Just a peek

blogIMG_3659We have a hider in our family. 

Our oldest granddaughter, who will be turning three in just a couple of months, likes to hide. She hides behind chairs or the family room loveseat. Sometimes she just pulls a blanket over her head and hides that way. And she loves to peek out to see if you’re coming to find her.

Peek-a-boo. It’s a fun game for babies and toddlers and I’d venture to say most of us have played it over and over with a little one.

Lately, the sun has been playing this game around these parts. Some days, it shows its beaming face readily and gifts us with its warming rays. Other days, it hides completely behind dreary rain-filled clouds. Still other days, it peeks out from its hiding spot for a bit just to see if we’re watching.

Last Friday, I was out gallivanting with a good friend, one of my lifetime pals who has been in this friendship with me for 50+ years. We attended a Christmas craft open house in an old barn  – I’m still boggle-minded over the amount of items (and people) crammed into that space! – and then we treated ourselves to lunch and visited a nearby shop’s open house as well.

During our little excursion, the sun kept up its peek-a-boo game with us, sometimes causing me to don sunglasses, only to take them off again. At the end of our trip as we neared my home, the sun dropped its blanket of clouds and shone mightily.

Right on my house.

Literally, the sun’s rays were like laser beams focused on my house.  My white-siding house practically glowed like a brilliantly illuminated star and my friend exclaimed, “Look at your house! It’s shining!”

It was as if my house, and only my house, was hogging the spotlight. Gleaming. Practically sparkling.  Radiating light. It was kind of weird, yet amazing at the same time.

Later as I recalled that moment, something occurred to me.  Maybe that’s what heaven will look like.  As we near it, we’ll have the sense that we are home.  And home will be shining.  Light-filled. Dazzling in brilliance.

Nothing will be hidden. All will be once and for all brightly illuminated.

And the Light of the World (Jesus) will be there to welcome us home.

What a comforting thought.  And now as I recall that moment when I saw my home encased in sunlight, I’m thankful that the sun peeked out through the clouds just for me. I only wish I had had my camera with me, but of course, when I entered my home to retrieve it to try to capture this unbelievable sight, the sun had slipped back undercover once more.

That little moment in time – that peek — was gone for now, but my friend and I perhaps experienced a glimpse of things to come and peek  just happens to be this week’s photo challenge.  

“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrow currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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In a roundabout way

blogIMG_10491We go round in circles.

Did you ever give that any thought? Our daily lives do go round in circles. Cyclical because our hours are divided between wakefulness and sleep, between daylight and nighttime, between sunshine and moonshine.

Each day, although it may be different from the next because your activities may change, still is circular. We awake – most of us around the same time each morning – and then we sleep – those of us who are fortunate enough to fall asleep easily usually around the same time each night.

This week’s photo challenge is rounded.  

We go round in circles.

And sometimes, I feel like that’s all I do – go round in circles. Often when trying to accomplish a task, I get distracted by something else or someone else needing my attention. I divert, but then I come back around to finish whatever I started. Even if it’s a couple of days later.

We’ve all been told at one time or another in our lives that we need to be well-rounded. When my children were contemplating college applications, I can’t even remember how often they were given advice to be sure their applications showed how well-rounded they were.

It wasn’t enough to be a scholastic achiever with excellent grades and great college prep test scores. It helped if they showed they were involved in service activities for their school and community or athletic endeavors.

We go round in circles.

How often do we feel like we’re heading in no particular direction? I still remember traveling with my sister on a day trip to a town that I wasn’t familiar with quite a few years ago. No problem, my sis assured me, because she had a GPS.

We found our destination just fine and took a little side trip to find a place for lunch. After that, we started off for home, but that GPS kept confusing us over and over again.  Turn left, it demanded. I turned left. Recalculating, it informed me. Turn left again. I complied. Turn left. Turn left.

And you guessed it, that device kept us going in circles. We finally turned it off and found our own way.

We go round in circles.

Where I live there aren’t many roundabouts –those circular kind of intersections in which drivers travel in one direction around a center island without traffic signals or stop signs. They can be confusing if you aren’t accustomed to driving in one.

Back in September, Papa and I took a mini-vacation of sorts to a historical area, Gettysburg, in our home state. And right there in the center of town was a roundabout. We slid out of the circular traffic pattern into a parking spot to visit a museum where President Abraham Lincoln put the finishing touches on his famous Gettysburg Address.

While walking around the roundabout – going in circles – I snapped a few photos, one I posted above.  I know there was order to it, but watching the traffic flow in that roundabout seemed chaotic to me because I’m not used to traveling in many roundabouts.

But as I recall going in circles around that roundabout, I’m reminded of one thing, that life, even a well-rounded one, is short. Too short to be going in circles without direction, without purpose.

We go round in circles.

Going in circles is what we do when we have no plans, no structure, and probably no goals either. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of going round in circles and I’m willing to deviate from the rounded path, follow a few dreams, live what’s rest of my life with purpose, and ask God to guide me along the way.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” ~ William Shakespeare in The Tempest

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Heart to heart windows

blogIMG_1044Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could get a little glimpse of the future through a window?

Just for a moment in time maybe. Just to satisfy your curiosity. Or maybe prevent an event in your life or even prepare for an occurrence so it didn’t blindside you.

“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” ~ Peter Drucker

Of course, there are no magic windows that we can peer out of or into showing us what the future holds.

Papa and I were just talking about this the other day. The day before we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, we were honored to attend a lovely marriage ceremony and reception. The handsome young groom is the son of one of my oldest and dearest friends, who happened to be my maid of honor in my own wedding.

There was much to celebrate, not just the wedding itself but the fact that my friend who experienced some life-threatening health issues this year was recovered from her scary ordeals and well enough to see her firstborn pledge his love and faithfulness to his beautiful bride.

The wedding took place in a town quite a distance from ours so as Papa and I were traveling along the highway, we had plenty of time to talk, reminisce, and reflect on our own big day those 40 years ago.

We witnessed the young couple’s marriage vows along with all the other families and friends in a small but picturesque old stone church. So much happiness blended in with heartfelt hugs and congratulations.

Later, as we meandered our way down country roads in this gorgeous, mountainous area of our state to the reception venue, I posed a question to my own beloved.

“When we were getting married 40 years ago,” I questioned him, “did you ever look down the road and think about where we would be in 40 years? What our life would be like?”

His reply didn’t surprise me. “Nope, never even gave it a thought.”

Me either, I confessed. And maybe that’s some of the problem with marriages. We get caught up in the excitement and romance of a relationship and the wedding itself  – the fairy tale with a happily ever after ending – without seriously considering the future and what it may bring – rough times right along with the good ones. 

Because that’s what we say to one another in those marriage vows. If you tie the knot in a church like Papa and I did, the minister performing the ceremony asks both the groom and bride if they will take the other to be your wife/husband to live together in holy matrimony.

When you answer those two little words – I do – you vow to love, comfort, honor, and keep the other in sickness and in health, forsaking all others to be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live.

You promise to take the person who stands beside you in front of all your family, friends, and God from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death you shall part.

It sounds so easy, but it’s not.

And most young couples probably do as Papa and I did – not stop to take a glimpse through a window of time to the days and years to come.

To those days when that elated feeling of being in romantic love begins to fade a bit.

To those days when trouble comes, as it surely does, and you have to purposely choose to love your mate, not just base your relationship on a fleeting feeling of infatuation.

To those days when you or your spouse lose jobs and you may not have all the wealth you hoped to accumulate.

To those days when you lose cherished family members and you struggle with grief.

To those days when you may be a little heavier, your hair is turning silver, or you’re losing it entirely.

To those days when one or both of you have health issues, or suffers from depression, or is incapacitated in some way.

To those days 10 years from the wedding date.

Or 25 years. Or 40.

Or 50 years from the day you said I do.

Or if God grants you long lives beyond the golden anniversary mark, when your spouse has become more than just your romantic love, but your treasured companion, your best friend, and your entire being is entwined with the one you have chosen to love for life.

Heart to heart. Soul to soul.

Looking through the window of marriage into the future to ensure a long-lasting relationship, until death do you part.

That is my wish for young wedded couples.

“There is a window from one heart to another heart.” ~ Rumi

This past week’s photo challenge theme was “windows.”

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The layered look

BlogIMG_1083(2)Fall’s arrived – my favorite season – and here in my neck of the woods, we tend to dress in layers during the months of autumn. 

Mornings start out crisp and cool with a little shiver in the air, but often by mid-day sunshine pushes that red vertical line up the outside thermometer. So we shed that outer jacket or sweater we put on first thing in the morning. And then by evening, we don it once again.

We peel off layers of clothing easily, but I wonder, how simple is it to shed the layers of who we are? You know, so that others see our true self instead of the persona we present to the world.  You may think you know me, but can you really see beneath my layers? How do you know I’m not just hiding underneath the layers that define me?

Every one of us human beings possess layers. And some of us really embrace the layered look so you don’t see that our lives are somewhat less than perfect.

I’m speaking for myself here and since this week’s photo challenge theme is layered, I thought I’d peel off some of my layered look publicly. Don’t worry, no nudity is involved here!

First off, I have many family layers. Who I am in respect to my familial relationships.  I am the daughter of my parents, granddaughter of my grandparents, sister to my siblings, sister-in-law to my and my husband’s siblings’ spouses, cousin, aunt to nieces and nephews and great-aunt as well.  I am a wife, mother, and now grandmother myself.

My layered look reveals that family is important to me too.

Social layers also exist when you look at me.  I am a friend, a confidante, an acquaintance. I’ve been a co-worker, volunteer, soccer mom, PTA member and president, and booster club member to name a few. Doing for others is one of my layers.

Schooling provided some more layers: elementary, middle, and high school student, high school graduate, college undergraduate, college graduate, on-line learner. Education and continuing to learn are also important layers.

In the world of work, my layers include having been a part-time sales clerk, summertime factory worker, English teacher, journalist/reporter/editor, technical editor, non-profit education director, and substitute teacher. I’ve been an employee, a team leader, and even a boss, and the most recent layer I’ve added is being a semi-retired person. Those layers tell you a lot about me.

Peel back a few more layers:  church goer, church member, Sunday School teacher, youth group leader, small group Bible study leader, church board member, deacon. You may think you know everything about me now.

Yet there are still more layers – amateur photographer, writer, blogger, social media user, online group co-leader, library user, real and e-book reader. The list might go on and on.

But when you peel back all of those layers, who am I really?  You may think I’m being very transparent, yet more layers exist that I haven’t shared. At my core, what is my identity?

I find my identity in being a Christ follower, a believer, a Christian not just by title but by faith.

My guidebook for life, the Bible, tells me I am God’s handiwork:  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

When I placed my identity in Christ alone, another layer was added. I’m a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

But what really astounds me is this. God loves me perfectly, unconditionally. He doesn’t love me because of my layered look, because of the layers I demonstrate for others to see.

His love isn’t based on my being perfect. It’s based on nothing but Himself. Who He is. The God of the universe who sent His only Son to die for my sin, in my place.

Perfect love.  Without any layers.

“Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” ~ Carl Sandburg

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

While you wait

blogDSCN6837

Waiting for the sheets to dry

From the doctor’s office to sitting in traffic, we’ve all done our fair share of it. Waiting, that is. Depending on your level of patience, waiting can either be just a little blip in the road or a major interruption.

Waiting just happens to be the theme for this week’s photo challenge and I’ve found that I just don’t have the time right now to wait for an idea of inspiration to come to me nor do I have a few spare moments to think about a photo to accompany my words.

So, to keep you, my readers, from waiting any longer, I’m recycling a photo (above) and a post I wrote seven years ago not long after I began my blogging journey here on Word Press. Way back then, I shared my thoughts about waiting and you can read them by clicking here.

“You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.”~ Craig Bruce

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Structure to build upon

blogDSCN0108 (2)I’m not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. Nope, I like to have my ducks all in a row and I will count them to make sure they are all there too.

Willy-nilly, I am not. I’m happiest when all around me is in order. This thing put away where it belongs. That thing relegated to the recycling or trash.

Clutter removed from the counters, the shelves, my desk, wherever I can see in plain sight. I want a clean slate when I look around.

A place for everything and everything in its place. That makes me feel calm and secure. And in control.  Because when my surroundings get out of control – and despite my intentions of having a spit-spot clean house, it gets pretty messy here – I feel out of control.

When my own little world isn’t in order, I can sense stress just surging inside of me, intensifying and ascending up my back and neck finally settling in my head like a ticking time bomb ready for a full-blown explosion.  

When I was a young mom with three active children, trying to keep my home orderly darn near drove me crazy. Seriously, how do you do so with toys, games, backpacks full of school papers, books, clothes dirty and clean, shoes galore, sporting equipment (and some of it smelled atrocious!), and all the accoutrements that come along with kids?

So to keep my sanity, I learned to just let some things go. Stop striving for perfection when it came to the orderliness of our home. And as I’ve aged… ahem…matured…I’ve even lightened up a good deal more. Well, as much as I can with a 2½- year-old grandchild in my home.

But what I realize I need, what truly floats my boat, calms my inner perfectionist, and keeps me feeling in control is structure, this week’s photo challenge theme.

My handy desk dictionary –yes, I still use a real paper-paged bound book called a dictionary – defines structure as a noun this way: 1. A complex entity. 2a Organization; arrangement. b. Constitution; make-up. 3. Something constructed esp. a building or part.

Words spoken to me over 40 years ago have remained lodged in my brain and rise to the surface when I think about that word – structure.  At the time I was a starry-eyed, idealistic college senior finishing a semester of student teaching in a junior high school classroom.

My supervising teacher – the 7th grade English teacher at this city school in whose classes I tried out my lesson plans – offered advice to me, which I’ve never forgotten, about launching my teaching career.

He advised me to start out tough, running a tight ship in the classroom with a lot of structure.  

“You can always lighten up, but you can never tighten up,” were the words Mr. D told me. He was right.

Without structure, where would we be? Our bodies certainly have structure in the form of all the bones that comprise our skeletal system.  Without that formation, we’d just be big blobs rolling around.

We take shelter and live in some type of building whether it be our homes made of cement, wood, or brick or even a tent. Without structure, nothing would stand to protect us from the environment.

Our modes of transportation all have structure from cars to buses to planes, trains, and ships. Without their forms, we’d all have to travel only by our own feet.

I’m no scientist, but I do know that there is structure in our DNA as well. If you’ve ever seen a drawing of a DNA molecule, you’ll note that there are two strands, a double helix, that wind around each other and resemble a sort of twisted ladder. Structure.

Our very lives here on earth revolve around structure. Twenty-four hours in a day. Seven days in a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year. Our planet revolves around the sun in an orderly way. All of it based on structure.

And every structure that exists also must have some sort of foundation. For me, the foundation of my structure is my faith. When I feel out of control and structure seems to be totally out of order, I pray. I turn to my guidebook for life, my Bible.

It’s the structure I build my life upon.

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” ~ Saint Augustine

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

In my own little corner

blogDSCN0109 (2)Years ago, okay….many years ago when I was a child, I watched a musical version of Cinderella on television with real, live actors instead of animated ones.

The well-known fairy tale was set to lovely music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I can still remember the actress Lesley Ann Warren, who played Cinderella, singing a song called, In My Own Little Corner.

Previously here in my blog, I’ve shared a quirky little characteristic I possess, but just in case you missed that, I’ll let you in on it.

More often than not, just the utterance of a mere word causes my brain to flip through all the information stored in it (after 60+ years, there’s a lot up there!) and produce  musical lyrics from the past with that particular word in the song.  

I don’t know why I remember song lyrics (and the music that accompanies them) so well, but I do. And as soon as I read that this week’s photo challenge theme was ‘corner,’ this song from that TV version of Cinderella came to life once more in my head.

“In my own little corner
In my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be
On the wing of my fancy
I can fly anywhere
And the world will open its arms to me.”

As melancholy as the thought is of poor, abused, lovely Cinderella forced to labor for a vengeful step-mother and mean step-sisters and sit in her little corner of her dingy world, aren’t the song lyrics encouraging?

Despite her terrible condition and place in life, Cinderella rises above it. How? By using her imagination. I love that.

As someone who captures words and photographs attempting to carve them into something creative and inspiring, where would I be without some imagination? Without thoughts that ignite a spark of inspiration? Without a sense of optimism and purpose?

Because in my own little corner (right here in our home office),

In my own little chair (the comfy, swivel desk chair facing the computer screen),

I can be whatever I want to be (I can write whatever I want; I can turn my thoughts into sentences; I can post those words online for you to read).

On the wing of my fancy (inspired by words or photographs),

I can fly anywhere (my posts fly around cyberspace via the internet),

And the world will open its arms to me. (You, my readers, from all over the world, have opened your arms to me by clicking on my posts to read my thoughts.)

Sometimes, I wonder if putting myself ‘out there’ in cyberspace is worth the time and effort I put into writing this blog. Obviously, I don’t write it to make money because I earn absolutely no amount of dollars doing so.

I don’t even write to make a name for myself, or to broaden my ‘brand,’ or whatever the hype is now to publicize your writing because I write this without using my given name attached to it.

So why emerge from my own little corner and hit publish every week? The reason might just be found in yet another set of song lyrics:

“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.

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.” ~ lyrics by Ina D. Ogdon

I write because maybe, just maybe, from my own little corner I shed a little light into your little corner.

It takes perseverance, it takes discipline, and maybe even a little courage, but I’ll continue to brighten as many corners as I can for as long as I can.

“Courage can’t see around corners but goes around them anyway.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com