Be still…then move on

blogIMG_8715 (2)

Fresh strawberries from our own patch

One of the delightful aspects of country life is that we have plenty of room for gardens on our 2.25 acres.  Flower gardens surround the perimeter of our house with quite an assortment of perennials. A garden of blueberry bushes provides a bounty of berries every year at this time.

And a vegetable garden, which Papa plants and tends each spring and summer, graces our back yard. He provides the hard labor, I get to help harvest, and we both enjoy the abundance of fresh produce right from our plot of land.

During my blogging break of just being still, our garden provided good food for my stomach (as evidenced in my photos here) while my mind produced good thoughts for writing once more.

This year, Papa’s new strawberry plants, placed in the soil last year, produced delicious berries. Often we just ate them straight from the garden; other times we topped a breakfast waffle with them. Scrumptious with a spritz of whipped cream.

Our early peas were, by far, the sweetest and tastiest peas we’ve ever eaten, so Papa made note of what kind of seeds he planted so we can try them again next year.

blogIMG_8573 (2)

Fresh peas from our own garden

Unfortunately, that plot of ground supplying our garden goodies attracts wildlife to our salad bar, so every year, Papa must erect some fencing around it to keep out the marauding deer.

But the rabbits easily burrow under the fence so we’re fighting them off as best we can. Those green beans, cucumber, tomato, and pumpkin plants prove just too tempting for the critters but we’re attempting to beat them to the goodies.

During my blogging sojourn, I truly relished watching our garden grow, thankful for the rain and sunshine that nourished it, and for the goodies that in turn nourish us.

We not only need food for our bodies, we need food for our souls and that’s just what I accomplished during my writing break.

Today is the last in my series of “Be Still” posts. Just as I moved on from my blogging hiatus and once again plunked myself down at the keyboard with more words to express, I’m moving forward with more posts on a variety of subjects as inspiration comes.

I do hope you will visit and revisit my blog as I continue writing my garden of words here in this virtual world just like Papa and I visit and revisit our garden in the real world.

“I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.”
–   Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Advertisements

Be still…and celebrate life

blogIMG_8582Even though I enjoyed my season of being still and absent from the blogging world, it wasn’t always quiet in my surroundings.

Early this summer, we experienced a sound resonating from the wooded areas, and eventually the trees in our own yard, that lasted all day long for about six weeks or so.

After a 17-year-long absence (now, that’s a long break!!), the song of the cicadas echoed through the air.  Some folks call them locusts but after researching a bit, I found that locusts and cicadas are not really the same critter.

If you’re unfamiliar with these creatures, the Magicicada periodical cicadas, who live in my neck of the words, are a particular kind of insect that stay underground and emerge from their subterranean homes after a long period of time (17 years in our case).

They climb up trees to begin their venture into adulthood and their singing is a prelude to their mating. And sing they do, on and on until you become so accustomed to the continuous din, it becomes like white noise.

Once the cicadas develop their wings, they begin flying through the air. My daughter can attest to that as she felt like she was being dive-bombed by some while mowing her yard one day.

Granddaughter related this tale to me by saying a big bug attacked her mom.

“Oh,” I asked, “was it a locust?”

“No, Nana,” she replied, “It’s not a locust.  I have to remember….”

She paused and thought awhile and then her face lit up with cognizance. “It was a CI-CAAAA-DA!”

This ol’ Nana, who has experienced the songs of the cicadas a few times in her lifetime, was schooled by a four-year-old with proper terminology.

For your viewing enjoyment, I’ve posted a photo of a cicada hanging around on our front porch and for your listening pleasure, click here to hear the song of the cicadas.

I guess we could imagine that the cicadas are celebrating when they sing their incessant songs. Celebrating life. What better thing to celebrate?

“The cicadas, as if they were wired on the same circuit, suddenly filled the garden with a loud burst of celebration.” ~ Peter Carey

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Be still…shine on

blogIMG_7920 (2)When conditions were favorable – cool and without rain – I did some moon gazing during my blogging break of just being still.

Some nights the moon seemed so very iridescent, a shining orb in the night sky – large and seeming near to the earth.  Yet some nights only a quarter of it was apparent like I captured in the photo above and its brilliance wasn’t as noticeable.

Yet the moon shined on.

Often when I look up into the dark expanse of night sky and spy the moon there, an old lullaby comes to my mind. I don’t know who taught it to me but I suspect it was either my mother or my maternal grandmother.

All I know is that it has been in my memory bank for as long as I can remember and it’s a song I used to croon to my own children when they were babies and I rocked them to sleep.

I see the moon, the moon sees me
Shining through the leaves of the old oak tree
Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the one I love.

Over the mountain, over the sea,
Back where my heart is longing to be
Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the one I love.

I often sing that song in my mind when my eyes behold the moon in its brilliance. And I think how that same moon shines down on the ones I love, even those who live so far away from me.

During my blogging break, it was no different, but other thoughts crossed my mind as well. Knowing the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing was nearing, I thought back to that time, all those years ago.

When man first landed and walked on the moon, I was 15 years old. I truly was fascinated by it all. I remember planting myself in front of the one television set we owned situated in our living room and watching with my parents while that momentous event unfolded on our black and white TV screen.

I spent hours cutting out newspaper and magazine clippings about the moon landing and pasting them in my scrapbook. It seemed so incredible. Such an exciting thing to witness in my lifetime.

In the years since then when I gaze upon the moon, I think about those astronauts first stepping onto it. What courage they seemed to have. What adventurers they were.

And I think of their footprints still embedded on the surface of the moon these many years later. Signs that they were there, that they made their mark, that their endeavors will be remembered. A legacy they left for all of mankind.

I’m not famous like the astronauts. I’ve not accomplished something noteworthy that will be inscribed in any history books. Most likely, after I pass from this earth, only my family and perhaps a handful of others will even remember me, and most likely, generations to come will only remember my name, if that.

But what I do here in my time of life on this planet called Earth still matters. How I love my family matters. How I treat my friends and strangers alike still matters. What I write in this blog matters. Because if one person is encouraged by what I say, or do, or write, I’ve made my mark.

Just as surely as those astronauts who have gone to somewhere no man had gone before.

The moon will continue to shine on those who come after me. I can only hope what I do shines on as well.

“We all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun…” ~ John Lennon

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Be still…in sweet fellowship

blogIMG_7896 (2)All too soon it seemed, 12 weeks of Bible study in my home, with a dozen or so other ladies, ended during my sojourn of being still (taking a break from blogging).

We learned plenty about practicing contentment during our time together studying God’s Word, but we discovered a good bit about each other as well.  Some of the ladies I knew well, some fairly well, and one was a newcomer to our church.

I opened each session with what’s called an “icebreaker question.” Sometimes it was serious, sometimes not. Each participant took her turn at answering the question and many times, we found ourselves laughing heartily.

Other times, we shared things from the heart. Gratefulness swelled within me as I realized that each lady felt safe in sharing, trusting each other with some of the hard things we encounter in life, encouraging one another, and feeling welcome in the group.

Each week after the conclusion of our sessions, we lingered for a while in fellowship, chatting while partaking of tasty snacks – sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, sometimes healthy, sometimes not.

After our last session, we planned an ice cream sundae party. Two gals brought ice cream (some homemade) and the rest of us provided different toppings. And then these lovely ladies surprised me with a thank you gift and the fun cupcakes pictured above.

To say we grew closer to one another was the absolute truth. We formed a bond of friendship and sisterhood in Christ during those 12 weeks of study and sweet fellowship, and it seemed we were reluctant to end our time together.

And so, I’m working on a new study to commence in the fall. And I’m guessing that most, if not all, of those dear ladies will appear at my door once again ready to dive into God’s Word.  

My time of being still proved fruitful for my spiritual life and I’m so thankful for the fellowship of this dear group of women.

“The fellowship of true friends who can hear you out, share your joys, help carry your burdens, and correctly counsel you is priceless.” ~ Ezra Taft Benson

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…button your lip

blogIMG_5179One of life’s lessons I learned in middle age was that I needed to choose to be content with my circumstances and it was one of those lessons I felt led to share with other women during my blogging break of just being still.

I wrote in yesterday’s post how I finally listened and obeyed the nudge that God was giving me to lead a women’s Bible study in my home. The topic I chose for us to study was learning how to be content. Not an easy task in this world where we compare everyone to ourselves.

“I wish I was thin like she is.”

“Oh, why can’t I be successful or have a perfect life like her?”

“If only this or that hadn’t happened to me, I’d be so much happier.”

“A bigger house, car, bank account, etc. would make me feel content.”

I imagine every woman may have had those thoughts at one time or other in her life and maybe even voiced them out loud.

One sure-fire way we show our discontent is by complaining.

“That cashier was so slow scanning my purchases at the grocery store today, it took up too much of my time!”

“This weather stinks, why does it have to rain so much (or be so hot, or be too cold)?

“My husband never puts his dirty socks in the hamper and I’m sick of it!”

“Just once I wish my kids would do what I tell them!”

We open our mouths and all that comes out are complaints about everything. Nothing suits us. Nothing satisfies us. And that’s one of the issues we worked on during our Bible study sessions.

We found that God’s Word admonishes us to be careful about the words that come out of our mouths. And we learned that the Apostle Paul gave us the secret to contentment in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can everything through him who gives me strength.” (New International Version)

It doesn’t mean we fake it. It doesn’t mean we act like nothing’s wrong when something is very wrong. But it does mean we find balance.

We realize life on earth will never be perfect but God promises to get us through the hard stuff. Our part is to pray, trust Him, and give sacrifices of thanksgiving to Him for what He’s helping us through in life, no matter what.

We choose our attitudes.

We choose to give our anxieties to God. We choose to pray specifically. We choose to be thankful. We choose to dwell on the positive. And we choose not to complain.

Every week, I offered practical ways to apply what we learned to our lives and used some kind of concrete example to help us remember what we talked about during our studies.

To help curb our complaining attitudes, I encouraged each woman to take a button home to remind her to button her lip every time she was tempted to complain.

I found I had to use that button more times than not myself. I changed my outlook from dwelling on the negative to choosing to find something for which to be thankful.

Sometimes, the teacher learns just as much if not more than the student.  Just one of the aspects of life I was reminded of during my time of being still.

“Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, the other saw stars.” ~ Dale Carnegie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Be still…and listen

blogIMG_7855You might think it would add stress to my life, but the exact opposite occurred.

My month-long blogging hiatus coincided with a commitment I previously had made – leading a women’s Bible study in my home for 12 weeks. Instead of pressuring me, it contributed to the peace I felt while taking some time to just be still.

Two things I accomplished while leading the Bible study: one was listening to God’s voice urging me to do something for Him and the second was being obedient to that nudging He gave me. And I believe that is why God truly blessed my time even while I was attempting to just be still.

I led the study because one Sunday morning while in worship at our church, my pastor’s words penetrated my heart like an arrow finding its bulls-eye. He said, “If God is telling you to do something and you say you can’t, it’s because you won’t.”

For over a year at least, thoughts had swirled around in my mind and God kept tugging on my heart to once again lead a Bible study. Many years ago, I had led studies in my home and also at a church we once attended.

But busyness and life interrupted and the studies came to a halt. Yet, the idea swirled around in my thoughts and crossed my mind occasionally.  And when it managed to bob onto the surface of my busy river of life, I ignored those thoughts.

I told myself I didn’t have time to devote to preparing and leading a study. I came up with every kind of excuse I could summon for why I couldn’t do so and relegated the idea to the back burner where it could just sit and stew.

And stew it did until it finally boiled over and got my complete attention. My pastor’s words proved to be the impetus. That very Sunday morning after worship service, I told my pastor I would hold a Bible study in my home.

To make it a little easier on myself and my time, I dusted off a study, which I had prepared over a decade ago for use in another church, about learning to be content.  

But even though, each session was already prepared, I needed to tweak it here and there. I needed to re-read the Bible passages I’d used and study them once again.

I revisited some of the reference books from which I had gleaned information. And I added new thoughts God provided for me.

Sometimes I studied and prepared in the mornings for that weekly Bible study with a lovely group of ladies, but often I found myself sitting in my easy chair, feet propped up on the matching ottoman, in our family room in early evening with my open Bible and my session plans.

Temperatures were fairly cool for summer weather, so several times the French door leading to our back yard deck would be open to the pleasant air.

And I would find as I studied God’s Word and made notes on the session outlines, my eyes would drift off to the open door as I pondered. And I would catch a glimpse of those spectacular sunsets God provides right in my own back yard.

One evening I captured the photo you see above.

And that photo reminded me of a quote that accompanies this post about leading the Bible study group and sunsets as well.

My hope is that while I was being still, I was still doing some work for God.

 If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…there’s a rainbow

blogIMG_7887Even though literal storms surrounded me during my blogging hiatus of just being still, internally I found myself so very peaceful.

I found that even though I was stuck in a writer’s block and couldn’t find words to put into sentences, it didn’t cause me stress like not being able to write usually does. I think I truly needed that long break away and I’m grateful I had the good sense to do so.

I also purposefully gave myself a short break from social media as well and that also helped me feel at peace. Honestly, reading the stuff posted on those sites stir up feelings of unrest and anger, so rationing that was beneficial for my soul as well.

I gave myself permission to not worry about accomplishing much on my ever growing to-do list and that was refreshing.  I’m a make a list, cross each item off as I go type of person so for once, it was nice not to have a list compelling me to be busy.

I enjoyed my free time in so many ways. I found myself picking up my camera once more not just in search of blogging material but because I found something interesting to capture by photo.

I relished time with family and friends. I wandered through a local library finding stacks of books to read.

I even binge watched a series on Netflix with my husband that I normally would not have been interested in watching. And that was about the only thing I did watch on the television as I’m not much of a TV viewer anyway because most of it is just trash.

I like my peace and quiet. When noise and chaos bombard me, I just can’t think.

So my blogging break plus my semi-fast from social media provided that tranquility and serenity I longed for.

Slowing down gave me the opportunity to notice aspects in life that I may have missed if I was chained to my computer squeezing out blog posts. A “take time to stop and smell the roses” kind of thing, if you will.

So while others were complaining about the rainy weather and commiserating over the lack of summer temperatures (which I did not miss as I don’t enjoy summer heat and humidity), I was happy and content.

I chose to look up rather than look down. I chose to look around and enjoy my surroundings.

And one evening as the rain finally subsided, I happened to step outside onto our front porch where I spotted something that caused me to run back inside for my camera.

A rainbow. God’s promise of hope. Not just one, but a double rainbow. Like an extra measure of expectations for good things to come.

And here I am. Back with words. Back in the blogging world. Back with inspiration and motivation to write once more. Back to share those moments in my Be Still series.

More in my series to come next week.

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…in the storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Be still…and celebrate freedom

blogIMG_8442Relaxing on vacation with Papa proved to be one of the highlights of my time of just being still during my month-long blogging break. 

That week away from the routine of home provided just the tonic I needed to fuel my writing inspiration again so after I’m finished with my be still series, I’ll be putting more words to my vacation photos and sharing some fun experiences here.

But as part of my be still series, I found this photo I snapped aboard one of the bay cruises we enjoyed on vacation to be most appropriate for this Independence Day today. Soaking up the sunshine, relishing the cool breeze, enjoying the sea air and sights while hearing our flag flapping in the wind was a lovely way of being still.

While we celebrate the 4th of July today with picnics; family and friends gatherings; red, white, and blue decorations; parades; and fireworks displays, let’s not forget to pause, take a moment to give thanks for our freedoms here in America, and salute Old Glory.

With hand on heart, let’s remember these words:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

On this very day, we commemorate the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776. That document gave our forefathers reason to fight and die for the freedoms we now enjoy 243 years later.

Let’s also remember to take a moment, be still, and pray for this great country of ours to remain indivisible despite our differences and to continue to provide liberty and justice for all.

God, bless America!

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14, King James Version (KJV)

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Be still…and watch the sun set

blogIMG_7906When we purchased this 2.25 acres of country land 20 years ago upon which to build our home, little did we realize that we would have a front-row seat to some of the most exquisitely beautiful sunsets. What a surprise that was!

Sunrises, on the other hand, are not so breathtaking here since hills and wooded areas interfere with viewing the sun ascending into the horizon early every morning.  By the time we catch a glimpse of the sun rising in the east, that golden orb has already moved higher into the sky and the magical swirl of color and light has vanished.

But sunsets…oh sunsets…they are glorious at our home. While I was practicing being still during my blogging hiatus, I witnessed several photo worthy settings of the sun in the western sky – in between rainy, overcast days.

In order to view them, all I have to do is peek out any of our kitchen windows or step outside onto our back yard deck and…voilà! God presents a spectacular sky painted with brilliant colors.

Sunsets always grab my attention. They entice me to watch as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon and nighttime descends its dark cloak over me. 

Even though technically a sunset is a passage of time – another day lived that will never be seen again – it still inspires me and fills me with hope for another day, another chance of life when the sun reappears the next morning.

Sunsets provide reason to pause and reflect on those last 24 hours of life and give thanks to the One who granted me those hours of life.

They also cause me to ponder about the next life. As magnificent as the colors of the sunsets I’ve witnessed are, it makes me wonder how glorious the colors in heaven might be.

“Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of Heaven.” ~ John Lubbock

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com