Never beyond hope

Overwhelming, that’s what it is.

We turn on the news whether it be on television or online and instantly we’re engulfed with images of despair, destruction, disillusionment. We watch the latest recap and as our eyes are assaulted with depressing images, our ears cringe hearing discouraging words.

Bad news. It surrounds us daily.

And it seems especially disheartening as across the globe, humanity has been dealing with a pandemic as well. For the faint of heart, this trying time in our lives can cause despondency beyond measure. Even for those who are strong, it’s difficult to endure all the madness and suffering we’re exposed to just by tuning into the latest news.

During this tumultuous time, people I know have suffered overwhelming tragedies, been blindsided by serious health issues, lost loved ones, suffered setbacks for their livelihoods, and even most of their personal belongings in a devastating event.

Piled on top of the mountainous, disparaging national and world-wide news like weighty boulders, bad news burdens us, makes us feel as though we can’t recover, we can’t regain what we’ve lost, we can’t cope with the ever burgeoning onslaught.

Times like these shake us to the core. They shake our faith. They make us shake and quiver in disbelief and sadness.

It’s enough to cause one to lose hope.

Little did I know when I snapped the photo above three months ago that it would inspire me to write words about hope.

Just three months ago, Papa and I enjoyed a trip to Arizona to visit relatives. During our trip, the corona virus pandemic news exploded across the airwaves. Our concern wasn’t that we would contract the virus, instead we were a bit apprehensive that our return flight home might be cancelled.

On our three-hour trek to the Phoenix airport the day before our scheduled flight, we decided to take the scenic route with our rental car and not use the interstate highway. That proved a nice, leisurely drive with a couple of short sight-seeing stops and camera ops along the way.

Because businesses started to shut down at that time, our biggest worry became finding a place to use a restroom and somewhere to eat dinner. (We resorted to a Chick-fil-A drive-thru in Tempe and taking our fast food back to our hotel room to eat it.)

Somewhere along the route to Phoenix, I spotted a small church and realized we were passing through a tiny community called Hope, Arizona.

Hope. A nice name for a place out in the desert, I thought. I began wondering about the origin of that little dot on the map, how it got its name, etc. As I was ruminating all of that through my mind, I noticed a sign which immediately garnered my attention.

Exclaiming ‘Oh, look at that!’, I asked Papa to stop the car, but there wasn’t a place to safely do so, a vehicle was directly behind us, and by now, we were well past the sign.

Bless Papa’s heart, he knows how much I enjoy taking photos and he always accommodates my need to stop and jump out of the car with my camera in tow. So he located a place to turn around and go back just so I could snap a photo.

The end result is the photo you saw at the beginning of this post. Then we chuckled at the message of the sign – “YOU’RE NOW BEYOND HOPE.” But I’m not laughing now.

Instead I am concerned. I fear that too many of my fellow human beings feel this way, especially now, that they are beyond hope. That hope doesn’t exist as they struggle to just get themselves and their families through each day.

Hope. It’s something we must never, ever forsake. Greater wordsmiths than I have given us worthy thoughts about maintaining hope, so it is such an important aspect of life.

My Guidebook for Life also tells us much about hope. In just one version of the Bible (New International Version) hope is mentioned 167 times.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

I believe God knew we humans would often fall into despair; He knew we would struggle with life; He knew we would become disillusioned and troubled in this fallen world, so He provided words of hope for us to cling to and a Savior to place our hope in.

No matter what comes our way, no matter what tragedy or hardship we encounter and must endure, we are never beyond hope. Not one of us.

In the book of Romans, chapter 15, verse 13, the Apostle Paul wrote “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  

My purpose in writing this blog post is that my readers may find hope in the words written here. If you are struggling today, my hope is that you can see that there is light in all the darkness which feels like it’s surrounding and enveloping you.

That light is hope. It’s hope for a better tomorrow, for a better day one step at a time.

And the God of the universe can fill you with that hope. All you have to do is ask.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~  Desmond Tutu 


A little light on the subject

blogimg_6770 (2)I’m clueless sometimes.

Often as Sunday evening rolls around and I don’t have any blog posts written for the upcoming week, I ponder over what to do. I don’t have a clue about what to write. My blog ideas folder doesn’t prove to be the fuel that sparks a flame of inspiration.

Should I just skip posting for a few days, remain silent, and hope my readers don’t give up clicking on Mama’s Empty Nest? Do I dust off an old post from years before and re-post one I’ve already published? After all, my blogging dates back to an earlier site (2005-06) and here on Word Press since 2010, so a plethora of old posts exist. 

I shuffle through them but none demand a re-posting so I resign myself to the fact that there just won’t be any new thoughts published here at Mama’s Empty Nest for the upcoming week. And that’s exactly what occurred Sunday evening.

But by Monday morning, there was a different story. As happens so often, a post idea presented itself to me. I do believe the idea didn’t come from my creative resources, but from the Triune God I worship and trust, the one and true God, God of the universe, God of creation, God of all.

When I awakened a bit later than normal yesterday morning. I had the house to myself as Papa was already off to his part-time job and Middle Daughter and Little One were safely ensconced in their own little cottage. My walking partner had appointments that cancelled our early morning walk, so I lingered just a bit longer in my comfy, warm bed.

So Monday morning found me rising after dawn instead of before as usual. Upon leaving my bed, I followed my daily routine and opened the window blinds to peer outside in order to see what kind of day it shaped up to be.

We had a snowfall over the weekend and the landscape surrounding my home was covered with a pristine blanket of white. My kind of January morning – cold, clear, snow-covered, and with the morning sun beaming down on the front of my house.

Sunshine. To quote John Denver, it “makes me happy.” And sunshine during the bleakness of winter is even more cause for happiness. 

I went downstairs to prepare some breakfast and that’s when the idea for this blog post appeared. It stopped me in my tracks. It was visible, right there in front of my eyes.  Blazing from the wall of our home office. A kind of writing on the wall, you might say, except the “writing” was an image.

A thought popped into my head immediately that gave me inspiration to write. I grabbed my camera to capture the image before it disappeared.

Now before you imagine that I witnessed some mystical image, I must tell you that what I saw isn’t that unusual. I’m certain it happens every morning when the sun appears and shines directly on the front of my home. But yesterday, it seemed like I was viewing the image with new eyes, with an open mind to what God wanted me to write.

Rays of sunshine radiating through the decorative glass of our front door created a display of light, a design that decorated the wall of a darkened room where the blinds were still closed to the light of day.

And the thought that entered my mind was this: light in the darkness. Light. In the darkness.

There’s always light to show us the way. No matter how dark it becomes, just one little light chases the darkness away. 

But we often take light for granted. We assume the sun will rise each morning to send the darkness of night away for another period of time. We assume there will be light to aid our vision when we enter a dark room and flip the light switch to on. I wonder if we truly give thanks for light.

Light. It is such a marvelous gift. It reminds me that no matter how discouraged I get by circumstances that try to dim the light within me, one ray of hope sends the darkness scattering away.

No matter how dark this world appears to me with all of the dissension and depravity created by man, no matter how dreary and weary it becomes just living in these days when the news is full of disasters, wars, cruelty, and evil doings, light shatters the despair of darkness.

And I have that light within me. So do others.

The light of the world is Jesus. I have to do my part to shine light into the darkness. I believe God gave me that message yesterday morning. A message I was meant to share with you.

This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine. Will you?

 “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu


Brighten your corner

blogimg_8942-2As I write this, it’s the second week of January. In a brand new year. One I haven’t yet become accustomed to as I still automatically write 2016, not 2017.

Just yesterday it seems we were all up in arms and worried about the year passing from one century into another one – you know, a new millennial, Y2K– the year 2000. Fear and apprehension over that coming year ran rampant. The result? The year 2000 chimed in with barely a blip on that worry radar.

In the year 2000, our oldest graduated from high school and we sent her off to college that fall with excitement and trepidation. Even though our other two were still in high school and middle school, that was the beginning of what would eventually become this empty nest of mine.

In the year 2000, Papa, employed as a sales rep for a national company, endured a lot of overnight travel with his job while I held down the fort and kept the home fires burning.

In the year 2000, my father was still alive and at age 80 keeping himself busy after my mom’s passing the year before by learning a new skill. He bought himself a computer and was figuring out how to use it and amazing us at his new found hobby.

In the year 2000, our family moved into our brand new house built right here on this farmer’s field putting down roots like we never had before since previously the longest we ever lived in any of our homes was six years.

In the year 2000, this Mama ventured back into the work field initiating and developing a program for a non-profit local ministry where I devoted my time and passion and energy for 13 years. 

So here we are seventeen years later. 2017!

Seventeen years into a century I couldn’t even imagine when I was just a kid because it seemed so distant into the future. And there are new concerns and alarms spreading out there in the big, bad world worse than Y2K, but I refuse to listen to or embrace them.

As a person born in the 1950’s, my generation has had our fair share of worrisome events and downright fear promoted in this world and hanging over our heads.

From the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and air raid drills in school to the assassinations of public figures including President John F. Kennedy to worrying about family members serving in the Vietnam War to race riots to the Kent State protest shootings in the turbulent 1960’s, we experienced fright.

From blackouts and gasoline shortages to the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island to hostages held in Iran in the 1970’s, we experienced panics.

From Mount Saint Helens volcanic eruption to the space shuttle Challenger explosion to a myriad of natural disasters like earthquakes, tornados, and hurricanes to the Iraq war and threats of others in the 1980’s, we experienced trepidation.

From the Oklahoma City bombing to mass shootings to economic crises to numerous plane crashes in the 1990’s, we experienced qualms.

And to the most horrific day of them all, September 11, 2001, we’ve experienced terror of the highest magnitude at the hands of terrorists.

All of these frightening events have crossed my fear awareness screen and are permanently etched in my memory.  

And it’s safe to say, there will be more to come. But I cannot worry about what may happen in the future because as we take the good that happens (and there have been just as many amazing events that have occurred in my lifetime too), we must also take the bad. 

I can’t join in with all of those who say our world is going to ‘hell in a hand basket” because really, hasn’t it always been so? Since the beginning of time? If you don’t think so, open up a factual history book and take a gander.

Or better yet, open up God’s Word – the Bible – and see that mankind has been heading that way ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden.

Terrible events will always happen. It’s a given. It’s life. But how we respond to those events is what matters most.

In just three short years, we will reach the year 2020. What will the world be like at this milestone? Will we humans be any wiser? Any safer? Any more peaceful? Or will we still allow fear, misery, and anxiety to rule over us?

Just as this brand new year lies ahead of each one of us, so does a choice we each must make. We either choose to focus on the negative aspects of living or we take the higher road.

We can dwell on the ills of this world and allow them to frighten us into inaction or wring our hands as we hibernate from the world or we can choose to be bold enough to speak out against evil and make a difference by striving to be a light of peace, joy, kindness, and helpfulness even amidst the darkness – right there in your own little corner of the world.

“Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ Ina D. Ogden



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.


Dear Mr. State Trooper

Dear Mr. State Trooper,

I don’t know you and you don’t know me either.  Because we’ve never met, you probably would find what I have to say a little strange.

Oh, I’ve probably seen you before.  Either you or your comrades in arms sit watchfully in your patrol cars at strategic points along the four-lane highway which links my little town to the big city.

Yes, I’ve noticed you pointing a radar gun at vehicles traveling to and fro.  I know you are not only trying to catch speeders but also protecting the rest of us who do manage to drive safely.  I also know you patrol that highway stopping suspicious drivers in an effort to keep drugs from being pipelined to our town and beyond.  Yes, drugs right here in my little town and in the rural areas surrounding us.

I do want you to know that I truly appreciate your service as you protect citizens like me, sometimes putting your life on the line.  I have the utmost respect for you and all policemen.  But there’s something important I want to share with you today.

Yesterday as I was driving to work – yes, sir, I’m certain I was traveling the speed limit  because my car was set on cruise control – I spied the flashing lights of your patrol car stopped on the highway berm and noticed that you had a car pulled over, a speeder I assumed.

As I came upon this scene,  I signaled to move into the left-hand lane – see, I do obey our homeland laws.   I watched as you stepped out of your marked vehicle  and surveyed oncoming traffic.  It seemed as if you looked right at me.  And then you turned and started walking toward that pulled over car in front of yours.

That’s when it happened. God prompted me to do something for you.

Since I don’t know you personally, I have no idea if you believe in God or know Him.  You know who I mean? God our Creator, Maker of heaven and earth.  The same God who knit you together in your mother’s womb.  The God who came to earth in human form as Jesus, the Son, and died to save you and give you eternal life.  The God who sent His Spirit to comfort you and to guide you.

That God, very God, prompted me into action.

An overwhelming thought came into my head as I watched you in my rear view window walk towards that parked car.  I believe the Lord planted this thought in my mind and I chose to obey Him.

“Pray for him.”  That was the thought.  “Pray for him right now.”

I believe the Lord wanted me to pray for you.  So I did.  I prayed for your safety.  I prayed that angels of protection would surround you and no harm would come to you.  I prayed that the person in the stopped vehicle would not be out of control or a danger to you as you approached his car and spoke with him.  I prayed that no wayward or speedy driver would swerve out of the lane of traffic and accidentally hit you.

Mr. State Trooper, I prayed hard for you as I drove on to my destination.  And then something completely thought-provoking also entered my brain.  You see, I’m one of those “what if” kind of people.

I see things and I wonder, “What if?”  I think about possibilities and ponder, “What if?”

So here’s the provocative “what if?” that I’m considering today in my book of Opportunity.

What if I prayed like that all the time?  What if I prayed for each person as I encountered him or her – complete strangers?  What if I prayed for that clerk at the convenience store or the guy beside me at the gas pump?

What if I prayed for the safety of each person driving past me in a hurry to get somewhere?  What if I prayed for that school bus full of children and its driver?

What if I prayed for my mailman as he delivers my mail or my dental hygienist as she cleans my teeth or my chiropractor as he adjusts that achy old hip of mine?

What if all of us believers prayed like that every single day?

Praying for you, Mr. State Trooper, made me realize I need to do some major changing in my life.  First, I need to be more sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting me to prayer on someone’s behalf.  Next,  I must be obedient to pray, not later, but right then at that very moment.  And lastly,  I need to share this experience with others.

You know why I think that, Mr. State Trooper?  Because when I safely arrived at work, an event I take for granted every day, this quote greeted me on my daily calendar:  “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.” ~ Margaret Fuller

What if we all “lit our candles” and prayed for one another without ceasing?  Light would overcome the darkness.  The world would be a brighter place and maybe, just maybe, a little safer too.

I prayed that the Lord would keep you safe and protected yesterday,  Mr. State Trooper.  Actually, I continued to pray for you all day because I realized that even if you don’t know Him, God loves and cares about you very, very much.  That’s why He asked me to pray for you.  And in the process, He taught me yet another lesson.

Be safe, Mr. State Trooper.  And God be with you till we meet again.

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