After Her Kids Left The House, Her Daughter Gave Her A 'Blessings Box' To Remind Her To Stay Positive

" ... when I needed a lift or a reminder, there was always a word of encouragement in the Blessings Box."

The house seemed huge and empty. There was no talking, laughing, crying, stomping, thumping, music playing, television blaring. It was all gone.

My children, who were now nineteen and twenty years old, had both left for college at the same time. They moved too far away for quick visits and I found myself alone, struggling with this depressing change in my life. I had devoted my life to raising my children and although I worked, it was either at their school or from home where I would see them every day.

As the days turned to weeks and weeks to months I found that my loneliness and anxiety was only getting worse. I found a part-time job that got me out of the house. My husband tried to be around more and we worked on our marriage, but still, I felt like I was in mourning, dealing with the loss of my children, the family we once had. I suddenly had no purpose, no reason to get out of bed in the morning, no motivation to do anything.

My son Eric lived hours away in Virginia now and was active in ROTC and school. My daughter Emma lived even farther away from our Maryland home, in Vermont, and kept busy with school, her church and a job. She also fell in love with a young man she met at church. My kids were doing what I always prayed they would do—grow up and become respectful, serving adults—but I missed them terribly.

Of course, Emma's time was preoccupied with school and her new love. We adored him as well and when he asked if he could surprise Emma at Christmas by driving down from Vermont we were all thrilled. Suddenly the entire family was going to be together to celebrate Christmas. As excited as I was, I could not help but dwell on the fact that this time would go by quickly and in a matter of a few weeks, I would be back again in my empty, cold house. As hard as I tried to enjoy life with all the holiday festivities and kids home, I dared not let myself get too happy because I knew that once they left and the holidays were over I would be more depressed than ever.

After Kyle surprised Emma we all gathered in the living room to exchange some gifts. I smiled at all the happy faces and the love that filled the room. The house echoed with Christmas music, laughter and talk; a fire crackled and popped and sent a warm glow throughout the room. Having my kids at home was the best Christmas present ever. And then Emma handed me a wrapped gift. I slowly unwrapped it and held in my hands. It was a wooden box.

"I made the box from old barn wood," Kyle said, smiling. And I knew immediately how special that was because Kyle was a carpenter and tore down old barns for the beams and timber.

"And I did the wood burning," Emma followed up.

I ran my fingers over the intricate scrolls and curves of the word "Blessings" and the flowers and vines Emma had burned into the wood. On the underside she had burned:

Merry Christmas, Love Emma and Kyle.

"It's a blessings box," Emma said. "You write down things you are thankful for and put them in the box. Then you can read them later when you're feeling down or sad and remind yourself of all the good things in your life."

That night, while the family was all there and the house seemed full of love and joy, I cleared a spot on my nightstand for the box. I wrote down the first thing I was thankful for and dated the paper: "Blessed to remember that no matter how far away my kids are they will always be my kids." I folded it up and tucked it into the box.

The next night I did the same thing. "Thankful for my husband and all he does for me."

And the next night, before bed, I wrote: "Thankful for the big house that can accommodate the family when they come to visit."

And the nights after that: "Blessed that I have a job to go to each day." "Thankful that I'm in good health." "Thankful for my parents."

I wrote down my blessings and prayers and things I was thankful for, no matter how big or small, for each night until the kids left. The holiday decorations came down and the house was once again empty, cold and lonely. My husband worked each day and I did too, but when I came home I felt like I was being swallowed up in the cold and loneliness of the house. As I changed into my pajamas one day after work, I spied the blessing box sitting under a pile of books and I quickly pulled it out. I ran my fingers over the box and the dovetail woodworking that was so carefully and thoughtfully done. I ran my fingers over the words and flowers and smiled, remembering the two special people who had made this gift for me.

One by one I pulled out each piece of paper, unfolded it, and read. I read them out loud so I could hear clearly what I had written.

"Thankful for the big house that can accommodate the family when they come to visit!"

I breathed in deeply as if trying to suck in the chill in the air, and the silence. I remembered the holiday season when the kids were home and thought about future visits. I thought about how not even distance can take my kids away—they will always be my children, and our home will always be their home. With each note I tucked in that box, I was reminded of all the good things in my life, all that I had to be thankful for.

As each week passed, and I wrote a note for the box nearly every night, it helped me to stay focused on the positive. And when I needed a lift or a reminder, there was always a word of encouragement in the Blessings Box.

Now I write notes weekly and re-read my notes of thankfulness often. It has helped me cope with depression and anxiety and has given me a new outlook on life. I'm learning to embrace the quiet times and even the big, old, empty house that has blessed us with so many memories and promises of more to come.

I am blessed and forever thankful for a daughter who recognized a need in her mother and helped her to cope and adjust with a simple idea, a precious gift that has changed everything—a blessings box.

This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Christmas Miracles: 101 Stories of Holiday Hope and Happiness © 2017 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

Cover image via I Shutterstock


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