Posted in Life, photography, reflections

Over the rainbow, a wonderful world

Storms in life…they come and sometimes often and close together.

Storms have never really frightened me. As a child, I often perched myself on our covered front porch to watch thunderstorms and lightning strikes until my mother, in a distressed voice, called me to quickly get back in the house.

I’ve been known to take walks in the rain. But I also have resorted to safety when thunder clouds rolled in, skies darkened menacingly, and threatening tornado warnings rang out.

Storms from weather patterns fascinate me, but the one thing that causes my heart to sing and puts a huge smile on my face is when suddenly after a storm, an amazing sight appears in the sky overhead – a rainbow.

What is it about a rainbow that just makes us feel good about the world? What is it about spying those colorful spectrums of light that makes my mind automatically begin singing words, written by E.Y. Harburg, who wrote all of the songs for the movie, The Wizard of Oz?

 “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

When that melody and those lyrics come to my mind, the Judy Garland version from that movie is not what plays in my head. Instead a version, including lyrics from “What a Wonderful World”, first made famous by Louis Armstrong, sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is my favorite. You can listen to it here.

Rainbows. They make us believe there is light and joy and happiness after a dismal  storm. God mentions rainbows in the Bible, His Holy Word, and the very first one appeared in the first book of Scripture (Genesis) when God sets a rainbow in the sky after the great flood as His promise not to destroy the wicked world again by water.

In other scriptures, the rainbow symbolizes God’s glory and power and the fact that He is a covenant-keeper. In other words, the rainbow demonstrates that His works and His ways are beautiful and good and that God is always with us, He will never forsake us.

That’s the kind of reassurance we need after storms of life batter and beat us down. And they will do so.  Just recalling this past year and the storms of the you know what remind us how detrimental and destructive it has been for so many of our brothers and sisters around the world.

“If you want to enjoy the rainbow, be prepared to endure the storm.” ~ Warren Wendel Wiersbe

But God gives us hope and reassurance that we can persevere.

These thoughts permeated my mind recently as Papa and I were driving back home after a visit to our oldest daughter and son-in-love who live in a different state.

For quite some time, they have been searching for a house to purchase and of course, what transpired in the last year put a halt to that. Daughter’s background is in medical research and amidst lock-downs, restrictions, and upheavals, what’s been happening has occupied the forefront of her mind.

But at last, the timing seemed right and a house to fit their preferences came on the market. When they were able to buy their very first home, Papa and were so happy and excited for them. We couldn’t wait to see their new place in person, so we traveled the seven hours or so to help them clean and prepare it for their move.  

And that’s when it happened. Rain fell as they showed us through their house, but then it stopped, and the sun appeared. We stepped outside onto their front porch so that Mama could snap a photo of them at their new place and we all could not help but see it — a rainbow. Not just a portion of one, but a complete, end-to-end rainbow, as if to say “dreams really do come true.”

But that rainbow meant so much more. It signified a promise that God is with our beloved daughter and son-in-love, that He provides for them, He blesses then, He gives them hope and beauty after a storm.

And He does that for us all – no matter who we are or where we live or what our circumstances may be. He’s there to help us weather life’s storms, its disappointments, and its difficulties when He ask Him for His help and we offer up a gift of gratitude and thanksgiving for His provision and for that wonderful world He gave us.

“Gratitude is the real treasure God wants us to find, because it isn’t the pot of gold but the rainbow that colors our world.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, life changes, reflections

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

 

 

Posted in Faith, Home, Life, nature, reflections

Dandelion thoughts

blogIMG_7831 (2)They are everywhere.

Dotting the expanse of our 2.25 acre yard with their sunny dispositions, there is a plethora of them. But they don’t stay long. 

For a few days their perky little blooms speckle our lawn breaking up the monotonous spread of grass green, but then they transform into wisps of white fluff seeds which the breezy wind lifts up into the air carrying them far and wide.

Yep, I’m writing about dandelions. If you live in the suburbs and desire a picture perfect plush lawn with no weeds, you eradicate them as best you can.  But when you live in the country like I do, these little bursts of sunshine yellow crop up everywhere.

And you know what? I like them. It actually makes my heart happy to sit on my front porch swing and view our bumper crop of dandelions (and we do have a bumper crop this year!). I think they are just…well…dandy.

Dandelions remind me of childhood. 

Of picking them and fashioning bouquets to take to my mother.

Of making dandelion chains to wear as necklaces, bracelets, or crowns.

Of plucking the white puffy seed balls left behind after they bloom and blowing gently on them while making wishes.

Of lying in the cool grassy cushion of the earth and watching those wisps float and flit against the blue sky of warm weather. 

So what some folks perceive as a weed, I think of as a sweet little reminder of days gone by and nostalgic thoughts. 

I recently read a quote that said “When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds or a thousand wishes.” (unknown source)

How true. It’s all in how we look at things, isn’t it? Do we only see what we consider to be annoying or negative or can we look beyond and see something pleasant and positive?

So dandelion thoughts can apply to life. When plans go awry, when troubles and trials come my way, those aspects of life can wear me down. Make me feel as useless as weeds appear to be. But doesn’t everything have a purpose? Even those trials we face in life?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”

So if a weed like a dandelion has an undiscovered  ‘virtue,’ then surely there exists an equally unrealized purpose for those hard times we encounter in life.

Difficult circumstances cause me to grow in my faith and actually compel me to become a stronger person. If life was simple and easy and always turning out exactly the way I wanted, from where would I gather any strength? I’d be as delicate as those dandelion seeds floating in the wind, tossed here and there without any direction.

So I will glance out my window or perch on my porch swing and give thanks to the Lord, Creator of all things, for dandelions and also for dandelion thoughts. And just maybe I’ll grow like a weed. 

“Be a weed! A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” ~ Doug Larson

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Posted in Faith, reflections, Weekly Photo Challenge

Reflections

 

 

Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?” ― Bill Watterson (author/artist of Calvin & Hobbes)

Sometimes I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, not a puddle, and wonder “who is that anyway?” I don’t spend much time primping and looking at my likeness because I’m a bare minimum person when it comes to makeup and hair. A little dab here, a touch of color on the cheeks, some gel or mousse worked into the hair to keep those curls bouncy – the ones that sprung up in middle age (where did they come from?) – and away I go.

But when I really peer into the looking glass, I almost don’t recognize myself. Where did that young girl with the straight, long hair parted in the middle and the thin freckled face disappear to? I still feel like her inside but the outside tells me she’s gone and this rounder, paler, older version has replaced her.

That’s what it’s like to reach middle age – this downslide to 60. One day you’re a teenager, the next the cashier at Ross Dress for Less is asking if you qualify for a senior citizen discount.   One day you’re a frazzled, way too busy young mother with three tots in tow, the next you’re wandering around an empty nest house trying to decide whether you should clean today (not that it needs it) or just sit in your comfy chair in the family room and read that stack of library books waiting for you on the coffee table.

This transformation gives you pause. It sounds so cliché but really, how did all of those years zoom by so quickly? But mostly, at least I find it so, reaching this point in life offers you time for reflection and not just the kind you catch when you glance at a mirror.

Reflection. At my age, that word triggers my mind to recall lyrics to a song from the 60’s made popular by Diana Ross and The Supremes:

Through the mirror of my mind

Time after time,

I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of the way life used to be

It’s true, I do reflect often about the way life used to be. Maybe it’s just the realization that I’ve lived the majority of my life already that prompts this introspective mood. Maybe it’s just that empty nest thing. Maybe it’s just that since both my parents and my in-laws passed away, Papa and I are in the older generation now. Or maybe it’s just that I actually have the time, the solitude, and the quietness to reflect. Whatever it is, I find myself doing so often.

So when I received notification that this week’s photo challenge was reflection, I realized I had both the photos and the thoughts roaming around in my head to represent this word. Now before you think I’m going to turn all gloomy and morose longing for things of my past or whining about my present as an empty nester, let me assure you I’m not. But, I do think you have to reflect on what’s past in order to figure out where you want to go in the future.

blogIMG_1424Sometimes rainy days give me pause for reflection which is why I chose this photo of reflections on my deck one stormy day. But more often, I am just as reflective on sunny days which is why I published the picture above. For the most part, that photo represents my reflective moods – they are interesting, have different facets to them, and attract my attention.

I don’t think of the past with sadness; instead, I remember it with joy and anticipate the future in the same way. Life is entirely different for me now then it was when I was that idealistic, young girl dreaming of her future.   But this life I’ve been given, all stages of it, has been fulfilling because my past, present, and future are linked to three aspects: faith, hope, and love.

For me, faith, hope, and love come from believing in and knowing a Savior. Because of that, I strive to reflect them in my actions, my speech, and my writing. Hopefully, it’s His reflection others see when they look at me.

And I attempt to inspire others to reflect on Him.  When you look in your mirror of life, does faith hold you up no matter the circumstances? Does hope carry you through? Does love fill your heart?

What I’ve learned through my times of reflection is this: you may try to hold tightly to your past or only live in the present here and now, but one thing is certain. A future awaits. While none of us knows what the future may bring, I do know one thing – someday, I’ll see everything clearly without a mirror and I won’t need to pause in reflection.  

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com