A new day dawns

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Dawn breaks in the east

A day in the life.  What does it look like?

A day in life might be one where you’re consumed by the hustle of accomplishing all the items overloading your ever-growing to-do list.  Or a day in life may be one of quiet solitude with nothing pressing you forward. 

A day in life may prove so over flowing with joy and happiness that you think you might burst from the elation of it all.  Or a day may drown you in the depths of sorrow and pain and you feel like you’ll never break the surface of the sadness ocean that threatens to overwhelm you.

We are each given a new day every morning upon awakening.  A day that can be thrilling or trying.  Full of zest and zeal or full of trial and tribulation.  And as each day is lived and evening descends to envelop us with night hour darkness, we trudge wearily to our places of rest, shed the concerns or high points of the day, and close our eyes for a time of restoration.  If we’re lucky, we spend several hours resting our bodies and minds.  If not, the night looms lengthy ahead of us.

But one thing is certain.  We expect the dawn.

And we take it for granted.  At least I know that I do. If truth be known, I take far too many aspects of my life for granted and I’m ashamed of being ungrateful.  

I’ve recorded my insights, thoughts, and occasions, my ups and downs, my joys and sorrows here in this blog for four and a half years.  And forgive me for this, but I’ve even taken my blog and you, my readers, for granted. 

I’ve expected that each dawn when a new day rises, I’ll have words to commit to a blog post or a photograph to display.  And I’ve expected that you will view my posts, maybe even press that ‘like’ button or better yet, leave a comment.

I feed off of your kindness and your gracious comments and also from the statistics that show how many folks have clicked on my blog post for the day or who liked my status on Facebook.  And you know what? I’m just feeding my already over-inflated ego.  Yep, it’s all about me and I feel like I’m too busy promoting…myself.  

And it’s time for that to stop. Because it truly isn’t about me and the days of my life.  It’s about who I believe in, trust in, and turn to when I think I’ve lost my way. The very One who gave me this life that I live and take so very much for granted.

The One who reveals Himself everywhere I look and for whom this verse (vs 8) in Psalm 65 was written:  “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”

I truly am grateful for you, my faithful readers, and with hope and sincerity I invite you to join me on a journey during the month of November.  Something will be different.   Nothing drastic, just a change and hopefully, a change in me as I reveal things that have been on my heart the last few weeks.

Beginning November 1, as each new day dawns, I still will share either my words or pictures with you but some posts may be shorter than normal, just photographs may appear on days other than Wordless Wednesdays, and my usual posting schedule (T, W, TH) will be altered so even on weekends you may find something to ponder from Mama’s Empty Nest.    

 “There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.”  ~Jean-Paul Sartre

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When chores turn into blessings

blogIMG_4356I was on my way to accomplish a chore – really, a chore. Another to-do item on my list and this one cost me not just time but money as well.  I’ll be honest and admit, it made me a tad cranky.

On top of that, it wasn’t my kind of day weather-wise.  Overcast, drab skies as far as the eye could see.  Lack of sunshine muted everything from the coats of many colors displayed on the trees to my mood.  Sometimes days like this just make me want to cocoon inside my comfy, cozy home not wanting to venture out.  Yes, it was that kind of day.

But this chore needed accomplished ASAP.  So I put on my ‘happy face,’  grabbed my purse, and headed out.  Even with subdued surroundings though, I couldn’t help but notice the fall foliage around me as I drove.

I arrived at the place where the chore needed completed and wouldn’t you know it?  Those confounded computers that held the key to accomplishing my task decided to be finicky.  Just my luck.  The lady who helped me tried everything and it took much longer than necessary to accomplish the task.

But I made a choice.  Either I could continue being grumpy and complain which wouldn’t help the situation and would probably make that business’ employee grouchy as well or I could laugh and joke about the situation.  I chose the latter.

She laughed along with me and some of the other co-workers kidded, “You two are having too much fun out there!”  

I left smiling.  Yes, it took time out of my day.  Yes, it cost me dollars I didn’t want to cough up.  And yes, it took way longer than necessary.  But my outlook changed because my disposition improved.

I started humming on the drive home even while the windshield wipers beat a monotonous cadence.  And then I began to really see  the scenery along the way and that visual side of me noticed some spots that demanded capture by my camera. 

As soon as I got home, I grabbed my camera bag, threw it in the car, and headed back out again in the countryside for another drive.  I pulled over at the side of the road and stepped out of my car.

Sure it was drizzling.  And it wasn’t exactly warm with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees.  And there were mud puddles everywhere.  I could get dragged down in the murky dismal day if I let myself, but again I made a choice.  I chose to keep wiping the rain spots off my camera lens and continue clicking. 

I doubted whether my photos would have punch because I feared I had waited too long to shoot those fall reds, yellows, rusts, and oranges.  Already many leaves have fallen off the trees.

blogIMG_4366But I still kept walking along and shooting.  I came upon a parked pickup truck with company signage on the side of it and a gentleman came around the truck asking me if where he had parked was blocking my access to a driveway (he thought it was mine).  I answered no, that I was just taking some photos and pointed in the direction of a stand of trees.

And he replied, “Isn’t it beautiful?”  So we stood there in the misting rain on a day that seemed so lackluster and discussed the leaves and their finery.  He worked for an engineering company and shared that he sure enjoyed the scenery on his trip down here to my neck of the woods.  That’s when I noticed his license plate – Vermont.

“Oh,” I replied, “I bet our colors don’t hold a candle to yours.”

On the contrary, he said the leaves this year just turned brown and fell off the trees where he lived.  That’s why he was enjoying our fall foliage so much because he missed seeing theirs.

After a friendly wave goodbye, I walked back to my car and drove home thinking over my afternoon.  Going out for that chore turned into a blessing.

I believe God used that chore just to remind me that no matter how dismal things look, a change in attitude does wonders.  And He placed that engineer in my path so I would remember that even when the world seems dim, He gives us so much for which to be grateful.

Even rainy, downcast days.  Legs to use for walking.  Eyes to see His beauty.  Cameras to capture that beauty.  And a truck from Vermont to remind me to appreciate what the Lord provides.

“The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment; it is the fruit of a thousand choices.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Reflecting on refraction

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As a very amateur photographer, I still have a number of photo albums worth of knowledge to learn about taking good pictures. 

My interest in photography began when my parents gave me my first camera – a Polaroid Swinger – for my 12th birthday all those many years ago.  Since then, I’ve held numerous cameras to my eye and tried to capture my world.  Not always with good results.

I’m a visual person.  Pictures speak to me, they inspire and describe scenes and feelings when I have no words to adequately do so.  Often I even think visually by ‘seeing’ an image in my mind to describe a concept or thought.

When I gaze at my surroundings, I can see a shot – what I think would make a beautiful or appealing picture, but often my old cameras didn’t capture quite what I envisioned.

I imagine my lack of knowledge about such things as light and the technical aspects of photography prohibit my getting the shot I had hoped for and my not so great cameras over the years also contributed to that.  But every once in a while I think I just got lucky.

A couple of years ago, my husband gave me a wonderful gift to encourage me in my photography hobby – a DSLR camera.  Finally, those shots I could see with my own two eyes unfolded the way I imagined them on my memory card. 

I still haven’t learned all the aspects of my trusty camera – probably because I’m not a patient sort when it comes to reading all the instructions.  I’m more of a do it as you learn kind of gal.

But again, sometimes I just get lucky when I set out to take a photograph.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme is refraction.  I located the word in my dictionary to be sure I understood exactly what it meant because those science classes were taken oh, so many years ago.  The definition, “a deflection of a propagating wave, as of light or sound, at the boundary between two mediums with different characteristics,” reminded me that I did remember correctly what the word meant.

My first impulse though was to skip this week’s challenge because I doubted my ability to show that theme personified in a photo.  But this morning, I plunked myself down with a hot cup of tea in front of our desktop computer and perused some of my old pictures.

This one jumped off the monitor screen at me.  It murmured ‘refraction’ and begged to be seen in my blog post for today.  I took this photo almost three years ago when I was putting away Christmas decorations.  Why? Because the light from the candle appealed to me.  I remember setting this candle holder on the wooden piano bench and taking shots from various angles just to see if I could capture what I imagined.  

I got lucky again.

And as always, a picture inspires me to think of deeper things.  It’s dreary outside today – one of those grey-hued days with wind and intermittent rain. No sunshine rays to bounce off the glass of my windows and cause me to want to rush outdoors to sing “sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy.”  No refraction I guess.

But when there is no light wave in my visual world, there’s still a strong wave of light and all that is good inside my heart.  His name is Jesus and my hope is that His light propagates through me.

“There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Repurposing me

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Father-in-law’s wooden puzzle from childhood

Repurposing appears to be all the rage now days. 

What today’s savvy crafter or decorator calls repurposing – using something old or that could  be discarded for an entirely new purpose – is what we used to call just reusing what we had lying around the house or garage.  My parents were experts at reusing.  Both of them grew up during the Great Depression and money was not just tight, in some instances it was practically non-existent, so they learned from their parents to reuse everything possible.

Maybe that’s why my father had an over-sized two-car garage full of all kinds of bits and pieces:  old electrical wiring and plugs, any kind of old screws, nuts, bolts, or nails, jars, pieces of lumber/tile/whatever, string/rope/twine, parts for this and parts from that, and on and on and on.  My parents only threw something away when it was totally unusable.  And many times that whatsit that Dad had saved in the garage came handy for fixing or fabricating something else.

Fast forward to current times.  Everyone is ‘repurposing.’  You can find scads of ideas on Pinterest and there are entire websites dedicated to reusing, remaking, and repurposing all kinds of things.  I noticed some really great ideas and some incredulous ones as well (like turning an old baby Grand piano into a fountain) on this Twisted Sifter site. And I regularly check out interesting reusing ideas on the Facebook page Hometalk.

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Mother’s childhood cabinet

I’ve repurposed a number of things right here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that I have more time on my hands.  After my mom passed away, I inherited one of her toys – a child-sized wooden cabinet that she put her play dishes in as a little girl.  It gathered dust in my basement for several years because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. 

One day I brought it upstairs, cleaned and polished it and found a spot in my dining room for it.   I repurposed it by adorning it with some vintage doilies and various tea-related items in addition to special tea cups and saucers and my mother-in-law’s antique cream pitchers and was happy with the result.  I especially like that it reminds me not only of my mom and my mother-in-law but also the friends and family who gave me the gifts it now holds.

Repurpose Win #1.

After my father passed, my sisters and I faced the monumental task of cleaning out our parents’ home and garage – not an easy job in lots of ways.  In the garage, I found the old insulated dairy box that used to stand on our porch for the milkman to deposit our weekly bottles of milk in when I was a kid.  It was still in relatively decent shape, and since neither one of my sisters wanted it, it came home with me.  Of course, it too found a dusty spot in my basement to hide.  This summer, I repurposed it into a flower pot container for pretty red geraniums on my front porch.

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Old milk box back on the porch

Repurpose Win #2.

For years, my hubby has kept a wooden puzzle in an old cardboard stationary box of his mother’s.  The puzzle is most unique in that it is printed on both sides – one side is the face of a clock in Roman numerals, the other gives the seasons of the year, names of the months, and how many days each month has.  The puzzle is special to us because it was a boyhood toy for my father-in-law who was born in 1898 (yes, you read that right!).  Instead of being hidden away in a box, this little bit of family history now rests inside a glass frame and hangs on my husband’s study wall (see photo at top).

Repurpose Win #3.

So repurposing – I’ve been up for it.  I’ve managed it.  There are still some items in my home that I have plans to reuse in one way or another.  That’s the easy aspect of repurposing.  Just go online, look up ideas, scan a few magazines, voila! You’ve got an idea what to do and how to do it.

But when it comes to life?  How do you repurpose that?  Not so easy.  That’s something I’ve been struggling with for over a year now.  Altering your life is so much more difficult than altering an object.  Finding a new purpose for yourself proves harder than finding a new purpose for an old, dusty thing.

This passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 2:20-21 which I read in The Message the other day encouraged me:   “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”

With God’s guidance and according to His purpose, I believe He’s repurposing me, altering my container so I can be used to bless others.

And I’m hoping.  And praying.  And waiting for Repurpose Win #4.

“Living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.” ~Author Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Life on purpose

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I drifted.  I spun in circles.  Each day seemed like the tedious one before. And I was so very weary of being snagged in this eddy of stagnancy.  

Maybe, I thought, it was time for me to read that book about living a purpose driven life.   Years ago when it landed on the best sellers list and became popular among the masses, I settled in on the couch with that edition but after only a chapter or two, I laid it aside and never finished it. 

I just wasn’t interested perhaps because it seemed like my life already held tons of purpose back then.  Happily married with one daughter in college and two active teenagers, I led a jam-packed full and running over life.  Family, church activities, my kids’ school and sports schedules, leading women’s Bible studies.  They all kept me purring like a fine-tuned engine.

A purpose driven life?  I was living it by raising my family, guiding them in faith, and taking care of my loved ones in addition to serving my church and community. My ministry included part-time employment and a calling at a local non-profit organization.  God entrusted me with a seed planted years before, and He gave me the tools to cultivate and nurture that seed while it blossomed and grew into a vibrant, thriving program.  I used my gifts of organizing, speaking, and teaching to strengthen a cause which truly became my passion.  

A purpose-driven life?   A resounding yes.

That’s probably why that book did not grab my attention then.  Understanding what on earth I was here for? I got that because I already knew I was “planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Christ, shaped for serving God, and made for a mission.”   Leading a purpose-driven life by actively serving God on a mission?  Yes, a thousand times yes. So I closed the book, returned it to the shelf, and continued on my merry way.

That way steered me to where I am now over a decade later.  The very aspects of those years, those meaningful times that gave me purpose, changed dramatically or ceased completely.  My children became independent adults, leading their own lives far from home, first as college students, then in their careers, and finally when they all married. 

And I found that all of those facets of life that kept me humming along on my road of purpose halted.  Through one thing or another, even leading women’s Bible studies also concluded. The empty nest threatened to knock me off course for a while.  But the final straw came last September when I was forced to resign from my ministry and passion for over 12 years.  

I remember how that event sent me literally reeling.  Losing my ministry proved devastating, it ripped away my sense of purpose and left me bleeding.  I truly felt like a ship without a rudder.  Since then, I drifted, I wafted, I spun in circles, and even crashed – hard – on the rocks of disappointment and disillusionment. 

What purpose did all of that serve?  At the time, I did not have a clue.

And if I’m perfectly honest, I confess I’m still a little clueless after spending a year in retrospect, thinking and re-thinking about what I should do with my life.  What is my redefined purpose? 

I  have prayed.  I have explored other options.  I have searched high and low for another mission and even just another occupation.    

And I found myself still drifting….and waiting…and frankly, getting a little annoyed with the process.  So I pulled that book about a purpose driven life down off the shelf, blew the dust off the top of the volume, and opened it to read this statement: It’s not about you.

Okay, I already know that.  As a long-time believer in Christ, I suspect I’ve already learned quite a bit of the wisdom imparted in this book. I know that my life’s purpose is to glorify God.  I got that.   What I’m not so sure about is how I’m supposed to do that.

So it was no coincidence that while pondering this dilemma for the last few weeks, someone prepared a message for a worship service.  A message to be delivered in a church other than my own.  A message that I needed to hear.

Don’t you just love when God taps you on the shoulder and says, “Listen up.  This one is for you.”  A spur of the moment trip to visit one set of our married, grown offspring placed me in their church sanctuary one Sunday morning listening to a lay person deliver the message.

It never ceases to amaze me when God speaks to us through our fellow believers.  The man in the pulpit delivered a message encompassed in a simple nutshell – our purpose here on earth is to glorify God.    Okay, second time that week to receive that message. 

Our job, the reason we were created, is to declare the Lord’s glory to the world.  Those were his words but the message for me is in the italics.   “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  (Emphasis mine) ~ Romans 8:28

See I think I have been searching for a big purpose for my life.  Big, not small.  Grandiose, not gracious.   Glory seeking, not glory giving.  My purpose, not His.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Again emphasis mine) ~ Proverbs 19:21

My plans are not necessarily God’s plans. 

Think God wants to pound that thought into this thick skull of mine?  I do. 

Because attaining goals I thought would give my life purpose were actually aspects which would glorify….me.  And you know what?  Glorifying myself would set me even more adrift on the sea of self.  Self-adulation, self-absorption, self-centeredness, selfishness…self, self, self. 

And when my world is full of self, there’s no room for Jesus.  And when there’s no room for Jesus, I truly have no purpose.

That’s definitely not in the plan. 

 “The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder – a waif, a nothing, a no man.” – Thomas Carlyle

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©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

This girl

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20-something me in the ’70s

Many little girls dream of the day when they become mothers. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t.

Oh, when I was young, I played with dolls and pretended to be a mommy to them. I had tea parties with my dollies and did all the usual little girl play acting.  But when I thought of my future, which I must admit wasn’t that often, I didn’t envision myself becoming a mother.  No, I imagined my future self as either a famous actress or a well-known best-selling author.

And I have become neither.  But the best accomplishment I’ve ever achieved and one that I will never, ever regret is becoming a mother.  Growing up, my own mother instilled in me that I needed to go to college and become ‘something.’  Mom never worked outside of our home and she was a wonderful mother taking care of us three girls, cooking and baking the most delicious food, and turning our home into a lovely sanctuary. 

An only child, Mom also lovingly cared for her own parents in our home until they passed away.  She was generous, devoted to her family, and homemaking really did seem to make her happy particularly when she used her artistic talent in sewing, crocheting, and making beautiful hand-made quilts. 

Somewhere along my path to becoming an adult, whether it was a nudge from my own mom or just a sign of the times – the late 60’s and early 70’s – I embraced the idea that I did not want to become ‘just a wife and mother’ like my own mom.  I used to proclaim that I aimed for one goal – to be a career woman. I wasn’t interested in getting married, and for anyone who listened, I added that my vow certainly did not include having children.

What I did not account for in my made-up scenario of life is that I would meet and fall head over heels in love with a young man during my junior year of college and I would gladly become his wife three years later.

Still I entertained thoughts of not having children. Looking back now, I really cannot pinpoint why I had made that decision in early adulthood.  But four years after I married my husband, it happened.  I discovered that I wasn’t really suffering from an intestinal bug that made me nauseous and prompted early morning trips to the bathroom, I was pregnant – with child.

I was shocked and unprepared and the timing certainly wasn’t ideal.  My military husband was slated for an overseas year-long unaccompanied (meaning no wives along) assignment and would be leaving soon.   Up to this point, our lives seemed great since we both enjoyed our careers; we were saving my earnings; we had a great social circle of friends; and we did pretty much what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. 

All of that came screeching to a halt when an Army doctor gave me the good news.  Since the baby was due when my husband would be out of the country, I panicked.  How could I bring a baby into the world alone, far away from not only my husband but my family and their support as well?

We solved the dilemma by preparing for my husband’s PCS (permanent change of station) by moving out of our on-post housing, putting most of our belongings in storage, and moving me to temporarily stay with my folks while my husband was stationed on the other side of the world.  My parents eagerly welcomed me home and they were amazing as they helped me adjust to the idea of motherhood.  

A week after Christmas, my own mother held me as I sobbed inconsolably in an airport restroom after kissing my husband goodbye for the next year of our lives.  As she hugged me and stroked my head, my wise mother whispered, “You need to stop crying now.  It’s time to think about the baby.”

And she was right.  As foreign and surreal as it seemed because I wasn’t even showing yet, there was a new little life growing and developing inside my own.  I felt the baby’s first fluttering move on Christmas Eve while sitting in church but it all still seemed so unreal.  

It was indeed time to think about my baby.

It was time to really grow up.  Time to put aside my wants, my desires, my thoughts about myself and my sadness over being separated from my husband, and think of someone else.  Someone who would be solely dependent on me.  My child.

Thirty plus years have come and gone since that day.  When I brought that first new little life into this world, I never imagined the intense love I would feel for that child.  My child.  The day my firstborn was placed in my arms, I launched on a new career path – motherhood.  My husband and I together decided that the best thing for our family was for me to be a stay-at-home mom.

I kissed my former career goodbye and I’ve never regretted that decision.  My outlook on motherhood completely changed when I became a mother myself.  With each child born – and there were two more gifts of life – my joy and blessings increased and so did my deep love for my children.  

A couple of years ago, each one of my grown children married (all in the same year!) and now I am Mama to six adults instead of just three.  My love for my ‘children’ just keeps blossoming and growing and extending way beyond what I ever envisioned.   

And now I am an empty nest mama.  Somehow time flew past in a whirlwind and our house, which once was so full of noise, toys, and childhood mayhem is neat, orderly, and quiet.  And yes, I must admit, it’s also lonely from time to time.

Change.  That’s what life always brings.  And now it’s time for a new change. 

This girl…this girl with her wide-eyed dreams…this girl who never thought she was capable of being a mother…this girl who cherished motherhood more than a career…this girl who watched each of her fledglings soar out of her nest…this girl who is sometimes astonished at the middle-aged lady who looks back at her from the mirror…this girl…is changing again. 

This girl…is going to be a grandmother!

“A house needs a grandma in it.” ~Louisa May Alcott

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©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com