Front porch musings


“No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn’t want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porches because they didn’t look well. But my uncle says that was merely rationalizing it; the real reason, hidden underneath, might be they didn’t want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, talking; that was the wrong kind of social life. People talked too much. And they had time to think. So they ran off with the porches.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Yes, I know.  I’m on this front porch kick.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I just recently wrote a post lamenting how folks don’t seem to be outside their homes enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon and I don’t see people sitting on their front porches any more.

Maybe I am an old-fashioned person, but I truly miss those days of folks sitting on the front porch, waving at passersby, chatting with the neighbor, or simply watching the cars go by while enjoying a moment or two of quiet solitude.    

I do sit on my front porch pretty often.  One of the regrets I have is that when we built our home, we didn’t make the front porch bigger.  But it serves its purpose which is to house my favorite piece of outdoor furniture – our porch swing. 

I grew up in a house with a large covered front porch.  And on that porch were several chairs and my favorite spot – the porch swing.

Memories wash over me when I remember that old porch swing.  I remember summer nights, swaying back and forth talking things over with my mother. Often, we didn’t speak at all, just swung in perfect rhythm and enjoyed the cricket concert and firefly show in our yard.

Other times, I perched on the swing and watched summer thunderstorms.  My parents settled on the porch on weekday evenings and Sunday afternoons and waved to all the folks who drove by.  Sometimes a car would stop and the driver would chat for a bit. Or the car would slowly turn into our driveway and the passengers would join us on the porch for some lively conversation.

The porch swing was always a big attraction.  It just seemed that folks gravitated to it.  I know I surely did.

It was where I swung my first baby to sleep many times that first summer and fall of her life while her daddy was in the military in a land far away. And when he finally came back to us and we moved once again to military base housing half-way across the country, I missed the porch swing.

Hubby bought one for me even though we didn’t have a big enough front porch to hang it on.  Instead we suspended it from a metal frame and plunked it down in the back yard where my good friend and next-door neighbor and I would swing our babies and share stories that cemented our friendship.

Many years later when we lived in a Pacific Northwest suburb, we didn’t have much of a front porch again, instead we had what I would call a stoop.   So the swing was relegated to a fenced-in tiny back yard where you felt secluded from all the neighborhood activity.  So most of the time, I sat on the hard cement front steps. We lived in a cul-de-sac and I could watch my kids play with all the neighbor kids from the stoop.  My neighbors were friendly folks and often a neighbor and I sat there to converse.  

That cement stoop fit the design of the saltbox style house we lived in, but how I missed having a real front porch to place my back yard swing upon.  That swing made the journey with us across the country to the place we now call home, this spot in the country. 

The metal frame is gone and my swing hangs from chains attached to the ceiling of the front porch.  The wooden swing has seen a lot of use, been cleaned and re-stained a few times, and it still is my happy place.  Even now, sweet grandbaby loves to sway back and forth with Nana or Papa on that front porch swing.

Occasionally when I’m sitting on the front porch, someone will drive by and toot their horn.  Even if I’m not certain who is beeping their greetings at us, I will throw up my arm and wave to acknowledge them.

And that often reminds me of one special old farmer man who always used to sit on his front porch too. 

In between military life and our time in the Pacific Northwest, Papa and I lived with our three kiddoes in the Midwest.  The land of wheat fields and sunflowers and an occasional tornado.  We lived in the suburbs for the first few years and then opted to move out of the suburban area a little further.   

We purchased a new home in a less developed area and traveled back and forth to more populated suburbs for shopping, or visits with friends, or trips into the city.  The highway we used traveled through farmland that was yet to be developed and along that road sat an old farmhouse where old farmer man lived.  Obviously retired and getting up in years, that gentleman could be seen sitting on his front porch, weather permitting. 

And here’s the thing.  He always waved to cars and trucks passing by his place.  Always.  Every single vehicle. Cars zoomed by and some folks ignored his greetings but still he waved whether people waved back to him or not. 

Not long after we moved there, I pointed him out to my husband and children.  And we began waving back to him every time he waved to us from his front porch.  Every time.

It became a fun ritual.  Our kids would watch to see if he was on the porch and lean out the open windows to vigorously wave to him.  When he wasn’t out, my children seemed disappointed.

Then came a period of time when old farmer man wasn’t on his porch very often.  Wondering if he was ill or incapacitated in some way, we missed his waves. Those short-lived encounters we enjoyed with this gentleman we didn’t even know had made our hearts happy.

And then one sunny, warm spring day, my children and I were on our way back home from some excursion and we were nearing farmer man’s house.  I looked, hoping but not really expecting to see him on his front porch.  And he was there! 

I slowed the car down and exclaimed, “Look, quick, farmer man’s on his porch!” to my kids.  They all threw their arms out the windows and waved to him excitedly. 

He had already thrown up his arm and hand in greeting, but when he spotted my children grinning and waving like there was no tomorrow, his wave immediately changed. 

A huge smile burst on his face as he leaned forward in his chair, then extended his arm in front of him and waved a rapid little continuous hand greeting from his wrist just like you would to a child. 

Joy.  I like to think that’s what farmer man experienced that day waving to my children.  I know that’s what was in our hearts.  And all these years – more than 20 years later – I still feel joy in my heart for that day.  And for farmer man’s waves.

And that’s what I miss.  The joy of people being neighborly.  The joy of making others happy with just a smile or a friendly greeting.  Maybe just a wave of a hand. 

Instead I see rudeness.  I see inconsiderate people.  I see strangers glaring at others instead of extending a hand of friendship. I see strife and anger and even downright meanness. And it makes me sad.

I live in a rural area outside a small town. You would think it would be friendlier than folks in the city, wouldn’t you? Some people are friendly…to those they already know.

I live in a rural area where houses have front porches yet I don’t even know my neighbors, except for John next door who my husband chats with occasionally when they are both outside.   He’s a good neighbor and Papa enjoys talking with him.

But when I tried to be neighborly with folks down the road and hand deliver their mail which was accidentally delivered to our mail box, I was treated rudely and practically had the door slammed in my face without even a thank you.

Call me old-fashioned.  Call me nostalgic.  But I continue to sit on my front porch, swinging on the porch swing, and yearning for simpler times when folks treated one another with kindness and consideration.  When they visited one another just for conversation. Or maybe just waved to a stranger.

“I nod to a passing stranger, and the stranger nods back, and two human beings go off, feeling a little less anonymous.” ~Robert Brault


Take one brick

blogIMG_1155Take one brick.  Lay it down.  Add another to it.  And then another.  Continue laying bricks down and eventually it will lead you somewhere. 

The bricks become a pathway for your feet, a roadway for your vehicle, a way to link one place with another.  And that way will lead you to where you want to go.  But that can’t happen without them being connected.

There used to be some brick streets in my little hometown and they always fascinated me.  That’s why I shot this photo when I was in another little town where streets paved with bricks still existed.   

This photo connects me to the event that took place that day.  That event leads me to think about certain members of my family who were also there.  And thoughts of my family bring up other connections in my mind. And so on, and so forth…

My thoughts, although they may seem random, are connected somehow.  It’s how our brains work.  We couldn’t think, move, feel, or speak without the neurological connections that occur in our brain. When those connections are broken, we too seem broken.

Connected – it’s the theme of this week’s Word Press photo challenge. 

Being connected – isn’t that what life – all life – is truly about?  Making connections.  I’ve written about the idea of being connected before here in Mama’s Empty Nest – way back in the summer of 2010 when I first began this journey of intentional blogging.  You can read it here if you’d like.

While thinking about connections, I ran across this quote today and I’m not sure in what context it was used, but I imagine it refers to networks in our bodies, technology, or science.  Fritjof Capra said, “The more complex the network is, the more complex its pattern of interconnections, the more resilient it will be.”  

I liked what Capra said – when patterns of interconnections are more complex, the more resilient the network is. Think about that a second in human terms.  The more connected we are with others, the more resilient or hardy we are because those connections give us strength to deal with life’s difficulties. 

Isn’t that so very true?  Often times when we struggle with whatever hardships come our way, some of us tend to withdraw from others.  We focus on our problems alone, languishing with internal struggles instead of reaching out to those who love, help, encourage, or support us. 

We cut off connections to our fellow human beings.  We feel broken and our connections seem broken as well. Anyone in the throes of depression can attest to this.

That’s why being connected is so vitally important to our health – physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.

I wrote this before, but I can’t think of a better way to say it, so I will repeat myself.  We humans have an inner desire to be bonded or linked with someone, we just don’t seem to know how to achieve it very well. We crave connection.  We yearn for it.  We need it.   

I believe our Creator, the Lord God Himself, created us that way.  He instilled in us this longing need to be linked, to be joined, to be loved, to feel connection but not just for fellowship with our fellow human beings.  He placed in our hearts the yearning for a connection to something bigger than us, something meaningful, something profound and it is only He who can fulfill that desire. 

God did not create us to be completely solitary, disconnected from our fellow human beings or from Him.   He created us to commune with Him. But how can we bridge the gap of disconnectedness between His holiness and our sinfulness? How can we be connected to God in our brokenness?

The Lord provided a way by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to save us.  Jesus is our connection; He is our link.  He is the only brick that provides the pathway to God the Father.

When we connect with Him, He not only provides a solid connection, He gives us the strength to face whatever comes our way.

“Everything that is in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.”  ~ Saint Hildegard of Bingen


A birthday letter for my daughter

blogIMG_5354My dear middle child,

Today is your birthday – a milestone birthday.  As I think back to the year of your birth, I remember those hot, humid days of August winding down and yet you were reluctant to leave your mama’s womb.  August turned into September and still we waited for your arrival.

Finally, nine days ‘late,’ you arrived in the middle of the afternoon on this day.  When the doctor announced you were a beautiful baby girl, I wasn’t surprised at all.  Your sweet little face captured everyone who met you, and your daddy, your big sister, and I fell instantly in love with you.

Her first birthday

Sweet on your first birthday

Your name means lively and that’s surely what you were.  And happy and sweet and oh, so very full of joy. 

Before I knew it, you were a toddler dancing through the house singing, always singing, and making a joyful noise even if it was in a language only you understood. 

You loved people, being with young and old alike, and telling long stories in your babbling private language.

You were always doing and you were fearless.  Climbing the ladder of the highest sliding board in the park, scaling kitchen counters, exploring outside, riding your bike down hill at breakneck speed, running, playing, laughing, dancing.  No doubt that’s why you wanted to be ‘on the go’ and loved playing soccer so much for so long. 

And all too soon, you were leaping onto the big yellow bus heading off to kindergarten, so proud and excited to be going to school where you could learn, and do, and make new friends.  Ever the social bee, you made friends easily and your elementary teachers always told us everyone wanted to be your friend.

Even at a young age, you showed compassion and caring for others.  When a combative little girl with Down’s syndrome was mainstreamed into your classroom, you befriended her when most of your fellow classmates stayed away from her.  That little girl loved you so much.  She listened to you and would stop hitting people when you calmly reasoned with her on the playground. She ran to hug you every time she saw you. I think she recognized the very sweet soul inside of you.

You were the peacemaker in friendships and between your older sister and younger brother, a position I know wasn’t always easy for you – that middle child thing.  When arguments arose, I distinctly can remember hearing you say, “Can’t we all just get along?”  And the time you talked to a friend who was ‘fighting’ with you by saying, “On the road to friendship, we’ve taken a wrong turn.”  Even though you were just a child, you still exhibited wisdom beyond your years.

I know the years of middle and high school weren’t the easiest for you because you left some very good friends, who shared the same beliefs and values as you, behind when we moved from the Pacific Northwest all the way across the country to my old hometown.  Your real, honest faith and sticking true to your convictions didn’t make you the most popular girl in school, but it made you the nicest and kindest.

And even though you were soft-hearted and sensitive, your fierce fearlessness showed up on the soccer field.  I will never, ever forget watching you as the only girl on that boys’ traveling team. You were their best goalkeeper and you astonished players and parents alike when you challenged a big, brawny opposing player trying to take a shot on you in the beginning minutes of one game. 

You charged forward, threw yourself on the ball, and he sailed over you landing hard on the ground.  Boys on the other team were incredulous and I could hear them saying, “that’s a GIRL!”  while your male teammates were proud to have you as their starting goalie that entire season.

You learned about adversity while competing for a playing spot on the boys’ high school soccer team when the girls’ team disbanded.  You learned life isn’t always fair either and that lesson would carry you through some difficult times ahead.

Before Dad and I could believe it, you were off to college.  Again and again you faced challenges and even some major disappointments.  But you never gave up even when you suffered a concussion serious enough to end your soccer playing days and threaten your nursing studies. 

Instead you persevered and showed great strength through each difficulty you endured but most of all, your faith and trust in God increased. And you used that inner resolve and perseverance to complete your bachelor of science in nursing and switch sports to the college cross country team.  

Your compassion for others and tender-hearted faith led you to take numerous mission trips from medical missions in Mexico to ministering to Native Americans in Arizona to rebuilding and clean-up after Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.

And all of these experiences and challenges prepared you well for your work the last six years as a confident yet very caring hospital nurse.  Your patients are blessed by your competent hands, sincere heart, and your sweet spirit.

My darling daughter, you are amazing.  

As you reach this milestone birthday – your 30th – you have accomplished a lot but God has so much more in store for you. Because now, you have been given the most wonderful gift – a beautiful baby girl of your own.  You are the mother I always suspected you would be, a patient, loving, devoted mama and it comes naturally to you.  The fierceness you once displayed on the soccer field now shows in your determination to protect and take care of your child in the best way possible.

You are strong, smart,  and you are incredibly brave, even though you don’t think you are.  You have always been a loyal daughter, sister, wife, and friend, and now can add mama to the list.  And, oh yes, still the social bug who loves people and being surrounded by family and friends for fun times.  

Beautiful at 30

Beautiful mommy at 30

Right now, you may be facing the most difficult set-back in your life, yet you are doing so with great strength and even greater faith in God while you put your child first, which is exactly what a devoted mother does.  Your trust in God and reliance on Him does and will continue to sustain you no matter what comes your way.

I’m not only very proud of the woman you’ve become, I admire you so very much, not just for your strength and fearlessness, but for your loving and forgiving soul, extending that graciousness to others, even those who have hurt you.

Daughter, I see Jesus in you and what more could any believing parent ask for?

As we celebrate you this day, I recall the beautiful blessing you have been to us these last 30 years and I give thanks to God for you and for the joy and privilege of being your mother and now the grandmother to your adorable child.

Today as you turn 30, I hope you realize it is just another milestone in the journey of life.  There is so much more on your horizon and this is just the beginning. Our omnipotent God has awesome plans and great purpose for you and your life.  The best is yet to come, I believe that.

God’s Word tells us that the Lord had some astonishing plans for those who served him and they started accomplishing His will when they turned 30:

  • “Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt.” ~ Genesis 41:46
  • “David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.”~ 2 Samuel 5:4
  • “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”  ~ Luke 3:23

Continue to put your faith and trust in the Lord; He loves you beyond measure and He will bless you, guide you, and make a way for you.

Believe His promises, especially Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I can’t wait to see what your future holds.  I think you will be astonished.  And Dad and I will always be supportive whatever the future brings.

Happy 30th Birthday, my beloved and beautiful daughter!

Love always,


“Promise me you’ll always remember:  You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~A.A. Milne’s Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh


Acute or obtuse, I want a right angle

blogIMG_2465You know how some occurrences just make you scratch your head and truly ponder how such a happening transpired?

You study it.  You carefully consider it.  You think and think and think it over some more.  You check it out from every conceivable angle.    And you still can’t figure it out.

That’s life, isn’t it?  Why do difficult events take place in some folks’ lives but not in others?  Why do some have their hearts broken into a million pieces and others live happily ever after? 

Why do some souls endure hardship after hardship while others coast through life with few or infrequent troubles? Why do some people make promises and keep them while others spout off empty words but break their vows at the drop of a hat?

This week’s photo challenge theme is “from every angle” and as many times as I try to figure life out from every angle, sometimes the reason things happen the way they do is elusive. 

I never was much of a mathematician (we English majors often have an aversion to math) but I do recall learning about angles.  Acute angles, right angles, obtuse angles.  I remember those.  And I vaguely remember something about straight angles and reflex angles.  There are positive and negative angles too.

Sounds just like life, doesn’t it?  And human relationships too.  Sometimes there is less (acute) than you’d like in a relationship while other times there’s much more (obtuse).  And sometimes, if we feel fortunate or lucky or blessed or whatever you want to call it, we believe we are in a right (exact) angle relationship with another person.

I saw a quote on Facebook recently that said, “People with good intentions make promises.  People with good character keep them.”  And there’s the rub.  How can we ascertain who has good character and who doesn’t?

We can study a person from every angle.  We can watch him interact with others.  We can converse with her.  We can hear her words and observe his facial expressions and body language.   

We can examine, we can consider, and we can scrutinize a person from every angle. 

Every. Single. Angle.  

But we can know a person for years and still not really know him or her.  Why? Because we can’t know what goes through that other person’s mind.  We don’t know her thoughts.  We don’t know his secrets.

It comes down to a matter of trust.  And sometimes that trust gets broken.  Smashed into bits.  It’s a part of living and breathing on this planet we call Earth. 

If we spent all of our time examining everything from every angle, we’d probably never step out in faith.  We’d never move forward.  We’d never take the plunge into trusting anyone any more.

I don’t want to live that way and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to either.  So what do we do?  We let every angle lead us to only one place.  The only place that’s important.  The cross.  And the only One who ever lived on this earth that we can place absolute trust in – Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” John 14:6-7

And when life doesn’t make sense – no matter what angle I view it from – and my loved ones or I are wounded by betrayal, broken by disappointment, or disillusioned by life itself, all angles lead me to the cross.

What about you? Have you tried every angle and still have no peace? Watch this video –  Lead Me – and let all the angles go straight to Him.

“The best angle from which to approach a problem is the try-angle.” ~ Unknown


Where is everyone?

blogIMG_6207Call me old-fashioned or call me too nostalgic but often times I really do wish for the so-called good ol’ days.

Picture this. 

It’s a Sunday afternoon.  Summer time, late August. The morning spent worshipping God in a little country church.  Stomachs full from a hearty home-cooked lunch.  And Dad says, “Let’s go for a Sunday drive.” 

We all jump in the car, wind down the windows, and let the rushing air hit our faces, blowing our hair dos willy nilly as Dad heads out on the blue highways – those two-lane roads that meander up and down hills, around curves, and through farmlands and woods.  

It’s a beautiful day – sunshine filled, blue skies with a scattering of fluffy white clouds, temperatures hovering around 80 degrees, not unbearably hot with low humidity.   We feel the difference, the coolness in the air, when we drive through wooded areas where the sun peeks through spots in the leafy covering that tall trees provide on the road and we say, “Ah, it feels a few degrees cooler here.”

As we drive along, we pass houses clustered on both sides of the road, houses with windows thrown wide open and front doors standing ajar with only a screen door between the inside and outside.  And situated on those houses are front porches.  And on those porches are people.  Swaying on the porch swing.  Gathered for conversation on porch chairs.  Children are running, laughing, and playing in the yard.  Friendly folks wave to us as we pass by even though we don’t know them at all.

Now flash forward a few decades and picture this.

It’s a Sunday afternoon.  Summer time, late August.  The morning spent worshipping God in a little country church.  Stomachs full from a hearty home-cooked lunch.  And Papa says, “Let’s go for a Sunday drive.”  

We all jump in the car, push the electronic buttons to lower the car windows, and let the rushing air hit our faces, blowing our hair dos willy nilly as Papa heads out not on the four-lane expressway but on the blue highways – those two-lane, less traveled roads that still meander up and down hills, around curves, through the farmlands and woods.  

It’s a beautiful day – sunshine filled, blue skies with a scattering of fluffy white clouds, temperatures hovering around 80 degrees, not unbearably hot with low humidity.   We feel the difference, the coolness in the air, when we drive through wooded areas where the sun peeks through spots in the leafy covering that tall trees provide on the road and we glance at the digital temperature on the car dashboard and comment, “Ah, it’s only 76 degrees here.”  

As we drive along, we pass houses clustered on both sides of the road, closed up tight, almost looking devoid of people.  No open windows, no open doors.  If there weren’t cars in the driveways and hanging baskets or pots of flowers decorating the homes, you would surmise the houses were vacant.  

Situated on those houses are front porches.  And on those porches are…empty outdoor furniture.  Lots of it.  Nice patio sets.  Porch swings.  Chairs of all descriptions including pretty rockers lined up in rows.  All empty.  Decorations galore but not a living soul in sight on any of those porches…or in the yard…front or back.

There are no children outside either.  No running barefoot in the grass, no laughing, no playing tag or chasing the dog.  We drive for miles and miles and it’s the same.  No people outside anywhere.  

We are more than an hour away from our home in a rural area where there are still plenty of homes but we see only a handful of people outside – two mowing their lawns and the rest either getting into or out of their parked vehicles.  Finally, after an hour of driving, we spy one young girl, blond pony-tail flying behind her, running around her front yard with her dog.  One child.  One dog.

We drive through a small town with a lovely town square which includes a shady park.  There are only a couple of people walking through the sun-dappled area. Inviting benches, sheltered under grand old trees providing cool spots to rest, sit vacant. 

There’s plenty of traffic hustling down the main street of the town but hardly any foot traffic.  We easily locate a spot to park our car, get out to stretch our legs, take in a few sights here in this quaint little town, and take a stroll through the park and down the street.  We don’t meet a soul on the sidewalk.

Where is everyone?  Where have all the children gone?  Does everyone hole up inside their air-conditioned home on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon?  To do what?  Watch television?  Play video games?  Be chained to the laptop, the tablet, or the smart phone?  While away time on social media, succumb to the lure of the internet?

Doesn’t anyone go outside anymore to partake of God’s beautiful creation on a glorious day?  Doesn’t anyone take an afternoon walk in the park?  Or soak up a little sunshine or lounge on a hammock under the shade of a tree? Or just enjoy a peaceful moment sitting on the front porch catching the breeze, conversing with the neighbor, or just waving at folks as they drive by?

Don’t children play outside on a beautiful summer day anymore?  Don’t they run and jump or play yard games?  Or chase butterflies?  Or lie down in the warm, soft grass staring up at the sky and finding shapes in the clouds?

Call me old-fashioned or call me too nostalgic but I really do wish for the good ol’ days.  And our Sunday drive just the other day reminded me of that all too well.  If you need me, I’ll be sitting on my front porch.

“If the world had a front porch like we did back then
We’d still have our problems but we’d all be friends
Treatin’ your neighbor like he’s your next of kin
Wouldn’t be gone with the wind
If the world had a front porch like we did back then.” 

~  lyrics by Tracy Lawrence, country singer