Repurposing me

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My father-in-law’s childhood wooden puzzle repurposed.

This week’s Photo Challenge just happens to be ‘repurpose.’ Well, what better way to fulfill that theme than to actually do some repurposing? So the following is a blog post (complete with photos) that I published back in 2014. Some of my faithful readers may remember this one. But voila! Repurposed. 

Repurposing appears to be all the rage now days. 

What today’s savvy crafter or decorator calls repurposing – using something old or that could  be discarded for an entirely new purpose – is what we used to call just reusing what we had lying around the house or garage.  My parents were experts at reusing.  Both of them grew up during the Great Depression and money was not just tight, in some instances it was practically non-existent, so they learned from their parents to reuse everything possible.

Maybe that’s why my father had an over-sized two-car garage full of all kinds of bits and pieces:  old electrical wiring and plugs, any kind of old screws, nuts, bolts, or nails, jars, pieces of lumber/tile/whatever, string/rope/twine, parts for this and parts from that, and on and on and on.  My parents only threw something away when it was totally unusable.  And many times that whatsit that Dad had saved in the garage came handy for fixing or fabricating something else.

Fast forward to current times.  Everyone is ‘repurposing.’  You can find scads of ideas on Pinterest and there are entire websites dedicated to reusing, remaking, and repurposing all kinds of things.  I noticed some really great ideas and some incredulous ones as well (like turning an old baby Grand piano into a fountain) on this Twisted Sifter site. And I regularly check out interesting reusing ideas on the Facebook page Hometalk.

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My mother’s childhood toy cabinet repurposed

I’ve repurposed a number of things right here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that I have more time on my hands.  After my mom passed away, I inherited one of her toys – a child-sized wooden cabinet that she put her play dishes in as a little girl.  It gathered dust in my basement for several years because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. 

One day I brought it upstairs, cleaned and polished it and found a spot in my dining room for it.   I repurposed it by adorning it with some vintage doilies and various tea-related items in addition to special tea cups and saucers and my mother-in-law’s antique cream pitchers and was happy with the result.  I especially like that it reminds me not only of my mom and my mother-in-law but also the friends and family who gave me the gifts it now holds.

Repurpose Win #1.

After my father passed, my sisters and I faced the monumental task of cleaning out our parents’ home and garage – not an easy job in lots of ways.  In the garage, I found the old insulated dairy box that used to stand on our porch for the milkman to deposit our weekly bottles of milk in when I was a kid.  It was still in relatively decent shape, and since neither one of my sisters wanted it, it came home with me.  Of course, it too found a dusty spot in my basement to hide.  This summer, I repurposed it into a flower pot container for pretty red geraniums on my front porch.

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My parents’ milk box repurposed

Repurpose Win #2.

For years, my hubby has kept a wooden puzzle in an old cardboard stationary box of his mother’s.  The puzzle is most unique in that it is printed on both sides – one side is the face of a clock in Roman numerals, the other gives the seasons of the year, names of the months, and how many days each month has.  The puzzle is special to us because it was a boyhood toy for my father-in-law who was born in 1898 (yes, you read that right!).  Instead of being hidden away in a box, this little bit of family history now rests inside a glass frame and hangs on my husband’s study wall (see photo at top).

Repurpose Win #3.

So repurposing – I’ve been up for it.  I’ve managed it.  There are still some items in my home that I have plans to reuse in one way or another.  That’s the easy aspect of repurposing.  Just go online, look up ideas, scan a few magazines, voila! You’ve got an idea what to do and how to do it.

But when it comes to life?  How do you repurpose that?  Not so easy.  That’s something I’ve been struggling with for over a year now.  Altering your life is so much more difficult than altering an object.  Finding a new purpose for yourself proves harder than finding a new purpose for an old, dusty thing.

This passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 2:20-21 which I read in The Message the other day encouraged me:   “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”

With God’s guidance and according to His purpose, I believe He’s repurposing me, altering my container so I can be used to bless others.

And I’m hoping.  And praying.  And waiting for Repurpose Win #4.

“Living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.” ~Author Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Dandelion thoughts

blogIMG_7831 (2)They are everywhere.

Dotting the expanse of our 2.25 acre yard with their sunny dispositions, there is a plethora of them. But they don’t stay long. 

For a few days their perky little blooms speckle our lawn breaking up the monotonous spread of grass green, but then they transform into wisps of white fluff seeds which the breezy wind lifts up into the air carrying them far and wide.

Yep, I’m writing about dandelions. If you live in the suburbs and desire a picture perfect plush lawn with no weeds, you eradicate them as best you can.  But when you live in the country like I do, these little bursts of sunshine yellow crop up everywhere.

And you know what? I like them. It actually makes my heart happy to sit on my front porch swing and view our bumper crop of dandelions (and we do have a bumper crop this year!). I think they are just…well…dandy.

Dandelions remind me of childhood. 

Of picking them and fashioning bouquets to take to my mother.

Of making dandelion chains to wear as necklaces, bracelets, or crowns.

Of plucking the white puffy seed balls left behind after they bloom and blowing gently on them while making wishes.

Of lying in the cool grassy cushion of the earth and watching those wisps float and flit against the blue sky of warm weather. 

So what some folks perceive as a weed, I think of as a sweet little reminder of days gone by and nostalgic thoughts. 

I recently read a quote that said “When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds or a thousand wishes.” (unknown source)

How true. It’s all in how we look at things, isn’t it? Do we only see what we consider to be annoying or negative or can we look beyond and see something pleasant and positive?

So dandelion thoughts can apply to life. When plans go awry, when troubles and trials come my way, those aspects of life can wear me down. Make me feel as useless as weeds appear to be. But doesn’t everything have a purpose? Even those trials we face in life?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”

So if a weed like a dandelion has an undiscovered  ‘virtue,’ then surely there exists an equally unrealized purpose for those hard times we encounter in life.

Difficult circumstances cause me to grow in my faith and actually compel me to become a stronger person. If life was simple and easy and always turning out exactly the way I wanted, from where would I gather any strength? I’d be as delicate as those dandelion seeds floating in the wind, tossed here and there without any direction.

So I will glance out my window or perch on my porch swing and give thanks to the Lord, Creator of all things, for dandelions and also for dandelion thoughts. And just maybe I’ll grow like a weed. 

“Be a weed! A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” ~ Doug Larson

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Repurposing me

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Father-in-law’s wooden puzzle from childhood

Repurposing appears to be all the rage now days. 

What today’s savvy crafter or decorator calls repurposing – using something old or that could  be discarded for an entirely new purpose – is what we used to call just reusing what we had lying around the house or garage.  My parents were experts at reusing.  Both of them grew up during the Great Depression and money was not just tight, in some instances it was practically non-existent, so they learned from their parents to reuse everything possible.

Maybe that’s why my father had an over-sized two-car garage full of all kinds of bits and pieces:  old electrical wiring and plugs, any kind of old screws, nuts, bolts, or nails, jars, pieces of lumber/tile/whatever, string/rope/twine, parts for this and parts from that, and on and on and on.  My parents only threw something away when it was totally unusable.  And many times that whatsit that Dad had saved in the garage came handy for fixing or fabricating something else.

Fast forward to current times.  Everyone is ‘repurposing.’  You can find scads of ideas on Pinterest and there are entire websites dedicated to reusing, remaking, and repurposing all kinds of things.  I noticed some really great ideas and some incredulous ones as well (like turning an old baby Grand piano into a fountain) on this Twisted Sifter site. And I regularly check out interesting reusing ideas on the Facebook page Hometalk.

blogIMG_2127

Mother’s childhood cabinet

I’ve repurposed a number of things right here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that I have more time on my hands.  After my mom passed away, I inherited one of her toys – a child-sized wooden cabinet that she put her play dishes in as a little girl.  It gathered dust in my basement for several years because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. 

One day I brought it upstairs, cleaned and polished it and found a spot in my dining room for it.   I repurposed it by adorning it with some vintage doilies and various tea-related items in addition to special tea cups and saucers and my mother-in-law’s antique cream pitchers and was happy with the result.  I especially like that it reminds me not only of my mom and my mother-in-law but also the friends and family who gave me the gifts it now holds.

Repurpose Win #1.

After my father passed, my sisters and I faced the monumental task of cleaning out our parents’ home and garage – not an easy job in lots of ways.  In the garage, I found the old insulated dairy box that used to stand on our porch for the milkman to deposit our weekly bottles of milk in when I was a kid.  It was still in relatively decent shape, and since neither one of my sisters wanted it, it came home with me.  Of course, it too found a dusty spot in my basement to hide.  This summer, I repurposed it into a flower pot container for pretty red geraniums on my front porch.

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Old milk box back on the porch

Repurpose Win #2.

For years, my hubby has kept a wooden puzzle in an old cardboard stationary box of his mother’s.  The puzzle is most unique in that it is printed on both sides – one side is the face of a clock in Roman numerals, the other gives the seasons of the year, names of the months, and how many days each month has.  The puzzle is special to us because it was a boyhood toy for my father-in-law who was born in 1898 (yes, you read that right!).  Instead of being hidden away in a box, this little bit of family history now rests inside a glass frame and hangs on my husband’s study wall (see photo at top).

Repurpose Win #3.

So repurposing – I’ve been up for it.  I’ve managed it.  There are still some items in my home that I have plans to reuse in one way or another.  That’s the easy aspect of repurposing.  Just go online, look up ideas, scan a few magazines, voila! You’ve got an idea what to do and how to do it.

But when it comes to life?  How do you repurpose that?  Not so easy.  That’s something I’ve been struggling with for over a year now.  Altering your life is so much more difficult than altering an object.  Finding a new purpose for yourself proves harder than finding a new purpose for an old, dusty thing.

This passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 2:20-21 which I read in The Message the other day encouraged me:   “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”

With God’s guidance and according to His purpose, I believe He’s repurposing me, altering my container so I can be used to bless others.

And I’m hoping.  And praying.  And waiting for Repurpose Win #4.

“Living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.” ~Author Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Nostalgia lesson – past, present, and future

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My mom on the farm

“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson:  you find the present tense, but the past perfect.” ~ Owens Lee Pomeroy

Living in the present IS tense.  Just pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV, or click on an internet news site.

You’ll find headlines screaming at you about economic crisis, crime, joblessness,  war, homelessness, natural disasters, and social disasters.  It’s enough to make you crawl back into bed, pull the covers up tightly over your head, and pull a Rip Van Winkle, hopefully awakening in 20 years to find it’s all over.

Maybe that’s why my mind often reverts to the past because the present is just so difficult to maneuver.   It’s true nostalgia makes one feel better, and when we look back at the past, we tend to remember the perfect moments.

The other day, I drove to a much-needed hair appointment at my favorite salon.   The morning air proved cool enough to fling my car sun roof wide open and power all the windows down.  Traveling on some country back roads to get to the highway, I relished the refreshing morning air, and that’s when I heard it.

A distinct sound immediately transported me back to the past, back to my grandparents’ house.  Somewhere a rooster crowed.   Loudly.   His “cock-a-doodle-doo” rang through the air.  Instantly, I remembered the chicken coop at my grandparents’  where roosters and hens roamed the yard freely.

I also recalled one old mean rooster from which I steered away because he frightened me.  Let’s just say he didn’t like the hand that fed him, that’s for sure.  Once he attacked my grandmother flogging her legs and hands until blood flowed from them.  Since she was elderly, she couldn’t scurry fast enough away from his menacing, pecking beak.  If I remember correctly, he ended up being Sunday dinner.

I was just a young child then, but I remember those things well.  When I think about chickens, I also recollect one Easter when my sister brought home two baby chicks.  They were the cutest, downy fluffs.  But as they grew, they became destined to join the other chickens over at Grandma’s house.   They weren’t so cute then.   In the past, they were adorable.  In the present, not so much.

Later on my day out,  I visited a local antique store.  I’m always on the prowl for vintage items that middle daughter (my antique loving one) might use for her wedding plans.  It was hot and humid in the store, just like stepping back into years of old when air conditioning didn’t exist.  The wooden floor creaked under my feet and the place was crammed full of furniture, what-nots, dishes, you name it.  If it was vintage, it was sitting somewhere in that shop.  Even an old pump-organ rested there amid the clutter.

As I roamed among the nostalgic wares, my eyes would spy something that reminded me of my mother or my grandmother which prompted another trip down memory lane.   Those kitchen items there – Grandma had those.  That lovely dresser set consisting of mirror, jars, comb and brush –  similar to a set my mother used.

All the items packed into that shop were useful in the past; some of them were loved and treasured by someone.  Now they just gathered dust sitting on shelves, crowded into spaces where a passerby might happen to take a liking to them.   In a way, it saddened me to think about all of the lives those discarded items represented.

After a while, the search for just the right treasure proved elusive.  Wilting from the humidity, I crawled back into my car, cranked the a/c up and headed home.  On my way, it occurred to me that we humans resemble those antiques.   Useful, loved and treasured for a few seasons, but one day, life on this earth must end.   For most of us, we’ll only be remembered when something triggers a memory of us in a living soul who once knew and loved us.

It’s true that we are like the grass as God’s Word reminds us in Isaiah 40:6-8: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.  Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

We wither, we fade away, but that doesn’t mean life is without purpose.  When our purpose is to live for Christ, show others His love, and lead them to Him, our past may not be perfect, neither may our present be,  but the future?  Oh, that will be perfect! Coming face to face with Jesus in Glory, hearing Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and spending eternity with Him is the most picture-perfect future I can imagine.

In my book called Opportunity, Chapter 7 is coming to a close.  On this 30th page, I’m thankful that the God of the Universe loves me (and you) and desires for us to spend our futures with Him.   To receive that gift of grace that will last for all time, all we have to do is acknowledge that we are His and accept that Jesus is our Savior.

The following Casting Crowns song is one of my favorites.  Even though you and I are just vapors in the wind, flowers quickly fading, waves tossed in the ocean, He hears us and He saves us.

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Come Sail Away

blogIMG_0354The rowboat looked lonely and abandoned.

It rocked gently back and forth nudged by the wind, this way and that.

It bobbed and bounced up and down, lifted by the tide and then released.  Slowly it drifted up the shoreline.

No destination awaited the boat; it just floated along at the mercy of water and wind.  You see, the weather-beaten vessel, battered and worn, had neither anchor nor oars.

Often times, we feel like the empty and forlorn rowboat, adrift and without purpose, aimlessly going with the flow but not really heading anywhere, lost in a sea of despair with no navigator on board.

Recently one of my loved ones shared with me a conversation he engaged in with a co-worker.  When asked what he thought the purpose of life was, the co-worker replied, “Why do you need one?”  The co-worker is highly intelligent, a person of reason and logic, but it still surprises me that anyone would believe we humans don’t need a purpose in life.

I fear there are scads of such people out there in the world, living their lives with no purpose.  I picture them as hollow humans floating along without oars to propel them to a meaningful existence and without an anchor to hold them steadfastly firm in life’s storms.  To them, life must seem shallow and obviously worthless.

Perhaps that is why issues such as abortion and euthanasia don’t raise a red flag to them.  What difference would it make to end the life of an unborn child or an elderly person if life is pointless?  If it were true that life has no purpose then it also has no value.

I can’t imagine thinking that life is futile and insignificant.  That concept rubs me raw and saddens me to my core.  I feel an urgency for those of us who value life to reach out to those who don’t.  Somehow, we who know the Truth must speak it whether we are given the opportunity to do so in a public forum before multitudes or privately to just one person who is adrift in a sea of irrelevance.

American poet Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.  To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”

I agree with that statement that we need to set sail, not lie at anchor, but I also believe we need an anchor.  It sounds contradictory but I think God is our anchor and our oars at the same time.

An anchor is a strong device that prevents a vessel from drifting in the wind or water’s current.  In early times, anchors were probably large, heavy rocks that moored the boat to the sea’s floor.  The rock held the boat firmly in place, resisting the forces of storms which would propel the craft hither and yon were there no anchor.

I envision us human beings as vessels who all too often encounter storms in our lives.  The storms can shake us, scatter us, toss us about, and force us into places that make us cringe with anxiety, especially if we have no anchor. But those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior do possess a solid mooring, which holds them firmly and steadfastly as they weather life’s virulent storms.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul,  firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf,” Hebrews 6:19 says.

Just as an anchor holds a ship safely in its position, likewise the hope and faith I place in my Savior guarantees my destination -heaven.  A ship’s anchor is thrust downward into the ocean bed, but my anchor in Jesus lifts upward into the heavenly realm, where Jesus Himself is moored to the Father.

What better anchor could I possibly find?  Scripture tells me many times in the Bible that my faith will keep me firm and steadfast, even through the ferocity of a storm.  Here are just a few examples:

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” ~ Psalm 40:2

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10

“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” ~ Proverbs 10:25

Even though I stand firm in my faith with Christ the rock as my anchor, I envision God as my oars as well.  Without oars, I cannot move forward, I can’t make progress, I can’t arrive at my destination.  I would just float along, drifting aimlessly without purpose.

Hebrews 2:1 tells me, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” The truth I’ve heard and believe is that Christ died on the cross to bridge the gap between us and the Father, saving us and reconciling us to the Father, something we sinners could never attain on our own.

As a believer, I must grasp tightly to God’s oars of purpose, so I don’t drift into meaninglessness, false teaching, and the worldly lures of the flesh.  I do that by engaging in a personal relationship with Him, praying and conversing with Him, seeking truth and knowledge from His Holy Word.

Furthermore, I’ve been given the Holy Spirit to serve as my guide, my oars.  “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” ~ Ezekiel 36:27

The Spirit propels me just as oars in a boat; He steers me through dangerous waters by reminding me of His Word.  He gives me direction, serving as my navigator, while He moves me along.  In Acts 17:28 it is written, “For in him we live and move and have our being.”

I cannot navigate in a purposeful way to accomplish what God wants me to do for His kingdom if I don’t relinquish the oars to Him, if I don’t allow Him to live in me, and if He is not in the innermost part of my being – my heart and soul.   But I can not  be stagnant, listlessly complacent in my journey of faith.  The Spirit urges me to keep sailing onward, gaining more knowledge and understanding of God and His Word.

Charting my course through the water’s current where He leads doesn’t mean I will always coast along with smooth sailing or that I won’t encounter rough seas, rushing rapids, or an onslaught of storms.  But I should share what I have learned through those difficult times with others, so they too may come to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ, even amid life’s struggles.

Serving Him while I encourage another fellow sailor to keep from capsizing – that is my purpose here on this earth and the purpose of generations who traveled the seas before me and those who will follow after me.

“But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” ~ Psalm 33:11

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A Seventh of a Year

pexels-photo-261684.jpegHere’s a profound quote for you – “We spend approximately one-seventh of our lives on Monday.”

If you haven’t figured out yet, I love the written word.  I not only like writing my own words, I actually collect other people’s words.  (So be careful what you say to me, it just might end up on my blog!)

Dating probably back to my high school days, I have kept a folder filled with quotations, short poems, and thoughts written on scraps of paper or torn out of magazines.  Not my own words, but other people’s, famous and ordinary.

Every once in a while I scan through the folder, usually when I’m in a cleaning mood, but I never can bring myself to actually throw the words in my folder away.  That folder has survived more moves than most of my other belongings over all these years.

When I used to make my own greeting cards, the verses came in handy, but I rarely construct my own cards these days.  Because of my background as a former English teacher and newspaper journalist, the task of publishing newsletters for different organizations ranging from churches to PTAs to Cub Scouts managed to fall on me.   Sometimes my folder delivered filler material for those newsletters.

But that was years ago.  The only newsletter responsibility I have nowadays is proof-reading the e-letter that the non-profit I’m employed by sends to donors and friends.

So why do I save these words of wisdom, gems of greatness,  editions of expressions, illustrations of insights,  and pages of perception?  You got me.

Today, however, I gleaned the quote above from that beat-up folder. It’s Monday and as far as Mondays go, it was a typical one.  I usually work on Mondays; today was no exception.  I performed my usual assignments,  met with a co-worker about an upcoming event, and generally started gearing up for my job’s busy season. Back home, I also performed my usual Monday tasks, which included making dinner for hubby and me.

So one-seventh of my week was spent in the usual fashion today, with the exception of writing this blog post.  And that’s my point for today.

If I just live my life in normal mode every day performing the same routine week after week, year after year, what difference am I making in this world?

I’m not a flamboyant person or someone who you would define as extraordinary.  I’m just ordinary.

But my desire is to accomplish something extraordinary, even if that something is just causing one other person to be encouraged for this day.

Or causing one person to examine the way he leads his life and make a change for the better.   Or causing one person to open her Bible and come to know my personal Savior as her own.  Or causing one person to find comfort, warmth, friendship, joy, or peace.  That’s why I write this blog.

“Don’t just fill your life with years. Fill your years with life.”  Another quote from my faithful folder.  Biblical scholars believe wise King Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, and in it, he states that obsessions we chase after like wisdom, pleasure, toil (work), advancement, and riches are actually all meaningless.

A life centered on attaining those aspects to glorify and please ourselves instead of using them to serve and glorify God has no purpose.  I am guilty as charged and I need to examine how I spend each day – that one-seventh of my week – as it comes.  And in doing so, God may use me to do something extraordinary, and I might not even be cognizant of it.   That is my hope for this day and each one to follow.

“Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.  Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.  Direct me, in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.  Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.  Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”  ~ Psalm 119:33-37

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com