A little light on the subject

blogimg_6770 (2)I’m clueless sometimes.

Often as Sunday evening rolls around and I don’t have any blog posts written for the upcoming week, I ponder over what to do. I don’t have a clue about what to write. My blog ideas folder doesn’t prove to be the fuel that sparks a flame of inspiration.

Should I just skip posting for a few days, remain silent, and hope my readers don’t give up clicking on Mama’s Empty Nest? Do I dust off an old post from years before and re-post one I’ve already published? After all, my blogging dates back to an earlier site (2005-06) and here on Word Press since 2010, so a plethora of old posts exist. 

I shuffle through them but none demand a re-posting so I resign myself to the fact that there just won’t be any new thoughts published here at Mama’s Empty Nest for the upcoming week. And that’s exactly what occurred Sunday evening.

But by Monday morning, there was a different story. As happens so often, a post idea presented itself to me. I do believe the idea didn’t come from my creative resources, but from the Triune God I worship and trust, the one and true God, God of the universe, God of creation, God of all.

When I awakened a bit later than normal yesterday morning. I had the house to myself as Papa was already off to his part-time job and Middle Daughter and Little One were safely ensconced in their own little cottage. My walking partner had appointments that cancelled our early morning walk, so I lingered just a bit longer in my comfy, warm bed.

So Monday morning found me rising after dawn instead of before as usual. Upon leaving my bed, I followed my daily routine and opened the window blinds to peer outside in order to see what kind of day it shaped up to be.

We had a snowfall over the weekend and the landscape surrounding my home was covered with a pristine blanket of white. My kind of January morning – cold, clear, snow-covered, and with the morning sun beaming down on the front of my house.

Sunshine. To quote John Denver, it “makes me happy.” And sunshine during the bleakness of winter is even more cause for happiness. 

I went downstairs to prepare some breakfast and that’s when the idea for this blog post appeared. It stopped me in my tracks. It was visible, right there in front of my eyes.  Blazing from the wall of our home office. A kind of writing on the wall, you might say, except the “writing” was an image.

A thought popped into my head immediately that gave me inspiration to write. I grabbed my camera to capture the image before it disappeared.

Now before you imagine that I witnessed some mystical image, I must tell you that what I saw isn’t that unusual. I’m certain it happens every morning when the sun appears and shines directly on the front of my home. But yesterday, it seemed like I was viewing the image with new eyes, with an open mind to what God wanted me to write.

Rays of sunshine radiating through the decorative glass of our front door created a display of light, a design that decorated the wall of a darkened room where the blinds were still closed to the light of day.

And the thought that entered my mind was this: light in the darkness. Light. In the darkness.

There’s always light to show us the way. No matter how dark it becomes, just one little light chases the darkness away. 

But we often take light for granted. We assume the sun will rise each morning to send the darkness of night away for another period of time. We assume there will be light to aid our vision when we enter a dark room and flip the light switch to on. I wonder if we truly give thanks for light.

Light. It is such a marvelous gift. It reminds me that no matter how discouraged I get by circumstances that try to dim the light within me, one ray of hope sends the darkness scattering away.

No matter how dark this world appears to me with all of the dissension and depravity created by man, no matter how dreary and weary it becomes just living in these days when the news is full of disasters, wars, cruelty, and evil doings, light shatters the despair of darkness.

And I have that light within me. So do others.

The light of the world is Jesus. I have to do my part to shine light into the darkness. I believe God gave me that message yesterday morning. A message I was meant to share with you.

This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine. Will you?

 “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Words for Wednesday: Keeping Christmas

blogChristmascollage

It’s the day after Christmas, but I’m not ready to let go yet. So these pictures show you just a few sights I captured with my camera this season.

It’s the day after Christmas, but I’m not ready to let go yet. And who says we must? We should keep thoughts of Christmas in our hearts all year long.

Thoughts of kindness.

Thoughts of sharing.

Thoughts of goodwill towards men.

Thoughts of love.

Thoughts of hope.

Thoughts of peace.

And thoughts of the King of kings – Jesus. Because even though we just celebrated His birthday, He gave us the ultimate gift when He died on the cross for us. His gift of salvation lasts forever and ever and ever. Hallelujah! 

“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.” ~  W.T. Ellis

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Come, O come

blogIMG_6646On this quiet and still Christmas Eve, this is what my heart longs for – the coming of Emmanuel – and this is what I am listening to.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.

(Translated from Latin to English by John Mason Neale)

For your listening pleasure, click on the video below for a moving instrumental version of this song.

Isaiah 9:6: For unto us a Child is born, for unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

“Great little One! whose all-embracing birth
Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth.” ~ Richard Crashaw

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Jesus won’t stay in the corner

blogIMG_6521On one of our travels this past year, we ventured into some Christmas stores. You know, those shops with nothing but Christmas décor for sale year round.

I love Christmas, I truly do. And I do enjoy decorating the Christmas pine in a festive way with special ornaments, many from places we’ve lived or traveled to and collected over our 40+ years of marriage. 

In addition, every year since our first child’s birth, I’ve purchased some kind of special Christmas ornament for each of our children. When they were small, my intention was to accumulate these ornaments, adding to them each year, so that when they grew up and left this nest called home, they would have a box of ornaments to put on their very own Christmas trees.

As they got old enough, I would let them choose their own ornament. So each of our three left home for adulthood with a box of Christmas memories.

And even though it’s been many years now that the last fledgling flew out of our nest, I still look far and wide for a special ornament to gift them and have added our two granddaughters to the Christmas ornament search list as well.

So, if there’s a Christmas shop handy, I’m in it, gleaning over the shelves, searching for just the right bauble.

One shop we visited on a trip this past summer looked promising. Entering the store, Christmas music was playing and the place was loaded with joyous Noel items everywhere.

Honestly, there seemed to be every kind of ornament imaginable – any theme, you name it, they had it. Some of the ornaments I felt were questionable to pass as Christmas tree decorations, but you know, to each his own.

Papa and I would just shake our heads at many of them and move on to the next shelf. We looked high, we looked low. And we finally did find a couple of ornaments to purchase – one for our oldest daughter and her hubby and one for a friend of mine.

But in all of our searching and perusing of the items in this Christmas shop, something was noticeably missing.

Where was Jesus – you know, the reason for the season? The Christ. The Savior of the world that Christmas is named for.

In the very back room of this store with many rooms, in the very far left corner of that room on a shelf down low below your eye level, a couple of small nativity sets occupied a tiny space.

That was all.  I had to bend over and practically touch my shoulder to my ear to even see them sitting here in that forlorn little corner.

No other decorations proclaiming the meaning of Christmas could be found in that shop. None. Nothing about Jesus other than that tiny little baby in the two or three crèches. Just that and absolutely nothing more.

So what did Jesus do to deserve being put in the corner, out of the way, where no one would see Him?

He had the audacity to fulfill ancient prophecy as the Messiah – the long-awaited Savior.   He exhibited absolute obedience to His Father by allowing himself to be taken to slaughter – this Lamb of God – hung on the cross in place of every sinner, dying for the love of His life – us.

He had the purest, unadulterated form of love for mankind than anyone else who has ever walked on this place called earth has ever possessed. Because He surrendered Himself for me. For you. For every single soul who chooses to believe in Him and accept His free and unconditional gift of grace – salvation.

Some day He won’t be put in the corner – forgotten and dusty. Because someday He’s coming back. And all of those Christmas ornaments that seem to gleam and glitter and catch our attention will be worthless.

They will not matter.

Because every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And He is the reason for the season.

“The great challenge left to us is to cut through all the glitz and glam of the season that has grown increasingly secular and commercial, and be reminded of the beauty of the One who is Christmas.” -Bill Crowder

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

A nugget of thanks

blogIMG_5989 (2)Often we don’t just look down. Or up for that matter.

When we’re on a mission, we have tasks to accomplish. Or places we need to be or people we must see. And when that’s the case, our focus is straight ahead. Keep your eyes on the prize. We can be so absorbed with what we must take care of that we don’t stop and truly look around at our surroundings.

What do we see under our feet? What do we observe above our heads? It’s a question I’ve learned to ask myself since I initiated taking photos as a hobby in recent years. I like to look at aspects placed into my vision from a different perspective.

Look down. Look up. Look at something from an unusual angle. And when I remember to do so, I’m not often disappointed. Usually, I find a unique photo opportunity. Or in many cases, I discover a source of inspiration for a blog post.

Last month, our family convened for a get-together at our oldest daughter and son-in-law’s home in another state. All of us were able to travel there for an entire weekend and just enjoy each other’s company, take a fall excursion to an apple farm/pumpkin patch, see some sights we hadn’t experienced before, and worship together at a well-known church.

One of our excursions was to a fossil bed beside the river that runs through their neck of the woods. We climbed over rocks searching for the embedded fossils and explored the area. While photographing some of our finds, I came across a lone nut just lying on the rocks. 

There were no other nuts there since there were no trees on the rocky river edge. Just this hard-shelled one nut.  It almost seemed petrified, but our son-in-law managed to crack it open so we could see what kind of nut meat it contained. The inside was blackened and hard. (above photo)  It looked like this nut had fallen off a tree a long time ago.

But I noticed something else. The nut meat was heart-shaped. And that prompted me to contemplation. 

When has my heart been just like that? Hard as a rock. Blackened with ill thoughts or feelings. Envy. Anger. Bitterness. Jealousy. Selfishness. Hostility. Argumentativeness. Boastful. Critical. Judgmental. Prideful.  The list is long.

Far too many times my heart looks just like that nut meat. Dark and ugly and hard. But my heart can be cleansed, restored to health and goodness. Confessing my shortcomings to my Father God and allowing the redeeming work of His Son, my Savior, to wash my heart clean.

“God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart.” ~ Izaak Walton

The thing is I must choose that. I must choose to get up each day and opt for goodness instead of evil. I must protect the state of my heart against the darkness of sin. It’s called free will and I possess it.

On this 27th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I choose a thankful heart. A heart full of gratitude. A heart that follows my Savior. A heart of thanks giving. This is my prayer.

“O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”  ~William Shakespeare

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Believing

blogDSCN8257I’m a believer.

When it comes right down to it, I believe in a lot of things. I believe in love. I believe that each day is a gift. I believe that, despite its shortcomings, I live in one of the greatest countries of the world.

I believe.

I believe in the aspects written in the lyrics of an old 1950’s Elvis Presley song with the same title, “I Believe.”

I believe in giving thanks.

But first and foremost, I’m a believer in my Savior Jesus.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” ~ Jesus Christ in John 14:1

I believe that He is the Messiah. I believe He is the Son of God. I believe that He died for all of our sins. I believe He offers the free gift of salvation to those who choose to believe in Him.

“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

And on this 25th day in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m thankful for salvation. I’m thankful for this faith in my Savior that was taught to me at an early age whether it was by Sunday School teachers at my church, or by my elderly grandmother singing hymns about Him with me, or by my parents’ examples.

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 106:1

I’m thankful for the faith that has sustained me for most of my life and I’m thankful that God’s love endures forever.

What are you thankful for?

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thankful for The Word

 

blogIMG_6942The leather-bound volume is well-used. It was a gift to me from the Papa of this empty nest many years ago to commemorate a wedding anniversary.

Its binding is starting to crack. Its pages are thin and dog-eared in places. The silver edges on the pages which once added to the richness of this book’s appearance are practically non-existent. The words printed on the pages are underscored in different colors of pen. Handwritten notations, some from days past, some from present days, fill the margins.

It is a book which has been used over and over again. It is a book that has been well-loved for its contents. Recently, when noticing this book was starting to fall into some disrepair because some of the bound pages are getting loose, Papa asked me if I didn’t want a new one. A bright shiny, unmarked version of this book with a binding that is intact and not cracked and one with fresh, crisp pages.

And I promptly said no way. I will use this particular volume of this book until I can use it no more. I will read it until my eyes no longer can focus on the words written there. I will continue marking important passages and insights I gain in this book.  Why? Because this book which actually consists of 66 books is my companion. It is special to me because of the notations, the underlined passages, the well-worn pages that I’ve read so often.

This book is my Bible. This book is the Word of God spoken by men, written and transcribed by men, but truly inspired by the very voice of the Almighty God. It is meant to be our guidebook for life. It is meant to encourage us, reprimand us, inform us, give direction and guidance to us, but most of all, to let us know how loved and cherished we are by the triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Every day, not just this month in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I am thankful for this book. I am grateful for the words written there. I am refreshed by it; comforted by it; inspired by it.

And I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

It’s where the passage I claim to be my life verse is found – in the New Testament, the Book of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, Verses 16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  

If you’re not familiar with the Bible, my hope is that you understand you can turn to it when you too are in the middle of difficult situations. Here are just a few passages of Scripture that may help you:  

When you need peace of mind – “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

When you are discouraged – “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalms 31:24

When you are troubled – “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.” Psalms 107:13

When you are lonely – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

When you are worried – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

When you are fearful – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” Isaiah 12:2

When you seek forgiveness – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. 

When you need guidance – “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6

When you hold a grudge or resent others – “And when you stand praying if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

When you feel insecure and frustrated – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

When you are weary – “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

When you feel burdened – “Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.” Psalms 55:22

When you need strength – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

When you are confused or upset – “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” Isaiah 32:17

When life feels hard – “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When you need salvation – “Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

“For hearts that are kindly, with virtue and peace, and not seeking blindly a hoard to increase; for those who are grieving o’er life’s sordid plan; for souls still believing in heaven and man; for homes that are lowly with love at the board; for things that are holy, I thank thee, O Lord!” ~Walt Mason

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Dare to stand out

blogIMG_6254Do you ever find yourself joining with the crowd just because?

You know – because you don’t want to call attention to yourself.

Because you don’t want to stand out. Or stand up. Even when you don’t agree, even when you think those around you may have it all wrong, you just follow along with everyone else.

Because it’s so much easier to be one of the crowd.  It’s easier to just keep quiet. Not give your opinion when it’s different from those around you. 

It’s easier to blend in. It’s easier to not risk confrontation. It’s easier to just be like everyone else.

Those thoughts occurred to me the other day when Papa and I were outside raking the crispy brown leaves that have fallen from the few trees in our yard. As we raked, our Little One (first-born grandchild) was having the time of her life jumping in the pile of leaves and throwing them into the air to watch the gusty breeze carry them across our front yard.

She was having a delightful time. And her doting grandparents were enjoying watching her and making her happy. One of those sweet moments for which to be thankful.

“Each day, each season, each cycle offers something of beauty. Let us notice and give thanks.” – Diane Mariechild

We raked. She jumped. We gathered. She scattered.

Upon tiring herself out, she was ready to go indoors and have a little quiet time, so Papa led her inside. I stayed out because the sun was shining and it was a warmer day than we’ve had for some time.

But soon the wind picked up even more and those leaves began a journey floating and flitting across the expanse of our two acres on the wings of a chilly breeze.

As the pile of leaves diminished with each gust of wind, I noticed something. Something captured my full attention. Something really stood out. Something was different from the rest of its surroundings.  

There among the sameness of the dried fall leaves was a bright spot of color. One lemon yellow leaf stood out from the monotony of brown surrounding it.  It was as if that little leaf dared to be different from all the rest.

That leaf caused me to pause in thankfulness because on this 19th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I remember that it’s good to stand out, to not always blend in.

It’s good to be different than the concurring crowd especially when the crowd is heading in the wrong direction. It’s good to go against the multitude to stand up for your own beliefs instead of just accepting what everyone else blindly acquiesces to.

It’s good to follow your heart when your heart is led by the one true God, to adhere to your beliefs, to stand out and stand up if you must, ignoring the rhetoric of the multitude even when it may cause adversity to come your way.

And it’s good be grateful for the opportunity to do so instead of griping because of the way things are.

“Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.” – Kak Sri

©2018 mamasempynest.wordpress.com

 

Counting blessings

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

On this first Sunday of November, this fourth day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m counting all of my blessings, which are in abundance.  

My hope is that today you too will take a little time to count your blessings. Even amidst troubles and trials, if you look hard enough you will find something to be thankful for.

“Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Love your neighbor as much as yourself.”

~ An Irish Blessing

Here’s a little video sung by little blessings themselves – children – for you to enjoy.

Be blessed this day, dear reader.

“Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given.” ~ Marelisa Fábrega

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A liquid magnet

blogIMG_0158.jpgIt always seems to attract my attention.

I find myself mesmerized when I catch glimpses of it.  Nine times out of 10, I’ll raise my camera to my eye, focus, and shoot, capturing and storing photos of it in my computer cache.

It’s simple but it’s complex. It can be practically still or it can be rushing.  It can be swirling or it can be gushing.  It’s life-giving but can be life-taking. 

It’s liquid and it’s water.

This week’s photo challenge theme – liquid – causes me to ponder about my favorite liquid and why it draws me like a magnet.

When I think of liquids, I immediately think of water. Not coffee, not even tea, which I do love.  Not the liquid elements mercury or bromine. Not even milk or juice. Like the song lyric from long ago, cool, clear water somehow refreshes not only my thirst but my soul.

I’m not sure why that liquid, whether it be a river, a lake, an ocean, a stream, or a waterfall, fascinates me because I’m not one of those people who are passionate about swimming or actually being in the water. 

Really deep water scares the dickens out of me, which is why Papa hasn’t been able to convince me to book a several day ocean cruise. We did board a whale watching cruise in the Pacific Ocean once, but that was just for a couple of hours.

So I’m just one of those folks who enjoys being near the water.

I’ll sit on a park bench riverside watching water flow steadily southward. I’ll bask on the sand with my eyes closed just listening to the ebb and flow of ocean waves at the beach. I’ll perch on a rock in a cool copse of woods and enjoy the babbling of a brook.

I’ll stare with wonder at a glistening waterfall cascading down a mountainside. I’ll board a water-going vessel for a sight-seeing trip. I’ll park myself comfortably on my front porch watching liquid drops of water in the form of rain descend from the clouds.

And when it comes to liquid refreshment, my first choice is always a glassful of water – cool, clear water.

I’m reminded that our human bodies are comprised of a large percentage of water – somewhere between 55-65%. We need water to sustain life because it’s absolutely essential. Without it, we can’t survive for very long because it’s vital for just about every aspect of our bodies.

So that explains why water is my beverage of choice. It’s simple biology. It’s what my body longs for.

But what is the reason I’m drawn to bodies of water like a moth to a flame? It’s not just for quenching my thirst because I surely can’t drink salty ocean water.

No, there must be some other reason why water acts like a magnet for me and my camera.

And I believe it’s because my soul longs to be near, in connection to, and in constant communication with my Savior Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~ John 4:13-14

I’ve often gone through periods of time in my faith when I felt like I was in the arid desert. That’s when reading God’s Word and lifting up my parched soul in prayer quenches the thirst within me.

And perhaps that’s why water calls to me. It reminds me where my river of life is found – in Christ. It reminds other believers in Jesus of that as well. I recall visiting a non-denominational church whose name was simply Liquid.

Its founders obviously intended for people thirsting for something to fill their empty parched hearts to find liquid refreshment for the soul through the saving grace of Jesus.

I just hope that living water, that life-giving liquid which has been poured into me, flows back out from me and descends on others who need their thirst for a Savior satisfied.

“I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors, let’s the captives free. I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Spring up, o well, within my soul. Spring up, o well, and make me whole. Spring up, o well, and give to me that life abundantly.” ~ L. Casebolt

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com