This is humanity

This is humanity…

because between this…

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and this…

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there is a life worthy of living the best possible way we know how.

 And each life touches another…and another…and another.

Our inner strengths, experiences, and truths cannot be lost, destroyed, or taken away. Every person has an inborn worth and can contribute to the human community. We all can treat one another with dignity and respect, provide opportunities to grow toward our fullest lives and help one another discover and develop our unique gifts. We each deserve this and we all can extend it to others.” ~ Unknown

Linking up with WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge today.

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Adventure? Who, me?

blogAZ1“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ― Helen Keller, The Open Door

When God handed out the trait for being adventurous, I must have been absent.  Adventurous is not a word I would use to describe myself at all.  As a child, I was anything but.  I was shy and I certainly was not a risk taker.  

That quiet student in the school classroom who never raised her hand to answer teachers’ questions but would shyly respond with the correct answer if called upon?  That was me.  Why didn’t I raise my hand?  Because I might be wrong and I just didn’t want to take that chance.

So adventurous? Me? Hah.  But my kids, now they are the thrill-seekers.  And they have passport stamps to prove it. They’ve traveled to foreign countries from Mexico to Honduras, from Belize to France, from England to Mozambique, from Costa Rica to South Africa.  

Me?  The only foreign country I’ve visited isn’t that foreign – it’s our neighbor to the north, Canada.  Oh, I’ve traveled.  At last count, I’ve been in 32 of our 50 states here in the US and I suppose that counts as an adventure.

But exciting escapades…it seems I enjoy them vicariously through my adult children on their jaunts from safaris to sky diving to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  From para-sailing to participating in a triathlon to rappelling down waterfalls.  From cruising on the ocean to cruising along the skyline via helicopter.  

Yes, it’s safe to say my kids are adventurers.  They relish crossing items off their adventure bucket lists and are ever eager to step out of their comfort zones enjoying the journeys along the way.  And I like to think that I, the one who was raised on the motto ‘better safe than sorry,’ helped encourage them to do so.

In comparison, my life probably doesn’t appear to be very exciting, but when I stop to really consider it, I have had a few adventures of my own.  I’ve watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean and I’ve observed it setting over the Pacific. 

I’ve viewed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and the lemon yellow color of aspen trees in the fall as well as the seemingly unending horizon of the Plains and the golden waves of grain growing there.  I’ve visited a volcano (Mount St. Helens),  one of the deepest, clearest lakes in the world (Crater Lake), and witnessed the power of a mighty waterfall (Niagara Falls).

From fields of bright-colored tulips in the spring to fields of happy sunflowers in summer to hillsides of trees adorned in fall’s brightly colored leaves to mounds of sparkling snow covered landscapes in winter, I’ve witnessed the beauty of nature. 

I’ve strolled along sunshine-laden sandy strips of beach on one side of my country and hiked through moss-covered giant redwood trees deep in the forest a couple of thousand miles away on the other side.  

I’ve also walked on the streets of some of the most well-known cities in our nation from New York City to Dallas to San Francisco to Washington, DC just to name a few.  I’ve traveled by plane, train, boat, ferry, subway, cable car, and even by incline while many people have never traveled in anything other than a car or have ever been outside their home towns.

But there’s more to an adventurous life than just travel and sightseeing.  So often God has led me out of my shy shell in daring ways.  He’s placed me in locations and situations out of my comfort zone.  No doubt He wanted to teach me a lesson about relying on Him, trusting Him, putting my faith in Him. 

All the locales I’ve visited, the places I’ve lived, the people I’ve met, and situations that became a part of my life have truly been adventures and they molded me into the person I am now.  And I believe God is responsible for all of those times in order to give my faith room to grow. 

He gave me blessed opportunities to witness the birth of another human being three times when I had my own children and He placed me in the life of a friend to listen and weep with her when her heart was broken by abortion.   

He provided occasions to reach out and touch others’ lives in ways I never thought I could do through my words, both spoken and written, and through encounters with strangers and people who soon became friends in places where I knew absolutely no one other than my immediate family. 

As I sit here safely ensconced in my comfortable home writing this post, doing so doesn’t sound very daring or exciting at all – not much of an adventure perhaps.  But it occurs to me that I truly have traveled an adventurous route and even writing this blog has proved to be a bold move on my part.  And better yet, there are new  journeys that still await.  My bucket list just may be different from my kids and different from yours. 

I believe God offers me opportunities every day to boldly go where I haven’t gone before.   All I have to do is listen to His voice, take His hand, and let Him lead me. It’s my choice to take the dare or not. 

I may seem as meek and mild as a sheep, but I know who my Master is.  I know my Shepherd and I listen for His voice.  Wherever He leads me, I want to follow because I know it will be an adventure.

This scripture reminds me: “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” ~ John 10:2-4 (NIV) 

Helen Keller was right – life IS either an adventure or nothing at all.  At the end of my life when I stand before God, I want to be able to say I chose the adventure of living a life for Christ because to chose otherwise means nothing.

Linking up with Weekly Photo Challenge.

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Sometimes dialogue is more than just talking

Dialogue. He said. She said. You talk. I talk.

That’s how we usually think of the word dialogue.  It’s a conversation between two people, an exchange of ideas, thoughts, opinions, or stories.

Both people not only talk, they also both listen.  Otherwise, it’s a monologue. If you guessed that this week’s photo challenge is dialogue, you’re right.  There are as many ways to interpret that theme as there are conversations that can be discussed about it.   But I’ve chosen to be literal with my interpretation.

Papa and I have one son; he’s our youngest.  Over the years, we’ve had too many dialogues with him to count.  When he was young and his dad traveled often with his job, son and I carried on lots of conversation filled with love and hugs.  When he became a teenager and started spreading his wings of independence, he and I often clashed during our discussions and butted heads as well.  But Papa and he could always have calm, rational consultations together.

Our son has grown into a fine godly man and we are grateful that he has a strong faith in God. Son excelled in school and college, landed a successful career as a mechanical engineer, and completed his masters degree in mechanical engineering.  He demonstrates maturity and responsibility and is happily married to a beautiful, inside and out, young lady who we’ve welcomed into our family with love. 

As our son matured, I noticed his conversations now tend to be more meaningful with his dad and he often asks Papa for advice.  And isn’t that the way it should be?  Shouldn’t a man feel close to his father, desire that manly mentorship, and want to spend time in dialogue with him?  Each time we visit with our son, I am reminded of this.  I watch the two as they huddle together discussing life and other topics of conversation. 

Recently, our son and daughter-in-law moved from the state on one side of us to the state on the other side of us because of a temporary job assignment and we visited them in their new location.  As we discussed with son which weekend to visit, he related that there was one place in particular he wanted to take us to, a place he knew his dad would enjoy.

So we trotted off to the local military museum where both son and father were interested in every aspect.  As I meandered around taking photos and chatting with daughter-in-law, I often looked behind me to notice son and father deep in conversation over some display they were viewing.  And I have to say that seeing them in dialogue warmed my heart.

They continued another form of dialogue when they excitedly decided to try the flight simulator together.  Their roles were easily defined – son was the pilot, dad was the gunner.  They trained briefly before they entered the simulator capsule and emerged from their ‘flight’ later with huge smiles and thumbs up, even after rolling around and being turned upside down a few times.  They worked together in perfect unison, maneuvering their ‘fighter jet’ and ‘shooting’ down nine enemy planes in their few minutes of flight time.  The attendant told them the average take downs only totaled three, so they obviously worked well as a team, and came close to the record for the day.

Dialogue.  It’s about more than just conversing.  It’s about listening.  It’s about caring.  It’s about connecting.  And yes, it’s even about loving.

“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”  ~  Rachel Naomi Remen

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The nest just became emptier

blogCallie in carWhere she came from still remains a mystery.  She was smart, she was beautiful, and she was very loving.  And now she’s gone.

One bright summer day 14 years ago, she arrived.  She wasn’t here when I left to run errands but when I returned there she was, frolicking with my three kids in our country home yard. 

“She just showed up,” my 18-year-old daughter said.  And her younger sister and brother agreed in unison, “Yeah, she just walked into our yard.”

I looked her over – she was young but she was well-groomed and certainly did not appear to be homeless.  No, she had been well-loved by someone and she had just lost her way.

“Can we keep her?” my 12-year-old son pleaded.

“No, we can’t.  She belongs to someone,” was my reply.

We searched for her family and waited patiently thinking surely whoever lost her would come seeking  and reclaim her.  But as each day passed, she worked her magic – making us love her -and she readily became a part of our family.

And who wouldn’t love her?  She was a kitten, probably around four or five months old.  Clean as could be, no sign of fleas, no tangles in her thick soft, multi-colored fur, no signs of being outdoors for very long.  She was a gorgeous calico cat with splotches of brilliant white, ebony black, and dark orange and beautiful golden eyes.  And she loved to be held and petted, so much so that she would climb in your lap and curl herself up to your neck as closely as possible.  She couldn’t get enough cuddling.  This was no ordinary stray cat.

No one ever called or came to claim her so she became ours and the kids named her Callie the Calico Cat.   She was not a typical cat.   She didn’t want to be alone, she wanted to be with you, on you, purring in your ear, lying in your lap, pushing her head into your hand demanding to be stroked.  She was especially fond of our son, curling up on him while he was asleep to nap with him, and nuzzling against his neck so she could lick his ears when he was awake. 

She was well-behaved and rarely scratched either us or the furniture but did use the wooden deck posts outside as her favorite scratching place.  She fit right into our family and was so very sociable, not aloof and independent like some felines are.  She always wanted to be in our midst and when I was recuperating from cancer surgery, she was constantly at my side purring and gazing into my eyes.  Almost like she was asking me:  Are you going to be okay? 

She watched as one by one each of our children went off to college and she always warmly welcomed them back home.  She wanted to be a part of our celebrations, activities, and even games, a part of our very lives.  And she was. When this nest emptied out, she became Mama and Papa’s constant companion.

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Playing dominoes with the family

Not only was she the most loving cat I ever owned, she was the smartest. She learned to ring a bell on a string tied to the door that led from our family room to the garage where her litter box sat.  When she wanted back inside, she rang the bell.  She learned to perform some ‘tricks’ for treats like sitting, dancing (spinning in a circle), begging, and reaching into the treat jar to retrieve her own goodie.

If she desired to venture outside, she would find me and gently reach up with her paw, tap me to get my attention, and lead me to the door.  She rarely meowed and when she did, it was a quiet and gentile me-ahh.   She loved stretching out and napping in the warm sunshine on the deck in the afternoons.  She didn’t like rain or snow and refused to go outside in either kind of weather.  She loved sitting on our master bedroom window sill at night and peering out over the front yard.  She guarded our property like a watchdog yet was extremely frightened of the road and traffic. We often thought she might be pretending to be a jungle cat when she stalked her way through the garden. 

She loved her life here at our house and only strayed away from home once.  She came back and soon produced six precious kittens to our kids’ delight and my dismay.  She was a good mother, but that would be her first and last litter. She loved new toys and especially chasing her laser mouse and she was attracted by all things shiny even if they were on your person.  She was a real girly-girl, known to ‘borrow’ earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and even my diamond engagement ring once because glittery things fascinated her and she just had to have them!

She enjoyed her toys especially the glittery ones and her favorite had to be the mouse laser; she was determined to catch that elusive red dot!  But I have to believe she loved us more than anything else. We were her people and she wasn’t happy unless she was with us.

All of that ended Monday evening.  She became very sick quickly, not eating or drinking, and her breathing became laborious.  Papa and I realized that we were losing her.  I checked on her often throughout the day and each time as I stroked her silky fur and crooned sweet words to her, she found the strength to purr as loudly as she could.  She waited until Papa got home from work so he could say his goodbye and then she slipped away.

Today, this empty nest seems so much emptier without our faithful Callie in it.  I’ve owned several cats in my lifetime but this cat was different.  I’m not an ardent animal lover yet I find myself grieving for her more than I ever imagined I would.  Tears slide down my cheeks like they have for no other animal.  She wasn’t just a pet, she was a member of our family,  and our kids are just as shocked and saddened by her death as Mama and Papa are.  From time to time, I think I hear the little bell on her glimmering pink collar and I find myself looking for her. 

She was special.  She was one of a kind.  There will never be another cat like her. And she was meant to be ours.  Callie was a gift to us and she’ll always be in our hearts.

“Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” ~ John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com