Words for Wednesday: do a 180

gray concrete road surrounded by green grass

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When life turns negative, it helps to do a 180. Turn it around by focusing on the positive. An old song sung by Bing Crosby may come to mind at those words:  “You’ve got to accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative; latch on to the affirmative; don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”

Those words ring true, don’t they? When things go awry, plans don’t come to fruition, difficult circumstances threaten to rain on our parades, it doesn’t help to go down the gloomy path of negativity.

It’s one of the things my ladies Bible study is working on this week in our quest for contentment. We’re making lists of all the positive aspects of our lives (and there are so many), but we’re also making lists of the negative ones as well. Then we’re determining which one of those negative circumstances is the most troubling and praying over it.

But we’re not just praying for God to take it away. Nope. We’re praying for the Lord to show us how He has been working on that issue and thanking Him for all the ways He helps and sustains us while we maneuver our ways through it.

It’s a different perspective from our usual way of looking at things. Our way of perceiving from our earthly view instead of an eternal one.

While working on my positive list, the lyrics to a song from The Sound of Music kept popping into my mind.

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.” ~ lyrics by Richard Rodgers

What if we only focused on our favorite things? Wouldn’t the world look brighter? Happier? Easier to handle? That glass of water would always look half full instead of half empty.

Reality tells us life isn’t always going to be rosy. But we can have faith to hang in there. We can have faith to pray to the Blessed Controller of all things. We can be thankful, even in the middle of dire situations, because we can hang onto the hand of the Creator and He will help us to weather the storm.

“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.” ― Roy T. Bennett,

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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When push comes to shove

close up of hands

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One evening a week, my empty nest is full.  Full of ladies with Bibles and notebooks in their hands. Full of cups of hot tea and something yummy to enjoy.

And my heart is full. Full of good words of encouragement straight from God’s Word to share. Full of joy at using one of the gifts the Lord has blessed me with – teaching.

For the last couple of years, God has been nudging me to step back into the ring, not as a prize fighter but as an encourager. A teacher. One who shares what she’s learned with others in hopes that blessings will be poured upon the learner.

I’ve always been a teacher. I trained for it in college and earned a degree in English Education. I briefly taught in public school and relished my role in recent years as a substitute teacher in a private school. I’ve taught young children, teenagers, and adults in church settings more times than I can even remember.

For well over a decade, I taught relationship and character-molding programs to students 6th through 12th grade in my role as an education director for a non-profit organization.

And years ago when this nest first became empty, I used my gift of teaching in leading Bible studies for women.

So, I have the experience. I have the background. I have the ability. I just kept telling myself I didn’t have the time. 

Then one Sunday morning during his message, our pastor said this, “If God’s calling you to do something and you say you can’t, it’s because you won’t.”

Oh my! Bulls-eye. That comment aimed like a swift arrow hit me right between the eyes but more importantly right into my heart. In this case, God’s push became a shove.

After worship service, I told Pastor how God spoke to me through that morning message and that I needed to start a Bible study for ladies in my home. Pastor grinned and told me to go for it.

As if I needed confirmation, the next day a friend from my church, who had been a part of Bible studies I led years ago, phoned me to talk about an upcoming event. As our conversation continued, she asked me if I ever thought about leading Bible studies again in my home.

I laughed. Out loud. She was puzzled as to why I was laughing until I told her I was in the process of beginning that very thing.

I decided to hold the study in my home because I wanted those who attended to feel physically comfortable. I wanted us to gather in a welcoming room on comfy seats in my spacious home instead of a church building classroom with metal chairs or a sanctuary filled with wooden pews.

And my desire was to make the gathering personal. A chance for women to meet, share experiences, and delve into God’s Word to learn something we all hope to attain – contentment in this world where we may feel so dissatisfied a good bit of the time.

The Apostle Paul learned to be content in the midst of extremely difficult life circumstances.  He wrote in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”  

God’s Holy Word is full of lessons for life and it’s not enough to just read the Bible. We must study it and apply it to our lives.

That’s my hope in leading this Bible study.  That we aren’t just hearers of the Word, but doers. And that will make my heart, in this empty nest, content.

“Contentment is just the realization that God has already provided for me today all that I need for my present peace and happiness.”  ~ Nancy Leigh DeMoss

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Something good to read

blogIMG_7017When I want to relax, I cozy up in the overstuffed chair with a matching ottoman in our family room with a book in my hand. A real book.

Oh, sometimes I fire up my mini iPad instead and open the Kindle app to peruse an eBook, but I much prefer a printed and bound book that enables me to turn paper pages.

I’ve been a reader since….well…since I learned to read way back in first grade. Back then, it was “See Jane. See Jane run. Run, Jane, run!”

No matter how simple, those words on a book’s printed page fascinated me. And words still appeal to me which is why I keep a notebook of words (one full of quotations that inspire or encourage me).

Since I’ve been quite busy and distracted with tasks at home that need completed, I haven’t been engrossed in reading as much as I usually am.

A couple of weeks ago, Papa and I ventured to a local library and I came back with only two books instead of the usual six or eight. And those two books were already read and waiting to be returned when I finally sat down to relax one evening and felt like reading.

With no library book fodder to be found, I scrolled through the eBooks on my Kindle app finding none that enticed me into reading them.

I must admit that I’m very selective in what I do read. A lot of words are published in literal books and eBooks. And I find some of them not worth opening at all.  

To me, a good writer with an excellent command of vocabulary does not need to use foul language, explicit wordage to describe characters or scenes, and expletives in every other paragraph or even at all.

So I find myself closing a book written in such a way and either returning it to the library unread or banishing it from my Kindle collection.

I still adhere to the advice I used to give my children when they were teens – “If you put garbage in your mind, that’s what will come out.”

I don’t need garbage to clutter up my already full brain and frankly, reading that kind of “literature” doesn’t encourage, inspire, or make me feel positive.  The real world is ugly enough without reading about it in a fictional book.

So I sat in my comfy chair, propped my feet up, looked around my family room, and since I had an empty hand that was book less, I thought to myself, “I need something good to read!”

Immediately, I regretted my choice of words.

Because there is something good to read readily available in my house. Every single day. I don’t even have to search for it, scroll through hundreds of titles, or scan the library shelves for it.

Matter of fact, there are several versions of this good-to-read book on our own bookshelves. This book is one of the very few that I’ve read through more than once.

It’s a book full of a little bit of everything – mystery, intrigue, history, poetry, war battles, drama, supernatural events, advice and instructions for life, and even romance, including the greatest love story ever told. Pretty inclusive, wouldn’t you say?

I can easily turn to this book when I want to read something uplifting, something encouraging, and something inspiring.

This book proves to be true, noble, right, and pure. It is full of whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If I were tasked with giving a review of this book I’d categorize it as excellent and definitely praiseworthy.

That something-good-to-read book marks a permanent spot on my desk. It is there for the offering. All I have to do is pick it up and open the cover of this well-worn book. It has long been my favorite book of all.

And each time I read from it, I find something new to discover. Something new to contemplate. A new way of looking at the words written and printed on the thin pages, now lined and marked with special notations of my own.

The words in this good book never grow old, never prove dull, never bore me.

Instead, they sink into my mind, my heart, and my soul.

As they should.

“To what greater inspiration and counsel can we turn than to the imperishable truth to be found in this treasure house, the Bible?” ~ Queen Elizabeth II

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

It’s game time

blogIMG_1348 (2)I’m not all that clever, but occasionally, I have moments where words just fit together in a pattern which comes across a bit humorous.  

While organizing the goods stashed in our basement, I came across the shelving unit where all of our games are stored. We are a game-playing family and that is one way we have fun when we’re all assembled here in Mama’s Empty Nest.  And recently, our church had a game night where a group of us gathered together and played games all evening. It proved to be a great time of fun and fellowship

So games have been on my mind lately and looking through all of those board games in our basement reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few years ago. Back in March 2011, I used the names of games to describe life. So that’s why today I’m doing a “throwback Thursday” and reposting this. 

I hope it brings a smile to your face today.  

What is life?  That’s The $64,000 Question.

Edwin Arlington Robinson said, “Life is the game that must be played.” So if that’s true, then here’s how I see it.

First in the game of Life, a certain Sequence is followed, and lo and behold, we are born!  We spend some time in the Cribbage, thinking we have quite the Monopoly because the world appears to revolve around our little selves.

Just about the time we believe life is a proverbial Candy Land,  we are sent off to school where some of us finally start using our Cranium and some of us just think the whole idea is Balderdash.  Usually those of us who think school is just a Pit end up getting in Trouble more often than not.

But if you separate yourself from the rest of the Barrel of Monkeys, you might find you Go to the Head of the Class. Instead of being Sorry that you didn’t have a Clue what to do with yourself, those who do well in school can climb up Chutes and Ladders of success.

Realizing studying is not just Trivial Pursuit, we venture out in search of jobs that will give us a good Pay Day.  Some of us spin the Wheel of Fortune.   We buy a car, a house, and other stuff just because The Price Is Right.

After a while, we get weary of being Uno and aren’t crazy about ending up as an Old Maid so we take the Risk of finding our soul mate to marry.  For some people, searching for a spouse in the Dating Game may feel like Go Fish. For others, it might seem like a Mouse Trap, but when you find the right person, you won’t even Flinch.

A perfect Match Game has been found and you’re off to the Newlywed Game.  Married life is quite an Operation.  At times if feels like Battleship, and you may Scrabble often with each other.   But after a time, you and your spouse will agree like Apples to Apples.

Children are added to the mix and you may become a family of Connect Four or even Crazy Eights.   Sometimes life seems like a great big Family Feud.  At times you think you’re going Bunco, but at other times, life seems near Perfection. Often as your kids are growing up, your life is like Twister, so busy and mixed up, but before you know it, they become adults, move out, and your family becomes Scattergories.

At this point, you have the time to ponder and Imaginiff your life were different.  You’ve worked hard and you’ve loved even harder and all of a sudden that Taboo thought comes into your head – you’re getting old!

At some point you’re going to reach Phase 10, and when you do, Your Number’s Up. But the game of life is definitely worth the effort, you wouldn’t Skip-Bo any of it!

“You play the hand you’re dealt with.  I think the game’s worthwhile.” ~ C.S. Lewis

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: success

blogIMG_6991Success! After several unsuccessful attempts to capture the red-headed woodpecker enjoying his snack at our front yard suet cake holder, I finally caught him.

It’s not the best photo as I snapped it in a hurry before he few away in a flurry, but it’s proof that he exists and frequents our place often.

I’m not an expert on identifying birds but I believe he is a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Please correct me if I’m wrong, all you birdwatchers out there.

Feeling a little success is encouraging to me today because I’m still in the throes of rummaging and sorting through the humongous piles of stuff in our unfinished basement. Will my vision of a clean and orderly lower level ever come to fruition?

If you need me, I’ll be in the basement finishing the job I started.

 “Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts.” ~ Coleman Cox

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The path of friendship

little girl on path

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There’s an old saying that grass doesn’t grow on the path between friends’ homes or something like that.

I couldn’t find the exact quote but somewhere in the recesses of my memory, those words exist. The nearest I could come to verifying that saying was a Native American proverb: “Don’t allow the grass to grow on the path of friendship.”

When I think about those words, one of my best and dearest friends comes to my mind. 

Leigh and I have been friends for over 50 years. Her parents built their house next-door to my folks when we were children and Leigh and I quickly became playmates.

We played together almost every day immersing ourselves in Barbies, playing house, running a pretend restaurant, whatever our imagination could conjure up.  And most of the time, weather permitting, we played outside dragging our toys back and forth between our two houses.

We also rode our bikes down our country road, played secret agent with her brother, and spent countless hours in the winter time sled-riding and building snow forts.

As young girls, we explored, we dreamed of the future, we swooned over The Monkeees, and we planned magical days that we were sure we’d experience sometime (our weddings). It’s what little girls did back then.

After Leigh’s parents installed an in-ground swimming pool, most of our summer days were consumed there, tanning, swimming, and listening to the radio. Our friendship was forged by all the time we spent together, year after year.

Leigh’s home became my second home; mine was hers. The acre-sized yard that separated my house from hers was our path to friendship. When we stayed up late into the night talking, one of us would race across that yard between our houses to the safety of home.

Since we lived in the country, we always worried about crossing paths with skunks or some other wild animal and that expanse of grass that separated our homes was encased in darkness, which proved to be a bit scary. So either she would stand on her back yard porch and watch me scamper home or I would stand on the sidewalk in between our house and garage and watch her go.

That grassy yard was the only thing that separated us in those years. Leigh and I shared secrets, dreams, anxieties, disappointments, hurts, and every emotion that young girls experience.  We trusted one another with confidences we wouldn’t share with others.

As young adults, we were in each other’s dream weddings, but our marriages took us away from our childhood homes.  As adults,  we rejoiced together over the birth of our children, shared stories of motherhood, watched our children become adults, and finally commiserated over the empty nest – all from afar by phone calls and occasional visits as we no longer lived beside one another.

We’ve been friends through thick and thin, even though we haven’t lived side by side for over 40 years now. More than a grassy yard separated us as adults. I lived in far-away places for 20 years. Leigh lived in another state too for a time and then, many years ago, settled with her husband in a town a good distance away from our hometown.

But miles have never separated our hearts. A year ago, Leigh had a major terrifying health problem and I thought I would lose one of my best friends. Miraculously, God intervened and saved her.  Prayers for her were answered and today she is doing well considering all that she went through.

It had been a few months since we talked and one recent Sunday evening, I dialed her cell phone number. I hadn’t even realized that it was exactly one year to the day that she almost left this life until she mentioned it. And we marveled over how occurrences  lined up perfectly to spare her life that day.

We talked. And we talked. And we talked. Just like those late night conversations we had as young girls. We talked for almost four hours straight, until our cell phone batteries began waning and we had to find our phone chargers. 

That’s what kind of friendship we have.  Not only does grass not grow on our path of friendship, but miles and time and even cell phone batteries don’t keep us apart. 

Conversing with Leigh is always like those late nights all those years ago when we lived side by side. This long-enduring friendship crosses that grassy yard once again  and I am so grateful for that path that never grows closed.

“A friend is one in whom we can confide. The secret chambers of our soul open to his touch on the latch.” ~ J.E. Dinger

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 

Peek-a-boo

blogIMG_7005Peek-a-boo, I see you.

Often I take a peek out our windows to check what fine feathered friends are noshing at our bird feeders. One feeder full of seeds hangs on a tree in view of our back yard deck; the other is a suet cake holder that swings back and forth on a front yard tree.

During these blustery winter days, our feeders are popular places for bird snacks. One day last week, I spied a red-headed woodpecker poking into the suet cake, but by the time I grabbed my camera, changed out the lens for a telephoto, and quietly opened my front door to try to capture him, he swooshed away in a flurry.

Disappointed, I checked the back yard where I noticed a bright red cardinal enjoying a free meal at the battered wooden feeder there. Worn by years of weather, wild winds, and just general usage, one of the perches has broken off.

Chowing down, Mr. Red sat upon the remaining perch which happened to be hidden on the back side of the feeder. I knew that if I opened the door and walked out onto the deck to try to capture his likeness, he too would fly away in a flash.

So I aimed my camera at the bird feeder and attempted to get a quick glimpse of him as his head or tail became visible. The result ended up being a peek-a-boo kind of photo, which you see above.

A few days later, my daughter, my grandchild, and I decided to go out for lunch and were traveling in daughter’s car. I kept hearing a little voice saying “Peek-a boo, peek-a boo” repeatedly from the back seat. I looked questioningly at my daughter who responded, “She’s playing peek-a boo with her baby doll.”

Our first born granddaughter turned four years old this past month and one of the things she dearly desired for her birthday was a baby doll. An honest-to-goodness soft dolly who looked more like a human baby than a cartoon character. One that she could pretend to feed, to dress in doll clothes, to bathe, to rock and sing to, just like a mama would do for her own child.

Baby dolls. Not easy to find anymore. Nana and Papa were determined to find just the right one for our little one, which actually proved to be a difficult task. I didn’t want to order one online because I wanted to see the doll in person, touch it, see if it’s eyes opened and shut, see if it felt…well…real.

The small section of baby dolls in the nearest Wal-Mart toy aisles proved to be fruitless. First of all, there weren’t many to choose from which was disheartening.  Out of the selections, one proved too small, one way too large, and a couple of others too cheaply made and not soft and cuddly.

We looked elsewhere with the same results, until finally I found one on the clearance rack at TJ Maxx – a baby with a tiny teddy bear and two changes of clothes. Who knew finding a baby doll would be so difficult?

And that commenced this old brain of mine to start to ponder. Is there not much of a market for baby dolls anymore? Have we truly become that kind of society where we discourage little girls from becoming mommies?

Do children no longer play house and pretend? Do they truly desire electronic gizmos and gadgets more than an old-fashioned toy like a baby doll?

It saddens me to think so. It saddens me to think that little girls don’t want to grow up to be a mother or that society or their parents are dissuading them from motherhood.  

Discouraging them to want to play peek-a-boo with their own baby someday. To hold a blessed miracle of life in their own arms.

It warms my heart to see my grandchild pretend to be a mommy with her new baby doll she wraps in a baby blanket. And it made me smile to hear her play peek-a-boo with her “Baby Annie” during a car ride.

My hope is that my precious grandchild grows up to be a wonderful mommy, loving and kind. Thoughtful, caring, and nurturing. And appreciative of the miracle of life – a baby. She’s learning that now.

“I am your mother, you are my child. I am your quiet place, you are my wild. I am your calm face, you are my giggle. I am your wait, you are my wiggle. I am your dinner, you are my chocolate cake. I am your bedtime, you are my wide awake. I am your lullaby, you are my peek-a-boo. I am your goodnight kiss, you are my I love you.” ~ Unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: tracks

blogIMG_6776We had a visitor at some point during a snowy night recently because this is what I found on our front porch and sidewalk the next morning.

Tracks. We all leave them. And if you think your life is meaningless, it’s not. What you do or don’t do always affects someone else. Each life matters.

But it’s up to us to make a choice. As we pass through this time called life, will we leave tracks that impact another for good or negative ones? Will our tracks lead someone astray or give them guidance?

Choose your tracks wisely, so someone who comes upon them is encouraged or in some way helped by the path you led.

Make your tracks count.

“No one can pass through life, any more than he can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after him in finding their way.” ~ Robert Baden-Powell

blogIMG_6780©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

A different kind of journey

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Last year’s journey into the Arizona desert

I’m on a journey of sorts. And I’m not sure what all I will find on this trek.

Oh, I’m not traveling, but how I wish I were. Last year at this time, Papa and I zoomed along in a RZR side by side ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) on Arizona desert trails with my sister and brother-in-law and saw sights we’d never seen before.

This year, I’m struggling (and not zooming) to make trails through a myriad of stuff. All that stuff that’s been lurking in our basement for way too long. Seriously, it looked like a hoarder lived in that overstuffed place.

Last year, we made our way on vacations through mountains. This year, I’m not sure yet where our vacation plans will take us but for now I’m, slowly but surely, making my way through mountains of cardboard boxes, plastic totes, and stockpiles of this, that, and the other thing.

Honestly, it’s a tad overwhelming and the situation became even more daunting when we had a washing machine problem which resulted in a flood of water drenching the laundry room and promptly leaking through the floor down into the basement while spreading faster than melting butter all over old furniture and cardboard boxes.

Now my search and destroy mission included opening boxes of stored stuff that belongs to a couple of our grown children, as well as our own junk belongings and checking for water damage. I will say one thing about the calamity – it forced me to start my attack on the over-crowded basement NOW.

So as I sort through these self-made mountains, categorizing, organizing, and eliminating, I’m finding items I’ve forgotten we had.

I’m finding items that need to acquire new homes.

I’m finding items like old photos of my husband’s extended family that were supposed to be sent to cousins a couple of years ago.

I’m finding old memories along with some antiquated stuff.

I’m finding plenty of trash can fodder as well.

In between all the tossing and turning, I have time to dream up new places to visit, new sights to see, new horizons to think about. Cleaning up the basement (and it’s going to be a several days, maybe weeks long job) is giving me plenty of time to ponder and is also prompting me to view matters in a different way.

And as always, I resort to the passage from God’s Word that I claim as my life verses: “Be joyful always (even in the middle of a mess); pray continually (Lord, give me clarity of mind to sort through this all); give thanks in all circumstances (I’m so thankful the situation isn’t worse).”  ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Hopefully, I’ll reach that destination of a neat and orderly basement soon. But in the meantime, I have a new perspective on my journey.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com