Empty Nest, Abundant Life

Nag Less, Pray More

Category: Marriage (page 1 of 3)

A Retreat for One

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the final days of January.   One month ago today, I left home for hours to go on my 2nd annual one-woman, one-afternoon retreat.   I do it on the last Friday afternoon of the year, but you can anytime you have at least three hours in a row and enough energy to do some deep thinking.

In the past, when I thought of retreats, I imagined driving with a van full of ladies to a rustic setting in the mountains for a weekend of fun, worship, and teaching.   I have been to many retreats like this, and they required preregistration, paying around $100, packing, picking just the right time to ask my husband if he could watch the kids, and gearing up my introverted self for a lot of “together” time.   Don’t get me wrong;  I have enjoyed, learned from, made great memories, and even taught at some of these experiences, but I was looking for something different.

In December of 2016, I listened to a podcast by one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Sally Clarkson.  She explained the benefits of getting away alone for a yearly reflection.  She also referred to materials from an author whose name I had never heard before, Lara Casey.  I went to both Sally and Lara’s websites and read all they had to say about this event,  put their suggestions into two Microsoft Word documents, and made plans to take my retreat at ….. Starbucks.   Much less money and planning!

I took the following things with me:

  1. My Bible
  2. A ton of notebook paper in a folder
  3. An assortment of brightly colored pens
  4. Inspirational stickers
  5. Highlighters
  6. Posterboard
  7. A Sharpie
  8. Kleenex

I found myself experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions as I sat nestled in a booth sipping on my mocha, thinking about all the wonderful events of the past year and setting goals for the following one.  Because I was alone, I could think objectively about my marriage, my children, and my own life, evaluating the good, the bad, and the ugly, and praying how to work on the difficulties.  I came home refreshed and ready to implement my plans.

Do I achieve every goal I set?  Definitely not, but I like having a direction I am choosing to travel in my life and page after page written in my own handwriting.  I would highly recommend this activity to you and can’t wait to see what God shows you about your life!

New Year, New Word

The new year always brings a flurry of thoughts about how this year will be different from all the ones in the past.    It causes us to analyze how we can be more effective and make resolutions to change habits as a result.    I struggled to harness these strong feelings of resolve and to fine tune them, and I have found success in doing this for the past five years.

My secret?  Choose a word!  Just one word.   A word that you want to aspire to learn more about and one that you will come to resemble more and more as the year goes by.

I read a great book on the topic, One Perfect Word, by Debbie Macomber, at the end of 2013, and I was inspired.    On January 1, 2014, I dared to write down my word for the year and pray it each day for myself.  The word terrified me; my word for the year 2014 was Surrender.  I wanted to surrender my plans, hopes, dreams, and agenda to God, who had an even better plan for my life.  I had no idea how strongly this word would play out until I found myself in ICU not able to breathe on my own in June of that year.

By the end of 2014, I had not only gained my strength back but had also learned far more about surrender than I ever imagined possible.  I was hooked on choosing a word, now not only for myself but for each member of my immediate family.  My word for the year 2015 was Rejoicing.   I wanted to learn to rejoice not only when circumstances were going my way but also in the deepest disappointments.  It was a worthwhile journey.  The words I chose for my family were endurance, maturity, and trust.

When 2016 rolled around, I couldn’t wait to do this exercise again.  My word for the year 2016 was Renewal, as I looked at my new life with children moving away and going on the international mission field.  My words for my husband and children were balance, faith, and courage, as they all were learning huge lessons of their own.

By December of 2016, I even took myself on a one-woman, one-afternoon retreat to evaluate my life, set priorities, and, most importantly, determine my word.  My word for the year 2017 was Freedom as I sought to be released my own self-doubt, others’ expectations and opinions of me, and the limits I had placed on myself due to fear.  I experienced my best year yet, achieving more than ever and daring to do activities I never expected that I would.  My words for my family were fortitude, security, and maturity.

This year is no different.  I have chosen my word.  It’s another scary one because I know that there are many lessons I need to learn about this subject.  My word for this year is Humility.    True freedom only comes when I choose to humble myself before God and trust Him completely for my future.   The words I have selected for those closest to me are direction, leadership, and abiding.

I have found a great website that has also helped me in this journey:  www.oneword365.com.  It’s a wonderful community of people who have also chosen one word for the year so we can support one another as we live out our word for the year.

What will be your word for the year?

Stay tuned to my blog for posts about one-woman retreats and vision boards!

Loving Others Well

I can’t think of a single better way to use the rest of my life than loving others well.   Before my eyes are even fully open in the morning, I have already mumbled “I love you” to my husband and scratched one of the cats.  Before I get out of bed, I express my love to God by reading His Word, applying it to my life, worshiping Him, and praying for over 100 people.  When I spend this time with God, I find that He fills me to overflowing with love so I can’t help but look for opportunities to love others all day, from those closest to me to those I have not yet met.

Love can be expressed in so many ways.  We often thing of it as physical affection, but that is just one way to show love.  We can make time to spend with others in deep conversation.  We can do something kind for others.  We can encourage one another with our words.  We can let someone know we are thinking of them with a text message, phone call, or a gift.  Even a smile to the grocery checker or the person in the car next to you in a traffic jam can ease a burden and make someone feel special.

The current rhythm of modern American life is becoming so fast-paced and impersonal that stopping to unselfishly invest in another’s happiness seems unnatural.  So many days I fail at loving others well.  I get caught up in the rush of life and my own agenda that I view others as obstacles to what I need to do instead of high priorities.  It is only when I go to God to get refreshed in His love that I have enough to give others.

When I am no longer on this earth, I want to be remembered as someone who loved others well!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Savoring Each Moment

Our lives are moving at a quicker pace than they ever have.  We have our to-do lists, our cell phone notifications, and overpacked schedules to keep us busy from the time the alarm sounds in the dark hours of the morning until late at night.  We are constantly thinking towards the next thing.

It’s hard to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, yet this is exactly what is necessary for a healthy and balanced life.  When we look at life as an experience instead of a destination, we can enjoy the journey so much more.

When I participated in the Eugene Half Marathon this Spring, I’m sure I would have had a much faster finishing time if I totally focused on pushing my body as hard as I could and didn’t look around to savor the atmosphere.  I met a friend with a similar pace, and as we passed something interesting, I would say under my breath, “I always want to remember this.”   She looked at me with an odd expression until I told her of my quest to enjoy the memories I was making step by step along race.  She soon joined my glee as we witnessed someone playing a didgeridoo to cheer us on, a live pet duck sitting on its owner’s lap at the curb, the bright signs on poster board that encouraged us, and the beautiful Willamette River flowing under us as we crossed multiple bridges.  By the time I  entered the stadium that housed the legendary Hayward Field, where many Track and Field World Championships have occurred, tears escaped my eyes at the glory of the crowds cheering, the brisk wind, the blue sky, the worship music playing in my headphones, and the finish line stretched out before me.  I savored it!

One of my favorite verses in the Bible takes place during the telling of Christ’s birth in Luke 2.  In the midst of the birth of the Messiah, the angels’ chorus, the shepherds’ visit, and the animals in the stable, Mary took the time to savor the moment.  She must have been exhausted from having her first child out of town in a stable with many visitors, but Luke 2:19 says,  “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Let’s be like Mary and treasure and ponder in our hearts!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Hope for the Future

One of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child was sitting next to our stereo cabinet listening to Lionel Barrymore’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge on an album of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.   I loved the sound effects, the background music, the lively reading of the well-loved book, and especially Barrymore’s characterization of Scrooge.  I was a naturally fearful child, and the visits by each of the ghosts caused me to hide under a blanket for protection.  The most terrifying ghost to me was the Ghost of Christmas Future.  In fact, I can still remember the terror in Barrymore’s voice as he pronounced, “I fear you more than any specter I have seen.”   This was my first exposure to the word, future, so I always associated the future with anxiety and panic.

I’m learning that we can anticipate the future with great hope and excitement or we can dread it.  The choice is ours.  The future will inevitably contain both positive and negative elements.  I am assured that I will die in the future, unless Jesus returns before then.  I could choose to focus my life on that so much that it prevents me from living today to the fullest.  I can look forward to upcoming great times with loved ones, the addition of a new generation to our family tree, and the chance to grow and learn into my fifties, sixties, and seventies.   I can’t wait to see just how valuable my golden years will be!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!


My life has completely changed in the past ten years.  In October of 2007, I had two young teenagers living at home whom I was homeschooling full time, my dad was still alive and took a lot of my time and energy, I was still driving close to 100 miles a week in a minivan, we had different pets, I weighed close to fifty pounds more than I do now, and my good health was sporadic.  Now, just ten short years later, the kids have moved out, my dad and two pets have died, I drive less than 50 miles a week in a sporty Camry, and I’m in the best shape and health of my life.

It would have been ridiculous to refuse to accept the changes as they came.  I would have done my children and my husband a disservice if I refused to allow the kids to spread their wings and fly the coop.  I get much better gas mileage in my car than I ever did in my van.  I have energy to get up each day, thanks to my new exercise and diet habits.

I used to view change as scary and unwelcome, but it is inevitable.  I can deny it and resist it, but that doesn’t keep it from happening.  It just makes life harder for everyone.

In this new decade of my life, I will choose to embrace change.  My husband’s and my lives will certainly change this coming April when his job of nearly 27 years comes to an end.  Our children’s lives are changing as is our relationship with them.  We can grow and learn so much from change.  I don’t know all the changes God has in store for my life in the next ten years, but I will trust Him and look forward what is to come.

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

Nurturing Myself


Nurturing myself seemed like a selfish use of my time when I was raising my children.  My days were already so busy that taking time for myself appeared to be an impossibility.  I felt like nurturing myself would be the opposite of generosity.

Now I’m convinced that the beliefs I had were lies from the enemy to keep me in a depleted, ineffective state.   When I don’t allow time to refresh and recharge myself, my emotional, physical, spiritual, and social “battery” runs out and shuts off, causing me to be useless to myself and others except as an example of what not to do!

However, I don’t think we should go to the other extreme and live in constant indulgence to ourselves and call it nurture.    I used to think a good way to nurture myself was to eat a pound of chocolate and watch hours of television on end to the exclusion of the needs of my family.  We need God’swisdom to determine the balance.

Nurturing ourselves looks different to each person.  The music and activities that soothe me may agitate someone else.  I was so out of touch with who I was as a person that I didn’t know what to do with myself when I did get the opportunity to nurture myself.

Some of favorite ways to nurture myself now are listening to worship music (Sherri Youngward’s Pandora station is my favorite), reading (I’m currently over halfway through Jan Karon’s newest Mitford book), running, writing my thoughts down,  petting my three cats, hanging with my husband, and going to bed early enough to allow myself eight hours of sleep.

What are your favorite ways to nurture yourself?

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!


I came into this world with nothing, and I expect to leave with nothing, yet I seem to hold such a tight grasp on what I accumulate in this life.  I sound like a toddler, screeching, “Mine” when someone reaches for my stuff.  I remember my dad, one of my greatest influences, saying, “I would be more charitable, but what have those people done to deserve it?”  It wasn’t a natural thing for him nor is it natural for me.

In my fifties, I want to release my protective selfishness regarding my belongings and use what I have to help others.  It makes no sense to allow things that will better serve others to take up space in my home.  The release of it will give me freedom and joy.

I also want to be generous with my time.  The time I spend  teaching, encouraging, consoling, ministering to, and investing in others will far outlast my lifetime.    When I get selfish with my time, I tend to waste it binge watching television, so it’s best to give my time to what God has for me each day, and I know God can multiply that time.

It will feel so gratifying to enter this new decade giving up that what was never mine in the first place!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!


Laughter has been one of my favorite parts of life since I was a baby.  There can never be too much laughter in a day.  Laughter can diffuse a tense situation, break down language barriers, lighten our load, relax us, and create joyful memories.  Laughter is a great gift to give to give one another.  One of my daily goals is to make my husband laugh really hard.  We tend to take ourselves and our lives so seriously that it feels good to step away from that just to giggle.   Nothing brings a smile to my face more than the laughter of children.

As I move into this next decade I want the following words from Proverbs 31:25 said about me,  “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”  Laughter is the perfect accessory for any time in my life, especially the time to come!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

New Family Members

I had many family members as a little girl, including great-grandparents, twelve grandparents, a special aunt and uncle, a dad and stepmom, and a mom and stepdad.  I took for granted that I would always be surrounded by a large, loving family until I started losing family members to death.   I grieved for my great-grandparents and my grandparents, but I wasn’t until I started losing members of the generation directly above me that I felt the sting of my shrinking family.   By the time my dad passed away two and half years ago, I felt quite lonely.

Photo courtesy of Katelyn Owens Photography

Now my family is growing again!  In July, I welcomed my first son-in-law to the family, and he brought his family of origin with him.   It’s fun to merge our family with  new people from different backgrounds with different traditions.   We had never met before a few years ago, yet now we share a future.


I also have gained family members through family dinner.  Twice a week we text our son, his girlfriend and a handful of his college friends and let them know which restaurant where we’ll be dining that evening if they want to join us.   So many of his friends do not have parents that live locally so these evenings give me times to enjoy and laugh with these delightful twenty-somethings and give them a dose of home and family.

I can’t help but look forward to being joined by grandchildren someday, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the new members of my family!

This post is part of a  31 Day Blogging Challenge entitled Embracing Fifty.  Please click here  to find all the posts in this series.  You can find the work of more bloggers participating in this series here. You’ll be glad you did!

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