing that holy hymn – “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”

The silent, holy night when even the moon displayed splendor.

This was not just another silent night.

This was Christmas Eve.

“Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light…”  ~ Joseph Mohr

 

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Through the eyes of a child

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Grandbaby with her auntie

If you’re a long-time reader of Mama’s Empty Nest or even if you just tuned in this past year, you probably know that I became a grandmother for the very first time in 2015.  I haven’t posted much in this blog about my adorable grandchild for a couple of good reasons.

First of all, I want to maintain and protect her privacy.  After reading way too many articles about people abusing social media and stealing photos of children online and a bit of privacy invasion happening to my older daughter (some sicko created a social media account using her name with a stolen photo of her and her baby niece), I decided to limit what I share for all the cyber world to see in both words and photos of my sweet little one.

But mostly, even I have a difficult time putting into words the absolute joy my baby granddaughter brings me.  Folks tried to forewarn me that becoming a grandparent was like riding a skyrocket of love to the moon and back.  I would nod my head and listen but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the overwhelming love that one feels when a grandchild is placed in your arms.

Each and every day, I have the privilege of watching my daughter being the best Mama to my grandbaby – and really, that’s what she is, a grand baby.  

What does this privilege bring to Nana and Papa’s lives?  Oh, so very much.  Absolute joy… unconditional love…grins and giggles…excitement and elation….the list could go on and on indefinitely. 

I just can’t find adequate words to describe what overwhelms my heart when my grandbaby snuggles against me, when I cradle that sweet, downy head in my hand, watching her face light up with that huge toothy grin when she sees me, or when she reaches our her little arms for me.

Yes, it’s a love affair.  I love my precious grand-daughter and I love being her Nana.

And now, it’s the Christmas season.  Her very first one.  And I’m seeing Christmas again through the eyes of a child. 

Even though she’s still a baby not even one year old yet, she’s excited about Christmas. Each morning as her mama brings her downstairs after awakening, baby points to the Christmas tree in the living room and tells us in her baby babble that she wants to see the lights. 

Lighting up the tree brings her joy evidenced by her smiles, happy noises, and when she reaches out to gently touch the tree boughs and what seem to be her favorite ornaments (the ones that jingle make her particularly animated). 

Next we visit some of the other lighted decorations around the house, the sleigh bells hanging on the front door, her snowman stocking hung on the fireplace, and the nativity scenes nestled in greenery (and more lights!) and gracing the top of the piano. All bring her delight and in turn do the same for me.

The shiny outdoor lights adorning our home equally enthrall her.  That’s why we decided one evening last week that she wasn’t too young to take her to a drive-through Christmas light display at a county fairgrounds in a nearby town.  Scads of other folks decided to partake of the display too and we inched along in a miles-long queue of vehicles waiting to get into the display.

Baby got a bit antsy.  And so did we.  We listened to Christmas music on the radio and sang along as we slowly advanced towards the entrance. Sweet little one loves music so this pacified her for a while.  Finally, we paid our way and entered the display which was an intricate light show perfectly timed to Christmas music.

Oh, the squeals of delight that filled our car!  Since we literally were traveling less than five mph, daughter freed baby from her rear-facing car seat so she could see the displays from her mama’s arms.

As vivid lights burst forth on both sides of the roadway, our precious one couldn’t contain her excitement.  She laughed, she shrieked happily at the top of her lungs, she pounded her little hands on the car window like she wanted to reach out and grab those brilliant arrays of color.

Even though it was getting late in the evening, past her bedtime, and she had been weary and a tad cranky during the long wait (and she wasn’t the only one), all of that disappeared as the excitement of Christmas filled her eyes (and ours).

Christmas through the eyes of a child.  What a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of yet another child – our Savior come to earth, Emmanuel, God with us.

I’m thankful yet again that the Lord blessed us with our own sweet little grandchild.  And my heart is grateful for the most precious gift of Christmas, God’s only Son, that baby born in a manger so long ago.

“In the eyes of children we find the joy of Christmas. In their hearts we find its meaning.” ~ Leland Thomas

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Broken

blogIMG_4790It happened while I was trimming the tree.

I hauled the over-sized plastic tote full of ornaments up from the basement, opened it, and started to carefully unwrap all the baubles, balls, and special decorations packed in it. 

Each one brings back memories.  There are the ones we purchased at various locations where we’ve vacationed over the years.  There are the ones commemorating special times in our lives like family occasions or anniversaries or new homes.  There are the antique ones which used to hang on my childhood Christmas tree at my parents’ home.  And there are the ones made and/or given by special friends which always bring them to mind.

I arranged the ornaments and since I was adorning the tree alone, I needed to use the step stool to reach the top third of the tree because, yes, I am too short and Papa usually is assigned that task.  The tree was almost completely embellished with all of its garnishes when, while standing on the top step of the stool, I leaned into the tree a bit to hang a wee star ornament that I remember buying in a specialty shop in Seattle. 

And that’s when I heard it, that familiar jingle jangling sound of something falling off the tree followed by the sound of splintering glass. I suspected it was one of the ordinary department store variety glass balls which I have plenty of and wouldn’t miss. 

I glanced down to the side of my stool and there a glass ball lay, perfectly intact on the living room carpeted floor.  Okay, no problem.  But then as I stepped back down off the stool, I saw something else and immediately, I cried, “Oh, no!”

Lying at the base of the stool was a broken glass ornament which apparently had hit the metal step stool on its way to the floor.  Oh, not this one!  This one was irreplaceable. 

It was a clear glass ball with the face of Jesus inside.  This one was special and always hangs front and center on our evergreen tree.  This one was crafted and given to me by a church friend when we lived all the way across the country in the Pacific Northwest those many years ago.

Shards of glass sprinkled my living room carpet and I gingerly picked up the largest pieces left and placed them on the top step of the stool as I vacuumed up the rest of the mess. Why did it have to be that one, I thought.  Why not one of those that had no special memories attached to it?

But then I looked – really looked – at the broken ornament. 

Broken.  Jesus.  He was broken.   

And it occurred to me that is exactly what He did for us.  He allowed himself to be broken. Broken for you.  Broken for me.  Broken on an old rugged cross to save us from eternal death because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be good enough to save ourselves.

Immediately the words from the King James Version of the Bible came to mind.  That passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 where the Apostle Paul tells us that on the very night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and told us to eat the bread, which symbolized His soon to be broken body.  And to do that to remember Him.

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” ~  1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV  

Just last week, I read a friend’s Facebook status which was a quote by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  Wilson said, “Jesus didn’t come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world full of broken people so that He could redeem us.”  

Yes!  That was exactly what that broken ornament at the beginning of December reminded me.

So as Christmas Day approaches, I will celebrate the birth of my Savior.  I will sing of that tiny babe born in a manger, the One who came to save us all, the most amazing gift God has ever given us. 

But I will also remember the grown up Jesus. The One who was born in Bethlehem, lived a human life yet became the Savior who entered this broken world to save broken people like me and you by allowing His own body to be broken. 

I will sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King and I will rejoice not just for the babe in a manger but for the Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday.  

And I will give thanks for a broken Christmas ornament that reminds me.

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.”  ~ Vance Havner

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Early Christmas present

blogIMG_4845Santa came early this year.

He brought a bright red sack full of Christmas stockings filled with goodies for our children who, of course, are actually adults.  

Mama had to kick it into high gear and get the decorating completed and the gift shopping finished and she readily admits online browsing for gifts surely did help.  That and a one night get it all done or bust shopping excursion with Papa.

But despite the whirlwind and flurry of getting an early Christmas ready and waiting, we succeeded.  Shiny lights and wreaths adorned the exterior of the house.  Garlands and candles and festive decorations bedecked the inside.

The Christmas tree flaunted its finery and stacked beneath it gaily wrapped packages awaited opening. The once empty bedrooms were ready for nestling in beds with visions of sugarplums dancing through heads.  The pantry and fridge stood stocked and equipped for good eats and despite fighting off some sinus crud for a few days this week, Mama, with the help of Papa, prepared for a weekend of celebration.

One by one and two by two they arrived to celebrate an early family Christmas because of work schedules for the medical duo and travel schedules for the adventuring twosome and crazy busyness of new job and new home for the other couple.

First to arrive on Friday night was son driving all the way from a brand new home in the state on the other side of us with the grandpuppy in tow.  Daughter-in-law would be picked up at the airport Saturday morning as she flew in from a business trip.

The second homecoming brought oldest daughter and son-in-law, tired from a long week at work and a long drive here yet excited to be together with the family before they leave on their grand adventure to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and sightsee in Africa.

We snuggled with puppy, we chatted, we ate, and we howled with laughter all over again at the crazy holiday movie, Christmas Vacation.  And we enjoyed each other’s company as we waited for the last couple, middle daughter and son-in-law, who arrived Sunday morning since daughter was in a friend’s wedding on Saturday.

Mama rose early on celebration Sunday to whip together a most yummy crock pot version of hot chocolate for breakfast and begin Christmas dinner preparations when the door opened and the last of my loved ones finally arrived.

There was much hugging and laughing and talking and it was one of the most relaxed Christmas celebrations I can remember for quite some time.  We opened our gifts with exclamations of surprise and gratefulness, gathered around the dining room table for a simple but filling Christmas dinner, and topped it off with singing the birthday song to oldest son-in-law as it was his special day. 

And all too soon, time came for departure.

We joined hands full circle and prayed for safety and well-being during the grand adventure taking place this month and for safe travels for all as two by two they left the homestead.  Again we embraced and even shed a few tears this time.

As the door closed after the last couple departed, Papa and I gravitated to our usual spots in the family room.  The quiet enveloped us once again here in the empty nest.  For us, the family Christmas is over.  Oh, we’ll still celebrate some more by attending Christmas Eve church service and taking time to contemplate the wonder of the most amazing Gift ever given to mankind on Christmas Day.

But for now, I’m left with a sink full of dirty dishes, loads of towels and sheets to launder, Christmas gifts to put away, torn and crumpled wrapping paper to dispose of, leftover food to eat…and memories.  And for that early Christmas gift, I am most thankful.

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Catch a falling star

bloggraphicstarsChristmas songs from the radio filled the silence as we drove along enveloped in darkness only broken by headlights of sparse oncoming traffic on the four-lane highway and the occasional red brake lights of vehicles far ahead of us.

Last night on our way back home after accomplishing some Christmas shopping at a nearby mall, we were tired and ready to call it a night.  Traveling along a blank stretch of highway from the more populated area to our rural place, there wasn’t much to see. 

Cloud cover even obscured the brightness of the moon and its supporting cast of shining stars.  Suddenly, ahead of us a burst of brilliance filled the dark firmament then left a trail of luminescence downward toward the ground.

We both exclaimed, “Did you see THAT?” at the same time. 

A falling star.  A shooting star.  A radiant spot of brightness in an otherwise dull and mundane night. Despite the song emanating from the radio – that “just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too” – my mind immediately launched into an old Perry Como song from the ‘50’s.

“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away.”

Back once more in our own reveries, I mulled over what I had just witnessed.  Catch a falling star.  Catch a falling star.  Put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.  The lyrics to that song kept playing in my mind drowning out the secular Christmas songs still coming from the car radio.

And I thought of that one star.  That star unlike any other.  The one that suddenly appeared in the sky over 2000 years ago to show that something remarkable had occurred.  Something that would totally change our world.  The birth of a baby boy named Jesus.  That boy who became Savior, God in the flesh of mankind:   “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:14-15 (NIV)

And I pondered how fitting that I should see this shooting star to remind me what Christmas is really about, celebrating the birth of my Savior – the Messiah, Emmanuel, the long-awaited One.  The very One we sing about during this Advent season in “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

One shooting star blazing across the night sky reminded me of all of this. 

Yes, I’ll catch a falling star and put it in my pocket to keep.  And then every time I get caught up in the Christmas madness of shopping for gifts and decorating, of Christmas dinner menus and seasonal songs about everything but Jesus, of tinsel and mistletoe, of sleigh bells and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I’ll pull that star out of my pocket to remind me of the true meaning of Christmas and I won’t let it fade away.

“Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.” ~Lucinda Franks

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com