Reflections at year’s end

Fast away the old year passes…for many it hasn’t gone by fast enough and we’re hopeful it takes its hardships and upheavals with it. We better not hold our breath waiting for that to take place, but we can’t surrender to gloom and despair either. Instead we pray for the strength to endure.

Hail the new, ye lads and lasses…at 12:01 we greet 2021, a brand new year, but we wonder with trepidation what it will bring. We must trust in God to provide and to always help us persevere, no matter what transpires.

On the cusp of a new year dawning, on this last day of 2020, I revisit this past year with all of its ups and downs. And I remind myself to be thankful, to express gratitude to my God, who holds this world and all within it in the palm of His strong, capable, and mighty hands.

Sing we joyous all together…for so many of my fellow human beings, it’s been difficult to find reasons to be joyful this past year. But we can find joy when we look for it. Often, photos say more than words, so please join me below in a slideshow as I revisit this old, tired year 2020 with joy and gratitude as it fades into my memory bank and I feel at peace. I encourage you to remember the instances that gave you joy this year.

Heedless of the wind and weather…we will get through this difficult time with God’s help regardless if the winds of change come and the ‘weather’ turns foul.

May 2021 bring us all reasons to rejoice, no matter what.

“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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Words for Wednesday: grateful Thanksgiving

It’s true that there seems to be so much darkness in our world during these November days leading up to our American holiday of Thanksgiving, and I don’t just mean because the days are getting shorter and night falls earlier each day.

The pandemic continues, cases are rising, restrictions being put back into place. Election results are a mess. Vitriol and anger are still spewing forth on social media about both issues.

Tragedies and dire diagnoses of illness touch the lives of those we know and love. Our view of the near future looks uncertain, bleak, and unsettling to say the least.

It’s enough to make one throw up hands in despair and surrender and say, “Enough!! I’ve had enough!” A title from an early 1960’s musical, which I believe was eventually turned into a movie as well, comes to my mind – “Stop the world, I want to get off!”

We can’t stop the world though. We can’t put a halt to the difficulties that surround us. We don’t have that power.

But we also can’t give up. We can’t succumb to fear or despair or calamity or any other negative aspect of life. Why? Because there is always hope.

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ hope whispers, ‘Try one more time.’ ” ~ author unknown

And hope for me comes from my faith in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because the Triune God I believe in has the power to give me strength to endure, help to persevere, and wisdom to see blessings instead of curses.

I just must grasp my faith with all of my might, hold on, and remember to be light in the darkness.

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” ~ Helen Keller

For me, the way to strengthen my faith is to humble myself in gratitude.

Am I disappointed that my entire family cannot gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing on our Thanksgiving feast at our dining room table? Of course.

But I’m thankful that my family is well. I’m thankful they all have provisions – good health, jobs, homes, enough food to keep their bodies nourished.

I’m grateful that our family is close-knit and even if we don’t agree on issues and sometimes drive each other a little crazy, we don’t suffer from unresolved conflicts and intense arguments.

Yes, my heart is thankful for each one of my family, my blessings to count – my understanding husband; my three thoughtful and loving adult children; my son-in-law and daughter-in-law, who add even more love into our family; my three adorable grandchildren who give me so much joy; my sisters, brothers-in-law, and their families.

Blessings? They are bountiful when we choose to remember them, to count them. And that abundance of life’s blessings is what I must focus upon as Thanksgiving Day arrives tomorrow.

Focus on the light instead of the darkness.

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” ~ Amy Collette, author

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Thankful Tuesday: farm patchworks

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Taken from the window seat on a Southwest Airlines flight

The landscape looks entirely different from a vantage point several thousand feet above.

Last month before the current health crisis went berserk, Papa and I traveled by air from our northeastern home state to the southwest – Arizona to be exact – to visit my sister and brother-in-law who reside there part of the year.

On our return flight home, (click here if you missed that post) we flew through mostly clouds and dreary weather, but as we crossed over the Midwest, there was a break in the clouds and we noticed patterns on the earth below.

We’ve seen this visual before when flying over that part of our country. The view reminds me of a patchwork quilt. Shapes including perfect circles and some squares and rectangles all joined together to make an interesting pattern.

The circular shapes, of course, aren’t a mystery. Instead they are merely created by irrigation systems on farmland.  Water sprays in a radius from sprinklers of a sort on pipes. Irrigation helps our farmers grow the crops we all need.

I happen to live in a rural area surrounded by plenty of farmland. We have many farmers in our community and friends who are farmers and today, I am so very thankful for these hard workers who toil the ground and care for animals for our benefit.

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Without them, we wouldn’t have milk to drink, or wheat for bread, or meat, eggs, and fresh vegetables and fruit to eat. Farmers keep our grocery stores stocked with food for us all.

We wouldn’t have cotton for making our clothes and so many other products we use.  We depend upon our country’s farmers more than we realize.

We owe so very much to American agriculture workers and I don’t think they are appreciated nearly enough. We just take for granted that they will continue to supply what we need without receiving any thanks from us consumers.

And you know what? They will. 

But during this time of self-isolating and considering the benefit for others while we do so, I’m choosing to find reasons to be grateful. So on this Thankful Tuesday, I am most grateful for our farmers who, every day of the year, work for our benefit. And I say thank you. 

I hope you take a moment to pause and be thankful as well.

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.” ~George Washington

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

On this thankful Tuesday

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

It’s Tuesday and it’s Holy Week for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. And because of the situation stretching all across the globe, we are struggling.

We struggle with knowing what news reports to believe when there seem to be so many conflicting stories on the airwaves and internet.

We struggle with emotions as we hear how many thousands of souls have perished and how many thousands are sick with this vile virus.

We struggle with moments of fear and maybe even panic wondering if/when the pandemic will hit our hometown and worse, our families and friends.

We struggle with self-isolating, physical distancing, being still, and decisions whether to wear masks or not.

We struggle with loneliness caused by orders to stay home, self-isolate, shelter in place, flatten the curve.

We struggle with selfishness and hoarding.

We struggle with job losses for some and worry over the health of those essential workers who must continue to work.

We struggle because instead of enjoying fellowship in our houses of worship with other believers, we sit in front of our computers alone listening to our pastors’ messages online.

In the last couple of weeks, we all have struggled and it looks like we will continue for some time before this crisis is over.

Personally, I’ve tried to stay positive while staying home. I try to encourage others through this blog, on social media, through text messages, FaceTime, and phone calls. But I too have struggled.

I’ve fought surrendering to a waterfall of tears as I witnessed our nurse daughter succumb to sadness and – to be perfectly honest – a bit of fear when forced by these circumstances to place her 5-year-old child with us, the grandparents, for the duration of this crisis.

blogseparationBecause her hospital has COVID-19 patients, our daughter chose to protect her child and us, her parents well over 60, because we are caregivers for our granddaughter while Daughter works. 

Our daughter is concerned that she might expose us and in order to protect us, she separated indefinitely from her child. Not something any loving mother ever envisions having to do willingly.

Watching my daughter shed tears as she held tightly to her child when she left for work that day was heart-wrenching. Little One knows there are “bad germs” out there making people very sick and her mommy must do her part to help care for them.

Daughter, a nurse for over 10 years now, has never been afraid to work in a hospital setting until now. But she believes she is called by God to do her job. To help those who need it most. To ease people’s suffering and give comfort and care.

I struggle watching her selflessness amidst a world with so many who are selfish. I don’t think I could be as self-sacrificing as my daughter is and I even struggle with that fact.

We all struggle throughout this time yet that is what life entails in the fallen world in which we live.

Struggle. And it is real. And it’s gut-wrenching. And it breaks our hearts.

Yet…it is Tuesday. It is Holy Week. And as I prepare my heart and mind to celebrate Resurrection Sunday this weekend, I also remember my Savior praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

God with us in human form, He too struggled with willingly suffering and dying on the cross in my place as the perfect atonement for sins.  (You can read this account in a copy of the Bible or even online in Matthew 26:36-42 and Mark 14:32-36.)

Jesus knows exactly how we struggle. He experienced it himself.  Luke 22:44 tells me that as Jesus prayed in that garden, knowing what He would face in the days to come,  “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

So I run to Him, my Savior who understands all my emotions and anguish, and I place all of my struggles, worries, and cares in His capable hands. In doing so, I will not struggle to find aspects of life for which to be thankful. There is much for which to be grateful even now. 

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to all the amazing healthcare workers sacrificing their own health and safety for those who need them most. I am thankful for each one of them.

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to the gifted and motivated medical researchers working so diligently for treatments and vaccines. I am grateful for them.

My thankfulness extends as well to all the essential workers who place their own safety on the line for the sake of others, for us.  Those grocery store, pharmacy, and banking workers, the truck drivers who haul supplies from one end of the country to another, to the countless and often forgotten cleaning people at hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.

You are all heroes in my eyes and I pray that God keeps you safe and well. I am thankful for each and every one of you.

I am thankful that even though my daughter and my grandchild are physically separated during this time, they can see and talk to one another through technology –  FaceTime.

I’m also thankful for something as simple as the glass in our front storm door. Daughter can come to our house, sit outside on our front porch on one side of the physical barrier while our granddaughter is on the inside of the door. They smile at one another, they talk, they even play made-up pretend games, and they laugh.

It makes all of our hearts glad and thankful.

It is Thankful Tuesday of Holy Week and I will not struggle to express gratitude this week nor in the weeks beyond.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” ~ Epictetus

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A perfect day

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The first perfect day in the city

A perfect day. How would you describe it?

For some, a perfect day would be one without any mistakes made in everything attempted.

For others, a perfect day would depend on the weather. Lots of snow in the right condition on a mountain for skiers and snowboarders. Lots of bright sunshine and a day on the sand and in the ocean for beach lovers.

Perhaps a perfect day would be a day without arguments, disappointments, and complaints.

Maybe your idea of a perfect day is a day off from work.

Still for some people, a perfect day is time spent with a loved one.

Perfect days are as variable as we as individuals are. We each have our ideas of what constitutes a perfect day.

In the throes of dreary days and cabin fever, I often find it difficult to claim “This was a perfect day.” But recently, I found myself thinking exactly that and I realized that perfect days don’t necessarily depend on whether the sun shines or not, whether I’m at a certain location or not, or even when conditions are right or not.

Perfect days come from my attitude.

Two of those perfect days occurred when we ventured into our nearby city. The first happened when we left our empty nest home in a snow flurry and spent an entire day at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art.

We had a great time together viewing all the exhibits and just enjoying each other’s company while experiencing something different than our usual schedules and routines. When we left the museum, I felt encouraged and invigorated and then astonished to find a beautiful blue sky overhead with warmer temperatures than we had before.

A perfect day!

The second such day came when we accompanied our daughter and granddaughter to the Children’s Museum. After a full day of watching our granddaughter’s eyes light up with excitement and interest in everything she experienced there, we departed from the building to find chilly temperatures and view overcast, gray skies.

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The second perfect day in the city

But still, despite the weather, it was a perfect day!

What made the difference? How I viewed each day – with gratitude for the time we spent together regardless of whether the sun shined or not. Gray skies or blue. Warm or cold. A day of life. A day with loved ones. A day of thanksgiving for life.

“Today is a day of completion; I give thanks for this perfect day, miracle shall follow miracle and wonders shall never cease.”  ~ Florence Scovel Shinn

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Thanksgiving blessing

blogIMG_9898On this day we set aside to give thanks for all of our blessings, I’m counting you, my readers and blogging friends, among the many gifts I treasure.

May you be blessed not just this day, but each day, with those things that cause you to pause and whisper in sincere gratitude to the God of all creation, “Thank you.”

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

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

Heated thankfulness

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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

Thanks seems inadequate

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Here in the United States today is a public holiday. It’s Veteran’s Day, a day that honors all those who have served our country so nobly in the United States Armed Forces.

This holiday was originally called Armistice Day and was established to celebrate the end of World War I which officially concluded at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Sometime in the 1950s, the holiday was re-named Veteran’s Day.

A lot of folks get this holiday confused with Memorial Day, which is commemorated in May and honors all those who died while in the military. There is also an Armed Forces Day, occurring in May as well, which is meant to honor those currently serving in all branches of the armed forces.

But today, Veteran’s Day, is meant to honor all our veterans. My husband, the Papa of this empty nest, just happens to be one of those.  While earning his college degree, he was a member of ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). Once he graduated from the university, he decided to go on active duty instead of being a reserves officer.

That choice took us (we were married after he graduated) on a journey of US Army life for several years. While Papa served during peace time here in our own country and abroad in a foreign land, he still was prepared, as any armed services member is, to defend our country and lay down his life for her (and us) if necessary.

For that, I will always admire him and always give thanks for his willingness to put his life on the line.

Earlier this week, Papa and some other community fellow veterans were invited to participate in a breakfast in their honor and a Veteran’s Day assembly at our local high school. He’s attended this special event for the last couple of years and he always looks forward to it. Once he was one of the guest speakers and appreciated the opportunity to talk to young people about serving our country.  

Today, on this 11th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m grateful for all those who have sacrificed so much to be in the military. Won’t you join me in giving a thankful tribute to all of our veterans not just on this day to honor them, but on every day?

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com