Turning rocks into gems


It’s just an ugly old rock or is it?


For me, it often appears in a visual form. Words do inspire me, which is why I keep an ever-bulging, tattered, old notebook full of quotations that “speak” to me.

But images. Oh, those sights my eyes behold, art work I may have the opportunity to view, photographs that I manage to coax out of my camera, they provide much of the spark that fires my thoughts and helps me put those thoughts into written words.

That was surely the case when we visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in our nearby city last month. Previously here in my blog, I shared some of my images and thoughts that fired up my brain when I entered the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems there.

The brilliant colors, the sparkle, the glimmer, and shimmer of those ‘rocks’ all lit up and displayed on ebony surfaces spoke to me without words.  Proof of that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

“These gems have life in them: their colors speak, say what words fail of.” ~ George Eliot

Viewing the decent photos I managed to take – it was difficult to photograph items behind glass and I’m nowhere near a professional or even knowledgeable photographer – continues to provide creative thoughts in this cluttered brain of mine and I want to share them with you.

We can look at a rock and say, “Well, it’s just a rock.” But what is on the inside of that rock? When split open, what you find may totally amaze you. What looks cold and mundane on the outside may radiate warmth and a magnificent treasure on the inside.


Display in Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The beauty of it reminds me that those rocks that exist under our feet, in mountains, in the deepest caverns, or elsewhere were all created by the God of the universe. The one God that can penetrate our own cold, stony hearts and fill it with light and love for His Son, a Savior, a Redeemer.

“Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts and let them light our path to love.” ~ Rumi

But even the beauty you may find on the inside of that cracked open rock can be further refined.  A number of processes cause a mineral or gem to form. Various conditions, forceful pressure, temperature changes all contribute to its formation.

Fracturing and friction produces another change into something much more precious and glittery – a gem stone. And that reminds me that we too can be polished up, our hearts made new. We can shine like the finest and most expensive gems in a jewelry store window when we give our lives to the One who loves us most.


Gorgeous gems in the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems

But often it takes going through some rough places, some difficult experiences, some really hard times to become a beautiful gem.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man without trials.” ~ Confucius

And that reminds me of a passage of Scripture in the Bible. One of Jesus’ disciples named Peter wrote to his fellow Christians, praising God for salvation through Jesus Christ, for a living hope that believers can have despite frequent suffering and persecution.

His words are recorded in the New Testament in the book of 1 Peter, Chapter 1, verses 6-8:  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Out of difficult trials, as a believer in Christ you can still hold onto a gem of hope, a gem of light, a gem of joy, a gem of love. Aren’t those the most beautiful gems you may ever possess?

“Sometimes the darkest challenges, the most difficult lessons, hold the greatest gems of light.” ~ Barbara Marciniak

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Don’t sit on the cactus

blogIMG_3238I kind of take issue with cacti.

First of all, I have a problem with this species of plant. You know how lots of folks possess ‘green thumbs’ and can just grow and nurture plants so that they are beautifully healthy and vibrant?

Well, I’m not one of those. I tend to call myself a ‘black thumb.’ Not even a brown thumb –  nope,  a black thumb because every plant I’ve ever tried growing indoors succumbs to the black death. Done for. No blooming, no green leaves, nothing, nada…well, you get the picture.

And my uncanny knack of killing indoor plants even extends itself to cacti. I mean, seriously, who kills a cactus? It doesn’t need much attention. It doesn’t get too upset if you forget to water it because it isn’t a thirsty thing. It thrives under adverse conditions. Well, under my care, cacti croak. Big time. 

So I stay away from the spiny little plants that you can keep inside your home, even though some of them are kind of attractive and even bloom lovely flowers.

And I really take a wide berth around those plants when it comes to outdoor cacti. Those things are downright dangerous!

Having grown up in the northeast, I truly wasn’t too familiar with any kind of cactus until shortly after Papa and I were married. Forty years ago we moved to Oklahoma where Papa served in the military. 

We lived in the Sooner State for a few years and my sister, brother-in-law, and their family also just so happened to live a couple hours north of us. Where their ranch was located, some cacti grew on their property. 

I knew they were prickly and not to touch one lest you get stabbed by their spiky spines. Now my sis and brother-in-law were also transplants from our neck of the woods so they weren’t exactly experts on cacti either.

Before I continue this story, I must tell you right up front that my brother-in-law is like an older brother to me. He’s been a part of our family for almost as long as I can remember. And so, when I was younger, he often treated me the way you would a kid sister with teasing and joking around.

My brother-in-law, the jokester, once surprised my mom by picking her up and sitting her in the kitchen sink when she was certain he wouldn’t dare do such a thing. So he’s always been the kind of guy that could give us a good laugh.

Back to my cactus story. On a visit to see my relatives, we were all walking around their  property and noticed some flat paddle-shaped cacti growing here and there. Paddle-shaped. That must have given Brother-in-law the idea that it might be funny to pick one up and slap my backside with it, like you would use a paddle.

Oh, mercy.

What he didn’t realize was that those little hair-like profusions of spiny things sticking out on the cactus wouldn’t just give me a sharp little jab like he thought they would, but would actually penetrate my clothing and with needle-like sharp precision stick in my skin underneath my clothing, much like I imagine porcupine quills or darts would. Lots of tiny cactus spines. In my backside. Uh-huh.

He was mortified to say the least. And without exposing too much information, my sister had to utilize tweezers to relieve me of my painful affliction.

Now, you may understand why I don’t get too chummy with a cactus, no matter what it looks like.

So, back in February, Papa and I visited this same sister and brother-in-law in their new home in the Arizona desert.  Where there are lots of cacti. And some crazy plant that is called a “jumping” cactus; its real name is Jumping Cholla.

They aren’t huge things like the Saguaro and the Chollas are kind of cute. Some are even called Teddy Bear Cholla. But beware of their ‘cuteness’ because their needles are extremely sharp and have hundreds of microscopic scales.

So if you happen to walk by one and faintly brush up against it, you will be one sorry person.  The pods containing the needles detach and spring onto you and are apparently quite painful and very hard to remove.


Jumping Chollas in the Arizona desert

Ouch! Sister and Brother-in Law were careful to warn us about these scary cacti because they were fairly abundant in their area. You can be certain when we were ATV riding on desert trails, I was making darn sure no part of my body or clothing was sticking out close enough to one of those bad babies.

Of course, the old, crazy cactus paddling story came up in our conversation during our visit. And we laughed and laughed over it. Because honestly, it is funny. 

As I recall all of this, it occurs to me that I could be negative about my up close and personal encounter with a cactus all those years ago and hold it against my brother-in-law. But what purpose would that serve? He didn’t intentionally try to hurt me nor would he ever do so. I love him like he is my blood brother and I do believe he cares for me like a sister.

All of this to say that I found myself amused this week when a Facebook friend posted this quote:

“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” ~ Joyce Meyer

Last Sunday morning in worship, our pastor reminded us to that to love someone as Christ loves us is to keep short accounts. To not dwell on the wrongs that have been done to you. Especially if the offender asks forgiveness, and even if he/she never does. 

When you embrace a negative attitude about your situation in life or towards another person who may truly have done something almost unforgivable to you, it just makes your own life that much more challenging. More complicated. More grueling.

Who wants that? Not me. So I’m not sitting on any cactus that comes my way. Are you?

 “Life is like a cactus, thorny but beautiful.” ~ Unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com