Be still…and bloom

blogIMG_8587 (2)The key to a well-lived life, I think, is to find blessings among the hard stuff. That’s one of the many thoughts I pondered over when I stopped writing and I’m sharing now in my Be Still series.

My favorite passage of scripture in the Bible is found in the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, Verses 16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

That passage encourages me to always find something to be thankful for, no matter what circumstances befall. When the rainy weather just didn’t want to cease and desist last month but instead hunkered down for the long haul, I found myself complaining a bit.

And then I remembered my favorite scripture and it caused me to change my perspective. 

I’m a sunny outlook kind of person. When the sun shines, so do I. When it’s bright and beautiful outside with sunshine, I’m on top of the world. Happy. Content. Motivated to accomplish whatever tasks are set before me.

But days of perpetual dreariness wear me down and definitely affect my mood, motivation, and morale.

However, instead of painting the long mask of weariness on my face, due to the rainy weather that hovered over us for so long, and spewing complaints from my mouth, I chose to find snippets of joy in my soggy world.

Aspects existing in my water-logged surroundings that gave me reason to smile. To count as a blessing. To give thanks to God even through the persistent rain and storms.

Today, I’m sharing one of those joyful moments with you via this photo.  

Because of all the rain, our yard stayed verdantly green, our garden started producing plenty for our table, and our flowers remained brilliantly colorful and lush since they didn’t lack water.

Our rain collection barrel which we use in summer to water the flower and vegetable gardens was always full and we didn’t have to tap into it.

As our flowers bloomed during my time of just being still, so did my joy and so did my hope. And that reminded me of another verse in God’s Word that I love: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” found in Romans 12:12.

For some, the constant rain was an affliction, but without the rain, the flowers would have withered up and died. So I’m thankful for the rain as much as I’m thankful for the sun.

Both provide me with hope. And hope fills me with joy.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~ Lady Bird Johnson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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This girl

blogAustralian travelerThis girl.

This girl I once carried in the hidden space inside my own body.

This girl made me a mother for the very first time, just a few minutes before Mother’s Day.

This girl, who seemed a shy, quiet child, possessed an adventurous spirit inside that reserved façade just waiting to soar.  

This girl discovered her wanderlust in high school on her first adventure to France.

This girl journeyed by herself to Africa, much to the worry of her parents.

This girl’s faith in God and her caring soul prodded her to minister to the unfortunate in Honduras more times than I can count.

This girl captured the heart of another adventurer and married him.

This girl, whose dream it has been to travel the world and see new sights, pursues that dream alongside her husband.

This girl experienced mountain top lifetime thrills at Mt. Kilimanjaro’s summit and at Peru’s Machu Picchu.

This girl has visited more countries on this earth than I can remember and has stepped foot on every continent except Asia and Antarctica.

This girl is my beloved oldest daughter.

This girl is celebrating a birthday.

And this girl amazes me.

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.” ~ Lewis Carroll

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Bird feeder thoughts

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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

 

Words for Wednesday: Be Found

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If you are a seasoned Christian, you know this story, but you may need to be reminded of it. If you don’t call yourself a believer in Christ, this story is for you.

Jesus, the Messiah, the very Son of God, lived and walked on this earth in human form. As He traveled teaching those who would listen about His Father in heaven, he often told parables (simple stories He used to illustrate a spiritual lesson).  Those stories can be found in the Holy Bible in what is called the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

One of those parables is about the lost sheep as found in Luke 15:3-7 – Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

What does it mean? The message is simple. God seeks us out when we are lost in sin. His heart wants us to be found, to be rescued, to be renewed. And the only way to do that is through accepting the gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, the very One sent to earth to die for all of our sins on that ol’ rugged cross.

We need a loving, personal Savior. We need to understand how very much God deeply loves us. How valuable we are to Him. And that He will go to the ends of the earth – far and wide – just to bring us back home to Him like the shepherd who searches for the one lost sheep out of 99.

And when the lost is found and returned to the fold, there is rejoicing.

That’s why Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd. He came to seek the lost. Maybe that is you. No matter what kind of life you have led, He longs to gather you into His arms and rejoice over you. You just have to let Him find you.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” ~ Augustine

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Throwback Thursday: you’ve got mail

blogDSCN0557My good blogging buddy, Dianna over at These Days of Mine posted yesterday about old-fashioned handwritten letters and notes and issued a challenge for readers to hand write a letter or note to someone each week.  Click here to read her thoughts.

In this age of smart phones, tablets, and laptops, I’m still a handwriting person. I hand write grocery lists. I hand write notes. I hand write recipes. I hand write my “to do” lists. And occasionally, I still hand write letters.

So accepting her challenge is right up my alley. It also prompted me to thinking about how much I love getting a handwritten letter in my own mail box and inspired me to share one of my old posts about finding mail (but not the bills!) in my actual mailbox.

So today is a “Throwback Thursday” post I wrote nine years ago back in 2010.

Mail delights me.

I’m not talking email, but good old fashioned letters sealed in envelopes, letter or business size; addressed to me; adorned with one of a myriad of stamp designs; and delivered to my mail box at the end of my driveway by my faithful mail delivery person.

As long as I can remember, getting mail has been a significant aspect of my day.  I have always been enchanted by receiving mail and Christmas time, when my mailbox gets stuffed with cards from friends near and far, sends me into sheer bliss.  I actually fight with my family over who gets to open the Christmas cards each day, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I want to be first!

Getting mail is a ritual of my day that I don’t like to miss, whether it’s stopping by my mailbox on my way home from the office or walking up my long, gravel driveway on my day off to retrieve the mail.  Want to make me giddy with glee?  Send me mail!

Where did this quirky facet of my personality come from?  How did receiving mail become such a priority in my life?   

I’m not certain, but I can remember as a very young child asking my parents every day if there was any mail for me.  Sadly, the answer was always no until one miraculous day.   I can honestly recall the very first time I ever received mail addressed only to my 4-year-old self.

That day was a day like no other; it was a day when the universe seemed to acknowledge that I existed.  It was such a monumental occasion that I still remember – even now –  the feeling I encountered when my mom uttered the magical words, “You’ve got mail!”

A captivating communiqué just for me! Charming correspondence addressed to me!  Exciting epistle delivered to me!  It was a phenomenal moment.

The envelope was large and my name and address were written on it in strong, sure handwriting that looked familiar – distinguished handwriting that I would discern and recognize as I got older. 

On the right hand corner of the envelope was a 3-cent stamp.   (Yep, it only cost three cents to send a letter back then.)  Inside that envelope was a comical greeting card with a crazy cartoon cat. The card was a Valentine and it was signed, “Love, Your Daddy.”

Yes, I had an amazing father, whom I loved and cherished, and he made me feel very special.  And that very first piece of mail he sent to me was, and still is, a treasure.  Over 50 (now 60!) years later, I still possess that piece of mail, envelope and all, preserved in my memento box.

What makes me disheartened today is that people don’t send mail like they did in the past.  Letters and cards don’t magically arrive in my mailbox on a daily basis.   Instead there are unwanted advertisements, unsolicited requests for monetary contributions for causes or political campaigns, bills (there’s always lots of those), an occasional catalog.

The crusade to perform all your communication electronically seems to have won the day for most people.  So tell me, what will a little girl save in her memory box? Will she really remember that one time her daddy sent her an email or text message?

As often happens, my mind turns to spiritual thoughts as I write this.  Wouldn’t it be amazing, I think, to get mail from God?

You open your mail box to discover a brilliantly luminous envelope addressed in your name written in exquisite gold filigree lettering.  Turning the envelope over, you get a whiff of the most fragrant sealing wax on the back, embossed with “I  AM.”

You carefully slit open the envelope to find the most beautifully textured, translucent piece of vellum your hands have ever touched.   Unfolding it, your eyes fall upon these words, “My Dearest Daughter (or Son) …”

You can’t wait to behold what this magnificent missive, this lustrous letter has to impart to you.   Eagerly you continue reading, “I have known you and loved you even before I created you.  Why do you think I have never ‘sent’ you anything before this letter?  I sent you my love and faithfulness (Psalm 57:3).  I sent you my one and only Son,  Jesus Christ, so you may have eternal life. (John 3:16)  I sent you the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to teach you all things and remind you of everything Jesus said. (John 14:26)  And I have sent you my living and holy Word to read for understanding and guidance.  Dear beloved one, I send you ‘mail’ every day.   All you have to do is have faith, believe in me, communicate with me in prayer, and look for my daily mail.   Love beyond measure, Your Eternal Father God.”

You’ve got mail.  All you have to do is open up your mailbox (your Bible) and accept it.

“All a good letter has to do is make you feel special.” ~ unknown 

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Empty nest Christmas Eve

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It’s true that Mama’s Empty Nest will be empty this Christmas. My loved ones are flung far and wide.

Oldest daughter and son-in-law embarked on yet another adventurous excursion in another part of the world over the holidays.

Middle daughter must take care of the ill and infirm during her hospital shift as a nurse while Little One visits her other grandparents in another state.

Son, daughter-in-law, and Second Little One are celebrating with DIL’s family this year in yet another state.

So it’s just Papa and me keeping the home fires burning and the Christmas lights on.

But I refuse to be sad because this is a holiday to celebrate my Savior’s birth. Hence the poem I’ve written below.  (With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, the author of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the empty nest 

Not a creature was stirring, there wasn’t one guest. 

Two lonely stockings hung by the chimney with care,

With no hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled elsewhere all snug in their beds;

While visions of their own Christmases danced in their heads;

And Papa in his pjs, and Mama not stressed, 

Had just settled in the bedroom for a good night’s rest.

When out on the lawn there wasn’t a sound,

But I decided to see just what was around.

Away to the window I walked so slowly,

And opened the blinds to look out and see.

The moon shined brightly like any other night,

But there was absolutely nothing, nowhere in sight.

No extra cars in the driveway, no human tracks in the snow,

There was only a deer darting through the yard below.

It wasn’t a reindeer but the usual kind,

And Christmases past began running through my mind,

When the house was full of laughter and fun

And all our children were home, yes every single one.

More rapid than eagles the memories came,

And I smiled as I remembered and called them by name.

That Christmas time spent with our first little child,

How excited she became and was no longer mild.

Then the second one arrived and doubled the fun

When two stockings hung by the chimney instead of one.

Our Christmas holiday became even more merry

With another bundle of joy in our arms we did carry.

As the years flew by in the snow bank of my mind

I thought how our family has been blessed oh so kind.

Three children God gave us to make our lives full

How I cherished each one of them every single Yule.

As I recalled special moments from all of those years

My eyes started filling with melancholy tears.

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

There’s no reason for sadness, no reason to bawl.

The blessings are many this cold Christmas night,

And I must keep them all clearly in my sight.

A husband who always stays by my side,

Whose love and support does constantly abide.

Three wonderful children who’ve grown up so well,

Their love and concern for me makes my heart swell.

And spouses for them that make our family complete;

The time spent with them all is truly a treat.

Included in the circle two sweet granddaughters dear

Who call me their Nana and make my heart cheer.

To add to the blessings in quite an array,

Is a new little life that will join us in May.

A family so loving, good friends far and near,

My home, good food, there’s no need to be drear.

Plentiful blessings abound in my life,

On this eve before Christmas, there’s no need for strife.

For the most wonderful gift has been given to me,

And it didn’t come from Santa nor was placed ‘neath the tree.

A gift full of indescribable love so divine

It came from a good Father, a gift to call mine.

For tomorrow we celebrate Christmas, it’s true,

And the reason we do so I must keep in my view.

My house may be empty of loved ones this year,

But my heart is overflowing with joy so sincere.

The reason for the season, it’s Jesus, my King,

And because of His love for me, it makes my heart sing.

On this night so holy, one to revere,

A Savior was born; at midnight it’s clear,

Christmas Day will arrive here in our empty nest,

But sadness will not prevail, instead I am blessed.

I will celebrate my Savior, let joy fill my heart,

Even though most of my loved ones and I are apart.

So I’ve put an end to my empty nest woe,

Christmas memories come and Christmas memories go.

But what is important is the joy we can find

When we look to a Savior and leave sadness behind.

The message is simple, no matter what your day brings,

Giving thanks for the Savior is what makes your joy ring.

On this quiet Christmas Eve, these thoughts my insight,

Merry CHRISTmas to all and to all a good night!

On Christmas Eve, I will not wallow in my empty nest. Instead I will sing Joy to the World, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and the First Noel

And I will give thanks to God the Father for His precious gift to us, His Son Jesus. Emmanuel. God With Us.

“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father’s face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift.” -John R. Rice

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Dare to stand out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 mamasempynest.wordpress.com

 

Harvest of plenty

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We grew pumpkins for the first time this year.  Granddaughter enjoyed going into the garden with Papa to watch their progress as they grew and slowly changed from green to that familiar orange we associate with harvest time. 

She especially was tickled to see her name emerge on one of the chosen pumpkins. Years ago when our own three were children, dear friends of ours always had a back yard garden. The year they planted pumpkins, they invited us over to their home to show us a “magical” trick.

They helped each one of our children choose their own not nearly ripe pumpkin. Then our friends instructed our kiddos to scratch their names into the green pumpkins with a nail. 

When it came time for harvest, we sifted through the pumpkin vines finding those bright orange orbs ready to be turned into jack-o-lanterns. But the magic had happened! What a surprise!

It was easy for our children to find their own pumpkins again because each one of them found their name very visible and noticeable right on the pumpkin where the previous scratching had formed brown scars.

We showed this “magic” trick to our granddaughter this year. How delighted she was to find her pumpkin with her name boldly engraved on it.

Sometimes the harvest is plentiful in other ways than just physically.  During my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m remembering that and pausing to give thanks.

“A basic law: the more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Heated thankfulness

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

There was a time in my life when my body temperature ran way too hot. Without being too specific to scare away any males reading this post, I bet you can imagine the times I’m referring to. Even in the dead of winter with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit or below, I would be in the throes of a hot flash.

I vividly remember stepping out onto the front porch several winter nights dressed in a lightweight summer nightgown after awakening with the feeling that I was going to spontaneously combust. Snow covered the ground yet you could find me standing on the porch just trying to chill out.

Back then, having heated seats in an automobile sounded like torture. Why on earth would I ever need such a thing? When Papa and I considered purchasing a new vehicle, I remember telling him that heated seats were an extra component we could do without. I surely didn’t need heat in my seat because I could provide my own heat and I would be the primary driver of that new vehicle.

Flash forward a few years. Happily for me and all those around me, my hot flashes were relegated to the past. Again, it was time to shop for a new car and the particular one we liked the most came with heated seats.

Papa and I agreed to purchase that specific car, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t imagine ever using that feature because cold temperatures really didn’t bother me. Plus we park our vehicles in our attached garage, so they aren’t often sitting outside in the cold, wintry weather we get in our neck of the woods.

But one blustery winter day, our car had been parked outside for several hours. It was freezing and the wind chill blew right through me as if it would cause my blood to thicken and my bones to rattle when I walked to the car. It was that kind of a day when the wintry air has a real bite to it.

I climbed in the car, shivering even in my heavy winter coat and gloves. In a hurry, I flicked on the switch to the heated seats and within seconds, warmth radiated through the car seat and settled into my back.

Ah, that warmth was such a relief. I never dreamed I’d be grateful for heated seats but they are such a blessing on a blustery day. On my 12th day of my 30 Days of Thanks Giving, I’m so grateful for something that seems so trivial, yet it’s worth a mention of thanks.

“I find that the more willing I am to be grateful for the small things in life, the bigger stuff just seems to show up from unexpected sources, and I am constantly looking forward to each day with all the surprises that keep coming my way!” ~ Louise L. Hay

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com