Get off the worry track

blogIMG_4531 (2)My family is small in comparison to others.

My mother was an only child, so no aunts or uncles there as well as no first cousins. My father was the youngest in his family and when he passed away at 90 years of age, all of his brothers and his sister were also deceased. So I have no living aunts or uncles. 

In addition to that, every one of my first cousins was older than I was since I was the last cousin born.  And now all but one are also deceased.

So I only have this one cousin left.  Growing up, he was my favorite cousin and I’ve always felt a special kinship with him. Maybe it’s because he was the closest in age to me (even though he’s seven years older) and most of the other cousins were old enough to be my parents. Or maybe it’s just because we were the youngest in the family. Or maybe it’s because we just seem connected.

Cousin and I don’t get to see each other very often even though he and his wife don’t live too far from me. But when we do manage to run into one another here and there, it’s like we can’t stop talking.

His grown children and grandchildren live far away from our hometown just like some of mine do. So Cousin and I spend some time chatting and catching up on how the kids are all doing and what’s new in their lives.

Since he has done a lot of research about our family genealogy and I’m also very interested in that, we discuss that quite a bit as well. He has even visited the place in jolly ol’ England from where our family came and I find that fascinating. Cousin is a wealth of information on the subject and I always enjoy when he shares what he’s learned with me.

But then we get to reminiscing about days gone by as well. Since he is a bit older, he remembers family stories that I don’t know or that happened when I was too young to remember.   

Just last week, my cousin and his gracious wife attended a social function where Papa and I also just so happened to be present.  And after the hugs and handshakes, we got an opportunity to sit down and chat. And chat. And chat.

So much to talk about and not enough time to do so is how it felt. One of the comments my cousin made struck me as particularly poignant and it has stuck with me ever since. 

He has had some serious health issues in the last few years which culminated in major surgery. He seems fine now, but I do believe his health concerns caused him to consider his mortality and changed his outlook on life somewhat.

He told me he’s really questioned himself over the way he lived his life when he was in his younger decades. Don’t we all do so when we arrive in the fall and winter seasons of life?

We start looking back over the years we’ve passed through and wonder if we’ve done enough. If we’ve lived enough.

If we’ve made an impact in someone’s life.

If we chased all the wrong elusive butterflies like prosperity, social status, impressive careers, material possessions, or whatever else we thought was important.

Did our lives make a difference? Did we fulfill a purpose here on this earth? And if we consider all of those things we worried and fretted over as we journeyed through life, did they really matter?

Even those aspects of life we may have neglected can prove a bit worrisome as we reflect back over years past. And worry tends to become a focus for the future as well.

Pondering over my cousin’s remark and considering all of the uncertain aspects of the future I find myself stewing over, I’m reminded of what Jesus tells me in the book of Matthew.

“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?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~ Matthew 5:25-34

As He always does, Jesus speaks truth. Why do we waste our time worrying?

I must remind myself it’s futile worrying about the past. What’s done is done. Finished. I can’t change it by worrying or by wishing I would have lived it differently. Only through God’s grace in the gift of a Savior can our slates be wiped clean from past wrong doings.

Likewise, it’s in vain to worry about the present. My God will provide all I need and I must focus on doing His will, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. That means I should live this time of my life with purpose and concentrate on what the Lord leads me to do and in the direction He guides me.

And what about the future? I do tend to fret about what may happen, but I must remember the words of my Savior: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” 

Tomorrow will come. Who knows what it may bring. But I place my trust and faith in a Savior who will see me through whatever happens.

I am certain I’m on the right track because as I contemplated this idea and started composing this post, several quotes about worrying appeared on my social media news feed.

And then as I sat in Sunday morning worship at our church, our pastor, in his message,  used other scriptures about anxiety and worry that had crossed my mind while I was working on this post. 

Coincidence? I think not. God always lets me know when I’m on the right track.

“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” ~ unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Advertisements

Defying gravity

blogIMG_8196When life knocks you flat on your back, remember it left you looking up.

I look up a lot.  Life has taught me to do that. Often I never know what’s coming down the pike, so I tend to look up to the heavens for help to get through the next big thing.

From where does my help come? “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” ~ Psalm 121:2

I do find myself looking up — a lot.  In the warmth of summer, I turn my face upwards toward the sun.  After a rain, I look up to see if there’s a rainbow spread across the sky.  At night, I find myself gazing at the stars and marveling at how many I can see living out here in the country.

Yes, I look up.  I look up at clouds, whether they be puffy, fluffy white cotton-like or dark, menacing, stormy ones.

I look up to see a jet leaving its contrail plume behind it. 

I look up as I hear helicopter blades chopping the silence and I often utter a silent prayer for someone possibly being life-flighted to one of the trauma hospitals in our nearby city.

I look up when I notice a hot air balloon or a blimp coasting along the airways.

I look up to watch birds take wing to soar or butterflies flit and float by.

I look up as I walk down a woodsy path when I hear the leaves rustle through the trees over my head.

I look up because life on this earth is hard enough without always looking down.

Looking down weighs me down just as surely as gravity holds me on this planet. Looking down secures me to this earth where people are viciously cruel to one another, folks become seriously ill, hearts get trampled and broken, disappointments abound, and life eventually deteriorates and ends, and it all grieves my soul. 

I look up because it makes me happier.  I look up because it makes me realize how tiny and insignificant I am compared to the power of my God, who holds everything I see in the palm of His hand.

I look up because it gives me hope.

I look up because it provides me inspiration.

I look up because it strengthens my faith.

“Believers, look up — take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.” ~ Billy Graham

(Linking up to the weekly photo challenge theme – Look Up – today.)

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

How can you melt a frozen heart?

blogIMG_6537Recently one morning upon awakening, I glanced outside my window like I do each and every day. The scene that unfolded in front of my eyes begged me to grab my camera and head outdoors.

Temperatures plummeted during the night and Jack Frost had made his appearance on the landscape. The sun was already up, it beat me by an hour, and sunlight streamed across our 2+ acre yard. I noticed that its warming rays left patterns of a sort upon the grass.  

With camera in hand, I snatched a warm sweatshirt with a hood out of the closet, slipped on some shoes, and headed out into the chilly morning.  I’m always intrigued by the first few frosts of the season and enjoy the challenge of capturing the crystal-like covering adorning plants and grass.

But that day my eye caught something more than frosted vegetation (if you missed my post yesterday, you can see those photos here).  As always, pictures speak to me and the source of inspiration comes not just from the photo but from God, who presents these sights for me to capture in photos and words.   

He often shows me something to ponder, some truth from His Word, some point He impresses upon me that I must share with my readers in the hope that you too will see His handiwork, hear His Word, know that He is Master of the universe yet Savior of our souls.

As I tiptoed around my yard, not wanting to leave footprints from the warmth of my steps upon the frost, I breathed in that crisp, invigorating fall air.  The temperature hovered in the low 30’s F, yet the sunshine warmed my face.

I watched the sun as it continued to rise in the sky tinted a vivid blue.  With each degree of ascension, the sun’s rays reached more and more of my yard. 

As the warmth of the sun hit the ground, the frost disappeared.  Yet areas shaded by our house where sunlight had not touched still remained frosty white.

While sunlight continued to radiate across the yard, I watched the frost melt, strip by strip.  And that’s when it occurred to me.

That scene I spied resembles our hearts.  We allow the trouble and evil that so often prevails in this world to turn our hearts cold and icy, especially in the darkness. 

If you’ve ever met a cold-hearted person, the chill extends to you.  You feel it.  You shiver from even being in contact with someone whose heart is frozen over with hate,  rage, bitterness, or evil doings. 

If you’re not careful and don’t guard your own heart, that stone-cold, icy environment envelops you as well. It can happen without you even realizing it.

One icy breath across your heart and it starts to freeze.

And that morning, the Lord brought to my attention that I was succumbing to the cold.  I’ve encountered those with cold, callous, stony hearts and in my own anger, frustration, and disappointment with them, I didn’t guard my own heart from the icy grips of frost.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know this.  I know to be on guard against evil and sinful thoughts.  I know that whoever ‘hardens their hearts falls into trouble.’ (Proverbs 28:14)

But I also know that even the coldest, iced-over heart can be melted by warmth, just like that frost that disappeared gradually from my back yard when touched by the sun. 

And that’s the answer – the Son.  The Son of God.  Jesus.  The reason we celebrate this season called Christmas.  The time when the Light of the world came to earth.   That Light who melts the frost and ice in my heart.  That Light on which I must keep my focus to maneuver through the darkness of this fallen world of ours.

The words written in the book of John, Chapter 8, verse 12 come to my mind as I write this.  “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ”

My hope and prayer this day is for those who are walking in darkness.  May they see and be touched by the Light.  May they allow the Son to melt the ice in their hearts.  And may I do the same.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com