Trip to thankfulness

blogIMG_0253Have husband, will travel.

After many years of family vacations, Papa and I discovered a few years ago how much we enjoyed traveling together, just the two of us, especially in the off season when families don’t usually make vacation plans.

Since one of us is basically retired from the working world – that would be me – and one of us only has one foot in it still – that would be Papa – we have found time in the last couple of years to travel more often than we did in the lean years when we put three kids through college and paid for weddings.

Travel. It’s become a pleasurable aspect of life here in Mama’s Empty Nest.

“If you never learned the lesson of thankfulness, begin now. Sum up your mercies; see what provision God has made for your happiness, what opportunities for your usefulness, and what advantages for your success.” ~ Ida S. Taylor

Today in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m so appreciative and grateful for the opportunities to set our sights on new horizons and take some trips together outside of the nest. As I sum up my thankfulness for our excursions in the last couple of years, I decided to share a few of my favorite photos from those journeys in a slide show below.

From week-long vacations to weekend jaunts to day trips, Papa and I have been blessed by our travels by car, by plane, by boat, and by train. And I hope we have more opportunities in the future for those blessings.

“All that we behold is full of blessings.” ~William Wordsworth

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©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Family connections

blogOld photoIf you can believe all the ads on TV and the internet, more and more folks are wondering just where they came from.

Those ads inform you where you can send your DNA to have it analyzed and receive a report indicating what part of the world you descended from. I can understand why that information would be intriguing if you don’t know much about your family history.

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated about knowing my ancestry. Shortly after Papa and I married, we purchased a family tree print which we filled out as best as we could with the limited information we had. We framed it and it has graced our living room wall for all of our married life.

Since both of our sets of grandparents passed away either when we were young or before we were even born, our knowledge of great-grandparents and further back in the family lines was very limited.

My father did possess a treasure trove of family lineage on both sides of his family and he passed that information to my sisters and me. But pertaining to my mother’s lineage, we had very little to go on beyond our grandparents.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been even more determined to find out more family genealogy but am limited with time to do so. It’s quite a task, even if you join one of the online genealogy sites. There’s a lot of misinformation, dates in error, etc. that can lead you down the wrong path and I have felt frustration over some of that.

Enter my cousin. I have one living first cousin left; all the others are deceased. My cousin’s father and my father were brothers and our families were close when I was growing up. Recently, cousin and I have had more opportunities to see one another and talk about family remembrances. And he just so happens to have done a lot of research on our fathers’ family.

A couple of months ago, my cousin came for a visit and brought along his three-ring binder full of his research, which is more extensive that what I have. He showed me how he had collected all of the information and formatted it into a binder, not just on our shared family history but on this mother’s lineage as well.

I was impressed and expressed that to him. We shared stories and many remembrances of family members long gone. Hearing my cousin’s stories – many of which I never had heard – made me even more determined to seek out more of my family history (and my husband’s as well), get it put down in writing, and prepare a similar notebook to be passed down to my children if they are interested.

But time. Or the lack of it. That is my problem. It’s been a busy season of life for us here at Mama’s Empty Nest even though I basically am retired from working outside the home and Papa is semi-retired, only working at a part-time job. Taking care of our granddaughter while daughter works takes up a good bit of my time. And there are always church activities and other commitments that also claim my free hours as well as writing this blog.

Recently, my cousin visited me again. I never imagined he would arrive with a complete surprise in his hands. He prepared a family history binder for me as a gift. Not only did he include all of his research and photographs from our shared family lineage, but he had done significant exploration into my mother’s (his aunt by marriage) family.

What an amazing gift! My cousin gleaned through ancient census reports, vital life certificates, and other information to complete my mother’s family tree. Then he printed all of his collected findings, formatted the family lineage, and placed it all in sections by family name in a three-ring binder.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

To say I am thankful for what he did is an understatement. His gift touched my heart in so many ways. I’m beyond grateful for my cousin, for the ways we have felt connected in our family ties, for the stories he has shared, for the vast amount of time he spent compiling all of the information he acquired.

My cousin gave me a treasure. A treasure I can pass on to my children in hopes they can pass it on to my grandchildren. A treasure of family connection. The past with the present. And into the future.

Just one more thing to be grateful for in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

 “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” ~ Henry Van Dyke

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

Thankful for The Word

 

blogIMG_6942The leather-bound volume is well-used. It was a gift to me from the Papa of this empty nest many years ago to commemorate a wedding anniversary.

Its binding is starting to crack. Its pages are thin and dog-eared in places. The silver edges on the pages which once added to the richness of this book’s appearance are practically non-existent. The words printed on the pages are underscored in different colors of pen. Handwritten notations, some from days past, some from present days, fill the margins.

It is a book which has been used over and over again. It is a book that has been well-loved for its contents. Recently, when noticing this book was starting to fall into some disrepair because some of the bound pages are getting loose, Papa asked me if I didn’t want a new one. A bright shiny, unmarked version of this book with a binding that is intact and not cracked and one with fresh, crisp pages.

And I promptly said no way. I will use this particular volume of this book until I can use it no more. I will read it until my eyes no longer can focus on the words written there. I will continue marking important passages and insights I gain in this book.  Why? Because this book which actually consists of 66 books is my companion. It is special to me because of the notations, the underlined passages, the well-worn pages that I’ve read so often.

This book is my Bible. This book is the Word of God spoken by men, written and transcribed by men, but truly inspired by the very voice of the Almighty God. It is meant to be our guidebook for life. It is meant to encourage us, reprimand us, inform us, give direction and guidance to us, but most of all, to let us know how loved and cherished we are by the triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Every day, not just this month in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I am thankful for this book. I am grateful for the words written there. I am refreshed by it; comforted by it; inspired by it.

And I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

It’s where the passage I claim to be my life verse is found – in the New Testament, the Book of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, Verses 16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  

If you’re not familiar with the Bible, my hope is that you understand you can turn to it when you too are in the middle of difficult situations. Here are just a few passages of Scripture that may help you:  

When you need peace of mind – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

When you are discouraged – “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalms 31:24

When you are troubled – “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.” Psalms 107:13

When you are lonely – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

When you are worried – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

When you are fearful – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” Isaiah 12:2

When you seek forgiveness – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. 

When you need guidance – “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6

When you hold a grudge or resent others – “And when you stand praying if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

When you feel insecure and frustrated – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

When you are weary – “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

When you feel burdened – “Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.” Psalms 55:22

When you need strength – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

When you are confused or upset – “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” Isaiah 32:17

When life feels hard – “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When you need salvation – “Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

“For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace, and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase; for those who are grieving o’er life’s sordid plan; for souls still believing in heaven and man; for homes that are lowly with love at the board; for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord!” ~Walt Mason

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: Thanksgiving table

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On this 21st day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m thankful to be able to prepare not just one table to gather my loved ones around for a feast of good food, but the room to set another table as well.  Fifteen family members will gather to give thanks in our home.

Family. A warm house to gather in. Enough food to satisfy our hunger. And faith in the God who provides it all. 

What more could I be thankful for?

“If I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Host of this universe, Who daily spreads a table in my sight, surely I cannot do less than acknowledge my dependence.”  ~ G.A. Johnston Ross

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Harvest of plenty

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We grew pumpkins for the first time this year.  Granddaughter enjoyed going into the garden with Papa to watch their progress as they grew and slowly changed from green to that familiar orange we associate with harvest time. 

She especially was tickled to see her name emerge on one of the chosen pumpkins. Years ago when our own three were children, dear friends of ours always had a back yard garden. The year they planted pumpkins, they invited us over to their home to show us a “magical” trick.

They helped each one of our children choose their own not nearly ripe pumpkin. Then our friends instructed our kiddos to scratch their names into the green pumpkins with a nail. 

When it came time for harvest, we sifted through the pumpkin vines finding those bright orange orbs ready to be turned into jack-o-lanterns. But the magic had happened! What a surprise!

It was easy for our children to find their own pumpkins again because each one of them found their name very visible and noticeable right on the pumpkin where the previous scratching had formed brown scars.

We showed this “magic” trick to our granddaughter this year. How delighted she was to find her pumpkin with her name boldly engraved on it.

Sometimes the harvest is plentiful in other ways than just physically.  During my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m remembering that and pausing to give thanks.

“A basic law: the more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Tradition

photo of pumpkins

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tradition. To some folks, it just wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving if certain traditions weren’t followed.

And that pertains to the food served on the day we set aside for thanks as well. In addition to the huge Tom Turkey that is the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving feast, many families serve other traditional food too.  Green bean casserole? Tradition. Pumpkin pie? Tradition. Cranberry sauce? Tradition.

When I was growing up, we celebrated Thanksgiving at one of two places – either at my parents’ home or at my aunt and uncle’s.  Tradition.

When we celebrated the holiday at my aunt and uncle’s home, just my parents and I joined them because my older sisters were already married and feasting with their in-laws. 

My mother would help out in my aunt’s kitchen where a table elongated enough to accommodate us all would take up most of the room. Dad and Uncle would sit in the front room and discuss whatever came to mind. Sometimes politics was involved because my uncle had pretty strong opinions about such things. Most likely, rather than argue, my dad would just sit and listen.

That left my cousin, who was seven years older than me, to keep me entertained while we waited for the Thanksgiving meal to be ready. We always sat in the TV room and watched the Thanksgiving Day parades on television.  Another tradition.

When my family celebrated the holiday at my parents’ home, again there were traditions that were followed. One of those was the fruit salad, called 24-Hour Salad, that my mother made and served at the Thanksgiving table. Every year. Without fail. Tradition.

I was the only one in my family who didn’t like that salad because of the vinegary taste of the homemade mayonnaise dressing. So when I began preparing our own Thanksgiving feasts after Papa and I married, 24-Hour Salad was not a tradition.

But eventually, we started our own. In addition to pumpkin pie, I make pumpkin bread. Instead of stuffing the turkey, I prepare stuffing balls that are baked in the oven. And in lieu of 24-Hour Salad, I serve another kind of fruit salad with an unusual name – Frog Eye Salad. I assure you it is tasty and I also assure you that there are no real frog eyes in this fruity salad.

Tradition. Every year.

I acquired the recipe many years ago in the Midwest when I attended a ladies retreat with a friend from church.  In a lovely retreat center, we were treated to delicious homemade meals prepared by Mennonite cooks.  They so graciously shared the recipe with those of us who thought the fruit salad – the Frog Eye Salad – was delightfully yummy.

And that’s how our own family tradition began.  I started preparing this salad for holiday dinners, especially at Thanksgiving and Easter. Our children were eager to always see a big bowl of it on the table and it became a family favorite.

When we gather for a holiday meal, the most frequently asked question when it comes to Thanksgiving Dinner is “Are we going to have Frog-Eye Salad?” We’ve even lured our son-in-law into this food tradition; he’s always happy when there is enough left-over salad so our daughter and he can take a container home.  

I’m not really much of a ‘foodie’ so I don’t even think I’ve ever shared a recipe here at Mama’s Empty Nest, so this is a first. But I’m willing to share this tradition with my readers in case you’re intrigued by the name of this fruit salad.

FROG EYE SALAD

Ingredients:

1 (8oz) package acine de pepe pasta

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 beaten egg

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained (reserve juice)

1 can pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve juice)

¾ cup pineapple juice from drained pineapple

3 small cans mandarin oranges

1 carton Cool Whip

1 cup mini marshmallows

Directions:  Cook acine de pepe pasta 8-10 minutes. Drain well, place in large serving bowl, and allow to cool. Boil sugar, flour, egg and the 3/4 cup reserved pineapple juice in a small saucepan until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool. Pour cooled, cooked pineapple mixture over acine de pepe. Stir to cover pasta with mixture. Cover and let chill overnight in refrigerator. The next morning, add crushed, drained pineapple, drained pineapple tidbits, drained mandarin oranges, mini marshmallows, and Cool Whip. Stir gently to mix completely. Chill again prior to serving.

Traditions. On this 15th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I am grateful for traditions that link us to one another. Traditions that link us to the past. Traditions we can carry into the future.

And I’m joining my family in being thankful for Frog Eye Salad.

“It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. But a thankful heart hath a continual feast.” ~ W.J. Cameron

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: the pathway home

blogIMG_4416 (1)Home. It’s not only where the heart is but it is where many folks physically find themselves on Thanksgiving Day.

A lot is written about home – be it ever so humble, there’s no place like it. In our 40+ years of marriage, Papa and I have called a lot of places home.

Our family of origin homes where we grew up were in two different areas of our home state. His family home was in the city, mine was in the country. Our homes were over 200 miles apart, different in a lot of ways.

As newlyweds, our first home was a one-bedroom furnished apartment nearby an Army post in the southwestern United States. Eventually, we moved onto the post and lived in military housing in a comfortable three-bedroom duplex.

After Papa spent an unaccompanied year-long tour in a foreign land, we reunited and, with our first-born, called home some temporary housing until we were able to move once again into a three-bedroom house on the military post.

But we only lived there for one year. Papa separated from the Army and joined the ranks of sales with a national company. We weren’t sure where our new home would be located until after he went through his training.

Home became the very first house we purchased in the Midwest.  We moved in with one child and moved out with three children into a brand new house in a smaller suburb. But again our home didn’t stay our home for very long and before we knew it, we were whisked off to the Pacific Northwest. A new place to call home.

Twenty years ago, we made the decision to ‘come home’ – move back to our native state. It was a cross country move for us but one we’ve never regretted. It took us quite a bit of time as we searched for our new home here, but eventually we found a 2.25 acre plot of ground in the country to build a new home upon.

So this is home. This is the place we have lived the longest time during our marriage. This is the place our grown up offspring call ‘home’ even though they spent many of their growing up years in other states. They all have their own homes now, but I think they are like me – they still call their parents’ house home.

And home is where we all will be this Thanksgiving. This house that holds a ton of memories on this ground about three and a half miles away from the homestead where my parents lived and I grew up.

On this 14th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, my heart is full of gratefulness for home. Not just for this house, but for this place, this area of this state where my heart has always been. And I give thanks that our family will gather around the table once again here at home.

Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home.” ~ Wilbur D. Nesbit

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanks seems inadequate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Sound of silence

blogIMG_4396 (2)The sound of silence.

The folk rock duo Simon and Garfunkel released a song of the same name in the early 1960’s. The words to the seemingly haunting music are still embedded in my brain like the vision Paul Simon wrote about in the lyrics:

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.  ~ Lyrics by Paul Simon

All those years ago when I was a young girl and even into young adulthood (before children), the sound of silence bothered me. I didn’t like it.

If it was completely quiet, I needed to have noise. Music from the radio or the stereo floating through the air in melodic harmony or sometimes crashing loudly in the form of rock songs filled the silent surroundings.

Or turning the television on just for some background noise did the trick. It didn’t matter what made noise, just so there was some.  I just seemed to need some sound to break the eeriness of complete silence.  That need probably stemmed from a little fear that niggled in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to be totally alone.

When I found myself in a solitary mode, I filled silence with conversations either on the phone or in person with a friend, neighbor, or family. Anything to eliminate silence.

But then along came children – one, two, three – and our home was saturated with noise. Crying, sibling squabbles, boisterous play, and a houseful of neighborhood children adding to the mix eliminated silence.

Our kids’ teenage years brought even more noise – loud music and video games ruled the air. Chatty teenagers lounged in our family room, wrestled with one another, played round after round of Dance, Dance Revolution. Our house was one noisy place!

By the time the empty nest loomed in my future, I was more than willing to accept the sound of silence. But oh, that empty nest was sooooooo quiet. As the lack of noise became reality, I found myself wandering through an empty house in complete silence. For a while, it unnerved me. It saddened me. It made me feel as if that old loneliness called  solitude enveloped me once more.

But I adjusted. I learned to accept the new version of my life. One with the sound of silence. I found I enjoyed time alone. Quiet time to think. Tranquil time to read unhindered. Peaceful time to pursue aspects of life that fulfilled me, like writing in this blog, reading my Bible, capturing photographs.

And in my serenity, I also found that the sound of silence provided me with something that had been missing in a major way in my life. Time to be quiet and listen for the Lord’s voice, His direction, His guidance, His inspiration.  Time to be alone without the noisy interference of the world and to relish the sound of silence.

On this eighth day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m thankful for the sound of silence and for finally learning to accept it with an open heart, mind, and ears to listen.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com