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

 

 

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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

Foam pit faith

blogIMG_7561 (2)Wouldn’t it be amazing if every time you fell down, you landed in a soft cushion of foam to keep you from being injured?

Over the Easter weekend, Papa, our girls (middle daughter and granddaughter), and I  traveled to see the rest of our family, stopping in the state next door to see our son, daughter-in-law, and other grandchild.

After a short visit with them, we headed south to our oldest daughter and son-in-law’s home. Rainy weather dogged us and the outdoor Easter egg hunt that we were planning to take our little one to wasn’t a feasible idea.

Instead, we spent a fun and active afternoon at an indoor trampoline park. Papa and I decided to merely observe because we envisioned going home in a cast or some such bad luck. But oh, what fun we had watching the young ones cavort.

Little one couldn’t get enough jumping, following her uncle and attempting everything he did. And our two big girls – sisters – were jumping and flying through the air as well. This mama watched them through the eyes of my camera lens, trying to capture all the antics.

I caught this one of our daughter trying to keep her balance on a tight rope of sorts. I think she only succeeded in making it across once but the rest of the time, she landed in the foam pit below. A nice, soft landing.

If only all our falls were like that! We all take a tumble sometimes. Tripping over a curb. Losing your balance. Skidding down the steps. Losing your footing on an icy patch. Or maybe your pet darts in front of you and you stumble over it.

Broken bones may be the result. Or bad bruises. Or maybe just a bruised ego, a humbling case of humiliation if you happen to land on your backside while out in public.

It happens to all of us and often there’s no way of preventing that fall in the physical world. But we also fall emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. And many times, those stumbles that knock us down aren’t as easy to recover from.

But those of us who have a strong faith have an everlasting safety net when we fall. His name is Jesus. He holds out His arms and catches us, holding us securely until we can set our feet back on solid ground. Even if our tumble causes us pain, Jesus applies His healing balm of unconditional love on us.

As we learn from the mistakes that cause our falls, our problems, our troubles, we are picked back up by a loving, forgiving Savior. He sets us right again. And He’s so much better than a foam pit.

“You will fall many times in life, but you will pick yourself up and become stronger and wiser for each trouble you pass.” ~ Leon Brown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

He is risen indeed

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“We are adopted into God’s family through the resurrection of Christ from the dead in which he paid all our obligations to sin, the law, and the devil, in whose family we once lived. Our old status lies in his tomb. A new status is ours through his resurrection.” ~  Sinclair B. Ferguson

May God bless you with the truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection this day and the promise that He will come again.

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Do this and remember

blogDSCN8862(It’s Holy Week for those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ. As I prepare to celebrate the most glorious day in Christianity, Resurrection Sunday or Easter, as it is more commonly known, I decided to re-post some of my blog entries and images from this week in years past. The following is from 2012.)

Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter,  always leaves me at a loss for words.

To remember that my Savior entered Jerusalem triumphantly to the cheers of a crowd shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”  yet just a few days later, Jesus hung on a cross dying to jeers of the crowd simply astonishes me beyond words.

After observing the Passover meal with His disciples and trying to prepare them for what He knew was to come, Jesus established what believers in Christ call the Last Supper. Today, many of us will, in a sense, re-create the Last Supper by partaking of communion with breaking of bread and drinking from the cup as He and His disciples did. 

We will then remember that Jesus, God’s very own Son, prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In just a short amount of time, Jesus subsequently was betrayed, arrested, deserted and denied, tried and condemned, beaten, scourged, and mocked. And nailed to a cross, crucified to death.

To consider that He bore the sins of the entire world on His shoulders willingly, knowing the pain and agony He would bear and to realize He loved me (and you) enough to offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb takes both my breath and my words away.

My own words seem so inadequate to express what my Savior did for us.  Often when words fail me, pictures and music suffice.  So as this Easter weekend unfolds, I’ll post music, photos, or videos that are meaningful to me and capture the waves of emotion I feel.

And all because of this:

“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

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Be Found

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If you are a seasoned Christian, you know this story, but you may need to be reminded of it. If you don’t call yourself a believer in Christ, this story is for you.

Jesus, the Messiah, the very Son of God, lived and walked on this earth in human form. As He traveled teaching those who would listen about His Father in heaven, he often told parables (simple stories He used to illustrate a spiritual lesson).  Those stories can be found in the Holy Bible in what is called the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

One of those parables is about the lost sheep as found in Luke 15:3-7 – Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

What does it mean? The message is simple. God seeks us out when we are lost in sin. His heart wants us to be found, to be rescued, to be renewed. And the only way to do that is through accepting the gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, the very One sent to earth to die for all of our sins on that ol’ rugged cross.

We need a loving, personal Savior. We need to understand how very much God deeply loves us. How valuable we are to Him. And that He will go to the ends of the earth – far and wide – just to bring us back home to Him like the shepherd who searches for the one lost sheep out of 99.

And when the lost is found and returned to the fold, there is rejoicing.

That’s why Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd. He came to seek the lost. Maybe that is you. No matter what kind of life you have led, He longs to gather you into His arms and rejoice over you. You just have to let Him find you.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” ~ Augustine

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Living in a vertigo world

blogDSCN7187(2)Have you ever felt like you’re going around in circles? Figuratively and literally?

If you’ve ever suffered through a bout of vertigo you will know what I mean. Vertigo is no fun. I’ve only experienced that condition a couple of times in my life but whew, it felt terrible. And I hope that kind of dizziness never visits me again!

One morning several years ago, I awakened, turned my head to look at my alarm clock, and suddenly the room was spinning wildly.

It brought reality to an old 60’s song that is stuck in my memory bank – “Dizzy, I’m so dizzy my head is spinning, like a whirlpool it never ends…”

That time, the only relief from the whirling dervish in my head was to close my eyes and keep them closed. That spinning sensation finally subsided and boy, was I ever thankful.

The other time vertigo descended upon me, I had just stood up from the shampoo bowl at a hair salon. While my hair stylist performed her magic on my hair, I had to keep my eyes closed because I was so dizzy. 

And the dizzier I became, the more my stomach churned from the effect. When I looked into the mirror, I thought I was turning into the Incredible Hulk because my face had a greenish tint to it.

Fortunately, my sister was with me and she drove me home because there was no way I could right my oft-kilter world that morning. Again, I was so relieved when it ended.

A few years ago, a family member dealt with vertigo often. Her doctor believed it came from her frequent air travel to Europe for her job, something to do with the crystals in your ears becoming dislodged if I remember correctly – positional vertigo I think.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to feel dizzy when you are so far from home.  It’s difficult enough when you are in familiar surroundings.

This world we live in – this planet called earth – spins on its axis as it revolves around the sun. Aren’t we fortunate that we don’t feel that twirling every day, hour by hour?

And yet, sometimes doesn’t it feel like our world IS spinning out of control? Disasters worldwide. Earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, floods, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, famines. All caused by nature, sending those affected by it into a whirlwind of tragedy.

And then there are the man-made calamities that cause us to believe human beings are out of control. Wars, crime, racism, and sheer inhumanity and hatred towards our fellow mankind. Just listening to the news or reading about it causes our heads to spin.

Even political rhetoric has spun so far out of control in today’s world.  And they don’t call those public relations aides to politicians “spin doctors” for nothing. Everything seems off-balance, like equilibrium is lost, and we are caught in a whirling vortex that is taking us down a road we don’t want to venture into. (At least in my opinion.)

When I’m overcome by this dizziness, when I feel like I’m inside a twirling out-of-control existence, caught in a spiral of despair at the disasters, injustices, evil, violence, and hatred that permeates this world, I reach out to the only One who can stop this kind of vertigo.

I reach out to the Three-in-One: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I hold onto my guidebook for life, God’s Holy Word written in my Bible, for direction.

I hang onto the hand of my Savior, Jesus Christ, who keeps me balanced in the middle of the twirling chaos.

I pray to the Father who also is the Blessed Controller of ALL things and my all things.

And I ask Him to send His Holy Spirit into my very being to keep me upright amidst the swirling whirlpool of a seemingly out of control world.

He is faithful to deliver me from spiritual vertigo – both my own and the world’s.

“As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.” ~ Mel Brooks

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: do a 180

gray concrete road surrounded by green grass

Photo by Bruno Glu00e4tsch on Pexels.com

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

When push comes to shove

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Photo by Louis Bauer on Pexels.com

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