Be still…in sweet fellowship

blogIMG_7896 (2)All too soon it seemed, 12 weeks of Bible study in my home, with a dozen or so other ladies, ended during my sojourn of being still (taking a break from blogging).

We learned plenty about practicing contentment during our time together studying God’s Word, but we discovered a good bit about each other as well.  Some of the ladies I knew well, some fairly well, and one was a newcomer to our church.

I opened each session with what’s called an “icebreaker question.” Sometimes it was serious, sometimes not. Each participant took her turn at answering the question and many times, we found ourselves laughing heartily.

Other times, we shared things from the heart. Gratefulness swelled within me as I realized that each lady felt safe in sharing, trusting each other with some of the hard things we encounter in life, encouraging one another, and feeling welcome in the group.

Each week after the conclusion of our sessions, we lingered for a while in fellowship, chatting while partaking of tasty snacks – sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, sometimes healthy, sometimes not.

After our last session, we planned an ice cream sundae party. Two gals brought ice cream (some homemade) and the rest of us provided different toppings. And then these lovely ladies surprised me with a thank you gift and the fun cupcakes pictured above.

To say we grew closer to one another was the absolute truth. We formed a bond of friendship and sisterhood in Christ during those 12 weeks of study and sweet fellowship, and it seemed we were reluctant to end our time together.

And so, I’m working on a new study to commence in the fall. And I’m guessing that most, if not all, of those dear ladies will appear at my door once again ready to dive into God’s Word.  

My time of being still proved fruitful for my spiritual life and I’m so thankful for the fellowship of this dear group of women.

“The fellowship of true friends who can hear you out, share your joys, help carry your burdens, and correctly counsel you is priceless.” ~ Ezra Taft Benson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Be still…button your lip

blogIMG_5179One of life’s lessons I learned in middle age was that I needed to choose to be content with my circumstances and it was one of those lessons I felt led to share with other women during my blogging break of just being still.

I wrote in yesterday’s post how I finally listened and obeyed the nudge that God was giving me to lead a women’s Bible study in my home. The topic I chose for us to study was learning how to be content. Not an easy task in this world where we compare everyone to ourselves.

“I wish I was thin like she is.”

“Oh, why can’t I be successful or have a perfect life like her?”

“If only this or that hadn’t happened to me, I’d be so much happier.”

“A bigger house, car, bank account, etc. would make me feel content.”

I imagine every woman may have had those thoughts at one time or other in her life and maybe even voiced them out loud.

One sure-fire way we show our discontent is by complaining.

“That cashier was so slow scanning my purchases at the grocery store today, it took up too much of my time!”

“This weather stinks, why does it have to rain so much (or be so hot, or be too cold)?

“My husband never puts his dirty socks in the hamper and I’m sick of it!”

“Just once I wish my kids would do what I tell them!”

We open our mouths and all that comes out are complaints about everything. Nothing suits us. Nothing satisfies us. And that’s one of the issues we worked on during our Bible study sessions.

We found that God’s Word admonishes us to be careful about the words that come out of our mouths. And we learned that the Apostle Paul gave us the secret to contentment 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 everything through him who gives me strength.” (New International Version)

It doesn’t mean we fake it. It doesn’t mean we act like nothing’s wrong when something is very wrong. But it does mean we find balance.

We realize life on earth will never be perfect but God promises to get us through the hard stuff. Our part is to pray, trust Him, and give sacrifices of thanksgiving to Him for what He’s helping us through in life, no matter what.

We choose our attitudes.

We choose to give our anxieties to God. We choose to pray specifically. We choose to be thankful. We choose to dwell on the positive. And we choose not to complain.

Every week, I offered practical ways to apply what we learned to our lives and used some kind of concrete example to help us remember what we talked about during our studies.

To help curb our complaining attitudes, I encouraged each woman to take a button home to remind her to button her lip every time she was tempted to complain.

I found I had to use that button more times than not myself. I changed my outlook from dwelling on the negative to choosing to find something for which to be thankful.

Sometimes, the teacher learns just as much if not more than the student.  Just one of the aspects of life I was reminded of during my time of being still.

“Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, the other saw stars.” ~ Dale Carnegie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Be still…and listen

blogIMG_7855You might think it would add stress to my life, but the exact opposite occurred.

My month-long blogging hiatus coincided with a commitment I previously had made – leading a women’s Bible study in my home for 12 weeks. Instead of pressuring me, it contributed to the peace I felt while taking some time to just be still.

Two things I accomplished while leading the Bible study: one was listening to God’s voice urging me to do something for Him and the second was being obedient to that nudging He gave me. And I believe that is why God truly blessed my time even while I was attempting to just be still.

I led the study because one Sunday morning while in worship at our church, my pastor’s words penetrated my heart like an arrow finding its bulls-eye. He said, “If God is telling you to do something and you say you can’t, it’s because you won’t.”

For over a year at least, thoughts had swirled around in my mind and God kept tugging on my heart to once again lead a Bible study. Many years ago, I had led studies in my home and also at a church we once attended.

But busyness and life interrupted and the studies came to a halt. Yet, the idea swirled around in my thoughts and crossed my mind occasionally.  And when it managed to bob onto the surface of my busy river of life, I ignored those thoughts.

I told myself I didn’t have time to devote to preparing and leading a study. I came up with every kind of excuse I could summon for why I couldn’t do so and relegated the idea to the back burner where it could just sit and stew.

And stew it did until it finally boiled over and got my complete attention. My pastor’s words proved to be the impetus. That very Sunday morning after worship service, I told my pastor I would hold a Bible study in my home.

To make it a little easier on myself and my time, I dusted off a study, which I had prepared over a decade ago for use in another church, about learning to be content.  

But even though, each session was already prepared, I needed to tweak it here and there. I needed to re-read the Bible passages I’d used and study them once again.

I revisited some of the reference books from which I had gleaned information. And I added new thoughts God provided for me.

Sometimes I studied and prepared in the mornings for that weekly Bible study with a lovely group of ladies, but often I found myself sitting in my easy chair, feet propped up on the matching ottoman, in our family room in early evening with my open Bible and my session plans.

Temperatures were fairly cool for summer weather, so several times the French door leading to our back yard deck would be open to the pleasant air.

And I would find as I studied God’s Word and made notes on the session outlines, my eyes would drift off to the open door as I pondered. And I would catch a glimpse of those spectacular sunsets God provides right in my own back yard.

One evening I captured the photo you see above.

And that photo reminded me of a quote that accompanies this post about leading the Bible study group and sunsets as well.

My hope is that while I was being still, I was still doing some work for God.

 If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…there’s a rainbow

blogIMG_7887Even though literal storms surrounded me during my blogging hiatus of just being still, internally I found myself so very peaceful.

I found that even though I was stuck in a writer’s block and couldn’t find words to put into sentences, it didn’t cause me stress like not being able to write usually does. I think I truly needed that long break away and I’m grateful I had the good sense to do so.

I also purposefully gave myself a short break from social media as well and that also helped me feel at peace. Honestly, reading the stuff posted on those sites stir up feelings of unrest and anger, so rationing that was beneficial for my soul as well.

I gave myself permission to not worry about accomplishing much on my ever growing to-do list and that was refreshing.  I’m a make a list, cross each item off as I go type of person so for once, it was nice not to have a list compelling me to be busy.

I enjoyed my free time in so many ways. I found myself picking up my camera once more not just in search of blogging material but because I found something interesting to capture by photo.

I relished time with family and friends. I wandered through a local library finding stacks of books to read.

I even binge watched a series on Netflix with my husband that I normally would not have been interested in watching. And that was about the only thing I did watch on the television as I’m not much of a TV viewer anyway because most of it is just trash.

I like my peace and quiet. When noise and chaos bombard me, I just can’t think.

So my blogging break plus my semi-fast from social media provided that tranquility and serenity I longed for.

Slowing down gave me the opportunity to notice aspects in life that I may have missed if I was chained to my computer squeezing out blog posts. A “take time to stop and smell the roses” kind of thing, if you will.

So while others were complaining about the rainy weather and commiserating over the lack of summer temperatures (which I did not miss as I don’t enjoy summer heat and humidity), I was happy and content.

I chose to look up rather than look down. I chose to look around and enjoy my surroundings.

And one evening as the rain finally subsided, I happened to step outside onto our front porch where I spotted something that caused me to run back inside for my camera.

A rainbow. God’s promise of hope. Not just one, but a double rainbow. Like an extra measure of expectations for good things to come.

And here I am. Back with words. Back in the blogging world. Back with inspiration and motivation to write once more. Back to share those moments in my Be Still series.

More in my series to come next week.

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…and bloom

blogIMG_8587 (2)The key to a well-lived life, I think, is to find blessings among the hard stuff. That’s one of the many thoughts I pondered over when I stopped writing and I’m sharing now in my Be Still series.

My favorite passage of scripture in the Bible is found in the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, Verses 16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

That passage encourages me to always find something to be thankful for, no matter what circumstances befall. When the rainy weather just didn’t want to cease and desist last month but instead hunkered down for the long haul, I found myself complaining a bit.

And then I remembered my favorite scripture and it caused me to change my perspective. 

I’m a sunny outlook kind of person. When the sun shines, so do I. When it’s bright and beautiful outside with sunshine, I’m on top of the world. Happy. Content. Motivated to accomplish whatever tasks are set before me.

But days of perpetual dreariness wear me down and definitely affect my mood, motivation, and morale.

However, instead of painting the long mask of weariness on my face, due to the rainy weather that hovered over us for so long, and spewing complaints from my mouth, I chose to find snippets of joy in my soggy world.

Aspects existing in my water-logged surroundings that gave me reason to smile. To count as a blessing. To give thanks to God even through the persistent rain and storms.

Today, I’m sharing one of those joyful moments with you via this photo.  

Because of all the rain, our yard stayed verdantly green, our garden started producing plenty for our table, and our flowers remained brilliantly colorful and lush since they didn’t lack water.

Our rain collection barrel which we use in summer to water the flower and vegetable gardens was always full and we didn’t have to tap into it.

As our flowers bloomed during my time of just being still, so did my joy and so did my hope. And that reminded me of another verse in God’s Word that I love: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” found in Romans 12:12.

For some, the constant rain was an affliction, but without the rain, the flowers would have withered up and died. So I’m thankful for the rain as much as I’m thankful for the sun.

Both provide me with hope. And hope fills me with joy.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~ Lady Bird Johnson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…in the storm

blogIMG_1134 (1)During my blogging hiatus of being still for over a month, the atmosphere around our home was anything but still.

For quite some time, overcast skies of gray ruled the days.  Rain, causing flash floods (thankfully, none near us), moved in and seemed to unpack its bags and make our area its permanent home.

Violent storms of wind, lightning, and thunder raged overhead and a couple of times hail was the result. Crazy weather, that’s what we kept saying.

Long ago during my stint as a journalist, a kind, older lady was employed as the newspaper’s librarian. When things got dicey around the newsroom and chaos threatened to seize the day, that sweet Southern lady would remark, “My, we are having a time!”

She wouldn’t qualify whether that time was good or bad, it was just a “time.” I always liked her outlook on life.

Well, it certainly seemed like nature was “having a time” while I took a break from writing in this blog.

This week in my Be Still series, I’m featuring some photos I captured during my blogging hiatus. Often during the crazy weather pattern we were stuck in, that librarian’s favorite saying came to my mind: “My, we are having a time!”

The photo above depicts a piece of hail that my granddaughter brought into the house to show me how large and jagged it was after one of those storms subsided. The hail stone is sitting on the counter next to a tablespoon, not a teaspoon.

Fortunately for us, our vehicles were safely stashed away in the garage. Something to be thankful for.

But as wild and destructive as those hail storms can be, I’m reminded that they are only temporary. Just like all the storms in life. They rage, they often create havoc and damage, but then they pass.

No storm lasts forever. Another aspect of life for which to be thankful.

“Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary storm. No matter how raging the billows are today, remind yourself: This too shall pass.” ~ T.D. Jakes

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…and celebrate freedom

blogIMG_8442Relaxing on vacation with Papa proved to be one of the highlights of my time of just being still during my month-long blogging break. 

That week away from the routine of home provided just the tonic I needed to fuel my writing inspiration again so after I’m finished with my be still series, I’ll be putting more words to my vacation photos and sharing some fun experiences here.

But as part of my be still series, I found this photo I snapped aboard one of the bay cruises we enjoyed on vacation to be most appropriate for this Independence Day today. Soaking up the sunshine, relishing the cool breeze, enjoying the sea air and sights while hearing our flag flapping in the wind was a lovely way of being still.

While we celebrate the 4th of July today with picnics; family and friends gatherings; red, white, and blue decorations; parades; and fireworks displays, let’s not forget to pause, take a moment to give thanks for our freedoms here in America, and salute Old Glory.

With hand on heart, let’s remember these words:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

On this very day, we commemorate the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776. That document gave our forefathers reason to fight and die for the freedoms we now enjoy 243 years later.

Let’s also remember to take a moment, be still, and pray for this great country of ours to remain indivisible despite our differences and to continue to provide liberty and justice for all.

God, bless America!

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14, King James Version (KJV)

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Be still…and watch the sun set

blogIMG_7906When we purchased this 2.25 acres of country land 20 years ago upon which to build our home, little did we realize that we would have a front-row seat to some of the most exquisitely beautiful sunsets. What a surprise that was!

Sunrises, on the other hand, are not so breathtaking here since hills and wooded areas interfere with viewing the sun ascending into the horizon early every morning.  By the time we catch a glimpse of the sun rising in the east, that golden orb has already moved higher into the sky and the magical swirl of color and light has vanished.

But sunsets…oh sunsets…they are glorious at our home. While I was practicing being still during my blogging hiatus, I witnessed several photo worthy settings of the sun in the western sky – in between rainy, overcast days.

In order to view them, all I have to do is peek out any of our kitchen windows or step outside onto our back yard deck and…voilà! God presents a spectacular sky painted with brilliant colors.

Sunsets always grab my attention. They entice me to watch as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon and nighttime descends its dark cloak over me. 

Even though technically a sunset is a passage of time – another day lived that will never be seen again – it still inspires me and fills me with hope for another day, another chance of life when the sun reappears the next morning.

Sunsets provide reason to pause and reflect on those last 24 hours of life and give thanks to the One who granted me those hours of life.

They also cause me to ponder about the next life. As magnificent as the colors of the sunsets I’ve witnessed are, it makes me wonder how glorious the colors in heaven might be.

“Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of Heaven.” ~ John Lubbock

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…in silence

blogIMG_7876 (2)During my day and evening hours when I was determined to be still, I found myself just sitting down and resting. 

This week I will share the reflections I found by doing so.

Oh, I still got my exercise in each week by walking in the early morning hours with my good friend and keeping up with household chores and gardening work. But some of the time I just found myself sitting still.

Sometimes relaxing in my easy chair and ottoman when my gaze would wander to the open French door leading to our deck.

Sometimes warmed by sunshine on a deck chair hearing the gentle breeze rustle through our maple trees and watching our fine-feathered friends find morsels to eat at the bird feeder.

Sometimes curled up on the couch with a good book to read.

Sometimes in a quiet spot while on vacation with Papa just enjoying our surroundings.

And sometimes perched on our front porch swing, rain or shine, observing all my eyes could take in and listening to the silence of the countryside.

On several of those times spent swaying back and forth on the swing, I’d suddenly hear a whirring sound – quick and distinct – and I’d duck my head thinking that perhaps a bumble bee just whizzed by my head.

And then I would see it. Not a bumble bee, but a tiny hummingbird which zoomed past me to sip some nectar from the hanging hummingbird feeder at the other end of the porch.

I stopped my motion of swinging and remained perfectly still just observing the rapid movement of wings that I could barely see as that tiny creature hovered in the air, then dived into the feeder, dipping into the sweetness it found there.

By the time I carefully reached for my cell phone to try to capture a photo, the little thing would zip away.

I can’t recall how many times I just sat and watched and waited with my camera or cell at hand to snap a photo.

But one day, it was worth the wait in silence to capture a picture of a tiny bird that is anything but still.

It always is best to be silent at times.

Silent to see that which you may have not noticed before.

Silent to hear sounds you may miss in the hurry scurry of everyday life.

Silent to listen for God’s voice to whisper in your ear, “See my beautiful creation made for your enjoyment.”

“Let us be silent so we may hear the whisper of God.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Be still…and pet the cat

blogIMG_7821

Arlo, our grandkitty

Of all the cats I’ve loved in my life – and there have been many – our calico kitty was the nearest and dearest to my heart. A few years ago, she crossed that rainbow bridge folks talk about when they experience the loss of a beloved pet. 

When she was a kitten, that cat just showed up at our country home one day and our kids begged to keep her. As time went on and no owner ever came forward to claim her, she became ours. We all loved that feline, who loved us all back.

I don’t think she realized she was a cat and was supposed to be aloof and indifferent at times to us humans. Instead, she always wanted to be with us, near us, on us. She would curl herself up to my neck, start purring, and just be contented to stay there until I moved her off.

I miss that sweet pet more than any other pet I’ve ever owned. She was good-natured, well-behaved, loving, and smart. You may not believe this but she actually did a couple of tricks for treats.

During my just be still time away from blogging/writing, I got to squeeze in a few snuggles and got some kitty loving back from this beautiful orange tabby cat, Arlo, (photo above) who belongs to our son’s family.  Petting that sweet fellow filled my heart with peace. 

Arlo used to hide away whenever Papa and I came to visit, but now he seeks us out, crawls up beside us, or settles on our lap for some stroking and scratches behind the ear. It’s almost like he understands when I need to pet the cat and feel contentment doing so.

And he likes to model for my camera. He’s quite photogenic, don’t you think?

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com