Words for Wednesday: Just Different

blogEasterpixEaster has come and gone. And for certain, this Easter holiday was entirely different than any other experienced in my lifetime.

Very different. But just different. Not dreadful. Not terrible. Not unpleasant. Just different from usual, that’s all.

I noticed a lot of folks (even those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ) bemoaning the fact that they just couldn’t celebrate Easter the way they normally do.

In a church building. Couldn’t practice communion on Maundy Thursday at their place of worship. Couldn’t participate in an annual Cross Walk or join in a Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.   

Couldn’t attend Easter Sunrise Service at their favorite place to do so. Couldn’t be in church for an Easter Sunday message in their new Easter clothes.

Couldn’t take their children to Easter egg hunts or –heaven forbid – couldn’t go to the mall to visit the Easter Bunny. Couldn’t gather with all their family and friends for a huge Easter dinner.

And they were right. They couldn’t. Due to Covid-19 lockdowns, physical distancing, sheltering in place, self-isolating, quarantines, whatever you want to call it, this Easter WAS different.

But so many aspects of celebrating Easter became more real to me during this time than ever before. I found myself thankful. No, not just thankful….flat out, fall down on your knees grateful for so many reasons.

It’s true that we couldn’t practice communion on Maundy Thursday in our church. But our pastor held an online live service that we all could participate in.  Papa, Little One, and I gathered our “bread” (some crackers) and “wine” (apple juice) and we joined in communion with our fellow believers from our own home.

Secluded. Isolated. Much like I imagine Jesus and His disciplines were in that upper room so long ago as they celebrated the Passover feast. And this symbolic breaking of bread, representing Christ’s body, and drinking wine, representing His blood poured out on the cross, was so very meaningful to me this time.

It’s true there weren’t any public events to attend – no stations of the cross, no cross walk – but the three of us cuddled up together and watched Sight and Sound Theatre (Lancaster, PA) broadcast their production of “Jesus” online and on cable television for all those who wanted to view it.

The presentation was two hours long, yet our Little One was glued to the screen seeing the “Jesus story” come to life. We answered her questions and explained some of the scenes to her. And we all experienced a new appreciation for that timeless accounting of our Savior’s life, death, and resurrection.

It’s true we couldn’t attend Easter Sunrise Service or Easter Sunday Worship in our church building with fellow church members and guests. But again, we assembled around the computer live time, greeting one another with typed messages, and listened to our pastor give us the Word of God in his message that morning for both services.

And how thankful we are for technology that enabled us to do so. The church where we congregate is just a building. The church is us – followers and believers in Christ – and we were together worshiping our Lord, just in a different way.

It’s true that children couldn’t attend Easter egg hunts. But we held our own for Little One right here in our 2.5 acre yard. And she giggled and ran and had so much fun tracking down those brightly colored plastic eggs and then hiding them for Nana and Papa to find.

It’s true that Little One couldn’t visit the Easter Bunny. But he still managed to leave a basket of goodies here at Nana and Papa’s house for her. And even though that made her happy and excited, the knowledge that she’s learned about a Savior named Jesus Christ who died on the cross because “He loves us” (her words) and came back to life again so “when we die, we can go to heaven to be with Him” (again her words) is the most important thing she understood from this different Easter.

It’s true our family couldn’t gather together at our home for a huge Easter feast and we did miss them. But we stay in touch in other ways now. And that is a blessing for which I am thankful.

It’s true Easter dinner was different. Just three of us around the kitchen table eating a simple meal of scalloped potatoes with ham pieces, Bush’s baked beans, and some canned pineapple slices. For dessert, we ate strawberry Jello made by Little One and Nana.

And we were thankful for the food that comprised our simple meal (and I enjoyed not slaving away in the kitchen!) and for grocery store deliveries right to our front porch.

This simple Easter was one of the most memorable ones I’ve ever experienced and I hope in years to come, I don’t remember the difficult circumstances of this sacred holiday. 

I want to remember the quiet, meaningful time that Easter became this year.

I want to remember how real Easter was for me.

I want to remember how focusing on Christ gave me such hope in the midst of a trying time in our world.  

“The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.” ~ Basil Hume

It’s true Easter was different this year. Just different. But I chose to focus on what was the same – celebrating our risen Savior and Lord no matter the circumstances. The simple experience made all the difference to my grateful heart.

“To a Christian, Easter Sunday means everything, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” ~ Bernhard Langer, professional golfer, devout Christian

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

What’s good about Good Friday?

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“What is good about Good Friday? Why isn’t it called Bad Friday? Because out of the appallingly bad came what was inexpressibly good. And the good trumps the bad, because though the bad was temporary, the good is eternal.” ~ Randy Alcorn

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Family blessings

blogIMG_9695I find myself writing frequently about family because it’s a topic near to my heart. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for the close-knit family I have and it grieves my heart for those who don’t have that blessing.

During the almost 40 years of marriage to the Papa of this empty nest, we lived over half of those years away from our parents and siblings.  So those times we actually were able to spend with our families created special memories we hold dear.

Because of that, we tried our hardest to create a sense of family togetherness with our three children.  We made it a point to attend events together as a family whether it be a Little League baseball game or a musical choir concert.

Papa and I attempted to instill in our three that family means supporting and loving one another no matter what because so much of the time, it was just the five of us alone. Our children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins all lived too far away from us to be part of our daily lives.

Long distance phone calls were the only means we had to stay in touch back then, along with the occasional trips back “home” or when family came to visit us.

So gatherings with the extended family became precious because they were so few.

And now, it seems that history is repeating itself. Two of our adult children and their spouses live several hours away from Papa and me. Again, time spent together is such a blessing – truly something memories are made of – especially now that we have two adorable grandchildren in our family.

This past Easter weekend, Papa and I loaded up the car, left the empty nest, and headed west to our son and daughter-in-law’s lovely home to celebrate the holiday.  Our oldest daughter and son-in-law traveled a couple hours from their home to join us as well. Unfortunately, our other daughter and first little grandchild couldn’t be there with us and their presence was sorely missed.

But we were grateful for the time most of us got to spend together this Easter.

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How many people does it take to make a baby smile??

Loving and cuddling our newest grandbaby, snapping family photos, recalling funny family stories, taking a walk as a family to the nearby park, the guys’ skeet shooting outing, sitting together on the deck one evening just conversing, preparing and cooking meals in the kitchen together, attending church to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. 

Those were the highlights of the weekend.  Those moments don’t sound exciting but they fill my heart with such bliss.

And make me feel so very blessed. Isn’t that what a family should be? A true blessing. This family gathering was my special Easter blessing. 

“What greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering than the family and the gathering.” ~ Robert Brault

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

He is risen indeed

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As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” ~ Mark 16:5-7

Wishing you a blessed Resurrection Sunday from Mama’s Empty Nest.

Be blessed, dear readers. 

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

This story doesn’t end

blogIMG_7581It’s Holy Week for those of us who call ourselves Christians – Christ followers. As I remember and reflect on that last week of Jesus’ earthly life leading up to Easter Sunday,  – Resurrection Day – I recall seeing the following on a poster some years ago. 

And He shall be called…

Advocate (1 John 2:1)

(The) Amen (Revelation 3:14)

 (The) Almighty (Revelation 1:8)

Alpha & Omega (Revelation 22:13)

Anchor (Hebrews 6:19)

Author & Finisher of Our Faith (Hebrews 12:2)

(The) Beloved (Ephesians 1:6)

Branch (Isaiah 11:1)

Bread of Life (John 6:35)

Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15)

Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)

Carpenter (Mark 6:3)

Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)

Dayspring (Luke 1:78)

(The) Door (John 10:9)

Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)

Faithful & True Witness (Revelation 3:14)

Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23)

High Priest (Hebrews 6:20)

Holy One (Mark 1:24)

I Am (John 8:58)

Image of the Invisible God (Colossians 1:15)

Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)

Judge (Acts 10:42)

King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15)

King of the Jews (Mark 15:26)

Lamb of God (John 1:29)

Light of the World (John 8:12)

Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5)

Living Water (John 4:10)

Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15)

Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3)

Master (Matthew 8:19)

Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)

Messiah (Daniel 9:25)

Only Begotten Son (John 3:16)

Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Prophet (Matthew 21:11)

Redeemer (Job 19:25)

 (The) Resurrection & the Life (John 11:25)

Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)

Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1)

Savior (John 4:42)

Servant (Matthew 12:18)

Shepherd & Bishop of Souls (1 Peter 2:25)

Shiloh (Genesis 49:10)

Son of God (1 John 5:20)

Son of Man (Matthew 20:28)

Teacher (John 3:2)

True Vine (John 15:1)

(The) Way, the Truth, & the Life (John 14:6)

Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

(The) Word (John 1:1)

His name is Jesus Christ. 

Sent to earth as God-Man by God the Father, He came to save us all. Suffering and dying on an old rugged cross, He took our sins upon Him to bridge the gap between earthly wrong-doers and a holy and righteous God. In doing so, He provided the only way to heaven and eternal life.

His gift of salvation is free, there is nothing you can do to earn it, no way of being good enough on your own to gain it. And even if you have committed something that seems unforgivable and you feel unworthy, He still loves you unconditionally and forgives.   

All you have to do is believe in Him, repent of your past mistakes and ask for forgiveness, accept the gift of His love, and enter into a personal relationship with Him – the One who is all of the above names just for you and me.

Do you know Him? Really know Him? It’s never too late to meet him at the cross. But that’s not where the story ends.  He is the reason we celebrate Easter and that empty tomb proclaims Resurrection Sunday as a glorious day of joy and hope. 

“For God so loved the world that He that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Spectacular Sunday: He is risen!

I captured this photo a couple of years ago at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh one day when my husband and I visited there in need of a winter’s day respite.

Something about this sight intrigued me enough to warrant taking a picture.   In comparison to some of the other photos I snapped of exquisite plants and flowers that day, this one doesn’t seem that extraordinary.

But yet, each time I view these snapshots, I am drawn to this picture over and over again.   Finally, this week as I prayerfully considered Holy Week and what it means to believers in Jesus Christ like me, I realized why this photo attracts me with such intensity.

It reminds me of the picture in my mind of how I think the tomb appeared on that Resurrection morning.  The stone was gone.  The tomb was open.  And it was empty.  Our Savior defeated death and He arose!

 “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’  Then they remembered his words.” ~ Luke 24: 1-8

The tomb is empty.  My Savior paid the ultimate price for my sin and the sins of this world.   He arose from the grave victorious!  And so shall we.  Hallelujah!  He is risen, indeed!!

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Easter beauty

As I await the joyous sunrise of Resurrection Sunday, I remember when I was  a young girl anxious to celebrate Easter.  My mother and I always wore an Easter corsage to church, often a delicate orchid.

I took these photos of beautiful flowers at an orchid show a couple of years ago.  Each time I view these pictures, they remind me of Easter.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?  Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” ~ Jesus Christ in Luke 12: 25-28

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Good Friday’s ultimate sacrifice

Luke 23:44-56

The Death of Jesus:

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

The Burial of Jesus:

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man,  who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”