Through the eyes of a child


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


Embracing Joy

blogIMG_2372It’s time to haul off the holly.  Drag it down.  Pack it up.  Store it away for another year.

The season of joy is over….or is it?  We finish celebrating the Christmas season and ring in the New Year with revelry or just a quiet, contemplative evening at home.  And then when New Year’s Day arrives, we clean it all up.  We tear down the Christmas fa-la-la and return our homes to ‘normal.’  Often they look bleak and stark without the festive finery sprucing (pardon my pun) everything up.

After it’s all gathered and stored away, my house looks stripped bare.  And I have to admit, sometimes my heart and soul seem bare as well.  It’s the big after Christmas let-down and I’ve often suffered from this malaise.  After a month-long season of making merry, the long stretch of winter weather looms ahead and can appear anything but full of good cheer. 

Especially when you live in an empty nest.  You awaken each morning in darkness and nightfall descends by late afternoon.   You settle back into the same old routine of living in a silent house with just the two of you and one extremely sleepy cat. 

You vacuum up the cookie crumbs.  Corral all of those stray plates and glasses into the dishwasher.  Scour the bathrooms until they’re sparkling again.  Set the washer and dryer to a frenzy cycle laundering all the sheets and towels. 

Gone are the overflowing suitcases.  Gone are all the shoes tossed willy-nilly by the door.  Gone are the purses, gloves, car keys, and overabundance of electronics that were strewn throughout the house. Gone are the three out-of-state licensed cars in the driveway. 

And you might think joy flew right out that opened door when the last ones hauled all of their belongings and themselves through it as they departed. 

But you know what?  Joy only expires if you want it to.  Joy lingers when you embrace it.  I find it no coincidence that this week’s photo challenge is ‘joy’ right when I want to write about that very emotion.  Right when I want to seize it, hold it dear to my heart, and never let go of it.

Joy shouts through my house at remembrances of times spent together as a family.  Joy rings with laughter as it recalls stories told and games played and meals enjoyed around the table and gifts exchanged. 

Joy remembers the sight of three grown adults with spouses sprawled around the family room watching old video tapes of the Christmas television specials they loved as children.  Joy resonates when it’s captured on loved ones’ faces through photographs.  Joy explodes in the heart when a simple text message is received:  “Just got home.  Thanks for the awesome Christmas.  Love you!!”

The sights and sounds of Christmas may be put away for another year but joy remains.

“Joy is not in things; it is in us.” ~ Richard Wagner, German composer



Finding joy in a flooded basement

blogDSCN8624Things could be worse.

Here at Mama’s Empty Nest we experienced a rude awakening this morning.  Hubby gently roused me and asked if I had to work today.  Bewildered and groggy, I replied, “No, why?”

“Good thing,” he answered.  “We have no hot water.”  As he shivered from a cold shower and quickly dressed, I gathered my wits.

A trip to the basement revealed a flood surrounding the vicinity of the hot water tank.   Great.  Hubby hurriedly moved nearby items away from the source and started squeegee-ing water towards the basement floor drain.  Mindful of my bad back, I moved light boxes out of the way and tried to see how far the water had spread.

Our basement is full – and I do mean full – of all kinds of things in storage.  Our nest is a revolving door with our adult children coming and going and using it as a depository for all of the extra stuff they don’t need yet or want in their apartments.  So boxes, plastic tubs, furniture, small appliances, and all kinds of what-nots await in monstrous piles to be transported to their permanent homes when the kids marry and finally get settled.

I quickly surveyed oldest daughter’s piano to make sure it was out of harm’s way and was relieved to see it was.  Drat, I thought.  We’ll have to move all this stuff around tonight when hubby gets home and haul out some wet carpeting to the garbage.  In addition, we’ll have to open up some boxes and make sure nothing was damaged.  Not what I had planned today, that’s for sure.  And darn it, my achy back and hip are bothering me again as well!  Plus there’s the expense of purchasing and installing a new hot water heater.  What a way to begin the day!

Back upstairs in the kitchen, hubby heated water in the teakettle so he could shave and leave for work while I perused the telephone book yellow pages in search of a repairman.   After a couple unsuccessful calls, I talked to a gentleman who lived near our home.  “I’ll be over in just a few minutes,” he promised.

True to his word, this repairman arrived not long after I jumped out of my jammies and into some clothes.  He assessed the situation quickly and said he’d be back in no time with a new water heater, but he would have to bring some help as he recently had emergency surgery and wasn’t able to lift heavy objects.

I offered how sorry I was for that, and he remarked with a laugh, “Oh, it could be worse!”  I couldn’t get over how chipper he was and how much of an optimist he appeared to be.   He was downright jovial, I thought, and laughed easily as we chatted.  Must be one of those early morning people, I decided.

He returned with two friends and a brand new water heater in tow.  While he worked, we discussed how things don’t last, how outrageously expensive items are, and how we get less for our money nowadays.   “Oh well,” he said, “it could be worse.”

He repeated that saying several times in the course of our conversation.  Finally, he revealed the reason for his opinion.  A few months ago, a man had been working on a gas line in a nearby town and the deep ditch he was in collapsed onto him.  He was encased in soil, unable to move for quite some time until rescue workers were able to free him.

That man was my water heater repairman today.   As he casually mentioned it, claustrophobic me was shocked.  I said, “Oh, bless your heart! How did you stand it? I would have died from fright!”

He said, “You know, I could have died, but I didn’t even have one broken bone from the weight of all that dirt on me.  I figure God wanted me to stay here for something.  It just wasn’t my time.”

And he laughed.   He.  Laughed.  This man had stared down death and instead of being paralyzed by the trauma of what had happened to him, he rejoiced in life.   His demeanor was full of joy.  Joy for life.  Joy for his work.  Joy for each day.

He continued by saying that he doesn’t get upset over things like he used to.  Those things are trivial and he said it again, “It could always be a lot worse.”

What a lesson I was given early this morning for this day in my book of Opportunity.   Waking up to no hot water and a flooded basement floor wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t the end of the world either.  I had water, I had a warm home, I had all the other necessities of life right at my fingertips.

And I had a prompt and able repairman who installed my new water heater and had it working by 10:15 this morning.  I appreciated his quick response and his ability to restore my hot water.

But you know what?  I appreciate the lesson he gave me about joy even more.  He reminded me that no matter what trouble comes your way, there’s joy to be found because “it could always be worse.”

Copyright  ©2012

How to celebrate a blogiversary – chocolate’s on me!

blogDSCN7796One of my favorite things is chocolate and another is writing this blog.

Obviously, I can’t share my to die for chocolate candy (pictured)  with you.   But I can share my thoughts with my friends and readers in written form here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

July is my “blogiversary” month.    I use the term month because I’m not sure which July date actually commemorates my blog’s anniversary.

Six years ago on July 9, 2005 on a whim and a dare from oldest daughter, I started writing a blog via a different site.  Recuperating from cancer surgery and not physically able to accomplish my usual summer to-do list, I needed something to occupy my time and mind.

Oldest daughter convinced me to create a blog on the same site she then used and I started putting my thoughts into written words again.  My writing topics ranged from silly thoughts to serious ones, everyday life to the change in thinking that a cancer (albeit a curable kind) diagnosis brings.  Once I recovered and returned back to “real life,” I only posted occasionally, when I encountered a little free time, until fall 2007.

And then… nada…zilch…nothing.  My blogging life ended.  Life got in my way.  Hubby and I still had kids in the nest, two sets of college tuition to pay, a calendar full of events to attend, jobs,  a home to maintain, and all of those dominated my waking hours.

With our youngest child’s college graduation last year and all of our children’s subsequent moves away from home, my world and waking hours changed.  I tried social networking for a while; fun at first reconnecting with old friends, but after the novelty wore off, I found myself sitting at the computer playing endless rounds of Reversi and Bubble Town.

Way to let the brain atrophy!  In between popping bubbles and knocking off Reversi opponents, I began reading a far-away friend’s new blog on WordPress.   One day, I realized how much I missed writing myself.   Why not take my love for stringing words together in written form down from the shelf, dust off my skills, and rekindle my blog?   So I moved my old posts from the previous site over to WordPress, started cranking out new posts on July 19, 2010, and my new blog, Mama’s Empty Nest,  was  hatched.

What happened next I compare to coming out of a coma.  Suddenly, my mind leaped into over-drive and so did my senses.  It felt like I had awakened from a very long winter’s nap.  Once I commenced writing, words just kept gushing out of me, words that were obviously bottled up inside for decades.  Ideas would spring into my mind when I gazed at a picture or often when a sight unfolded in front of my eyes, while driving,  and even while sleeping.

My senses seemed heightened – eyes wide open, observing things I couldn’t wait to write about, ears hearing sounds I previously must have taken for granted.  Every day occurrences in my world suddenly needed crafted and sculpted into paragraphs of written language, and I was constantly grabbing the nearest scrap of paper to jot down my thoughts before they melted away.

An old composition notebook became my new best friend in which I scribbled ideas, thoughts, and topics when they surged into my brain.   And then something truly amazing happened.  I realized I wasn’t just writing for myself and my closest family anymore.  Somewhere out there in cyber-land, people  – friends and strangers – started reading my blog and commenting!

A whole new world opened up for me [cue the theme song from Disney’s Aladdin]  as I gained new readers, blogging buddies, and very good friends.   I recently reviewed my posts from five years ago and marveled at the change I see in my writing and even in myself.

Where I once blogged as a way to fill up empty time, now I blog because it brings me joy.  Where I previously wrote whatever came to mind, now my posts have meaning and depth…and I believe, purpose.  I’m thrilled that a fellow blogger recently invited me to join the High Calling Blog Network where I only hope I can rise to the challenge of writing well about work, life, and God like the other talented writers there.

Today, on this 26th page of Chapter 7 in my Opportunity book of life – not exactly my blogiversary date – I  am astonished at how far I’ve come, but I’m more grateful to those who’ve traveled with me on this journey:

  • to my family who always encourages me to write (special thanks to hubby who patiently listens to each of my posts while I read them aloud to catch any errors);
  • to the friends who personally know me and read my work, spurring me on with kind words of support (you are great cheerleaders!);
  • to my new friends, my faithful readers, and fellow bloggers (your comments and your blogs inspire me and I appreciate them so very much);
  • to my Lord Jesus Christ who graciously gave me a gift which I must use for His glory and for allowing me to “see” through His eyes as I write.

So Happy Blogiversary to all of us! If I could, I’d share my chocolates with every one of you for the entire month of July!


Never fully dressed without a smile

pexels-photo-736842.jpegThere’s nothing as contagious as a smile.  “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing,”  Mother Teresa once said.

Today I made a little boy smile and that brought joy to not just me but to other children also.  And that made my heart happy.

My work for a non-profit takes me into schools, both public and private.  Usually, however, I perform my job in high schools, seldom do I visit with children younger than sixth grade.

So today was unusual.  My colleague and I were talking to teenagers at a health fair about making good choices for a healthy future.  In between chats with teens, elementary students also started making rounds at the fair.

My co-worker, a young man with no children, looked panicked for a brief moment at the thought of having to interact with little people instead of cool teenagers.   But the Mom in this empty nest Mama came out at the sight of those little ones.

A troupe of kindergartners came by our table en route to a more child-friendly table and were thrilled to pluck silly bands out of the plastic bag of animal shapes we offered them.  After spending so much time with 7-12th grade students, I thought these little ones were so darn cute.

Another class marched single file past us and stood in line for the game next door.  So  after offering them their silly bands, I asked the children what grade they were in.  “Second grade!” came the jubilant reply from two or three of them.  But the little boy directly in front of me did not answer, just looked at me and frowned.

“Second grade?!”  I exclaimed.  “You’re getting so old!”  I made an exaggerated face.  And they all laughed.  Except frowny boy.  He scowled at me.

Aha, a challenge.  So I eyed him up and said, “You don’t look happy to be here like your friends do.”  He scowled a little deeper.  The sweet little girl next to him said, “Oh, he’s always like that, he NEVER smiles!”

“Never?”  I peered at him as his frown grew worse.  “Ever?”  I asked as I got down on his level and looked right into his cute little face.  He knitted his brow, pursed his lips and his frown turned into a really grumpy one.

So I, of course, made a grumpy face back at him.  He answered my grimace with an even sterner look which I then matched and used my hands to pull my frown down even more.  His classmates giggled and giggled.  And I saw a fleeting glimpse of a smile start at the edge of his mouth which he promptly turned into an even greater frowny face.

“Oh no!!!” I said pulling my own frowny face down more,  “I think we’ll have to start crying now!”  And all of a sudden, he couldn’t maintain the grouchy grumps any longer.  His lips started to move, he tried so hard not to, but he burst into not just a smile, but a little laugh out loud.

“You made him smile!!” his classmates yelled.  “No one ever makes him smile!”  And they laughed, and he laughed and I laughed.  And then he put his grumpy Gus face right back on his cute little face.

Inspirational writer Mary H. Waldrip said, “A laugh is a smile that bursts.”  And for one brief moment, when that little guy’s smile burst into a laugh, I made his heart glad and he did wonders for mine on Page 15, Chapter 4 in my book called Opportunity.

“It takes a lot of work from the face to let out a smile, but just think what good smiling can bring to the most important muscle of the body… the heart.”  ~ Author Unknown


Homecoming homecoming

pexels-photo-688835.jpegIt’s a happy day at our house – homecoming for homecoming.  Yes, you read that correctly, you’re not seeing double.

I am encouraged by the gloriously warm and sunny fall day that has enfolded today.  But I’m also delirious with joy because my son arrived home last night from the state next door where he works and lives.

Seeing his face at the door made me want to squeal with delight.  I hugged him and kind of jumped up and down while I embraced him and that made him chuckle out loud.  His mama is crazy about him and her two daughters and misses all of her chicks, so I just could not contain my glee over son’s homecoming for the weekend.

He won’t stay long as he’s actually driving to his college alma mater to attend the homecoming celebration.   He’ll cheer on former teammates at the men’s soccer game today and probably wistfully remember last year when he was team captain.

Tomorrow he’ll don his soccer cleats to play in the alumna vs. varsity team soccer match and he will relish that.  Then he’ll congregate and catch up with his friends who are now spread hither and yon with new jobs and lives.  I know he’ll have a great time full of friends, fun, and fellowship.

Sunday he’ll drive back here and I’ll be doubly cheerful because middle daughter will drive up from the city also.  So two of Mama’s three chicks will visit the empty nest, even though it will be a very short stopover.

But having them here, even for a brief time, will make my heart sing.  I’ll also get to see oldest daughter soon, so I’ll probably be breaking out in happy songs a lot – spending time with my grown children just compels me to have explosions of joy. I can’t help it!

On the practical side of things, son will pack up some of his belongings in the cluttered basement to take back with him.  He’s found a permanent place to reside, so it’s time to load up boxes with dishes, pots and pans, towels, and other household goods that have been taking up space waiting for him.  (Remember that “too much stuff” post?  Finally, I will get rid of some of that stuff!)

I’ve got that happy, happy, joy, joy spirit!  Where? Down in my heart!

 “Happiness is a grateful spirit, an optimistic attitude, and a heart full of love.”  Can I get an amen to that?


Silver liquid drops of grace

pexels-photo-355844.jpegI don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade today, but I must comment on the rainy season that seems to have a good grip on a major portion of our country.

Every where I wander, I overhear snippets of conversations complaining about the rain and chilly weather which seems to have my neck of the woods in a headlock.

I’m not Pollyanna – the character in the children’s novel by the same name written by Eleanor H. Porter – who always has an optimistic outlook.  I become just as easily discouraged as anyone and don’t always “look on the bright side.”

So I’m not crazy about the chilling rain we’re experiencing either, but I think God is trying to teach me a lesson about complaining and His grace.

If you search hard enough you can find some great inspirational thoughts about rainy weather.  Someone once said, “And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”  True enough.  I especially like the idea of looking up, not just to be an optimist, but to really look up to God, who is there for me in balmy weather as much as baleful times.

Supposedly the legendary baseball player Satchel Paige once said, “Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”  I like that sentiment.  How often I turn to God in prayer when I’m saddled with burdens, but I need to converse even more with Him when life is superb.  He wants to hear my praise and my joys and my thankfulness.

One of my all-time favorite Christian music artists is Michael W. Smith.  I’ve seen him in concert a couple of times and his music never fails to inspire me and bring me closer to the God I worship.  I’m not certain in what context Smith said this thought, but I appreciate his words. He said, “Healing rain is a real touch from God.  It could be physical or emotional or whatever.”

That reminds me that rain washes away the dirt and grime, making earth clean and renewed.  Isn’t that what God did when He saved me?  He removed the ugly from my life, washing it away, making me clean and whole and yes, healed and renewed.

In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 11:13-15, it is written, “So if you  faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today –  to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil.  I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.”   God, in His omnipotence and omniscience, knows exactly what I need when I need it.  He provides what I need, even the rain in my life, to bless and bring me into closer fellowship with Him.

Many years ago when I was a college student, I read several works of literature written by the late American writer John Updike, but I never realized until recently that he was a believing Christian.  I found this quote by him and for me, it is a keeper.  “Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.”

Grace does fall down on me like rain, it washes over me, it cleanses me, it redeems me, and then it renews me.  And without grace, I would not have life.

Instead of complaining about the rain, I’m choosing today to rejoice just as the prophet Joel told us in Joel 2:22-24 (New International Version) -“Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.   He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.”

Despite my propensity to allow dreary weather to affect me negatively, I will rejoice this day.  Why?  Because I know Jesus as my Savior.  My joy, my fulfillment, my satisfaction is in Him alone. I want to serve Him, to know Him better, and grow in my relationship with Him.   I pray you will desire that “new wine and oil” as well.

Finally, here is a quote by another American writer.  Langston Hughes said, “Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”   Please let the following video sing over you and let grace fall down over you like silver liquid drops of rain straight from the Father’s throne.


Let It Snow

Friday, 09 December 2005

blogwinter time 056Dashing through the snow,

In a 4-wheel drive vehicle,

Over the drifts we go,

And through some icicles.

Honking horns at idiots,

Because they make us mad,

Oh what fun it is to live

Where it snows so bad!

Oh jingle bells, jingle bells,

Jingle all the way.

Oh what fun it is to watch

Snow fall down all day – hey!

Yep, it’s winter time in my neck of the woods! It’s not so bad if you can just sit in your house and not have to go anywhere in it.  It’s actually quite beautiful and sparkly and exciting if you’re able to go sled riding.

And it’s true I do love having snow for Christmas.  I’m dreaming of a white Christmas and all that. But boy, I don’t like driving in it.  And my children driving in it makes me even more nervous.  So looks like I’ll be praying for safety a lot this winter.

Christmas is coming!! All too quickly!! I AM NOT READY! The halls are decked, the tree is up and I just got the umpteen thousand (an exaggeration) cards sent complete with the annual family letter, BUT the shopping is not nearly completed and nary a cookie is baked.  Yikes.

Plus I am having this stupid tooth problem which resulted in oral surgery today.  OW…I don’t like having any kind of dental work done. But the worst is over I hope!

So on to the JOYS of the day:

1. I am alive! and relatively healthy!

2. I have the greatest family in the world and I love them so much, plus all my little chicks will be home for Christmas!  Mama’s house will be full of chickens!

3.  Christmas is one of my favorite holidays – it’s Jesus’ Birthday!!

4.  Christmas cards from far-away friends show up in my mailbox each day!

5. I got a surprise long-distance phone call today from one of my long-ago and far-away friends!  She called to tell me how much she loves me and how she cried when she read our Christmas letter to find out I had cancer this summer.  We had fun talking about ol’ times and good memories and she just MADE my day because she wanted to let me know she is praying for me and wishing me well.

Whew!  Lots of good stuff and more to come!  Tomorrow Bud goes to another school’s Christmas dance with his sister’s friend’s sister (did ya get that??) as a favor because her date backed out on her.  Isn’t he a good guy?  Doing good deeds.  Next week he’s on to his own high school dance with one of the sweetest girls I know.  Some day, some lucky girl is going to find the prince she’s been waiting for all her life and it will be my son.  He is definitely a keeper.

Ok – enough for today – I have to go lay down again so my toofies don’t hurt.