Let Freedom Ring

blogIMG_1937

“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

 

A gift on purpose

blogDSCN9175 (2)I turn the pages and read the words written on tattered, yellowed paper – words written so long ago.  Turning the leaves of the notebook, my attention turns to recent words written on crisp, white paper.

As a lover of words, I’ve maintained a quotes notebook from my college days.  When I discover a line that appeals to me or just want to remember, I jot it down in this book. And I notice many of the lines written – whether old or new – describe friendship.

“We need to have people who mean something to us, people to whom we can turn knowing that being with them is like coming home.” ~ unknown

During the first 20 years of marriage, we roamed far from home to wherever my husband’s career took us.   God faithfully and graciously provided amazing and supportive friends every time.  I still cherish those far-away friends, even though many miles separate us, and stay connected through emails, social networking, and even this blog.

I consider myself so very blessed with some faithful and loyal relationships which have endured the long haul.   Three of those friends are named Mae, Annie, and Leigh (not their real names but they will recognize who they are).

My friendship journey with Mae commenced when we were five years old, just two little whippersnappers enjoying play time together.  We attended the same schools and church and our lives have always been entwined. Annie and I met as school chums in first grade, stayed friends all through our school years, and even attended the same college.   Leigh became my close friend when her parents built a home next door to my parents when we were kids; she was maid of honor at my wedding all those years ago.

My friendship with each of these women has stood the test of time.  We never lost contact with each other as adults, through marriages and raising families, even though I moved away and they stayed in the region surrounding our hometown.  For well over 50 years, we’ve remained friends on purpose.

These gals know me.  I know them.   They are women I turn to for a listening ear, women who give me good counsel, women with whom I have rejoiced, and women with whom I have wept.  They have seen me at my best and witnessed me at my worst, and yet they still like me!  Friendship on purpose.

Since Annie and I don’t live near each other, we try to meet for lunch from time to time at a halfway point between her house and mine.  Often, we have over six months of life to catch up with since we last met. Our lunch ‘hours’ seem too short because we discuss everything and still have more to say.  She encourages me, supports me, yet isn’t timid about giving me food for thought when I need a change in attitude.   That’s why she is one of my most trusted confidantes. We not only share a lifetime of memories, we share our faith in God as well.

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Annie.

Mae does live nearby and one afternoon, she stopped by my house for a visit. She couldn’t have picked a better time.  I was feeling low, physically unwell to boot, and her visit lifted me right up out of my fretting pit, causing me to forget my physical maladies and eased my troubled mind as well.  Spending time with a dear old friend proved to be a magic elixir that day.  She knows my history and I know hers.  We’ve grieved together as we’ve lost loved ones, and our friendship is like a comforting shawl we can wrap ourselves in to protect us from the cold reality of this world.

“A person is only complete when she has a true friend to understand her, to share all her passions and sorrows with, and to stand by her throughout her life.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Mae.

Leigh lives the farthest away.  We don’t see each other nearly as often as we’d like but we chat regularly by cell phone with conversations that can easily last over three hours.  Talking with this friend really is like coming home.  As next-door neighbors growing up, she and I practically lived at each other’s houses.  With Leigh, I can share my innermost thoughts – be they good or bad.  We share the same outlook on life and no matter what happens, we know we’ve got each other’s backs.  Just like we did when we were kids.

“When we are grown, we’ll smile and say we had no cares in childhood’s day, but we’ll be wrong.  ‘Twill not be true, I’ve this much care…I care for you.” ~ unknown

Perfect words to describe my on purpose friend Leigh.

Just when I need them, my on purpose friends are there for me.  I count that as the most amazing gift.

I only hope they view me as a gift as well – one of those rare gifts, the kind you never want to exchange for another, or re-gift to someone else, because you treasure it for yourself.  A gift of friendship on purpose given by the Gift Giver.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Linking up today using the theme Friendship – On Purpose with (in)courage.

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Donning real Dad pants

blogknickerScan

Dad in his knickers

Apparently a plague is abundant across this great nation of ours and there is a movement to rid ourselves of this curse once and for all.

I’m talking about Dad pants. You’ve no doubt heard of Mom jeans, those kind of jeans that no one but a mother (and a very unfashionable one at that) would wear. I may or may not confirm that there might be several pairs of those hanging in my closet.

But now we have to worry about Dad pants too.  I recently watched a tongue-in-cheek ‘public service announcement’ which at first made me chuckle but then caused me to contemplate. Cleverly disguised as a PSA, it really was an advertisement for Dockers® pants. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out by clicking here.

Now, I’m not hyping those particular pants nor am I getting paid to mention them here in my blog, but Dockers®, if you’d like to send a few dollars along to me, I won’t refuse.  I won’t deny that there are a couple of pants branded with that name hanging in Papa’s closet here in the empty nest. But my intention isn’t to get you to run out and buy those pants in order to jump onto the #Stop Dad Pants band wagon.

I’m just simply using their slick advertising gimmick as writing fodder. Viewing this commercial around Father’s Day (another marketing savvy point), reminded me of the three men in my life who have worn Dad pants.

When my father-in-law and my own father were young boys, they were short pants called knickers. If that sounds strange to you, consider that my father-in-law was born before the turn of the century – not this one – in the late 1890’s. Yes, you read that correctly. And my own father was born prior to 1920. Back then, those short pants were worn by boys until they reached around the age of 12 or so. They then graduated into long pants. This kind of signified a rite of passage – moving from childhood into manhood.

It might seem silly to us today, but it’s part of our history and was the cultural norm back then.  So why am I writing about pants, short or long?  Here’s my point:  any male can don a pair of pants and call himself a man. Just as any man can impregnate a woman and call himself a father. It happens thousands of times every day.

But it takes a special man to wear Dad pants.  Wearing Dad pants means a man loves his wife and children beyond measure. He’s willing to labor tirelessly to provide for their needs and well-being. But a real Dad provides more than just monetary or physical support. He guides his children using a balanced degree of love and discipline to teach them right from wrong. He proves that even though his work is essential and it provides support for his family, the importance of spending time with them and demonstrating  his love and care are a priority.

To me, wearing Dad pants signifies that a man puts away his childish and selfish acts, truly becomes a man,  and sacrifices for the good of his family. He becomes an example of integrity for his children. He leads them with faith and wisdom as building blocks, guides them with morals and character, and helps prepare them for the days to come. He encourages his children to have courage to strive for their goals and be successful, yet reminds them that the love of God and family are what’s most important in life.  And he leaves a legacy for his children to pass onto their children.

I’m very thankful that I have had three such examples in my life – my own father, my father-in-law, and my husband – the father of my three children. All three of them wore their Dad pants well.  Those pants may actually have been wrinkled and slouchy like the pants in the commercial, but these three men clothed themselves with responsibility, wisdom, and love for their families. All three of them proved to be a good example to follow, a well-loved and well-respected father.

It saddens me that not all of us are blessed with a father who has his Dad pants on.  Some men never accept the responsibility of being a father, and their children suffer because of that.  Some lose their fathers when they’re young and they suffer too.  That’s what happened to my own dad.  His father died when my dad was just a baby, but that didn’t prevent Dad from becoming an exemplary father himself.  Instead he stove to be the best dad he could be and he was.

My father and father-in-law are both gone now, but every Father’s Day I remember them with thankfulness for the wonderful fathers they proved to be. And I watch in gratitude how my children show their love and respect for their own dad.

This Father’s Day, Papa was treated to both a delicious Sunday lunch at a new Mexican restaurant and a home-cooked dinner when we traveled to visit middle daughter and son-in-law, but the real gift was that our adult children wanted to spend time with him – with Dad.  That made him happy and I witnessed  his smile each time his cell phone rang with more greetings of “Happy Father’s Day, Dad!” and expressions of love and gratefulness from the ones who couldn’t be there.

I hope my son and sons-in-law someday decide to don their own Dad pants, and when they do, I pray they fill them wisely and become real fathers.  From all indications, they’ll rise to the challenge even if their pants are wrinkly.

“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” ~ Pope John XXIII

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Under the surface

blogIMG_3477I’m no stranger to dirt.

I’ve played in it. Sat in it. Walked in it barefoot. Worn it. And breathed it in.

See, I grew up in the country so I know a thing or two about dirt. As a child, I played in it. A lot. I liked digging in it, squirting it with water to make mud, and flinging it around. I might have even wallowed in it from time to time.

My neighborhood pals and I sprawled in the dirt regularly making roadways using play trucks, cars, and diggers and played mud pie restaurant. I loved dragging my bare feet in the soft, worn to fine dust that rested beneath my tree hung swing. After a day delving in soil,  my mother made me plunge into the old porcelain tub and I watched the bath water turn brown from a day long wardrobe of dirt and leave a ring around the tub.

I’ve perched on more metal and wooden bleachers than I can remember and breathed in dust kicked up by a bunch of boys playing baseball on a dirt field. And I’ve even unwillingly inhaled the Oklahoma dirt that swirls through the air in a dust storm.

As a child and adult, I’ve dug deep into soil countless times to plant flowers and vegetables in gardens. I’ve plucked, yanked, and dug long-rooted weeds out of the dirt. I’ve clawed the dirt. Troweled the dirt. Spaded the dirt. Shoveled the dirt.

Yes, I know dirt.

So why is it that on a blue sky-filled day, warmed by the sun’s kisses, I scream like a banshee while gardening in the dirt? Last week blessings in the form of summer-like days prompted some work outdoors here at the nest. While Papa power-washed the grit and grime of winter off the siding of our house, I shined up a few dirty windows. After accomplishing those tasks, Papa set out to tame the unruly bank of wild weeds with the whirly, whiny whacker and I settled down for a nice afternoon of weeding the flower beds and around the shrubbery. Lots of spring rain produced weeds in those areas in abundance.

So I donned my new gardening gloves, grabbed my knee kneeler pad, my gardening tools, and a bucket to fling uprooted weeds into and plunked myself down. Dig. Dig. Pull. Throw. I worked into a steady routine. Dig. Dig. Pull. Throw.

Those weeds had met their nemesis and her name was Mama. And then it happened Dig. Dig. Jump and screech. My spade had uncovered a fishing worm. A fishing worm. You ask why does a country raised girl scream over unearthing an earthworm? I don’t know.

Because like I said, I know dirt. I know what’s in the dirt. And I’ve encountered earthworms there as long as I can remember.

As always when I’m gardening, all kinds of creepy crawlies in all shapes and sizes come into my view. Some of them are kind of cute like the rolly pollies and some of them are truly creepy like the spiders. But those earthworms – benign to me and beneficial to the soil – those crawly, segmented creatures freak me out when they suddenly appear.

I’m not certain if it’s just the surprise of an emerging worm snaking its way around in the clump of dirt in my hand or just the creature itself, but I always shriek and throw him down immediately. Then I shiver a little, push him aside with my spade, and move on my merry way because once I’m over the shock, I’m okay with seeing that little critter.

But I wonder what causes me to emit that eeewww feeling over the poor lowly earthworm? I think I can trace it back to childhood. My best friend lived next door and she had a younger sister who, shall we say, was a tad ornery? Younger gal tended to stir up trouble and cause issues when we played together. Like the one time when she drew an imaginary line in the grass with her Keds shod foot and declared that if I stepped one inch over that line I would be on her parents’ property and she would call the state police to come get me for trespassing. Yeah, and she was about six years old at the time. So, you get my drift.

This meddlesome little girl (who, by the way, turned into a nice enough adult) was also a bit fearless. And I think she enjoyed any way she could devise to torture her sister and me.  I distinctly remember her sidling up beside us all nice and sweet-like and then…surprise! She would fling earthworms or parts of them at our faces! Of course, the shock of it all would cause us to shriek at the top of our lungs and run like crazy away from her.

So this flinch and yelp reaction I have to suddenly appearing fishing worms must be a throwback to those childhood days. Whatever the reason, while digging and plucking weeds under our peonies in preparation to put down new mulch, I shuddered and squawked when a worm appeared in my hand.

And that set me to thinking as sometimes ordinary everyday occurrences often do in my empty nest world. We never know what’s just under the surface, do we? We plod along in life, thinking we’re plucking out all of the bad stuff. You know, the obvious things we attempt to rid ourselves of like gossip, dishonesty, selfishness, bitterness…the list goes on. We pluck those nasty weeds right out of our garden of life and say good riddance to them. Of course, they often grow back, but we just yank them out again and hope this time, this time we really uprooted them.

But often, that ugly weed – you can call it sin because it surely is – remains just under the surface. It works its way around deep down in our hearts when we’re not even aware of it. Just like an earthworm, it weaves its way in and out of the soil underneath, out of view, forgotten until suddenly…surprise!

It’s brought to light, emerging from its depths, like that earthworm in my spade full of dirt. And we’re shocked by its appearance because we just didn’t realize it was under the surface the entire time. We may throw it down and try to run away from it. But it just works its way back down into the dirt unless we get serious about sifting through our own dirt.

I can survive a little scare when an earthworm shows up in my garden and even in my hand. But I don’t want to find ugliness weaving its way around the beautiful things in my garden of life. That’s why I call upon the Master Gardener and His Word to help me sift through my dirt.

Because believe me, I’m no stranger to dirt.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” ~ Colossians 2:6-7

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com