Words for Wednesday: sorry, not sorry

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Social distancing in more ways than one

Believe it or not, I haven’t had much spare time to write posts for this blog.

Yes, we are sheltering in place at home, social and physical distancing, flattening the curve, etc., doing our part to help contain the virus that has most of the world in its grip.

And you would think by being at home and having nothing on the calendar except cancelled appointments, I would have ample opportunities to sit down at my desktop computer and compose. String words together to make sentences galore. Fill up the screen with my thoughts in written word.

Huh. Not happening. Why?

Because a five-year-old now lives with us for the duration of this crisis. And five-year-olds don’t allow for much peace, quiet, and alone time. Five year-olds go non-stop from the time they awaken in the morning (“Papa, Nana, it’s morning time, get up!”) to when they finally fall asleep at night (while you read countless stories over and over again).

On warmer, nicer days (and we haven’t had many so far this spring), we play outside and go for walks. But our indoor activities are chock full of made-up games of pretend, daily challenges (and she makes up the challenges!), doing workbook pages of letters, numbers, dot-to-dot, and kindergarten lessons (even though she won’t attend kindergarten until fall), coloring, painting, play-dough creating, Lego building, and games, games, games.

Our granddaughter LOVES games. And since we have played games she has here (Trouble, Sorry, Guess Who, Daniel Tiger Bingo, and Frozen Match Game) so many times, we resorted to our cache of games from our kids’ childhoods that were stored away in the basement. So Little One now has learned how to play Uno, Jenga, a card game called Waterworks, and even Battleship. And she’s caught on quickly.

She’s truly proved it might be genetic because we are a family that plays games every time we are all together. And you know what? Even though I’m tired (and so is Papa) from our 24/7 child care duty during this time, I am grateful.

I’m thankful that we are enjoying time with our granddaughter when so many grandparents can’t visit with theirs in person. I’m grateful that we can see and converse with all of our family, including our other two younger grandchildren, on a group FaceTime like we did just the other evening.

We had the best time talking, laughing, and just generally being silly with our entire immediate family all on our cell phones. And it warmed this Nana and Papa’s hearts to hear our three-year-old grandchild yell into the cell phone, “I want to see Nana and Papa!!”

Is it easy staying home? Not too difficult for us retired folks, but it does have challenges. Is it hard to be physically separated from our loved ones and friends? Yes, it is.  But we have phones and other ways to communicate. And I’m grateful for that.

Last month, I had planned to once again lead a ladies Bible study in my home. Well, obviously, that didn’t happen. So this week, I’m especially thankful for our computer guru son-in-law who gave instructions for this non-technical person on how to video conference online with my group and get our sessions started in the next few days.

I do feel sorry that we all have to endure this difficult time. I’m sorry that hardships have come our way. But I’m also not sorry because as we stay home, we must find reasons to feel gratitude. To express thankfulness. And we will.

I will leave you with words recently written by American retired teacher and chaplain Kitty O’Meara, that’s been making the rounds on the web. You may have already seen it, but I urge you to read it once more because you can find reasons that make this all worthwhile.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

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

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

On this thankful Tuesday

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

It’s Tuesday and it’s Holy Week for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. And because of the situation stretching all across the globe, we are struggling.

We struggle with knowing what news reports to believe when there seem to be so many conflicting stories on the airwaves and internet.

We struggle with emotions as we hear how many thousands of souls have perished and how many thousands are sick with this vile virus.

We struggle with moments of fear and maybe even panic wondering if/when the pandemic will hit our hometown and worse, our families and friends.

We struggle with self-isolating, physical distancing, being still, and decisions whether to wear masks or not.

We struggle with loneliness caused by orders to stay home, self-isolate, shelter in place, flatten the curve.

We struggle with selfishness and hoarding.

We struggle with job losses for some and worry over the health of those essential workers who must continue to work.

We struggle because instead of enjoying fellowship in our houses of worship with other believers, we sit in front of our computers alone listening to our pastors’ messages online.

In the last couple of weeks, we all have struggled and it looks like we will continue for some time before this crisis is over.

Personally, I’ve tried to stay positive while staying home. I try to encourage others through this blog, on social media, through text messages, FaceTime, and phone calls. But I too have struggled.

I’ve fought surrendering to a waterfall of tears as I witnessed our nurse daughter succumb to sadness and – to be perfectly honest – a bit of fear when forced by these circumstances to place her 5-year-old child with us, the grandparents, for the duration of this crisis.

blogseparationBecause her hospital has COVID-19 patients, our daughter chose to protect her child and us, her parents well over 60, because we are caregivers for our granddaughter while Daughter works. 

Our daughter is concerned that she might expose us and in order to protect us, she separated indefinitely from her child. Not something any loving mother ever envisions having to do willingly.

Watching my daughter shed tears as she held tightly to her child when she left for work that day was heart-wrenching. Little One knows there are “bad germs” out there making people very sick and her mommy must do her part to help care for them.

Daughter, a nurse for over 10 years now, has never been afraid to work in a hospital setting until now. But she believes she is called by God to do her job. To help those who need it most. To ease people’s suffering and give comfort and care.

I struggle watching her selflessness amidst a world with so many who are selfish. I don’t think I could be as self-sacrificing as my daughter is and I even struggle with that fact.

We all struggle throughout this time yet that is what life entails in the fallen world in which we live.

Struggle. And it is real. And it’s gut-wrenching. And it breaks our hearts.

Yet…it is Tuesday. It is Holy Week. And as I prepare my heart and mind to celebrate Resurrection Sunday this weekend, I also remember my Savior praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

God with us in human form, He too struggled with willingly suffering and dying on the cross in my place as the perfect atonement for sins.  (You can read this account in a copy of the Bible or even online in Matthew 26:36-42 and Mark 14:32-36.)

Jesus knows exactly how we struggle. He experienced it himself.  Luke 22:44 tells me that as Jesus prayed in that garden, knowing what He would face in the days to come,  “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

So I run to Him, my Savior who understands all my emotions and anguish, and I place all of my struggles, worries, and cares in His capable hands. In doing so, I will not struggle to find aspects of life for which to be thankful. There is much for which to be grateful even now. 

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to all the amazing healthcare workers sacrificing their own health and safety for those who need them most. I am thankful for each one of them.

My Thankful Tuesday is dedicated to the gifted and motivated medical researchers working so diligently for treatments and vaccines. I am grateful for them.

My thankfulness extends as well to all the essential workers who place their own safety on the line for the sake of others, for us.  Those grocery store, pharmacy, and banking workers, the truck drivers who haul supplies from one end of the country to another, to the countless and often forgotten cleaning people at hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.

You are all heroes in my eyes and I pray that God keeps you safe and well. I am thankful for each and every one of you.

I am thankful that even though my daughter and my grandchild are physically separated during this time, they can see and talk to one another through technology –  FaceTime.

I’m also thankful for something as simple as the glass in our front storm door. Daughter can come to our house, sit outside on our front porch on one side of the physical barrier while our granddaughter is on the inside of the door. They smile at one another, they talk, they even play made-up pretend games, and they laugh.

It makes all of our hearts glad and thankful.

It is Thankful Tuesday of Holy Week and I will not struggle to express gratitude this week nor in the weeks beyond.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” ~ Epictetus

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Throwback Thursday: while we wait

blogDSCN6837Almost 10 years ago, I started this Mama’s Empty Nest blog. Since then some aspects of life have changed and some have not. I’ve decided to share throw-back posts from the earlier years of this blog every now and then. Sort of a walk down memory lane.

Today’s post is a Thursday throwback to that year – 2010 – just a month after I initiated this blog.  My hope today is that these words offer encouragement to my readers as we wait for this difficult and trying time to end.  

Have you ever felt like you are just hung out to dry? Like you have no more stamina than a wet shirt hanging limply on a clothesline?

You’ve been tossed and twisted by life like dirty laundry agitating in a washing machine.  Thrown abruptly into a clothes basket with all the other soggy ones. 

Hauled out cold, wrinkled and rumpled, hung up by your shirt tails, and now you just hang there — waiting.

Laundry hanging on a clothesline must be unsightly to some people. I’ve read about some being fined for hanging wet, clean laundry outside because it is illegal in their neighborhoods. Sounds ludicrous to those of us who live in the country and have the freedom to air our clean laundry outside.

Freshly washed clothes suspended on a clothesline, slowly weaving and waving back and forth in the summer breeze like a playful child enjoying a swing, is a happy sight to me.  Crisp white sheets flapping their wings like angels as they float and flit through flurries of air remind me of pleasant memories.

In my childhood days, when my mother would ask me to help hang laundry on the clothesline, I could hardly wait for the washer to finish its last spin cycle.  I admired how Mom lined up the clothes in certain order.

One’s clothesline had to look proper back then, and Mom taught me the correct way to position clothes on the line – small items gradually moving to larger, whites all together, darks on the back line. To this day, I hear my mother’s instructions when I meander out to my back yard clothesline.

Today was a perfect day for hanging out laundry. The temperature was warm, the breeze was airy, and the sun was shining brightly. White clothes especially yearn to be hung outside to dry. There’s nothing like the sun to make your whites whiter than white.  No detergent or bleach, improved or not, can compete with brilliant sunshine.

As always, hanging out laundry elicits not just sweet memories of my mother, but a sweet fragrance as well. I enjoy taking laundry down from the clothesline as much as I enjoy hanging them up with clothespins.

Clothes dried outside in the sun and fresh air have the cleanest aroma ever. That scent invigorates me and that’s probably why I’m an easy mark for any air freshener, candle, or diffuser that boasts clean linen or fresh linen as its name.

Today, I got to inhale a whiff of the real thing. And I loved it. I wonder why more people don’t hang laundry outside to dry. You would think in this age of “clean and green” people would take advantage of this way to save energy. I imagine it comes down to not having time, or more likely, not wanting to wait.

We humans don’t relish waiting for anything. We are spoiled by instant gratification in everything we do. Computers, modern day appliances, ready to heat and eat meals, drive-through restaurants, banks, even pharmacies, ATMs and online services,  everything we need delivered ASAP.  Why wait?

So let’s face it – hanging clothes outside on a clothesline forces you to wait. Sometimes it takes all day for the clothes to dry and if you just popped them into your dryer, they would be ready to wear in no time.

For most of us, waiting is just plain difficult. I’ve encountered my fair share of waiting.  There’s nothing as nerve-wracking as waiting for medical test results when you fear the worst. I experienced that situation five (now almost 15) years ago waiting for biopsy results. While I found the waiting extremely difficult, even painful, I also found peace while I waited.

Cancer surgery was performed and I waited again to recover;  radiation treatments followed and I waited some more. More tests, another biopsy required more waiting.   Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, even the treatable kind, you feel like you live in waiting mode for the next doctor’s appointment, the next test, the next cancer-free milestone.

Years before,  my mother whom I loved so deeply faced her own daunting trial –incurable cancer. After exhausting treatments and much prayer, there was nothing left to do but wait for the inevitable – her journey home to Jesus. That wait was excruciating.

As a believer in Jesus Christ,  I turned to the book of Psalms for comfort during both times. God speaks to us about waiting in so many passages of His guidebook for life. 

King David wrote “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I put my hope” in Psalm 130:5.  Likewise in Psalm 27:14, he said, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” 

Psalm 40 is yet another prayer for help when you are faced with trials and waiting is overwhelming.  Often we just need to wait on God’s timing or instructions. While we are waiting, He can teach us abundantly. While we are waiting, we can still serve Him and worship Him.

In the quietness of waiting, I personally have felt the most connected to my Savior. Even though results weren’t what I desired, He gave me strength to face my trials. I realized my need to rely on Him, depend on Him, trust in Him, relinquish it all to Him, and live for Him. 

And I learned that while I waited.

My husband’s favorite passage of scripture is from Isaiah 40:31 ~ “Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.  They shall run and not grow weary.  They shall walk and not faint.”

I think waiting on God’s timing does strengthen us, even when we’re vulnerable and weak. Sometimes while we wait, He is silent but He’s always there.  You can sense His sweet, clean fragrance wafting over you. And the good news is He’s coming again!  We just need to…….wait.

“So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” ~ Hebrews 9:28

I believe God never leaves us hanging out to dry.  Do you? 

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

We are waiting. But it is for good reason. And while we wait, let’s hang on to hope. Stay safe, dear readers, and have patience to wait and think of others. Check on your loved ones, neighbors, and friends. And pray.

“When our waiting is intentional, when it signifies surrender to a better plan, a better timeline, a higher calling, then we are waiting with purpose.” ~ Mark & Jill Herringshaw, from “When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Wait.” 

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

On a thankful Tuesday

blogIMG_1453What if?

What if instead of complaining about one more day of social distancing, self-isolation, or being quarantined, we found something to be grateful for…just for the day.

Each day.

I bet our attitudes would improve. I bet we would face the day looking for and finding that some thing, that one thing, on that one day which causes us to feel thankful.

I’ll start. Today.

I’ll call it Thankful Tuesday. I know, that’s not a very original title but spending each day and night with our five-year-old granddaughter during this time, I’m stuck on simple.

Besides, simplicity is often the best choice.

So today, even though I personally have been keeping my distance from others by staying at home with Papa and our grandchild, taking secluded walks in an outside area where few people go (there are definite advantages to living in the country), or taking a short drive and not getting out of the car, I am thankful.

I am thankful that we recently received a gloriously sunny and warm day to enjoy outside of the house  in the fresh air. And I’m grateful that our forsythia (that perky yellow-flowered bush which, when I was a child, I believed were just for me – ‘for cynthias’) was filled with blossoms.

Little One and I snipped some of those happy spring blooms off and arranged them in a vase for our kitchen counter.

Such a small thing. A simple thing. But something for which to be thankful on this Tuesday. And each time I look at these, my heart is full of gratitude even during these difficult times.

“Begin each day with a grateful heart.” ~ unknown

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Throwback Thursday: stop fishing

blogIMG_3009Almost 10 years ago, I started this Mama’s Empty Nest blog. Since then some aspects of life have changed and some have not. I’ve decided to share throw-back posts from the earlier years of this blog every now and then. Sort of a walk down memory lane.

Today’s post is a Thursday throwback to the year 2011. Back in January of that year, I wrote this post and today, I think it can still offer encouragement to my readers as we “shelter in place and flatten the curve.” 

Patience is not always my strong suit. It’s a virtue that I’ve tried hard to develop over the years and I think I’ve succeeded somewhat.

When that overwhelming urge wells up in me to complain over the slowness of the checkout line, or the traffic ahead of me, I’ve learned to squelch it. I silently ask myself what’s my big hurry? Is waiting five more minutes going to make that much of a difference? The answer is usually no.

But when I’m forced to wait for answers to the big deals in my life, I admit it isn’t so easy. Currently, I’m in waiting mode. My jet plane is flying in a holding pattern, just circling the landing strip, waiting for the signal that all is well, proceed to land. And it’s not easy.

I heard a snippet of information today that made an impact on my way of thinking.   Corrie ten Boom survived the heinous Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and wrote the book, The Hiding Place.  She once commented that God cast our sins into the depths of the ocean and then posted a sign that read “No Fishing Allowed.”

I liked the visual picture her words painted for me. And it prompted me to take this picture and apply it to my current holding pattern. I think we can cast our anxieties into the depths of the ocean just like God throws our sin into the deep.

If God is majestic enough to take care of the tiniest piece of plankton or the smallest sea creature in that ocean, He can handle any problem I encounter. He has the power to control the tides of the vast seas and if He is mighty enough to do that, He is powerful enough to wash my worries and concerns out to sea with the waves He commands.

But here’s where I must do my part. Once I cast my cares on Him, into the ocean of His love and sovereignty, I need to stop fishing them back out. Today on this 18th page of Chapter One in my new book of Opportunity, I need to put down my fishing pole, pick up my Bible and wait for God’s perfect timing.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6-8 (New International Version)  ©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be encouraged, dear readers, and cast your anxieties on God. He cares for each one of us.

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”  ~ Charles Spurgeon

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When home is the safest place to be

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Can’t get too much more social distancing than this!

My first thought as I write this post sitting at my desktop computer in our home office while I practice social distancing is to ask you, all of my readers, how are you doing during these crazy times of the corona virus (COVID-19) crisis?

Are you well? Are you staying at home to protect yourselves and others? Do you have enough food and necessary supplies?

I pray daily for all of us. And I want you all to know that if you have prayer concerns, please leave those in the comment space below and I will pray for you and your family.

My second thought as I write is this is not the kind of post I want to write, so I’m determined that I will try my hardest to continue to post only encouraging, uplifting thoughts to offer bright spots of hope during this difficult time in our world after this.

Papa and I just returned last Wednesday, March 18, from a trip out west. It was not a trip taken without some trepidation and careful thought. We had this trip planned some time ago. Airline tickets purchased, hotel and car rental reservations made. Our daughter too was taking a stay-cation from work to be with her child, our granddaughter, who we provide child care for, just so Papa and I could go.

We flew to Arizona on March 9 with supplies of anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer in our bags. We tried not to touch areas at the airport before departure, washed our hands often, wiped down our seats, and practiced social distancing by sitting in an empty gate area away from people as we waited to board our flight.

Once on the plane, we disinfected the arms of our seats, serving trays, seat belts, lights and air valves above us, and we were relieved to see the flight was nowhere full. We had our row to ourselves, just the two of us.

Our itinerary was to drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff, stay the night there, and depart the next morning for the Grand Canyon. We accomplished that part of our trip and I will write more about our Grand Canyon experience later.

Next on our schedule was to drive to my sister and brother-in-law’s home in southwestern Arizona. Once we arrived there, the four of us hunkered down a bit due to rain (a full day of steady rain was abnormal for there) and my sister experiencing some back pain.

Since we had visited them two years ago, we really had seen most of the interesting sights in their area, so it wasn’t that difficult to just spend our days visiting and talking with our loved ones in their beautiful home.

We did manage some ATV riding out into the desert, a Sunday afternoon drive to view something we hadn’t seen before, walks in the nearly deserted neighborhood, and just soaking up sunshine outdoors by the swimming pool.

But for the most part, we truly did practice social distancing even though we weren’t that aware of the fact that we should. We chose not to watch TV news because we didn’t want to surrender to the panic that seemed to flood the airwaves and we had very limited access to the internet. Looking back, I count that all as a good thing.

Our concern arose as we neared our departure to fly home. Would our flight be cancelled? Was it safe to fly in a plane full of people? What about exposing ourselves at the airports (both the departure and arrival – fortunately we had a direct flight)? Should we just keep our rental car and drive all the way back home over 2000 miles?

Concern ran high, especially with our grown children, who texted and called us often to check on us.  We prayed a lot for wisdom, guidance, and peace.  The day before our flight, we drove the three hours or so from our dear ones’ home to Phoenix, stayed the night in a mostly empty hotel, and the next morning waited for our flight back home.

Again we sat far away from others, used caution in what we touched, washed hands, sanitized seating areas, etc., and did the best we could. Again our flight was not completely full so Papa and I were seated by ourselves.

blogIMG_1412Everyone on board seemed to be wiping down surfaces and the flight attendants collected all of our now contaminated wipes in garbage bags immediately. We were only served drinking water in pull-top cans, no cups, no ice, and were also given some packaged snacks.

We arrived ahead of time at our destination in our city’s airport, deserted more than I have ever seen it before. I texted our daughter to wait in the cell-phone parking area outside the airport until we collected our luggage at baggage claim and stepped outdoors. We texted her then, she pulled up, we loaded our bags into her vehicle, and we headed for home.

Were we completely safe? Only time will tell. But I know one thing for certain. I have never been so glad to get home, sweet home in my entire life. Since then, we are continuing to practice social distancing as I hope you are.

My greatest concern is now not for myself. It’s for my sister and brother-in-law who are  nearing 80 and not in the best health. My sister has several autoimmune diseases and I pray that she and my brother-in-law stay safe from this pandemic.

But I also pray daily for our daughter, a hospital nurse, and all of our healthcare workers.  Just yesterday, she learned there is a patient with a confirmed COVID-19 case in her hospital. We have already put an action plan into place – our granddaughter will stay with us until this crisis is over – because our daughter worries that she may bring the virus home to her child or to us.

I urge you, if you are a person of faith, please pray as well for those on the front lines of dealing with this new and unknown virus. They are selfless and are putting not only their selves at risk but also their families. 

I have to ask would we do the same for them? We can. By staying put in our homes, not going out to public places, and not socializing face to face.  Instead if you’re able, go outdoors where there aren’t any folks; take a drive in your car but stay in your car; take a walk around your house but keep your distance from your neighbor.

I’ve read often times that God told us 365 times in the Bible (that’s once a day for an entire year) to “fear not.”  I take those words of my God to heart. We will trust in the Lord of all to protect us, but we also will use the good sense He gave us to continue to practice good hygiene, eat healthful food, and stay home.

I pray you all do the same, even if you aren’t ill and don’t think you’ve been exposed. Think of others before yourself.

Be safe, my friends. Stay home, shelter in place, and be well.  Staying home is the safest place for us all right now.

This is my last word on this subject I hope. Come back to Mama’s Empty Nest for words of encouragement, hope, and some light in the darkness. I will try my best to provide it.

“No matter who you are or where you are, instinct tells you to go home.” ~ Laura Marney

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: tools

blogIMG_9246Tools, technology, or both.

I captured this photo of Papa (my husband) surveying an entire wall full of hand tools. The display was one of the many exhibits we viewed at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation last fall on our trip to Michigan. I found the quote from the late Steve Jobs written above the display interesting.

Papa gazed at this exhibit for a long time because Papa is a tool man. He likes tools. He likes to own tools. He likes to tinker with tools. He like to repair, replace, replenish, or build things with his hands while they hold some useful tool for doing so.  

Papa also uses technology. He uses it as a tool, sometimes to search online for help in using his handheld tools, sometimes to find suggestions for solving a problem with one of his tools.

But technology can’t and doesn’t replace utilizing our hands to wield a tool to get a job accomplished. There’s a time and place to use good old-fashioned tools and there’s a time and place to use technology.

What would happen if we abandoned using real tools for virtual ones? What might take place if we use our hands only for technology?

“If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright, architect

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Turning rocks into gems

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It’s just an ugly old rock or is it?

Inspiration.

For me, it often appears in a visual form. Words do inspire me, which is why I keep an ever-bulging, tattered, old notebook full of quotations that “speak” to me.

But images. Oh, those sights my eyes behold, art work I may have the opportunity to view, photographs that I manage to coax out of my camera, they provide much of the spark that fires my thoughts and helps me put those thoughts into written words.

That was surely the case when we visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in our nearby city last month. Previously here in my blog, I shared some of my images and thoughts that fired up my brain when I entered the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems there.

The brilliant colors, the sparkle, the glimmer, and shimmer of those ‘rocks’ all lit up and displayed on ebony surfaces spoke to me without words.  Proof of that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

“These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of.” ~ George Eliot

Viewing the decent photos I managed to take – it was difficult to photograph items behind glass and I’m nowhere near a professional or even knowledgeable photographer – continues to provide creative thoughts in this cluttered brain of mine and I want to share them with you.

We can look at a rock and say, “Well, it’s just a rock.” But what is on the inside of that rock? When split open, what you find may totally amaze you. What looks cold and mundane on the outside may radiate warmth and a magnificent treasure on the inside.

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Display in Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The beauty of it reminds me that those rocks that exist under our feet, in mountains, in the deepest caverns, or elsewhere were all created by the God of the universe. The one God that can penetrate our own cold, stony hearts and fill it with light and love for His Son, a Savior, a Redeemer.

“Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts and let them light our path to love.” ~ Rumi

But even the beauty you may find on the inside of that cracked open rock can be further refined.  A number of processes cause a mineral or gem to form. Various conditions, forceful pressure, temperature changes all contribute to its formation.

Fracturing and friction produces another change into something much more precious and glittery – a gem stone. And that reminds me that we too can be polished up, our hearts made new. We can shine like the finest and most expensive gems in a jewelry store window when we give our lives to the One who loves us most.

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Gorgeous gems in the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems

But often it takes going through some rough places, some difficult experiences, some really hard times to become a beautiful gem.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man without trials.” ~ Confucius

And that reminds me of a passage of Scripture in the Bible. One of Jesus’ disciples named Peter wrote to his fellow Christians, praising God for salvation through Jesus Christ, for a living hope that believers can have despite frequent suffering and persecution.

His words are recorded in the New Testament in the book of 1 Peter, Chapter 1, verses 6-8:  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Out of difficult trials, as a believer in Christ you can still hold onto a gem of hope, a gem of light, a gem of joy, a gem of love. Aren’t those the most beautiful gems you may ever possess?

“Sometimes the darkest challenges, the most difficult lessons, hold the greatest gems of light.” ~ Barbara Marciniak

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

A perfect day

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The first perfect day in the city

A perfect day. How would you describe it?

For some, a perfect day would be one without any mistakes made in everything attempted.

For others, a perfect day would depend on the weather. Lots of snow in the right condition on a mountain for skiers and snowboarders. Lots of bright sunshine and a day on the sand and in the ocean for beach lovers.

Perhaps a perfect day would be a day without arguments, disappointments, and complaints.

Maybe your idea of a perfect day is a day off from work.

Still for some people, a perfect day is time spent with a loved one.

Perfect days are as variable as we as individuals are. We each have our ideas of what constitutes a perfect day.

In the throes of dreary days and cabin fever, I often find it difficult to claim “This was a perfect day.” But recently, I found myself thinking exactly that and I realized that perfect days don’t necessarily depend on whether the sun shines or not, whether I’m at a certain location or not, or even when conditions are right or not.

Perfect days come from my attitude.

Two of those perfect days occurred when we ventured into our nearby city. The first happened when we left our empty nest home in a snow flurry and spent an entire day at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art.

We had a great time together viewing all the exhibits and just enjoying each other’s company while experiencing something different than our usual schedules and routines. When we left the museum, I felt encouraged and invigorated and then astonished to find a beautiful blue sky overhead with warmer temperatures than we had before.

A perfect day!

The second such day came when we accompanied our daughter and granddaughter to the Children’s Museum. After a full day of watching our granddaughter’s eyes light up with excitement and interest in everything she experienced there, we departed from the building to find chilly temperatures and view overcast, gray skies.

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The second perfect day in the city

But still, despite the weather, it was a perfect day!

What made the difference? How I viewed each day – with gratitude for the time we spent together regardless of whether the sun shined or not. Gray skies or blue. Warm or cold. A day of life. A day with loved ones. A day of thanksgiving for life.

“Today is a day of completion; I give thanks for this perfect day, miracle shall follow miracle and wonders shall never cease.”  ~ Florence Scovel Shinn

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Maybe dinosaurs, but not fossils

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Dinosaur exhibit @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

I’ve been unplugged. When I do take time to perch in front of my keyboard lately, I find I have nothing to write. Easier than forcing myself to drum up writing inspiration, I just unplug instead.

Maybe, I mused, I’ve contracted cabin fever and dreary weather causes me to be so uninspired. It seems to be a cyclical thing with me as well, often occurring in February.  

I could blame my lack of creativity and motivation to write during this month because of that doggone lack of sunshine we have in my neck of the woods.

Even though we’ve experienced a mild winter (so far), overcast days on end with little to no sunshine takes its toll on me as does the fact that January lasts soooooooo long and daylight is so short. As usual, when February finally arrives, I do find myself infected with a full-blown case of cabin fever. 

At the beginning of this month,  Papa and I were relaxing in the family room one evening. While he flipped through Amazon Prime and Netflix trying to find something worthwhile to watch, I alternated between reading a library book and an inane color by number app on my iPad.

Suddenly, I thought “Enough! We are so predictable and this is becoming much too much of a regular routine!” So I looked at Papa and said, “We need to get out of here. We need to go somewhere, do something, to get me out of these winter doldrums.”

Of course, Papa works part-time so for several hours a week, he does get out. But Nana keeps the home fires burning in this country ‘cabin’ of ours and in between bouts of cleaning out clutter and babysitting Little One, Nana’s been antsy to get out of the house.

“Okay,” Papa replied, “where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”

Well, there’s the problem. I didn’t have any good ideas. We are scheduled to take a week-long excursion this spring, so my attention has been on making those plans with Papa. But where to go nearby now? What to do? I was stymied.

At this point, you need to know the back story. Born and raised in this area where we now live, this was my home until I went off to college. So I’ve seen just about every site within driving distance, in our nearby city, and in this part of the state that’s worth visiting.

But Papa, he grew up in our capital city several hours away and we spent almost half of our married life residing in other states here in the USA.  And even though we’ve lived in this house for 20 years now, there are still some sightseeing spots in this area he hasn’t visited yet.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art in Pittsburgh is one of those places. Since my husband is quite the history aficionado, he’s always wanted to visit this museum. And it’s been more years than I care to recall since I visited the museum as a youngster.

Several times in the past, we’ve discussed attending the Carnegie but would relegate it to one of those “we’ll visit it in the winter time when it’s better to be indoors” kind of places. Well, what better time than a winter day during a snow squall?

So we headed to the city one morning to spend an entire day at the museum, arriving shortly after it opened and leaving almost at closing time. Papa enjoyed a hey-day since he was in his element. This Nana got just the stimulation and photo ops she needed to light a little spark under my inertia.  

Particularly fascinating to me were the National Geographic: 50 Greatest Wildlife Photographs exhibition (amazing!!); the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, which displays more than 1,300 minerals and gems from all over the world; and the Wertz Gallery, where some of the minerals have been fashioned into beautiful gemstones and jewelry.

That breathtaking gallery includes close to 500 gems, crystals, and pieces of jewelry displayed in glass cases in a mirrored room. The spectacle of it just boggles your mind and seems maze-like. Trying to capture photographs and gazing at the astonishing beauty of the gallery truly was exquisite.

And of course, one of the most famous exhibitions of the Carnegie (one that I remember so very well from my childhood) is Dinosaurs in their Time, a remarkable collection of original fossils and actual dinosaur skeletons found out west.

When I was a kid, the dinosaur collection was merely erected bones and fossils displayed, but the exhibition now is remarkable, depicting those creatures in replicas of what their natural habitat might have been like. So much more intriguing.

But that wasn’t the only intriguing aspect. As we wandered through that exhibition viewing the displays, a pleasant elderly man, leaning on his cane, tapped my arm and asked if we had a minute to spare.

We stopped, nodded our heads, and listened to him tell us most interesting facts about the displays. We enjoyed listening to the gentleman, an enthusiastic museum volunteer, share his knowledge.

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The knowledgeable museum volunteer

My curiosity aroused, I questioned him about how he became a volunteer and knew so much about the fossils and dinosaur displays, wondering if he was a retired professor or researcher.

He then shared how he had worked in research of a different kind in his working career,  retired in the 1980’s, and promptly became bored with retirement. So he decided to volunteer at the museum and has been doing so for the last 30-some years.  

His eyes sparkled as he recounted his story and he ended it this way with a huge smile on his face: “It’s fun!” What a great attitude he had!

A day at the museum with my husband. It truly was fun. It was fun to get out of the house. It was fun to shake off my case of cabin fever.

And it reminded me that at our age, especially now in these retirement years, we may be dinosaurs, but we don’t have to be fossils. Papa and I will continue to seek out new experiences (even if they’re new, old experiences), learn new things, and most importantly, have fun together.

“Retirement is when having a good time is your only job.” ~ unknown

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com