One of these things is not like the other

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Opposites.  Things that are altogether different.  Some things are considered polar opposites – diametrically opposed, as far from each other as possible.  In today’s world, it seems folks have polar opposite views in everything from politics to faith issues to climate change.

It’s safe to say our views each day are full of opposites.  And often we find that opposites actually do attract.  You’ve seen it in relationships where two people are so fundamentally dissimilar in all aspects of life that you scratch your head and wonder how in the world they get along well enough to be married.

This week’s photo challenge theme is opposite and I located one of my photos that personified that theme well I think.  One day while Papa and I were traveling down one of those blue highways meandering through the countryside, opposites appeared right through our car windshield. 

An Amish buggy pulled by one single trotting horse in front of us had just been passed by a speeding automobile (and not in a passing zone either). You can’t get more opposite than those two modes of transportation.  One old-fashioned and slow.  One thoroughly modern and capable of speediness.

One portraying the simplicity and humility of its driver, the other a symbol for some folks of pride and vanity.  One simple and uncomplicated way, a horse pulling a carriage, of moving from one place to another and the other powered by complex and complicated means, an engine with computerized parts accelerating an intricately designed vehicle.

Opposites. Just like the people traveling inside those two different means of conveyance. One in an obvious hurry, one not.

And Papa and I fell somewhere in the middle.

Which makes me wonder….what is the opposite of middle?

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Happy Birthday, America!

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“The United States is the only country with a known birthday.”  ~James G. Blaine

The United States of America.  It’s my country and I wouldn’t have wanted to be a native citizen of any other country in this world.  Patriotic? Yes, I am. As some unknown person once said, “My blood runs red, white, and blue.”

Why? Because I grew up in a time when we were taught to be proud of our nation yet remember the utmost sacrifices that were made to secure freedom and never take that freedom for granted.

I was taught that the Declaration of Independence was written with these words:  

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I learned the preamble to the United States Constitution and what that important document established:

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

My parents taught me to honor the symbol of our nation and its freedom, our flag, and the proper way to treat it and display it. I still recite the pledge of allegiance to our flag.

I know every word to The Star Spangled Banner; My Country ‘Tis of Thee; America, the Beautiful, and God Bless America.

My love for my country does not supersede my love for my Lord, but I know that my nation cannot and will not survive without being one nation under God.

I pray for this great nation of mine because it seems like we are sinking into a muddy mire of our own doing. And it’s time for we the people to speak up and out. As I reflect on this day – this Independence Day – the 4th of July,  the 240th birthday of my country, I take to heart the words of some of our founding fathers and former presidents because they still ring true.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”  ~ Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

And finally a birthday blessing straight from the song, America, the Beautiful, written by Katharine Lee Bates:

“America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”

Happy Birthday to my country, the United States of America. May God bless it and keep it and may it continue to be a shining light of liberty in a dark world of oppression.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Howdy, pardner!

blogIMG_1405 (2)Whenever my photography cache gets low, I usually grab my camera and head outside my house or I pack it in its trusty case and venture out into my world – out here in ruralville America.

I live a few miles outside my tiny hometown and although we don’t live in a very secluded area, I’m surrounded by country roads of cement or macadam pavement, gravel, and even dirt, farmers’ fields, and plenty of woods.  A sight to capture with my trusty Canon Rebel T3i always presents itself somehow.

It’s me and my camera searching out interesting shots to take.  You might call us a partnership because I’d be lost without my camera and my camera couldn’t capture anything without me behind the lens.

That’s how I define partners.  Two working in tandem together to accomplish a goal whether it’s in relationship like marriage (my hubby is certainly my partner in life)  or found in business where two people put forth their best effort to create and maintain a lucrative company.

Partners are found in any community project where they plan and organize resources to achieve a successful event.  And the concept should be in our churches where we believers partner with God to bring the message of salvation to those who don’t know Him.

This week’s photo challenge theme is partners. I’ve stewed on the subject ever since I read the announcement last Friday. I’ve gleaned through my photos, contemplated over how to portray the theme in a photo opportunity not yet taken, and I kind of came up empty-handed.

Until I searched through some old photos again.

On one of those lazy summer days a couple of years ago, I happened to be driving down a nearby country road in my neck of the woods, my trusty camera by my side. Doing so, sometimes I find an awesome sight which prompts me to pull my car over to the side of the road, pull the Canon up to my eye, and click away. 

And often, I spy something that just kind of boggles my mind and I just have to capture it because…well, seeing is believing. I shared one of those times here

If you think that one is crazy, sometime I’ll have to post a photo of the life-sized black painted wooden thing resembling a monster that someone decided to erect right on the edge of one of our woodsy country roads. This thing scares the living daylights out of you when you first drive by it at dusk.  We’re talking “Oh, my gosh! Is that Bigfoot????”

Let’s hope Bigfoot doesn’t have any partners.

But back to the source of the photo today. While meandering around in search of subjects for another photo after I captured the “fowl play” I wrote about in my link above, I noticed two young llamas (or are they alpacas?) in a field. I don’t know if they were siblings but they stayed together as they moved about the area eating grass.  And it made a cute photo op and has been sitting in my photos file on my computer ever since.

The llamas appeared to be partners – at least partners in eating. Maybe they are just friends. But friends make great partners in just about any endeavor you attempt. 

Just like the old song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”   I have some great friends, both in person and here in the blogging world, and to me, you are all great partners too.

Together we try to make this world a better place, and I couldn’t ask for better partners to do so with. Thanks,”pardners!”

“Friendship is essentially a partnership.” ~Aristotle

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Sips to savor

blogIMG_8028Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day.

Those lyrics to a song from the musical Oklahoma waltz through my thoughts as I sit at my computer to write this. So far, the month of June has been glorious weather-wise and I’ve caught myself saying more than once to whomever is listening, “If every summer were like this, I’d enjoy the season a lot more!”

The balmy but sunny, blue skies with fluffy white cloud-filled days and cool sleep-with-the-windows-wide-open nights are just my cup of tea. Last year’s June was awful.  Even though I had much to be thankful for, the month and the entire summer was stressful and kept me wondering what was coming down the pike next. 

But this June -this glorious month of June – has been different. I enjoy sitting outside without heat and humidity. I awaken after a restful night’s sleep and greet the day with peace not worrying about what troubles the day may bring.

This June we celebrated both my birthday and my husband’s, not with any grand fanfare but quietly and simply, just the way we like it.  I enjoyed a couple pieces of birthday cake from one of my favorite bakeries and hubby got his go-to dessert, ice cream in the form of a cake.

A surprise package arrived at my doorstep one day from sweet friends of ours in Australia. Packages or letters in the mail always float my boat not because I desire gifts but because I love the thought that someone thinks about me long enough to care to send me greetings.  And to be honest, I just adore getting mail (but not bills!).

So inside my surprise birthday parcel was a lovely teacup and saucer as you can see in my photo above. Anyone who knows me well knows I drink tea, not coffee, and after water, it is my favorite drink – hot or iced.  The gift and the lovely thought behind it was a gracious gesture but the little saying printed on the teacup –“Savor every sip of life”– truly captured my attention.  

Savor every sip of life.

Because life is meant to be savored.  Moments are meant to be remembered. Every breath we take is meant to matter. Time spent with family and friends is meant to be treasured.

And each new day, especially like those I’ve experienced lately, are like a sweet cube of sugar plunked into my teacup of life.

It’s the reason I can turn my face up to the sunshine, close my eyes, smile, and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude while a cool summer breeze gently wafts through my hair.

And it’s the reason I think to myself, savor every sip of life. 

Since classes are finished for the school year, no more substitute teaching until fall which frees up more precious time for me to savor. 

Time to devote to my grandbaby who is quickly becoming a toddler, learning and growing and giving me joy each day.   Just the other day, she and I passed a good portion of the morning exploring outdoors, blowing soapy bubbles into the air, swaying back and forth on the front porch swing, investigating dandelions on the lawn, rough bark on the trees, and weeds in the flower gardens, and sharing giggles and grins.

Time for Papa and me to visit with my recuperating-from-her-car-accident sister and her hubby playing card games, laughing, singing to oldies songs, and just enjoying each other’s company some evenings or Sunday afternoons.

Time to catch up with my family and their comings and goings like learning about our oldest daughter and son-in-law’s recent mission trip to Honduras, or listening to our middle daughter’s vacation plans, or hearing about son and daughter-in-law’s recent excursion, how their jobs are going, and more importantly, how the baby bump is coming along.  Yes, Papa and I are going to be grandparents again and we are so over the moon happy and excited!

Time to reconnect with dear friends, some near and some far.  Time for two and a half hour luncheons with one of my oldest (we’ve been pals for over 50 years) and dearest friends sharing our hearts and faith together in ways that cement our friendship even more.

Time to meet for breakfast with another busy friend and again share a heart to heart talk, coming away with that uplifting feeling when you’ve enjoyed conversing with and listening to a kind-hearted, like-minded soul.

Time to chat for hours by cell phone with yet another friend on the other side of the country, catch up on each other’s lives, and feel like neither time nor distance has changed our solid friendship.

Time to devote to quiet, earnest prayer for another life-long friend who recently received a serious health diagnosis and time to encourage and support her with love and care.

Can you tell I have been savoring the sips of life? And all of this does my heart glad, makes my soul sing, gives me sunshine on my shoulders. This summer is going to be different than last, I can say that with certainty. Putting the stress and angst of last year behind us, I’m moving forward with hope, and joy, and the remembrance to savor every sip of life, even if some sips turn out a tad bitter.

You know why? Because it will all pass by as it needs to do. I can’t stay frozen in winter with an ice-bound heart. I’m busting out of my dreary place and welcoming the sunshine of summer.  Not just welcoming it, but embracing it, because before I know it, this too shall pass.

“The way to live in the present is to remember that “this too shall pass.”  When you experience joy, remembering that “this too shall pass” helps you savor the here and now.  When you experience pain and sorrow, remembering that “this too shall pass” reminds you that grief, like joy, is only temporary.” ~ Joey Green

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Curve ahead

blogIMG_1954When life throws you a curve, you just need to keep your eyes ahead and focused on your journey. That’s all the wisdom I have for today as I’m linking up with the WordPress weekly photo challenge and its theme – curve.

I captured this shot one beautiful fall day a couple of years ago when my husband and I ventured out of our empty nest and traveled into our nearby city to spend the day seeing some sights we hadn’t taken the time before to view.  We enjoyed not only the day but each other’s company and what could be better than that?

Curves and all, the Papa of this empty nest and I have stayed on this journey called marriage for almost 4o years, supporting one another, sharing our joys and sorrows with each other, and continuing on the path together.  He helps me stay on the straight and narrow when the curves of life throw me out of whack.  He’s steady and steadfast like that – well, one of us needs to be!

 “My life is one long curve, full of turning points.” ~ Pierre Elliott Trudeau

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Simply pure

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Crater Lake, Oregon taken with 35 mm film in the ’90s

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. That verse comes to mind when the word “pure” crosses my mind.

We can see God in the purity of His creation.  I don’t mean in a New Age-y way that by gazing at a hundreds of years old gnarly tree that you actually see some sort of being that you choose to worship.  In my faith, I see the pure nature of the one true God, Creator of all things, by merely appreciating the beauty and magnificence He created in this world we live in.

“Purity is the gatekeeper for everything precious and blissful in God’s kingdom.” ~ Eric Ludy

Last week’s photo challenge theme was “pure” and I simply and purely did not get around to writing a blog post to accompany a photo I captured many years ago which encapsulated that word. So I’m a tad behind. 

As soon as I realized that theme, my memory bank withdrew this photo I’d taken in the 90’s.  One I took with a point and shoot camera and –gasp!—35mm film. 

Film.  What an old concept, huh?  Film. You actually needed to load it yourself into a camera and hope that it caught correctly on those little spools of the inner workings of the thing.

Film. You had to develop it with chemicals in a dark room or send it off somewhere so you could preserve your snapshots on photographic paper. 

Film. You waited to see the fruit of your labor and to ascertain whether or not you really captured a good shot or a truly awful one that would end up in the trash bin.

So this photo is a throwback to times past to those days before digital cameras.  To days when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest and we took advantage of beautiful places to visit and memories to make from some of God’s most beautiful creations practically in our own backyard.

My photo was taken in southern Oregon when we visited Crater Lake, a body of water that is 1,943 feet deep making it the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest lake in the world. The crater was created basically by a volcano erupting and collapsing into itself forming what is called a caldera.

Now I’ve seen a lot of lakes in my time so why did this lake evoke the word “pure” to me? Because it is just that – pure. There is very little of anything in this crystal clear lake water but water – no algae, no sediment, or pollution.  Not entirely pure, but pretty darn close. And my, oh my, is it blue. Pure blue. There is some scientific reason for that which I’ve forgotten over the years, but I’ve never forgotten how very pure that lake appears to the eye.

After seeing Crater Lake for the first time in 1919, Western genre author Zane Grey wrote, “I expected something remarkable, but was not prepared for a scene of such wonder and beauty…. Nowhere else had I ever seen such a shade of blue…. How exquisite, rare, unreal!”

Sounds like he’s describing something remarkably pure, doesn’t it? And something pure seems so very rare especially in our world today.

“Purity is the diamond of the soul.” ~ Edward Counsel, Maxims

According to my trusty desk dictionary, the definition of pure means “unmixed with any other matter; being thus and no other; free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes; and having exactly the talents or skills needed for a particular role.”

That definition fits Crater Lake, that majestic and exquisite marvel created by God.  And it also defines God, if indeed you can actually define Him.

He is unmixed with any other.  He is the one true God made up by three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   “Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him… Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.” ~ Deuteronomy 4:35,39

He is thus and no other.  There is no one like Him. “For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.” ~ Isaiah 46:9

He is free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes.  He is holy, righteous, and good to everyone.  “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” ~ Psalm 145:9 and “Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.” ~ Psalm 111:3

He has everything He needs for a particular role.  His role is ruler of the universe and sovereign king of all. “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” ~ 2 Chronicles 20:6

I’m reminded of the Lord’s purity every time I view His masterpieces whether they be in nature such as Crater Lake or the broad expanse of blue sky over my head. Or as I read about Him in my Bible or simply and purely thank Him for the very breaths of my life. He is purely good.  And we humans are not. If you disagree with me, that’s your choice, but I ask you to just take note of the daily news for proof that humans can be purely evil, especially to one another.

That’s why it’s important for me and those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ to focus purely on Him. To perform good works in His name and for His glory not our own. And to tell others about His purity in loving and saving us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Purely focusing on Him is not an easy lesson to learn and one I must continually relearn every day upon awakening because I do desire to be among the blessed and pure in heart and see God in everything I see, do, and say. His love for me (and you) is immeasurably deeper than the deepest lake in the world. And it is purer than anything imaginable.

“Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts.” ~ Helen Keller,  Optimism

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com