Swiftly fly the years

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Our son with his newborn baby girl

Our son, our last born, celebrates a birthday this week. When I think of him, I smile and remember what a surprise he was when he emerged in that delivery room.  A boy! We had expected another girl and only had a girl’s name chosen.

But surprise! The doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” and we were actually shocked. The one thing I remember saying to Papa, who was right by my side through labor and delivery, after our son’s arrival was, “But he doesn’t have a name!”

We deliberated awhile and finally chose the name that my own father suggested.  It is a good, solid name. And I blinked and that baby boy grew up and turned out to be a good, solid man.

When I stop to think about the stage of life he’s in now (almost to his 30’s), the lyrics to the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof automatically come to my mind:

Is this the little girl I carried, 
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older, 
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty, 
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days.

When did that little boy who played with Legos, cars, and Star Wars toys as well as every sport that came his way, the son who made his parents proud with all his accomplishments, grow to be so tall?

And now after all the sunrises and sunsets that have passed, he is a parent himself.

He and our lovely daughter-in-love just had their first baby – our precious second granddaughter – right before Christmas. How can it be that baby that I once held in my arms – my last one – is now all grown up and holding his own beloved little one?

Because the days, just like in that song, do flow by swiftly.  And the years follow in suit.

My dad used to tell me how quickly time flew by for him in his 90 years on earth. When I was a youngster, it seemed that time passed by slowly. 

A friend and I were just discussing this recently. How when we were girlhood friends, we couldn’t wait for school to be left out for summer recess or we couldn’t wait until Christmas.  Or when we couldn’t wait to become teenagers. Then we couldn’t wait to drive. Then we couldn’t wait to graduate from high school. And then we couldn’t wait until we graduated from college….got married…had a career…or a family….or….. 

We just couldn’t wait to grow up! 

Before we knew it, we were grown up, our children became adults, our parents passed away, and we found ourselves to be the older generation. And now we wish time would slow down.

Just like that. [snaps fingers] Time goes by. And continues to do so.  Which is why it’s so important to make the most of our time before it runs out.

“Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it and so quickly if you are aware of it.”~ Marc Bolan

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

All by myself

blogdscn0241Solitude.

Now there’s a word that scared the daylights out of me.

The thought of being alone stirred up a restlessness inside of me that soon heightened to nothing short of anxiety. Being secluded or separated from other people caused me to feel trepidation, which I managed to hide well for a very long time.

I grew up the youngest of three sisters in a relatively small family. No aunts or uncles on my mother’s side since she was an only child.  My father was the youngest of his family and most of my cousins from his side were old enough to have been my parents.  So my fate was always to be the youngest in a family of older folks.

Even my own sisters were considerably older than I was. When I was a youngster interested in playing ‘house’ with my dolls and tootling around on a tricycle, they were teenagers interested in boys, music, and their friends.

Honestly, I experienced a lonely childhood being the youngest.  My sisters were beyond the age of playing with me or even having the arguments and little spats that most siblings experience. In essence, it felt like I was an only child.  By the time I was six, my oldest sister got married and by age nine, my next sister joined the ranks of wedded folks.

I can still feel how loneliness washed over me time and time again even though I lived in a loving home with two parents and my maternal elderly grandparents until they passed away when I was nine.  And I can distinctly remember the scary feeling of finding myself…well… by myself.

Embedded in my memories are incidences when I jumped off the school bus after a day spent learning, skipped home, and couldn’t find my mother, who was either in the basement doing the laundry or somewhere where she wasn’t in clear sight when I walked through the kitchen door.  Near panic seized me and I would run frantically through the house shouting for my mom only feeling at ease again when I heard her familiar voice calling back.

Being alone.

Didn’t like it. I avoided it as often as I could. And that mode of operation continued through my teen years and even into adulthood. Oh, I would sequester myself into my bedroom reading, listening to music, or daydreaming alone just like any normal teen girl but I still felt assured when someone else, either mom or dad, was at home with me.

Because I didn’t want to be totally alone. Privacy was one thing but isolation was the scary monster lurking around any solitude.

Feeling off balance from that loneness was one of the hardest obstacles I encountered when I graduated from college (never had to be alone then as there were always friends and a roommate nearby), secured a teaching job in a town a couple of hours away from my family, and moved into an apartment alone.

I hated it. I dreaded coming home from a long day of teaching middle schoolers to an empty and lonely apartment with absolutely no one there. No family. No roommate. No pets. Nothing. Just me and the solitude of an attic apartment on a quiet street in a town where I didn’t know a soul. 

Just so I had someone to converse and spend time with, I became fast friends with my neighboring landlady whose husband worked night shifts.  She was kind and didn’t seem to mind when I showed up at her door so I didn’t have to endure an evening by myself. 

My phone bill (in those days long before cell phones) was high with long distance calls to my parents, my boyfriend (who lived quite a distance away from me), friends, anyone to talk to so I wouldn’t feel so alone. One lonely evening everyone I telephoned wasn’t home. Since there were no answering machines, the sound of the ringing phone in my ear just droned on and on while no one answered. It felt like I was the only human being on planet earth. Again that scary feeling of isolation reared its head overwhelming me.  I literally cried myself to sleep many nights hating the seclusion and separation I felt, totally forlorn.

Being by myself seemed like the worst solitary confinement on earth. I came to the realization that my idea of never marrying was ridiculous. I was not equipped to live life alone without a loving spouse to share it with.  So I was ecstatic when my boyfriend proposed to me. Married, I wouldn’t be alone.

Fast forward several years. Three children growing up in our household in the suburbs meant lots of activities and a noisy household filled with people.  And even though my husband traveled overnight in his position as a sales rep, I wasn’t completely alone since children, friends, and neighbors were always around, and I kept busy all the time so I wouldn’t actually have much ‘by myself time.’

Recently I found an old journal from a ladies’ retreat I attended one weekend many years ago with my church. I recall how lovely and fun it was socializing and studying God’s Word with the sweet gals there, but one of our scheduled activities was to go off and find a quiet spot in the idyllic setting – a retreat center in the woods of the Pacific Northwest – and spend time alone.

Alone?!? 

I can still recall how unsettled that made me feel.  This is what I wrote in that journal dated September 24, 1996 – exactly 20 years ago this week:

We talked about waiting for the Lord, quiet time, and solitude. The retreat center here is perfect for this. But solitude and quietness are scary to me. I’ve realized I tend to fill up my time with chatter and being with others. I would really like to change that. I desire quietness sometimes because of all the noise and hustle and bustle of our household but I also fear the silence.  Sometimes I feel like I’m on sensory overload between the kids, the TV, the noise of traffic, etc., and I’m angry when someone interrupts what little bit of silence we get by turning on the TV or stereo. Right now, I enjoy the quietness I have in the mornings after my husband’s gone to work and the kids have gone off to school. But still a part of me doesn’t want to be alone in solitude. I’ve feared that all my life. I do realize though that I’m not alone. The Lord is always with me if only I choose to be with Him.

Apparently, what I wrote then I soon forgot because after that retreat I continued to fill up my time so I wouldn’t be by myself. Classroom volunteering and parent teacher organizations at my children’s schools, sports boosters, church activities galore, leading Bible studies, social engagements, lunches with friends, and even 13 years spent filling up my ‘spare time’ with a part-time position in a ministry I had a real passion for.  I wasn’t happy unless my calendar spaces were full of things to keep me from spending time alone.

I think that’s why the empty nest hit me like a ton of bricks, knocking me off center, and honestly, freaking me out. Our home, which had been a busy beehive of activity for so long, sat silent when our last child graduated from college and moved out of state to begin his career. My last living parent, my beloved Dad, passed away the year before that. My husband was still working long hours even though he wasn’t traveling any more.  But suddenly, I was alone.  Really alone. A lot.

That’s when I turned to this blog and pouring my heart and soul into writing posts for it.  Still filling up those moments of solitude by reaching out to you, my readers, via this online highway of connectedness.

Circumstances have changed significantly lately. My home is no longer a picture of quiet solitude. For the last 18 months, our daughter and granddaughter have found sanctuary from a heartbreaking situation by living with Papa and me.  Our home is filled with busyness, laughter, and noise again with our sweet little one.  My quiet time is sparse because while her Mama resumes doing what she is so very good at, her hospital nursing career, Little One is under Nana’s care.

Other life changes once again derailed our train of well-made plans when my husband was unwillingly forced into semi-retirement at age 61 this year, but he is happy and contented working part-time in a position where he just fulfills his job duties at work and then comes home and can forget about it.  The weighed down boulder of responsibilities he once had has been lifted and he no longer brings his job and its problems home with him. Peace of mind is priceless, it’s true.

I haven’t had much alone time for over a year and a half, and I’ve shocked myself by actually missing some solitude. But even in the midst of all these changes and the return of a busy household, I do get snippets of time when Daughter and Little One are away and Papa, working various hours in a more random schedule,  is also gone and I am alone.

In solitude.

I can do whatever I feel like doing or not.  I can sit on the front porch swing uninterrupted and read.  I can clean out a closet and reminisce over the things I find there.  Or I can just curl up on the family room couch, enjoy the silence, and do nothing. And here’s the shocking revelation – I like it.

I’ve come to appreciate those moments of solitude, something I never thought would happen. Finally, in my quiet alone time, I realize that I’m not feeling lonely, or isolated, or fearful. It’s a surprise to me. And a welcome one at that.

I truly do have the best company and always have.  His presence wraps around me like the warm, fuzzy fleece throw that is draped over our easy chair. He has promised to never leave me, never forsake me, and never leave me feeling alone. The issues and problems of life still continue but He helps me face them and persevere through them.

I like the way devotional author Erin Keeley Marshall once wrote of Him, “Next time loneliness hits, imagine yourself resting in the shelter of his palm, and realize being alone is an impossibility since his hand never lets you go.”

Who is He? My Savior, my Redeemer, my Jesus. And I believe I’m finally accepting and yes, embracing the lesson about solitude He’s tried to teach me for all of these years.

 “Isolation is aloneness that feels forced upon you, like a punishment. Solitude is aloneness you choose and embrace. I think great things can come out of solitude, out of going to a place where all is quiet except the beating of your heart.” -Jeanne Marie Laskas

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Thanks Giving: for the migraine

blogquote1What power do a mere set of words have? Tremendous power when they become a catalyst for change.

On the first post of my 30 days of thanks giving, I promised to share the story of why a particular set of words, the very words that challenged me to begin this monthly project, changed my outlook.

Years ago, our family lived in the Pacific Northwest and we attended a small, evangelical church.  Being newcomers we eagerly got involved with our family of God and began participating in musical productions there.  Papa loved to sing and music has always been an integral part of my life.

Every year at Easter, our church presented a dramatic, musical pageant telling the life of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross through drama and song. We practiced many long hours learning the music, helping build sets, and assisting with various aspects of the production.  One particular year, our family of five – my husband, our three children, and I – were all in the program.  I was one of the few who sang alto and since I’ve always enjoyed singing and performing, it satisfied my ‘inner actress.’

We had already performed the pageant on Good Friday and Saturday evening but expected an even larger crowd for the Easter Sunday morning program.   I eagerly anticipated this last presentation because we had invited friends to attend.

And then it happened.  I woke up Easter Sunday morning around 5 a.m. with one doozy of a headache.  I groggily made my way out of bed and popped some medication.  It didn’t help.

If anything, my headache worsened and then my stomach started churning.  The pain was so intense, dizziness ensued, and as I scurried to the bathroom to ease my nausea, I realized I had a full-blown migraine headache.

Not today!  I prayed.  I begged God to take the excruciating pain and sick stomach away.  I cried, I moaned, and in my mind I was screaming, “Why me?  Why today?”

Instead of feeling better, I got worse.  I couldn’t even stand upright but was relegated to my bed while my husband and children prepared to leave for church and perform in the pageant I so longingly wanted to be in.

After they left, I curled up in my bed gripping my pounding head and weeping.  Why did this happen today of all days?  Why did it happen to me?

The phone ringing on the nightstand jarred me out of my misery.  The harsh sound seemed to make my head pound even more as I crawled across the bed to answer it. The soothing, calm voice of a close friend from church greeted me.

Learning from my husband that I was suffering with a horrible migraine, something she often experienced as well, she called before the program commenced.  She sympathized with me, assured me that I was truly missed, but then she did something that totally startled me.

She prayed with me on the phone.  Of course, she asked God to relieve my suffering and pain, but she prayed words that Easter morning that I have never forgotten and I don’t believe I ever will.

She thanked God for my migraine headache.  What?!  My groggy brain thought I wasn’t hearing her correctly.  Did my friend just thank God for my pain?  For my suffering?  For the fact that I couldn’t participate in praising the Lord on Resurrection Day? That I was missing the opportunity to perform those songs I had practiced so long?

Yes, she did.  Her words are etched in my mind.  She prayed, “Lord, we don’t always understand the things that happen or why they happen but we know you have a reason.  And your Word tell us that we should…”

And then she recited this passage of scripture as she prayed over me that Easter morning: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances (even for headaches), for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Okay, I’m human.  You know what I was thinking during all of this, don’t you?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  Be thankful for a throbbing migraine headache that was causing me not to be able to see straight and making me throw up?  Be thankful that I couldn’t perform in a program I had spent many hours preparing for? Be thankful that I wasn’t with my family on the most glorious day of the year celebrating the resurrection of Jesus? HUH?? Was she a crazy nut?  A religious fanatic?

My mind couldn’t wrap around why she prayed over those particular verses.  But weeks later, as I pondered my friend’s prayer and read that scripture passage again…and again…its truth sunk into my soul. And that passage of scripture eventually changed my outlook and became my ‘go-to’ verses for life because I finally realized that even painful or difficult circumstances can be used by God to bring us closer to Him, to seek Him, rely on Him.

Today on this third day of my 30 days of thanks giving, I give thanks for that circumstance over 20 years ago because it changed my way of thinking.  It changed my life. I give thanks for a wise friend who followed God’s leading to call me and pray His Word with me.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my story. And I am thankful for that migraine headache.

“Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask but when we are challenged to be what we can be.” ~ Morris Adler

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

This girl

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20-something me in the ’70s

Many little girls dream of the day when they become mothers. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t.

Oh, when I was young, I played with dolls and pretended to be a mommy to them. I had tea parties with my dollies and did all the usual little girl play acting.  But when I thought of my future, which I must admit wasn’t that often, I didn’t envision myself becoming a mother.  No, I imagined my future self as either a famous actress or a well-known best-selling author.

And I have become neither.  But the best accomplishment I’ve ever achieved and one that I will never, ever regret is becoming a mother.  Growing up, my own mother instilled in me that I needed to go to college and become ‘something.’  Mom never worked outside of our home and she was a wonderful mother taking care of us three girls, cooking and baking the most delicious food, and turning our home into a lovely sanctuary. 

An only child, Mom also lovingly cared for her own parents in our home until they passed away.  She was generous, devoted to her family, and homemaking really did seem to make her happy particularly when she used her artistic talent in sewing, crocheting, and making beautiful hand-made quilts. 

Somewhere along my path to becoming an adult, whether it was a nudge from my own mom or just a sign of the times – the late 60’s and early 70’s – I embraced the idea that I did not want to become ‘just a wife and mother’ like my own mom.  I used to proclaim that I aimed for one goal – to be a career woman. I wasn’t interested in getting married, and for anyone who listened, I added that my vow certainly did not include having children.

What I did not account for in my made-up scenario of life is that I would meet and fall head over heels in love with a young man during my junior year of college and I would gladly become his wife three years later.

Still I entertained thoughts of not having children. Looking back now, I really cannot pinpoint why I had made that decision in early adulthood.  But four years after I married my husband, it happened.  I discovered that I wasn’t really suffering from an intestinal bug that made me nauseous and prompted early morning trips to the bathroom, I was pregnant – with child.

I was shocked and unprepared and the timing certainly wasn’t ideal.  My military husband was slated for an overseas year-long unaccompanied (meaning no wives along) assignment and would be leaving soon.   Up to this point, our lives seemed great since we both enjoyed our careers; we were saving my earnings; we had a great social circle of friends; and we did pretty much what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. 

All of that came screeching to a halt when an Army doctor gave me the good news.  Since the baby was due when my husband would be out of the country, I panicked.  How could I bring a baby into the world alone, far away from not only my husband but my family and their support as well?

We solved the dilemma by preparing for my husband’s PCS (permanent change of station) by moving out of our on-post housing, putting most of our belongings in storage, and moving me to temporarily stay with my folks while my husband was stationed on the other side of the world.  My parents eagerly welcomed me home and they were amazing as they helped me adjust to the idea of motherhood.  

A week after Christmas, my own mother held me as I sobbed inconsolably in an airport restroom after kissing my husband goodbye for the next year of our lives.  As she hugged me and stroked my head, my wise mother whispered, “You need to stop crying now.  It’s time to think about the baby.”

And she was right.  As foreign and surreal as it seemed because I wasn’t even showing yet, there was a new little life growing and developing inside my own.  I felt the baby’s first fluttering move on Christmas Eve while sitting in church but it all still seemed so unreal.  

It was indeed time to think about my baby.

It was time to really grow up.  Time to put aside my wants, my desires, my thoughts about myself and my sadness over being separated from my husband, and think of someone else.  Someone who would be solely dependent on me.  My child.

Thirty plus years have come and gone since that day.  When I brought that first new little life into this world, I never imagined the intense love I would feel for that child.  My child.  The day my firstborn was placed in my arms, I launched on a new career path – motherhood.  My husband and I together decided that the best thing for our family was for me to be a stay-at-home mom.

I kissed my former career goodbye and I’ve never regretted that decision.  My outlook on motherhood completely changed when I became a mother myself.  With each child born – and there were two more gifts of life – my joy and blessings increased and so did my deep love for my children.  

A couple of years ago, each one of my grown children married (all in the same year!) and now I am Mama to six adults instead of just three.  My love for my ‘children’ just keeps blossoming and growing and extending way beyond what I ever envisioned.   

And now I am an empty nest mama.  Somehow time flew past in a whirlwind and our house, which once was so full of noise, toys, and childhood mayhem is neat, orderly, and quiet.  And yes, I must admit, it’s also lonely from time to time.

Change.  That’s what life always brings.  And now it’s time for a new change. 

This girl…this girl with her wide-eyed dreams…this girl who never thought she was capable of being a mother…this girl who cherished motherhood more than a career…this girl who watched each of her fledglings soar out of her nest…this girl who is sometimes astonished at the middle-aged lady who looks back at her from the mirror…this girl…is changing again. 

This girl…is going to be a grandmother!

“A house needs a grandma in it.” ~Louisa May Alcott

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©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Going beyond

blog003Pictures speak to me.

They really do.   Often just gazing at a photograph prompts a blog post idea for me.   Catching a glimpse of something I’ve not noticed before also gives my imagination fodder.  I am a very visual person it seems.

That’s why I enjoy participating every so often in a Weekly Photo Challenge given by Word Press.  Each week in the Daily Post, a theme word photography challenge is offered to any bloggers wanting to participate.  

Our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to publish our photo attempts to personify that theme.

This week’s theme word is ‘beyond.’    Here’s the definition of beyond according to my trusty dictionary:  1. Farther away than; on the far side of.  2. After (a specified time). 3. Outside the limits, reach, or scope of.

Beyond.  That word makes my imagination soar…well…beyond and conjures up all kinds of ideas! Perusing  through my photo files, I  found several pictures that I thought fit this challenge.  The more I looked, the more I found, and that’s when I decided to incorporate the photo challenge into a written post, not just publish a picture.

One of my first thoughts when I read the word ‘beyond’ was musical –  songs with that word in them ran through my brain’s archives.  I’ve taken lots of pictures of sunsets from my own back yard.  So any of those shots could be used to symbolize the old hymn that comes to my mind, “Beyond the Sunset.”

blogDSCN8756Likewise, I have many shots of the Pacific Ocean coastline in Oregon in my stash of old photos.  So many of them portray the lyrics “somewhere beyond the sea” from the old song of the same name.

blog005But I’m not just stuck on song lyrics.  The line made famous by Buzz Lightyear in the movie, Toy Story, “to infinity and beyond!” comes to my mind whenever I view some of the pictures I’ve taken of clouds.

blog003And then there’s that saying about thinking outside the box or looking beyond the obvious.  I realized I needed to look beyond one day when I photographed a recent snow fall.  At first, I concentrated on the entire landscape around me, then I zoned in on how the snow clung to a tree limb.  When I focused on the snow draping the branches, I looked beyond and noticed pine trees sporting their snowy scarves, which provided a treasure trove of photos.

blogIMG_0337Of course, sometimes I can stretch a little too far — beyond my means.  A year ago, we were searching for oldest daughter’s wedding reception venue.  We visited a couple of places in our nearby city, but soon realized the sites, as beautiful as they were, were definitely beyond our means.  Here’s one of them.

blogDSCN8498I may have taken this photo challenge way beyond its intention, but our imaginations are like that or at least they should be.  They should soar beyond the everyday normal, even beyond our wildest expectations.  In 2012, way beyond my wildest expectations, all three of my adult children got married within six months of each other!  That was definitely going beyond the norm (at least for us)!

blogIMG_0726But I think the photo that best describes ‘beyond’ at this stage of my life is a picture that my middle daughter took of her dad and me one day.  We’re in the process of moving beyond

We’ve reached middle age and emptynesthood.  Our parents are gone.  Our children are grown and launched into their married lives.  Hubby and I have passed quite a few life stages; you might say we’ve moved beyond them.  We’ve been children, young adults, young marrieds, and parents of babies, children, teens, and now adults.  

A new stage of life is before us. Together, we walk hand and hand, just the two of us, to discover where this new stage takes us…into the future…into what lies beyond.

blogtaking a walk©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

To capture a heart

“Anyone can catch your eye, but it takes someone special to catch your heart.”  ~Author Unknown

blogengagement3I surreptitiously observe him as he so capably takes care of the matter at hand.

My eyes take in the sight of him, so tall, so strong, and so athletic.

My mind marvels at his accomplishments, his intelligence, his confidence, but most importantly, his devoted heart for Christ.

And lastly, my emotions overwhelm me because wasn’t it just yesterday that this grown, mature man was my baby son?

I blinked and the adorable little baby I cradled in my arms with kisses and snuggles became an adventurous, fun-loving little boy, who still loved cuddling and mama’s hugs.

I blinked yet again and that sweet little boy turned into a stubborn, strong-willed teenager who, even though often tempted not to, still managed to obey and respect his parents and endure his mama’s embraces.

Another blink, and that teenager changed into an independent young adult man, capable of taking care of himself and embarking on a career with great responsibility, but still asking advice from mama and papa here and there.

And now, the time has come.   Last month, our son, this man, informed us during a serious discussion about life that he is in love with his girlfriend.  Matter of fact, he is so much in love, he shared with us his plans to ask her parents for her hand in marriage.

During our conversation about this serious step, what constitutes true love and the commitment of marriage, he maturely answered our questions and assured us that he is more than ready to meet the responsibility of being a providing husband and someday a father.

My mama’s heart ached with this knowledge, not because I wasn’t elated for him or totally in agreement about how wonderful his devoted young lady is, but because my little boy has surely become an adult man.  He is my youngest child, yet he most assuredly is not a child.  And I can hardly believe that this time has arrived so soon.

Gracious girlfriend’s parents also posed questions for our son when he asked for their blessing to propose to their daughter. They willingly granted their permission while agreeing not to reveal their discussion to her since he desired to surprise his beloved with the proposal.

Our son immediately launched into designing her engagement ring (he is a mechanical engineer with a creative side and such things give him pleasure).  He emailed us the computer model design of the ring to view and I could see his loving touches in it.

While Son and Girlfriend were here for  Christmas Eve, he secretly showed the beautiful ring to us. He also disclosed his romantic proposal plan which would occur in her hometown in the state next door on the day after Christmas.

I’ve silently watched the two of them together when they’ve come to visit the empty nest.  Even from first meeting, I could ascertain that this lovely young lady had captivated my son.  But I also could see that this wasn’t merely infatuation or a superficial attraction, there was a deeper level of kinship between them.

She hadn’t just caught his eye, she captured his heart.   But the bond that ties them together so perfectly is their love for their Savior, Jesus Christ;  He is first in their relationship and that makes a huge difference.

The apple of my son’s eye and captor of his heart will be good for him; she is strong, mature, and independent and their personalities complement one another.  She will help motivate him when he needs it and together they will be a good team.

Three nights ago, this excitedly ecstatic couple phoned to tell us she said yes!  (“Why wouldn’t she?” this mother thought.)

And so another wedding will take place in our family, and we will gain a beautiful (inside and out) daughter-in-law.   On this 29th page, Chapter 12, in my Opportunity book, I couldn’t be more happy, even though tears trickle from my eyes flooding my vision as I write this – no, not tears of sorrow,  tears of joy.

I’m delightfully contented because Mama’s Empty Nest is filling up with more family members.  As our circle enlarges, my heart swells with love.

“Love will make your eyes shine, your face beam, your heart sing, and your life full.” ~ Author Unknown

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Changing the world

blogDSCN7929Working for a non-profit organization can be one of the most rewarding of jobs as well as discouraging at times.  I know because I’m employed by one.

Rewards flow abundantly when I witness first-hand how we make a difference in the lives of others.  But days of discouragement can also reign when I wonder if we’re truly gaining any ground.

I imagine that most of us who labor in the non-profit world do so not because of any personal gain but because we want to make the world a better place.  I know my fellow co-workers diligently strive to make such a change, to follow our passion for righting a wrong, to serve others, and introduce them to a more positive path for life.

When it comes to personality types, some of us non-profit employees are Doers, some of us are Relaters, and some of us are Influencers.  We may go about our work in diverse ways, but we have one thing in common.  We endeavor to actually accomplish our goals, we don’t just spout rhetoric.

“The world is blessed the most by men who do things, and not by those who merely talk about them.” ~ James Oliver

At times, our efforts seem overwhelming, even futile, and we need re-charged and refreshed to continue our tasks.  That’s exactly what occurred a short while ago at my place of employment.

Our Executive Director announced at weekly staff meeting one day that we should arrive at work on a particular Monday attired in comfortable clothes for a Staff Retreat Day.  She refused to give us details just reassured us that we would be treated to a surprise.  Our organization has undergone several major changes in the last two years, and as change sometimes can prove stressful and challenging, she and our Board of Directors wanted to thank us all for “hanging in there.”

On a crisp, sunny morning we gathered at the office and were whisked off to a lovely country house owned by a friend of our organization.  We settled down in her welcoming home and were served our choice of hot tea, special coffees, hot chocolate, or hot apple cider with several types of mini-muffins to munch on and of course, lots of chocolate candy.  While we sipped and unwound, a Board of Directors member encouraged us with an inspirational message and prayer.  A time of sharing insights about our co-workers’ strengths followed.

Our hostess, who definitely has the gift of hospitality, called us to her dining room where a beautifully decorated table greeted us and we enjoyed a delicious lunch.   But our retreat day wasn’t over yet!  Another friend of our organization, a professional massage therapist, joined us for our afternoon surprise.   Each staff member received a warm soak in a foot spa machine followed by a foot massage, then a back and neck massage, and finally a paraffin wax treatment for our hands.

And as the info-mercials say, “But wait, that’s not all!”  Savoring a delectable chocolate dessert and another hot beverage completed our day of pampering.  Our hostess with the ‘mostess’ presented us with a parting gift – a beautiful red apple sitting atop a small carton of caramel dip all dressed up in a pretty package.  As she randomly passed the treats out to us, she asked us to read a message tied to each one.   Somehow, each message, though different, fit each recipient.

I found my message, “You can change the world!”  interesting and apt, because that is what I attempt to do with the young people I’m privileged to see in schools….change their perspective, change their behavior, change their futures, change their lives in a positive way, one person at a time.

It’s the 29th page in Chapter 9 in my book of Opportunity today.  This book (the year 2011) only has a few more chapters to go, then it will be finished and a new book will begin.   So today, I’ve been seriously contemplating that message I received on our day of pampered blessing and how it meshes with my year of opportunity.

I don’t want to be one of those people who just sits around talking about and waiting for the world to change.  God planted a desire in me to actively help transform people’s lives, which is exactly what I’ve done the last 10 years at my non-profit job.  But lately, I’ve wondered if it was time for me to move on to something else.  Now though, I’m sensing that the Lord doesn’t want me to stop just yet.

And I believe God doesn’t want me to stop sharing my faith journey with my readers.   Daniel 2:20-22 says: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.  He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things;  He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.”

Only He can make a real change in me and you.   All we have to do is ask Him.   And then He equips us to go out and really change the world.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Who am I? (an introduction)

blogDSCN6832Struggles serve to strengthen me.  In those tough times of trials, I lean on my faith in Christ to bolster me.

Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and say I give up!  But this inner resolve propels me to buck up and deal.  I may fall apart afterward, but somehow, my Savior always brings me through the trials by fire.

I’m currently struggling with some issues, not major life-changing, death-defying issues, just things that need settled.  I could chalk it up to all the changes that have taken place in my life in the last year or so: the empty nest syndrome, losing my father, feeling disconnected in places I should feel attached, and so forth.

These changes are just a part of life although that doesn’t make them less difficult to work through.  But I know without a doubt, I trust and have complete confidence that God will show me something amazing.   He is moving in ways that cause me to feel so blessed even in the midst of struggles.

I’m a little baffled to be writing about this subject on such a glorious fall day.  This is my kind of weather.  The sun is shining magnificently, skies are blue, and the temperature is comfortably warm.

It’s such a lovely day – the kind that renders me grateful and content –  so hubby and I enjoyed a brief respite from chores by sitting together on the front porch swing soaking up the sunshine. We noticed our summer flowers are all fading but the few that are pictured here, and soon they too will be finished for the season.

I also have a season that I need to finish. Writing about difficulties doesn’t really fit my cheerful mood today but I imagine I should prepare readers for my next blog posts, a four-part series I’ve stewed over for several weeks.  They involve a struggle that I’ve dealt with the past year.  In order to enlighten you about why I’m grappling with this issue, I needed to do a lot of explaining, hence the four-part series.

I hope this doesn’t bog down my few faithful readers because I don’t want to bore or lose them, but I truly feel God leading me to publish my battle in hopes that it may help someone else.   Since I am a writer at heart, nailing down all of my feelings in written word helped me process the conflict.

For me often times, God uses images, songs or simply a word to teach and show me His purposes and plans.  So please bear with me, follow along with each day’s post [starting tomorrow], and I promise we will progress to the point.   I also want readers to know that after this series is published, I may take a few days break from my blog, but I will return shortly.  I promise!

And that brings me to my thought for today.  Many days as I sit down at my computer to write in my mostly daily blog, I think that I have absolutely nothing to say that anyone would want to spend time actually reading.   And then it happens.  God plants images, songs or thoughts in my brain, and my hands commence typing coherent (at least I hope so!) posts with a meaningful (again I hope!) message.

As the words appear on my computer screen, I am amazed at what God reveals to me and I feel so unbelievably undeserving and humble that He would use my (His) words to try to encourage and bless others.  I am not a person of importance; instead I’m just like the fading flowers, I have no more influence than a passing vapor.

So I ask Him, “Who am I that you would love me so much? Who am I that you would care about my struggles and show me the way through them?  And who am I that you should use me in this way?”   His answer to me is in this Casting Crowns song, one of my favorites, I am His!  I hope you find He is your answer as well.

Isaiah 40:8 ~ “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Metamorphosis

blog059Butterflies of several varieties dance in a sort of ballet, pirouetting through the air, gliding in a glissade, sometimes performing adagio, sometimes allegro, but always returning to the barre, which is the butterfly bush in our flower garden.

The profusion of purple blooms lures them back to the bush over and over.

This past summer beholding them swoop and swoon gracefully here and there was enchanting, and it’s almost unbelievable that these fluttering creatures used to be lowly caterpillars.  Comic George Carlin allegedly once said, “The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”

The butterfly definitely has the glitz! It’s easy to forget the bedazzling butterfly was once the common-looking caterpillar, don’t you think?  “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly,”  engineer/designer/inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller said.  I find that to be true in us human beings as well.

A number of years ago, I attended women’s retreats with ladies from my church family then.   The retreat center was beautiful, nestled among nature with serenity in the scenery.  Situated in the Oregon countryside, the center was surrounded by tall, stately Douglas fir trees, hazelnut orchards, and vineyards on the hillsides.

blogDSCN7881Walking trails wound their way around the center, and there were ample places of solitude to visit for prayer or reflection.  A small lake for boating and even a zip line for those adventurous types among us were other attractions.

I remember my time there fondly, but one aspect of our weekend there I will never forget.   After a busy day of Bible study, praise and worship, prayer, wonderful home-cooked meals with vegetables and herbs from the center’s garden, and fun activities, we gathered together, settled down for the evening, and watched a video.  I can’t recall the title, but it was an inspirational viewing of gorgeous photography set to uplifting Christian music with a velvet-voiced narration of Scripture befitting each scene.

One scene was a time-lapsed segment of a magnificent creature – the butterfly – emerging from its cocoon.  As I watched the butterfly struggle and push its way free of the chrysalis, the accompanying Scripture was impressed on my heart and in my mind.   “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

My visual learning style grasped this idea immediately, and that picture and scripture have never left my mind.  Next to the verse in my Bible is this notation, written from that day back in the 90’s – “just like a butterfly breaking free from its cocoon.”   To this day, when I notice a butterfly coasting in the air, I think of this verse.

How very much we resemble the butterfly.  As this magnificent creature goes through stages of life to become an adult, we do likewise.   For the butterfly, there are four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  We experience physical stages of life from our start as a fertilized egg in our mother’s womb to babyhood to childhood to adulthood.

But I see a resemblance to the butterfly spiritually as well.    We humans can be quite lowly as we crawl along in the mud and mire, serving ourselves like the caterpillar.  In the caterpillar stage, this insect eats and eats and eats.  That’s all it does.  It eats to serve itself, devouring the leaf where the larva was laid as an egg.   It eats so that it can grow quickly, and when it has reached its full size, it forms into a pupa or chrysalis (cocoon).

It looks like the caterpillar is just resting inside the chrysalis, but a miraculous transformation is actually taking place – a complete metamorphosis.  The caterpillar’s tissues, limbs and even organs all eventually change and an adult butterfly begins to emerge from its encasement.

Just like some people think the caterpillar is ugly or unattractive, when we live our life without Christ, our lives can be very ugly, especially when we are self-serving.   But once we come to know Jesus personally, accept Him as our Savior and Lord, a miraculous metamorphosis takes place within us.  If we eat and are fed nourishing spiritual food – Biblical wisdom and truth — we will grow in our faith.

The old (ugly, mean-spirited, sinful self) will be transformed into the new (Christ-like) version.  But it doesn’t stop there.   Our change into Christ-likeness should continue as we mature in spiritual wisdom by reading and hearing God’s Word, seeking righteousness, and serving others.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 4:23-24) tells us, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When we become believers in Christ, we should not remain stagnant, but should develop and be strengthened (spread our wings and fly) in our walk of faith.  We become new creations — the old is gone and the new has come!

“Do ye not comprehend that we are worms,

Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly

That flieth unto judgment without screen?”

~written by Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

September Song

blog066The days dwindle down to a precious few.  The days grow short when you reach September.

Those words are from a song made famous by the late Frank Sinatra and they came to my mind today.

We’re already over a week into the month of September.  Don’t the days seem to pass quickly for all of us but the young?

Fall is certainly on its way.   Daylight grows shorter every succeeding day.  There is definitely a chill in the air.  Mornings are crisp and cool enough to take your breath away.  Leaves will begin turning their fabulous fall colors very soon.

I love living in a place where we see distinct changes in the four seasons and I praise our creator God for giving us the beauty of each.   But autumn is my favorite season of all.  Summer is usually just too hot and humid for me, although I do enjoy the time to relax, the sunshine, and the bounty of our vegetable and flower gardens.

A lot of people dislike winter, but I don’t.  I love to watch the snow flakes dance and twirl through the air and the sight of the first few snowfalls blanketing the earth is beautiful.  I also take pleasure in the quietness of the season, when you can curl up by the fireplace, snuggle under a blanket for warmth, and read with a hot cup of tea to sip.

Spring is exciting and I welcome that season as well.  After the bleakness of winter when everything is colorless, it’s encouragement to my soul to see spring flowers poking their heads up out of the ground and blessing us with a profusion of color.  When the trees start to bud and blossom and the grass greens up, it renews my spirit.

But fall — I love you.  Warm, sunny days when the leaves are brilliantly splashed with the colors of red, yellow, and orange followed by cool refreshing nights that require me to search for the warmth of a sweatshirt make me deliriously happy.   The crispness in the air invigorates me for some reason and I get surges of energy to accomplish things.  I love walking in the woods, hearing the crunch of leaves under my feet, and just the very smell of the fall season.   I’m amazed that two very important occasions in my life happened in the fall.   I met my beloved in autumn and three years later – also in the fall – he became my cherished mate for life  when we became man and wife.

So today, my post is a tribute to fall, my preferred season of all.  Enjoy this video set to the music of “September Song” with me.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you.”    ~
lyrics from “September Song”