Two-sided night

Nighttime in New York

Nighttime in New York

Nighttime in the country

Nighttime in the country

Nighttime.  This week’s photo challenge theme.

An old cliché, as different as night and day, used to describe opposites comes to my mind.  But I think night can be as different as…well… night.

In my book, two diverse kind of nights exist.  You may experience nights full of blissful rest when you fall asleep quickly and don’t awaken until morning light.  But then there are those other nights – those that occur when sleep is disturbed or is nonexistent caused by a crying baby or anxious thoughts or too much caffeine or simply insomnia.

Sometimes we eagerly embrace the night and sometimes we wearily dread it.

Nighttime is two-faced not just when it comes to our rest but also where we choose to spend the dark hours of our lives.  Its difference seems most pronounced between city and country.  Nights spent in the city are never completely dark (unless there’s a blackout) as brightly lit signs and traffic lights produce a glow no matter what time of night it may be.  Those kind of nights can prove invigorating and no doubt whoever penned that old disco song with the lyrics, I love the nightlife, was writing about nighttime in the city.  

Country nights provide quite a contrast.  When evening draws nigh and the sun finally sinks beyond view, darkness – real darkness – descends.  On a clear, cloudless evening, you gaze upwards and are greeted by a sky dotted with more shining stars than you can count.  The only gleaming glow around may come just from a silvery moon casting its luminescence on earth or a brightly burning bonfire blazing in the back yard.

Regardless of whether your preference is illuminated by the incandescent city night or enveloped in the darkness of a country nighttime, you can always find something to remember, a nocturnal memory to add to the days of your lifetime.

“What I take from my nights, I add to my days.” ~ Leon de Rotrou

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

To love and endure

My parents wedding photo

My parents’ wedding photo

I come from a long line of folks who know how to endure. No matter what came their way, they stood the course.  Whether it was a time of war or a time of peace.  Whether it was a time of depression or a time of prosperity.  A time of joy or a time of sadness.

They said vows that they meant, vows of commitment.  Vows that promised to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part.

Honoring those vows and staying committed to the one you have pledged them to is the definition of endurance, which happens to be the weekly photo challenge theme.  My grandparents and my husband’s grandparents knew how to endure.  So did both sets of our parents.

Today would have been my parents’ 73rd wedding anniversary.  They married in their early 20’s right on the brink of World War II.  They had their times of hardship and times of plenty.  They experienced times of sickness and health.  They knew what it meant to work together to keep a marriage strong for better and for worse. 

And in the 57th year of their marriage, they faced the unto death do us part challenge when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  And through it all, they provided a worthy example of what it means to love and to cherish, to honor and consider someone else more important than yourself.

My parents endured.  They didn’t throw their relationship out when it wasn’t perfect. They honored their commitment and each other.  And they taught me well.  Next week, my husband and I will celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Year 37.  We have a ways to go before we reach the milestones our parents reached or our grandparents, some of whom were married for over 60 years before death claimed one of them.

But we will stay the course.  We will endure until death do us part.  We will continue to have and to hold for better or for worse. I can only hope and pray that our children embrace the same course of endurance in their marriages.   Because love, real love, is enduring.

“Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love still stands when all else has fallen.” ~ Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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