As soon as I read this week’s photo challenge theme – unusual – you know what happened? An old Tom Jones song from the year 1965 popped into my head.
“It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone, it’s not unusual to have fun with anyone…It’s not unusual to go out at any time…It’s not unusual, to be mad with anyone, it’s not unusual, to be sad with anyone…”
Of course, Jones was singing about being in love, which is not unusual. Happens pretty often to us human beings. So what is unusual? More than we think.
I’m venturing on a different route here today. Usually, I showcase a photo that personifies the photo challenge and I expound on that theme with one story or thought centered on the subject.
But instead, I’m compiling some unusual events I’ve noticed in totally random order in list form. So here’s my catalogue of uncommon or rare happenings lately:
blistering heat and sunshine, I forgot my sunscreen. By the third day, I was definitely doing a lobster impression based on the color of my skin, even though I had sunscreen applied by that point. A considerate stranger approached me and asked me if I was alright and did I need some sunscreen because as she stated, “I don’t know if you realize it, but you’re getting very red.” I thanked her kindly, told her I did have sunscreen on, and that I truly was just fine. Random act of kindness? Surely. Unusual, I think.
So what unusual occurrences have you noticed in your world? They’re out there, you just have to be on the lookout – and if you’re anything like me, that’s usual.
“Today is a most unusual day, because we have never lived it before; we will never live it again; it is the only day we have.” ~ William Arthur Ward
July. It must be the month for gathering.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
No wait, that’s a Thanksgiving hymn and checking the weather coupled with the multi-hued shades of green leaves and bright-eyed colorful summer flowers out there, it’s certainly not November.
We gather together.
Nope, the calendar page boldly states it is definitely July. July, the seventh month of the year, possessor of 31 days. Smack dab in the middle of the year.
And this year, July sports a special occurrence during palindrome (a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward) week July 10-July 19. For example 7-17-17 can be read the same way backwards or forwards. Or July 10, 2017, written as 7-10-2017, is also a palindromic date – it’s symmetrical. Not going to happen this year in November, no siree.
We gather together.
But wait, it’s July, the month when typically temperatures get downright hot and sultry here in my neck of the woods, when the heat index and humidity start to soar.
So this month couldn’t be any different from that thanksgiving month of November if it tried. Okay, I will admit, the two have one thing in common – holidays are celebrated in each month: Independence Day in July and Thanksgiving Day in November.
We gather together.
But it’s not November.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.
So why is gathering together on my mind? Here in this summer month?
With the Lord’s blessing, there have been lots of gatherings in my world. Family gatherings. Friend gatherings. At the end of the month, I’ll attend a gathering to shower a bride-to-be with gifts and good wishes.
We gather together.
But the latest gathering was just this past weekend when our church family assembled on a clear, summer Sunday morning at a nearby state park and held an outdoor worship service and family of God picnic afterwards.
Young and old alike – from one year-old to 85-years-old – gathered for a day of togetherness, worshiping God, the Creator of all nature surrounding us in the beauty of the park.
We gather together.
We sang praise. We listened to our pastor give us a relevant and meaningful message. We feasted on tons of good, homemade picnic food for lunch – tables and tables full of food! We welcomed a family of strangers, campers from the park, to join us.
We played games, laughed, shared stories, enjoyed fellowship, and watched the youngsters shouting with joy as they ran good old-fashioned sack and three-legged races.
We gather together.
Later, we shared a simple supper of grilled hot dogs, leftover picnic fare, and the rest of the sweet tea.
Our day culminated with an evening vesper service as the sun slowly starting sinking into the horizon between the whispering maple and pine trees.
And as we once again sang praises to the Lord God, we murmured our words of thanksgiving.
For the gathering. For the blessings. For this July.
“To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.” ~ Martin Luther
I sit here in our home office at the desktop computer in quietude.
The only sound reaching my ears comes through the open window. An occasional car or truck rumbles by. A bird tweets (in a much more pleasing way than 120 characters). A slight rustle through the leaves of the trees faintly catches my attention.
This house, recently filled to the brim with people, laughter, and lively conversation interspersed with little girl squeals of joy, babbles of baby talk, and excited tail wagging and loving licks from the grand-doggy, now sits silent. For over two weeks, it’s been a hot bed of activity and I enjoyed every single second of it.
Shortly after Papa and I safely returned home from our vacation, my oldest sister and brother-in-law arrived from out west for a long overdue visit. It’s been two long years since my two sisters and I have all been in the same place at the same time. And we are a close family, not in miles but in heart.
When the three of us are blessed to be together, we always plan a “Sisters’ Day Out,” which includes going out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and lots of shopping and sharing in between. This time we had more than one opportunity for sisterly togetherness.
My oldest sis, B, has a lovely hobby – she makes and sells the most beautiful jewelry. As we three sisters sat at my kitchen table one afternoon, B showed us hundreds of pieces that she had brought with her. My middle sister, C, and I picked out the ones we liked best and then the thought occurred to me that we should share B’s talented gifts with friends.
So on the spur of the moment, we planned a jewelry show open house in my home and invited friends to come take a peek, enjoy a glass of lemonade and a homemade cookie (thanks to sister C, who is gifted with the cooking and baking gene), and just have a little bit of fellowship in the middle of the week.
Wow, it was fun! I enjoyed opening my front door to all the lovely ladies who joined us and they seemed to love viewing and buying my sister’s handiwork.
A few days later, our back door opened and we welcomed our oldest daughter and son-in-law from down South and our son, daughter-in-law, and baby granddaughter #2 from the state next door.
All came in to celebrate the 4th of July holiday/weekend with us and spend time with their aunt and uncle from afar. Sister C and her family, including my nephew, his wife, and two sweet little girlies joined us as well.
Much good picnic food, fellowship, and a few fireworks, followed by an evening bonfire with sparklers and s’mores, made the fun complete. We even threw in a few hysterically funny and boisterous games of Speak Out and Apples to Apples. Some of us laughed so hard our jaws ached!
While we sat in the cool of the summer evening, watching the fire, catching glimpses of fireflies in the dark, gazing up at the stars above, and licking sticky marshmallow off our fingers, I couldn’t help but stop for a moment to give thanks for moments like those.
Moments – even though there aren’t as many as we would like since our loved ones are stretched out across the country – when we can sit in the comfort of our family circle with love and feel that all is right in our world. At least for the moment.
Blessed moments. And at the risk of sounding like a sappy Hallmark card, those blessed moments, surrounded by my family, are what makes my heart happy.
And better yet, I know to whom I must whisper my prayers of thanksgiving – the One who provides every moment of love, grace, and gratitude.
The holiday and family visits are now over. One by one, vehicles packed with luggage and people drove up our driveway after hugs and even a few tears mingled with Papa’s and my goodbye waves.
Yet even now, in the quietness of an empty house, my mind sings the old hymn refrain: “Blessed quietness, holy quietness, blest assurance in my soul,” and I whisper my gratitude to God.
Because even in the quietness, He gives me assurance and peace and yes, happiness for moments like these.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” ~ Denis Waitley
When my children were young and sassy teens, they often recited a line to their siblings, whose noses got out of joint over some disagreement, and that saying always caused me to snicker to myself.
Cry me a river, build me a bridge, and get over it.
I laughed because that’s how I felt too. Get over it. There will always be some disparity, some disappointment, some dispute, some deviation from the easy path you wish you had. But instead of crying your eyes out, you just have to build that bridge over troubled waters, buck up, and get over it.
I have to admit that when the good Lord handed out the quality of being merciful and empathetic, I may have skipped Sunday School that day.
But before you judge me too harshly for that, let me share that often the one I show the least mercy to is…myself. Far too often in life I’ve found myself self-admonishing to stop crying an ever-flowing river, commence bridge building, and get over those grievances that cause me anger and anguish.
But the difficult part about building bridges is this – it takes two sides. A one-sided bridge won’t get you anywhere, unless you fall off the abrupt edge and drop kerplunk into the river below. A real downer if you can’t swim.
And if the other side of the river bank just doesn’t cooperate and reach across the span of the abyss to meet you in the middle, well then, where are you? A bridge to nowhere.
Okay, sometimes I surprise myself with how my quirky mind works when I open my email inbox and find the current weekly photo challenge. And this week’s theme – bridge – is no different. Bridge building came to my mind.
I didn’t have to search long or hard for a bridge photo in my cache. I have many because I live in an area with lots of bridges over creeks and rivers, several right here in and near my hometown and further down the river in the big city.
So just in case you happen to live where bridges are few and far between, let me bridge the gap for you with my pictures. I vacillated back and forth while choosing which photo to use for this challenge, so I may share more bridge photos tomorrow on my Wordless Wednesday post.
Bridges. Papa and I crossed a lot of them on our recent vacation, particularly on our journey through New York’s Hudson River Valley, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and on our way home traveling north of New York City.
On our first day of vacation we stopped along the Hudson River in New York state to see West Point Military Academy and toured its museum to satisfy my former Army man husband and history buff.
Afterwards, we crossed the Mid-Hudson Bridge to locate a spot where we could catch a nice view of the military academy from across the river and I could snap a few photos. By accident, we also found a small, shady, secluded park where we ate a quiet picnic lunch as we had the entire park to ourselves.
Driving back across the bridge again, we traveled northward to Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, which is a 19th century railroad bridge converted into the world’s longest elevated pedestrian park. That’s where I captured the photo above.
So we not only traversed the Hudson by car, but we also crossed it on foot via that span from Poughkeepsie to Highland, NY, which is 1.28 miles in length one way. We encountered some beautiful views from that bridge and I was able to capture several nice pictures of the river and the vehicle bridge downriver from it.
Back and forth across bridges we journeyed. Easy peasy. Now if we could just transport ourselves over bridges with people as effortlessly as it is to drive or walk over steel and concrete bridges, maybe we could actually make progress.
“Don’t burn bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.” ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr., American author
(For your listening enjoyment: The Green Leaves of Summer)
We stepped back in time for an afternoon.
For history buffs like Papa, he was in his element. Bright sunshine filled the blue skies on that warm, summer day. We parked the car in the asphalt parking lot and left the present behind with our vehicle for just a couple of hours.
This vacation day, filled with tourists and visitors, was unlike a day in April 242 years ago when colonial Americans made a stand right on the place where we stood. Because where we stood at the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts was the place where the shot heard ‘round the world was fired.
At that place, it all began. A fight for freedom. A revolution. A stand against tyranny. The American Revolutionary War had begun.
And it seems only fitting on this Independence Day – this 4th of July – that I post photos I captured during our recent vacation to the area.
As we stood in silence imagining a spring day in 1775 when soldiers of the mighty British army met an armed group of patriot colonists and gunfire rang out, I paused to think. What if those colonists had not been so brave? What if they had simply continued to suffer under the rule of the British Empire yet done nothing? Where would America be?
Again I am reminded that freedom isn’t free. Many lives were shed to ensure liberty. Many willingly gave up so much to fight for independence and many gave their all, including their very lives.
Gazing up at the battle monument in that place by the North Bridge, I remembered proudly my American history and the significance of this place. Sixty-two years after this battle, American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson penned these words in the opening lines of his memorial poem, “Concord Hymn:”
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.”
Emerson’s grandfather, a minister who was known as one of the “patriot preachers,” had witnessed the North Bridge incident from his home, the Old Manse, which we also visited. No doubt, the stories young Emerson must have heard from his grandfather made an impact on him when he spent time in Concord as a child and inspired him to write the poem. Emerson eventually moved from Boston to Concord permanently, and we also visited his home there.
On July 4, 1837, at the dedication ceremony for the monument, several Concord townspeople sang the words from Emerson’s poem.
And on this July 4, 2017, I pause to remember why we celebrate this day, thanks to an improbable, resilient group of patriots who unbelievably, against all odds, defeated the British and refused to settle for less than independence.
God bless America!
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” –Ronald Reagan