Feeling at home


At home in my own backyard

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. Home – that’s a subject I find myself writing about often in this blog. You might say I adhere to that old saying, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart has always claimed home.

So Papa and I live in this house which we call home. It’s just an ordinary house, nothing fancy; it has that country farmhouse look to it, especially plunked down in the middle of a field that we purchased from an elderly farmer to make our building lot.

I do love my home. I’m happy in it. And I hope that when folks come to my house they feel welcomed and ‘at home.’ But this place that I call home is just a house that Papa and I have lived in for over 16 years now.

There have been other places we have called home over our 39 years of marriage.  His hometown is in the central part of our state, mine is here where we live. The home in which I spent most of my growing up years in is only a few miles down our country road. That place was the anchor that I tethered myself to while Papa and I wandered across the country from one place to another during a good portion of our married life.  

No matter how far away I wandered though, I knew home was still there waiting for me. It was a difficult task for me to relinquish my parents’ home after they both died and my sisters and I decided to sell it. The ties that bound were strong.

Having lived in several homes in four different states, home takes on an entirely different meaning for me now as I’ve matured not only in age but also in wisdom. But even more importantly, as my faith deepens and matures, the thought of home evokes an even more profound meaning than it once did.

The words of an old gospel song ring through my memory bank:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

This home here on this planet revolving around the sun, on this earth held in place by the omnipotent hand of its Creator, is really just temporary. My permanent home lies beyond in a place I can’t describe but will know and recognize it when I finally see it someday.

But for now, I offer up praise and thanks to God for the earthly home He has provided, for the wondrous work of artistry He paints on the day and night canvas right outside my window, and for the loved ones He has given me in my life to share this home with. 

In this crazy, mixed up world, I can only feel at home when my thoughts are centered on the One who loves me beyond measure, enough to die in my place, enough to leave His glorious home to enter ours. His name is Jesus.

 What signifies ‘home’ for you?

[Day One’s theme in the “Developing Your Eye” photography challenge this summer -which I missed due to my hibernation lethargy – was “Home.” The photo above which I captured on a sunny early September day represents both the theme and my thoughts today.]

“God’s thoughts, his will, his love, his judgments are all man’s home. To think his thoughts, to choose his will, to love his loves, to judge his judgments, and thus to know that he is in us, is to be at home.” ~  George Macdonald

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Opening our home and hearts

blogIMG_4799 (2)They ‘met’ over a decade ago on an online blogging circle but they really didn’t meet until recently.

My oldest daughter wrote her own blog on a now defunct site back all those years ago and she and another blogger became friends (sound familiar?).  My daughter lives here in the United States; the other young lady lives across the world. 

Over the years they transitioned from their blogs to becoming Facebook friends and kept up with each other’s lives through photos and comments.  And a very special friendship flourished.

Fast forward to 2014.  One of those lovely young women planned an adventure with her handsome boyfriend to visit the United States on a long holiday from their home in Australia.  And that’s when something took flight besides their lengthy trip via airplane.  The two toured several interesting cities here in the Northeast from New York City to Boston to Philadelphia to Washington, DC with a little side trip to Amish country in Lancaster, PA.

But they planned another special trip to a city many wouldn’t consider a tourist spot – Pittsburgh.  The reason?  To finally meet my daughter in person.  Months before, messages flew back and forth through the internet to make plans for the meeting.  Daughter and son-in-law would travel north from their home to spend an entire day with her friend and beau in our nearby city. 

They hit it off famously.  The two gentlemen had much in common, including a wacky sense of humor, and became instant friends.  The two young women cemented their friendship by conversing in person instead of via computer.

They relished an American breakfast at Pamela’s and a Pittsburgh style lunch at Primanti Brothers.  After a day-long sightseeing excursion, the four of them left the city lights behind and traveled to our country home.  Daughter wanted her new (yet old) friends to experience an evening in a typical American home and enjoy a home-cooked meal with us.

Papa and I are always happy to welcome new friends and we wanted to give the two travelers a taste of life outside of our country’s big cities and tourist spots.    Just an evening in an average American home with average everyday people like us.

Since this gathering took place the first weekend of December, we scurried to get the house Christmas ready with decorations and the tree dressed in its finery.   I planned a hearty American-style dinner with chicken and stuffing casserole, fresh green beans, baked yams with cinnamon butter, dinner rolls with a choice of our homemade strawberry or blueberry jam, and of course, apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to top it off.

blogIMG_4798From the minute the two Aussies stepped inside our house, we loved them!  Their warmth and sweet personalities won us over immediately and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing our hospitality with these delightful young adults.   We swapped stories and relished hearing about their homeland, their lives, their work, and their customs. 

They taught us some Australian words we hadn’t heard before and we even taught our new young friends some ‘Pittsburghese’ (words like yinz and redd up and slippy that many folks in our neck of the woods use).

They graciously brought us a basket of goodies from their homeland (including Tasmania where the young lady hails from) and later when we sampled all of the lollies (candy) they were oh, so tasty. While they were here we put on our brave faces and tried the vegemite (a staple in Australia which is a dark brown food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spices). 

As we spread it on crackers, they couldn’t wait to see our reactions when we tasted it.  Some of us thought it was horrible.  I actually didn’t think it was that bad.  Papa thought it was too salty and tasted like soy sauce.  We had lots of fun later when we introduced the vegemite to the rest of our family during our early Christmas.  The faces were priceless.

We introduced Hershey’s peppermint kisses – they were a big hit – and Ghirardelli chocolates to our new friends and gave them a jar of my homemade strawberry jam.

Our time seemed short even though we stayed up to 2 a.m. enjoying our company.  When our guests departed to drive back to the city for the night, I snapped the photo above as the two girls hugged goodbye.  I suspect there will be a trip to Australia planned in the future for oldest daughter and son-in-law.

It was an evening we’ll never forget filled with the things that make sweet memories and that heartwarming feeling of sharing time and our home with new friends.

Ornament  from Tasmania

Ornament from Tasmania

There’s a new ornament hanging on our Christmas tree gifted to us from our Australian friends. It’s a carved wooden, three-dimensional tree made of Tasmanian Huon Pine, a creamy yellow wood with a very distinct aroma – to me it smells like wood smoke.

And each time I look at the Christmas tree or catch a whiff of that scent, I will remember Susannah and Mat and our time together and my heart will be full. 

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”   ~Washington Irving

©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


Looking through my treasure chest

blogthreekidsIt’s been a quiet week at Mama’s Empty Nest.  We’re still ensconced in the winter season and snow continues to blanket the earth.  Somehow, snowfall makes everything seem more hushed, more silent, more subdued.  Even the wild creatures that visit the plot of land that we call home must be huddled down, burrowed in, and waiting for warmer weather as evidenced by the lack of animal tracks in our yard.

In the stillness and tranquility of my home this morning, when the only sounds that reach my ear are the refrigerator singing its humming song and the furnace kicking in to shoot some heated air up through our vents, I contemplate.  Winter proves a good season for doing so.

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is treasure.  Treasure.  We all have our idea of how to define treasure.  And the old saying comes to mind – one’s man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 

It seems we humans continually either search for treasure or attempt to acquire treasure for most of our lives.    For some, material possessions are the treasures they seek.  That might be a special piece of glittering jewelry given by a loved one or handed down from one family member to another.  Some folks count their abundant bank balance as a treasure while others always wish for more to stockpile. Silver, gold, and precious gems come to mind as treasures held in high esteem.

I wander through the quietness of my home and glance at items in each room and am reminded of a quote I recently read by an architect named Le Corbusier (1887-1965):  “The home should be the treasure chest of living.”

My home does resemble a treasure chest, at least to me.  My eyes fall upon treasures here and there.  This.  This is a treasure.  A piece of jewelry created in a far-off land and bestowed upon me when my soldier husband came back after a year-long assignment halfway across the world over 30 years ago.

There on the china cabinet shelf in the dining room.  Those are treasures.  Beloved items passed down to me from my parents and my husband’s parents.  Items that belonged to our grandparents.  Surely these are treasures.

And there.  The piano gracing the living room, the instrument I longed for and we saved to purchase all those many years ago.  A source of beautiful music and hours of enjoyment.  A musical treasure for certain.

Yes, there are many treasures in my treasure chest of a home.  Physical things.  Tangible treasures.  Perhaps not much in monetary worth, yet valued and cherished by me.  But as a believer in Jesus Christ, I’m reminded what He told us about earthly treasures. 

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” ~ Matthew 6:19-21

So yes, my worn copy of the Bible, with passages underlined and starred, with notes scribbled in the margins.  God’s Word surely is a treasure to me.  Yet, as much as I cherish my personal copy of His Word, that treasure could be replaced with a new one.  And much of God’s Word I have hidden in my heart.

So what precious riches which I’ve carefully wrapped in love and stored away into my treasure box could I live without?  Truthfully, all of them.  Yes, I would be saddened to lose them but they are merely things.

There is one treasure, however,  I value more highly than any other.  And it’s not stored in a jewelry box, a glass shelf, or on my desk.  It’s not a tangible item adorning my treasure chest home.  Instead, my treasure is stored away in the recesses of my mind. 

Memories.  Those are the treasures I cling to most.  They appear in my mind as I survey each room of my home searching for hidden treasure.  Each item I spy prompts a memory.  My eyes linger on one photo on the family room fireplace mantel.  It is my favorite photo of my children and it brings back memories as if they just happened yesterday.

The photo taken when they were young and we lived in the Pacific Northwest sits inside a frame that reads:  “Children are special.  They grow and change.  Children question everything.  Children laugh, frown, grin, pout, and smile.  Children give meaning to silly things, small things, big things.  They give meaning to us. They teach us to be open again, to appreciate everything, and take nothing for granted.  Children teach us what’s important because sometimes we forget.  They show us what it means to be young at heart.  Children are our future.  Children are life.”

Surely, my children are my treasures as well as my husband, my family, and my friends.   But life and all of its memories is one of the most precious treasures we can ever possess.

“Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved.” ~ Thomas Fuller, Clergyman 1608-1661

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Snow memory banks

blogIMG_0225“Oh the weather outside is frightful but the fire is so delightful and since we’ve no place to go…let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

I’ve been under the weather in more ways than one.  Relegated to our family room’s comfy couch, I’ve been down with a nasty cold/flu bug for several days now.  Just lying around and vegetating (usually with the cat sleeping on top of my stomach or curled at my side), my brain’s been saturated with fog preventing me from taking advantage of the down time to write some new blog posts.

Nope, no creative juices to be found.  All I could manage was listening to my Pandora Christmas music station or the one on cable TV,  watching a plethora of holiday movies, and thinking about all the things I should be trying to accomplish for Christmas like gift shopping, wrapping presents,  and making a grocery shopping list. 

As I muddled through the fog that enveloped my brain, I peered out the window to  watch snowflakes flutter and fly through the air.  Snow moved into my neck of the woods and it set up housekeeping.  Often I left my perch, flung open the door, and just stood there wrapped up in my warm, tattered robe taking in the magnificent show nature performed for me.

Sometimes tiny specks of icy snow that are almost unperceivable dropped from the overcast sky.  Other times sizeable cottony fluffs floated and danced through the air on their spiral downward.  Sometimes snow fell in an almost lazy we’ve got all the time in the world way.  Other times it sped up and descended so fast and furiously it produced a white-out effect.

Snow frosts our shrubs like icing drizzled over a cake.  It buried our driveway until the only way I could ascertain where it’s located is by the reflector poles hubby placed at one edge of the drive for that purpose.  At night, our outside Christmas lights reflect through their blanket of snow and it truly does look like a winter wonderland. 

Lots of folks here complain about the snow, they complain about the cold, they complain about the messy roads.  I don’t.  I like snow.  I like the cold temperatures.  And as far as the roads go, hey, it’s winter in western Pennsylvania, what do you expect?

Of course, like the old song says, I’ve got no place to go so why not let it snow.  And it does.  It snows and it snows and it snows and I wonder will it last until Christmas?   And as it does so often, my mind reverts back to the past just as quickly as if the Ghost of Christmas Past was whisking me back there.  After all, with my achy body and profound lack of energy induced by illness, I have time on my hands to take a few mental excursions since those are the only trips I can muster. 

I remember so many of those magical white Christmases of yore.  But I also remember those out of the norm times when temperatures were spring-like and December 25 proved to be a green holiday.  But mostly, I remember snow decorating the landscape at Christmas time.

Back when our three were little tykes, I vividly remember one Christmas when we lived in the Midwest.  That year, we were not able to travel back to our home state to visit our families for the holidays.  Instead, we would celebrate our Savior’s birth alone with just our family of five.  On Christmas Eve, the kids were so wound up with excitement they could hardly contain themselves.  And that excitement turned into sheer joy when we looked outside and noticed it was snowing!

We woke up Christmas morning to a world filled with white – a virtual snow globe.  Since we had no extended family coming nor were we going anywhere, we spent a leisurely, relaxing Christmas Day in our pajamas opening gifts, exclaiming over the joy of both giving and receiving special things, and playing with our children and their new toys.  Then we all bundled up in our winter wear, piling on hats and scarves and mittens and boots and all five of us ventured outside into our winter playground to frolic in the snow.  It proved to be a special Christmas that will always remain etched in my snowy memory bank.

Snow and Christmas.  Christmas and snow.  They seem to go hand in hand in my mind.  Maybe that’s why I love snow so much.  It always reminds me of Christmas – a season of love and joy and giving…and light.  The Light of the world given to us on that special night.  What reflects light better than a covering of snow?  Last night when sleep eluded me, I noticed how bright it looked outside with the moon reflecting off the glistening snow.

And this all comes to my mind as I wander into the living room, sit quietly in the chair by the window, watching the snow swirl and twirl.  Glancing at our glittering Christmas tree,  I catch sight of an old treasured ornament hanging there.  A smiling snow man face with a black top hat that adorned my parents’ Christmas tree when I was a kid grins at me. Dating back to the late 50’s or early 60’s, somehow it managed to survive all of these years unbroken even though it’s made many moves from house to house, state to state, since I acquired it.

Mr. Snow Man looks a little worn from his many years but from his spot on our tree, he faces the window where he can see the wintry landscape outside and he smiles.  It’s as if he says, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

And with that, let the heart-warming memories of happy Christmas times descend right along with the snow.  Let it snow memory after memory.  Suddenly, I don’t feel so under the weather after all.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

I’m dreaming of an old fashioned Christmas


With my new doll – Christmas 1957

Maybe it’s just my middle age.  Maybe it’s the empty nest thing.  Or maybe it’s just that I have more time on my hands to spend reflecting on the past.  Whatever it is, I find myself singing the words to an old Frank Sinatra Christmas song.

“Give me an old fashioned Christmas, an old fashioned Christmas,

 Family faces, wide open spaces, covered with snow.”

This Christmas here at Mama’s Empty Nest there will be family faces.  And wide open spaces at our country home for certain.  Right now those spaces are covered with snow and hopefully we won’t just be dreaming of a white Christmas.

In my heart,  I’m longing for an old fashioned Christmas – one with less hurry and scurry.  One with deeper meaning.  One with a simpler celebration.  And I’m determined to accomplish it.  Oh, my Christmas to-do list bounces around my brain but I’m simplifying it.  I’m not scouring Pinterest for decorating ideas or cookie recipes or fancy Christmas dinner menus.

I’m sticking to the basics but even abbreviating those.  Christmas cards are signed, sealed, and delivered but this year I opted for fewer cards and a shorter Christmas note.  Decorating our home is completed but not all of the décor, just some favorites, made it out of the storage boxes.  The oven will fire up for some cookie baking but not the usual marathon, just two or three kinds instead of a huge assortment.  Simple meal preparation will follow suit.

Downsizing for a simple Christmas almost doesn’t make sense though.  This year is different than Christmases past when I squeezed in all of the preparations and scarcely had enough time to do it all.  I have more free time on my hands than usual and you would think that would entice me to really do Christmas up big.  Fancy.  Over the top.  One to remember.

But then I recall Christmas as a child.   Do I remember anything fancy?    Do exquisitely wrapped packages with expensive gifts inside come to my mind?  Fine cuisine?  A beautiful and elaborately decorated home?  Do I recollect an over the top celebration?

What I remember from childhood Christmases are simple aspects.  My father would usually bring the Christmas tree home with him one day after work.  Sometimes that wouldn’t be until shortly before Christmas and one year I remember actually decorating the tree on Christmas Eve.

After my older sisters married, they spent Christmas Eve with their in-law families so that meant my parents and I usually attended candle-light service at church to welcome the Christ child.  Before the service, my father would drive us around our area to see neighbors’ homes Christmas light displays and we would ooh and aah over those that glowed the brightest.

No fireplace existed at my childhood home, but I still hung up my stocking over the knob of the front door.  I would be so excited for Christmas morning that I could barely sleep.  When Christmas Day arrived, my stocking bulged full of goodies although not with toys, gadgets, and gizmos.  Dumping it out, I would discover a huge juicy orange, a shiny red apple, mixed nuts in their shells, candy canes, and other Christmas candy.  And I would be delighted with the yummy treats even though they were practically the same every year.  Nestled beneath the Christmas tree, I’d find one or two specially requested simple toys – a doll, a game, or one exciting year, a beautiful blue bicycle –  just for me. 

That afternoon brought our entire family gathered together and crowded into the living room around a simple Scotch pine real tree covered in old-fashioned strings of lights with colored bulbs, metallic icicles, and the same ornaments year after year.  It wasn’t a fancy themed tree; instead a hodge-podge collection adorned that prickly-needled fir which filled the air with the pungent scent of pine.

We exchanged gifts – real honest to goodness gifts that were purchased with thoughtfulness and consideration instead of gift cards or envelopes of money.  And we laughed, and we exclaimed over our wonderful presents, and we thanked one another with smiles and hearty hugs.

My mother prepared a simple but abundant and appetizing meal displayed on the dining room table – no fancy recipes, no exquisite table centerpieces/decorations to make it look like a photo spread from a magazine.  And we bowed our heads thanking God for the most precious gift of all – His Son Jesus Christ – and for our provision of food and family.

After dinner, one of us occupied the bench at our upright piano to plunk out Christmas carols while the rest of us sang the well-known tunes over and over again.  We’d eat dessert and commence a few rousing rounds of cards or games or sometimes just putting a new jigsaw puzzle together.

A simple Christmas.  Not photo worthy because of the food, the glitz, the gifts, or the amount of money spent.   A Christmas worth remembering because of love, gratitude, and joy felt and appreciated when a family assembles to celebrate.

That’s my idea of an old-fashioned Christmas and that’s what I’m hoping for this Christmas.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”  ~ Bob Hope

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanksgiving leftovers

blogIMG_2157I know, I know.  Thanksgiving is over.  If you gauged it by Christmas decorations already jazzing up the scene everywhere you looked shortly after Halloween and stores accelerating the push into Christmas shopping, you would have thought we never celebrated a Thanksgiving holiday.

No, I’m not going to rant about the over commercialization of Christmas or the neglect and relegation of Thanksgiving into a blip in the road to Christmas craziness.  Instead, I’m hanging on to Thanksgiving for just a little longer.

A few years ago our home really became an empty nest as youngest son graduated from college, secured a job, and moved to the state next door.  Since then, I’ve found myself not wanting to let go of Thanksgiving. 

As soon as the turkey and fixings become refrigerator leftovers and the door closes after the last to leave the family gathering, I tend to wax a little melancholy.  Or as my friend described it so well, I might suffer from a little ‘post-party-um depression.’

And that’s odd.  Because we are a family of traditions.  And the tradition at our house is as soon as Thanksgiving is ushered out, we begin decorating for Christmas. 

When the kids were growing up and even into their college years, our family tradition was to launch out to a tree farm in search of the perfect for us evergreen tree, chop it down ourselves, and drag it home to decorate.  Son and Papa would climb up into the attic and hand down box after box of decorations and we gleefully adorned every nook and cranny of the house with Christmas glitter and glitz.

Yes, the weekend after Thanksgiving is time to haul out the holly at our house!  It’s when Christmas songs fill the air as Papa blasts them from the stereo.  It’s when red and white lights string their way merrily across the house, garage, and shrubbery.  It’s when garlands festoon the front porch, fireplace mantle, and staircase.   

It’s when wreaths appear on the windows and doors and candles illuminate the front windows.  It’s when the evergreen tree captures it glittery spot in the living room with multi-colored lights and ornaments treasured over the years for the memories they evoke.  It’s when the Christmas village nestles under the tree with its lighted houses and tiny yesteryear people.  It’s when the appetizing aroma of fresh baked cookies tickles your nose as you step into our home.

It’s tradition, I tell ya!  And yet, somehow as each year goes by, I break tradition.  First to go was the real honest-to-goodness pine needle shedding tree.  An artificial one usurped that freshly cut tradition.  Next the Christmas village didn’t find its way out of its storage box.  Cookie baking became minimal.  And decorating became a chore instead of a joy.

So I sit here amidst a myriad of boxes with a partially decorated home (Papa did his part by putting up the exterior lights and décor and assembled the fake tree) and I wonder why.   Every day since Thanksgiving, I crank up holiday songs on my computer and attempt to finish decorating.   I chastise myself when it doesn’t get accomplished because I think by now – December 5 – my house should be properly bedecked and adorned with Christmas finery and some cookie baking should be on the agenda.

And it’s not.  I could blame the empty nest.  I could claim it’s because all of the chicks are married and out of the nest.  But that’s not it.  We will all be together in our home for a Christmas celebration for a couple of days so you would think that alone would give me motivation to kick some Christmas spirit into gear.

So what is the cause of this malaise?  I’m not ready!  I truly think we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving long enough or well enough or…something.  As the dynamics of our household have changed and Papa and I have…shall we say, matured, I want to spend more time thanking God for His provision.   I want to exhibit gratitude for oh so many aspects of my life.  Yes, I’ll say it – I want to spend more time counting my blessings.

I don’t want to rush into the mayhem of Christmas craziness that the holiday has become.  I want to take my time.  I want to slow down and savor the opportunity to give thanks and do so for more than just one day filled with cooking a feast. 

This Thanksgiving, we gathered together at our house.  Not all of our adult children were able to be here but oldest daughter and son-in-law journeyed home, and my nearby sister and brother-in-law and family consisting of my nephew, his wife, and two little ones all joined us for the bounty at our table.  We feasted, we played games, and we all took turns holding my two month old great niece.  I want to hang onto that feeling of family and friendship and fondness just a little longer.

And just as if I needed a reminder, I want to share with you what I found on the day after Thanksgiving -that day when, by tradition, we would rush right into the Christmas season by decking the halls.   That day after celebrating the one day we set aside to give thanks, we still had snow on the ground.  It covered our yard.  It covered our deck.  In an effort to keep beverages cold all day for our celebration, my nephew set the bottles of soda, sparkling cider, and sparking raspberry limeade out into the snow on our deck.

So on that day after, when everyone returned to their homes and Papa and I were left once again in the empty nest and the frenzy of the Christmas season loomed, I opened the French doors to the deck and saw this (the photo above).  Imprints left in the snow from the beverage bottles.

blogIMG_2155My Thanksgiving leftovers.  These imprints made me smile and they made me happy.  But even more, they reminded me to keep an attitude of gratitude and take one day at a time giving thanks – prolonging Thanksgiving – and taking it with me into Christmas.  

“Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.” ~ Thomas Fuller

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Giving thanks in all things

blogIMG_2113Thanksgiving season is one of my favorite times of year.  It renders me  nostalgic and I enjoy spending time reflecting on all the blessings I’ve experienced, even when times were difficult. 

As a person of faith, Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for me to be retrospective, looking back over where I’ve been and how far I’ve come with God’s help. 

In humility and gratitude, I take time to pause and give thanks to God and yet again reflect on my favorite verses in the Bible:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Recently, I looked back over the last several Thanksgiving holidays to once again count my many blessings and offer up my thanks.  Here’s an abbreviated version:

  • November 2005 – By Thanksgiving of that year, I was so thankful to be alive.  My cancer diagnosis that summer frightened me, brought me to my knees, and made me realize how much of my life I took for granted.  It also caused me to examine a bitterness that had taken root in my heart.  Through much prayer and atonement, not only did I praise God for His forgiveness, but I came to fully forgive others.  The chains of bitterness that encircled my heart were broken!
  • November 2006 – I was happy and grateful to have been given another year of life to witness our son’s senior year of high school, tearfully and proudly watch him graduate from high school as valedictorian of his class, and send him off to college.  I was also very thankful for the high quality medical care in our city for middle daughter’s concussion treatment, appreciative for oldest daughter living in the city nearby, and so fortunate to enjoy time spent with my elderly father.
  • November 2007 – Another year graciously given to me chock full of blessings.  Despite some set-backs, God was working in all three of our children’s lives while teaching lessons about careers, college life, and loving relationships.  Good medical results from cancer screenings for me provided more fodder for my grateful heart.  We celebrated the holiday at my middle sister’s home with a feast of her awesome good cooking – always something for which to be thankful!
  • November 2008 – Celebrating Thanksgiving that year, we had a full house – my father, my sister and her family, and all of my own family, especially wonderful since oldest daughter had moved to another state.  What a joy it was to sit at our bountiful table with some of the people I love the most, name and count our blessings, one by one.
  • November 2009 – That Thanksgiving was quiet and reflective.  Hubby was unemployed, and we had just lost my father the past summer. Grief was still fresh, especially on the first holiday without him.  But oh, there was so much for which to be thankful!  God supplied our needs; we were warm in our home and had plenty to eat.  Middle daughter had graduated from college and launched her nursing career.  Son had scholarship money to pay for his next semester of college.  Oldest daughter safely traveled home from the south for the holiday.  My father had lived a long, full, rewarding life of 90 years.  God took him home quickly before his suffering became too difficult and for that I was also thankful.
  • November 2010 – That fall marked the first time Papa and I were truly in the empty nest as the last of our grown children had graduated from college, initiated his career, and moved away from the nest to another state.   The nest was brimming full for Thanksgiving and we were thankful for jobs and our time together but when oldest daughter left to drive back to her home in Dixie, middle daughter headed back for her home in the city, and son said goodbye to travel back to the state next door, this Mama lost it.  Sadness, loneliness, and a feeling of emptiness filled my heart and not even the boxes of Christmas decorations waiting to adorn the house made this Mama’s heart happy. 
  • November 2011 – Celebrating Thanksgiving that year, we were grateful to have oldest daughter back living in the city with newly engaged middle daughter, and we looked forward to family times planning a wedding.  As we all gathered around the dining room table and counted our blessings, a realization suddenly dawned on me.  By the next Thanksgiving, our family would expand from five to six as middle daughter would be married to the young man we already loved as a son.  By the end of our celebration, we got an inkling that our family would expand even more!  
  • November 2012 – Last year, our hearts overflowed with love and gratitude as we spent the entire year celebrating THREE weddings and welcoming two sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law into our family.  Our Thanksgiving plans were different than usual though.  Papa and I traveled to the state next door to celebrate the holiday with newly married son and daughter-in-law.  Thanksgiving Day found us on Staten Island, helping Hurricane Sandy victims clean up after the disaster they had endured.  To witness how so many had lost so much grieved our hearts and instilled in us how very much we had to be thankful for.  Giving back to others, helping them in their need, and being a part of the body of Christ in ministering to the needy made that Thanksgiving one of the best ones we’ve ever celebrated.

And here we are, November 2013.  Another year of life.   Another year of joy and celebration but also loss and trials.   But the love of family and friends remains strong as does our faith in the One who provides and hears our prayers. 

Thanksgiving will be celebrated at Mama’s Empty Nest.  Not all of our children will be able to come home.  Middle daughter and son-in-law, both medical professionals, will be serving others as they minister to their patients in their respective hospitals.  Son and daughter-in-law are hosting her family at their home in the state next door.  But, weather permitting (snow is falling heavily as I write this), oldest daughter and son-in-law will travel here for a few days to join our feast.

So even though there will be beloved faces missing at the table, joy and the blessing of family time together will be celebrated with my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew, his wife and family joining us.  And for the first time, there will be little ones at our dining room table also – my great-nieces, one almost three and one just two months old.

So many life events, some wonderful beyond measure, some daunting and trying, have transpired during the last few years.   But through them all, the Lord has taught me lessons that needed learned, shown me grace, forgiveness, and His faithfulness in countless ways.   Blessings overflow like the goodness pouring out of a horn of plenty – a cornucopia of God’s love – and we have so very much for which to be thankful.

“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.”  ~ Gerald Good

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com