Treasured Relics

blogIMG_3578You know the old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?”  Well, I imagine the same could be true about what constitutes a relic.  This week’s photo challenge theme on Word Press has been relic.

One of the definitions of the word says a relic is “an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest.”  For some, a relic may be just an uninteresting piece of old junk, for another it is fascinating.

On our recent trip south, we visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  Now that place is full of relics – items of historical interest that truly are captivating like furniture, vintage clothing, period décor accessories, old photographs, and original artwork by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and John Singer Sargent.   

But I suppose if you weren’t interested in history or the culture of that bygone era, you could find it boring.  Not us.  My history loving husband found it intriguing and my imaginative self found it equally enchanting. 

The impressive ‘big house’ is a 250 room chateau-style mansion which was built and completed in 1895 for George Vanderbilt as a retreat for his family and friends.  It sits on 8000 acres, much of it wooded and all of it beautiful, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  

As we toured only the rooms open to the general public, I could imagine folks a century ago coming and going.  Arriving in the foyer with trunks in tow for an extended stay.  Enjoying the elaborate indoor winter garden on a blustery cold day.  Lounging on a chaise reading in the library with floor to ceiling shelves holding 10,000 books.  

Genteel ladies escorted by well-mannered gentlemen on a carriage ride through the estate. Elegantly attired folks feasting in the banquet hall where 64 guests could dine around a 40-foot long table.  Getting some recreation in the indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, or gymnasium.  Enjoying a summer breeze and gorgeous view on the loggia.  Strolling arm and arm through the magnificent gardens.  It is the stuff that historical romantic novels are made of.

Taking a day to ‘go back in time’ proved fascinating for the two of us.  Hubby’s love of historical trivia was sated.  He posed a question to a Biltmore staff member about an aspect he noticed in the banquet hall, and she answered with surprise that he was correct.  She added that in the 11 years that she had worked there, no one had ever gotten that connection on his own.  That’s my husband!

And my fascination with vintage things and love for photography was equally satisfied, although I had to be content with only taking pictures outside as no indoor photography is allowed since it is still a privately owned home.  Still there were many photo ops to capture my eye.

All of those relics at the Biltmore have been carefully preserved because someone believed they were worthy of being safeguarded.  And that makes me think about my own relics.  I have a few – they’re not priceless by any means when it comes to monetary value.  They’re only priceless to me because they belonged to a family member now long gone. 

As I glance around my home at my furnishings, artwork, and personal belongings, I wonder if there’s any item here that someday might be considered a relic and if anyone will consider it precious enough to keep. Time will tell.

 “Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.”  ~ Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Vacation messages

blogIMG_3644Life isn’t always as rosy as we paint it to be on our social media canvas. I try to put on my happy face and do my best to be encouraging, but sometimes, I feel absolutely overburdened with the trials and troubles this world has in abundance.  Inhumanity.  Greed.  Economic woes.  Political unrest.  Warfare.  Natural disasters. It’s depressing to read the news or watch it on television.

Just the other evening,  Papa and I tuned into one of our local stations to catch the latest since we had been away for several days.  One distressing story after another.  Murders, fires, robberies, drownings…it went on and on until suddenly my husband (keeper of the remote) hit the off button.  He said he’d had enough, and I nodded in agreement.

But I must remind myself that in every dark cloud that hovers over us, (and there sure do seem to be a lot lately) God still sends His rays of light to reach us.  We just have to be on the lookout.  Be sensitive to His voice.  Be open to see and hear and experience Him.  I wish I could say I always do that, but I am remiss way too often.

Early last week, Papa and I prepared to go on a much-needed vacation.  He had a few days left and the old use it or lose it rule is in effect where he works.   So we discussed where we might be able to travel by car for a short trip.   After some thought, discussion, and internet searches for a place to stay, we landed on an opportunity.

I’ve always wanted to see the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  If I had a bucket list, it would be on it. We found a cottage nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville that one could rent for less than a week, and amazingly it was available over the 4th of July.  We promptly booked it and started packing.

Lately, I’d been feeling listless.  My job search proved fruitless and since school is out for summer, there’s no substitute teaching.  Oh, plenty of projects and chores called out to me here at home, but frankly, I just didn’t have the heart to even start them.   I even felt distant from God, slacked off on prayer and Bible reading time, and found no inspiration for blog writing to boot.  And to top it off, I’ve felt so weary of all of the attacks on people of faith that are constantly being highlighted in the news, not to mention the prevalence of downright rudeness and crass ways people  seem to have adopted. 

Yes, I decided, I needed a vacation away from the hum-drum of everyday life as much as my hard-working husband.  The day before we left, I stopped in a department store on my way home from getting a haircut.  As the store clerk was ringing up my purchase, I noticed a piece of paper taped to the side of her cash register, facing the customer side.   A small metal object in the shape of an angel dangled from the paper, which was a little poem about God’s angels.  I read it and frankly, I don’t even remember what was written.

I was surprised that the poetry was allowed in this public place because someone or other always complains about such things and forces their removal.  But that’s not what amazed me the most.  Underneath that printed poem were these handwritten words:  “God loves you!”  The word you was underlined twice to emphasize it, and I felt as if it were a message just for me that day – one of those little rays of light that God shines down that I must be willing to notice.

And He continued radiating His light all through our vacation.  State by state (we drove through six states in one day), God made Himself known to me.  Along the highway in one state, I glimpsed numerous sets of three crosses on the hillsides.  The middle and largest cross was always painted gold and each time I noticed the cross, it reassured me of His willingness to pay the price for my salvation.

Viewing the countryside of mountains, creeks, and woods on our scenic drive reminded me that only a majestic and powerful God could speak such spectacular creation into being.  Once we arrived at our destination, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the cottage we had rented.  It felt like a haven, a lovely spot of rest, and I knew only the God who loves me and wants what’s best for me provided this little sanctuary for a few days.

As we spent the following day touring the Biltmore Estate (which is absolutely amazing, by the way), we encountered kind and gracious folks, not discourteous or ill-mannered.  Not hearing one bit of foul language proved refreshing and pleasant.  It was as if the Lord was showing me that there are considerate, kindhearted people around us.  Again, that little spot of sunshine in a dark world.

We prepared our own meals but did dine on good North Carolina bar-b-que one evening.  And on our drive back home, we stopped at a chain restaurant in another state for dinner.  Even the waitress was well-mannered asking us politely, “May I take these plates?”   Papa picked up the bill and handed it to me, pointing to what was written on the bottom:  “Bring in your church bulletin on Sunday and get 15% off your bill.”

Another sign for me that there are people out there who still believe in God, who attend church to worship Him, and aren’t afraid to let others know.  People just like the bluegrass quartet of fellows playing guitars, banjo, and bass fiddle and singing their hearts out while beautifully harmonizing in a courtyard in downtown Mt. Airy, NC (Andy Griffith’s hometown and the real Mayberry from his TV show).

It surely was no coincidence that just as Papa and I sat down to listen to them, they began singing “Have a Little Talk with Jesus.”

I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
He bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole
(Now let us) have a little talk with Jesus (let us) tell him all about our troubles
(He will) hear our faintest cry (and we will) answer by and by
(Now when you) feel a little pray’r wheel turning
(Then you’ll) know a little fire is burning
(You will) find a little talk with Jesus makes it right
I may have doubts and fears my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and night
I go to him in prayer he knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.

Those good ol’ boys didn’t know how they blessed my heart that day and reassured me not only that God is there listening to our cries but that He answers by and by.

Sometimes He answers with obvious rays of sunshine like He showed me one evening on one of our scenic drives through the mountains (my photo above).  Other times he sends us less conspicuous glimmers of ‘Sonshine.’  We just have to be willing to receive His message.  It just took a vacation trip to remind me.

“Whenever I see sunbeams coming through clouds, it always looks to me like God shining himself down onto us. The thing about sunbeams is they’re always there even though we can’t always see them. Same with God.”  ~ Terri Guillemets

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Let Freedom Ring

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“America, America, God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

Happy Birthday, America!  

May we seriously reflect on the great courage and sacrifice our forefathers endured just to provide us, the future generations, with liberty on this Independence Day.   And may we thank God for our freedom and do everything we possibly can to preserve it.  Will you join me today in praying for restoration of our great nation?  

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When it comes to hopping

I’m not much of a hopper.  I generally leap into something all the way with both feet or stand back and contemplate whether I really want to join in or not.  But today, I am hopping.

No, I’m not hopping mad.  Or hopping down the bunny trail (you have to be old enough to know Here Comes Peter Cottontail for that one).  Nor am I island hopping although the idea of that does sound grand… maybe I just need a vacation.

And I’m not hopping in my socks at the dance (sock hop) either, even though that sounds like fun.  Instead, today I’m blog hopping.  I was invited to participate in a blog hop (who knew there was such a thing?) for today.  My good friend and blogging buddy, Dianna, over at These Days of Mine asked me to join in.

The only requirement to join the blog hop is to answer four questions in a blog post and name, with their permission of course, three fellow bloggers to also answer the questions and post the following Monday.  I had no trouble answering the questions, but unfortunately, only one blogging friend was available to join the blog hop.  So head on over to D’s place at My Five F’s for her answers next week. (And thank you, D, for hopping with me!)

Here are the questions in bold, my answers in italics:

  • How does my creating process work? Many writers have a certain process they follow to start their creative juices flowing.  I’m not one of them.  I just write when I feel compelled to do so.  Usually something I see, hear, or read sparks my interest and sets my mind to writing a blog post.  Sometimes I’m composing it in my head before I even sit down at the computer.  Or I jot down the idea in a notebook to be revisited later.  What kind of things spark my creativity?  It could be a photograph I take or something as simple as looking at an everyday aspect of life in a different way.  Sometimes it’s a scripture I read or a quote that I come across or even one word that inspires me to write.   More times than not, I feel God leading me to write what I do.
     
  • How does my work differ from others of its genre? I’m not really certain that my work is that different from others but I do write straight from my heart, using my own voice and my own photographs.  My goal is to uplift and encourage and never tear down, so if I use sarcasm, it’s only in a joking way.  I think my writing style is conversational; I write like I talk.   Not to be too heavy or serious, yet not silly or frivolous either,  I aim for balance.  My purpose is to inspire and encourage my readers in some way and always to make my blog a warm and inviting place.  I like to imagine my reader and I are just sitting down with a cup of tea and having a nice chat.
  • What am I working on? Well, of course I work on my blog regularly and I take pictures a lot (I’m in love with my camera).  But I’m also working on a devotional book and –gasp! – I can’t believe I’m actually putting this ‘out there,’ but I’m writing a work of fiction.  It may never get published, who knows, but I’m having a lot of fun writing it.  I’ve never believed I was creative enough to write fiction and make up characters, plot, and all of that because I’ve always been a non-fiction writer (just the facts. ma’am), but the characters that are running around my imagination and now appearing on my computer screen have taken on a life of their own and are now telling me what to write.  A little scary, maybe? But definitely producing growth in me as a writer.
  • Why do I create what I do? Sometimes, it’s like I just need to get the words out.  I said it before and I’ll say it again – I feel compelled to do so.  It’s like a fountain of words just erupts from my heart and mind and gushes out all over the place.  When I first started my blog, I wrote for myself, to place the words that swirled around inside my brain into an orderly fashion so I could deal with them.  But now, several years later, I don’t just write for myself; my readers are always on my mind.  I love to encourage and uplift them by sharing my own experiences in hopes that what I write touches their hearts and gives them pause for thought.

So now you know a little bit more about me.  But let me thank you, my readers.  Because every time you hop on over here to my empty nest place, you make me happy enough to hop up and down excitedly.

“The writer catches the changes of his mind on the hop. Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind.”   ~ British novelist Vita Sackville-West

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Between attitude adjustments

blogIMG_1737It’s all a matter of perspective, this thing called life.

We awaken each morning and we must choose.  What will be my attitude for today?  Will I allow my circumstances to control me or will I adjust my outlook and not base it on the circumstances?  Stressed or not? Productive or not? For me, it’s a matter of where I place my focus.

Monday morning, my focus was off.  Literally off.  Way off.  When I awakened, I rolled over just like I do every morning to check the time on the alarm clock.  And suddenly, the room was spinning faster than the ceiling fan whirling over my head.  Dizziness overwhelmed me and immediately twisted my stomach in its grip.

I attempted to sit up slowly in bed while the whirling scene slowed and when I stood erect, my world finally arrived at a standstill.  But my stomach still lurched from the effects of the upheaval.  I tried to lie down again and whoa, I was back on that out of control merry-go-round.  Standing seemed the only way to curtail the spinning.

For most of the morning, I felt ‘not right,’ not really dizzy but not quite balanced either.  Between.  That’s where I landed.  Between wellness and feeling ill.  Between accomplishing plans for the day – strawberry jam to be made – and just sitting idle.

I found it uncanny that this week’s photo challenge on Word Press just happened to be ‘between.’  That feeling of being caught between two perspectives can make one feel unnerved, and I’ve been ensnared in that position plenty of enough times to realize that.  Being between feuding friends or family can unseat the most stable person. 

When our children were young, we were on a family trip:  Papa driving, Mama riding shot gun, and our three youngsters crammed in the back seat.  Middle daughter was stuck in the middle seat when son, the youngest, and oldest daughter started arguing.  Back and forth, the squabbling continued.  No doubt the disagreement was over something ridiculous, but that didn’t matter, the dispute escalated. 

They continued verbally sparring and butting heads, even though Papa threw out that age old threat, “Do I have to stop this car?”  Middle daughter had patiently kept quiet as her siblings warred over her.  And then finally, she threw up her hands in desperation and cried in her 9-year-old wisdom, “Can’t we all just learn to get along??” 

She found herself between these two often when they were still youngsters.  Our daughter could have focused on how she was caught in the sometimes miserable  middle.  But instead she focused on keeping her patience and learned at a young age to be a pretty decent peacemaker. 

I’ve also found myself between a rock and a hard place,  which causes anxiety and even a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.   It’s difficult to determine where to turn because each avenue you attempt seems blocked and inescapable.  That’s when I’ve found that my focus needs to be diverted off the problem and off myself.  Instead, I need to focus on others and turn my attention to the faith in my Savior which always bolsters me through any situation.

blogIMG_1738Sometimes reading between the lines gives you great perspective.  But at other times, it may lead you to false conclusions. Again, it’s a matter of focus.  It’s wise to consider all angles and zero in on the truth before making a final decision.

So I have to ask myself: is my focus stuck between one thing and another?  Or can I aim my sight beyond those two things I’m between?

My unfocused world on Monday eventually righted itself naturally and I’m back on the straight and narrow.  Something somewhere in my body (I suspect my inner ear) just needed to make an adjustment.  And I find that’s so true about my focus when I’m caught in between

Usually, I just need an attitude adjustment.

 “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” ~ William James

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com