Lest we forget

blogShanksville pixSeptember 11, 2001 is a day Americans will never forget. It’s a date ingrained in our minds like December 7, 1941, that peaceful Sunday when the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor.     

People ask one another, “Where were you when the planes hit the twin towers?” just like they ask (if you’re old enough), “What were you doing when President Kennedy was assassinated?”

Thinking back to any of those shocking days evokes deep-rooted but raw emotions.  As we remember the 10th anniversary of one of the most frightening days we’ve experienced as a nation, I believe words cannot adequately express the feelings and emotions many of us vividly recall.

My family did not experience personal loss that day, but the magnitude of the loss of others affected us in such a profound way.  A family friend worked at the Pentagon,  but blessedly escaped harm.  A couple of my family have visited Ground Zero in New York since that fateful day, but I have not.

Traveling through Pennsylvania on vacation two years after the attack, our family found our way to the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville.    We parked our car in a gravel lot and quietly stepped out of the vehicle.  As soon as my feet touched the soil there, I felt an indescribable wave of sorrow wash over me, and I fought to restrain sobs of grief that battled my restriction and seemed desperate to escape from my throat.

As we walked toward the many makeshift memorials left there by thousands of visitors, there wasn’t a sound.  No one spoke.  Everyone there just silently viewed the surroundings or quietly asked a question from the volunteer who manned the site.

Nature had healed the field where the crash took place and it was recovered with grass.   You wouldn’t have realized a jet liner crash once had scarred the landscape if you hadn’t known what took place there.

But a huge wall attached to chain link fencing told the story.  Even now, I struggle with words to adequately describe it and what my family felt that summer day in 2003 when we visited.  So I offer as a means of remembrance this picture I took back then of the ‘memorial wall’ erected in a field near the small town of Shanksville.

For the families of those lost in the catastrophe 10 years ago, the survivors, and the valiant and heroic responders, I remember you this day on Page 11, Chapter 9, of my book called Opportunity and I keep you in my prayers.  May God give you comfort and peace this day.

©2011mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Lest we forget the need

Image via science.howstuffworks.com

As I enjoyed a restful, relaxing Mother’s Day yesterday,  thousands of my fellow Americans exhausted themselves cleaning up from the aftermath of tornadoes in the deep South.

While I lathered myself up with soap in a hot shower, many of them have nowhere to wash their hands.

As I plugged in my hair dryer, hundreds and hundreds of Southerners are living without electricity.

While I turned on my faucet to fill my tea kettle with good, clean water for my morning cup of tea, scads of my fellow countrymen have no running water.

As I consumed a hot breakfast cooked over my own stove,  hundreds of tornado victims have neither stove nor hot food.

While I casually perused my closet to choose clothing for the day, their clothes have been destroyed or blown away.

As I rode in my own vehicle to attend church, many have been left without transportation and many have lost even their place of worship.

While I gaily chatted on the phone with each of my three grown children and felt blessed by their Mother’s Day wishes, hundreds of people still mourn the loss of their loved ones who were killed by the killer twister.

As I sat on my overstuffed, comfy chair with my feet propped up, my fellow human beings have no furniture to rest upon.

While I communicated on my blog, through email and Facebook with friends and strangers via my laptop, those who’ve lost everything feel cut off from the entire world.

As I lay in my warm, comfortable bed with a soft pillow for my head, plenty to eat and drink and a roof over my head,  countless of God’s beloved children have no place to rest and no place to call home.

There, but for the grace of God go I….and you….what are we going to do about it?

While I contemplate my blessings in my Opportunity book today on page 9 in Chapter 5, may I suggest you do the same?  Those of us who are blessed with much dare not forget about those who have lost everything in tornadoes and other disasters.

I urge you to consider donating monetary aid to the organizations helping our brothers and sisters in need.  Here are a few trustworthy organizations that can use your donations to directly help victims:

www.samaritanspurse.org

www.salvationarmyusa.org

www.redcross.org/

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When nature shows no mercy

Image via science.howstuffworks.com

Hubby and I used to live in “Tornado Alley” first in Oklahoma for a few years and then several more residing in the Midwest.

In both areas, tornado watches and warnings are common occurrences in the spring.  Middle daughter is still a little fearful of violent storms because of it.

So the recent rash of relentless twisters that ripped their way through the south brought those memories back to me today.  Our oldest daughter lives in one of the states hardest hit by a tornado resulting in much destruction and the loss of human life.

A twister touched down in her city about 10 miles from her.  Hubby and I were relieved to get her text message last evening announcing she and her roommate were safe and sound in their apartment, without power and for a while no cell phone service, but safe!

What a relief!  But yet this morning, I still felt the edge of anxiety and concern over her well-being and again was reassured when I spoke with her by phone at her place of work.

She had witnessed some debris raining from the sky into her apartment complex parking lot and she and roomie headed to the inside bathroom (the safest place in your home during a tornado if you have no basement or storm cellar) wearing their bike helmets. They are smart young women.

So many others were not as fortunate.  As hubby and I perused photos online of the devastation and read about the death toll, tears welled up in my eyes.   My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and also to those who lost their homes and everything in it.

I can imagine their grief because I’ve witnessed first-hand the damage ferocious tornadoes wreak and those sights I saw are permanently etched into my mind – sights I will never forget as long as I live.

When hubby and I were a young married couple, we lived in Oklahoma where he served in the military.  There I actually experienced a twister’s fury.  Since then, I often can feel the air’s ripeness for a tornado.  There’s something about the air density, pressure and  stillness I sense just before a fierce funnel cloud twirls through.

I don’t know all the scientific data about that, but I can tell when a tornado watch is looming.   I often amazed friends in the Midwest when I would suddenly announce, “We’re going to have a tornado watch/warning today” and sure enough, the TV weatherman would verify what I felt.

But back to my Oklahoma story – I had no clue what a tornado’s fury was like back then.  That strange day in April, I drove home from work through a wild thunder/hail storm and my car radio warned me there were funnel clouds sighted and evidently touching down in the Texas town across the border.  And they were headed in our direction.

I scurried into our apartment, scared and worried because hubby was scheduled for all night duty at the military post and would not be home that night.   Turning on the TV, I  learned the funnel cloud definitely was heading towards our end of town.  Our apartment faced south – from where the tornado was coming!

I opened the windows a little because I had heard that windows implode inward on you from the force of the twister.   And when the TV person shouted to take cover immediately, I found sanctuary in my walk-in closet.  Our cat refused to stay with me,  instead she perched on the window sill facing south.

In a flash, she jumped off the sill and darted into the closet with me.  And that’s when I heard it – a deafening roar like I have never heard before.  The windows shook and I buried my head in a pile of laundry believing my life was coming to an end.  I prayed that God might spare me or if I died my body would be found quickly in the rubble and my husband and parents would be comforted.

And then there was silence.  I was afraid to move, so I just sat in the closet, clinging to my cat and waited.  How long I do not remember.  But I was safe and others were not.  TV news reported that three people lost their lives in our area, but the real devastation was in the Texas town where three funnel clouds joined together to form a monster tornado which cut a mile wide path many miles long.

I worked at a daily newspaper, not as a ‘hard news’ reporter but one of the ‘fluff’ people –reporting human interest type stories.   The next day at work, I was shocked when a tenant at my complex, who had been brave enough (or stupid) to take a picture of the twister, brought it to the paper in hopes of getting it printed.

The funnel cloud had sped across the wheat field adjacent to our apartment dropping debris as it went.  My home was in its direct path and that photo showed the tornado lifting up into the air over our apartment building (and over me).

Later, I traveled with my fellow news reporters and photographers to the Texas town demolished by the furious twister.  It looked like a war zone.  I cried the entire time in that car full of reporters who were shocked into silence as we drove through areas where emergency workers allowed us.

Where once tree-lined housing subdivisions had been, there was nothing left.  Nothing.  In some areas, a lonely toilet stood but absolutely nothing else.  In other areas, mangled, twisted hunks of unidentifiable materials – pieces of cars, trucks, buildings – were strewn everywhere.

I read hand written signs, fashioned out of a piece of wall or whatever was left and propped up where once a home stood, declaring, “We’re ok!”  “Lost everything, but alive!”  “Please call [number] if you’ve seen [person’s name].

I have never, ever forgotten neither those sights nor the grief I felt that day for all those people who lost everything.

We take so much for granted and in one moment, it can all be blown away with the wind.  Today is Page 28, Chapter 4, in my book of Opportunity and I pray fervently for those who suffered such loss because of this violent weather system.  And I am full of gratitude that my loved one was kept safe from its fierce wrath.

P.S.  For those of you who would like to help tornado victims in need, I highly recommend donating to Samaritan’s Purse – http://www.samaritanspurse.org

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A life cut short

Image via freefoto.com

My heart’s been heavily burdened the last few days. 

One family’s sorrow is great this week and the sadness they bear touches my heart.

One minute a young man was embarked on a new adventure, with direction for a bright future.  The next minute he was gone.

That’s how quickly a life can be snuffed out.  In an instant, without warning, sometimes without making any sense at all to those left behind, a loved son, brother, grandson, friend leaves this world.

I learned this week that a fine, respectable, sincere young man who represented all that is right about the next generation passed away unexpectedly in a tragic accident far away from his home.

I didn’t know this young man personally, but his life overlapped with my family’s as he was a former college teammate of my son.   I believe I met him once briefly but I know I watched him passionately play his sport of choice for two seasons.

I want to be respectful of this family’s privacy and not put a lot of information about his life out there in cyber land.  But as a mother of a young adult man myself, my heart is so full of sympathy for the pain they must feel losing their loved one.

However, I do give thanks and praise God that this family has the assurance of knowing their loved one was a believer in Christ.  By all accounts, he shared his faith in many ways through mission trips and as an athlete.   And so of course, my rational mind must ask God why this terrible thing happened?  Why did a healthy young man pass from this life into the next in a place where he once helped serve others?

I imagine his family struggles with many unanswered questions and they will have to rely on their utmost faith in God to prevail through this unspeakable sorrow. Grief is such an indescribable thing and I can only imagine what his family must be enduring.  My heart is burdened so greatly for this family I do not know, yet surely must have sat in stadium bleachers with.  And all I can do is pray.

I pray they find comfort even in the most unusual places.  I pray that even in their darkest moments of grief they still choose to say “Blessed be the Lord” knowing this young man now walks with Jesus in eternity.  May they find the peace that passes all understanding – the only peace that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ~ Matthew 5:4

And blessed is God Almighty, who gives and takes away.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Seeing Mom

blog431When I flipped over my daily calendar at work, today’s date garnered my attention like a neon sign flashing in the darkness of night.  Today marks the 12th anniversary of my mother’s passing from this life into the next.

At first, overwhelming sadness consumed me as I remembered this day when my mother succumbed to that evil disease called cancer.  After 19 long days of being hospitalized, she just quietly and peacefully stopped breathing while my sister, my father and I kept vigil beside her.

Remembering that day makes me want to cry.  It doesn’t matter how many years pass since you lost your mother or how old you’ve become, part of you still wants your mommy.

So yes, I miss my mom terribly.  I miss her voice, I miss her loving hugs, I miss the way she loved all of her grandchildren.  I miss her laughter, I miss her cooking and baking, I miss her sense of fun.  I miss her strong determination.  I miss her sewing and craft projects.

I miss the way her face would light up with joy when we came home to visit and I miss her tears as we parted.  I miss her little notes about this thing or that.  I miss chatting on the phone with her.  I miss her love for growing things whether they were flowers or vegetables.  I miss…everything about her.

But even though I feel the void with her gone, I see her still.  I see her love for shoes, shoes and more shoes evidenced in my oldest daughter.  I see her love for baking cookies and scrumptious goodies demonstrated in my middle daughter.  I see her willful resolve proven in my son.

I see the strong, capable hands of my mother when I glance at my middle sister’s hands while she prepares tasty meals in her kitchen, just like my mother used to do.  I see my mom’s love for handiwork in my oldest sister’s hands as she creates lovely and useful things.

I smell my mother when I catch the clean fresh scent of soap.  And I hear my mother’s laugh in my own voice and sometimes when I repeat a saying just like Mom would say it.

And each night as I nod off to sleep, I wrap myself in memories of my mother when I tuck myself under the beautiful hand-stitched quilt she lovingly made for hubby and me.

So on this 21st page in Chapter Two of my book of Opportunity, I will take the time to remember not the day of my mother’s death but the legacy of love she bestowed on my family and I will give thanks to God for the life of my devoted mother.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Home Sweet Home, Part IV

[Blogger’s Note: This is the final installment of the Home Sweet Home series.]

blogfront-door-welcome4Ten years swiftly passed by.  That’s how long we’ve lived in our residence here in my homeland.

In this house we’ve experienced 10 years of joy and laughter, sorrow and pain, homecomings and leavings, family get-togethers and empty-nesting.

For all intents and purposes, this house is my home, yet I feel no bond to it like I felt to my childhood home.  And this bothers me.

My husband and I have resided in this dwelling longer than any other home we’ve had together. Shouldn’t I feel settled in this place?

I do truly love my home, but if my husband announced today that his job required relocating, I would not be overwhelmingly sad to leave this particular abode.   Is it because we’ve moved often or is there something deeper? This realization puzzles me and that is one reason why I’ve been wrestling with “home” lately.

I think I should feel a deeper connection to our home; it is, after all, the home to which my grown children come back.  Hopefully, some day they will bring spouses and children “home” to visit us. Yet somehow, my heart remains attached to my parents’ home instead of this one.

When my father passed away last summer, my sisters and I made the decision to sell the family home.   None of us could afford to keep it, none of our children needed it, and none of us wanted to be landlords to renters.  So the only solution remaining was to place the property on the market.  I didn’t realize how deeply I would be affected by selling the home to a stranger.

That’s what disturbs my dreams many nights.  When I dream of “home,”  it often is my childhood home.  I dream that the new owners have changed every aspect of the house.  I dream that I just walk into their house unannounced and declare for them to get out.  On some days I grieve for my family home almost as much as I grieve for my parents.   And in my rational and logical mind, I know this must stop.

“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams,” someone once wrote.  I realize that the house I call home is just a house of walls and beams, and an old one at that.  I know that “home” is what I carry in my heart, that place built with love and dreams.  Somehow, I have to figure out how to separate the two, let go of the physical house, and embrace the memory of my childhood home.

I’m drawn back to the definition of home in Wikipedia which says, “Furthermore, places like homes can trigger self-reflection, thoughts about who one is or used to be or who one might become. These types of reflections also occur in places where there is a collective historical identity…”

I’m no psycho-analyst, but I can see that losing that place, my childhood home, which was such an anchor for me for much of my life, is what has affected me so profoundly.  A sense of my identity is somehow linked to that house, and I feel that strong “collective historical identity” Wikipedia speaks of because of the familial ties to that house – all 128 years of them.   My father was born in that house and he passed away there just as he wished.  It also just recently occurred to me that both of my grandfathers also passed away in that home.  My family history is tightly entwined with that dwelling, which is why it’s so difficult for me to relinquish it.

Reflections of the past serve many purposes.  They show you where you’ve been and what you’ve done.  But I also believe that once you can place your reflections where they belong –  in the past –  they help you have clear vision for the future.  I know in my heart God has a lesson for me to learn through this experience.

Matthew 6:19-20 tells me my treasure is not here on earth but in heaven.  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

The scripture reminds me of an old, old song my grandma and I used to sing while sitting together on her favorite rocking chair (the one with the swan-head arms that I so vividly remember):

“This world is not my home, I’m just passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.  The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

O Lord, you know I have no friend like you.
If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

They’re all expecting me and that’s one thing I know.  My Savior pardoned me and now I onward go. I know He’ll take me through though I am weak and poor, and I can’t feel at home in this world any more.

Just up in glory land we’ll live eternally, the Saints on every hand are shouting victory.  Their song of sweetest praise drifts back from Heaven’s shore, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

And so there is my answer – my real home is not here on this earth.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, my real home –  heaven – awaits me.  And someday when I arrive there, I will feel at home. In the meantime, I must be content here in this place where He has planted me because He has some purpose for me here in this earthly home.

If you are a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, I’m hopeful that you too realize that your home here on earth is temporal, but while we are here, we must strive diligently to be about our Father’s business each and every day.  Our time here is short.

If you don’t know Jesus, I pray you seek Him, learn about Him, and give your life to Him, so that you may serve Him.  Your real home will be waiting for you in Glory.

[Blogger’s Note:  Thank you, dear readers, for bearing with me through this series.  Over the last few weeks, pondering it, praying over it, writing, editing and re-writing it was a very emotional roller coaster ride for me.  So I’m going to take a short break from writing, but I promise I’ll be back.  I have so much more to say!]

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

An 80-year-old Gift

Image via freedigitalphotos.net

Imagine you’re in the winter season of your years.  You’ve witnessed much in your 80-plus years on this earth.  Seasons have come, seasons have passed.

I would imagine by the time you’ve reached your 80’s, 90’s, and beyond, you’ve probably experienced the loss of many of your loved ones – peers and family, except hopefully your children and grandchildren.

I know my own father, who passed away at 90 and was the youngest of his family, often talked about how difficult it was to be left behind.  Even though he received much joy from my sisters,  all his grandchildren,  and great-grandchildren, he missed those who had gone on before him – my mother, his siblings, parents, in-laws, and most of his friends.

I would suppose that the winter of your life could be a lonely, depressing time.  I’ve often heard friends discuss that it distresses them to hear their parents remark that they are just waiting to die.

For those who are saved by grace, it’s something they eagerly anticipate – their journey to heaven.   For those who are gravely ill, incapacitated, or just extremely weary after 80-90 years of life, they must be seeking relief and peace.

So imagine one day, you are just living your life much like any other day and someone hands you a gift.   A treasure for your eyes and your heart.  A poem you have never seen before,  written for you on the occasion of your first birthday all those years ago.   A piece of paper in your dear mother’s handwriting, the mother who died when you were 12 years old.  A gift of love  that you finally received today, 80 years later.

That’s what this elderly gentleman from Kansas City received. Watch this video and see if it doesn’t bless your heart the way it did mine.   (Note: For some reason, YouTube will not allow me to embed the video in my blog.  Just click on the arrow and then click again on “watch on YouTube” and it will take you to the video on YouTube.com)

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Filling Up the Empty Tank

blogdscn6765Ten years ago when we built our home our middle daughter moved into this room.

Back then, she was 14 years old and the room was decorated in happy colors of blue and yellow, tandems of tulips stenciled around the room.  Stuffed animals galore greeted you with furry, goofy grins; soccer and volleyball apparel was strewn here and there.  Her bookshelf was filled with her ever-growing pig collection and books, lots of books.

Today it is almost empty.  Her bookshelf still stands, a lonely sentinel in one corner, watching over an other-wise empty room.  Its shelves are still laden with her quirky pig collection and books, lots of books.  Those remnants of childhood weren’t forgotten, just not really needed in her new grown-up life.

Yesterday was such a non-stop full-of-fun day with my Sisters Day Out that I didn’t have time to reflect on the fact that middle daughter’s room is practically vacant and my house is quite silent once again.  This morning that realization slammed into my heart with a shooting arrow-like ache.   It felt like when you smack that funny bone in your elbow on something solid and unmovable.   It jolts you with a weird hard-to-describe pain.  You jump around and hold your elbow, but there’s not a darn thing you can do about it but wait it out until it goes away.

That’s kind of what I experienced this morning.  My husband and I are opposites in some respects.  Awakening after a night’s slumber is one of those differences.  He is an early bird.  He wakes up at the crack of dawn, and when his feet hit the floor he is a raring to go rooster, chipper as a songbird, happy as a lark, perky as a parakeet.

I wake up.  Period.  And I usually want to stay in my comfy, cozy bed, not raring to go anywhere, definitely not chipper, grumpy until I’ve been up awhile.  I’m just not an early morning person.  It’s not that I don’t like mornings, I do.  It’s not that I can’t be an early riser, I can.  Just don’t talk to me for a while in the morning and expect me to be pleasantly responsive.  I will be… later.

I tell you all of this to explain that my early bird who catches the worm woke me up from dreamland this morning to tell me he forgot to mention he would be home late from work today.  Since I was off work today, that meant one thing — being alone for almost the entire day.  Most days, that’s not an issue.  There’s a lot (cleaning, laundry, and the like) to be done at home or I have free time to catch up on reading, crossword puzzles, or some project.

But today was different.  It became evident that the silence in our house was deafening after hubby left for his office at o’dark thirty and I couldn’t get back to sleep.  My aloneness in the house seemed overwhelming.  So on my way downstairs to proceed with my day, I made the mistake of looking into my middle daughter’s room.  I believe I actually gasped out loud. Like water rushing over an intense waterfall, feelings washed over me.

I realize now that those feelings didn’t rise to the surface just because my adult children have moved out of our home.  After all, that room has been emptied out once before.  Our kids’ bedrooms have been like musical chairs; they’ve switched rooms around from time to time.

When oldest daughter graduated from college and moved out on her own, our son, who was still in high school, moved from his smaller room to her larger one.  Then when middle daughter was in college and therefore only home for summers and older daughter was moving back home for a time, middle daughter took the small bedroom and older daughter inhabited this currently empty room.  If that was difficult to follow, no wonder, it was difficult to accomplish too!

So this is not the first time I’ve seen this room empty.  But today, when I peered into that bare room, I experienced a major flashback to a day this past January.  After my father’s death, we put his home up for sale, and it didn’t take long for someone to purchase it.

The day before the closing, I went alone to my parents’ house, where I spent most of my growing up years.  I walked silently through each and every room in that totally vacant house.  I touched every wall; relived so many memories; recalled the voices of my departed loved ones; and I wept.  Loud, blubbering sobs of grief — for my mother, for my father, for my grandparents who also lived in that house, for days gone by, for losing my childhood home — literally escaped from deep within me.  All I can say is it’s a good thing I was alone; it was that frightening.

So yesterday, gazing into my daughter’s empty room brought that feeling back with an unnerving twinge.  I’m relieved to say it was not the same heart-wrenching, bone-wracking sobs I experienced last winter.   It still hurt, just not as badly as it could have and I just needed to wait a bit and let the pain go away, like that funny bone zinger.

I’ve decided I want to look at that empty room with new eyes.  I don’t want to see the emptiness; I want to imagine the new possibilities.  I want to embrace the joyful memories and laughter we shared, but also remember that there will be new memories to make.

I’m at a fork in the road.  There are new transitions to absorb and adjust to in my life and attempting to tame this empty nest thing and the loss of my father is just one of them.   And I will survive.

The reason — my Savior Jesus Christ.   God never promised me an earthly life without pain.  He never promised me that this life would not be difficult or disappointing or that I would never experience despair, loneliness, you name it.  But He does promise never to forsake me.  He promises He will be with me every step in my journey.   On Christ the solid Rock I stand.  And that is more than enough to fill up my empty tank!

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,  for he who promised is faithful.” ~ Hebrews 10:23

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com