A nugget of thanks

blogIMG_5989 (2)Often we don’t just look down. Or up for that matter.

When we’re on a mission, we have tasks to accomplish. Or places we need to be or people we must see. And when that’s the case, our focus is straight ahead. Keep your eyes on the prize. We can be so absorbed with what we must take care of that we don’t stop and truly look around at our surroundings.

What do we see under our feet? What do we observe above our heads? It’s a question I’ve learned to ask myself since I initiated taking photos as a hobby in recent years. I like to look at aspects placed into my vision from a different perspective.

Look down. Look up. Look at something from an unusual angle. And when I remember to do so, I’m not often disappointed. Usually, I find a unique photo opportunity. Or in many cases, I discover a source of inspiration for a blog post.

Last month, our family convened for a get-together at our oldest daughter and son-in-law’s home in another state. All of us were able to travel there for an entire weekend and just enjoy each other’s company, take a fall excursion to an apple farm/pumpkin patch, see some sights we hadn’t experienced before, and worship together at a well-known church.

One of our excursions was to a fossil bed beside the river that runs through their neck of the woods. We climbed over rocks searching for the embedded fossils and explored the area. While photographing some of our finds, I came across a lone nut just lying on the rocks. 

There were no other nuts there since there were no trees on the rocky river edge. Just this hard-shelled one nut.  It almost seemed petrified, but our son-in-law managed to crack it open so we could see what kind of nut meat it contained. The inside was blackened and hard. (above photo)  It looked like this nut had fallen off a tree a long time ago.

But I noticed something else. The nut meat was heart-shaped. And that prompted me to contemplation. 

When has my heart been just like that? Hard as a rock. Blackened with ill thoughts or feelings. Envy. Anger. Bitterness. Jealousy. Selfishness. Hostility. Argumentativeness. Boastful. Critical. Judgmental. Prideful.  The list is long.

Far too many times my heart looks just like that nut meat. Dark and ugly and hard. But my heart can be cleansed, restored to health and goodness. Confessing my shortcomings to my Father God and allowing the redeeming work of His Son, my Savior, to wash my heart clean.

“God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart.” ~ Izaak Walton

The thing is I must choose that. I must choose to get up each day and opt for goodness instead of evil. I must protect the state of my heart against the darkness of sin. It’s called free will and I possess it.

On this 27th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I choose a thankful heart. A heart full of gratitude. A heart that follows my Savior. A heart of thanks giving. This is my prayer.

“O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”  ~William Shakespeare

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Believing

blogDSCN8257I’m a believer.

When it comes right down to it, I believe in a lot of things. I believe in love. I believe that each day is a gift. I believe that, despite its shortcomings, I live in one of the greatest countries of the world.

I believe.

I believe in the aspects written in the lyrics of an old 1950’s Elvis Presley song with the same title, “I Believe.”

I believe in giving thanks.

But first and foremost, I’m a believer in my Savior Jesus.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” ~ Jesus Christ in John 14:1

I believe that He is the Messiah. I believe He is the Son of God. I believe that He died for all of our sins. I believe He offers the free gift of salvation to those who choose to believe in Him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

And on this 25th day in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m thankful for salvation. I’m thankful for this faith in my Savior that was taught to me at an early age whether it was by Sunday School teachers at my church, or by my elderly grandmother singing hymns about Him with me, or by my parents’ examples.

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 106:1

I’m thankful for the faith that has sustained me for most of my life and I’m thankful that God’s love endures forever.

What are you thankful for?

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The gift of song

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On this Sunday, this 18th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I am worshiping my Lord in my church. One aspect of the worship service that I always love in any church I’ve visited is the time of lifting our voices in songs of praise.

I love to sing.  The melodies and lyrics of songs stick in my mind easier than other things I need to memorize. Singing has always been a huge part of my life. I vividly recall as a youngster when my family would gather around the piano that stood in our home’s living room.

One of us would play the piano and we three sisters would sing together, harmonizing. Often our mother would join in; Dad didn’t sing but he enjoyed sitting there listening to us all raise our voices in musical tribute. We sang carols at Christmas time and the rest of the year, we sang old hymns.

I can sing soprano although I’m not a strong soprano as I can’t quite hit some of those really high notes. In school chorus, I sang in the soprano section; however, I’m more comfortable in the alto range. I sang in a youth and adult choir at my home church and after marrying and moving away from home, I joined every choir in each church Papa and I attended.  

At our church in the Pacific Northwest, I even participated in a choir/presentation group where we staged songs, movements, and theatrical productions at our own church and traveled to other churches in our district.

Whether it’s an old hymn I’ve known from childhood or a praise song from recent years, or a newer, contemporary piece by a Christian artist like in the video I’m sharing with you today, I will sing the words of praise to my Lord from my heart.

My thankful heart. And I thank Him for giving me the gift of song.

“God smiles when we praise and thank Him continually. Few things feel better than receiving heartfelt praise and appreciation from someone else. God loves it, too. An amazing thing happens when we offer praise and thanksgiving to God. When we give God enjoyment, our own hearts are filled with joy.” ~ William Law

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

If not for this

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

For almost 30 years, my husband, the Papa of this empty nest, worked as a sales representative for national companies. Yes, he was a traveling salesman.

He somehow managed to draw large sales territories encompassing more than one state and when you live in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, that’s a lot of miles to cover by company car.  No airline travel for him, his job required that he drive all of those numerous miles from place to place making sales calls. And that meant that he spent several nights away from home, alone in hotel rooms, away from our family.

I must confess I hated when Papa needed to make his sojourns overnight for a couple of nights a week because it left me alone to cope with our three children, the house, and the day to day grind of everyday life without my spouse to give a helping hand.  Some days it seemed like an endless and thankless task and I wished that we lived near our extended families so I could ask for a little bit of help from them.

I truly sympathize with mothers whose husbands are absent or travel for their jobs because I understand the difficulties they face. And working single mothers without a spouse? I don’t know how they do it.  

When Papa traveled for business, it often seemed like I encountered the most difficult circumstances. And this was in the days before cell phones. Car accident resulting in the car having to be towed? Papa was away on business. Emergency room visit and overnight hospitalization? Papa was away on business. Automobile breakdown on a highway in the middle of nowhere in 90 degree heat? Papa was away on business.

Sometimes he had to miss the kids’ activities because of his job as well. Often times, both of us were so exhausted by the time he came home, we neglected each other. And sometimes, I complained just way too much about our situation in life at the time.

I was ungrateful. I was self-centered. I was weary and feeling sorry for myself. I longed to have lives like some of my friends whose husbands found jobs that provided a living wage near their hometowns and families. I envied those who could call on parents and grandparents to take their children for a fun day and give Mom some peace and quiet.

I was anything but thankful. Anything but grateful. Anything but content with my lot.

But you know what? I’m thankful now.

As I reminisce about those years, I’m thankful for the traveling sales positions my husband held then. I’m grateful his job provided a comfortable living for our family. I’m thankful that it enabled me to be a stay-at-home mom for many of those years when our children were young.

I realize something else from those times in my life. When trouble arose, I learned to be more self-sufficient and take care of problems myself. I learned to ask friends for help when I needed it. I learned to cope and accept the tasks placed before me.

But even more importantly, I learned to rely on my faith in God. I learned to place my trust in my Savior, Jesus. That faith helped sustain me during even more turbulent times when Papa lost his jobs due to company downsizing and other unforeseen events.

Had I not experienced those trying times, I might not have appreciated when Papa acquired an inside sales position with very little overnight travel meaning we were given more time to be together.

I may not have valued how hard my husband worked to provide everything we needed for our children and ourselves – enough food to eat, a pleasant home to live in, clothes to wear, and times of vacation and fun.

And I wouldn’t have learned to treasure time just to be with my husband as I do now. You know what they say? What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Well, I believe it also makes your marriage stronger. Just one more aspect of life to give thanks for during my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: sunrise gift

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Watching the sunrise 

It occurs each and every day of the life we are given.

We crawl into our cozy beds weary from a long day of whatever we must accomplish, eager to acquire some rest, and if our minds will just slow down and allow us, we fall into slumber.

Night draws its dark curtain around us as we succumb to relaxation and our bodies and minds absorb the much-needed respite they need. 

And then without warning or fanfare, something miraculous occurs in the eastern sky.

The sun slowly makes its appearance on the horizon, chasing away the shadows of the night, adorning the sky with magnificent colors and rays of light shining through the clouds.

It’s sunrise.

Another day granted by the Creator of the universe. The Master Painter of our skies. The great and omnipotent Lord of all. The One who gives us life and determines when it will be no more.

Life. Another day. A gift we take so much for granted. A gift we often fail to be thankful for.

A gift I lift my words of gratitude and my heart and soul up with thanks to the Almighty Father on this seventh day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?” ~ William A. Ward

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Thanksgiving Wishes

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You are a blessing for which I give thanks.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude for the many readers of this blog. And what better time than Thanksgiving Day to tell you so?

You, my readers and friends, have blessed me each time you click on my posts to read the words I write and double bless me with your insightful and encouraging comments.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

May God grant you grace, peace, and love on this day when we Americans pause to give thanks for the many blessings we have. My wish is that you take time to give thanks this day and give to others who are not as fortunate as we are.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.” ~ Amy Grant

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

With a thankful heart

blogthanksOn this Thanksgiving Day, I wish you many blessings and I thank you, my readers, for the many ways you have blessed me through your likes and comments and in some cases, sweet friendships outside of this blogging world.  

But I also pray that you all take time to think about all you have for which to be thankful.  We have an abundance of blessings; share them with someone less fortunate. Take a moment, click on the link below, and watch this video.  

Happy Thanksgiving from Mama’s Empty Nest! 

Thankful

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Through the eyes of a child

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Grandbaby with her auntie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

 

Thirty days of thanks giving

blogthanksIt’s November.  The 11th month of the year. 

In one way November reminds us the year is winding down and the garden’s growing season has come to an end. Most things of color  turn brown and either die or go dormant.   We feel a shiver in the air as the season whisks autumn’s leaves from the trees scattering them to the ground while we prepare to settle in for winter.  Another year of life is drawing to a close.

On the other hand, the onset of November also reminds us to gear up because Christmas is coming and there’s so much to be done.  Holiday frenzy will soon be upon us and we will find ourselves stressed to the max preparing for the big event, then toasting out the old year and welcoming in the new.

I’ve always felt that November gets the short stick, squeezed in like a thin piece of American cheese between two thickly sliced hunks of tasty fresh-baked bread.  It’s overlooked, it’s forgotten.  It just doesn’t have the appeal or commercial factor sandwiched in between Halloween and Christmas.  November holidays – especially Thanksgiving –  somehow get lost in the shuffle.   Only important enough for one day of celebration.  And that bothers me…a lot.

So it’s November.  And with the change of season, I’m in need of a change – in my heart and in my blog.  If you missed the post in which I wrote about this change, please take a minute and read it by clicking here.  You see, I take too many aspects of my life for granted, I spend too much time on myself,  and I don’t spend nearly enough time in thanksgiving.  And I don’t mean ‘Thanksgiving’ – preparing a feast, sitting at a well-appointed table, and gorging myself with turkey and all the trimmings.  I mean thanks giving.  Giving thanks with joy.  Giving thanks with prayer.  Giving thanks in all things to the One who provides all things.

For many years I have claimed my life verses are a passage from the Bible found in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5.  You can read those words in the graphic I designed to accompany this post and I’ll share why those verses changed my thought processes many years ago in a future post this month. 

While these verses do guide and direct me and hold profound meaning,  my heart tells me – no, my heart demands that I cease using lip service for this passage and commence putting these words that sustain me into real action.

This month, this very month of November, this month of thanks giving, I will attempt each day to post with words and/or photos about aspects of life for which I am most thankful.  Some aspects may be awe-inspiring;  some may be just simple everyday occurrences or objects or feelings causing you to wonder why I’m thankful for such small things.  Some of these  thankful blog posts will describe events or experiences that are considered difficult and trying.  But see that’s the thing.  God’s Word tells me to be thankful for ALL things, not just the good stuff.

Join me this November as I chronicle my thanks giving not to glorify myself but to give glory and honor to the One who deserves my praise and grateful heart.  My prayer is that you’ll find the month of November causes you to pause and be full of your own thanks giving as well.

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” ~ W.J. Cameron

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com