Words for Wednesday: grateful Thanksgiving

It’s true that there seems to be so much darkness in our world during these November days leading up to our American holiday of Thanksgiving, and I don’t just mean because the days are getting shorter and night falls earlier each day.

The pandemic continues, cases are rising, restrictions being put back into place. Election results are a mess. Vitriol and anger are still spewing forth on social media about both issues.

Tragedies and dire diagnoses of illness touch the lives of those we know and love. Our view of the near future looks uncertain, bleak, and unsettling to say the least.

It’s enough to make one throw up hands in despair and surrender and say, “Enough!! I’ve had enough!” A title from an early 1960’s musical, which I believe was eventually turned into a movie as well, comes to my mind – “Stop the world, I want to get off!”

We can’t stop the world though. We can’t put a halt to the difficulties that surround us. We don’t have that power.

But we also can’t give up. We can’t succumb to fear or despair or calamity or any other negative aspect of life. Why? Because there is always hope.

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ hope whispers, ‘Try one more time.’ ” ~ author unknown

And hope for me comes from my faith in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because the Triune God I believe in has the power to give me strength to endure, help to persevere, and wisdom to see blessings instead of curses.

I just must grasp my faith with all of my might, hold on, and remember to be light in the darkness.

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” ~ Helen Keller

For me, the way to strengthen my faith is to humble myself in gratitude.

Am I disappointed that my entire family cannot gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing on our Thanksgiving feast at our dining room table? Of course.

But I’m thankful that my family is well. I’m thankful they all have provisions – good health, jobs, homes, enough food to keep their bodies nourished.

I’m grateful that our family is close-knit and even if we don’t agree on issues and sometimes drive each other a little crazy, we don’t suffer from unresolved conflicts and intense arguments.

Yes, my heart is thankful for each one of my family, my blessings to count – my understanding husband; my three thoughtful and loving adult children; my son-in-law and daughter-in-law, who add even more love into our family; my three adorable grandchildren who give me so much joy; my sisters, brothers-in-law, and their families.

Blessings? They are bountiful when we choose to remember them, to count them. And that abundance of life’s blessings is what I must focus upon as Thanksgiving Day arrives tomorrow.

Focus on the light instead of the darkness.

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” ~ Amy Collette, author

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2020

Words for Wednesday: sorry, not sorry

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Social distancing in more ways than one

Believe it or not, I haven’t had much spare time to write posts for this blog.

Yes, we are sheltering in place at home, social and physical distancing, flattening the curve, etc., doing our part to help contain the virus that has most of the world in its grip.

And you would think by being at home and having nothing on the calendar except cancelled appointments, I would have ample opportunities to sit down at my desktop computer and compose. String words together to make sentences galore. Fill up the screen with my thoughts in written word.

Huh. Not happening. Why?

Because a five-year-old now lives with us for the duration of this crisis. And five-year-olds don’t allow for much peace, quiet, and alone time. Five year-olds go non-stop from the time they awaken in the morning (“Papa, Nana, it’s morning time, get up!”) to when they finally fall asleep at night (while you read countless stories over and over again).

On warmer, nicer days (and we haven’t had many so far this spring), we play outside and go for walks. But our indoor activities are chock full of made-up games of pretend, daily challenges (and she makes up the challenges!), doing workbook pages of letters, numbers, dot-to-dot, and kindergarten lessons (even though she won’t attend kindergarten until fall), coloring, painting, play-dough creating, Lego building, and games, games, games.

Our granddaughter LOVES games. And since we have played games she has here (Trouble, Sorry, Guess Who, Daniel Tiger Bingo, and Frozen Match Game) so many times, we resorted to our cache of games from our kids’ childhoods that were stored away in the basement. So Little One now has learned how to play Uno, Jenga, a card game called Waterworks, and even Battleship. And she’s caught on quickly.

She’s truly proved it might be genetic because we are a family that plays games every time we are all together. And you know what? Even though I’m tired (and so is Papa) from our 24/7 child care duty during this time, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that we are enjoying time with our granddaughter when so many grandparents can’t visit with theirs in person. I’m grateful that we can see and converse with all of our family, including our other two younger grandchildren, on a group FaceTime like we did just the other evening.

We had the best time talking, laughing, and just generally being silly with our entire immediate family all on our cell phones. And it warmed this Nana and Papa’s hearts to hear our three-year-old grandchild yell into the cell phone, “I want to see Nana and Papa!!”

Is it easy staying home? Not too difficult for us retired folks, but it does have challenges. Is it hard to be physically separated from our loved ones and friends? Yes, it is.  But we have phones and other ways to communicate. And I’m grateful for that.

Last month, I had planned to once again lead a ladies Bible study in my home. Well, obviously, that didn’t happen. So this week, I’m especially thankful for our computer guru son-in-law who gave instructions for this non-technical person on how to video conference online with my group and get our sessions started in the next few days.

I do feel sorry that we all have to endure this difficult time. I’m sorry that hardships have come our way. But I’m also not sorry because as we stay home, we must find reasons to feel gratitude. To express thankfulness. And we will.

I will leave you with words recently written by American retired teacher and chaplain Kitty O’Meara, that’s been making the rounds on the web. You may have already seen it, but I urge you to read it once more because you can find reasons that make this all worthwhile.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

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

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

On this thankful Tuesday

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

It’s Tuesday and it’s Holy Week for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. And because of the situation stretching all across the globe, we are struggling.

We struggle with knowing what news reports to believe when there seem to be so many conflicting stories on the airwaves and internet.

We struggle with emotions as we hear how many thousands of souls have perished and how many thousands are sick with this vile virus.

We struggle with moments of fear and maybe even panic wondering if/when the pandemic will hit our hometown and worse, our families and friends.

We struggle with self-isolating, physical distancing, being still, and decisions whether to wear masks or not.

We struggle with loneliness caused by orders to stay home, self-isolate, shelter in place, flatten the curve.

We struggle with selfishness and hoarding.

We struggle with job losses for some and worry over the health of those essential workers who must continue to work.

We struggle because instead of enjoying fellowship in our houses of worship with other believers, we sit in front of our computers alone listening to our pastors’ messages online.

In the last couple of weeks, we all have struggled and it looks like we will continue for some time before this crisis is over.

Personally, I’ve tried to stay positive while staying home. I try to encourage others through this blog, on social media, through text messages, FaceTime, and phone calls. But I too have struggled.

I’ve fought surrendering to a waterfall of tears as I witnessed our nurse daughter succumb to sadness and – to be perfectly honest – a bit of fear when forced by these circumstances to place her 5-year-old child with us, the grandparents, for the duration of this crisis.

blogseparationBecause her hospital has COVID-19 patients, our daughter chose to protect her child and us, her parents well over 60, because we are caregivers for our granddaughter while Daughter works. 

Our daughter is concerned that she might expose us and in order to protect us, she separated indefinitely from her child. Not something any loving mother ever envisions having to do willingly.

Watching my daughter shed tears as she held tightly to her child when she left for work that day was heart-wrenching. Little One knows there are “bad germs” out there making people very sick and her mommy must do her part to help care for them.

Daughter, a nurse for over 10 years now, has never been afraid to work in a hospital setting until now. But she believes she is called by God to do her job. To help those who need it most. To ease people’s suffering and give comfort and care.

I struggle watching her selflessness amidst a world with so many who are selfish. I don’t think I could be as self-sacrificing as my daughter is and I even struggle with that fact.

We all struggle throughout this time yet that is what life entails in the fallen world in which we live.

Struggle. And it is real. And it’s gut-wrenching. And it breaks our hearts.

Yet…it is Tuesday. It is Holy Week. And as I prepare my heart and mind to celebrate Resurrection Sunday this weekend, I also remember my Savior praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

God with us in human form, He too struggled with willingly suffering and dying on the cross in my place as the perfect atonement for sins.  (You can read this account in a copy of the Bible or even online in Matthew 26:36-42 and Mark 14:32-36.)

Jesus knows exactly how we struggle. He experienced it himself.  Luke 22:44 tells me that as Jesus prayed in that garden, knowing what He would face in the days to come,  “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

So I run to Him, my Savior who understands all my emotions and anguish, and I place all of my struggles, worries, and cares in His capable hands. In doing so, I will not struggle to find aspects of life for which to be thankful. There is much for which to be grateful even now. 

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to all the amazing healthcare workers sacrificing their own health and safety for those who need them most. I am thankful for each one of them.

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to the gifted and motivated medical researchers working so diligently for treatments and vaccines. I am grateful for them.

My thankfulness extends as well to all the essential workers who place their own safety on the line for the sake of others, for us.  Those grocery store, pharmacy, and banking workers, the truck drivers who haul supplies from one end of the country to another, to the countless and often forgotten cleaning people at hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.

You are all heroes in my eyes and I pray that God keeps you safe and well. I am thankful for each and every one of you.

I am thankful that even though my daughter and my grandchild are physically separated during this time, they can see and talk to one another through technology –  FaceTime.

I’m also thankful for something as simple as the glass in our front storm door. Daughter can come to our house, sit outside on our front porch on one side of the physical barrier while our granddaughter is on the inside of the door. They smile at one another, they talk, they even play made-up pretend games, and they laugh.

It makes all of our hearts glad and thankful.

It is Thankful Tuesday of Holy Week and I will not struggle to express gratitude this week nor in the weeks beyond.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” ~ Epictetus

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

On a thankful Tuesday

blogIMG_1453What if?

What if instead of complaining about one more day of social distancing, self-isolation, or being quarantined, we found something to be grateful for…just for the day.

Each day.

I bet our attitudes would improve. I bet we would face the day looking for and finding that some thing, that one thing, on that one day which causes us to feel thankful.

I’ll start. Today.

I’ll call it Thankful Tuesday. I know, that’s not a very original title but spending each day and night with our five-year-old granddaughter during this time, I’m stuck on simple.

Besides, simplicity is often the best choice.

So today, even though I personally have been keeping my distance from others by staying at home with Papa and our grandchild, taking secluded walks in an outside area where few people go (there are definite advantages to living in the country), or taking a short drive and not getting out of the car, I am thankful.

I am thankful that we recently received a gloriously sunny and warm day to enjoy outside of the house  in the fresh air. And I’m grateful that our forsythia (that perky yellow-flowered bush which, when I was a child, I believed were just for me – ‘for cynthias’) was filled with blossoms.

Little One and I snipped some of those happy spring blooms off and arranged them in a vase for our kitchen counter.

Such a small thing. A simple thing. But something for which to be thankful on this Tuesday. And each time I look at these, my heart is full of gratitude even during these difficult times.

“Begin each day with a grateful heart.” ~ unknown

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

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