The color of contentment

blogIMG_1069Sometimes words of wisdom are imparted to me just at the exact time I need to hear them most. Some folks call that coincidence. Some call it fate. I call it “a God-thing.”

We meander along in this life trying to make sense of it and live it the best way we know how. But sometimes, we get stymied by circumstances that leave us scratching our heads and wondering how in the world did we get here? Often the circumstances are stumbling blocks, sometimes they’re just huge obstacles in our way and we think there’s no way over this, around this, or through this.

Those are the times I wish I could say that as a believer in Christ, I always turn to God through prayer and reading His Holy Word. But guess what? I don’t always do that. Instead I try to muster up enough of my own wisdom and understanding to muscle my way through the hindrance before me. And only when I get totally frustrated and exhausted from trying to pummel through a situation on my own do I finally do what I know I should do. Call upon God.

The reasons I don’t always do so are many, I suppose, but it boils down to one thing. I am not a perfect Christian. I am a constant struggler. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, or maybe I’ve settled that worldly mantra of “I’ll do it my way” into my stubborn self. And that’s why I need those reminders – those God-things.

This past Sunday I listened to my pastor give a message on contentment and experienced yet again another reminder. Pastor reiterated the message to me that contentment is “adjusting to your circumstances.”  Yep, there it was, big and bold right up there on that power point. And oh, I thought I had learned that lesson many years ago.

Back then, I struggled mightily with an issue which brought me discontent. We had lived in the Midwest for eight years as happily as oysters tucked into their beds in the bottom of the deep blue sea. You might say we were cultivating our own beautiful pearl there.

Our family of five was nestled in our comfortable home, we had great friends and neighbors, a caring church family, good schools for our children, fulfilling job for hubby, and numerous volunteer opportunities for this Mama…you get my drift. Life was good there or to quote Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor: “Why, then the world’s mine oyster.” A bonus was that we were also within driving distance of our families back home in the Northeast.

But the oyster was ripped open and that shiny pearl was plucked out and flung to the far side of the country. In other words, my husband got promoted necessitating a move to the Pacific Northwest. At first, it was a grand adventure for our family. Excitement reigned as we prepared for life in an area of the country we had never been before. New house, new friends, new community, new school, and new church to find. Beautiful, breathtaking sights to see. Yes, it truly was an adventure and we shined up our pearl of life which gleamed in our new surroundings.

But after a few years, something unsettling forged its way into my heart, mind, and soul. Discontentment. As good as life seemed living there, I couldn’t help but be saddened because we were an entire countryside away from our aging parents. And I couldn’t imagine staying there for the rest of our lives. The thought made me as gloomy and dreary as the gray, overcast skies that permeate that area of the country.

At the time, I was getting together once a week with a dear friend for Bible study and fellowship. She carefully listened as I shared my struggle and why I wasn’t feeling content where God had placed my family and me. Then she wisely and lovingly pointed me in the right direction – to God’s Word and prayer.

I started earnestly beseeching the Lord to help me find contentment right where I was – in the very circumstances that prompted my discontent. I praised Him and I thanked Him for the ways I witnessed a deepening of faith in my family because of our move and for the many blessings He had bestowed on us.

And honestly, just when I had finally arrived at the place where I could discard that downcast robe of discontent and don the contented coat of accepting my circumstances, things changed dramatically and dare I say it? Miraculously.

So here’s the thing. Lately, that old feeling of being dissatisfied with the circumstances of life has resurfaced. Yes, I admit I may have been hanging on to unrealistic expectations. Yes, I allowed myself to be controlled by circumstances. And yes, I found myself complaining instead of praising God and being thankful.  See, Pastor, I really was listening!

Yes, that message I heard on Sunday showed me I needed to re-learn that lesson I thought I’d mastered all those years ago.  And I needed a reminder of the color of contentment.

“Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.” ~ John Homer Miller

Will I choose to let the muted grays, browns, and blacks of discontent color and darken my life, or will I choose the vibrant, glorious rainbow of colors that praising and thanking the Lord provides?

My contentment does not depend upon what my circumstances may be.  My color of choice to pursue contentment is anchored to serving, praising, and thanking a Savior, Jesus. 

The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not telling you this because I need anything. I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because He gives me strength.” (New Century Version)

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Angry Birds acrobatics?

It looked like a scene right out of Angry Birds.

Birds plummeted through the sky like they were being shot out of a slingshot or a rocket.

Last evening after dinner, hubby went outside to finish mowing our two-plus acre yard.  I plunked down on the front porch swing, enjoying the cool evening air and engrossed in a book.

I didn’t pay much attention to hubby’s mowing job, but the steady roar of our trusty John Deere lawn tractor sounded in my ears, as well as a car or truck passing by.  An occasional car horn toot to sound hello greetings from a friend driving past caused me to raise my head from my book and wave.

Suddenly the droning stopped and I heard my husband yell for me.  I stood up, turned around because he was in the side yard behind me, wondering what was wrong.  He was just sitting on the tractor with a goofy grin on his face and I couldn’t figure out why he wanted my attention.  And then I saw them.  Birds!

The birds were going crazy!  A flock of birds were swooping, dive-bombing and coming awfully close to my husband’s head!  They circled around him; they flew straight up into the air and then made a beeline for the ground.  They quickly darted through the air, floating and turning, soaring and swerving.

Hubby laughed, “Look at the bird acrobatic show!”  I watched as they catapulted through the air, lunging and plunging, flying and diving each time.  I felt certain they were attacking him because they flew extremely close to him.

“What’s going on?” I asked.  “Why are they angry at you?  Is there a nest nearby or what?”

“No,” he replied.  “This happens every time I mow.  I think I’m stirring up all the bugs in the ground and the birds are flocking in to eat them.”

A feeding frenzy.  Not angry birds, hungry birds foraging for a tasty treat, thanks to the human on the noisy mower.

Hubby shrugged, started up the tractor, and proceeded with his lawn manicure job.  And the birds kept up their acrobatic performance.  I imagine there were some satisfied songbirds with full tummies.

I sat back down on the porch swing, picked up my book, listened to the tractor’s constant hum, inhaled the scent of freshly cut grass, and a big satisfied sigh escaped from me.  Ah, life in the country…. no annoying noise, no loud neighbors, no steady stream of traffic, no distractions, no addicting games like Angry Birds.

Just a simple evening enjoying the simple things in life, including a few hungry birds.  In my Opportunity book, Chapter 8, Page 26, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Picture perfect mornings make me sing!

blogDSCN7828You awaken to sunshine streaming in your window accompanied by wafts of fresh, clean air gently blowing through the screen.

You realize it was so cool during the night, you pulled the quilt up over yourself and you’re snuggling inside it because it feels a little chilly.

No harsh buzzing of the alarm clock rings in your ears because it’s your day off work, but you do catch the lilting melody of song birds coming from outside.

You leave your place of slumber and glance out the open window to see the most glorious baby blue sky decorated with bits of cottony fluff here and there.  A dazzling sun gleams from the east causing the yard to look resplendent in verdant trees and grass.

The temperature hovers around the upper 60’s with an expected high in the mid 70’s. Throwing open the patio door and kitchen windows invites a cooling breeze into the house refreshing enough to compel you to linger at the kitchen table with your soothing hot cup of tea.  You observe a tiny sparrow hopping along the deck railing and notice butterflies chasing each other, flitting hither and yon.

There’s a faint rustle of leaves as the cooling wind blows through the trees.  You hear cicadas chirping, morning song birds, and occasionally a car driving by.  But that is all.  It’s peaceful and serene.  It’s beautiful and picturesque.  It’s life here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

And that’s my idea of a picture perfect morning.

That’s what it’s been like here the last few days and I can’t express how much I enjoy mornings like these.  Quote anthologist Terri Guillemets wrote this:  “I used to love night best but the older I get the more treasures and hope and joy I find in mornings.”   I couldn’t agree with her more, especially on mornings like these.

Yesterday all day I found myself singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma.  I’ve actually lived in that state and while I’m sure native Okies believe their mornings are the most spectacular, I beg to differ.   Rising to incredibly hot temperatures isn’t my idea of a beautiful morning, and that’s what I remember most about summertime there.  I’d much rather sing about mornings right here in my home state.

Treated to a repeat performance of my picture perfect morning today, my mind’s card catalog of songs brought up “It’s a Beautiful Morning” by The Rascals.

“It’s a beautiful mornin’ ahhh

I think I’ll go outside a while an jus’ smile

Just take in some clean fresh air boy

Ain’t no sense in stayin’ inside

If the weather’s fine an’ you got the time

It’s your chance to wake up and plan another brand new day

Either way

It’s a beautiful mornin’ ahhh”

Morning songs just keep playing in my head on this magnificent Page 11, Chapter 8, in my book of Opportunity.  Cat Stevens’  “Morning Has Broken”  comes to mind.  As soon as I run through that song, a Herman’s Hermits tune, “I’m Into Something Good,” follows with “Woke up this morning, feelin’ fine, there’s something special on my mind.”

When I dig a little deeper in my song file, I find myself singing “Good Mornin” from that marvelous old movie, Singing in the Rain.   That tune reminds me of crooning my version to our awakening children when they were young:  “Good mornin’, Good mornin’, You slept the whole night through, Good mornin’, Good mornin’ to you!”

And lastly, I find myself humming an old English folk song called “Early One Morning.”  I don’t recall when I first heard that song because it seems like it’s always been in my memory. “Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard a young maid singing in the valley below.  Oh, don’t deceive me, Oh never leave me. How could you use a poor maiden so?”

What about you?  What morning song are you singing on this fine day?

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Country sights….and smells

Image via freefoto.com

I love living in the country, really I do.  When we moved here from suburbia,  my family and I concocted a little ditty on our cross country car trip from there to here.

We sang it to the tune of the old TV show theme song, “Green Acres.”  Oldest daughter wasn’t too sure about leaving the suburbs behind for life in the country, so our song went something like this:

[Mama & Papa sing]  “The country is the place to be,

Country livin’ is the life for me,

Land spreadin’ out so far wide,

Keep that shopping mall,

Give me that countryside.”

[Oldest Daughter sings] “The ‘burbs are where I’d rather stay,

I don’t know how to rake in hay,

I just adore the city view,

Daddy, I love you but give me Murray Avenue.”

[Papa sings] “Fresh air!”

 [Oldest Daughter sings] “Washington Square!”

[Papa] “You are my daughter.”

[Oldest Daughter] “Goodbye, city water!”

[Everyone] “The country we are there.  Da-dum, da-da dum, dum dum!”

Our family, including all three children, adjusted quite well to life beyond the ‘burbs, even if oldest daughter was a little frightened by cows when she trained for her cross-country season running on country roads.   And when we finally built our new home, we managed to acquire city water!

I reminisced about our move here just the other morning because we mark our 13th anniversary of living in the country at the end of this month.  That milestone makes this place the abode where hubby and I have lived the longest ever in our married life.  Like a well-seated tree, the roots burrow down pretty deep now.

So when I awakened early just the other day, I paused for a minute before I began my morning routine.   The evening before had been cool and we slept with our bedroom windows wide open.  I always sleep well when fresh air wafts into the room.

That morning, sunshine poured through the windows, and I could hear the serenade of several birds singing their good morning song. As I listened, their melodies were the only audible sound.  No traffic.  No noisy trucks, no honking horns, no loud people, just song birds.  What a lovely way to wake up!

While I sipped my morning cup of tea in our breakfast nook, the view out our back windows provided a lush landscape greeting my sight.  No tall buildings, no houses, no sidewalks or streets.   Just leafy trees, a verdant hillside and a farmer’s field.   Flowers in brilliant bloom in our yard added to the assortment of a colorful feast for my eyes as well.

Driving to work that morning, I cranked open my car windows and that’s when I caught a whiff of a delicious odor – the indescribable smell of freshly mown hay.  Yes, there he was –  the farmer driving his tractor over the field, performing the first hay cutting of the season, hay that will be gathered up into large round bales later and will dot the meadows.

Summer time has arrived in the country, even if the calendar doesn’t say so.   Mornings like these which evoke such feelings of bliss make it seem like all is right with the world.  That is, until I caught another distinct odor – road kill, and in this case the most smelly kind -  a skunk.

And that reminds me of another song.  Anyone ready for a round of “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road?”

Ah, life in the country….in my Opportunity book, Chapter 6, Page 9, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Content as a calico cat on a couch

blogCallieSometimes I envy my calico cat.

Often when I glance at her while she sleeps, I think she epitomizes the picture of contentment.

She may be curled up in a ball or stretched out all over the place,  but she sleeps soundly and peacefully with no stress or worries in her itty bitty kitty brain.

Her daily needs and requirements are met:

  • Crunchy fishy food? Check
  • Bowl of fresh water? Check
  • Warm spot to sleep? Check
  • People to love? Check
  • Toys to play with? Check
  • Occasional jaunt to the outside world? Check
  • Place for doing business?   Check

If there’s something missing in her estimation, be it food or attention, she’ll definitely let us know.  But really, kitty doesn’t ask for much.

She’s content as can be in her little world.  She doesn’t want the newest kitty toy on the market or a cute little bed in which to sleep.  She doesn’t care if she gets Fancy Feast cat food or good old reliable Meow Mix.

How vastly different we humans are.  We may have enough food and drink, a warm place to call home and people to love us, but we never seem to be content.  We’re gluttonous to satisfy ourselves in all things.

We never seem to have enough food (Supersize it!); we never think we have a nice enough house (Move to a better neighborhood!);  and we never think we have enough money. (Get a better paying job!)

We never think we have enough stuff (Charge it!); we’re never satisfied with our cars (Buy a new one with all the bells and whistles!),  or electronics, vacations, clothes, hairstyles….  (And the list goes on!)  We’re not even content with our bodies. (Have plastic surgery!)

When is enough enough? Why do we always want more?

If you look up the definition of content in the dictionary, you’ll discover it means “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.”   Contentment is the state of being content, being satisfied, having ease of mind.   It really does not describe our society today, does it?

In our fallen world, we’ve bought into the lie that we never have enough.  We accumulate stuff, we spend money we don’t really have, and still the desire for more, more, more possesses us.  I think it’s as hideously ugly as cancer cells rapidly spreading their way through a human body consuming it.

We will always struggle with being satisfied until we fill up that cavernous hole inside of us with something that will fulfill us to the point of not wanting anything else.  I truly believe the only thing that can quench our insatiable thirst for more is a personal relationship with Jesus.

When we come to know Him, really know Him as Lord and Savior, He fills us up.  The Apostle Paul explained this in Philippians 4:11-13 when he wrote:  “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

He also gave us wise advice on this subject in 1 Timothy 6:6-7:  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Likewise, scripture tells us in Hebrews 13:5-6:  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,    ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’ ”

At the end of this life, it won’t matter what we have, what will matter is how we allowed Jesus to fill our empty cups to overflowing.  When we make Him Lord of our lives, we literally exude Him to others.

What have we done to further God’s Kingdom?  Do we reach out to those in need (financial, physical, emotional or spiritual) or think only of ourselves?

Do we share our Source (Jesus Christ) of contentment with those who don’t know Him or not want to step out of our comfort zones?  Do we use what earthly gain we may have been granted to help others or use it to satisfy ourselves?

Do we follow the two greatest commandments Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:37: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s what I desire in my book of Opportunity, Chapter 3, Page 26 – to follow Jesus’ commandments until my cup overflows.   I want to be as content as a calico calmly cat-napping on a couch.  How about you?

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Opening the book of opportunity

blogDSCN8183It is after 5 p.m. and Chapter One, Page Two (January 2nd) in my book of Opportunity is more than half-way completed.

This second day of the New Year produced a blessing to make my heart glad – all six seats around my kitchen table were full. 

Six? Yes, all of mama’s young adult children plus one – middle daughter’s boyfriend – joined hubby and me for one last home-cooked meal before departing the nest for their separate ways.

The Christmas-New Year holiday is officially over for us.   The decorations and lights have been dismantled and packed away until next year.  We endeavored and succeeded at having a first-rate holiday full of wonderful memories of our time together.  But now, reality must set in and sometimes, reality leaves us feeling as bare as the house looks without the festive trimmings.

It’s back to work for me, back to the empty nest, back to every day demands, back to facing whatever life throws at us.  During the last two weeks of the old year, hubby and I received some news for which we weren’t prepared. 

Life is not proceeding as we had planned, but that’s the way real life happens.  We are encountering some difficulties, some bumps in our journey along the road of life, a set-back.

Unnerving? Yes. Worrisome?  Of course.  As often happens when life throws us for a loop, it takes a little time to recover, to right yourself after being knocked sideways or, as may be the case, down on your backside.  We will need to adjust and determine what our course of action will be and pray for wisdom and guidance.

But we’re granted a new start each day that we awaken and we must make the best of that.  And through the struggle, the uncertainty, we must give thanks and praise to the One who grants us each new day and provides our needs. 

So on this day, I choose not to be downtrodden nor depressed.  Instead,  I choose to be thankful for the food on my table, the opportunity to gaze at my loved ones’ faces around that table, and the moments our family enjoyed together this Christmas season past.

I choose to view the change in our life that we are currently encountering as an opportunity for something new.  And even more importantly than that, I choose to believe the message a dear friend texted me after our disconcerting news: “Lots of opportunities for God to show His power.”

And it is in God I place my trust.  I trust that He will provide for our needs and He will provide new opportunities each and every day.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

One could sit like this forever

blogDSCN7262All’s quiet on the western front.   Hubby and I live in the western part of the homeland and we were spared the gargantuan snow storm that blew through our neighboring states.

We do have a blanket of the white stuff; actually we’ve had snow on the ground for a few weeks now, but we didn’t get the blizzard this time.

So the weather has been calm here and now our house is quiet and serene as well.   The happy festivities of the Christmas season are over and for those few days we celebrated together as a family, our time was merry and bright.

Our Christmas spirit meter zoomed upwards significantly on Christmas Eve.  At first, we were all subdued and somber as we dined early because middle daughter was scheduled for the night shift at her hospital.  But then, she received the magical call stating she was free – staffed down and not needed!  We literally cheered aloud and immediately, our spirits soared.  It was like we were bi-polar!

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis (pseudonym used by the late William Vaughan, columnist).

We had some serious Christmas celebrating to do as a family!  The rest of the evening was lovely.  We laughed, we teased each other, and we followed our tradition of choosing a gift to open on Christmas Eve.

Later, perched in church pews at candlelight service, we joyfully ushered in Christmas Day at midnight with candles glowing, voices raised in carols, and the old country church bell pealing through the crisp, dark night.  Greeting our fellow believers with hugs and “Merry Christmas!” ended our evening on a high note.

Christmas Day found us feasting and cradling a newborn baby in our arms.   My nephew and his wife were blessed with their first child a few days before Christmas, a precious little girl – the princess.  (Read here if you missed why she is the princess:  http://mamasemptynest.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/continuing-to-give-thanks/)

Baby girl’s grandparents on both sides and my family of five gathered at my nephew’s house with dishes of food, plates of goodies, and good cheer eager to meet and greet this new family member.  And she won over all of our hearts; she is adorable!

After church on Sunday, we indulged once more with yet another home-cooked meal of our favorite Christmas food, spreading out the holiday to make it last a little while longer.   But now, since the plentiful presents have been presented and the delectable delights doled out, Mama and Dad are left home alone once more.

Middle daughter departed Monday morning for the city and her nursing job.  Today son set off for the next-door state and oldest daughter joined him for a couple of days.  She wants to see his new residence and the two of them will venture into the big, big city for some sightseeing fun.

This time around as the nest emptied out, even Dad got a little melancholy.  But they will all return for New Year’s Day dinner.

It was nice to forget about our troubles during the season of Christmas, spend time with our family and focus on the reason for the season.  For now though, it’s back to reality land, where there are more challenges facing us.  Charles Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge proclaimed in A Christmas Carol, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year.”

That is what we need to do – keep Christmas in our hearts all year.  “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month,” wrote Harlan Miller in Better Homes and Gardens.

I think we can do that.  Instead of putting love, joy and peace in jars, we can put the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts where we can use them every month of the year.  So hubby and I are going to try with all our might to retain “that holiday feeling” as we face what the New Year has in store for us.  But most of all, we’ll continue to remember that we have a Savior who will never forsake us.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com