Category: family


Welcoming Cindy Metz from Mama’s Empty Nest 

Throughout all seasons of life, one aspect remains vital. Friendship. We women value it highly. Friendship, or the lack of it, profoundly affects every part of us – emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

“Whether you are blessed with soul mates who settle into the most comfortable room inside you, or with those who walk with you just a little while, not one of these people crosses your path by chance. Each is a messenger, sent by God, to give you the wisdom, companionship, comfort, or challenge you need for a particular leg of your spiritual journey.” ~ Traci Mullins

Traveling through my sixth decade of living, I’ve paused often, as the years racked up on the measuring stick of life, to reflect on friendship and the impact it’s made in my own journey.

For each time of life, the Lord graciously provided friends who crossed my path for a reason, sometimes only for a season. Looking back, I can see clearly that God always knew exactly who I needed to be my friend just when I craved companionship most.

From childhood to college years. From career years to marriage and stay-at-home mother years. During moves from one area of the country to another. From one church family to the next. From ministry years to empty nest years. Even now I’m blessed with online blogging friendships.

For each season. A friend. For each reason. A friend. Some of those women became my lifetime friends; some only were friends for a while as time, distance, or circumstances parted us.

So another season has begun – retirement years – and I wonder what friendship will look like in this new stage of life. However, one question surfaces as I reminisce about relationships in the past and consider the future:

What kind of friend have I been to those who touched my life?

Have I truly been a good friend? Did I embrace being one who crosses another’s path for a reason, even if only for a season, to fulfill someone’s yearning for friendship? Did I touch those lives, who so blessedly impacted mine, in a providential manner?

Or have I just been a consumer friend? One who is satisfied to take what I need off the friendship shelf and use it? Or just move down the aisle to a more gratifying offer? Am I a bargain shopper in the world of friendship – looking for the best deal?

 

I hope not. Instead, may my offer of friendship resemble an open air marketplace. Freely and readily available to others. Offering the good fruit of encouragement and support, kind words and deeds, cheering congratulations from the sidelines when victories are won. Willingly supplying hearty meat to sustain a relationship, reaching out to those who struggle with one aspect of life or another, offering assistance, a welcoming hug, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear and heart.

Because that constitutes a good friend. And in any season of life, possessing a true friend is like feasting on the most decadent dessert at the market. Rich. Fulfilling. Sweet.

That’s my heart’s desire and my prayer. To be a friend for all seasons to any woman – young or mature – when the Lord causes our paths to intersect. A friend to those who need an encourager, a nurturer, a listener, a word of wisdom, and a word of prayer.

A good friend. One who is caring yet discerning, empathetic yet truthful, loyal yet accountable. Because that’s what my friends have been for me.

And I love dessert.

“May we not become so busy, harried, and overcommitted that we neglect that part of our soul that is fed and sustained by friendship.” ~ Marilyn Meberg
©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Cindy Metz is content to enjoy rural life with her husband of almost 40 years and an assortment of wildlife critters who frequent their two acres of country bliss. Even though her nest is empty, it still resonates with joy and laughter when all her chicks come home to roost for a bit. A former English teacher, reporter/editor, crisis pregnancy center education director, and stay-at-home mom, Cindy can be found occasionally substitute teaching at a Christian academy. She spends time writing words that seem to pour out of her soul on her blog, Mama’s Empty Nest, dabbling a little in photography, and loving her new role as Nana to her sweet grand babies. Saved by grace, Cindy’s faith sustains her as she meanders through the next stage of life – retirement. Her life verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Connect with Cindy on social media at www.mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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faith family

Aunt Frances, who I’ve seen maybe 10 times in my whole life says, “Hi Deb”, in that familiar way to me. No one calls me Deb. It’s never been my nickname but when she says it, I feel an immediate warmth.

Patt does the same in an email and while we’ve lived in different states for 30 years that familiarity in her words makes the time dissolve.

But don’t push it, new guy.

I won’t take it from just anyone. Coming from some people’s mouths it sounds fake, more like a sales person pretending we’re pals.

When I was a kid, friendships seemed to make themselves. You played with others who were nice to you, who liked the same games and weren’t much better at them or smarter than you. You liked people who were….like you. Mostly.

You didn’t go looking for friends like you, but for most of us, it’s a natural gravitation. Birds of a feather and all that.

It was easy in early childhood because kids are honest and honesty didn’t hurt back then. Everything seemed to be easily explained away or you just learned to stay away from the mean kids.

Things got trickier in adolescence as groups became more defined. Again, friendships developed by common interests. The band kids hung out with other band kids. Usually.

That’s when it got hard for me. That’s when we started moving every six months. A new state, a new school with new words and rules and groups. The same, but a Texas accent or Marylands urban lifestyle or Utah’s snow for four months and learning what LDS meant.

When the moving became a pattern I stopped trying to make friends. It never came easy anyway. What was the point when we were going to move again.

I get a little envious when I hear people talk about having friends since kindergarten or high school. Maybe that’s why my brother and I are so close or my cousin who’s 5 years my junior. There’s not a time when they haven’t been part of my memory. We share something that no one else is part of.

Visiting friends in London
With friends on the Spanish Steps in Rome

When we entered full time ministry it meant we’d be moving again. But during that time the internet came along and friends that I’ve made haven’t been lost to distance.

Keeping up with others through Facebook, however, isn’t a substitute for being in the same space that warms with their presence. Social media is better than the days of long distance phone calls and waiting for a letter to arrive in the post. Maybe not better, just more immediate and that often seems better.

For me, friendship is best lived face to face, as you are with those who get you. They get my opinionated remarks, my taste in music, my casual style, my love of sweet tea and funny stories and deep talks.

It is often this small group of friends who help me through life. All of them from a distance, but we’re constantly creating space for grace.

Maybe the words of that James Taylor song we grew up with are right:

“You just call out my name
and you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall,
all you have to do is call and I’ll be there…..
you’ve got a friend.”

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family grace

I wanted to walk the streets of Seattle photographing everything. The homeless laying on the sidewalks, the way they dress here the Starbucks on every block, the totem pole in Pike Place, the rainbow colored crosswalk, the Space Needle. Instead, I shoot some things from inside a moving vehicle because these sights are ordinary to my family and I’m trying so hard not to be ‘that’ person (again).

Walking the streets of the small town of Snohomish I remind myself life is more than snapshots. I try to convince myself you can’t be in the moment from behind the lens.

But…these are my memories. Photographs of family are among my most cherished possessions. I think about how mama’s memory was stolen from her so these photographs will be important as age cast long shadows over my memories.

It seems I can’t have both and neither one do I want to let go. I want the snapshots I’ll later put in another photo book. Yet I don’t want to think about photos at all. I want to just be there, soaking in the moment.

There was a time the choice was made for us. Telephones were held down by cables and wires and didn’t leave the roof of our homes. Cameras required film and you couldn’t delete before printing. There was a financial cost to be paid if you were to snap freely as we do today, or to call out of your area code.

I wonder if the cost we pay today is with ourselves?

The acronym is FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. I think I have it. In my efforts not to miss a moment am I missing investing in those around me?

So I leave the big camera in the car, the phone in my purse and I join those around me. I make eye contact with the waiter, use his name when saying thank you.

When we visit our daughter’s house I notice the way the granddaughter sits cuddled up to her daddy on the sofa. I try to remember the names of our daughter’s co-workers, the ones I’ve never met. I remind myself being present is about others and not me. We take turns as if we’re on a child’s see-saw; I’m present for you and you’re here for me. Up and down it goes with the occasional bumps and stalls because we’ve chosen to take this ride together.

There will be time for photos. But every picture needs a story and every good story paints a picture.

family photography

When my brother and I were kids, May 1st was when we were allowed to go barefoot. I don’t know what it was that my brother liked about going barefoot through the cool, damp grass but he would peck at dad with his questioning of ‘when?’ like a hen pecks at the dirt.  Daddy’s answer was always the same: May 1st. I think if we’d had a freak snow storm on May 1st he still would have said it and my little brother would have kicked off his shoes to run barefoot through the snow.

May was my birthday closely followed by Mother’s Day, closing out with granny’s birthday. Later my sister would join the May celebrations with her birthday being in the middle.
Last year, we added an ending to May as our mama was delivered from her earthly body and, we believe, restored whole in her eternal home with Jesus. It was sad and relieving all at once.
This was the first year we haven’t given her a Mother’s Day card. It was pointless the last 5 years or so as she couldn’t put together who we were or how we were connected. But I’d find a card and sign it “your daughter” and send it on its way. Another memory for to hold.

1982

home fades

My trips to fly across country have been to see mama. My sister lived next door with her three kids and there are bunches of cousins and their families who I’ve never lived around and can’t keep track of whose kids are whose half the time.
This year I’m flying out to see Lisa. The sister who’s more than a dozen years younger than me. The one who stands out with her big blue eyes next to my brown ones. The one who’s never lived in Florida and I’ve never lived in Washington but somehow we formed this bond and are more alike than we could have believed.
I didn’t realize the dates I was looking at would have me away mother’s day but our kids can call me anywhere. It seems right to be with her this year. It seems right to be there where we were a year ago, the whole lot of us gathered around a hole dug deep through the green sod as we held hands saying a last goodbye.
*****
I’ve come and gone and parts were harder than I expected. I go numb when I’m at her house. Not numb exactly but a large part of me is closed off. It’s not my house, routine, food or weather. It’s all different. Not bad but foreign and I’m the visitor. I try shutting off from the differences. How can we think so much alike and be so different?
I questioned if I was being present. Was I allowing myself to be there, to listen and be part of family. I feel the distance between her kids and me and the cousins I’ve rarely seen. It’s hard to be present in the distance. I did my best and it seemed right. It’s like being a dinner guest when only one person speaks your language. You don’t understand much of what’s going on but you’re glad to be there for this moment. Each time you’re there you pick up a few more words. These visits won’t be many but that’s okay too. We’re living our lives where we are. Each of us trying to follow a calling of service to others, hoping to create space for grace.
 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!
Ephesians 2:8 Message

faith family grace

Seems people with curly hair want straight and those with hair as straight as sticks want curly. Brown-eyed kids want blue and maybe the ones with blue eyes are happy as they are.

Maybe it’s human nature to want what we don’t have. Maybe envy is inherent in our humanness. It’s not a virtue and while I’d never admit to having the kind of envy the bible warns against, I come close when it comes to family.

I’m content with my brown eyes. I’m well-adjusted with my 5’4″ stature and while I’d like to have more eyelashes like my cousin does (how does she get them to separate so!) what I really envy are those who live in the same community as their family.

For too many years, seeing my parents and extended family was a visit. The meaning of that words implies its temporary nature. We can feel more familiar in a parents house even though we’ve never lived in it. I recognized that years ago. But I also knew my time with them couldn’t be more than a few days a year.

family meet up in North Carolina, 1991

Hudson Thanksgiving 2015

Today our family remains spread out across three time zones. Our children are in two different states and my siblings in two more. My heart would have us close enough that visits didn’t seem like, well, a visit. I long for a time when our house is the pass through, the go to and the foundation.

I want the same for you. For those who’ve stopped in for a visit, I hope you’ll stay. I’m appreciative of Annie and Susan and Linda and Sue and Judi and the unknowns who just click “like”.  Those of you who’ve stayed and settled in with me here on the blog. This is how we get to know each other. This is how we conquer the geography that divides us.

And this must be what Jesus wants most from us. That we aren’t merely visitors but that we make our home with him. What a good home it is.

family Five-Minute Friday

John bends down to encircle me in a big hug as he calls me mom. Rob walks by me in the hall with his big smile as he calls out, “Hi, mom”. Both are at least in their mid 50’s which makes us all giggle at their audacity to call me mom.

It’s such a precious thing to hear this word. For Adam it’s momma and Steve calls me mom #2. Most of them think this is silliness I guess or they recognize they’re just too old to call me that. More and more of them are younger than our children and that is a good/bad thing.
In our counselors meeting I hear the words abandonment, abused, and traumatic used too often in describing backgrounds of some of our residents. This is’t the cause of addiction but with too many it was the reason they were searching for something to numb themselves of the pain.

My husband says he had a Leave It To Beaver childhood and I think he was mostly right. They had their tragedies too when the middle boy was killed in an accident at home at 6 years old. My in-laws were wonderful people but we’re all flawed because we’re people. The best of the best isn’t perfect. So we don’t try to be.
Jerry says “Hello family” as he stands to share a word of gratitude. To some it’s words to others this group of addicts and screw-up’s is the best family they’ve had. It’s definitely one of the truest they’ve had.
This year was the first Mother’s Day I wasn’t there to celebrate with them. It’s a hard one for me to program given the diversity of their experiences. This year I needed to be with my sister and even 3000 miles away several of the men sent me messages on social media wishing me a happy Mother’s Day.
When I got back, there was an orchid on my desk with a card signed “from your illegitimate and legitimate sons”. I had to laugh.
A week after Mother’s Day, Lynn stood up to share in our chapel service. He barely had three words out of his mouth when he suddenly went silent, then garbled out a few words as tears dropped on his cheeks as he thanked God for his mom seeing him sober this year. The men clapped and I teared up and again God spoke to me about his grace.
There’s a verse in Hebrews that talks about a cloud of witnesses. The visual imagery of this is what takes hold in my mind as I picture Granny, mama, grandma, my in-law’s, heroes of the faith like Martin Luther and William and Evangeline Booth, Keith Green….so many. And now, I picture not only those whose lives have been documented by their good works, but I know one day the cloud of witnesses surrounding me will be a motley crew of crack addicts and alcoholics. Those who were caught in the spiral of opiate addiction and saved by the grace of God through the simple hands of his servants.
This is the best family. A broken and hurting family who’ve been brought together in search of healing. God accepts us through his unconditional love and is restoring us through his grace.

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family grace recovery Salvation Army

There was something about the role of mothering that came natural to me. It started, perhaps, as granny mothered me in times I only know through photographs. Mama was in seminary where they couldn’t take their kids in those days. Daddy was pastoring a church while mama finished so granny filled the gap and so began a relationship that would keep us connected for long enough for her to see our first baby.

I mothered my dolls. Wrapped them in the blankets and fed them pretend food. The magic bottle that came along was the best invention to my pre-school aged self. I nestled my babies in the crook of my arm while putting the plastic bottle to her plastic lips and watch the pretend milk disappear as if she was drinking it down.
This was mothering. Dressing, feeding, cleaning and comforting my baby dolls.
Motherhood held a few surprises for me, the first of which was not expecting to be so sore in my arms after giving birth. I hadn’t realized how tight I’d gripped the arms of the hospital bed during, what was, an easy delivery.
I didn’t expect how sleep deprived I’d be those first few months and how hard that would be.

church babies

Aunt Connie
We’ve learned to be more inclusive when celebrating mom’s. That’s why I like the word mothering. One doesn’t have to have had children to know how to mother.
Long before Henry’s sister had a child, she babysat for ours. She’d keep them for weekends we attended out of town church functions or anytime we needed her. Her mothering skills were tested on more than one occasion watching our two and I think she handled them better than I would have.
I’ve written about becoming mom to men in recovery and my initial reluctance.
Today, John and Rob will say “hi mom” when they pass me in the hallway. Both men well into their 50’s and the age of my brother. We smile a knowing grin, one that acknowledges the figurative role I’m honored to play.
Our son became friends with the boy across the street. Ivan was 5 years older than Jonathan. Enough that I kept a close eye on things not knowing much about his family other than he and his older brother were latchkey kids. His mom wasn’t comfortable with English so we politely waved across the street to each other. She made conch chowder at her house that our son discovered he liked and I doled out the snacks with a careful eye.
When school was out for the summer Ivan spent longer days in the pool with our kids. With him 11 and our son 6 it wasn’t a friendship I would have encouraged except for kids need mothering. I didn’t try to take his mom’s place or disrespect
 her role. This is what you do when the need is there.
In our group of friends at church we mothered our children together. Our values were the same so our kids knew what to expect no matter whose house they were visiting.
I wonder who you’re mothering? Is it the elderly woman, or man, you see in the grocery store? The one who gets a bit turned around and needs direction?
Are you mothering the neighborhood kids as they run across your lawn to get their ball and welcome their energy?
I’m so thankful for the women who’ve mothered me. For aunt Juanita and Phylis, two women who’ve given the gift of presence and listening. For teachers who nurtured, some with a firm voice and rule. For friends who’ve walked with me in times of parental frustration and who’ve understood a mother’s broken heart.
We didn’t recognize it so much then as community but that’s what we know now. We help raise each other, young and old, sometimes the younger teaching the older and we understand it works better doing this together.
May you find comfort in mothering and being mothered.
May you feel the breath of grace around you as you are nurtured and comforted.
May you shine Jesus in every life you touch.

family grace

What if this were my prayer?

Hudson Thanksgiving 2015

ARC chapel

prayer

2015 Thanksgiving

thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you………

………thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you…..

If this were my prayer? It would be enough.

faith family

I can count on one hand the number of times we saw grandma Durham. I remember visiting her and grandpa in California when I was 5 or 6. We drove from Louisiana or Arkansas, wherever we were living at the time, in a station wagon that I think we slept in at least one night.

My memory focuses on the cots spread out in the field behind their house, across the levee under nothing but the California sky. The cots were available to men. The times were different and so was the language. They weren’t homeless in those days even if they had no address to call home. Here in an open stretch of space they had a place to sleep and a bowl of beans served up by grandma. I think the only payment in return was chores around the property or grandpa’s used furniture store.

Years later they moved north to Washington state and this time it was a big house where they rented rooms to migrant workers. Rooms filled in the summer and empty come winter when the work moved south back to California. The men paid what they could, often bringing heaping bowls of cherries or other fruit they picked in the orchards.

 

This is who they were. People with little, but feeling they had enough and giving from their enough to others.

Mama told me about the man she bought stockings for. He came to church but didn’t quite fit in. A man’s body, women’s clothes and he needed stockings. Grandma bought them. He was in need. That’s all that ever mattered to her. If she could help, she would. She did.

Years after grandma had gone to be with Jesus, mama sat in our house in Memphis. She called home to check on things in her absence and I heard her voice tighten. I saw her eyes redden.

What happened mama? Someone died. Who? I don’t remember you mentioning that name. He was a drunkard. He was my friend.

A legacy, handed down from her mama, from grandma. The focus not on herself as God’s grace swept through her heart.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.” Matthew 6:6 the Message

Maybe this is why I’m comfortable sitting in a roomful of addicts and alcoholics. Maybe this is why I’m fit for this work of victory and defeat, of relapse and recovery. The focus on self is removed as God shows his grace to me through these men. He shows me how desperately I’m in need of his mercy.

This is in our blood, my DNA that at its core has a cross.

faith family grace

She wanted to sleep in but sleeping in for me means 7, maybe 7:30, not 10.

I pulled out the art supplies, tried to entice her in learning to draw a butterfly with a few lines when she said, “Can I paint?” Yes! yes, you can paint.

This will be good. This is what I envisioned for the week she’d be with us during her spring break. We’d spend a couple of hours or three drawing, painting and making a mess. We’d have lunch at Chick-fil-A, evening walks to the lake…..but she’s 9. And had her own ideas.

Do you have those moments you look forward to but forget how draining good times can be?

Do you come through them filled with joy but needing to be refilled in other areas?

Maybe I don’t transition well. Okay. I’m positive I don’t transition well. Transitioning takes time and often includes slowing down which most of us aren’t good at. We can’t make these sharp turns going at the same speed. We can, but it often results in injury.

I took time away from some work responsibilities to focus on a relationship that’s being built moment by moment. There’s no time to ease back into the daily routines.

Work is the easier part. but the ideas for writing and photography and general creativity seem illusive. I need a refill.

So I start slow, scrolling through Instagram and letting creations of others provide beauty.

I’m rereading a few blogs I’d tagged. I’m slowly reading through Emily Freeman’s post called 8 Things Whole-Hearted Creative Women Do Differently.  (I’m hoping this will finally define me as a creative woman and then I quickly scold myself for the never ending self-doubts.)

I get to the part where Emily says “She no longer fears the silence”.

“She has made her peace with the silence she sometimes hears when she asks what is next. She trusts the inspiration will always circle back around again. She listens in the darkness and creates her way through it because sometimes that’s the only way out.”

It’s quieter with the granddaughter back in her house 5 hours away. There are no Disney movies playing at night or little girl squeals when her Papa plays with her.

I like the quiet. But yes, I think Emily has hit something here. This quiet can be mistaken for lack of inspiration, for purpose.

It’s just one small part of how this time in our life is holding a lot of transitions. And to make the turns I need to slow down. To listen in the darkness, trusting that inspiration will always circle back around again.

faith family hope