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…in the storm

blogIMG_1134 (1)During my blogging hiatus of being still for over a month, the atmosphere around our home was anything but still.

For quite some time, overcast skies of gray ruled the days.  Rain, causing flash floods (thankfully, none near us), moved in and seemed to unpack its bags and make our area its permanent home.

Violent storms of wind, lightning, and thunder raged overhead and a couple of times hail was the result. Crazy weather, that’s what we kept saying.

Long ago during my stint as a journalist, a kind, older lady was employed as the newspaper’s librarian. When things got dicey around the newsroom and chaos threatened to seize the day, that sweet Southern lady would remark, “My, we are having a time!”

She wouldn’t qualify whether that time was good or bad, it was just a “time.” I always liked her outlook on life.

Well, it certainly seemed like nature was “having a time” while I took a break from writing in this blog.

This week in my Be Still series, I’m featuring some photos I captured during my blogging hiatus. Often during the crazy weather pattern we were stuck in, that librarian’s favorite saying came to my mind: “My, we are having a time!”

The photo above depicts a piece of hail that my granddaughter brought into the house to show me how large and jagged it was after one of those storms subsided. The hail stone is sitting on the counter next to a tablespoon, not a teaspoon.

Fortunately for us, our vehicles were safely stashed away in the garage. Something to be thankful for.

But as wild and destructive as those hail storms can be, I’m reminded that they are only temporary. Just like all the storms in life. They rage, they often create havoc and damage, but then they pass.

No storm lasts forever. Another aspect of life for which to be thankful.

“Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary storm. No matter how raging the billows are today, remind yourself: This too shall pass.” ~ T.D. Jakes

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Time to be still

blogIMG_5629 (2)The creativity grindstone has come to a halt. I just can’t seem to squeeze out any creative juice. This Mama/Nana has been busy of late and yet stuck in the mundane mud.

My imagination has gone on hiatus. My inspiration to write is sadly missing…again.  I can’t quite put my finger on the cause, whether it be too much else to do, feeling weary and tired, or just a lack of motivation. Or maybe it’s just the dreary weather.

But I find myself sitting in front of the keyboard and drawing a blank.

I know there are words, ideas, and images up there somewhere in the expanse of my brain that seems cluttered with other thoughts right now. So I think I need a blogging break.

I need some time to think. I need some time to just be…well, not chained to the keyboard desperately attempting to put some coherent thoughts together into meaningful sentences.

So, I’m taking a bit of a break. I’ll be back after I just sit still awhile.

“Stillness is where creativity and solutions are found.” ~ Meister Eckhart

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Bird feeder thoughts

blogIMG_7673

A bit fuzzy because photo was taken through a window screen.

I’m not much of a cook. Oh, I can prepare an edible meal well enough. But cooking just doesn’t stir up happiness in my pot of life.

In other words, I just do not enjoy cooking. And probably because I don’t like to cook, I’m not a very creative cook either. Because I don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen preparing food and delivering a meal to the dinner table, I do what I call “assembling” a meal.  The simpler, the better.

Since I’m not a “foodie,” I also really don’t care much about the meals I eat. Just so they’re for the most part healthy and edible is enough for me. Some folks live to eat; I eat to live.

And that about sums it up.

Last weekend, Papa and I attended one of those home expo shows in our area. We weren’t in the market for home remodeling, or new windows, siding, water proofing, gutters, or much of all the other services displayed at the show booths.

Mostly, we attended for an afternoon out and to see a model train display that was also set up and running in the venue where the home show was located.

While strolling through the displays, we did stop briefly at a booth giving information on a meal home delivery service that is advertised often. I had heard of this particular company but didn’t know much about it. So I politely listened to the salesperson’s spiel about the freshness of the meal kits “Delivered right to your door!” for a fee.

I can understand why some folks would be attracted to such a service, but neither Papa nor I are interested in the idea, the money it would cost, and the fact that some of the meal selections just didn’t look that tasty to us.

So when the salesperson tried to pressure us into signing up for an “introductory” subscription and asking us what would keep us from using the service, we thanked him for his time and declared, “No, thank you” and moved on.

The experience came back to my mind yesterday morning while I sat at our kitchen table eating my breakfast, which of course, didn’t come in a kit and I had to prepare it for myself. While I ate and thought, I also observed birds eating their breakfast too.

We’ve had a small bird feeder suspended from a tree close to our back yard deck for many years now, but I can’t see it from our kitchen windows very well. Likewise, a suet holder hangs from a front yard tree and because of its location, I don’t always observe my fine-feathered friends there either.

So a couple of months ago, we purchased a larger, wooden bird feeder and a hanger that attaches to our deck railing. Thus, the new bird seed holder is in full view from the windows in our kitchen eat-in nook and enables us to watch birds come and go while we eat our meals.

Yesterday, while munching away on my breakfast and sipping my cup of hot tea, I observed a variety of birds visit the feeder for their treats.

Mr. Red, a brightly colored Cardinal gobbled up some seeds.  Goldie, a gorgeous yellow American Goldfinch also grabbed a quick meal. Little wrens, sparrows, and chickadees stopped by the diner too until they were chased away by a bigger fellow, Brawny, a Brown-headed Cowbird.

As I watched them all enjoy their free meals provided by Papa and me, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to not worry about making meals, buying groceries, and spending money on food, but just get a free meal made and provided for you like these birds do?”

Just flit by the nearest feeding station and fill up your tummy. No muss, no fuss. No worries.

And just then this passage from God’s Word came to my mind: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” ~ Matthew 6:25-27

I then thought how foolish I am. Even though grocery shopping, preparing food, and cooking is a chore for me, God does provide all that I need. He gives me my daily bread. Instead of complaining about cooking and preparing meals to eat, I just need to express my thankfulness for God’s provisions.

My feathered friends outside my kitchen window reminded me of that.

 “I don’t feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them.” ~ Kathi Hutton

©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

Words for Wednesday: forcynthia

blogIMG_7647You read that title correctly. No, I did not make a typographical error there. I didn’t misspell the word forsythia, I truly meant to post forcynthia.

What in the world? you may ask.  As she nears that ripe age of 65 is she starting to lose her faculties? Or is it simply that the appearance of sunshine and spring-like weather addled her brain? Is she giddy with spring-time bliss?

To answer those questions: No, I don’t think I’m losing my almost-65-year-old mind. No, my brain isn’t addled…at least not yet. And maybe, yes, I could be giddy with spring-time bliss.

But the most accurate answer is there is a story behind the title of today’s post and I am going to share it with you.

In our yard there is one forsythia bush. It has been planted in the same spot for several years now – almost 10 this summer – and this is the year it has bloomed its best. The bush exists for one specific reason; it was a gift to me because of a childhood story I once shared with a friend.

I’ve always loved seeing forsythia bushes blooming their golden yellow, delicate, skinny petaled flowers clustered on tall spires in spring. Forsythia are so cheerful to view, even if some folks consider them invasive as they can grow quite large and can take over an area of landscaping.

But to me, they are special and I’m going to tell you why.

Unless you know me personally, you do not know that my given name is actually Cynthia. It’s right there, written on my birth certificate although the only person to call me by that name was my mother – when she was angry with me.

I’m more known for the nickname associated with Cynthia – Cindy.  But my birth name is Cynthia, a name derived from Greek, another name for Artemis, the mythological goddess of the moon. But even from my earliest memory, I knew my ‘real’ name was Cynthia and that I certainly was not a goddess.

As a youngster, every time I heard my parents discussing those bushes that appeared in spring with their bright sunshine-color blooms as forsythia, I honestly thought they were saying “for Cynthia.” So at some point in my childhood, I claimed those plants as my own. And when they bloomed, they were for me – for Cynthia.

I related this silly, little story once to a friend and it made her chuckle. But she remembered my tale. Not quite 10 years ago, my father passed away. The loss was difficult for me as he was the last remaining parent either my husband or I had. Losing Dad came right on the cusp of empty nest hood too, so my emotions were kind of a mess.

Imagine the joy it brought me when the friend gave me a gift to express her condolences at my father’s passing. The gift was a small forsythia bush which she spent a good deal of time searching for.

blogIMG_7640A gift to bless my heart. This Cynthia. This Cynthia who loves forsythia. This Cynthia who still thinks of this particular spring bloom as exclusively mine – my forcynthia.

And my forcynthia still blesses me each time I look at it, but especially in spring time. And that joy of remembering my parents, remembering that little girl who loved her parents so dearly and also her forcynthia stays with me.

Sometimes joy comes in yellow.

“Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Not a good replacement

two dinner plates on square brown wooden bar table

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

So very much has been written about it. Even research studies launched about the effects of it.

You can use it to acquire all kinds of knowledge. You can use it for leisure activities. You can use it to conduct business, purchase items, save an image, learn the latest news, you name it. And we have convinced ourselves we can’t be without it.

Ever.

It must be clutched in our hands. And our eyes must be fixated on it. It’s the cell phone and it’s infiltrated our lives to the point where it truly has become an addiction, as gripping as the strongest drug out there, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-technology. Technology is amazing. It can be life-saving; it has opened up new frontiers in so many fields of study. And it is good when it is used appropriately.

But just like everything else in this world, it depends on how you use it. Use it for the betterment of mankind? Great. Abuse it and go down dark alleyways that harm our fellow man? Terrible.

So how, you may ask, does the simple use of a cellphone do harm? We hear and read a lot about the breakdown of the family in our society. We see articles about the lack of communication even though we have the easiest form of interaction literally at our fingertips with texting on our cells and you can reach anyone anywhere on the cell phone.

Of course, there are a myriad of reasons why we are in this predicament in our society. Why families are falling apart. Why families don’t feel connected to one another even though they may live in the same house. Why we don’t interact verbally with one another in meaningful ways any more….or at all.

I don’t have the answers to these problems, but one thing is as clear to me as those photographic images I can take with my smart phone.

Those smart phones have made us not-so-smart.

Last week, I enjoyed a shopping trip with my daughter and granddaughter. We stopped for lunch at one of our favorite spots which happens to have an indoor play area for children. Of course, Little One wanted to play for a bit with another little girl who was there.

So I stayed at our table and minded the purses and jackets and sipped my unsweetened iced tea while Daughter and Little One entered the play area. I started doing what I usually do when I’m seated alone in a public place….I people watched.

And I got an eye full (although not what you may think) and the idea for this blog post. The restaurant wasn’t overly crowded yet as it usually is at lunchtime because we had decided to grab an early lunch. So in the area where our table was located and where I could view comfortably without turning around, there were approximately 15 people of all ages, including children and a couple of teens.

All of these folks were eating their lunches. None of them had laptops or briefcases with them, so I’m assuming none of them were taking “working lunches” especially at 11 am.

Looking straight ahead, I spied a person on her cell phone. Behind her a woman and two teens on their cells. Next to them, two more people, both on cells. At the next table, a man with eyes glued to his phone and earbuds in his ears. Next to him, a gray-haired couple…you guessed it… scrolling through their phones.

All of them – people of different ages – were so engrossed in their phones that they couldn’t be aware of anything happening around them.

Beside me, a family of four – husband, wife, and two children. The little girl looked to be about six years old or so and the boy probably was around nine or ten. Dad was on his phone while chomping away at his food. Mom too was captivated by her own cell. The boy, earbuds stuck in his ears,  had his cell propped up on the table watching a video. Only the little girl had no phone and she was chatting away….to herself.  All as they ate their lunch.

I wanted to yell, “Put away your darn phones and talk to your family!”

I shook my head to myself and thought no wonder families are falling apart, they don’t even talk to one another at lunch. They don’t pay attention to their kids because they are mesmerized by technology instead of communicating verbally with the human beings right there with them.

I glanced into the play area, waved to our Little One who was having fun playing hide and seek with the other little girl. But then I noticed another disturbing sight. My own daughter was sitting there, entranced in her cell.

What have we become? Humans with eyes only for our cell phones?? Since when is social media, videos, email, texting, whatever entices you to keep that phone in your hand and your eyes glued to its screen become more important than the people around you? The ones you love. The ones you should be spending time with, connecting, sharing, just talking over your day, your thoughts, your ideas. Enjoying the company of family and friends.

Out of those 15 or so people in my view, I saw two people (not including me) without a cell phone attached to their hands. Two human beings – a young man and a young woman probably in their late 20’s – were actually having a conversation. A real, live, face-to-face discussion over lunch. With no cell phones in sight.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

“Give the people in your life the gift of your presence by putting down your mobile device.” ~ Kate Northrup

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Here we go again

 

action activity balls day

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

It was a bit of a déjà vu or, at the very least, that feeling of coming around full circle.

On a sunny but cool Saturday morning this past weekend, Papa and I were settled in our folding camp-style chairs on the sidelines cheering a youngster on the soccer field just like we’ve done countless times before in the past.

But this time, Mama and Papa were gray-haired and years older. This time, we weren’t cheering our own youngsters running up and down the length of the playing field.  This time we were encouraging our four-year-old granddaughter during her very first ever soccer game.

Incredulously, our Little One began her first soccer season this spring, learning the sport that her own mommy loved and played continuously through her school years and into college.

Incredulously, our Little One looked so big with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and clad in her YMCA soccer shirt, shorts, shin guards, knee-high socks, and cleats, carrying her water bottle.  Where did the time go???

Wasn’t it just yesterday, she was a newborn baby and those feet now sporting soccer cleats were tiny little barefoot ones? Wasn’t it just yesterday she was learning to say “ba, ba, ball” instead of kicking around a bright pink soccer ball of her own?

And wasn’t it just yesterday this Mama was the one hauling her own children to sports practices, games, and meets? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a “soccer Mom”?  And a baseball Mom, a cross country Mom, a track Mom, a volleyball Mom, and a basketball Mom?

And now I’m a “soccer Nana”.  You blink and no longer are you parents of young athletes playing their favorite sports. Now you are doting grandparents reliving those days gone by as you watch the grands growing up.

Now in these empty nest years as grandparents, we’re smiling, cheering, clapping, and laughing while trying to capture moments with our cell phone cameras at the antics of four and five year olds as they attempt to maneuver the ball into the net. 

We have always jokingly called soccer at this level “bunch ball” as the players bunch around the ball trying to kick it. And bunch they did even if our Little One was a little hesitant to immerse herself into the fray.

She did make her mommy, Nana and PaPa proud as she managed to kick the ball (in the right direction too!) and jump back up without crying when she got knocked down.

As this empty nest Nana recalls sweet memories from years past of all of those activities of our own children when they were young, I’ll be eagerly making new ones with the grandchildren.

So for the next few weeks if you need me on a Saturday morning, you can find me on the sidelines of the soccer field. Here we go again!

“As I grew older I thought the best part of my life was over…then I was handed my first grandchild and realized the best part of my life had just begun.” ~ unknown

(Note: Neither my grandchild nor her teammates are depicted in the photo above. In order to protect their identities, I chose not to publish a photo of them, but use a stock photo from the WordPress free photo library instead.)

©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