Category Archives: Empty Nest

On the positive side…<3

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One of us got the bright idea that since we were going into at least two weeks of work-from-home, shelter-in-place, lock down; the other of us, named Russ, could paint the hall bathroom and back bedroom. 

We took a vote and it passed. 

He got right to it and since I have an aversion to pans of paint and roller brushes, he did that and I would come along behind with a small bowl and an artist brush to do the areas close to ceiling and edges. 

We are, and always have been, successful in marriage by staying in our lanes. 

So yesterday afternoon as he ran his work world from the end of our kitchen table, I donned my paint clothes and headed down the hall to put the finishing touches on Project #2. 

I was up on top of the ladder when I could hear sirens blaring in the distance. It was obviously several first responder vehicles and since the wail of the alarms were punctuated by horns honking, I assumed there had been a major accident on the highway a few blocks east of our house. 

It continued and my heart dipped low thinking about what kind of horrid thing had now occurred on top of what we already have going on.

I prayed and painted for a few minutes and then decided the whole dang world must be coming to an end and I wasn’t going out standing on a paint ladder.

Realizing I hadn’t heard anything from Russ and as the sound of sirens was now coming closer, fear gripped me that they were for him. 

I came out and the kitchen table was empty, I called for him and got no answer.

I now feared the Rapture had happened and somehow I missed it…as the sirens and honking were now clearly right on our street.

I noticed the front door was slightly open as I headed for the porch and there was my best friend out on the side walk, smiling and waving along with most of the neighbors as car after van after car drove by waving and smiling and making a joyful noise. 

He had called for me but I hadn’t heard him behind the closed door so he thought I had gone for a walk.

Out in front of our house was a sight that is being repeated across the country and let me tell you…what a sight!

The teachers from the local schools were driving through the neighborhoods led by the fire truck and police, with poster board signs on their vehicles announcing “We miss you!” and their names and all kinds of balloons and party stuff in the windows. 

There I stood in Rachel’s old too-tight clinical lab coat and my paint pants, brushes and bowl of grey paint in hand…waving like I was one of their school kids, or had some under our roof or whatever. 

I was doing that kind of laughing and crying thing we do when all the emotions are just exploding out of the deepest places of the heart.

And those sweet teachers did not discriminate this 60 plus couple…they waved right back at us like we were missed as much as any of the other little tykes.

Across the street, our neighbor who owns one of the local restaurants and is working hard at the new business model of take-out only, was smiling and waving with his wife and daughters. 

This parade was like a beacon of hope and the reminder we are a community and that this will pass. 

In the midst of this time when I know it is bad in places and people are facing such hard decisions in certain locations, I see God working good in so many. 

I see couples walking and talking together who used to be rushing off to the next thing or settling down in front of a ball game on TV. 

Families are sitting down to tables together and without the rush of having to fit all the practices and homework and chores into the few hours between school and bedtime, they are actually getting to know each other.

There are continuous opportunities for each of us to examine what used to take up our time and attention and evaluate our priorities. 

As we grieve the loss of certain freedoms and amenities we took for granted, we can do a heart check to see if we had set up idols of comfort and convenience. 

“Functional idols” is a theme in so many teachings I have heard leading up to this and God is now revealing to us, His people, where we had unconsciously erected a few or more of them in our hearts. 

I pray for myself, our family, our friends and community, the world at large to not only recognize the Hand of God at work in this time, but that we would seek His face. 

By that I mean, truly desire to simply know Him and to be in His presence as you sort through all the emotions and reactions that will arise throughout the day and night. 

May you be blessed to sense His nearness to you, for surely He is not far from any of us <3

Well, hello April <3

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So it is April Fool’s Day which happens to be the anniversary of the birth of Russ’s dad and we celebrate a young friend who also was born on this date…so nothing but love and hugs on this day of trickery. 

I have been sharing a lot of my heart this past week regarding our current setting, but I want to step away and take a minute to stay semi on track with the original plan for 2020.

Today, we continue with what we started in January and here is a little about my March discipline. 

As a refresher or if you are recently new to the Journey, I followed the lead of this sweet counselor friend of mine and adapted her idea to try something new each month. 

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Kaloupek Counseling LLC

For this month I combined the idea with a Lenten discipline I read about for a 40 day purge of possessions. In other words, I have adapted the adaptation of the plan above and taken it to a new and even more complicated level.

Because as always, why do things the simple way when you can go big or go home?

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As you can see, I have done a very fancy chart to keep track of my progress. Also you will note that I am officially 6 days behind. But that has happened other weeks as well.

Remember I said I wouldn’t turn this into a legalistic effort, but would shoot for participation points. 

Some days I had the mental and emotional energy to dig through several boxes of memorabilia and other days I was doing well just to stay on task without losing my footing in the present moment that was March 2020 on planet earth.

No excuses. I just know that some trips down memory lane can trip me up, so I have been purging as I can and catching up when I get behind. 

What have I learned from this exercise? 

Well, I am so glad you asked. 

Here are a few off the top of my head:

#1

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If you are one of those who zoomed in on the list, you will notice there were quite a few boxes in the “china closet”. 

The china closet is actually a narrow storage area in our basement where I have set up shelving and it basically looks like a booth at a flea market. 

I come from a long line of collectors of all things breakable.

My paternal grandmother painted china plates that would make you weep. My maternal grandmother, and both of her daughters apparently loved crystal, serving sets, bowls, salt and pepper shakers…all of it. 

My mom, who never swallowed a drop of alcohol, collected the most beautiful goblets, cocktail glasses and snifters imaginable. I have mugs that were made in Germany and probably came over on the boat with my great grandparents. 

So many beautiful figurines and vases … and I use them. I bring them out in different seasons and serve out of them and well…there are worse things.

Mixed in with these aged treasures are the handcrafted items from our own three. Plaster of paris hot pads with handprints, sponge painted clay pots, tiles with marker drawings, paper weights made out of juice glasses…treasures abound. 

So I learned I have no need to ever grace the decor area of Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx. Ever. 

And if you see my car parked in front of an antique mall, please call for back up and start intervention. 

#2

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I learned the longer you keep something, the harder it is to get rid of. 

Cards, pictures, clothing, children’s costumes and uniforms. 

As the years pass, these basic items that were just supposed to give joy in the moment and be useful can take on a life of their own. 

They seem to hold all the memories of the person and season when they were useful and there becomes attached to them an importance they were never meant to hold. 

I will never be able to be one of those who just pitches things as they come in the house, and I do believe there is some value to having some memories stashed in the nooks and crannies. I am sentimental and this will not change.

But I also believe it can become a place of idolatry if the usefulness of an item is being withheld from someone else so that I can “hold on” to some part of the past.

I am not a Marie Kondo follower, but I am a Christ follower and so I do not hold an object to see if it brings me joy. 

I hold to Jesus and talk to Him as I sort through our things. I ask Him to continue to help me learn how to separate the eternal from the temporal. I ask Him what is okay to keep and what needs to be released. And then I pray about who might benefit from the items and I follow through. 

There is a balancing that needs to happen and as I am doing this discipline, I can see where in some places I have been off balance.

#3

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This purging and cleaning out doesn’t take as long as one would think. 

I always thought I didn’t have time, but typically find twenty minutes is adequate to empty a box or a drawer or a cabinet, put things that are to be kept in the right place, return the contents as needed and dispose of what is not needed. 

Twenty minutes to lighten the load. 

#4

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Doing this one task most days has given me an increase in energy and focus to work on other projects that need to be done. 

There is a domino effect where accomplishing this one task inspires me to another and then another. 

Success breeds success and all this talk is making me want to sign off and start catching up on my goal. 

I also need to review my ideas for 2020 and decide on April’s discipline…how about you? 

How are you doing with staying somewhat on track with growth in 2020?

Just checking in on a Monday <3

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I can’t remember if March roared in like a lion or pranced in like a lamb, but I can assure you we will not forget how it was lived out, day by day, around the world. 

Everything has changed and while, for the most part, I have kept a fairly even keel throughout; I have moments when it all starts to pile up and holding to positivity and faith is a bit of a challenge. 

There are the good moments like connecting with friends through car windows or from the front steps of the house, moments with our family and church on Zoom meetings and knowing we are watching the same church service as one or more of our loved ones at the same time.  Total gratitude I married my best friend and we actually enjoy hanging out together.

There are great moments like watching a hospital staff line the perimeter of the upper level of their building with hands raised singing “Waymaker” because some guy decided to take his speakers to the parking lot to pray for them and encourage them. Things like cities making all kinds of noise when nurses are changing shifts to thank them and every day people are finding out they weren’t as self-centered as they had feared as they share supplies and show kindness and sacrifice their own wants for the good of others. Celebrities offering concerts from the homes to bring encouragement. Churches of all sizes figuring out how to reach their people and the world from their own homes.

And there are sad moments. There are a lot of every day joys that have been swept away. There are weddings and funerals and births that are happening without the usual gathering of family and friends. There won’t be proms, or spring sports, or end of year preschool picnics. No meeting up with friends at a park after school and hitting up the local frozen yogurt place before scattering off to various ball practices. And people are dying. Every life that is represented in the daily count was loved and mattered to other lives.

There is fear of infection and death threatening to cast the darkest of shadows over a simple trip to the grocery store. There is fear of loss of income and jobs that have no guarantee of being restored once this passes. The unknowns are vast and global in size and are only added to the conditions in this world that were known and were terrible in their own right. Fear that has a very real motivator and yet can be carried to an unhealthy extreme. 

We remember a friend who has a child who lives somewhere that was just listed in the news as an area in crisis. We cringe when we hear of another case being diagnosed somewhere because the reality of the nature of this thing sneaks a little closer to home. Suddenly it seems we know and love and are connected to actual individuals in the health care system. We feel like we are doing pretty well and then a news report flashes across the screen that we are two weeks away from what could be the worst. 

So we teeter between walking by faith and freaking out. We read with disbelief the death toll in a country like Italy and we hope with all our hearts to not be next, while we grieve for the staggering losses these people are experiencing.

Last night as we ended the day looking at the faces of our family in four little squares on the computer screen, I kept going from one to the other. The love for them was so intense it overwhelmed me and I was just tired enough that I felt myself slipping from the present moment to the forecast for how things may transpire in the coming months and it wasn’t pretty.

There are some who seem to be so steady and continue to share only the positive and God love them, how we need those people. 

But for me it is a ten steps forward, two steps back process. I have to say with boasting in the Lord alone that I have graduated from the old two to one ratio. For the better part of the days, I am holding fast in faith that God is control. However; moments of fear or doubt come in little unexpected bursts and can leave me feeling wiped out. Only by His grace and Spirit in me do I find that these nose dives drive me to more intense prayers and praise.

How are you doing?

I hope you are holding up. I hope you are finding that God’s arms are catching you when you momentarily stumble over a pit of despair or hopelessness. I hope you are accessing His Power through the Holy Spirit as you pray and praise and encourage others. I hope you are not only speaking hope, but asking Him to give you ways to share that hope in tangible methods. 

One thing I have found helpful is to keep a little note pad on the counter and every time something good happens or there is something that is a grace gift in this time, I jot it down. When my own light seems to be going dim at the end of a long day, I look over that list and remind my soul of all the benefits God has given us. 

You would be on that list, my friend. 

This little place where we can meet, this is a gift of grace from Him to me.

So journey onward, soldiers…and I will see you tomorrow <3

In honor of my mom <3

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one of my fav pics of my mom and dad <3

Today is the anniversary of my mom’s birth. She left us in December of 2008 and if you have or had a complicated relationship with your mom, let me tell you it is with great joy and deep gratitude to God’s healing and restoration of relationships that I can say, I miss her. 

I am so thankful for her and have grown to appreciate all of her as time has passed, and I know that throughout her whole life she loved and cared for my sister and me to the very best of her ability. 

We humans are fragile and we fight our demons and sometimes it interferes with relationships and I continue to grow in the understanding of this as the years pass. 

When we brought my parents to our area so we could help advocate the care of my father’s further descent into Alzheimers disease, my mom had to live on her own for the very first time in her entire life. 

In solitude she grew in her faith in incredible ways and she overcame some issues that had plagued her. She met Jesus in a personal and profound way and was in many ways transformed and yet in many ways remained her unique self. 

God gifted me and my family a relationship with her that we all treasure. Five years of return on the years the locusts had nibbled on and we are so grateful.

One of my most precious moments from this time with her was a day when I had been called to meet up with my aunt, her sister, who had severe dementia and had taken yet another spill in the nursing home. 

When the hospital called, I had asked if they would hold off on all tests until I could get there and help assess her mental state. She fell regularly and the care facility had to follow through with their end, but often there was a barrage of unnecessary scans and tests because she seemed “confused”. 

The tests and scans were invasive for her and as her advocate, I wanted to be able to speak up. Also if the tests were deemed necessary this time, she would need someone with her to help explain what was happening. Over and over and over… 

Well, the nurse I spoke with as I was scrambling to get out the door assumed I was Dr. Kevorkian’s friend because she lined me out on the phone like I was the cruelest person the planet. 

I called my mom to update and told her I was concerned about what would happen once I got there given the impression I had left with the staff and then I headed out to face the music. 

Of all our ER visit’s this one was the smoothest ever. 

The nurse greeted me warmly and said that after speaking with my aunt she certainly understood my call. They had checked her over and determined she just needed a little bandage. 

After a very short wait, she was attended to and dressed and carefully placed in my car to be returned to her facility. 

I considered having them check me out because I was entering into all the signs of shock. 

After I got her settled in her room, I called my mom. 

She was so relieved and shared that since she had hung up from me she had just sat in her chair holding her Bible in her lap and had prayed for me. The kicker is she didn’t even make her bed. 

This is important. 

I thank God for answering machines and house phones in that time because she had left a message reporting all of these details while I had been taking care of my aunt. Over the ensuing years, when I was tempted to forget how faithfully God works to transform us, I would replay that saved message. 

Because my mom could drive herself to medication with worry and anxiety. 

My mom never didn’t make her bed. 

My mom created worse case scenario’s that would make mine pale in comparison. 

But that day, she let that bed go unmade.

That day when her daughter needed someone to intercede for her, she took her bible and sat in her chair and read and prayed. 

That day she did not the only thing but the best thing she could do for me.

We have a world in great need of help right now and our words to each other about it and our worry over it and our keeping busy with our stuff won’t provide the help it needs. 

So people of faith, sons and daughters of the Most High God, open your Bible and pray.

Just some randoms for Wednesday from our shelter to yours <3

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This morning Russ asked me if it was hard to keep track of the days lately. 

I have to say to him a yes and a no.

My regular pre-Covid19 schedule was anything but static.

The three constants were to work at the shop Wednesdays and Fridays and go to church on Sunday. From there my hours were up for grabs as needed by family and home duties. 

I would lament many days that I didn’t have enough time at home. 

Be careful what you pray for, right? And no…not for one second do I believe God answered my prayer for a freer calendar by sending this to the world. 

PLEASE NOTE: I am assuming anyone reading this knows my heart better than that…but in case you don’t, I am aware of the heartache this is causing beyond just inconvenienced schedules of isolation.

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 I am using these lock-in days to get a lot of much needed home work done. The accountability of having my husband setting up his office at our kitchen table has truly helped keep this ADHD blonde brain on task and for that I am grateful…but I would never have dreamed the extent of devastation that would provide me with this time-standing-still break in our calendar. 

So since it’s Wednesday I figured it would be okay to just throw out some random observations from where I sit each day on this 25th day of March:

#1

Because telecommunication is happening from my normal command central of our kitchen, I have been working in other rooms of the house including this little space we call my desk. 

It actually has a surface that is not paper. 

I discovered this yesterday when I locked myself in here and began working through the piles of stuff that had accumulated. 

It has forced me to realize how I have viewed something God has laid on my heart to do through sharing encouragement via writing and socials media as a “hobby.” I see now I have despised, by belittling, the opportunity He has given me to use something I don’t understand or appreciate to exhort others in the faith.  

As I have been isolated from meeting face to face with real live people, I have begun to notice the way others are sharing their talents. 

Music, cooking, humor, fitness, art, words, teachings, encouragement, correction, wisdom, organization…all these things are being shared in abundance on social media and I am so thankful not one single person who has touched my life said, “Well, what I do isn’t very special. Nobody needs this today.” 

Whatever you are called to do – do it. 

Do it with your whole heart and do it as well as you can. 

Some of you are called to quiet ministries of prayer or one-on-one mentoring, care-giving or cheerleading. 

Do it as unto the LORD – now more than ever.

Don’t despise your calling because you are looking at it from your human perspective. 

Think about the one person that needed to hear or see or know what you have been given to share and do it for that one unknown face, with great joy and for the glory of God. 

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#2

It is still Lent. 

I am saying this as much for me as for anyone who needs reminding. 

While I have continued to do my devotions each morning and am keeping up with my Bible reading, I confess I have lost the thread of any kind of focus on the season of Lent. 

My main thoughts about the calendar leading up to Easter have been ….

  1. The growing realization that we may be sitting in front of our computer on Easter morning in our living room instead of being in our home church and trying to take that in.

 and

b.   There will come a day when we won’t celebrate Easter because there won’t be a reason to. The world as we know it will come to an end and our current setting is a vivid reminder of why we are supposed to, at all times, remember that this is not the final home for us and how this is not a doomsday or morbid thought for followers of Christ but a reason to celebrate and remember that we already died…and we live in Him now…and that we will stand perfected, finally, before the One who died for us and redeemed us. 

But I want to get re-focused on the season of Lent…so pray for me…because if I had a theme going it has vanished from my radar…sigh.

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#3

I believe because of something deep inside me that we will come out of this sooner than we feared. I believe with my whole heart that there will be positive, but sadly in some cases temporary, changes in the way things are done. I sense deep within my spirit that we are going to see God move in mighty ways. 

I believe some of us will be markedly different because of what we have been through. I believe as we recover as a nation and across the globe, there will be improvements from this time that benefit many. 

But I also believe others will return to old or worse ways based on the historical bent of human nature. I believe that there will be another event down the way that will shake us some more because this pattern marks the progression of the world wearing out…we have been given the warnings and signs in Scripture. 

<3 As timing would have it, and having extra time, I grabbed a book off the shelf designated for  “need to read these”.

It is about the Shemita and God’s command for rest. Sabbath rest…the rest for land every seven years…the canceling of debts…the whole thing. 

It is complicated and it was for Israel, but it makes me think of businesses I know that shut down on Sunday in the past and yet continued to do well. And how many of us have not rested who knew we should rest. 

I am not making judgments. I am not wise enough to do so. 

I am simply pondering how often I didn’t rest because there was too much to do…and now I find that we have all…the entire world…has come to a screeching halt in many ways.  

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#4

Even having said that, I know there are still others of us who are working tirelessly now more than ever. 

While I do sense a degree of political posturing regarding the health care crisis, I know for a fact from friends and family that there are medical servants who are being pushed to the limit who need our prayers right now. 

Given circumstances that are too complicated to share here on this little space: our physicians, nurses, hospitals, paramedics, first responders, CNA’s, hospice workers, social workers, pharmacists and techs…anyone who is used to providing well and acute care to our community are being affected with extreme challenges and exposure. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to be obedient to the mandates of our government and to faithfully pray and support those who are on the front lines. 

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I urge you to remain at home if at all possible to slow the advance of spreading the disease. 

I urge you to think carefully before you engage in inflammatory political arguments on social media. 

I urge you to extend grace to those who use humor to relieve stress and yet I caution you to be sensitive in the way you share your own humor at this time. We need to laugh and sharing laughter is good medicine, but also be people of sober judgment about what is above and what is below the line of decency. 

I urge you to apply the practices and disciplines of our faith in Christ by turning to Scripture and prayer in your closet. 

I urge you to respond to every nudge of the Spirit when He puts a friend or family member on your heart  – and then figure out a way to reach out to that one person…you can text, call, email, post…positive and life-giving words of hope and encouragement without breaking any of the shelter in place orders. You can provide a gift card to a local restaurant for a young family struggling with the new normal or drop a meal off on the porch of lonely single person who cannot get out. 

How blessed we are that in our afflictions, God gives us the comfort we need so we can comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:4 

Be blessed today…and be a blessing as we journey onward.