When did we start to lose that joy we felt as a child over the simplest things?
You know, that joy that comes from swirling your tongue around an icy cold ice cream cone on a sweltering summer day?
That joy that bubbles up inside of you when you watch a butterfly land on a bright yellow flower and you just have to smile with happiness?
That squeal of delight that bursts forth from your mouth when you spin round and round until you’re dizzy and fall on the ground laughing?
When did it stop? Because for a lot of us, somewhere along the way to adulthood, it did. It ceased.
Was it when we entered the teen years because we wanted to look cool instead of expressing delight in the things that we now considered ‘childish?’ Was it even earlier than that when adults told us to grow up, and stop acting like children even though we still were that very thing?
Or was it in adulthood when the realities of living in the world, taking care of yourself, and facing responsibility outweighed those joy-filled moments?
I thought of this the other day while watching our three-year-old grandchild. We were outside enjoying a sunny summer day and she was “helping” Nana and Papa with some yard work. As the afternoon progressed, the sun slipped behind some gray-tinged clouds that moved in when we weren’t looking.
Suddenly, it started to sprinkle rain drops. Here. There. Drip. Drop. Then the raindrops fell quickly, leaving little splashes of water on the sidewalk and on us. Just a light and soft rain but enough that Papa started putting garden tools away in the garage and Nana escaped to sit on the front porch.
But not Little One! Oh no, she tilted her face upwards to the gently falling rain, held her arms upward, and exclaimed, “It’s raining! It’s raining! Nana, I love rain!!”
She danced up and down the sidewalk, twirled in circles with outstretched arms, and leaped into the air repeating how much she adored rain and she thoroughly enjoyed getting wet.
She didn’t scurry to get in out of the rain shower, she embraced it. She didn’t dash to obtain an umbrella, she ran with joy and abandonment through the rain soaking up every delicious drop of joy.
Because to her, it was something of joy. Something delightful to behold. Something to savor and revel in and yes, seize the moment to totally relish it.
I observed her briefly and suddenly began laughing myself as her joy became contagious. This little one was teaching her grandmother an important lesson. Joy comes from within.
I ran inside the house to grab my camera to capture those moments of child-like joy on the face of my grandchild.
I wanted to freeze this moment in time because someday she will be a teenager, and all too soon she will be a grown-up. Will she still feel the same way about a sudden little rain shower? Probably not.
She’ll view it as an inconvenience preventing her from whatever she wanted to accomplish. She’ll bemoan the fact that it is ruining her plans for the day. Or it’s messing up her hairstyle. Or some other reason not to find joy in the rain.
As I watched her that afternoon, a wish for her entered my thoughts that she never lose her joy or her enthusiasm for the simple pleasures of life. That she embraces life, come what may, just like she embraced the rain that day. With utter and complete joy.
And this Nana will try diligently to model that for her and teach her to consider all things in this life with joy.
“Joy is not in things; it is in us.” ~ Richard Wagner, German composer
With warm weather rolls around, my thoughts turn back the hands of time to summers past. Summers as a kid. How excited we were to finally celebrate the last day of school and the beginning of freedom to do whatever we wanted for the next couple of months.
Fond memories of those summer days and nights float up to the surface of my mind. And some of those memories involve the game of baseball. My neighborhood pals and I would play baseball in our yard and often times, my father would join us. Occasionally, even my mom would get in on the fun.
My next-door friends and I tagged along to their brother’s baseball games all summer long when he played Little League and later when he played on our church softball team. Summer evenings and baseball just seemed to go hand in hand.
If I close my eyes, I can still vividly picture sitting on the porch as the sun called it a day and disappeared. I can hear the crickets singing their chirping song and I can see fireflies (or lightning bugs as we called them) flickering across the yard.
But in the background, I hear something else during my reverie. The sounds of excited baseball announcers’ voices coming through the screen door. On summer evenings, Dad would listen to Pittsburgh Pirates games on the radio or watch them on TV when we were fortunate enough to have the game televised. No ESPN or exclusive sports networks back then.
Summer usually included a jaunt into the city to attend a Pirates game in person as well, first at Forbes Field and later at Three Rivers Stadium – now both baseball stadiums relegated to the past and only a memory.
Fast forward several years. Our son played summer baseball from the time he was a young’un able to swing a bat until high school. This Mama and Papa plunked themselves down on plenty of lawn chairs and bleachers watching son from Little League through Senior League. And one summer, Papa made time to help coach son’s team.
Summer, baseball, and dads. They fit together in my mind, especially as we near the June holiday honoring dads.
A couple of years ago, I was charged with writing a tribute with a baseball theme to honor dads at our church on Father’s Day. I think it’s fitting to share what I wrote then since we will celebrate this special day this Sunday. (If you’re an old-timer like me, you might notice I threw in a little reference to an old Abbott and Costello baseball comedy routine.)
You know, for dads, life is like a baseball game. It’s important as a slugger to get to first base, whether you hit a single or get walked. In a father’s life, the first base priority is focusing on the Lord.
So who’s on first? God. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
A grounder with Him advances you to second base. And the second most important thing in a dad’s life should be his wife, the mother of his children.
So what’s on second? Your wife. Ephesians 5:25 says: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
When God sent blessings your way, you slid in safely to third base. Your children are your third most important focus.
Third base? You might have said I don’t know anything about children, but the Lord gives you good instruction in His Word. Ephesians 6:4 says: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
If you’re successful at being a father, you’ve just scored a home run.
We know Dads aren’t always perfect though. Every once in a while, you might hit a foul ball and things go awry, and you may even strike out from time to time and make an error. But with prayer and the Lord’s help, you always step back into the batter’s box for another at bat.
Just as 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, you are “on your guard; standing firm in the faith; courageous and strong.’
Maybe you just bunt, because change ups come at you quickly. But you never balk at your responsibilities as a dad. You’re not down for the count. You’re always in position, fielding problems, making double plays, and often just being the catcher.
In your families, you may think you’re just the cleanup batter. But you are so much more than that. You really are the power hitter providing for your family’s safety and welfare.
In your wife’s eyes, you’re her lead runner, pinch hitter, and relief pitcher all rolled into one because you’re always on-deck to help her.
In your children’s eyes, you’re a grand slam because you are their hero that scores big time to win the game when you relay what it means to be a believer in Christ to them.
In the Lord’s eyes, three strikes doesn’t mean you’re out because He forgives you even when you veer outside the strike zone.
When the bases are loaded, and you’re at a full count, or even if you get yourself in a pickle, we know we can rely on you to get into scoring position and take care of your family and lead them in a godly way.
Proverbs 17:6 tells us: Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.
Yes, fathers, you are like a baseball game because to us, you are the diamond.
Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there and may God bless you!
“A Dad is your biggest fan even when you strike out.” ~ unknown
Sometimes my think tank runs dry. There’s just no fuel in there.
And when that happens, I find myself without the energy I need to get those creative juices flowing again. No topic springs to mind jump-starting my brain and causing an imaginative spark to ignite. Often times I’m just running on empty.
That’s one of the reasons why, for the last couple of years, I’ve enjoyed the weekly photo challenges Word Press published each week. Each weekly theme provided fodder for thought. And thought usually led to a photo I’ve taken either from my files or one I chose to capture just for the challenge. And viewing the actual picture prompted more creative fuel producing written blog posts to accompany the photo.
But the photo challenges have officially ended while the creative folks at Word Press move on in a different direction, and I’m going to miss them. I know there are other picture challenges out there in cyber-land, but I’m just too
lazy unmotivated to spend time searching for one that strikes my fancy.
So I must revert to igniting my own creative fires when it comes to writing this blog. Whoo-boy, that’s a more difficult challenge than simply opening up an email and saying, “Ah yes, a theme!” and tap, tap, tapping away at my computer keyboard.
When I first launched this blog, prior to engaging with the photo challenges, I summoned up my own creative ideas, studied my surroundings and God’s Word, and thoughtfully considered things I’d read, seen, or experienced as worthy writing fodder.
In my defense, my life was a bit simpler back when this empty nest blog became reality. My grown children were all off on their own and living far from home, and the Papa of this empty nest still toiled full-time long hours at his job.
And even though I worked at a part-time job myself, I still had a whole lot of free time on my hands. Time I didn’t know what to do with. So almost eight years ago, I started seriously blogging and Mama’s Empty Nest breathed life.
As time progressed though, I started relying more on the photo challenges and Wordless Wednesday for blog posts instead of my own creativity. It was easier and less time consuming and if I’m honest, also less tiring.
I could sit down at my desktop, peruse my photos, and start composing an accompanying blog post personifying the weekly theme. And I cranked one out just about every week. Wordless Wednesdays were even simpler – choose a photo, type in a title, and voila! A blog post.
In the last couple of years, I just haven’t possessed as much open, free, and uninterrupted time like I once did, so yes, I confess I grabbed the easy route like a white-water rafter tossed overboard grabs a well-placed tree branch in the river to save him.
Time with little or no distractions is still an issue since I watch my three-year-old grandchild while her mama works. And other issues often prevent me from sitting down in front of my computer screen to get my thoughts down in writing.
Changes happen. It’s just the way life is. And stages of life come and go, reminding me of an old 1960’s Herman’s Hermits song, “years may come, years may go, some go fast, some go slow…”
With each new change that comes along, I must learn to adapt and go with the flow. So as one chapter ends – my use of weekly photo challenges (unless I find another interesting one) – another must begin. Because of this, I may not post as often until I get some creative inspiration flaring again, so I’m preparing you, my faithful readers.
Please don’t give up reading my blog because of that. I’ll still be here. Just maybe not as often. But then again, you never know. If creativity sparks a flame, I may post as regularly as before if not more. Hope springs eternal, you know.
“Don’t fan the flames of despair. Ignite the spark of hope instead.” ~Doe Zantamata
And hopefully, something will light my fire every week and inspiration will come, even if I have to chase after it.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ~ Jack London
Have you ever heard or seen something that just goes beyond what you call normal? Often times, we shake our heads and say, “Man, that’s twisted.”
This week’s photo challenge theme is exactly that – twisted.
I really haven’t had time to grab my camera and go out to capture a shot that would fit the challenge, so I resorted to my photo files. As I searched for a picture, the image of twisted that sprung forth in my mind was of tornadoes – sometimes called twisters.
I do have a bit of experience with twisters and have witnessed firsthand the devastation they cause. But I’ve never had an opportunity to capture one with my camera. And you know what? For that I’m grateful. I’d rather be safely ensconced in an inside walk-in closet than be sticking my camera out at a funnel-shaped onslaught of destruction.
In their wake, tornadoes leave a lot of twisted debris. The force of a twister is unreal, bending metal, stripping trees bare of their bark, picking up and smashing houses to smithereens. As I was considering that, a photo I’d taken last summer came to my mind. (The photo above)
On a day trip, we ventured northward and visited Kinzua Bridge State Park located in the Kinzua Gorge. Years ago a tornado slammed into a railroad viaduct there, which was once the longest and highest such structure in the world, and destroyed a good portion of it. Its twisted metal skeleton still remains several feet below the surviving towers of the structure which have been turned into a sky walk.
But twisted things aren’t always the result of something horrific. Sometimes twisted items are things of beauty like this exquisite and huge glass sculpture fashioned by artist Dale Chihuly. One long winter season a few years ago, Papa and I visited our nearby city conservatory and botanical garden just to get a glimpse of color and this sculpture hung in the entrance hall of the conservatory.
So when it comes to twisted things, it’s all in your perspective, isn’t it? Just like life. Are you going to go through these days on earth you’ve been given with a negative attitude every time life doesn’t turn out quite like you planned (that could be really twisted) or will you embrace each day of life with an upbeat spin no matter what happens?
It may take some tweaking here and there, but I’m choosing to twist my attitude. Go for the optimistic. Be encouraging not critical. It’s up to me to decide which way I turn. And on that note, maybe I’ll just go fire up some oldies tunes and if I’m lucky, I’ll hear Chubby Checker singing “C’mon baby, let’s do the twist.”
You’re never too old to twist and see where it takes you.
“Life has many twists and turns and sometimes what looks like a very bad day can just be clearing the way for good things to come.” ~ J. Kim Wright
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
A simple life. Sometimes that’s what we yearn for, isn’t it?
In our 40 years of marriage, life often has been anything but simple for Papa and me. Changes and issues crop up that seem to prevent a simple lifestyle, but that’s just life in this 21st century.
One of the perks of being semi-retired is that Papa and I can plan little trips away from home here and there. Simple getaways providing a bit of escape from the hum-drum of life and its foibles.
This past month, we took an extended weekend trip south where our first-born daughter and son-in-law live. With middle daughter and granddaughter ensconced in the back seat of our vehicle, we left home on a Thursday morning to travel to a place we wanted to visit first, then would head to first-born daughter’s home the next day for the remainder of our trip.
Celebrating our daughter’s birthday was on the agenda and just spending time together was the priority. Simple, right?
Our simple trip didn’t start out simply. We managed to leave exactly at the time we decided upon – no easy feat with a toddler in tow – but as we were tooling down the highway, middle gal mentioned that the back of the vehicle was shaking. Matter of fact, granddaughter’s car seat was even vibrating.
About a week prior to our trip, Papa purchased new tires for said vehicle. And just the day before we left, he had taken it in for a wheel alignment. Something obviously was very wrong.
So we turned around and headed back to the tire shop where the service had been performed. An hour and a half later, we were on the road again. Back to our simple trip.
Well, traveling with a potty-trained three-year-old isn’t that simple. Our trip consisted of numerous potty break stops, lunch and some time at the playground, more potty breaks, snack breaks, and then a lengthy dinner stop.
Finally, we arrived at our destination – a trip that should have taken seven or eight hours ended up being 12 hours long. It was late, we were all tired and relieved to check into our hotel (where we had a reservation) and collapse into bed.
Papa walked inside the hotel and up to the registration desk to check in while the girls and I waited in the car for him to bring us the luggage trolley. We waited and waited. And waited. Finally the entrance doors whooshed open and Papa stepped out.
Apparently, our reserved room had already been given to someone else, so the night clerk searched for another room to accommodate us and this seemed to take way too long. By this point, a bit of stress was beginning to raise its ugly head. This simple trip was undeniably becoming anything but simple.
After breakfast the next morning, we loaded up again and traveled the few miles to our sightseeing stop – a Shaker village from years gone by.
Something peaceful descended upon me the minute we stepped out of our SUV. Few cars sat in the parking lot. The scenery was lovely. Verdant green countryside enveloped in quietness. Simplicity. At last.
We spent the day learning more about the Shakers and their simple way of life as we walked down a tranquil limestone road. We learned about their beliefs, their music (we even practiced a Shaker ‘dance’ with the help of our tour guide), their farming methods, and their self-sustaining way of life.
We walked through the village noting several of the buildings being restored and entering those that were open for viewing. Little One enjoyed the animals, especially the baby piglets. We ate a simple lunch we had packed consisting of peanut butter sandwiches and fruit, listening to bird chatter and not much else.
A light rain fell for a brief period but didn’t hinder our tour. We climbed aboard for a wagon ride led by two beautiful draft horses and heard more about the Shaker life style as we toured the area and learned the Shakers had owned about 6000 acres of land there.
And as we settled ourselves back into our vehicle to drive to first-born’s after a simple day of peace and tranquility, this song echoed in my mind.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right. ~ Lyrics by Joseph Brackett
A simple visit to a simple place. It caused me to turn ’round right for the rest of our trip.
Simplicity. You can find it, if you try.
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden