Correcting blurred vision

blogIMG_3541 (2)Sidetracked.  Have you felt like that every once in awhile?  Happens to me fairly often. 

It reminds me of that old saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees.”  In the past, I’ve found myself so fixated on a problem that had arisen, that I didn’t stop to consider what impact, if any, it might have for the future.

Usually, the problem really isn’t something that will matter five or ten years from now or even 20.  Over the last few years, I’ve finally learned not to sweat the small stuff. 

Call it maturing, call it getting older, call it wisdom.  I don’t know what eventually caused me to realize that, but I’m ever so glad I learned to let go of trivial matters and consider what’s truly important for eternity.

A situation has been bothering me for some time now, soon it will be an entire year.  And I’ve still not muddled my way through it nor ended the feelings it provokes.  It’s time.  It’s past time.  Will it alter the future?  Yes.  But it’s something I have to learn to live with.

As always, I turn to prayer when problems surface.  I also usually ask friends who are steadfast prayer warriors to join me in praying over the issue. I just recently enlisted their aid once again when anger, frustration, worry, great concern, and hurt threatened to overwhelm me.  I’m thankful for the many friends who jumped on my prayer wagon to storm the gates of heaven.  

Some of my far-away friends sent me encouraging private messages on Facebook. Others texted me with words that proved to be exactly what I needed to hear and needed to focus on – words like, “It doesn’t get easier. You just have to live through it. You will get through this even when you think you can’t, you will. You are a strong woman of God and He is right by your side.”

See, sometimes my vision gets clouded.  Clouded by trouble.  Obscured by emotions.  Blurred by things I cannot change.  Veiled by worries.  Overshadowed by situations that cause me distress. Eclipsed by circumstances beyond my control.

And that’s when I must stop being sidetracked.  Stop letting the trees prevent me from seeing the forest.  Stop focusing on how I feel and instead turn my attention to all the many blessings I have for which to be thankful.

I am blessed that my friends help me remember that – they keep me on track. They help me see clearly and I’m so grateful that God provided these friends just for me.  

As always, I return again to a passage of Scripture that I’ve embraced and embedded in my heart and mind. 

And I like this translation of that passage in The Message: “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Some concerns, no matter how urgent or difficult they seem, should be left in God’s strong and capable hands. What I do, how I react, and what impact I make on others is what truly counts for what lies in the future – for eternity.

It’s a lesson I continue to be taught, to re-learn, to completely understand and absorb.  I’m hopeful that I will allow God to correct my blurred vision. In this new year of new beginnings, are you like me?  Does your vision need corrected? 

“Like steam from a cup of hot tea that fogs our glasses, false urgency of matters at hand blurs our vision to important things in the distance.” ~ Terri Guillemets

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Not just one word

blogIMG_6942Years before it became the trendy thing to do, I had a word. 

Now, everyone it seems, chooses a word for the upcoming year.  It’s a ‘one word’ movement.  Choose a word to hold onto, to embrace, to put into action throughout the New Year.  It’s kind of like a resolution yet not.

I worked for several years for a Christian non-profit organization and at year’s end, our executive director hosted a lovely Christmas party for staff and volunteers at her home.  Delicious food spread out on her festive table.  Laughter pealed throughout her living room as we exchanged white elephant gifts.  The joy of camaraderie filled our hearts.

But the activity I think we anticipated the most was getting ‘our word.’ 

Our director fervently prayed beforehand about which words she would write on slips of paper.  Every year the Lord gave her words that anyone would love to get – words like joy. But sometimes words like sparkle were included that would make us scratch our heads in bewilderment. Or sometimes a word like trust would even give us serious pause and a catch in our spirits.

We passed around a basket with the folded slips of paper (no peeking allowed) and each person pulled out one piece of paper and ‘chose’ a word in this way.  We didn’t think about it or carefully consider what word we’d like to have for the next year or select the words ourselves like everyone does now.  No, we were given the words in what seemed like a random way.

But the words were never random.  Instead those words came to fruition throughout the year and manifested themselves in some way.  The next year, we once again gathered at our director’s home and before we plucked new words out of that familiar basket, we each had the opportunity to share how last year’s word had revealed itself in our lives.

We shared a lot of laughter and tears as we told our year-long stories of our word.  I have to confess that often I hoped for what I thought would be an easy word but that usually did not come to pass.  My random words that didn’t prove random at all were things like growth and strength, and one particular year, I was given the word peace.

Most folks would be grateful for a word like peace.  Isn’t that what we all hope for?  A peaceful, serene year.  Sounds good, right? 

But as soon as I opened that folded piece of paper and read the word peace, I sensed that something big was coming my way.  Something so big that I would need extraordinary peace to get through it.  The kind of peace you just can’t summon up on your own.  The kind of peace that passes all understanding.  The kind of peace that only comes from relying and trusting Jesus as your Savior, Redeemer, and Friend.

And, call it what you will, intuition or spirit or God’s whispering in my ear, whatever I sensed that day did come to pass.  Halfway into that year, I received the kind of health diagnosis that puts fear into everyone’s thoughts. Both my parents had fought that dreaded disease and my mother had succumbed to its fierce attack several years earlier. 

Was I going to be its next victim?  My son was heading into his senior year of high school, one daughter was in college, and another was launching her career in her chosen field.  Even though they were grown, I felt that they needed me, my husband needed me, and my aging widowed father needed me.  Was I going to be around to see them through the next stages of life?

Preparing for surgery, total fear gripped my mind and heart.   Anxiety washed over me and I relinquished myself to near panic. But then, something happened to change that.  A small group of friends who loved and cared for me laid their hands upon me and prayed as I was anointed with oil. 

That’s when it happened. I could feel a huge hard as rock ball of turmoil and fear literally rising up within me making its way to my throat.  I felt the need to open my mouth and gasp out loud and honestly, it truly felt as if that horrible fear and apprehension physically left my body and mind in that instant.

In its place came a sudden calmness.  A sense of serenity.  Tranquility replaced terror.  I felt peace.  Total peace.  The peace that only comes from God.

I don’t know why the Lord spared me when so many others suffer horribly from one health condition or another, and to be honest, sometimes I struggle with that survival guilt.  But the reason is for God to know, not me.  All I know is that He granted me His complete and utter peace.  

My malady was detected in its early stages and I did not endure much pain or suffering.  For that I will always be grateful and give thanks to Him who heard and answered prayers on my behalf.

But I also give thanks still all these many years later for that one word – peace.  The word that was my word for that particular year.

That’s why I wrestle with choosing one word for myself in this trend of one word for the new year.  What word should I choose?  What word is truly the one that the Lord wants me to have?  What word do I NEED to have?

Receiving a word from the basket in my friend’s living room ended years ago and since then I’ve tried to choose my own one word.  I pondered and contemplated and prayed, yet no particular word would surface for me.  So I would randomly select a word I would like to choose like joy.  Or thankfulness.    

And like those New Year’s resolutions that eventually fade away, I’ve found those one words didn’t resonate with me like those ‘random’ ones chosen for me did.

So I don’t think I’ll be cherry-picking one word for this new year which lies before me.  I’ll just stick to doing what I do – choosing to live my life with purpose while serving my Lord and Savior.

“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”  ~ Jonathan Edwards

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Starting fresh

blogIMG_6948Words of wisdom for 2016, where can you find them? If you google New Year’s quotations, the following passage may appear on your computer screen. 

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” ~G.K. Chesterton

When I first came across this Chesterton quote, I squirreled it away in my tattered old quotation notebook for later use.  I expected that it would make a great accompaniment to a New Year’s post in this blog.

Which brings me to my reason for writing this.  That quotation turned out to have even more meaning for me than just a nice quote to add to today’s post because I discovered that a vital portion of that passage written by Chesterton (English writer, 1874-1936) was omitted. 

The rest of Chesterton’s passage reads: “Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards.  Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Chesterton was not only a prolific writer and profound thinker of his time, he was a Christian apologist.  His book, The Everlasting Man, was read by a young atheist and proved instrumental in that young man becoming a Christian.  Who was the atheist?  C.S. Lewis, famous author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Reading the passage in its entirety gave me pause to consider.  Everyone can identify with the point Chesterton makes about starting afresh.  Isn’t that what we attempt when the New Year rolls around?

We begin that brand new year with good intentions.  Perhaps we even make resolutions to [insert your to-do list here], supposedly to improve our health, well-being, stop bad habits, whatever.  

A new year is a new beginning.  But isn’t each and every day a new beginning?  Why don’t we start afresh every morning, not just on New Year’s Day?

Instead we tend to make promises (resolutions) we don’t or can’t or won’t keep.  We start off great guns adhering to our resolutions and then we slough off.  Most of the time we hang on to our old ways, our old baggage, our old vices…our old stuff.  And each day becomes just like the one before.

What if we did just one thing fresh by starting each day with God’s Word instead of trying to force ourselves to stick to our resolutions? 

What if we commenced that new beginning we’re given each day upon awakening by spending it with a Savior? 

Because that’s exactly what the last part of Chesterton’s passage tells us: “Unless a man be born again (accept the gift of salvation and belief in Jesus Christ – my words here), he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

So how do I choose to live each day afresh?  The answer for me is in God’s Word. 

The Apostle Paul wrote these words for the church in Ephesus and for us in Ephesians 5: 15-20: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Being careful how I live, making the most of every opportunity, giving thanks.  That’s what is important to me.

That’s what I want to bring into each new day in this New Year of 2016 instead of making resolutions I no doubt would break. How about you?

May it be so.

“What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.” — Vern McLellan

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

All things bright and beautiful

blogIMG_6932

All things bright and beautiful.  That’s my New Year’s wish for all of my readers here at Mama’s Empty Nest.  May you be blessed with a lovely 2016! 

“A happy New Year! Grant that I
May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I’ve played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year.”  ~Edgar Guest

 ©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

So long, 2015

blogIMG_5058 (2)

Best of 2015 – our first grandchild’s birth

New Year’s Eve.  For most people, it’s a time to look back over the departing year and look forward to the year arriving in a few hours.

Kind of like taking stock of your situation.  What were the high points of the year that you will never forget?  And if you’re like most of the human race, there were also low points that made an impact on your life too.

Looking back over 2015, I can honestly say it was one of the most wonderful years of my life and yet at the same time, it was the most difficult one as well.

The high point?  Oh, no question about that one.  It was the birth of our first grandchild.  She is our shining jewel, our delight, and she brings such joy, happiness, and laughter into this empty nest of ours.  Every time I look at her, overwhelming love swells up in my heart and overflows in a kind of bliss that I’d almost forgotten – that kind of love I felt when I held my own babies in my arms.

But in addition to the elation of becoming grandparents, this year brought great sorrow. A crisis affected us dramatically causing my emotions to fly all over the map from anger and hurt to disappointment and disgust and everywhere in between. 

The turmoil and pain caused by it affected our entire family.  Months later, Papa and I still don’t understand the person who caused it or why it happened and perhaps we never will. We simply are supporting and helping the wounded one recover and move on with life.

So 2015 proved to have a split personality – one ever so amazing and one so very dreadful – and will go down in the books as one of the best and worst years of my life.  I can’t say that I’m sorry to see it end and be banished to the history pages of existence.

Today I scanned over this year’s blog posts in order to find what I thought was perhaps my best post to re-share it with you.  In doing so, I realized that out of the 365 days of this year, I only published 83 posts (counting this one today) and many of those were just photographs. 

This year stole much from me – time, emotion, and even my writing – and I allowed it to do so.  Re-reading the posts I did write, I realized something profound. When I did write, the crisis we encountered proved to outweigh my joy.  No more.  With the Lord’s help, I am putting a stop to that. I intend to focus on what my Bible tells me – the joy of the Lord is my strength.

I am anticipating this New Year with hopeful outlook, with healing for my loved ones and myself, with joyful expectation.

I trust you are doing the same.  

“What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.” — Vern McLellan

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Just another silent night

moon_full_Hunters_1o0-29-2012_Randy_Miller_Anderson_IN

Ring around the moon – photo credit: Randy Miller

Just another silent night.

Darkness descended its cloaking curtain over the land.  All that seemed to shine across the landscape were the twinkling of Christmas lights gracing the outlines of homes and trees.

Just another silent night.

The roadway was fairly deserted with almost everyone already having arrived at their destination or tucked away in their beds for that long winter’s nap until the arrival of morning when revelry would begin again.

Just another silent night.

Strapped into our car seat belts, we all seemed in a daze from too much dinner and sweets and a day chock full of activity.  Perhaps there were visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, but I think not.

Just another silent night.

Baby, confined in her car seat and dressed in her jammies yet wide awake, proved quiet as well as we drove along without noise.

Just another silent night.

We pulled our vehicles into the parking lot and climbed out one by one and even our tones were hushed.  It was, after all, late at night.  Almost eleven p.m.

Just another silent night.

When suddenly, one of us spoke in an excited voice.  “Look! Look at the moon!”

We all craned our necks searching the darkened sky for that orb of light displayed on that silent of nights.

And the sight we witnessed brought “oohs” and “ahhs” as we observed the almost full moon with a large and distinct halo of light encircling it.

Just another silent night.

No, this wasn’t just another silent night.  There was something different in the air, even though it wasn’t the crisp, cold weather we are accustomed to.  This was a different night.

This was a night when we witnessed an unusual phenomena – that ring around the moon.

This was a night when we put all other activities and bedtime aside to make our way to our little country church.

This was a night when our family, all of us together for just a short time, traditionally attend a candlelight service from 11 p.m. to midnight.

This was no ordinary silent night.

This was THE silent night. The night we celebrate the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to this earth as a wee baby.  The night we hear the Good News read from the Bible.  The night we raise our voices in song singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

This was the night when we light the white Christ candle in the Advent wreath – the candle which provides light to each individual candle throughout the church building.

Yes, this was the night.

This was our silent night. 

As the clock hands turned to 12 o’clock, the old church bell pealed out through the silent night in joyful noise welcoming Christmas day.  With faces glowing from candlelight, we lifted praise and prayer to the Lord while singing that holy hymn – “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”

The silent, holy night when even the moon displayed splendor.

This was not just another silent night.

This was Christmas Eve.

“Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light…”  ~ Joseph Mohr

 

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com