On the threshold

blogIMG_2734I can feel it. I can smell it. I can see it slowly emerging.

I’m on the threshold. I’m waiting and anticipating. I’m eager and hopeful. I stand at the doorway, the front entrance to my cozy nest of a home, and when I open the door to the outside, it’s true that chilly air rushes in to envelop me, yet still it is there. There’s a hint of it, a whisper, a trace.

Yes, it’s a starting point. A point that promises me that something will happen, something will take place, something will transpire. And something will change.

I stand at this threshold. The door is opening although it seems like it is doing so in the slowest way possible. But each day, despite the temperatures below usual, the rainy and overcast skies devoid of sun, I know it is coming.

My threshold for waiting might be nearing an end but I know I’m impatient. I don’t like to wait. I don’t like to wait too long. And it’s been a long, long waiting period and I’m so willing for change.

So I bravely step over the doorsill onto my front porch. And I pause because I sense it is so near. I inhale and breathe in the scent of it. It’s almost here, yes it’s almost here!

And as I step off the porch with the white railing onto the firm footing of the concrete sidewalk, my hope springs forth.  I venture off the walkway into the soft and rain saturated ground, sinking just a little which prompts me to look down at my feet. A few slivers of green can be seen pushing their way through the lifeless-looking dullness of our yard. Newly rejuvenated grass is awakening from its dormant season – that long, long cold winter.

I tentatively take a few more steps, peeking around the shrubbery, scanning the woody brown mulch and almost holding my breath. And then I spy it! It’s here! A harbinger of spring!

The very first brilliant sunshine-colored crocus has bloomed in all its glory. And suddenly, it doesn’t matter that I’m shivering just a little without my jacket. It doesn’t matter that the sunshine isn’t quite as strong and plentiful as I’d like it to be.

What matters is I’ve stepped over the threshold from winter to spring. This little cheerful sign warms my heart with promises of good things to come. And as my eyes take in that little patch of ground, I spy more are popping up to join the party as well. Soon the white, dark purple, and light purple ones will join that little yellow flower in a flourish of color amidst the monotony of bleakness that has held me in its grip for so long.

And it occurs to me that it’s time I step over yet another threshold as well. I’ve been as dormant as my surroundings since I lost my job and along with it, my bearings, back in the fall. That event sent me into a tizzy at first and then into retreat. I rested all winter under a blanket of latent sorrow just as cold and unforgiving as the snow that covered our yard for months.

But it’s time to throw off the cover, time to move on, time for the promise of hope and renewal. It’s time to step over the threshold into something new. It’s time for spring – in more ways than one!

There must be potential for me on the horizon and this week’s photo challenge – threshold – reminds me of that. So I’m stepping over the threshold with a little yellow blossom leading the way. I don’t know where the path will lead me yet but I will stop and smell the flowers along the way and capture what I can with my trusty camera at my side.

“Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.” ~ W. Eugene Smith, photographer

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Are you kidding me?

 

Can you believe it??

Can you believe it??

Well, stick a fork in me and call me done. Done with winter that is! It’s unreal that it snowed AGAIN and this time we received about 18 inches of snow! So much snow, we could hardly get the cars out of the garage this morning. And hubby had to shovel a path to get my car out so he could maneuver the bright green John Deere garden tractor with the jaunty yellow snow plow attached on it out of the garage to dig out the driveway.

What?? How could this be? It’s April for crying out loud!!

It sure is. April Fool’s Day to be exact. When our three offspring were youngsters, they used to try to fool Papa and me with cute little jokes or pranks. “Mom, there’s a spider on your head!” one would cry at breakfast. And I would give my best performance of shrieking and making frantic motions through my hair to flick that ‘spider’ off. A peal of laughter would ensue and the kids would yell, “April Fools!”

Fun stuff. At least it was back then. Some years I would prank them first. And we would laugh and continue on our merry way for the day. There’s something about April Fools, even if the jokes don’t come off quite right, that brightens our outlook. Maybe it’s because we’re shedding a long, winter season and the lightheartedness of April Fools Day puts us in the mood for spring.

And this year, we are SO ready for spring! Which reminds me….that first paragraph I wrote up there at the beginning of this post and that picture? April Fools!!  The photo is from February 2010 when we really did get 18 inches or more of the white stuff.  Yesterday we did NOT get any snow and it was a most spring-like sunny day with temps near 60 degrees. Finally!

So Happy April Fool’s Day! I hope I didn’t fool you so much that you believed my little prank, but I do hope you’re on your way to better weather with a spring in your step and a smile on your face.  And that’s the truth.

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Reflections

 

 

Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?” ― Bill Watterson (author/artist of Calvin & Hobbes)

Sometimes I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, not a puddle, and wonder “who is that anyway?” I don’t spend much time primping and looking at my likeness because I’m a bare minimum person when it comes to makeup and hair. A little dab here, a touch of color on the cheeks, some gel or mousse worked into the hair to keep those curls bouncy – the ones that sprung up in middle age (where did they come from?) – and away I go.

But when I really peer into the looking glass, I almost don’t recognize myself. Where did that young girl with the straight, long hair parted in the middle and the thin freckled face disappear to? I still feel like her inside but the outside tells me she’s gone and this rounder, paler, older version has replaced her.

That’s what it’s like to reach middle age – this downslide to 60. One day you’re a teenager, the next the cashier at Ross Dress for Less is asking if you qualify for a senior citizen discount.   One day you’re a frazzled, way too busy young mother with three tots in tow, the next you’re wandering around an empty nest house trying to decide whether you should clean today (not that it needs it) or just sit in your comfy chair in the family room and read that stack of library books waiting for you on the coffee table.

This transformation gives you pause. It sounds so cliché but really, how did all of those years zoom by so quickly? But mostly, at least I find it so, reaching this point in life offers you time for reflection and not just the kind you catch when you glance at a mirror.

Reflection. At my age, that word triggers my mind to recall lyrics to a song from the 60’s made popular by Diana Ross and The Supremes:

Through the mirror of my mind

Time after time,

I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of the way life used to be

It’s true, I do reflect often about the way life used to be. Maybe it’s just the realization that I’ve lived the majority of my life already that prompts this introspective mood. Maybe it’s just that empty nest thing. Maybe it’s just that since both my parents and my in-laws passed away, Papa and I are in the older generation now. Or maybe it’s just that I actually have the time, the solitude, and the quietness to reflect. Whatever it is, I find myself doing so often.

So when I received notification that this week’s photo challenge was reflection, I realized I had both the photos and the thoughts roaming around in my head to represent this word. Now before you think I’m going to turn all gloomy and morose longing for things of my past or whining about my present as an empty nester, let me assure you I’m not. But, I do think you have to reflect on what’s past in order to figure out where you want to go in the future.

blogIMG_1424Sometimes rainy days give me pause for reflection which is why I chose this photo of reflections on my deck one stormy day. But more often, I am just as reflective on sunny days which is why I published the picture above. For the most part, that photo represents my reflective moods – they are interesting, have different facets to them, and attract my attention.

I don’t think of the past with sadness; instead, I remember it with joy and anticipate the future in the same way. Life is entirely different for me now then it was when I was that idealistic, young girl dreaming of her future.   But this life I’ve been given, all stages of it, has been fulfilling because my past, present, and future are linked to three aspects: faith, hope, and love.

For me, faith, hope, and love come from believing in and knowing a Savior. Because of that, I strive to reflect them in my actions, my speech, and my writing. Hopefully, it’s His reflection others see when they look at me.

And I attempt to inspire others to reflect on Him.  When you look in your mirror of life, does faith hold you up no matter the circumstances? Does hope carry you through? Does love fill your heart?

What I’ve learned through my times of reflection is this: you may try to hold tightly to your past or only live in the present here and now, but one thing is certain. A future awaits. While none of us knows what the future may bring, I do know one thing – someday, I’ll see everything clearly without a mirror and I won’t need to pause in reflection.  

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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

Mending a fractured spirit

blogIMG_1204It’s been said that time heals all wounds.  While that may be true, some of us still bear the scars from those wounds and each time we look at them, we’re reminded of the injury we sustained.

I know this from personal experience as two prominent scars are visible on my abdomen – a three-inch horizontal one marking surgery to remove an organ gone haywire and a longer, uglier vertical scar reminding me of the vile C-word and the fear it invoked into my spirit until I let God’s peace envelop me.

Some of us bear physical scars to remind us of the times our bodies were damaged; others bear emotional scars from the very real pain inflicted upon us which mutilated our spirits.

It seems to me that our bodies heal much faster than our spirits.   My son suffered a broken bone in his wrist during his high school senior soccer season.  He sported a large cast which covered his arm past his elbow and half way to his shoulder just so that tiny bone would heal correctly.  After a few weeks, he was as good as new and there was no visible reminder of his injury.

A fractured bone can usually be repaired, although sometimes other measures need to be taken.  I once had a severely fractured tooth which caused me a bit of pain.  It wasn’t a throbbing unbearable pain yet it continued to bother me.  You might call it a nagging pain.  Sometimes it hurt, sometimes it didn’t.  My dentist determined it could not be repaired adequately so he suggested extraction.  Since it was a wisdom tooth, I really wouldn’t miss it once it was removed and I would be free from the source of irritation.

Problem solved.  But how do you go about repairing or removing the pain from a fractured spirit?

A couple of years ago, Papa and I bit the bullet and purchased a much-needed new vehicle.  After only a month of driving our brand-new car, something distressing happened.  On a day trip to the state next door, we were shocked to see it unfold in front of our eyes.  Well, actually right on our vehicle’s windshield.  A fracture.  No stone or other object had been violently flung in our direction.   A crack in the glass just suddenly appeared out of nowhere.   And it grew and spread as it snaked its way across the glass.

Our new car with a broken windshield.  Not pleasant but fixable.  We called our insurance company who sent out a repairman straight to our driveway and soon we had a new windshield.  No sign of the fracture.

Not all of our material goods can be repaired as easily.  I’ve dumped more broken glasses, cups, and dishes into the garbage than I care to admit. Sometimes what’s broken stays broken.  A fracture remains a fracture.

I’m reminded of a quote which I squirreled away in my trusty notebook.  Margaret Mitchell,  American author, wrote this line for  character Rhett Butler in her novel Gone With the Wind:  “I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken — and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as I lived.”

That quote caused me to consider something I’ve been struggling with in my own life.   A kind of brokenness.  I’m hesitant to share about it but I do so in hopes that it will give encouragement to any reader who may feel the same way.  My hope is writing about it and what I’ve learned in the process will enable me to remember what was broken at its best rather than the shattered pieces that remain.

Let me explain.  Several months ago, I suffered something that broke me. Not physically although it manifested its toll on my body in various, physical ways.  Instead I smarted with emotional abrasions and lacerations, hurting me just as surely as a physical gash, from a group of people who I had considered friends.

That profound hurt shook me, rattled me, and yes, even broke me.  One of my dearest friends worded it best when she suggested that I was suffering from a fractured spirit.

Was it the worst thing to ever happen to me?  Absolutely not.  So I told myself to just deal with it, get over it, leave it behind, and move on.  I wish I could say that I took a quote attributed to Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to heart: Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”  But I didn’t.  And it didn’t.

Instead, it was as if the scab covering the injury kept getting knocked off, re-opening the wound and reminding me how very hurt I was.   The offense even began to haunt my dreams and I would awaken with emotional pain bubbling up and over like blood gushing from a deep cut.   I continued to carry this brokenness around with me.  Just last night again my dreams revealed how much this pain has fractured me and continues to throb like a toothache.

An unknown person once said, “Moving on is simple, it’s what you leave behind that makes it difficult.”  How true that is.  What I was forced to leave behind in order to try to recuperate from this distress was a huge part of myself and what helped define me as a person with purpose.  I even had to leave some relationships behind.  That’s the difficult aspect of it all – trying to fill the void left in my life.  By this fracture.

How do you heal a fractured spirit?  You don’t.  Not by yourself.  No amount of time or attempt to move on will smooth over the rupture and make it as good as new.  No ranting or railing or tears of sorrow and frustration will right it and cover it with a mending cast.  Even forgiveness does not totally erase the pain inflicted because while we can and should certainly choose to forgive another’s offense, in our humanness, it’s hard to forget.

No, there’s only one way to make a fractured spirit whole again.  You call in the Repairman.  You make repeated trips to the Great Physician.  You pray.  You confess any sinful part you had in the cause of the distress and you ask forgiveness.  You allow the healing balm of His Holy Word to sink into your spirit.

Words like: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” found in Psalm 34:18 and “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” in Psalm 147:3.

Being fractured in spirit happens to us all.  It’s a mistake to think that just because you’re a believer in Christ you won’t suffer in this life.  Even if the anguish comes from the hand of a friend, a fellow believer, or family member, the wound will harm and do damage.  But it damages you even further if you continue to carry it around.  Then it may even fracture your spirit.

I know that turning to the One who’s always there, who always hears my prayers, and who can heal the broken-hearted, crushed spirit is the only prescription that will work for me.   But here’s the thing.  I have to choose to do that.

The Lord hasn’t made my fracture disappear (although He could if He wanted to).  Instead I believe He wants me to humbly come to Him and lay my broken burden at His feet and leave it there.   Only then can He can transform my wounded heart and infuse me with joy.   

“Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  ~ John 16:20

My friend – the one who recognized my fractured spirit – recently told me that as she prayed for me and my damaged heart one day, God spoke a word into her heart for me.  What was that word?  Exuberance.

Oh my.  At that time, I was feeling anything BUT exuberant.  Exuberance?  In the midst of such deep emotional pain?  Exuberance?  When I battled daily with feelings of hurt, anger, and injustice?   Exuberance?  When I have no clue what I am supposed to do next to fill the void left by this fracture?

I realize this is just one more step in knitting my fractured spirit into wholeness again.  And even though I’m not feeling it, for this day – today – I will choose this word exuberance.  I will choose joy.  I will choose enthusiasm.  I will choose cheerfulness.  I will choose liveliness and energy and every other synonym for exuberance.  I choose to embrace that word.

And tomorrow I will make that choice again.  And again.  And again.  If you’re spirit feels fractured, you too have a choice. What will you choose?

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com