My beloved

blogIMG_2570.jpgIt’s February and now that we’re past Groundhog Day when that famous weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted to everyone’s dismay that we would have six more weeks of winter, we prepare to celebrate the other holiday of the month.

Valentine’s Day. And our minds turn to love.

Love is a word we banter around a lot.  I love this song. Or I love my pet. Love to ski. Love doughnuts. Love this, love that.

It’s one of those words in the English language that we use to proclaim our fondness for all sorts of things unlike the Greek language which has different words for different types of love.

The photo challenge for this past week was Beloved

While deliberating over what photograph to post for the challenge, I asked myself who do I love? Who is my beloved?

My husband of 40 years? Absolutely. My three adult children? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. My two adorable grandchildren?  Oh, yes, indubitably!  

My sisters and their families? Sure thing. Friends? Well, of course. And the list could go on, just like the many ways I could count to say why I love all of these people.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

You may recognize this as the opening line to a famous poem written by Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861). She wrote this sonnet (#43) to her beloved, her husband Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Even though I love those I’ve listed above beyond measure, there’s one I love even more. He is my beloved and I am his. His name is Jesus and he is my Savior.

It occurs to me that I could read this poem and address it to him and it would aptly fit. And he could read it right back to me because he loves me that much.

And he loves you the same, even if you don’t know him yet.

I don’t have a photograph of my beloved to share for this challenge. Oh, there are artists’ renditions out there of him, but we don’t know how accurate they are. But I do have something tangible that represents my beloved and I can photograph that.

It’s my Bible. And when I open it to read it, it tells me what I need to know about the one I love, my beloved, the one who loved me and you so much, he died that we might live.

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

“I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’  ‘This much,’ he answered. Then he stretched out his arms and died.” ~ unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Even in silence

blogIMG_2546Silence isn’t always the norm here in Mama’s Empty Nest, not with an almost-three-year-old in the house most of the time. But occasionally, silence occurs, which was this past week’s photo challenge theme.

And it’s golden when I experience silence.  Or maybe even blue.

One morning, our house was completely silent when I awakened. Papa had already left for his very early morning schedule at his part-time job, so I lingered for a few minutes more in my toasty, comfy bed.

Shortly after 7 a.m., I decided to throw off the covers and coerce my body into starting the day.  After making the bed, – yes, I’m one of those people who always does so – I threw open the window blinds to survey the usual stark white landscape that is our yard in the winter time. 

The sun was just beginning to rise over the hill and cast its shiny rays where it would soon cause the snow to glisten. 

Darkness still enveloped a good portion of the sky though so our snowy landscape had a bluish hue to it causing me to slide my feet into my warm slippers, grab my camera, and step outside to capture the early morning view.

All was silent. Not even a car passed by in those few moments I stood outside. No noise. Not even a bird singing. Just my quiet footsteps on the porch and then the sound of my camera clicking. The scene before me was silence.

Sunshine hasn’t been very prevalent this winter, but I know it still exists. My yard isn’t vibrantly colored with green grass, but I know it will once again be so. Silence doesn’t always permeate my home, but I enjoy it when it happens.

Mother Teresa was once quoted as saying, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

I thought of how many times I do encounter God when there is silence and viewing the sun as it arose on my horizon that frosty early morning made me thankful for yet another day of living. Even in silence.

“I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I feel it not. I believe in God even when He’s silent.” ~ unknown    

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

You can run but you can’t hide

blogjack2008

How often have we done it ourselves? Done something that we truly would not want anyone else to know about? We’re all guilty.

Recently, I was reminded of that by a little occurrence here in Mama’s Empty Nest. This Nana watches my not-quite-three-year-old granddaughter when her mama is working. I was busy doing laundry while she was playing, but suddenly I realized she had become very quiet.

Silence and a toddler. That usually means trouble.

I called out to her and asked what she was doing. She gave me her new standard answer. “No thing.”

No thing to her means nothing. Uh-huh. As I unobtrusively stepped out of the laundry room and walked soundlessly to where I thought she was playing, I caught her ripping pages out of a book, one after another.

I startled her when I called her name and again inquired, “What are you doing?”

She grabbed the book, torn pages and all, and scrambling to put them behind her back, ran away from me and tried to hide.

“Don’t see me, Nana!” she cried.

But it was too late. I’d already seen her and even though she was trying to hide not only the damage she had done but herself as well, I’d already observed her wrong-doing. And she knew it.

Typical child you might say. Trying to hide a naughty act. But don’t we adults do the same thing?

We hide what we’ve done wrong. We try to cover up our mistakes, our misconduct, our transgressions, our bad behavior, whatever you want to call it. 

Or perhaps we try to put the blame on someone else. Not just because we don’t want to get caught, but also because we don’t want others to think we’re capable of the offense.

I know of someone who did exactly that – not only hid the offense, but lied and covered up a reprehensible thing the person had done and continued to do.  No doubt, you also could name someone you know who committed a wrong and tried to hide it.

When I heard about the disgraceful act this person had committed, one thought came immediately to my mind.

What you do in secret will always be brought to light.

And it was. The person’s dirty little secret was exposed in a dramatic way. It happens every day – just listen to the news. Many a career has ended because of a person’s indiscretions.

Shameful actions are usually performed in secret. In the dark, so to speak. And the more time you spend hiding things in the dark, the more you start to believe there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing.

But hiding away those actions isn’t going to work. You can run, but you can’t hide forever. Sooner or later, you’re going to get found out. And you will face the consequences.  

I recently read this quote by American actor Steve Kazee:  “When you start hiding things away, that’s when the darkness creeps up. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

I agree with his philosophy, but I’d amend the last part. It’s true sunlight is probably a good disinfectant, but I believe Son-Light is the best way to banish darkness.  

The words Jesus, the Son of God, the Light of the world, spoke in the New Testament in Luke 8:16-17 comes to my mind.

 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Granted, Jesus was speaking about the light of truth in God’s Word, that salvation comes from belief in Christ. Those of us who are believers should be sharing that light openly by both our actions and words so that others can see that light and also be saved.

But He also warned us in the rest of the passage that the light of truth is what exposes sin. 

Far too easily we fall into the darkness of this world – into greediness, self-centeredness, bitterness, anger, hatred, lies and deceits, and a multitude of other wrongdoings that ensnare any one of us humans. Why do people fall into this darkness?

“Men loved the darkness rather than the light for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed.” ~ Jesus Christ in John 3:19-20

God’s truth exposes the sinful hearts we all have. Even the littlest of us. And unfortunately, we tend to hide from God’s light rather than allow ourselves and our tainted hearts to be exposed.

But we can’t hide away indefinitely. What we do in private, what we hide behind our backs and try to conceal from others’ eyes eventually comes out in a very public way. I envision it like the snake that comes back to bite us. We must face the consequences of our actions, ask forgiveness, and make amends for our wrongdoings.

Sometimes we who profess with our words to be believers in Christ are no better than the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. We pretend to be righteous. We act like we’re pious and sinless when in fact, we can allow our hearts to harbor wickedness just as much as the next guy. We act “Christian” in public, but we hide our true selves in secret.

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. They just pretend to be godly. Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftop,” Jesus told us in Matthew 12:1-3.

I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer not to have my transgressions shouted from the rooftop.

It’s a new year. It’s a good time to examine my heart, bring any hidden secrets into light, turn away from those wrong-doings, seek forgiveness, and begin anew. Maybe you feel the need to do the same. 

The only way I know to do so is to put my faith and trust in the Son-Light. His name is Jesus.

“Hateful to me as are the gates of hell, is he who, hiding one thing in his heart, utters another.” ~ Homer

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Broken

blogIMG_4790(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2014.) 

It happened while I was trimming the tree.

I hauled the over-sized plastic tote full of ornaments up from the basement, opened it, and started to carefully unwrap all the baubles, balls, and special decorations packed in it. 

Each one brings back memories.  The ones we purchased at various locations where we’ve vacationed over the years.  The ones commemorating special times in our lives like family occasions or anniversaries or new homes.  The antique ones which used to hang on my childhood Christmas tree at my parents’ home.  And the ones made and/or given by special friends which always bring them to mind.

I arranged the ornaments and since I was adorning the tree alone, I needed to use the step stool to reach the top third of the tree because, yes, I am too short and Papa usually is assigned that task. 

The tree was almost completely embellished with all of its garnishes when, while standing on the top step of the stool, I leaned into the tree a bit to hang a wee star ornament that I remember buying in a specialty shop in Seattle. 

And that’s when I heard it, that familiar jingle jangling sound of something falling off the tree followed by the sound of splintering glass. I suspected it was one of the ordinary department store variety glass balls which I have plenty of and wouldn’t miss. 

I glanced down to the side of my stool and there a glass ball lay, perfectly intact on the living room carpeted floor.  Okay, no problem.  But then as I stepped back down off the stool, I saw something else and immediately, I cried, “Oh, no!”

Lying at the base of the stool was a broken glass ornament which apparently had hit the metal step stool on its way to the floor.  Oh, not this one!  This one was irreplaceable. 

It was a clear glass ball with a likeness of the face of Jesus inside.  This one was special and always hangs front and center on our evergreen tree.  This one was crafted and given to me by a church friend when we lived all the way across the country in the Pacific Northwest those many years ago.

Shards of glass sprinkled my living room carpet and I gingerly picked up the largest pieces left and placed them on the top step of the stool as I vacuumed up the rest of the mess. Why did it have to be that one, I thought.  Why not one of those that had no special memories attached to it?

But then I looked – really looked – at the broken ornament. 

Broken.  Jesus.  He was broken.   

And it occurred to me that is exactly what He did for us.  He allowed himself to be broken. Broken for you.  Broken for me.  Broken on an old rugged cross to save us from eternal death because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be good enough to save ourselves.

Immediately the words from the King James Version of the Bible came to mind.  That passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 where the Apostle Paul tells us that on the very night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and told us to eat the bread, which symbolized His soon to be broken body.  And to do that to remember Him.

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV  

Just last week, I read a quote by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  Wilson said, “Jesus didn’t come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world full of broken people so that He could redeem us.”  

Yes!  That was exactly what that broken ornament at the beginning of December reminded me.

So as Christmas Day approaches, I will celebrate the birth of my Savior.  I will sing of that tiny babe born in a manger, the One who came to save us all, the most amazing gift God has ever given us. 

But I will also remember the grown up Jesus. The One who was born in Bethlehem, lived a human life yet became the Savior who entered this broken world to save broken people like me and you by allowing His own body to be broken. 

I will sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King and I will rejoice not just for the babe in a manger but for the Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday.  

And I will give thanks for a broken Christmas ornament that reminds me.

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.”  ~ Vance Havner

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Looking up for Christmas

FBIMG_0313(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2010.) 

Color of skin – not green.  Heart – normal size.  Miserly ways – don’t think so.  Crankiness – well…sometimes.  Conclusion – I’m a normal human being, neither the Grinch nor Scrooge.

Really! Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Honestly!  To me it IS one of the “most wonderful times of the year.” Truly!

Somewhere in my rants about not feeling up to decking the halls and proclaiming ho-ho-ho with mistletoe, I think I have left my readers with the mistaken belief that I’m not a Christmas person.  Completely untrue.  It’s just that this year instead of being a Christmas fanatic, I’m in more of a reflective mood about the season I love.

I celebrate Christmas to commemorate the greatest gift God gave mankind when over 2000 years ago, a tiny babe was born in Bethlehem.  That baby was the Messiah, Emmanuel, God With Us, Jesus Christ.  But as I get older, I have to question what the hoopla we’ve made Christmas truly has to do with worshiping our Savior.

Many of the Christmas customs we utilize have nothing to do with our belief in Jesus.  The light displays, the adorned Christmas tree, the over-indulgent feasts, the even more over-indulgent presents.  What does any of it mean?

Every year the commercialism of the season grates on me.  The frantic rush to the shopping malls to spend outrageous sums of money on gifts that we really don’t need saddens me when I know millions of our fellow human beings in the world are starving or have no decent housing.

The fulfillment of Christmas wish lists with gift cards and money make me sadder yet.  Why don’t we just exchange money instead of calling it a gift? 

To me, a gift is something you thoughtfully consider.  You think about the person you are giving the gift to, and you know that loved one well enough to choose something that will touch his or her heart and show how much you love and care for that person.  But that takes time and consideration and in the crazy frenzy (only 14 more shopping days till Christmas!), it’s easier to just fulfill the items on a list.

My family is no different from any other families out there; there have been some wish lists being emailed back and forth and we have succumbed to this way of shopping.  Oh, we try to give to the needy whether it is donating to the bell-ringers of the Salvation Army, shopping for gifts to bestow on a family who is having a difficult year, filling shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse to be distributed to needy children, or purchasing “gifts” of animals, clothing, or other necessities to be sent world-wide through World Vision.

But is that enough?  I think that’s why I’m feeling a little rebellious about this season of Christmas.  I want Christmas to mean more.  I want it to be revered, not just as a cherished tradition, but as a time when we stop focusing on the foolishness, ponder the wonder of God coming to earth to live among us, and give thanks for the saving gift of grace that our Lord Jesus Christ is.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus thinks about our elaborate celebrations and I’m reminded that He was born in a simple, lowly place.  He lived His life here on earth in a plainly simple way, but oh, how much He accomplished!

He did not require jewels, fancy robes, or tables set before Him with an amazing array of food and drink.  He did not expect exquisite decorations in the homes He visited.  His focus was simply on people – the weak, the infirm, the needy, and the lost.  He didn’t ask for gifts, instead He gave His life as the ultimate gift when He took the sins of the world upon Himself and sacrificed His life on the Cross for us. 

I’ve been reading a non-fiction book called Extraordinary Faith by Sheila Walsh.  It’s not a new book and I’ve had it on my shelf for quite some time.  I read it for a while, and then get busy and put it down, but I keep coming back to it because I really want to finish it.  It’s good stuff.

Yesterday I took a little bit of time to open the book’s pages once again.  And what I read in the chapter called “When We Fix Our Eyes on Jesus” imparted great truth to me.  Ms. Walsh writes, “Faith here is a call to look up, to gaze at our Savior.  Faith is a passionate gaze at the only One who can save us.”

She continues and then adds a passage of scripture, “Perhaps the greatest call to gaze on our Lord appears right after the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11: ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 12:1-2)”

That’s what I think is often missing at Christmas.  We fail to look up, to gaze at the One who was sent on our behalf to save us from eternal separation from God. We don’t fix our eyes on Jesus.  This year, I want to forego the trappings of Christmas.  I want to throw off those things that hinder me from looking up and gazing at my Savior.  I hope I can encourage you to do the same.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” ~ Psalm 24:7

I want to fix my eyes on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords instead of gazing at a landscape of luminous lights, garlands of greenery galore, a bedecked and bedazzled balsam tree or the panoramic plethora of presents stacked beneath it.  Instead of spending all of my time time baking and cooking and shopping, I want to feed my soul and the souls of others with the Word of God.

For those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ, the season of Christmas should be first and foremost a season of faith – faith that is sufficient for everything we need.   

God had His fingerprints all over the gift He gave us that very first Christmas, His Son Jesus Christ.  And today, centuries later, He still has His fingerprints on us. Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

I pray that this Christmas you will fix your eyes on Jesus, that you will allow the Word of God to speak to your life amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.

“Faith is not wishful thinking or theatrics.  Faith is born in us as we fix our eyes on Jesus and as we recognize the fingerprints of God the Father all over our lives.”  ~ Sheila Walsh

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Oh my deer heart

deercollage

Maybe cute here…..but not when they do this!

Recently, a caught-in-the-headlights willy-nilly deer ran into my daughter. You read that right – the deer hit her. Well, not her but her car as she was driving home around midnight from her evening shift as a hospital nurse.

The stupid deer literally plowed into the passenger side of daughter’s car causing damage that necessitated a trip to the auto body shop.

It’s not the first time someone in our family, including myself, has tangled with those woodland creatures.  Blessedly, none of us ever were injured in these deer vs car collisions.

I know many people out there think the white-tailed deer that populate my neck of the woods are so cute and endearing. Bah. If you think that, you’ve never encountered the absolute scare-you-out-of-your-skin and make-your-heart-startle moment when they dart across the highway in your path.

According to some car insurance sites,  last year’s statistics show that my state is the third most likely place in the US to hit a deer and the odds are 1 in 57 that you will do so causing on the average about $4000 damage to your vehicle.

Oh, dear deer!

But you know what the positive side is? Your damaged car can usually be fixed. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, it’s a pain to have to call your insurance company to report how that stupid deer ran into your car. But as long as the vehicle is the only thing broken, it’s fixable.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a broken heart could be as easily mended? Hammer out the kinks and dents. Slap a little putty on it. Prime and repaint. Or if the damage is more extensive, just get a new part like the new fender on your car. Voila! Good as new!

But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Just the other day while steeping my morning cup of hot tea, I noticed the little saying on my tea bag tag. Usually, I’m in a rush and don’t pay attention to the quotes printed on those tags, but I read this one and it caused me to stop and think.

What breaks in a moment may take years to mend.

Hmm. Wisdom from a teabag.

The emotional trauma we suffer from the words and actions of others isn’t mended in a jiffy, and in a moment, it stops us in our tracks just like suddenly spotting a deer as it crashes into you.

The damage isn’t always repaired even if we receive an apology for the wrong done to us. And if the apology and remorse from the one who broke our heart never comes, it can take years to ‘get over it.’

Or we never do. We never seem able to fix what’s broken, but I think that is by choice. Our own choice. Our choice to continue suffering in the pain of what shattered us. Our choice to allow what damaged us to overwhelm and defeat us.

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” ~ Unknown

 

I speak from experience. As a person of faith, I’ve found myself crying out to God way too often asking Him why he doesn’t heal a loved one’s broken heart, or why He doesn’t take away the pain betrayal causes in another, or rid the anger from my own heart over an offense, or….the list goes on and on.

It would be nice if God would just act like a genie and grant our wish for heart healing in an instant or wave a magic wand over the parts of us that hurt and immediately we would experience mending.

But He doesn’t work that way. Not that He can’t heal us in the blink of an eye because with God anything is possible. Jesus said so in scripture (Mark 9:23): “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Yes, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing God of the universe could easily touch what is broken and mend it in a moment, and sometimes He does. But I think He asks us to do some of the work…ourselves.

I think He desires for us to examine ourselves, examine our own hearts that may harbor bitterness and unforgiveness. I think He asks us to present our brokenness to Him with no strings attached, meaning we give it to Him and don’t snatch it back later so we can stew some more over it.

I think He lovingly disciplines us and, if we truly want to receive that healing, that mending, that repair of the heart, then we must open our hearts completely and fully to be filled with Him. Because only faith in a Savior can truly fill those gaping holes in our hearts. Can repair the damage done. Can make us brand new.

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.” ~ Psalm 147:3

 

The walking wounded are everywhere. Shell-shocked souls who have been hurt beyond belief, who are shattered by despair, emotional pain, broken relationships, and broken lives. 

They walk through this world with huge holes in their heart wondering if they will ever be mended again. So they turn to alcohol or drugs or sex or whatever ‘magic potion’ makes them ‘feel better’ for the time. 

Anything for that quick fix which is anything but a quick fix.

My prayer is that those of us who know the way to be mended step out of our comfort zones, step out of our churches, step out of our Christian bubbles, and reach out to the hurting and share how Jesus can mend our broken hearts.

Because we’ve experienced it ourselves and with God’s help have leapt over the very thing that caused us to be wounded.

“A wounded deer leaps highest.” ~ Emily Dickinson

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Giving my best

blogIMG_1100This may sound odd in this day and age, but I’m one of those who actually likes ironing. It’s one of those household chores my mother taught me as a young girl that I truly enjoy.

Sounds crazy, I know. Who irons now days? Just grab everything out of the dryer before wrinkles set in and off you go. Wash and wear.

But for me, there’s something calming about setting up the ironing board, – given to us as a wedding gift 40 years ago – heating up the steam iron, and pressing away.

My mother was a homemaker; that was her occupation and she did it well. She took pride in her clean and orderly home inside and out, sparkling white clothes, and freshly pressed sheets, pillowcases, and linen tea towels.

Back in the day before permanent press when clothes were washed and often dried outside on a clothesline (which is another chore I still enjoy), doing laundry took the better part of a day.

If some articles of clothing became excessively wrinkled in the washing machine, I can remember my mom sprinkling them with water, rolling them up, and storing them in a special zippered plastic bag (way before ziplock bags became a thing)  in the refrigerator until she had the time to iron them later.

Mom taught me how to properly press clothes and household linens starting with my dad’s white cotton handkerchiefs.  They were easy to iron because they were square and flat. Next came ironing pillowcases and sheets. Back then, these items were 100% cotton and most folks ironed them.

When I mastered that, Mom let me try my hand at ironing our everyday clothes and from there I progressed to pressing Dad’s white dress shirts, which he wore to work every day.

For some reason, ironing clothes just didn’t seem like a chore to me, instead it was fun. Unfortunately, I don’t consider cooking the same way so Mom’s excellent cooking and baking skills did not rub off on me.

Papa can attest to this although he tries not to hurt my feelings about cooking not being my forte. Most husbands ask their wives why they can’t cook like the husband’s mother; mine asks why I don’t cook like my own mom did. But that’s a whole other blog post.

However, I thought about all of this the other day as I was ironing because I do still enjoy this task. There’s something so satisfying for me to press out each wrinkle and fold of the item being ironed making it look almost new and untouched.

A stack of items that needed pressed to make them look their best accumulated in my laundry room.  An autumn designed table runner for my dining room table, two small table covers that I had washed and hung out to dry on the outside clothesline, and a stack of linen hand towels awaited the touch of a hot steam iron.

The hand towels came from church. We have a time-honored tradition in the way we celebrate communion. Taking our reasons for doing so from the narrative in the Bible when Jesus gathered his 12 disciples together for the Last Supper, we not only partake of the bread and cup but also have a meal together and in humility and servanthood, wash one another’s feet.

We use large terrycloth towels as aprons to dry one another’s feet and small linen hand towels to dry our own hands upon washing them at the end of the foot washing ceremony.

I volunteered to wash all of the wet towels afterwards. The towel/aprons were unwrinkled after washing and drying, so I simply folded them up and stacked them ready to return to church.

But the linen towels were just a little rumpled with some of the edges turned up.  I could have easily attempted to smooth out the slight wrinkles with my hands and just folded them also, but something made me stop and decide to iron them instead.

The title to an old hymn – Give of Your Best to the Master – popped into my thoughts and the words and melody started playing in my mind.

Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save;
Give Him your heart’s adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.

What is my best to give to my God? It sounds crazy, but ironing those linen towels was my best. Folding them just wasn’t good enough even though they would be placed in a box with all of the other clean towels in the church storage closet and no one (unless he/she reads this blog) would know that I had ironed the ones I took home to launder. 

No, I didn’t feel the need to press them perfectly to receive recognition for doing so. I wanted to iron those pieces of cloth not for praise or glory for myself but because they represented doing God’s work and work for Him should be done to the best of my ability.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  ~ Colossians 3:23 (New Living Translation)

You see, my mother also taught me to do my best at whatever I worked at. And both my parents taught me to always present my best to our God. Not because He demands it, but because He deserves it.

He deserves my absolute best. He deserves my respect and reverence. He deserves my praise and giving Him honor and glory. 

Because giving my best truly is so little in comparison to what He’s done for me and you.

Using a hot iron to press out each wrinkle and make sharp creases in each fold, and stacking those small linen hand towels in an orderly fashion proved to be a kind of worship service that morning.

And a reminder to always do my best for my Savior. I knew I was on the right track because the next Sunday morning during worship, we sang an old hymn after our pastor’s message.

What was it? Give of Your Best to the Master.

 “Do your best and let God do the rest.” ~ Unknown

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

The layered look

BlogIMG_1083(2)Fall’s arrived – my favorite season – and here in my neck of the woods, we tend to dress in layers during the months of autumn. 

Mornings start out crisp and cool with a little shiver in the air, but often by mid-day sunshine pushes that red vertical line up the outside thermometer. So we shed that outer jacket or sweater we put on first thing in the morning. And then by evening, we don it once again.

We peel off layers of clothing easily, but I wonder, how simple is it to shed the layers of who we are? You know, so that others see our true self instead of the persona we present to the world.  You may think you know me, but can you really see beneath my layers? How do you know I’m not just hiding underneath the layers that define me?

Every one of us human beings possess layers. And some of us really embrace the layered look so you don’t see that our lives are somewhat less than perfect.

I’m speaking for myself here and since this week’s photo challenge theme is layered, I thought I’d peel off some of my layered look publicly. Don’t worry, no nudity is involved here!

First off, I have many family layers. Who I am in respect to my familial relationships.  I am the daughter of my parents, granddaughter of my grandparents, sister to my siblings, sister-in-law to my and my husband’s siblings’ spouses, cousin, aunt to nieces and nephews and great-aunt as well.  I am a wife, mother, and now grandmother myself.

My layered look reveals that family is important to me too.

Social layers also exist when you look at me.  I am a friend, a confidante, an acquaintance. I’ve been a co-worker, volunteer, soccer mom, PTA member and president, and booster club member to name a few. Doing for others is one of my layers.

Schooling provided some more layers: elementary, middle, and high school student, high school graduate, college undergraduate, college graduate, on-line learner. Education and continuing to learn are also important layers.

In the world of work, my layers include having been a part-time sales clerk, summertime factory worker, English teacher, journalist/reporter/editor, technical editor, non-profit education director, and substitute teacher. I’ve been an employee, a team leader, and even a boss, and the most recent layer I’ve added is being a semi-retired person. Those layers tell you a lot about me.

Peel back a few more layers:  church goer, church member, Sunday School teacher, youth group leader, small group Bible study leader, church board member, deacon. You may think you know everything about me now.

Yet there are still more layers – amateur photographer, writer, blogger, social media user, online group co-leader, library user, real and e-book reader. The list might go on and on.

But when you peel back all of those layers, who am I really?  You may think I’m being very transparent, yet more layers exist that I haven’t shared. At my core, what is my identity?

I find my identity in being a Christ follower, a believer, a Christian not just by title but by faith.

My guidebook for life, the Bible, tells me I am God’s handiwork:  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

When I placed my identity in Christ alone, another layer was added. I’m a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

But what really astounds me is this. God loves me perfectly, unconditionally. He doesn’t love me because of my layered look, because of the layers I demonstrate for others to see.

His love isn’t based on my being perfect. It’s based on nothing but Himself. Who He is. The God of the universe who sent His only Son to die for my sin, in my place.

Perfect love.  Without any layers.

“Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” ~ Carl Sandburg

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

While you wait

blogDSCN6837

Waiting for the sheets to dry

From the doctor’s office to sitting in traffic, we’ve all done our fair share of it. Waiting, that is. Depending on your level of patience, waiting can either be just a little blip in the road or a major interruption.

Waiting just happens to be the theme for this week’s photo challenge and I’ve found that I just don’t have the time right now to wait for an idea of inspiration to come to me nor do I have a few spare moments to think about a photo to accompany my words.

So, to keep you, my readers, from waiting any longer, I’m recycling a photo (above) and a post I wrote seven years ago not long after I began my blogging journey here on Word Press. Way back then, I shared my thoughts about waiting and you can read them by clicking here.

“You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.”~ Craig Bruce

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Structure to build upon

blogDSCN0108 (2)I’m not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. Nope, I like to have my ducks all in a row and I will count them to make sure they are all there too.

Willy-nilly, I am not. I’m happiest when all around me is in order. This thing put away where it belongs. That thing relegated to the recycling or trash.

Clutter removed from the counters, the shelves, my desk, wherever I can see in plain sight. I want a clean slate when I look around.

A place for everything and everything in its place. That makes me feel calm and secure. And in control.  Because when my surroundings get out of control – and despite my intentions of having a spit-spot clean house, it gets pretty messy here – I feel out of control.

When my own little world isn’t in order, I can sense stress just surging inside of me, intensifying and ascending up my back and neck finally settling in my head like a ticking time bomb ready for a full-blown explosion.  

When I was a young mom with three active children, trying to keep my home orderly darn near drove me crazy. Seriously, how do you do so with toys, games, backpacks full of school papers, books, clothes dirty and clean, shoes galore, sporting equipment (and some of it smelled atrocious!), and all the accoutrements that come along with kids?

So to keep my sanity, I learned to just let some things go. Stop striving for perfection when it came to the orderliness of our home. And as I’ve aged… ahem…matured…I’ve even lightened up a good deal more. Well, as much as I can with a 2½- year-old grandchild in my home.

But what I realize I need, what truly floats my boat, calms my inner perfectionist, and keeps me feeling in control is structure, this week’s photo challenge theme.

My handy desk dictionary –yes, I still use a real paper-paged bound book called a dictionary – defines structure as a noun this way: 1. A complex entity. 2a Organization; arrangement. b. Constitution; make-up. 3. Something constructed esp. a building or part.

Words spoken to me over 40 years ago have remained lodged in my brain and rise to the surface when I think about that word – structure.  At the time I was a starry-eyed, idealistic college senior finishing a semester of student teaching in a junior high school classroom.

My supervising teacher – the 7th grade English teacher at this city school in whose classes I tried out my lesson plans – offered advice to me, which I’ve never forgotten, about launching my teaching career.

He advised me to start out tough, running a tight ship in the classroom with a lot of structure.  

“You can always lighten up, but you can never tighten up,” were the words Mr. D told me. He was right.

Without structure, where would we be? Our bodies certainly have structure in the form of all the bones that comprise our skeletal system.  Without that formation, we’d just be big blobs rolling around.

We take shelter and live in some type of building whether it be our homes made of cement, wood, or brick or even a tent. Without structure, nothing would stand to protect us from the environment.

Our modes of transportation all have structure from cars to buses to planes, trains, and ships. Without their forms, we’d all have to travel only by our own feet.

I’m no scientist, but I do know that there is structure in our DNA as well. If you’ve ever seen a drawing of a DNA molecule, you’ll note that there are two strands, a double helix, that wind around each other and resemble a sort of twisted ladder. Structure.

Our very lives here on earth revolve around structure. Twenty-four hours in a day. Seven days in a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year. Our planet revolves around the sun in an orderly way. All of it based on structure.

And every structure that exists also must have some sort of foundation. For me, the foundation of my structure is my faith. When I feel out of control and structure seems to be totally out of order, I pray. I turn to my guidebook for life, my Bible.

It’s the structure I build my life upon.

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” ~ Saint Augustine

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com