All or nothing

blogIMG_1816You’re either in or you’re out. You can only straddle the fence for so long before it becomes necessary to choose which side of that boundary marker you’re willing to jump into.

I find this is true in all aspects of life.  Make a decision.  Choose which side you’re on.  We learn that at an early age and you can witness it on any elementary school playground. Line up on this team or that one but you can’t just hang in the middle.

Except that’s where a lot of us cling – to the middle of the road. We don’t want to jump on this or that bandwagon because it might be politically incorrect or we might offend someone, even our family or friends.  So we compromise (not that that’s a terrible thing, it’s good in some instances) to keep the peace or not be different or in the minority or….you can fill in the blank.

Choose your side. It’s evident in the political arena which is so fired up for the upcoming November presidential election that it reminds me of a wild WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) show gone rogue with manic behavior and ‘roid’ rage.  

It saddens me that people can choose to get oh, so riled up over politics or insert your favorite obsession passion here, yet still choose to be apathetic and indifferent to faith in God.

Today, July 26, is All or Nothing Day. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t been contacted by a complete stranger who just so happened to have read a blog post or two of mine.  

A few weeks ago, I opened my email inbox and noticed a message from a stranger. Now I will admit that I’m a sceptic when I get unsolicited emails and usually just hit the delete button.

But every so often, I get an email that my heart tells me to open and read and, believe it or not, I have had some absolutely wonderful email conversations with a few blog readers who were complete strangers to me.  Those rare occurrences have blessed my heart with the stories they’ve shared with me and how reading my written words touched them enough to reach out and contact me.  In the words of an old friend of mine, “It’s a God thing.”

So something in my heart implored me to open this email:

“Happy Wednesday! I wanted to send a note after seeing how you embrace a healthy, mindful home and life on your blog. I wanted to let you know about All or Nothing Day on July 26th, a day dedicated to living life to the fullest. I’m a 10 year survivor of a rare cancer called mesothelioma, given just 15 months to live upon diagnosis, then and there I decided it was all or nothing from that day on.I’m emailing you because I wanted to ask if you would be willing to help spread the word. It would be fantastic if you joined me on your blog in remembering why we’re here and what we’re most passionate and proudest of.”

Okay, I used to work in journalism. I know how to check out facts. Plus at my ripe old age, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.  I wanted to ascertain this was legit. So I did what everyone else in the world does.  I googled the writer of the email.

I discovered she is exactly who she says she is. A cancer survivor.  Someone who chose to fight with all she had and wage a war (and it can be a long war with battle after battle) against the rogue cells in her own body which wanted to snuff out her life.

But more than that, she is an advocate who embraces life with gusto, passion, and much vigor to spread awareness not just about cancer but those affected by the particular one that she had been diagnosed with – mesothelioma. 

This lady is all in.

I emailed her back and asked her to tell me more.  She didn’t ask for a monetary donation to her cause; really she didn’t ask that much of me.  All she hoped I would do is write a little on my blog about what All or Nothing Day might mean to me.

It’s the least I can do.  One cancer survivor to another.

According to Heather Von St. James, this is what All or Nothing Day embraces:

“…it’s all about celebrating those moments where we’ve gone all out and also highlighting what our passions and proudest moments are in life. It captures the spirit of how I’ve tried to embrace each day since my diagnosis over ten years ago. As a cancer survivor I’ve dedicated myself to being an advocate for those affected by mesothelioma, spreading cancer awareness and educating on the continued dangers of asbestos…along with my family it’s what I give my all to every single day! I’d love for you to join by creating a post on your blog with what All or Nothing Day sparks with you, I think the beauty of this day is that it’s so different for everyone and it would be fantastic to see what you share to help inspire your readers!” 

So there you have it. 

A decision to make. You’re either in or you’re out.

I’ve thought, pondered, and asked the Lord what I should write to signify what All or Nothing Day means to me. What inspires me? What sparks the flame of passion within me? What do I most want to share with my readers?

The answer became quite clear. It comes right down to a basic part of who I am – my faith.

I’m either a believer in Jesus Christ or I’m not. I either place my complete faith and trust in Him or I don’t. I’m either all for Him or all against Him. I must choose sides even if I want to stay in the comfortable middle.

Because that is what He requires of me. I don’t want to be like the church of Laodicea, a spiritually dead church, written about in the Book of Revelation in the Bible (New Testament). Those believers were lukewarm about their faith in Christ.  They weren’t hot – being on fire or passionate about their faith in God – and they weren’t cold – strongly against the things of the Lord – either.  They were just apathetic, listless, unconcerned, and lethargic.

Jesus rebuked them in Revelation 3: 15-17 (The Message version):  “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.”

Strong words but truth. Lukewarm believers, like those in that ancient church, claim to know the Lord, they may even attend church, but they are complacent. They straddle the fence. Not all in nor all out. And they can cause more damage than those who completely reject Jesus.

Lukewarm believers claim to be Christians, but their hearts aren’t changed.  They lack the kind of love for the Savior that requires zeal and passion. They aren’t on fire for Him. Only repentance can change such a heart and those who are ‘hot’ for the Lord commit themselves completely to Him.  

All or nothing.

When folks examine me and how I live my faith and what fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) I may exhibit, there’s one thing I hope they see in me.

A soul on fire for Jesus. And nothing less.

Because it’s all or nothing and I’m totally in. All in.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Click here: Soul on Fire

 

 

Stop the world

blog266Stop the world, I want to get off.

That was a saying bantered around in the 1960’s and it was actually the name of a Broadway musical stage production back then too. (You older folks will remember the same songs I do from it: What Kind of Fool Am I? and Gonna Build a Mountain.)

Stop the world, I want to get off. The 60’s decade was a turbulent one but it is in the past. Yet here we are some 50 years later and our world seems just as unstable.

Stop the world! I want to get off!

That’s the thought and maybe even the prayer that screams through my mind when I hear the latest news.  Another attack on law enforcement officers in our nation over the weekend. Terrorist attacks taking place with alarming regularity across the globe.

I don’t usually post about what’s going on in the world according to the media.  I don’t want to write about divisiveness and all the negativity that is exactly what the world seems all about right now whether it be in politics, social issues, religions, or even economics.

It’s enough to make my head spin and my heart sick just catching the news on TV or in the newspapers and especially on social media like Twitter or Facebook, which I don’t really credit as being a reliable source of information because there is just way too much wacky stuff on there.

So I generally stay away from those topics here on Mama’s Empty Nest. Why? Not because I don’t care about issues affecting our world today.  I do care so much about many of the ills we suffer in this world; they break my heart and cause me such great concern for the lives of my grandchildren and their future.

And it’s not because I don’t have an opinion or viewpoint on those topics. I certainly do.

But I choose not to write about such things because I try to keep a positive outlook and encourage not discourage. Stir up inspiration not dissension. Be a calming and soothing influence not a catalyst to spark the flames of rage.

I choose not to write about social causes or politics or whatever the latest trend cultural hot spot is because doing so seems to bring out the evil twin that lurks in all of us. 

Today it seems that we can’t just agree to disagree. Instead people resort to hateful name-calling, excessive and angry arguing, and vehement violence in a heartbeat.

But I cannot be silent when my own heart is telling me to proclaim something right here on my blog that I believe with my entire being.

I don’t know how or when this madness is going to stop and I fear it won’t.  It will only escalate unless we do something to change the path of this nation and this world.

And I can’t run away or wish for the world to stop rotating in this vile circle of destruction so I can get off.

What’s happening to us humans on this planet is a serious illness. It’s a heart condition. A blight on the human soul.

But it’s not terminal. At least it doesn’t have to be. I know of only one way to heal these heart and soul conditions. There’s only one way to stop the hate and change human hearts.  

Turn our eyes upon Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

As for me, that’s what I must and will do. I invite you to do the same.

“The mind can’t delete what the heart won’t let go of.” ~ Peggy Toney Horton

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Defying gravity

blogIMG_8196When life knocks you flat on your back, remember it left you looking up.

I look up a lot.  Life has taught me to do that. Often I never know what’s coming down the pike, so I tend to look up to the heavens for help to get through the next big thing.

From where does my help come? “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” ~ Psalm 121:2

I do find myself looking up — a lot.  In the warmth of summer, I turn my face upwards toward the sun.  After a rain, I look up to see if there’s a rainbow spread across the sky.  At night, I find myself gazing at the stars and marveling at how many I can see living out here in the country.

Yes, I look up.  I look up at clouds, whether they be puffy, fluffy white cotton-like or dark, menacing, stormy ones.

I look up to see a jet leaving its contrail plume behind it. 

I look up as I hear helicopter blades chopping the silence and I often utter a silent prayer for someone possibly being life-flighted to one of the trauma hospitals in our nearby city.

I look up when I notice a hot air balloon or a blimp coasting along the airways.

I look up to watch birds take wing to soar or butterflies flit and float by.

I look up as I walk down a woodsy path when I hear the leaves rustle through the trees over my head.

I look up because life on this earth is hard enough without always looking down.

Looking down weighs me down just as surely as gravity holds me on this planet. Looking down secures me to this earth where people are viciously cruel to one another, folks become seriously ill, hearts get trampled and broken, disappointments abound, and life eventually deteriorates and ends, and it all grieves my soul. 

I look up because it makes me happier.  I look up because it makes me realize how tiny and insignificant I am compared to the power of my God, who holds everything I see in the palm of His hand.

I look up because it gives me hope.

I look up because it provides me inspiration.

I look up because it strengthens my faith.

“Believers, look up — take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.” ~ Billy Graham

(Linking up to the weekly photo challenge theme – Look Up – today.)

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Best laid plans

blogIMG_8057There’s a saying that I’ve often heard, “The best laid plans of mice and men go astray.” 

The actual line came from a poem written by Robert Burns way back in 1786. Apparently, the line is actually, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” written in a poem Burns penned as an apology to a field mouse whose nest he destroyed while plowing up a field.

That line floated to the surface of the river of thoughts that meander through my mind just recently when Papa and I made what we thought would be a best-laid plan.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we must forego any kind of real vacation this year. So instead we’ve decided that we will take a day or two here and there as the schedule allows and journey on a day trip to some place we’ve not visited or seen or sounds interesting.

We set a date, checked the weather forecast which promised mild, summer temperatures and blue skies, decided upon a destination, and researched attractions there.  You know, made plans.

Papa plotted our trip, which would take a couple of hours one way, by checking both Google Maps and Mapquest.  We decided upon a more scenic route instead of the more direct one, which would take us through our nearby city at rush hour, something we’ve done way too many times. You know, been there, done that.

And so our journey began.  And with that, our best laid plans started going awry.

The scenic route proved to be the most convoluted, time-consuming, go 1.5 miles then turn, then drive 3 miles and turn, then go 1.5 miles and turn again kind of trip. The longest distance we covered on one road turned out to be 12 miles I believe.  Those blue highways were making us really blue as we started getting annoyed by the directions which seemed to meander all over the countryside instead of making real progress. Busted plan #1.

Twice we pulled over along the roadside because we were convinced we had missed one of those turns and finally, I dug in the glove compartment and felt like shouting ‘Eureka, I’ve found it!’ when I located a map of the state next door in which we were traveling.

With map spread out before us, we finally made our destination more than an hour later than we had hoped. When we arrived, we found construction through the little town we were attempting to visit and traffic back-ups.  Still we forged on and decided to stop at a flea market that promised a little something for everyone.

Um…not something for us. We stayed only an hour and found nothing worth spending time to investigate nor anything to purchase.  Instead disappointment loomed as I picked up several ‘craft’ items only to discover ‘made in China’ on the backs of them. Bust #2.

So those plans went awry too. We then visited some shops which we found expensive and full of items that this couple married for almost 40 years didn’t want and certainly didn’t need.  At this point in our lives, I want to get rid of clutter in my house, not bring in more. Yep, bust #3 in our best laid plans.

We had packed a picnic lunch and were certain we could find a park or some shady beckoning spot to stop, spread a blanket, and eat. We drove and we drove and we drove some more.  No parks to be found, only parking lots.

We ended up sitting in our vehicle in a parking lot spot in front of an empty store front in a small strip mall under the one shade tree there. Busted plan #4.

By this time, it was afternoon and these two disillusioned travelers felt like we should have either:  #1- stayed home or #2- made a last minute plan to visit elsewhere.  (We had considered driving to Lake Erie for the day and just sitting on the beach, taking some nature walks, checking out the lighthouse, and maybe searching for sea glass.)

Throughout the day as those best laid plans went awry, Papa and I kidded each other by saying, “We should have gone to Lake Erie.”  Finally we did find a large pavilion full of antiques that proved interesting and enjoyable to look over and directly behind it another crafts “mall” with real honest-to-goodness handmade crafts.  But after visiting them, we were tired, a tad cranky, and frankly, ready to pull out that map again and find a better path home.

But first, we decided to stop to eat our last meal of the day at a home-style cooking restaurant before we hit the highway home. It was a bit early for dinner (I was glad of that as there weren’t many people there yet and you will soon find out why), but we wanted to get on the road back home. 

After being seated in the large, airy, and nicely decorated country style place, we placed our drink orders and perused the menu.  The waitress came back to our table to serve Papa his raspberry iced tea and me my half sweet, half unsweetened tea.  We were looking forward to just sitting, relaxing, and sipping our iced teas while we decided whether we would have the chicken pot pie or the home style meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

And then it happened.  The waitress placed the raspberry tea in front of Papa and hurriedly began to place my sweet tea down when….surprise! She knocked it over and an entire glass of tea and ice cubes promptly got dumped into my lap! It happened so quickly that I couldn’t even jump back from the table in time to escape the waterfall of tea running down the checkered vinyl table cover. 

I was too shocked to even comprehend how it happened as I sat there with a lap full of tea all over my khaki capri pants. The waitress grabbed some napkins, mumbled an apology, and ran off to get more.

I stood up and tea ran down my legs onto my sandaled feet – sticky, cold, and what a mess. I was given a couple of wet cloths to mop up the tea from my pants, legs, and feet and of course, the table. The waitress said she felt bad, and I replied that accidents happen. But I tell you, it wasn’t very enjoyable trying to eat dinner with soaking wet pants. And it was a bit embarrassing as well. Bust #5.

We ate quickly, – we did have the meatloaf which was good – paid our bill, and couldn’t wait to leave. As we got in our car, we looked at one another and said, “We REALLY should have gone to Lake Erie!”

The trip home was shorter and happily uneventful.  We chalked those plans up to just not our thing and put the day into the memory banks or so we thought.

The next morning I awakened at 6 a.m. to find Papa searching throughout the bedroom with our landline phone held up to his ear.  Groggily I asked him what he was doing.  He was dialing his cell number because he couldn’t find his cell phone. He searched high and low all through the house and the car hoping to hear it vibrate.  It was nowhere to be found. He lost it on our trip! Bust #6.

Again, we should have gone to Lake Erie!

Finally, we thought through where we may have been when he last used it the day before.  He liked some leather handmade belts at the crafts mall, and he tried one on to make sure it fit before he purchased it. When he took his old belt off to do so, he laid his cell down on the display,  got distracted, and forgot to pick it back up. At least that’s what we thought had happened.

Neither one of us wanted to make the return trip to the place where our best laid plans went awry.  We waited until 9 a.m. when the shops opened and called to ask if anyone had turned in a cell phone. No, was the answer but Papa asked if they would check at the display.  Eureka! It was still there and the manager said they would ship it to us at no charge to us.  One bright spot from a day of one disappointment after another.

It’s just like life. Sometimes plans don’t go the way you hope they would. But there’s always something to be thankful for. At least, Papa got his cell phone back.

But…our next day trip probably is going to be to Lake Erie. And we’re not going to plan anything.

“Adventure is just bad planning.” ~ Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

One of these things is not like the other

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Opposites.  Things that are altogether different.  Some things are considered polar opposites – diametrically opposed, as far from each other as possible.  In today’s world, it seems folks have polar opposite views in everything from politics to faith issues to climate change.

It’s safe to say our views each day are full of opposites.  And often we find that opposites actually do attract.  You’ve seen it in relationships where two people are so fundamentally dissimilar in all aspects of life that you scratch your head and wonder how in the world they get along well enough to be married.

This week’s photo challenge theme is opposite and I located one of my photos that personified that theme well I think.  One day while Papa and I were traveling down one of those blue highways meandering through the countryside, opposites appeared right through our car windshield. 

An Amish buggy pulled by one single trotting horse in front of us had just been passed by a speeding automobile (and not in a passing zone either). You can’t get more opposite than those two modes of transportation.  One old-fashioned and slow.  One thoroughly modern and capable of speediness.

One portraying the simplicity and humility of its driver, the other a symbol for some folks of pride and vanity.  One simple and uncomplicated way, a horse pulling a carriage, of moving from one place to another and the other powered by complex and complicated means, an engine with computerized parts accelerating an intricately designed vehicle.

Opposites. Just like the people traveling inside those two different means of conveyance. One in an obvious hurry, one not.

And Papa and I fell somewhere in the middle.

Which makes me wonder….what is the opposite of middle?

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Happy Birthday, America!

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“The United States is the only country with a known birthday.”  ~James G. Blaine

The United States of America.  It’s my country and I wouldn’t have wanted to be a native citizen of any other country in this world.  Patriotic? Yes, I am. As some unknown person once said, “My blood runs red, white, and blue.”

Why? Because I grew up in a time when we were taught to be proud of our nation yet remember the utmost sacrifices that were made to secure freedom and never take that freedom for granted.

I was taught that the Declaration of Independence was written with these words:  

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I learned the preamble to the United States Constitution and what that important document established:

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

My parents taught me to honor the symbol of our nation and its freedom, our flag, and the proper way to treat it and display it. I still recite the pledge of allegiance to our flag.

I know every word to The Star Spangled Banner; My Country ‘Tis of Thee; America, the Beautiful, and God Bless America.

My love for my country does not supersede my love for my Lord, but I know that my nation cannot and will not survive without being one nation under God.

I pray for this great nation of mine because it seems like we are sinking into a muddy mire of our own doing. And it’s time for we the people to speak up and out. As I reflect on this day – this Independence Day – the 4th of July,  the 240th birthday of my country, I take to heart the words of some of our founding fathers and former presidents because they still ring true.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”  ~ Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

And finally a birthday blessing straight from the song, America, the Beautiful, written by Katharine Lee Bates:

“America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”

Happy Birthday to my country, the United States of America. May God bless it and keep it and may it continue to be a shining light of liberty in a dark world of oppression.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com