What could be worse?

blogIMG_0823You know what people say? Be thankful it wasn’t worse.

True enough because when life goes awry and problems befall, you can always think of situations that could be so much more difficult.

Kind of like the funny sign I photographed above at a little zoo one day. You might make the animals sick, but it would be worse to be eaten by them, don’t ya think?

When considering the worst things that might happen, that Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared” comes to my mind.

Apparently, when scout founder Robert Baden-Powell wrote that he meant that one should always be “in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” I’d add when worse comes to worst to that definition.

Obviously, I was never a Boy Scout or even a Girl Scout for that matter, but be prepared has always been a mantra of mine as long as I can remember. 

I’m one of those proverbial “what if” thinkers.

What if the car breaks down? Make sure your cell phone is always charged when driving.

What if the car breaks down in a secluded spot on a sun-scorching hot day? Be sure to bring water with you in the car.

What if the hotel doesn’t have your reservation when you get there at 11 p.m.? Make sure you have your confirmation number and reservation information with you.

What if the GPS doesn’t recognize the direction you want to go? Be sure a road map/atlas is in the vehicle.

Be prepared. I try to be.

I can probably trace this trait back to my parents who grew up during the difficult era of the Great Depression and were married adults during World War II. I’m sure they taught me that lesson for trying times because you never know what’s coming down the pike. And they experienced that all too well first hand.

Save money. Be frugal. Don’t spend beyond your means. Don’t discard useful household items that can be used for other purposes. Always keep your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer stocked with food. Never let your gas tank fall below the quarter of a tank mark, especially in the winter season. Just a few of the be prepared lessons learned from my folks.

Because you never know what might happen. I mean what if?

No doubt growing up in the 60’s reinforced that be prepared way of living for me also. During the Cold War, school days were interrupted with air raid drills. I still vividly can recall sitting in my elementary school’s inside hallway with my face to the wall and my hands over my head.

Fast forward several years, Papa and I lived for over a decade in Tornado Alley. What if a tornado struck when the weather service issued those warnings? Be prepared, learn what to do should a funnel cloud be spotted.

And that readiness actually did help when a twister lifted up into the air and blew over my head one spring day.  I knew to get inside a walk-in closet, lie prone, and cover my  head until it was clear to emerge, unscathed and feeling very thankful.

Even when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, preparedness was on my mind. Each September at the beginning of the school year, we packed individual earthquake kits to send to our children’s classrooms.

You know, just in case. Because, what if an earthquake occurred when they were at school? They would have gallon sized baggies containing water, food, and some basic essentials.

Be prepared. Because what if the worst that can happen happens?

But see, here’s the thing. We cannot be prepared for everything that might occur. No matter how much we plan, how often we draw up a scenario to follow if the dreaded ‘what if’ comes our way, and how prepared we think we truly are, life and its circumstances have a way of knocking us for a loop.

Often, a giant loop. One we never saw coming. One that literally makes us gasp in alarm and causes us to think this is the worst that could happen.

No matter how prepared we attempt to be or how often we ask and answer those what if questions in our mind, we just don’t feel equipped to handle it.

Those are the times when I realize I just can’t manage on my own.

I can’t be completely prepared for everything that comes my way. I can’t outwit the what ifs of life, no matter how relentlessly I try.

When the what ifs turn into reality and even seem like the worst that could happen, I must turn it over to Someone most competent and powerful and yes, most prepared.

Because there’s something so soothing, so comforting about leaning on the everlasting arms of a loving God. Safe and secure from all alarms.

Even if I’m prepared for battle just like Proverbs 21:31 says – “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” – victory over difficult times comes from putting my complete trust in God, no matter how suited up with armor I am.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV

I just might take a spill here and there that I’m totally unprepared for and fall flat on my face, but I know who will pick me up and who will grant me hope to carry on. His name is Jesus.

“You have to be prepared to take a spill.” ~ Shaun White

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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This story doesn’t end

blogIMG_7581It’s Holy Week for those of us who call ourselves Christians – Christ followers. As I remember and reflect on that last week of Jesus’ earthly life leading up to Easter Sunday,  – Resurrection Day – I recall seeing the following on a poster some years ago. 

And He shall be called…

Advocate (1 John 2:1)

(The) Amen (Revelation 3:14)

 (The) Almighty (Revelation 1:8)

Alpha & Omega (Revelation 22:13)

Anchor (Hebrews 6:19)

Author & Finisher of Our Faith (Hebrews 12:2)

(The) Beloved (Ephesians 1:6)

Branch (Isaiah 11:1)

Bread of Life (John 6:35)

Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15)

Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)

Carpenter (Mark 6:3)

Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)

Dayspring (Luke 1:78)

(The) Door (John 10:9)

Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)

Faithful & True Witness (Revelation 3:14)

Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23)

High Priest (Hebrews 6:20)

Holy One (Mark 1:24)

I Am (John 8:58)

Image of the Invisible God (Colossians 1:15)

Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)

Judge (Acts 10:42)

King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15)

King of the Jews (Mark 15:26)

Lamb of God (John 1:29)

Light of the World (John 8:12)

Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5)

Living Water (John 4:10)

Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15)

Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3)

Master (Matthew 8:19)

Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)

Messiah (Daniel 9:25)

Only Begotten Son (John 3:16)

Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Prophet (Matthew 21:11)

Redeemer (Job 19:25)

 (The) Resurrection & the Life (John 11:25)

Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)

Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1)

Savior (John 4:42)

Servant (Matthew 12:18)

Shepherd & Bishop of Souls (1 Peter 2:25)

Shiloh (Genesis 49:10)

Son of God (1 John 5:20)

Son of Man (Matthew 20:28)

Teacher (John 3:2)

True Vine (John 15:1)

(The) Way, the Truth, & the Life (John 14:6)

Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

(The) Word (John 1:1)

His name is Jesus Christ. 

Sent to earth as God-Man by God the Father, He came to save us all. Suffering and dying on an old rugged cross, He took our sins upon Him to bridge the gap between earthly wrong-doers and a holy and righteous God. In doing so, He provided the only way to heaven and eternal life.

His gift of salvation is free, there is nothing you can do to earn it, no way of being good enough on your own to gain it. And even if you have committed something that seems unforgivable and you feel unworthy, He still loves you unconditionally and forgives.   

All you have to do is believe in Him, repent of your past mistakes and ask for forgiveness, accept the gift of His love, and enter into a personal relationship with Him – the One who is all of the above names just for you and me.

Do you know Him? Really know Him? It’s never too late to meet him at the cross. But that’s not where the story ends.  He is the reason we celebrate Easter and that empty tomb proclaims Resurrection Sunday as a glorious day of joy and hope. 

“For God so loved the world that He that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Lost worm

blogIMG_7554You know that old proverb? The early bird catches the worm.  Well, I wasn’t an early bird but I did ‘catch’ a worm with my trusty camera.

Yesterday about mid-morning, I stepped outside my front door onto the porch just to get a breath of fresh air and see how cold it was.  Dreary, rainy, and overcast, the weather assaulted me and I noticed rain the night before had splashed up onto our covered concrete porch.

Since I never wear shoes inside my house, just my socks clothed my feet as I stood on the cold cement. And I don’t know what caused me to look down but I did.

And there it was.  An eight-inch earthworm.  What we call a fishing worm since they often are used for bait. A nightcrawler.  I noticed smaller versions scattered on our sidewalk but this one was the king daddy of them all.  Watching him inch his way slowly on the porch floor, I also realized that the smaller worms weren’t moving.  They were really worm cadavers.  Eww.

Earthworms used to cause me to shudder because a childhood friend would often pick them up from the ground, chase me, and throw the slimy things on me while I ran and screamed. I’ve overcome that as an adult since these creatures don’t make me bolt in terror anymore but still…don’t throw one on me.

That was my first thought.

My second thought – truly I wonder how my mind works and brings up such crazy memories but here goes – was a silly childhood song we used to sing in elementary school called the ‘hearse song.’  I’m sorry if I turn your stomach on this one, but the lyrics are as follows:

“The next time you see a hearse go by, don’t laugh or you may be the next one to die. They wrap you up in a clean, white sheet and bury you under six feet deep. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout. Then one little worm who isn’t so shy crawls in your ear and comes out your eye. You turn a terrible, terrible green and pus comes out like whipping cream. You take the cream and spread your bread and that is what you eat when you’re dead.”

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. It was elementary school and you know how kids often love gross things – like earthworms.

Then the third thought entered my quirky mind.  That worm mindlessly crawling on my front porch is kind of lost.  A good three or four feet away from any soil, it just ever so slowly moved on a barren field of cement. Would it ever find its way back where it belonged?

Song lyrics entered my mind with my next thought and the words to an old hymn played in my head.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away…

It’s true you know. We are worms.  We think we’re on solid footing, in familiar surroundings, just doing our own thing, satisfying self, then whoa.  We slam on the brakes and look around and think to ourselves, ‘How in the world did I get here?’ In this slimy pit, in this place of despair, in this mire of sin.

We stray.  We meander.  We take a path that we thought would lead us exactly where we wanted to go but find we are sorely mistaken.

Out of our element. Perhaps even out of control. Down in the dirt, worms that we are.

Not all of us can claim to be like Winston Churchill who is quoted as saying, “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”

No, often I am not a glow-worm shedding light and goodness wherever I go.  Instead, I’m just a lowly worm, a struggling human inching my way along on a path I wish I hadn’t chosen.

Times like that make me so very thankful that I don’t have to be in control of this world or even my very own.  I worship and trust in the God who created the universe and knows exactly how to keep everything under control.  Because He reigns over all.  Because He knows each and every tidbit about every single one of us, glowing report or not, and He still loves us with an unfailing love.

And He knows how to lead me back to where He wants me to be on a path more loving, more kind, more gracious.  I just have to listen and follow and come to the cross to have my burdens rolled away.

I don’t have to search willy-nilly to find my way like that earthworm,which had totally disappeared when I stepped outside onto my porch just 15 minutes later.

Worm that I am, God still loves me and never leaves me stranded alone.  He promises that even though our earthly bodies turn to food for the worms once they have met their demise, there is more to come if we make just one trip to the cross of salvation. 

There we lay down our burdens of sin and accept His gift of grace, His Son Jesus, the One who loved us beyond measure, enough to die for us on that old rugged cross. Because of that, the Author of life will provide us a much better edition in heaven.

Then I will glow but will no longer be a worm.

 “The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, (Like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stript of its lettering and gilding), Lies here, food for worms; But the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin’s epitaph which he wrote for himself in 1728.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Encouraged by (in)courage

blogIMG_3092All winter long, the bird feeder, loaded with seeds and good things for hungry birds to feast upon, held fast to the tree branch. It forcefully swung back and forth in the brutally sharp winter wind, but hung on and remained secure even under the weight of a winter blanket of snow.

And all winter long, my soul, buoyed by prayer and God’s Word for nourishment, also grasped tightly to the hope the Lord provided, hope as sturdy as that tree, hope that might be fulfilled as a spring promise.

And the promise finally arrived. Ushered in on spring’s promise, hope emerged just as my landscape burst forth in verdant greens and brightly colored blooms replacing my winter world of bleak sameness.

Yes, hope arrived just as surely as spring. All winter, I’ve been pondering what the Lord would have me do. My time at my part-time position (which was also my ministry) ended in the fall and with it,  the sense of purpose it provided also seemed to conclude.  I’ve searched job sites galore, answered ads, sent out resumes, and yet nothing transpired with the exception of occasional substitute teaching at a nearby Christian school (for which I’ve been so grateful and truly do love).

Yet still, my heart and soul remained restless. It almost ached to become a part of some kind of ministry.  I felt called to reach out to other women to encourage them, share stories and laughs, and yes, even share tears but how to go about it remained elusive to me.

And then one early spring day, I sauntered through my back yard, soaking up the sunshine, checking to see if plants and trees were emerging from their dormant season. And I spied it, lying under the bird feeder, on the ground. A white feather. Just one.

I started to pick it up, but another thought crossed my mind. So I hurried into the house to grab my camera before the feather blew away. I wanted to capture that delicate feather for no reason other than it appealed to me. Yes, me. The empty nest mother.

blogIMG_2762 (2)Shortly after that, an amazing opportunity arrived in my email inbox. An opportunity that excited me just as surely as spying the spring daffodils boldly pushing their way up through the ground did. It was an opportunity for the heart. My heart. And the hearts of other women out there just like me. A chance to reach out in friendship to kindle relationships.  To share stories from the heart. And dreams. And laughter. And joy and perhaps even sorrow. A venue in which to share lives and prayers, support and encouragement. Just what my heart had been longing for.

I am ecstatic to announce that I’ve been chosen along with two other incredibly talented and lovely women of faith to co-lead an online community group of empty nester women through (in)courage. If you’re unfamiliar with (in)courage, click here  to learn more. 

So what are (in)courage community groups? Imagine it as a circle of new-found friends pouring themselves a steaming cup of coffee or hot tea and pouring their hearts out as well. The gathering place? An online space just for us, a place to gather for companionship and encouragement, to enhance relationships with each other as believers in Christ and with our Savior.

Here’s the official definition from (in)courage: “(in)courager community groups are a Christ-centered safe place that meet for 6-8 week sessions throughout the year in small groups of 30 on private Facebook groups. It’s a place for new friendship to grow, and in some cases, become real life friends. The groups are led by women who have a heart for serving. These women are not trained professionals; they are like you and me. They are women who live their everyday life with joys and broken hearts, who find their strength in the Lord and joy in walking beside other women.”

I’ve already made two new friends by ‘meeting’ my co-leaders online, and we haven’t even officially opened the group yet! But we’re anxious to meet and get to know new friends and we’ve been working hard getting our ‘place’ ready for you. As we emailed each other back and forth discussing a name for our online community group, that feather photo I took weeks before prompted me to suggest a scripture to serve as a foundation for our group. 

We unanimously decided on the name, A Feathered Nest, for our community group, women who are just experiencing the empty nest, or about to, or have maneuvered their way through this stage of life. 

Here’s our description:  Our nests may be empty since all of our children have flown, but our nests are lovingly feathered by God’s Word. We rely on Psalm 91:4:  “He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”  God’s faithfulness still makes our empty nest homes comfortable, safe, and secure when we rely on Him. If you are experiencing the unsettling feeling of the empty nest, won’t you join us as we feather our nest with His Word? C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You, too? I thought I was the only one!’ “ You’re not alone. We would love to include you in this friendship circle of empty nesters and help you feather your own nest with encouragement, support, and prayer.

Ours is not the only (in)courage group though. There are many others for women in all walks and stages of life and all sorts of interests. If you need encouragement or are ready to meet new friends, why not join us? You don’t have to be a blog writer to join, just have a Facebook account so you can join the online community in a Facebook group.

The spring 2014 session will open for registration today, Monday, May 19th, and this community group session will run May 26 through July 4. You can learn more about the (in)courager community groups or register by clicking here . Then click on this to check out all the groups. When you get there, click on Empty Nesters/Women Over 50 to find my group and then click on A Feathered Nest.   

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in my comment box here on my blog or email me.

Spring is a season of hope. And I’m hoping and praying and really, really excited to see what an amazing journey the Lord takes this new circle of friends on!

“There is no unbelief; whoever plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see it push away the clod – he trusts in God.” ~ Elizabeth York Case

blogIMG_2755©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Do this in remembrance

blogIMG_0492It’s Maundy Thursday – a day of remembrance for those of us who are Christians.

Good Friday is but a day away.  And then we wait for the day spectacular.  The day of rejoicing.  Resurrection Day!  Easter Sunday – the day Jesus proved He is the way to victory over death.

But as we wait, we commemorate.  Tonight at church, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper.   As believers in Christ, we will gather together in our country church.  We will read Scripture and ponder those last days Jesus lived on earth in human form.

We will follow in His footsteps.  We will eat a meal together – we call it a Love Feast – just as He did with His disciples before He was arrested, tried, convicted, beaten, and crucified on a cross.

John 13:1:  “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.”

Today we will partake in Communion.  We will break specially prepared bread, handmade by our church deacons using a long-used recipe.  We will give thanks for it before we eat, just as our Savior did before he spoke these words recorded in Luke 22:19: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Then we will take the cup, again giving thanks in remembrance of what our Lord did for us on the cross when His blood poured forth to save our souls. In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  ~ Luke 22:20

But there is something else we will do.  It may seem unusual to some, but it is an integral part of our faith as we remember the significance of this Holy Week, the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for human kind, and the love that overflowed from Him.

We will fill basins with water, gather towels, and kneel in front of other fellow believers in Christ and wash their feet.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” ~ John 13:3-5

In Jesus’ day, prior to a communal meal, it was common to have your dirty, dusty feet washed before reclining at a low table to eat.  This job was relegated to a lowly servant. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate in love, humility, and servanthood by performing this act for His disciples.

And then He told them and us, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, not is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” ~ John 13:14-17

So why do we do wash the feet of another?  Not only do we do so to follow Jesus’ example, but also because even though as believers we have been washed clean of our sins when we come to Christ, we need cleansing from living in a sin-stained world.

Sanctification (cleansing) is performed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the “washing with water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26).   As followers of Jesus, we desire to emulate Him, serve others with humility in our hearts and minds, and build one another up in love.

It is then that we will be equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

On this best day of the year, I can’t think of a better way to spend it than serving my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ by following the footsteps of Jesus.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Word of the day: Love

blogDSCN8698It’s Valentine’s Day.  The day we celebrate love.

Love, love, love.  It’s everywhere today.  Hearts and flowers.  Big red heart-shaped candy boxes. 

Yes, there will be gifts galore.   Jewelry, chocolates, red roses, stuffed animals, heart-laden cards, and fancy dinners.

 Who doesn’t love love and all it brings?  Who doesn’t love Valentine’s Day?

I’ll tell you who.  Those who feel unloved, that’s who.  Those who are lonely on this day and every day.  Those who have lost their loved ones.  Those who are burdened.

Valentine’s Day always brings romantic love to mind, but really it should be a day that we demonstrate love.  Period.  Love to everyone.  Kind of like that old 60’s song, “Put A Little Love in Your Heart.”

“Think of your fellow man; lend him a helping hand,

Put a little love in your heart.

You see it’s getting late;  oh, please don’t hesitate

Put a little love in your heart.

And the world will be a better place; and the world will be a better place

For you and me.  You just wait and see.”

I recall how my daughters disliked Valentine’s Day before they met their beloved ones.  Their friends with boyfriends reveled in valentine wishes, balloons, and gifts and my girls couldn’t wait for the day to end.  They certainly weren’t unloved because we loved them dearly, but romantic love seemed to rule the day, and it still does.

My beloved, my husband of 35 years, and I ceased bestowing valentines on each other years ago.  Neither one of us requires a gift to prove love for each other.  To us, the gift of spending time together means much more.

So there won’t be hearts and flowers or even chocolate candy dispensed at our house…well, there might be some chocolates pulled out of the kitchen pantry to share.  But love means much more than candy.

I read a newspaper article (yes, I’m a dinosaur who still reads my news in print form) this week about reaching out, especially on this day, to the unloved, the lonely, and those who’ve lost their beloved ones.  It made me think.  What if we did put a little love in our hearts by serving others?  You know, take that love and spread it around to our fellow humans….put a little love in someone else’s heart?

There’s an old saying that love isn’t love until you give it away.

So what if instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money on Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, we shared our love by donating money to a worthy cause in our loved one’s name? What if we called that friend who’s feeling lost, lonely, or unloved today and told her/him how much we care?

We can hand over gifts or donate to charity, but if we do so without love, it means nothing. We really have to have love in our hearts!

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says,  “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Verses 4-8 tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails.”

When I teach young people about relationships, I tell them that love is an action word.  And the best way to test whether you practice love for another is to insert your name in place of the word ‘love’ in that passage of scripture.

So if I truly have love in my heart, I should be able to say, “Cindy [my name, but you can insert yours] is patient, Cindy [your name] is kind.  Cindy does not envy, Cindy does not boast, Cindy is not proud.  Cindy does not dishonor others, Cindy is not self-seeking, Cindy is not easily angered, Cindy keeps no record of wrongs.  Cindy does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Cindy always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

And when I do all of that, put love in my heart and spur it into action,  I can truly say “Love never fails.”

It’s Valentine’s Day.  The day of love.  I’m writing it on my heart that today is the best day of the year because I love and am loved, but even more than that, I can put a little love in the heart of someone else.

May you love and be loved this day and be encouraged to put love into action.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 

Scratching that itch

blogIMG_0398Every winter, it happens.

The air turns dry when the cold temperatures set in and so does my skin, particularly my hands, legs, and feet.

I start to itch.  And then I start to scratch.

I should own stock in all the companies that make body lotions which claim to heal dry skin.  Over the years, I’ve tried them all.  Ones with lanolin, ones with glycerin, ones with aloe, ones with vitamins, minerals, CoQ10, and all kinds of secret magic ingredients.

And still I itch.  And still I scratch.

Ogden Nash once said, “Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.” 

Well, I beg to differ.  Scratching an itch is sometimes just a temporary solution.  My red, itchy skin morphs into redder, itchier, inflamed skin from scratching and that doesn’t exactly provide happiness, if you ask me.

Oh, I know, Nash probably wasn’t talking about literal itches and scratches.  Sometimes that itch is a yearning, a yen for something, and scratching it or satisfying it, trying to attain it, can make you happy.  Or so it seems.

It just doesn’t happen in the case of my irritated skin.

All this slathering on of lotion and scratching causes me to think about itchiness.  I know, my mind really does jump the train tracks sometimes.

I remember my grandmother and mom spouting old home-style proverbs about itchy things.  Like if your nose itched, that meant company was coming to visit you soon.  If your ears were itchy, someone was talking about you.  Or if the palm of your hand itched, money was coming your way!

Don’t you wonder where these ‘old wives tales’ came from?  I do.  The only one I can trace back to a written source is the itchy palm.  In Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, Cassius proclaims, “I, an itching palm!” ~ Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 7–12

According to some research, an itching palm was one that must be “scratched” with coins. In other words, Cassius was money hungry.

Why do we itch for things we can’t have?  Why aren’t we ever satisfied with what we do have?

Why do we say, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours?”  Why aren’t we content to just scratch our neighbor’s back without the need for him to return the favor to us?

It has to be because we humans are so self-centered.  We’re always itching for more to satisfy ourselves.

More money.  More stuff.  More glamour.  More food or drink.  More power.  More prestige.

The list goes on and on, and the scratching of those kind of itches goes on and on as well.

I found this old saying in my quotations notebook: “Home is where you can scratch where it itches.” Well, isn’t that the truth when we’ve got physical itchy spots?

But I find my heart and soul itch too. My heart and soul itch to serve God better, to spend more time with Him both in reading His Word and talking with Him.

God provides the source to relieve all of our itches and I am grateful for that.   That’s why I’m writing it on my heart that today is the best day of the year.  I’m thankful for God’s provisions – grace through my personal relationship with my Savior; a loving family and friends; a comfortable, warm home; a reliable car; enough food to eat; clean water to drink; and clothes to wear.

And, oh yes, my Gold Bond lotion, which acts as a soothing balm for my physically itchy skin, and my Bible, a solace to satisfy my spiritually itchy soul.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Burn out

blogIMG_0396Lately, images of fire dart across my mind’s radar screen.

Of course, the news reports about wild fires out west attracted my attention and the sight of all that devastation leaves me rife with sympathy for those who’ve lost their homes.

To continue the fiery theme, last week my blog received the “Blog On Fire” award.  Shortly before that, an amazing display of fiery color occurred in my own backyard at sunset one evening – an image I managed to capture with my camera and post yesterday on Wordless Wednesday.

Even the weather speaks of fire to me with sultry hot and humid days and nights, which make me feel like I’m burning up and bring old sayings to my thoughts like “hotter than Hades,” or my personal favorite, “hotter than a flicker’s nest,” a phrase my Mom used to utter.

All these fire images got me to thinking.  You know the problem with fire is you can get burned out.  When there’s not enough fuel to sustain a fire, it flickers, it fades, and it dies out.  Done.  Consumed.  Burned out.  Cold.

Sometimes that’s exactly how I feel – in my real life and in my writing life – like I don’t have enough sustainable fuel to keep the fire going.  As I examine why I feel so consumed, I can list off a litany of reasons.

I’m tired.  I’m overwhelmed with too many tasks to accomplish.  The summer doldrums I usually encounter this time of year just weigh me down.  The emotional aspect of our middle daughter getting married recently and preparing for our other two adult children’s weddings is taking a toll on me.  I’m feeling a bit melancholy over the fact that all of our children will again be far from the homestead.

Now that middle daughter is married, she and son-in-law have commenced their newly-wedded life in the state south of us.  When son marries in two months, he and our new daughter-in-law will live in the state to the east of us.  And we just learned that oldest daughter and her fiancé will set up housekeeping in his city – a state several hours southwest – once they become man and wife.

It’s entirely possible that all these circumstances explain why I feel burned out and used up.  I spoke with a very good friend lately and confided some of this to her as well as the fact that on top of all of these reasons, I’m also encountering a very dry spell in my walk of faith.

I know this happens from time to time.  I’ve experienced it before, but I don’t like it.  Here’s how I would describe this experience:

You used to feel revived, just like a continuous mountain stream might provide refreshment, by the living God each day.    Cool and alive, moving forward.  You’re nourished by God and His Word and saturated with His living water.

Then for some reason, the dry season comes just like the drought that holds much of our country tight in its grip right now.  You feel withered.   Parched.  Like you’re in the middle of a hot, desolate desert.

Here’s the part that causes me to often struggle.   I know my Savior.  I know the answer to my thirst, the solution for the dryness is in His Word.  All I have to do is open it and partake.  It’s like when you turn on your kitchen faucet.  Cool water pours forth.  You need to grab your cup, fill it up, and drink to quench your thirst.  And even though I know this, I don’t do it.  My Bible sits unopened; my prayer times prove shoddy and quick at best.

I have an amazing friend who is an ardent prayer warrior.  I know she prays for me.  She told me she often pictures those she prays for as vessels which have been turned over on their sides and are starting to empty.  So she prays for God to fill them up.

As she’s been praying for me, she saw me as a vessel not just turned over, but turned upside down and emptied out.  She softly added that she doesn’t tell me this to hurt me.  I replied that this image doesn’t hurt me because I know it is truth and she has put into words exactly how I feel.  Upside down and empty.

That is how life feels sometimes, even the life of a believer in Christ.  We endeavor to live each day with gratitude and joy, but some days, our humanity, our very humanness gets the upper hand and we just don’t feel it.

But then something truly amazing happens.  Even amid a burned out, worn out wasteland, God is a God of restoration.  He tells me that in scripture, but when I can’t, or don’t, or won’t read that for myself, He shows me.

I see firsthand His restoration in my parched, dried, crunchy brown lawn when he sends refreshing rain to green my grass yet again.  He demonstrates restoration when I gaze at the farmer’s field next to my home.  Once it was a wasteland of overgrown brush and briars, ugly to behold.  Now, it boasts stalk after stalk of lushly green corn, growing by inches each and every day.

Wildflowers at Flight 93 Memorial

He reminded me of His restoring power when we visited Shanksville, PA recently and I viewed the farmland which was violated, shredded, torn, and burned when Flight 93 crashed there on September 11, 2001.  In place of the horror that field represents, gorgeous wildflowers now grow as God restores that land.

And He proves to me that even though I feel distant from Him, worn down, and burned out, He is still with me (or as my prayerful friend says, “He knows your address.”).  He still cares, He still protects, He still loves me unconditionally – empty and parched, tired vessel that I am.

How do I know this is true?  Because as I trudged to my mailbox one weary day, I glanced across the road, and God, Creator of the universe, showed me something – a group of wild daisies blooming.

Happy little white and yellow flowers that I’ve never noticed growing near my house before.  The sight of them transported me back to childhood and a summer activity I always loved as a youngster – picking a daisy and plucking each petal off of it as I recited, “He loves me, he loves me not.  He loves me, he loves me not.”

Right then I knew it!  I knew – deep in my heart and yes, in my soul – something profound resonated while observing those wildflowers by the side of the road.

I picked a daisy and as I twirled it round and round in my hand and considered plucking its petals,  it ‘spoke’ to me.  And this is what it said, “He loves you.”  Each petal of that daisy proclaimed, “He loves you.  He loves you.  He loves you!”  And I didn’t have to pluck the petals off the stem to know it.

I never have to second guess His love for me.  Even when I feel distant from God.  Even when I feel like I’m in the middle of an arid desert.  He always has loved me.  He always will.  He will restore me, and He will provide refreshment.  He will give me strength.  He will grant me joy.  He will always be with me.  That is His promise – “… lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” ~ Matthew 28:20.

And you know what?  He loves you the same.  A daisy told me so.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”  ~ Isaiah 40:8

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com