Very superstitious

blogIMG_2743 (2)If I were a superstitious person, I’d be inclined to believe I’m seeing omens here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

In the last couple of years, life has taken a bit of a detour from the usual path. But I chalk that up to life being just…well, life. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you plan, but I don’t believe that has anything to do with superstitions or luck – good or bad.

A number of days ago while I was sitting at the desktop computer in our home office, my attention was drawn to a red flash crossing in front of the room’s window. Curious about what I may have seen, I slid the rolling chair back from the desk and stood up.

And that’s when I observed it.  The flash was not Superman’s red cape but instead a brightly colored cardinal who flew past the window and now perched in a peculiar spot – the silk yellow forsythia wreath hanging on our front door.  Mr. Red just alighted himself right onto the lower portion of the grapevine wreath form and sat there for a short while, nestled among the fake forsythia.

I slowly maneuvered my way towards my camera to get a photo of him from the inside glass window on the door, but before I could even pluck the camera out of its bag, Mr. Red flew off.

His appearance surprised me.  Birds do not usually fly into the covered front porch area of our house. They’re found at our bird feeder hanging in a tree at the back of the house or strutting along the deck railing taunting the indoor cat.  No signs of a nest being constructed anywhere on our porch either, so why did he land on our front door wreath?

Was he coming for a visit? Hubby and I discussed this unusual occurrence and I flippantly said something about a cardinal representing an angel or something. I had a vague sense that I’d heard that somewhere before.

So of course, I did what anyone with access to the internet does, I googled it.

According to folklore or superstition, if you see a cardinal it represents a loved one who has passed away and is now visiting you.  Apparently just when you need them or miss them most, said loved ones in the form of cardinals appear. Or they visit you during celebratory times or times of distress just to let you know they’re always with you.  Uh huh.

Well, I don’t believe in superstition or old wives’ tales or whatever you want to call such things.

It’s true that there has been some distress in Mama’s Empty Nest in the last year, but seeing a cardinal land on my front door wreath doesn’t necessarily give me comfort.

Sure, it would be great to think that just because that red bird graced my front door, help is on the way. But I don’t think my help comes from that pretty fellow.  My help only comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.

All of this caused me to think about the many superstitious sayings and beliefs that have infiltrated our daily lives.

So I made a quick list of just the ones I could name off the top of my head.  Some of them I learned from my grandmother and some from my mom.

Are you ready?  Don’t be alarmed because I thought of 13 items.  You know, THIRTEEN! That ominous number.  The number when paired with Friday means “watch out for unlucky circumstances to come your way.”

By the way, if you are a person who is afraid of Friday the 13th, you’ll be pleased to know you are a long, hard-to-say-and-spell word – friggatriskaidekophobic. Say that three times quickly if you want good luck. (Just kidding!)

And that’s what is so funny or ironic about that cardinal showing up at my front door.  It happened on Friday, the 13th.  Cue scary music.

But I digress.  Here’s my superstitious list:

  1. Don’t walk under a ladder, it’s bad luck.
  2. Break a mirror – seven years bad luck
  3. Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck.
  4. If your ear itches, someone is talking about you.
  5. Step on a crack, you’ll break your mama’s back.
  6. Knock on wood to ward off bad luck.
  7. Don’t open an umbrella in the house – bad luck.
  8. If you find a four-leaf clover, you’ll have good luck.
  9. If your nose is itchy, you’re getting company.
  10. Bad luck comes in threes.
  11. If the palm of your hand itches, you’ll soon receive some money.
  12. If a bird gets into your house, it’s a sign that there will be a death in the family.
  13. Cross your fingers so what you hope for comes true.

I bet you can add many more. Perhaps you even believe in them and are very superstitious. But just thinking about these myths conjures up a song from the early 70’s called “Superstitions” by Stevie Wonder.  

“Very superstitious,
Writing’s on the wall,
Very superstitious,
Ladders bout’ to fall,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way.”

And you know what?  That’s exactly what I think.  Superstitions are definitely not the way.  I don’t believe them. For me, there’s something more rock solid to place my belief and my trust in, and that’s my Savior.

So Mr. Red Cardinal showing up on Friday, the 13th? Perhaps he was just showing other wildlife how to visit my front porch.  It is a pretty nice place to rest for a while.  Just ask the rabbit that hopped up onto it afterwards.  

Yep, a rabbit appeared on my porch just a couple days after the cardinal visit. And you know what they say about rabbits, don’t you?  It’s good luck for a rabbit to cross your path (or perhaps sit upon your front porch). One superstition even says that if you see a rabbit running through your yard it means your garden will be especially fertile this year.

Well, our garden may be productive IF we can keep the bunnies OUT of it.  Maybe they will stick to the front porch instead.  I’ll cross my fingers about that one.

Nah, I think I’ll just keep doing what I need to do.  Take this life and all that goes with it – good or bad – to the Lord in prayer.

“Basically I say a few prayers before a game and let that direct me, not superstitions.” ~ Brian McBride (American soccer player)


Dandelion thoughts

blogIMG_7831 (2)They are everywhere.

Dotting the expanse of our 2.25 acre yard with their sunny dispositions, there is a plethora of them. But they don’t stay long. 

For a few days their perky little blooms speckle our lawn breaking up the monotonous spread of grass green, but then they transform into wisps of white fluff seeds which the breezy wind lifts up into the air carrying them far and wide.

Yep, I’m writing about dandelions. If you live in the suburbs and desire a picture perfect plush lawn with no weeds, you eradicate them as best you can.  But when you live in the country like I do, these little bursts of sunshine yellow crop up everywhere.

And you know what? I like them. It actually makes my heart happy to sit on my front porch swing and view our bumper crop of dandelions (and we do have a bumper crop this year!). I think they are just…well…dandy.

Dandelions remind me of childhood. 

Of picking them and fashioning bouquets to take to my mother.

Of making dandelion chains to wear as necklaces, bracelets, or crowns.

Of plucking the white puffy seed balls left behind after they bloom and blowing gently on them while making wishes.

Of lying in the cool grassy cushion of the earth and watching those wisps float and flit against the blue sky of warm weather. 

So what some folks perceive as a weed, I think of as a sweet little reminder of days gone by and nostalgic thoughts. 

I recently read a quote that said “When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds or a thousand wishes.” (unknown source)

How true. It’s all in how we look at things, isn’t it? Do we only see what we consider to be annoying or negative or can we look beyond and see something pleasant and positive?

So dandelion thoughts can apply to life. When plans go awry, when troubles and trials come my way, those aspects of life can wear me down. Make me feel as useless as weeds appear to be. But doesn’t everything have a purpose? Even those trials we face in life?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”

So if a weed like a dandelion has an undiscovered  ‘virtue,’ then surely there exists an equally unrealized purpose for those hard times we encounter in life.

Difficult circumstances cause me to grow in my faith and actually compel me to become a stronger person. If life was simple and easy and always turning out exactly the way I wanted, from where would I gather any strength? I’d be as delicate as those dandelion seeds floating in the wind, tossed here and there without any direction.

So I will glance out my window or perch on my porch swing and give thanks to the Lord, Creator of all things, for dandelions and also for dandelion thoughts. And just maybe I’ll grow like a weed. 

“Be a weed! A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” ~ Doug Larson



Grandparents in training

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“Fixing” the piano bench

Do as I say not as I do.  

You may have grown up in a home where that was the norm.  Parents doled out dos and don’ts to their children but didn’t adhere to those standards themselves.  

Call it a double standard.  Call it ineffective parenting.  Call it whatever you want, a lot of human beings grow up in those kind of homes.

But I didn’t. I consider myself blessed that I had parents who were good role models, who practiced what they preached, who raised me with a strong sense of right and wrong and doing good vs. evil. 

They followed the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you shall have others do unto you.

That moral principle is one that Jesus himself taught in the Sermon on the Mount found in the New Testament book of Matthew, Chapter 7: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

My parents were law abiding, respectful of others, hard and conscientious workers, just plain good people.  They were also believers in Christ and took my sisters and me to church and Sunday School every Sunday to learn more about the Savior. 

Mom was the paramount homemaker, mother, and caretaker creating a home filled with lots of love, beauty, and delicious cooking, yet she expected good manners, obedience, and exemplary behavior from her children. I learned to strive to be the best mom I could be from her and I can only hope I succeeded. 

Dad never once complained about his responsibility to provide a good living for his family, including my grandparents, and he served people with respect and goodwill not just at his work but in our church and also in our community by holding an elected office in our local township for many, many years.

So yes, I had excellent role models. Papa and I endeavored to model good character and strong and genuine faith for our three offspring while they were growing up and we continue to attempt to be the parents God has called us to be.

But now, our roles have changed. Our children are adults and while we can still give advice when needed or opinions when asked, they must make their own decisions and their own way in the world. It’s their turn to demonstrate what they are made of.

Yet our influence has not ended. We’re grandparents for the very first time and I am even more keenly aware how we impact this dear little one who is a major part of our lives.

Our sweet little girl is growing up.  No longer an infant, she is now over 14 months old – a toddler – and learning new things each and every day.  She watches us keenly and she imitates what we do, the noises we make, what we say, how we react, and how we treat others.

So often we perform what seems like a mundane everyday task and little one, after seeing it one time, imitates what we’ve done. 

Just the other evening, I asked Papa to repair the bottom of the piano bench, which was coming loose after all of those years of cramming too much written music into it, and tighten up a wobbly bench leg.

He gathered his ball peen hammer and screwdriver, emptied the bench of the music books, flipped the bench over, and hammered the staples back into the wood. Little one was right beside him watching every step of the way.

When he turned away for an instant to grab the screwdriver, she climbed upon the bench bottom, picked up the lightweight hammer, and started ‘fixing’ the bench too.

She is a quick learner. She notices something one time and she’s on to it. She learned some baby sign language in no time. She follows directions (like ‘go find your shoes’) adeptly.  She amazes me.  And yet, this realization also gives me pause for a little trepidation.

Little one is learning how to live life by observing all that we do.  Along with her Mama, we have a huge responsibility to help steer her in the right direction.

And that direction is to teach her what is good, what is right, what is moral, but even more importantly, what is godly.

It’s a big job for any parent or grandparent in training. But we have an excellent training manual.

God’s Holy Word. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV) Or a more modern way to look at it might be the same verse taken from The Message: “Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.”

It worked for me. My parents trained me for life and I’m still sticking to the way I was trained. The Guidebook for Life (the Bible) kept both Papa and me on the right path. As we age and enter into this grandparenting stage of life and beyond, it guarantees us we won’t get lost.  

We will never find our way in material possessions and the things of this world for that path is not the best choice. Instead we have a legacy – one of noble character and ardent faith – that we strive for and that’s the most vital thing we hope to pass on to our children and now our grandchildren.

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children or grandchildren is not money or other material things…but rather a legacy of character and faith.” ~ Billy Graham


It’s suppertime

blogIMG_6251The evening meal.  Some folks call it dinner.  If you’re an Englishman, you might call it tea.  Or maybe you just call it a down home, folksy kind of way – suppertime.

My parents always called the evening meal supper.  Lunch was called dinner, don’t ask me why. It wasn’t until I became a young adult that I began calling the evening meal dinner instead of supper.  But the two terms are always interchangeable in my mind.

Whatever you call it, the word dinnertime brings up memories.  Of gathering around a bountiful table of food. Joining with family to eat a meal together. Maybe an outing with special friends. Dinnertime.

It’s the topic of this week’s WordPress photo challenge and it conjures up several memories for me. 

When our three were growing up, we tried eating this meal as a family every night together, gathered around the kitchen table, not glued in front of the TV set in the family room.

It’s true that some evenings, Papa was absent because those were the days when he traveled often in his sales job. But dinner time was important to us as a family, a time we wanted to spend together.

Even as our kids started playing sports and joining numerous activities, we endeavored to eat together, waiting until the family was gathered, no matter what the time, just for dinnertime.

When I was a youngster myself, I played outside almost every day, even in the rain (unless it was storming) and in winter’s cold as well.  Most of the time, I was in the company of my neighborhood friends as we raced our bikes, sledded down a wintry snow-covered hill, or played make-believe under the shade of the apple trees.

As suppertime approached, we would hear our mothers calling us home.

Those memories prompted the tune and chorus of a very old song from my childhood to waft back through my thoughts.  The song, Suppertime, was performed by a country singer named Jim Reeves and was popular in 1958.  You can listen to the song here.

As in all of those old tunes rambling around in my mind, the lyrics soon flooded back as well.  

“Many years ago in days of childhood
I used to play till evenin’ shadows come
Then windin’ down that old familiar pathway
I’d hear my mother call at set of sun.

Come home, come home it’s suppertime
The shadows lengthen fast
Come home, come home it’s suppertime
We’re going home at last.
Some of the fondest memories of my childhood
Were woven around suppertime
When my mother used to call 
From the backsteps of the old homeplace
Come on home now son it’s suppertime. 

Ahhhh, but I’d love to hear that once more
But you know for me time has woven the realization of
The truth that’s even more thrilling and that’s when
The call come up from the portals of glory
To come home for it’s suppertime.

When all God’s children shall gather around the table 
of the Lord Himself and the greatest suppertime of them all.

Come home, come home it’s suppertime
The shadows lengthen fast
Come home, come home it’s suppertime
We’re going home at last…”

While I was considering a photo to choose for this challenge, I could have selected the obvious, my family seated at the dinner table enjoying our dinner/supper and each other. 

But instead, I opted for a sunset photo, which seemed to fit those old long remembered lyrics to a song.

Come home. It’s supper time. Or dinner, if you prefer.



Hawk eye

blogIMG_7585 (5)You know what they say.  Hindsight is always 20/20. If you could have seen then what you see now, things would be different. How many of us have thought that, said that, believed that?

Something outside my kitchen window one morning recently reminded me hindsight truly is like that.  If I had just noticed something in the past, I realize the present may be entirely changed.

I always start my mornings with a hot cup of tea. As I filled my teakettle at the kitchen sink one morning, I did what I usually do, scanned the horizon outside the window above the sink. 

The landscape I view from there includes our back yard and a tree line of overgrown brush that separates our property from the farmer’s field directly behind us.

That’s when I noticed it.  Something rather large perched in one of the trees.  I pulled the binoculars out of the coat closet, held them up to my eyes, zoned in on the tree, and focused.

And there he sat. Just sat. Watching over the brush, our yard, and most likely the right of way passage of overgrown grasses between our house and our neighbor’s.  No doubt, he was in search of his next victim.  His prey. Those little critters hiding out in the tall grass.

He watched like a hawk.  Because, well, he was one.  I grabbed my camera, fitted the telephoto zoom lens on it, and stepped out into my back yard to try to capture this creature’s image. 

I managed a couple of shots, then proceeded to minimize the distance between that hawk and me even further by walking slowly – ever so slowly – towards the back edge of our property and towards the hawk. 

But ol’ hawkeye spied me, decided I was getting way too close for comfort, and off he flew before I could even lift the camera back up to my eye. I guess as I was keeping my eye on him, he was watching me like …well…a hawk.

And that made me think. If you watch people more closely – watch them like a hawk – could you avert certain situations? 

If you scrutinize them, their attitudes, their characters, their actions, their good points and their not-so-good points, would you be able to discern that a person who seemed to be a decent, upstanding sort of human being, might just turn around and do something that would cause you great harm or distress?

I’ve often thought that I was a good judge of character because I do observe people, how they talk, how they act, and more importantly, how they treat others.  But I seriously doubt my ability anymore because I have been flamboozled by folks that have just boggled my mind with their actions. 

What did I miss?  What major red flags did I just not see that should have warned me the person wasn’t all he/she claimed to be? Were there signs along the way that I just didn’t notice?

Of course, that leads me to think I need to be more hawk-like – engage in fervent watching people like a hawk – to keep away those who may hurt my loved ones or me.  

It’s a conundrum though. 

My head warns me to be hawk-like and pounce upon the misdoings and faults of others especially if those actions might affect my loved ones adversely.  But my heart…my heart…it implores me to be more like a dove.

But then my thoughts turn to the book of Matthew in the New Testament, Chapter 10.  In verse 16, Jesus tells His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  He continues by cautioning His followers to “Be on guard.”

I believe Jesus meant that we must take a balanced view when we are out in the world. 

As a Christ follower, I shouldn’t fall into wrong doing myself because of what’s been done to my loved ones or me.  In that respect, I should attempt to remain innocent as a dove and listen to my heart.  

But I live in a world of wolves (many who are dressed in sheep clothing) and in that case, I must be shrewd (sharp, discerning, perceptive) as a snake…or perhaps a hawk.

And yes, I need to be on guard at all times. Ever watchful. Ever vigilant. Just like that hawk perched in that tree.

You can just call me Hawk Eye.

“If we had great distant vision like a hawk, we could avoid most disasters, altering our future.” ~ Unknown