Happy New Year
from Mama’s Empty Nest!
May 2020 bring you good health, happiness, and peace.
A new year means a brand-new beginning and in my mind that means not only a fresh start in life but a fresh start in my home as well.
There’s just something about putting away the clutter of Christmas decorations that makes me want to go through my house, room by room, and start massive cleaning and major purging. I don’t think I’m alone in my quest.
Recently I found this passage from something written in 1898: “Do other people, I wonder, find the same keen pleasure that I do in periodically undertaking a pilgrimage all over the house to wage a war of extermination upon its accumulations of rubbish? “~Chiffon, “The Woman of To‑Day,” To‑Day, 1898 January 15th.
I keep hearing and seeing on social media that the new “thing” is to be minimalist and even have some family members who are attempting to adhere to this way of life. Living simply isn’t new, that’s for certain. It’s just that we Americans don’t always embrace a simplistic way of life in anything and we own far too many material goods and possessions as well as waste too much money on those.
I fall into that-way-too-much-stuff trap, partly because Papa and I have lived in this house longer than we have ever lived in one residence during our married life. Back when we moved often, we decluttered every time, had garage sales to rid ourselves of belongings we didn’t need or didn’t want to move. And we’ve always donated our gently used goods to charities for their thrift shops, believing that someone out there could use what we wanted to discard.
A good idea even back in the early 1900’s when this was written: “Most of us are inclined to keep too many old and useless things in our houses and in our minds as well. Good housekeepers have an excellent custom of going from attic to cellar, at least once a year, and clearing out every closet and drawer. Some shake out and dust each article packed away in box or trunk, only to replace it and repeat the process year after year. How much better to give away the discarded clothing, the bric-a-brac or picture for which we no longer care. The Salvation Army always stands ready to relieve us of superfluous effects.” ~Emily Tolman, “Seasonable Suggestions”1907.
After 20 years of living in this same house, our stuff is taking over….well, it’s not just our stuff because part of that stuff belongs to our grown-up children who use our basement as their personal storage unit. Some can’t be helped as in the case of our oldest and her husband who live in a third-floor apartment and truly don’t have room for some of her belongings nor do they want to haul a piano up three flights of steps. Understandable.
When our son and daughter-in-law settled into their home a few years ago, Papa and I hauled two carloads of son’s belongings to him. That freed up some space in the basement.
But for the last couple of years, middle daughter’s furniture and packed away household goods have been stored there causing it to be full to capacity. I’m not totally obsessive about having things in perfect order and organizing but I do adhere to the old saying – “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
It just seems like everything’s place landed in our basement. And honestly, when I ventured down there to obtain some item I needed, the sheer amount of clutter overwhelmed me. I often retorted that just going down the stairs and seeing all that my basement held made my blood pressure rise!
We still regularly give clothing and other usable household items to charity and even donated several boxes of unwanted belongings to our church rummage sale, but an accumulation of items from our past, our parents’ homes, and just plain ‘stuff’ lurks in our basement.
So now, middle daughter is moving into her own home leaving this nest truly empty once more. There is an empty bedroom again and there is space in the basement. She still has more boxes and junk to go through and like her mama, she wants to purge some of it.
So it seems a springtime mammoth garage sale is in our future. That means this empty nest Mama is going room by room cleaning and eliminating the unusable and/or labeling potential garage sale items as such.
It’s a work in progress and I haven’t even made it to the basement yet. But I will succeed. I am determined.
By clearing away the excess clutter in my home and specifically the basement, it won’t just free up space physically, but also give me some peace of mind in this brand new year.
And that is priceless.
“Clearing clutter—be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—brings about ease and inspires a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility.” ~ Laurie Buchanan, PhD
In this new year, let’s fill it with forgotten things.
“Each New Year, we have before us a brand new book containing 365 blank pages. Let us fill them with all the forgotten things from last year—the words we forgot to say, the love we forgot to show, and the charity we forgot to offer.” ~ Peggy Toney Horton
Years before it became the trendy thing to do, I had a word.
Now, everyone it seems, chooses a word for the upcoming year. It’s a ‘one word’ movement. Choose a word to hold onto, to embrace, to put into action throughout the New Year. It’s kind of like a resolution yet not.
I worked for several years for a Christian non-profit organization and at year’s end, our executive director hosted a lovely Christmas party for staff and volunteers at her home. Delicious food spread out on her festive table. Laughter pealed throughout her living room as we exchanged white elephant gifts. The joy of camaraderie filled our hearts.
But the activity I think we anticipated the most was getting ‘our word.’
Our director fervently prayed beforehand about which words she would write on slips of paper. Every year the Lord gave her words that anyone would love to get – words like joy. But sometimes words like sparkle were included that would make us scratch our heads in bewilderment. Or sometimes a word like trust would even give us serious pause and a catch in our spirits.
We passed around a basket with the folded slips of paper (no peeking allowed) and each person pulled out one piece of paper and ‘chose’ a word in this way. We didn’t think about it or carefully consider what word we’d like to have for the next year or select the words ourselves like everyone does now. No, we were given the words in what seemed like a random way.
But the words were never random. Instead those words came to fruition throughout the year and manifested themselves in some way. The next year, we once again gathered at our director’s home and before we plucked new words out of that familiar basket, we each had the opportunity to share how last year’s word had revealed itself in our lives.
We shared a lot of laughter and tears as we told our year-long stories of our word. I have to confess that often I hoped for what I thought would be an easy word but that usually did not come to pass. My random words that didn’t prove random at all were things like growth and strength, and one particular year, I was given the word peace.
Most folks would be grateful for a word like peace. Isn’t that what we all hope for? A peaceful, serene year. Sounds good, right?
But as soon as I opened that folded piece of paper and read the word peace, I sensed that something big was coming my way. Something so big that I would need extraordinary peace to get through it. The kind of peace you just can’t summon up on your own. The kind of peace that passes all understanding. The kind of peace that only comes from relying and trusting Jesus as your Savior, Redeemer, and Friend.
And, call it what you will, intuition or spirit or God’s whispering in my ear, whatever I sensed that day did come to pass. Halfway into that year, I received the kind of health diagnosis that puts fear into everyone’s thoughts. Both my parents had fought that dreaded disease and my mother had succumbed to its fierce attack several years earlier.
Was I going to be its next victim? My son was heading into his senior year of high school, one daughter was in college, and another was launching her career in her chosen field. Even though they were grown, I felt that they needed me, my husband needed me, and my aging widowed father needed me. Was I going to be around to see them through the next stages of life?
Preparing for surgery, total fear gripped my mind and heart. Anxiety washed over me and I relinquished myself to near panic. But then, something happened to change that. A small group of friends who loved and cared for me laid their hands upon me and prayed as I was anointed with oil.
That’s when it happened. I could feel a huge hard as rock ball of turmoil and fear literally rising up within me making its way to my throat. I felt the need to open my mouth and gasp out loud and honestly, it truly felt as if that horrible fear and apprehension physically left my body and mind in that instant.
In its place came a sudden calmness. A sense of serenity. Tranquility replaced terror. I felt peace. Total peace. The peace that only comes from God.
I don’t know why the Lord spared me when so many others suffer horribly from one health condition or another, and to be honest, sometimes I struggle with that survival guilt. But the reason is for God to know, not me. All I know is that He granted me His complete and utter peace.
My malady was detected in its early stages and I did not endure much pain or suffering. For that I will always be grateful and give thanks to Him who heard and answered prayers on my behalf.
But I also give thanks still all these many years later for that one word – peace. The word that was my word for that particular year.
That’s why I wrestle with choosing one word for myself in this trend of one word for the new year. What word should I choose? What word is truly the one that the Lord wants me to have? What word do I NEED to have?
Receiving a word from the basket in my friend’s living room ended years ago and since then I’ve tried to choose my own one word. I pondered and contemplated and prayed, yet no particular word would surface for me. So I would randomly select a word I would like to choose like joy. Or thankfulness.
And like those New Year’s resolutions that eventually fade away, I’ve found those one words didn’t resonate with me like those ‘random’ ones chosen for me did.
So I don’t think I’ll be cherry-picking one word for this new year which lies before me. I’ll just stick to doing what I do – choosing to live my life with purpose while serving my Lord and Savior.
“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” ~ Jonathan Edwards
Words of wisdom for 2016, where can you find them? If you google New Year’s quotations, the following passage may appear on your computer screen.
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” ~G.K. Chesterton
When I first came across this Chesterton quote, I squirreled it away in my tattered old quotation notebook for later use. I expected that it would make a great accompaniment to a New Year’s post in this blog.
Which brings me to my reason for writing this. That quotation turned out to have even more meaning for me than just a nice quote to add to today’s post because I discovered that a vital portion of that passage written by Chesterton (English writer, 1874-1936) was omitted.
The rest of Chesterton’s passage reads: “Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Chesterton was not only a prolific writer and profound thinker of his time, he was a Christian apologist. His book, The Everlasting Man, was read by a young atheist and proved instrumental in that young man becoming a Christian. Who was the atheist? C.S. Lewis, famous author of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Reading the passage in its entirety gave me pause to consider. Everyone can identify with the point Chesterton makes about starting afresh. Isn’t that what we attempt when the New Year rolls around?
We begin that brand new year with good intentions. Perhaps we even make resolutions to [insert your to-do list here], supposedly to improve our health, well-being, stop bad habits, whatever.
A new year is a new beginning. But isn’t each and every day a new beginning? Why don’t we start afresh every morning, not just on New Year’s Day?
Instead we tend to make promises (resolutions) we don’t or can’t or won’t keep. We start off great guns adhering to our resolutions and then we slough off. Most of the time we hang on to our old ways, our old baggage, our old vices…our old stuff. And each day becomes just like the one before.
What if we did just one thing fresh by starting each day with God’s Word instead of trying to force ourselves to stick to our resolutions?
What if we commenced that new beginning we’re given each day upon awakening by spending it with a Savior?
Because that’s exactly what the last part of Chesterton’s passage tells us: “Unless a man be born again (accept the gift of salvation and belief in Jesus Christ – my words here), he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
So how do I choose to live each day afresh? The answer for me is in God’s Word.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words for the church in Ephesus and for us in Ephesians 5: 15-20: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Being careful how I live, making the most of every opportunity, giving thanks. That’s what is important to me.
That’s what I want to bring into each new day in this New Year of 2016 instead of making resolutions I no doubt would break. How about you?
May it be so.
“What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.” — Vern McLellan
All things bright and beautiful. That’s my New Year’s wish for all of my readers here at Mama’s Empty Nest. May you be blessed with a lovely 2016!
“A happy New Year! Grant that I
May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I’ve played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year.” ~Edgar Guest
Wasn’t it just yesterday that the entire world worried their gigabytes off because the page was turning over to the year 2000 and all of those ‘experts’ predicted a major catastrophe as we reached Y2K? Y2K, the year 2000.
Well, of course the year 2000 arrived and passed by without a glitch. And here we are 15 years later welcoming in another new year. It’s true what my wise Daddy used to say that the older you became the faster the years flew by. And we’ve just put another year on the back shelf.
What lies ahead is anyone’s guess but I know one thing. We will fill up those empty spaces on the calendar with the everyday task of living if the Lord gives us a year full of new days. But just living is not how I want to spend these blank spaced days on my calendar of life.
I want to fill those days with wonder. With joy. With love. With exuberance. With amazement. With opportunity. With thanksgiving (yes, I haven’t given up that word yet).
In years past, I either chose or was given a new word for each year – a word that might manifest itself in some way to prove amazing or noteworthy as it worked its way through the pages of my life. Sometimes I struggled with those words – the ones like peace, strength, growth.
This year, I haven’t chosen a word nor has one come across the crowded desk of my mind for me to take notice. Out of the thousands and thousands of words in my native English language, I haven’t claimed one for my own. And not a word has settled upon me and laid claim to me either.
Instead perhaps I should choose a different word for each day of the new year. After all, a new year – one that’s sparkling clean with no dings or dents, no marks or notations, no regrets or regressions – presents itself for new ideas, new revelations, new…everything.
I’m not one for making resolutions every year. I usually fail miserably at them, so I stopped torturing myself years ago. But even though I don’t make resolutions, I do have resolve. And though my slate is empty right now and my calendar is clear for the time being, I know there’s one thing I plan to muster up enough resolve to do this year.
I will take each fresh new day as it comes and see what the Lord will show me on that day because even when I can’t be completely faithful, God is. Morning by morning, new mercies I’ll see.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)
What about you? How will you fill your new calendar in this brand new year?
“Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress.” ~ Charles Kettering
Wednesdays are usually my no words day here at Mama’s Empty Nest. Usually I post a photograph I’ve taken that hopefully speaks for itself, slap a title on it that categorizes it, and add no other words. Voila! Wordless Wednesday.
But today I’m deviating from the norm. It is, after all, the last day of the year. We say goodbye to 2014 at midnight and hello to brand new 2015 at 12:01.
And today I find on this last Wednesday of the year that I do have words to convey. So this middle of the week post will be a ‘words full Wednesday.’
The graphic I designed above boasts a citation that is in my well-worn quote notebook. Supposedly, it came from one of the works of Greek playwright Euripedes. Many moons ago, I took a classical literature class in college where we read many of the Greek classics. I didn’t remember the quote at all or where it came from, so I wanted to do a bit of research to see if it even came from Euripedes’ pen.
As near as I can glean from a quick research scan (and I do mean quick), the actual quote is “Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.” Some of the old Greek’s tragedies were lost or only fragments remain. Apparently, this line came from one of those.
No matter the source, the line speaks well for today of all days – New Year’s Eve. Another year has passed which included some wondrous occurrences and some disappointing or devastating ones. Such is life.
I spent a good part of this past year grieving over an old wound from 2013. Yes, I wasted fresh tears over it. Sometimes it haunted my dreams; often it consumed my joy during daytime hours. Some days it just fired my anger into a red hot flame.
But you know what? No more. Was what was done to me right? By no means. It was unjust and no mercy or grace was shown. But I refuse to let that grievous event define me any more. I will not waste tears over old griefs any longer. I’ve learned to put that wrong and the people involved behind me. That doesn’t mean I haven’t forgiven them because I have, it just means I will no longer allow those circumstances to reign over my emotions and thoughts.
As I move forward to a new year of opportunity, I will not waste one more minute over this old grief. It will stay in the past where it belongs.
What about you? Is there something from the past that you need to let go with the ringing in of a new year? I pray you find the courage to do so and waste not your own tears over past griefs. Let’s greet the new year with joy instead of sorrow, with excitement instead of disappointment, with opportunity instead of regrets.
Happy New Year!
“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” – Brooks Atkinson