Thumbs up for the ride

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It’s been 42 years today. Over four decades now since two young whippersnappers, who thought they knew it all, stood at the altar of a country church and said those words of promise, “I do.”

Those whippersnappers are now retired folks (well, Papa is semi-retired) living in an empty nest home which once rang with the noise and laughter from three children, now grown and living their own lives and probably thinking they know it all just like their parents once did.

The whippersnappers from all those years ago learned a lot through life’s lessons in the last 40+ years. And no, we certainly did not know it all especially when it comes to the hard work of marriage. Because it IS hard.

It’s hard to deal with the day-to-day aspects of wedded life that gets your shorts in a knot. When he can’t seem to remember not to throw his dirty t-shirts yanked inside out into the clothes hamper or she always leaves the pantry door open. When she gets impatient and cranky over computer/technology glitches and he gets grouchy and rants about politics.

It’s hard to realize you will have disagreements. That you won’t see eye-to-eye on everything.  When you’re newlyweds, it’s difficult to imagine that you will sometimes think, “I don’t really like you right now” in the middle of an argument. 

It’s hard to suffer disappointments in one another because after all, we are human and we will disappoint even our beloved spouse from time to time.

It’s hard to endure changes and setbacks and finances and relocations around the country.

It’s hard to put your heads together and plow through job losses and deaths of parents and heart-wrenching difficulties that threaten your children’s happiness.

Marriage is just plain hard sometimes. Marriage is not a fairy tale or a Hollywood movie. Marriage is real life which sometimes gets awfully messy. But hanging in there, working together through life’s complications as they come, encouraging one another, and bringing out the best in one another while not dwelling on the worst is worth every effort.

Take it from a 42-year veteran.  Papa and I both give a hearty thumbs up for marriage today on our wedding anniversary.  It’s been a worthwhile ride and we look forward to more to come.

“The great secret of successful marriage is to treat all disasters as incidents and none of the incidents as disasters.” ~ Harold George Nicolson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

WordFULL Wednesday: Then and Now

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“I want to feel your hand in mine as we walk through life. Together.” ~ Unknown

 

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“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

 

In celebration this month of October for 41 years of marriage, the words in these quotes hold true for the Papa and Mama of this empty nest. 

May it always be so.

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A 40-year-old blessing

blogScan_20171022It was a typical Sunday morning when we walked into church. Greeting folks along the way, we made our way up the center aisle to an open spot in a pew – left side, where we usually sit.

From the pulpit, our pastor bid us good morning and began announcements. Still settling in a bit with our Little One (granddaughter), my attention peaked when Pastor welcomed a visitor, someone well known to our congregation, and his wife.

Immediately, I turned around in my seat and eagerly scanned those sitting behind me to find this person. Not just a visitor, but a former pastor of this country church. This place so steeped in my heritage, not only where I grew up worshiping God, but where both my parents grew up, and where both sets of my grandparents also called their church home.

And then I spied him. Oh, he looked a bit different…older as he’s getting up in years. But then, I certainly look different…and older…too. 

He had become a widower a couple of years back, so the lovely white-haired lady at his side was his second wife, someone I’d never seen before.  I couldn’t wait for fellowship time to greet this man and welcome him back to our church even though it was just for Sunday morning worship.

See, this pastor, this man of God, has always been someone special to me. He came to our church in my late teenage/early adulthood years. To me, he was the no-nonsense, straight from the Bible kind of preacher from whom I learn most. 

And in the month of October some 40 years ago, this pastor performed the marriage ceremony for Papa and me as you can see in my photo above.

Prior to our wedding day, the two of us sat in Pastor’s office as he questioned us about our beliefs, goals, and roles in marriage. And he gave us godly advice on how to begin our lives together and keep our marriage intact.

As soon as we said “I do,” Papa whisked me off to another area of the country where he served in the military.  We didn’t get back home as often as we liked, but when we did, we managed to attend church services and listen to Pastor’s messages.

He always welcomed us back with smiles and hearty greetings. One summer when we visited my parents, I remember Pastor and his gracious wife invited us and my parents to their home for dinner. 

While there, our oldest child, who was just about the age our oldest granddaughter is now, sang a Vacation Bible School song she had just learned. Pastor and his wife enthusiastically cheered her on and clapped when she was finished and she loved the attention they gave her. 

A few years later, this pastor was called to minister in another area of the country, but we still managed to keep in touch. My parents and their friends traveled to visit Pastor and wife in their new home and I recall seeing my Dad’s photos from that trip and hearing my Mom share about their lovely visit.

We even experienced a wonderful surprise ourselves from Pastor and his wife after that when they  stopped to visit us and our three children in our Midwest home.  

Through all of these many years between our wedding in 1977 and now, I have faithfully sent Christmas cards with a letter to Pastor and his wife and always received one in return. Even after his spouse passed away, I continued to send cards figuring he would enjoy receiving them.

Apparently, he did. Because this past Sunday when I shook his hand and reminded him who I was, he smiled and said “Ah, yes.”

I told him that Papa and I had just celebrated our wedding anniversary and that he had performed the ceremony 40 years ago this month right there in that church to which he replied, “I remember.” 

And then he added, “Keep those Christmas cards coming.”

Sometimes the simplest things touch us the most. And they are blessings.

Just like the blessing of seeing my former pastor again in that place, which is once again my church home,  in this particular month – Papa’s and my 40th wedding anniversary month.

“Remember all the people in your life who helped guide you on your road to success. Thank them sincerely and often.” ~ Robert Cheeke

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

An a-maze-ing weekend

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The corn maze

Forty years together in the dance of life. That’s what Papa and I recently celebrated when we marked our wedding anniversary at the beginning of this autumn-filled month.

My favorite season is fall, when deciduous trees boast of their brilliant jackets of red, gold, and orange leaves, and I was pleased that the timing was right for an autumn wedding all those years ago.

This past weekend, our grown children, their spouses, and our two sweet grandgirls were all here in Mama’s Empty Nest to help us mark the occasion of Papa’s and my anniversary.  Our home was bursting with noise, laughter, hugging, storytelling, playing with the little ones, and even cuddling with Barley, our son and daughter-in-law’s dog.

Papa cooked a big breakfast for everyone Saturday morning and then we all jaunted off to a nearby farm where there was a pumpkin patch festival.  For the littlest one, at 10 months, this was her first time in the pumpkin patch and for our 2 ½ year old, it was most exciting.

The afternoon proved to be one of those glorious sunny fall days, a trifle warm but still comfortable. After visiting the farm animals and climbing on the huge hay bale pile, we all climbed aboard a large wagon pulled by a farm tractor for a hay ride out to the pumpkin patch.

Yesterday, I posted a photo of the lovely countryside where we were. All around us were farmland, rolling hills, and trees beginning to burst forth in their autumn colors. We picked our pumpkins and posed for tons of photos to satisfy both this Mama and all of our kids’ social media platforms.

Before taking a return hay ride back to the farm, some of us headed to the corn maze – a labyrinth path cut into the cornfield.  While riding back on the hay wagon,  I sat on that somewhat uncomfortable bale of straw and just gazed at my loved ones.

All of them. In one place. With me.

Once again, I was amazed at how blessed I truly am to have such a loving family. What did I do to deserve such happiness? Nothing. I don’t really deserve it. Each one of my family members is a gift from God to me. And I continue to be thankful for my bountiful blessings.

We spent the entire afternoon at the pumpkin festival watching Little One get a happy pumpkin face painted on her cheek, playing games, cavorting in the corn pit (a large area with dried, shelled corn to play in), climbing up stacks of hay bales with her much loved uncles and over and over again slipping down the sliding ‘boards’ fashioned there.

We cheered for those of us who attempted corn shooting – a air-compression chute that shot ears of corn at bales of hay targets in the distance -and again when even Little One was brave enough to try.

We laughed at the pumpkin launching, via slingshot style devices, when the pumpkins landed in the pond rather than over the pond to hit the targets. All the while Littlest One watched and smiled and laughed, not wanting to miss anything by taking a nap.

Afterwards, we returned home and Papa and I received a thoughtful anniversary card and gift from our grown children that made me cry.

But just like those infomercials on TV, that’s not all!

We conversed over a good food with a delicious family dinner at a nearby restaurant and our youngest, our son, surprised us with some serious questions about Papa’s and my 40 years together. Inquiries like how did we know we were the ones for each other, what was our happiest moment in our marriage, and what was the hardest.

Much laughter and even some tears ensued as we answered the questions thoughtfully. I wholeheartedly agreed with Papa’s answer to “what advice can you give for us about how to make our marriage last?” 

Papa immediately replied, “Just always remember there are three of you in your marriage – God and the two of you.” I nodded and added, “And always put God first.”

For the rest of the evening, we gathered again at home and just enjoyed each other’s company.  We heard about oldest daughter and son-in-law’s recent trip to Peru and viewed some of their photos before heading to bed.

Sunday morning found us all together to worship our Lord in the same little country church where Papa and I committed ourselves to each other those 40 years ago one lovely autumn day.  All too soon, it was time for some to leave, to say our farewells once more until the next time, to send them off to their lives elsewhere with well wishes and prayers for safe travels.

And even midst the tears that I choked back while saying goodbye to them, I felt a blanket of happiness encircling me with the warmth of gratefulness and love as I recalled the maze of life I’ve traveled to get to this point.

It truly has been a-maze-ing.

“Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life, impels us through all its mazes and meanderings, but leads none of us by the same route.”  ~ Charles Caleb Colton

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Continuing the journey

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In a couple of days, the calendar page will turn over a new leaf and it will be October.

Autumn will be firmly ensconced as the current season and I will celebrate my favorite time of year.

But there’s yet another reason to celebrate the upcoming month. In a few days, Papa and I will mark the occasion and look back over 40 years (!) together as a married couple.

I wrote the following blog post six years ago and decided to post it again with a few changes and updates.

Take a walk with me.

Forty years ago, a young man, so nervous buckets of perspiration dripped off him, grasped the hand of a young woman, equally just as anxious because her stomach was doing somersaults, and the two of them took a walk down a church aisle.

Thus began their journey into married life, a commitment they made to one another that day four decades ago.  They’ve chosen to honor and stay faithful to that commitment through the years past and for the years to come.

Their journey together hasn’t been smooth sailing.  They’ve encountered hills to climb, valleys to stumble through, rivers to cross, even chasms to bridge.  Life is never perfect and that certainly includes married life.

Those two commenced a life with white lace and promises and then ventured west into the sunset to live happily ever after.  They made their way alone without family nearby. Then a few years later, they faced an overwhelming challenge of being apart for an entire year while the young man served his country in a foreign land during which time their first child was born.

Their trek together has taken them to different areas of the country with twists and turns here and there.  Along the way, they’ve made adjustments, had their fair share of quarrels and disagreements, experienced disappointments, uncertainty, and even fear together.  

But their love for one another endured on the journey producing great joy and building up of faith in the God they serve.

“More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.” ~ Doug Larson

They’ve been blessed with three amazing children and continue to cherish the privilege of being parents.  They’ve watched those three grow, mature and, in the blink of an eye, become adults.  And then from a different perspective, they watched their children, in adult bodies with mature minds and spirits, find mates of their own. 

This man and his wife found themselves amazed and a little dumbfounded that they arrived at this season in life so soon.  They watched with heartache as their own parents grew elderly, succumbed to illnesses and aging, and passed from this life.  

And now, with a tinge of bittersweet, they realize they have become the older generation.  However, there is still much love and joy to anticipate as their family has expanded to include two beautiful grandchildren.

The joy after all is in the journey.  And so they clasp hands once more, grateful for 40 years past and hopeful for more to come.

That couple is my husband, one who stands by my side and yet always has my back;  picks me up when I’m down;  takes care of me in sickness and in health; and loves me no matter what, and me, who tries to do the same for him.  

We are not extraordinary people, but when I tell younger folks we’re celebrating 40 years of marriage, they seem startled and even shocked that a couple could stay together so long.

And that’s what saddens me. In this throw-away society we’ve become, marriages are tossed aside like last week’s dried up hamburger and stale fries.

Commitment and vows are forgotten because (pick one): I no longer love you; you’re not the right person for me; you’re not really my soul mate after all; I’ve found someone better than you; you don’t make me happy; I’m tired of taking care of you; marriage isn’t what I expected; you make me angry; you disappoint me; and on and on. And much of the time, it’s all about a person’s selfishness and self-centeredness.

It seems to me that fewer people are willing and have the desire to work at making a long-lasting marriage anymore. And believe me, work it is. Nothing worth having is easy to attain. It takes dedication, hard work, forgiveness, and selflessness.

We know. Papa and I have been working at it for 40 years.

And God willing, we will continue the journey for many years to come.

“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.” ~ Robert Anderson

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

To love and endure

My parents wedding photo

My parents’ wedding photo

I come from a long line of folks who know how to endure. No matter what came their way, they stood the course.  Whether it was a time of war or a time of peace.  Whether it was a time of depression or a time of prosperity.  A time of joy or a time of sadness.

They said vows that they meant, vows of commitment.  Vows that promised to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part.

Honoring those vows and staying committed to the one you have pledged them to is the definition of endurance, which happens to be the weekly photo challenge theme.  My grandparents and my husband’s grandparents knew how to endure.  So did both sets of our parents.

Today would have been my parents’ 73rd wedding anniversary.  They married in their early 20’s right on the brink of World War II.  They had their times of hardship and times of plenty.  They experienced times of sickness and health.  They knew what it meant to work together to keep a marriage strong for better and for worse. 

And in the 57th year of their marriage, they faced the unto death do us part challenge when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  And through it all, they provided a worthy example of what it means to love and to cherish, to honor and consider someone else more important than yourself.

My parents endured.  They didn’t throw their relationship out when it wasn’t perfect. They honored their commitment and each other.  And they taught me well.  Next week, my husband and I will celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Year 37.  We have a ways to go before we reach the milestones our parents reached or our grandparents, some of whom were married for over 60 years before death claimed one of them.

But we will stay the course.  We will endure until death do us part.  We will continue to have and to hold for better or for worse. I can only hope and pray that our children embrace the same course of endurance in their marriages.   Because love, real love, is enduring.

“Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love still stands when all else has fallen.” ~ Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com