Taking you on a tour

tourguide collage 2018It happens often so I’ve learned to keep my camera near to me.

While out and about, I countless times I’ve come upon a scene that just begs to be captured by my camera. If I go out purposefully looking for something to photograph, I don’t always succeed. More often than not, I just stumble onto a picturesque setting or a particular angle that catches my eye.

And more times than I can count in the past, I didn’t have my camera along. Those shots I missed only exist in my memory unfortunately. I could try to describe them for you, but I find the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” to be oh, so true.

I’m a bit behind in the weekly photo challenges, as last week’s challenge was tour guide.

If someone were to visit the area where I live and I would be his tour guide, what would I show him? I think I could conjure up several ideas. But the one thing that stands out to me is this,  the aspect of this place where I live that I love.

We have four distinct seasons of the year.

So let me be your tour guide and take you on a visit to each season – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter – in my neck of the woods.

And the collage I’ve fashioned for you above? I just happened to stumble upon those photo opportunities while I was doing something else.

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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How do you love?

Love you collage.jpgIt’s the love month – February – and I often wonder why we don’t celebrate love all the rest of the 11 months of the year? Surely this world would be a better place if we were reminded to show love all year long, wouldn’t it?

Yeah, I know, we celebrate love and affection this month because of Valentine’s Day which is tomorrow.  But today, I’m considering why we even celebrate this holiday at all.

I know the day is named for Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome during the third century and secretly performed Christian marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers and their wives.

At the time, Rome was ruled by a pagan emperor who outlawed marriages for his soldiers because no doubt he believed their only focus should be Rome and protecting it.

Valentine was imprisoned for his so-called crimes and eventually executed on February 14. His focus on the importance of love survived and became the stuff of legends.

When Rome became predominantly Christian 200 years later, the Catholic Church, in an attempt to abolish a pagan ritual which had been annually held in February, proclaimed this day as Saint Valentine’s Day.

And so a holiday began. Now all these centuries later, it’s a highly commercialized money-maker. If you visited any store shortly after Christmas – and in some cases even before – store shelves teemed with Valentine greetings, gifts, candy, and all kinds of merchandise pertaining to this holiday.

Buy your sweetheart this fancy card declaring your love. Or this gargantuan stuffed animal. Or this massive heart-shaped box of chocolates. Or a dozen (or more!) red roses. Or this glittering diamond jewelry.

All purchased and delivered to demonstrate your love.

Well, gifts are nice. They can be lovely and yes, certainly heart-felt tokens of affection. And some folks’ boats are definitely floated by receiving gifts. It’s one of those five love languages first written about back in the 1990’s in a book by Christian counselor Gary Chapman.

But for me, purchasing a Valentine doo-dad off the Wal-Mart shelf just doesn’t measure up to showing how much you love someone.

Instead, my go-to for demonstrating love – any kind of love, not just romantic – comes straight from one entire chapter in my Bible.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 New International Version (NIV)

How can I show love every day of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day? 

By being patient with those around me. Being kind to others and not envious of someone else’s success. By not boasting or being prideful about myself.

By honoring others and putting them before me. By being even-tempered and keeping short accounts when it comes to wrongdoings done to me. By seeking truth and rejoicing in it not in evil actions.

By always being faithful to protect my loved ones. By trusting, hoping, and persevering through difficulties with them.

My litmus test? Inserting my name in place of the word ‘love’ in a passage of that scripture. Example: Mama’s Empty Nest is patient. Mama’s Empty Nest is kind, etc.

Because when I do these things, I open up my heart to love – real, honest-to-goodness love. Love to last beyond Valentine’s Day.

“Love stretches your heart and makes you big inside.” ~ Margaret Walker

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Three years later

Three years ago this month, I had no idea.

I had no idea what the future held and what was in store for me.

I had no idea that I could love another with such fierceness and intensity.

I had no idea that becoming a grandmother would fill my heart with such amazing joy.

Three years ago this month, Papa’s and my first grandchild was born on a bitterly cold, dark, middle-of the night, wee hours of the morning day.

She was tiny, but the love that swelled inside my heart for this itty-bitty darling the first time I held her in my arms was mammoth.

After waiting hours upon hours in the hospital for her arrival, we got our first glimpse of her and held her. And even though we had been up all day and night waiting for her entry into this world, I found myself so excited and thrilled that I couldn’t sleep afterwards.

For months prior to her birth, I wondered how I would take to grandparenthood. I confess that I wasn’t always the best mother, sometimes so impatient with my own children. And I feared I’d be the same with a grandchild.

On top of that, I’ve never really been a ‘baby person.’ What I mean by that is that if given a choice between sitting in a church nursery with babies and teaching a wild group of teens, I’d take the teens any day.

Babies just weren’t ‘my thing.’ Don’t get me wrong, I loved my own three babies and being their mother, but parenting infants and toddlers was a challenge for me.

But that all changed the day my first grandchild gripped her tiny hand around my finger. That all changed when I gazed into her eyes. And when I photographed her teeny feet.

That all changed as I cradled her in my arms. And rocked her to sleep. And felt her warm fuzzy head against my shoulder.

That all changed as I welcomed her into my heart and it swelled to gargantuan proportions with perfect love.

“Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” ~ Welsh Proverb

And now that newborn baby is a child. A child turning three years old. A child with a mind of her own. A child who cracks me up with the things she says. And does.

A child who melts my heart every time she crawls into my lap, wraps her arms around my neck, and tells me, “I love you, Nana!”

So this month, I will not only celebrate the third birthday of my first grandchild, but will celebrate the day I became a Nana. What a wonderful day it was and is.

“If I had known how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren, I’d have had them first.” ~ Lois Wyse

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

My beloved

blogIMG_2570.jpgIt’s February and now that we’re past Groundhog Day when that famous weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted to everyone’s dismay that we would have six more weeks of winter, we prepare to celebrate the other holiday of the month.

Valentine’s Day. And our minds turn to love.

Love is a word we banter around a lot.  I love this song. Or I love my pet. Love to ski. Love doughnuts. Love this, love that.

It’s one of those words in the English language that we use to proclaim our fondness for all sorts of things unlike the Greek language which has different words for different types of love.

The photo challenge for this past week was Beloved

While deliberating over what photograph to post for the challenge, I asked myself who do I love? Who is my beloved?

My husband of 40 years? Absolutely. My three adult children? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. My two adorable grandchildren?  Oh, yes, indubitably!  

My sisters and their families? Sure thing. Friends? Well, of course. And the list could go on, just like the many ways I could count to say why I love all of these people.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

You may recognize this as the opening line to a famous poem written by Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861). She wrote this sonnet (#43) to her beloved, her husband Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Even though I love those I’ve listed above beyond measure, there’s one I love even more. He is my beloved and I am his. His name is Jesus and he is my Savior.

It occurs to me that I could read this poem and address it to him and it would aptly fit. And he could read it right back to me because he loves me that much.

And he loves you the same, even if you don’t know him yet.

I don’t have a photograph of my beloved to share for this challenge. Oh, there are artists’ renditions out there of him, but we don’t know how accurate they are. But I do have something tangible that represents my beloved and I can photograph that.

It’s my Bible. And when I open it to read it, it tells me what I need to know about the one I love, my beloved, the one who loved me and you so much, he died that we might live.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~  John 3:16 (NIV)

“I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’  ‘This much,’ he answered. Then he stretched out his arms and died.” ~ unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Maybe we need Pollyanna

blogIMG_1702(3)I keep hearing about an epidemic spreading across our land.

The opioid epidemic – painkiller and heroin addiction – has become a huge struggle for Americans.  I read about it online, in newspapers (including our local daily paper) and magazines, and see it on TV news. Lots of people are talking about it, shaking their heads, and wondering what to do.

Nowhere seems to be free of this affliction and it’s affecting my own little hometown. This reality reminds me of a Simon and Garfunkel song from the 1970’s written by Paul Simon entitled My Little Town.

It’s a depressing sort of song about growing up in a little town that’s, at the very least, unpleasant. One without any hope or imagination. And the one singing the song can’t wait to escape to a better life because there’s “nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town.”

I wonder how many of our little towns, which used to be so lively and beneficial places to live, raise a family, enjoy peace and experience very little crime, now resemble dead and dying places (figuratively and literally) because of this epidemic that seems to be plaguing even the tiniest of towns.

As a young adult, I left my own little hometown to attend college,  embark on my career, and then marry my husband and I never returned to reside here again until my mid 40’s. Our reasons for moving back to my hometown area were many, but one was to escape the madness and busyness of the suburbs, which is why we found property in a rural area outside of my little town.

This place where I grew up has changed since my childhood, much like other small towns I suspect. Back then, we didn’t worry about locking our doors, let alone home invasions.

We knew all our neighbors very well and knew we could count on them should we need help instead of living among strangers whose comings and goings make one suspect drug dealing activity.  I can remember knowing who lived in every house lined up along our country road and the roads that intersected it.

Children played outside without fear of being abducted or becoming victims of human trafficking. Adults didn’t worry about being assaulted or having their homes or cars burglarized. Public schools were safe places to send your kids.

Maybe it was just a simpler time. But call me Pollyanna, I think we could get back to times like that.

If you’ve never read the children’s book, Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, or seen the 1960 Disney movie starring Hayley Mills, let me enlighten you.

The main character in this children’s classic, written back in the early 1900’s, is an orphan who is sent to live with a wealthy aunt, not a warm-fuzzy person. Matter of fact, auntie is downright cold and stern. No matter what little Pollyanna faces though, she continues to have a positive attitude and exude optimism.

Her philosophy for life proves contagious as her new hometown starts being transformed into a pleasant little burg because of Pollyanna. She plays a “glad game” and by her sunny disposition and example, the townspeople, including her crotchety aunt, begin to change for the better.

What does all of this have to do with the opioid epidemic gripping and destroying so many or any addiction be it drugs, alcohol, or whatever? I’m certainly no expert about addiction, although I truly believe one of the aspects that leads a person into any kind of addiction is a lack of hope.

Far too many of us walk around with gaping holes in our hearts. Despair takes over. We suffer from depression, anxiety, and our surroundings or circumstances don’t help one bit. A deficit of hope causes more despondency and it becomes a vicious circle.

Families are falling apart at the seams. Unemployment and other social ills offer little optimism for the future. Who wouldn’t want an escape from that? And that pill, or that injection, or that drink, or that addiction that has taken over your life seems to provide just what you need to feel better. 

But of course, it truly doesn’t. Addiction just creates a downward spiral of more hopelessness.

As a person of faith, my hope, my relief, my way of coping with the ills of this world is having a personal relationship with my Savior.

I know not everyone sees that as an answer. God gives us free will to choose to do so or not. But I also know God can heal the broken-hearted, lift up the down-trodden, deliver victims into victory, and He can break the chains of despair and addiction.

Not everyone is ready to embrace that solution of turning to God. I realize that because even though I have Pollyanna tendencies,  I am also a realist.

But I can’t help but think that maybe we just need to start with humble acts of kindness. Maybe we just need more of us to be Pollyanna to those who are hurting, those who are living lives of despair. Maybe we just need to reach out with a hand of help and a heart of hope and try to make this world or your own little town a better place.

It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? But maybe it’s worth a try.

“The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious. … People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts.”  ~ Eleanor Porter (from Pollyanna)

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Stitch by stitch variations

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blogIMG_0736Wouldn’t life be boring if it was always the same old same old? We need variety – isn’t it the spice of life?

We yearn for variation from the norm. At least I know I do. This past week’s photo challenge has been variations on a theme.

Several thoughts rolled around in my mind as I considered this challenge and I started scrolling through my photo cache to see if I could locate any photos that fit the bill.

My first thought about variations on a theme was musical. Stored back there somewhere in the archives of my quirky brain are a number of classical music pieces entitled thusly.  Composers would take a basic melody and then write variations composing a unique piece of music built around that one musical theme.

Click on this for an example that I particularly liked : Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky   

My next thought about variations on a theme centered around the age-old art of quilting. My mother was an adept quilter and it was a passion of hers to sit for hours creating beautiful, colorful hand-pieced (rarely by sewing machine) quilt tops which she then put into her large wooden quilting frames and hand-quilted – never quilted by sewing machine.

No doubt my mother learned to quilt from my grandmother who also excelled in this art. Back then, quilting bees were held in which ladies from church or just a group of friends would gather at one home or another and spend an afternoon stitching designs on one quilt. I can actually remember as a young child attending some with my mother.

Stitches produced at these gatherings were variations on a theme because each woman used her needle, thread, and thimble a little differently. Perhaps those who didn’t quilt often used long, uneven stitches but the expert quilters like my mother made small, tight, uniform in length stitches to produce a beautiful end product.

“There are only a handful of basic stitches which are the Adams and Eves of all the others…stem, satin, chain, cross, back, weaving, and filling–upon which untold variations have been built.”
–Erica Wilson

For this photo challenge, I could have opened my mother’s old cedar chest now gracing my own home and carefully lifted out not only a quilt made by my mom, but two very aged quilts made by my maternal grandmother and my husband’s paternal grandmother.

But I decided to save those for another blog post sometime. Instead I’m using other photos I’ve taken that I think personify the theme well.

The top photo is a picture I captured during a visit to the United States Air Force Museum a few years ago. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this branch of service, a huge commemorative quilt was made and hangs in the museum. Each quilt block represents a meaningful aspect of the Air Force but was fashioned by a different person with unique ideas. Hence, variations on a theme.

I snapped the other photo at a Mother-Daughter dinner once held at my church. Attendees were invited to bring some of their favorite quilts to display. And I think it all of those colorful, unique works of art aptly demonstrate variations on a theme as well.

I know I tend to stick to my ‘themes’ in life and share my themes often here in  Mama’s Empty Nest, but I do attempt to spice it up with a little variety from time to time. 

Variations on a theme make life more interesting.

“To me I think artists in general make a statement and for the rest of their lives every album, every book are variations on a theme.” ~ Mark Mothersbaugh

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Trying not to drip

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Look closely and you’ll see a drop falling from the melting icicle.

Outside my rural home, the month of January has looked much like the land of Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Snow and cold temperatures abound but every once in a while Mother Nature proves quirky and a warm day slips into our frozen surroundings, only to be nudged out again by Ol’ Man Winter a few days later.

That happened again just last week. The sun appeared making me squint like a mole just emerging after weeks in its dark underground tunnel into daylight. Mr. Sun’s rays falling upon us felt so warm and welcomed it not only melted our surroundings but warmed up my spirit as well.  Sunshine always does.

Sitting at our desktop computer in our home office on one of those balmy days, I cleaned up my cyberspace by paring down my email in-box and deleting some old data. Busy with the task at hand, I still couldn’t help glancing out the window at the glorious sunshine and noticing a distinct thawing taking place in our front yard.

Then I spied it. At the corner of the roof, a solitary icicle – about a 9-10 inch long one – hung. As the sun directly targeted that icy spike, the icicle began dripping. Slowly at first, but it soon gained speed, melting away until at last, it disappeared.

As so often happens when I’m intently pondering something, a verse from the Bible crossed my mind and an idea for a blog post lit up in my brain.

“A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm…” ~ Proverbs 27:15 New International Version (NIV)

I grabbed my camera and stepped out onto the front porch and managed to snap a quick photo of that dripping icicle before it met its demise. 

And then again, that verse meandered its way through my mind. I almost laughed out loud because this verse is one I often think about. I actually have joked on occasion with my husband about it as well.

Why? Because sometimes I AM a quarrelsome wife and I suspect Papa just shuts my annoying voice off or at least relegates it to that wah-wah-wah monologue that all the adults sounded like in the old Charlie Brown television specials.

Because really, a constant droning can be totally annoying, can’t it?

Papa and I watched a DVD (Dunkirk) last weekend with very little dialogue and incessant “music” – if you can call it that.  The movie itself telling the true World War II story is good but the relentless music was repetitive, almost monotonous, and loud. This cacophony droned on and on and truly grated on our nerves to the point where we turned the sound way down, gritting our teeth and determined to make it to the end of the film regardless of the irritating music.

But it annoyed us to no end.

And so can persistent dripping. Just imagine when you’re trying to get to sleep late at night and the faucet in the nearby bathroom is leaking.  A steady, unceasing dropping of water.

Drip. Drip. Drip. It can be maddening.

When I was a kid, we actually called people ‘drips.’ A drip was an annoying, irritating person. One that just bugged the heck out of you. “What a drip!” we’d exclaim about someone who was a real pain.

I even recall a silly little rhyme kids in my era wrote in our autograph books: “Roses are red, violets are blue. The rain on the rooftop reminds me of you…drip, drip, drip.”

Not nice, huh? Well, neither are drips. They can be exasperating. Infuriating even. And can provoke us to anger.

And unfortunately, I can be a drip sometimes. Which is why I keep that verse from the book of Proverbs running through my mind. I need to try my hardest not to provoke someone to anger.

That dripping icicle on my roof reminded me.

“The anger came creeping back like the leak from a dripping water tank, the fall of each individual drop passing almost unnoticed until I realized I was soaked with the emotion.” ~ Anthony Loyd

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com