A little adventure

blogIMG_0740Some people are born with an adventurous spirit, some have to have it coaxed out of them.

I wasn’t one of those born with a sense of adventure, nor was I taught to embrace a quest for exploration.  My folks kept pretty close to home when I was a youngster.

Growing up, I can remember only three real vacations with my parents.  As a child, I traveled with them down south to visit my oldest sister and brother-in-law when he was serving in the military and we stopped at interesting points along the way.  As a teenager, my parents took me on one trip to Williamsburg, VA, and one trip to New York state and points in our own home state.  That’s it.

On top of our lack of interesting journeys, I tended to be a fairly shy little girl who didn’t seek out risk-taking or exciting escapades. It wasn’t until I married my husband and he whisked me off to places I’d never been before that I started to enjoy new adventures.

When we were raising our children, I wanted them to have more opportunities than I did to experience new places and different sights, not just the same old, same old of everyday life.

We managed to do some traveling and exposing them to new activities while we lived in the Midwest, but upon moving to the Pacific Northwest, my desire to do that really kicked into high gear.  We endeavored to provide for our children as many adventurous excursions, sight-seeing trips, and vacations as we could on the West Coast of our great country. 

Somewhere along the line, our oldest daughter embraced an adventurous lifestyle with gusto. On her own, with friends, and with her like-minded husband, she’s traveled more places than I can even imagine. 

Those two are the thrill-seekers who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro a couple of years ago. You can read about that by clicking here.

Right now as I write this, they are traveling throughout Peru visiting the Amazon Rainforest and hiking and camping in the Andes Mountains.

Since Papa and I have semi-retired, we’re hoping to fill up our own travel itinerary from time to time. One of my goals has always been to visit each of the 50 states here in America, and so far, I’ve checked off 35 states with 15 more to go. So we’ve got some adventure planning to do of our own.

Our oldest grandchild, who is only 2 ½ spends a great deal of time with Nana and Papa, and we try to take her on little excursions here and there so she too will develop a bit of adventure.

Yesterday, I posted a photo I took back in July when we did just that. We traveled just a couple of hours away from our home with Little One in tow for a sightseeing day trip.

One of the places we visited was actually somewhere that even Nana and Papa had never been before – Kinzua Sky Walk in Kinzua Bridge State Park.

 

blogIMG_0728

Kinzua Skywalk

Once the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world, the viaduct spanned the Kinzua Gorge. But a tornado ripped through the area almost 15 years ago and shredded a good portion of the bridge into twisted metal.

blogIMG_0751

Bridge remains from past tornado

Using six steel towers that remained, a skywalk, which extends 624 feet into the gorge, was constructed.  Walking along the skywalk 225 feet above the valley provided some amazing views, which I believe would be even more breathtaking in the fall when all the leaves are brilliantly colored.  For a more complete view of the bridge/skywalk, watch a youtube video here.

Our Little One enjoyed the adventure of something new and different to behold. She loved playing with the wooden toy train and blocks building a replica of the original railroad bridge in the visitor’s center. Even at her young age, she got a kick out of some of the exhibits there as well.

blogIMG_0750And walking on the skywalk was grand fun for her. She was even more mesmerized by the glass blocks near the end of the structure that enable you to look out below down those 224 feet. Not a great place for someone afraid of heights, but our Little One loved it!

blogIMG_0748After a picnic lunch at the park grounds, we traveled on to a couple more spots. Needless to say, Little One tuckered out and slept most of the way home. But what a fun little voyage we experienced and hopefully, we’re teaching her to embrace exploration with gusto.

And wishing her a lifetime of adventures.

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” ~ Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Advertisements

Structure to build upon

blogDSCN0108 (2)I’m not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. Nope, I like to have my ducks all in a row and I will count them to make sure they are all there too.

Willy-nilly, I am not. I’m happiest when all around me is in order. This thing put away where it belongs. That thing relegated to the recycling or trash.

Clutter removed from the counters, the shelves, my desk, wherever I can see in plain sight. I want a clean slate when I look around.

A place for everything and everything in its place. That makes me feel calm and secure. And in control.  Because when my surroundings get out of control – and despite my intentions of having a spit-spot clean house, it gets pretty messy here – I feel out of control.

When my own little world isn’t in order, I can sense stress just surging inside of me, intensifying and ascending up my back and neck finally settling in my head like a ticking time bomb ready for a full-blown explosion.  

When I was a young mom with three active children, trying to keep my home orderly darn near drove me crazy. Seriously, how do you do so with toys, games, backpacks full of school papers, books, clothes dirty and clean, shoes galore, sporting equipment (and some of it smelled atrocious!), and all the accoutrements that come along with kids?

So to keep my sanity, I learned to just let some things go. Stop striving for perfection when it came to the orderliness of our home. And as I’ve aged… ahem…matured…I’ve even lightened up a good deal more. Well, as much as I can with a 2½- year-old grandchild in my home.

But what I realize I need, what truly floats my boat, calms my inner perfectionist, and keeps me feeling in control is structure, this week’s photo challenge theme.

My handy desk dictionary –yes, I still use a real paper-paged bound book called a dictionary – defines structure as a noun this way: 1. A complex entity. 2a Organization; arrangement. b. Constitution; make-up. 3. Something constructed esp. a building or part.

Words spoken to me over 40 years ago have remained lodged in my brain and rise to the surface when I think about that word – structure.  At the time I was a starry-eyed, idealistic college senior finishing a semester of student teaching in a junior high school classroom.

My supervising teacher – the 7th grade English teacher at this city school in whose classes I tried out my lesson plans – offered advice to me, which I’ve never forgotten, about launching my teaching career.

He advised me to start out tough, running a tight ship in the classroom with a lot of structure.  

“You can always lighten up, but you can never tighten up,” were the words Mr. D told me. He was right.

Without structure, where would we be? Our bodies certainly have structure in the form of all the bones that comprise our skeletal system.  Without that formation, we’d just be big blobs rolling around.

We take shelter and live in some type of building whether it be our homes made of cement, wood, or brick or even a tent. Without structure, nothing would stand to protect us from the environment.

Our modes of transportation all have structure from cars to buses to planes, trains, and ships. Without their forms, we’d all have to travel only by our own feet.

I’m no scientist, but I do know that there is structure in our DNA as well. If you’ve ever seen a drawing of a DNA molecule, you’ll note that there are two strands, a double helix, that wind around each other and resemble a sort of twisted ladder. Structure.

Our very lives here on earth revolve around structure. Twenty-four hours in a day. Seven days in a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year. Our planet revolves around the sun in an orderly way. All of it based on structure.

And every structure that exists also must have some sort of foundation. For me, the foundation of my structure is my faith. When I feel out of control and structure seems to be totally out of order, I pray. I turn to my guidebook for life, my Bible.

It’s the structure I build my life upon.

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” ~ Saint Augustine

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Time to say goodbye again

BlogScan_20170816 (2)I was a mother of three young children. She was the mom of three teenagers.

I was a newcomer to the Midwest. She was a bonafide Midwesterner.

I tended to be overly talkative and yelled at my kids. She choose her words carefully and was soft-spoken.

And she was my friend. Close friend. The kind of friend who would come to your rescue when needed. The kind of friend you could confide in without worry that your problem would be blabbed all over the community.  The kind of friend that felt like a sister.

Thirty-some years ago, Papa and I were new to the suburbs, fresh out of military life. He hit the ground running with his new career choice.  We purchased our very first house and started making it our home.

High on our list of priorities was finding a church where we would fit in and we succeeded, even though it was a small congregation consisting mainly of older folks. They welcomed us with open arms and we developed a solid friendship with a couple who just happened to live not far from us in the same suburb.

I don’t remember the exact moment Papa and I met my kind-hearted friend and her jovial husband, but oh, I do remember the many sweet memories we made with them.  Church gatherings, church camp outings, lots of dinners and birthday celebrations, backyard bar-be-cues, pumpkin picking, hay rides, and just visits between good friends.

My poised and lovely friend with a heart of gold and her fun-loving husband became some of our closest companions. They were abroad for a year when our second child was born, and we missed them terribly.  A happy reunion followed their return to the United States. 

They shared our joy when our third child arrived, and their teenage girls became not only our little ones’ favorite babysitters, but special to us as we loved them like family. We still share that bond today with these three special women.

My friend, a devoted pre-school teacher/director, created so many interesting and fun activities for my children.  Carving names on still green pumpkins in our friends’ garden to come back later when the pumpkins were ripe and pick one that had your very own name on it delighted our children.  They loved going to our friends’ home. 

In her always thinking of others way, my friend saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Trying to care for three rambunctious children with a traveling husband and no family nearby sometimes proved exhausting and trying for me.

So I jumped at the suggestion she made that their family keep our three young ones overnight, so Papa and I could have some grown-up time and a night on the town by ourselves. I honestly am not sure who had the better time, our children or us!

It wasn’t the only time she came to my rescue. On my birthday, she took my children to her home so I could enjoy a little peace and quiet and while they were there, she helped them bake and decorate a cake for me.

Her entire family helped us move from our small house to a bigger one in another suburb of the city. They helped me pack our belongings, watched our children (even with chicken pox at the time) while we loaded up our household goods, physically helped us move furniture and boxes, and set up the beds so we could sleep in our new house that night.

Those were just a few of the thoughtful ways my friend and her family loved us. And I loved her back so much, not just for the ways she helped me but because of her servant’s heart and her sweet and kind personality.  

She was a lifetime kind of friend and her husband was a wonderful friend to mine. I thought I would have more time to spend with her and hoped some of her endearing qualities would rub off on me. But that wasn’t the case.

Papa received a job promotion/transfer that would take us from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. Leaving our friends was extremely difficult for me because it was like leaving family.

Shortly before we boarded an airplane to our new home out West, we joined our friends for dinner in their home. They greeted us with a ‘goodbye, good luck, we’ll miss you’ sign (the above photo) and we departed with a few tears and promises to always keep in touch.

And that we did. We kept our friendship alive despite the distance. After six years in the west, Papa and I made the life-changing decision to quit the job, sell the house, and move all the way across the country to our home state to be closer to family.  And our Midwest friends graciously opened their home to us to spend the night there on our journey eastward.

We arrived at their home on a Sunday afternoon and they surprised us with a picnic with all of our old church family in attendance. What joy it was to visit with them all, and it felt like we had never left.

That was almost 20 years ago. Since then much has transpired.

A phone call shocked us to hear that my friend’s dearly loved husband suddenly and very unexpectedly passed away. My heart ached for her and her daughters and we grieved for our friend whose life was cut so short so soon after retiring from teaching. 

Our letters became once-yearly at Christmas time, but my gracious friend and I still kept in touch and with the emergence of Facebook, I and all three of my children kept contact with her three daughters.  

We even enjoyed a visit here in our home from my beloved friend a few years after her husband passed away. Again, it seemed like we had never been parted. Conversation was always so easy and so enjoyable.

She journeyed here to see us one more time with her oldest daughter and grand-daughter for the wedding of our oldest daughter almost five years ago – the last of our three weddings that year.

Seeing those friends step into our church prior to the ceremony brought tears of happiness to my eyes. I think that was one of the most beautiful characteristics of my friend – she loved making others happy.

It was delightful to introduce them to family and friends at the reception. An added gift was visiting with them the next day as well, reminiscing and just enjoying each other’s company as we always have.

You see time and distance never erases a blessed friendship. And like we do so often in life, I just expected there would be other times, other reunions, other opportunities to talk and share.  But that wasn’t to be.

My friend, my dear and special friend, recently suffered a massive stroke, and while we all prayed for her and her family, she passed from this world to the next last week. It grieves my heart that I cannot attend her memorial service this weekend to celebrate the thoughtful and loving life she lived, hug her three daughters and three grand-daughters tightly in person, and be a source of support for them like their sweet mother and grandmother was for me all those years ago.

Instead all I can do is pray for their comfort and peace, thank the Lord for the blessing that was my treasured friend, and be grateful that she is reunited with her loving husband and most importantly, face to face with our Savior.

And so, I must say “Goodbye again, my friend, for now. I will miss you. But we will meet again someday. Until then, you will always have a place in my heart and in my memories. I am a better person because you were in my life.”

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Serenity despite the din

blogIMG_0038A calm harbor such as this one ignites a spark of inspiration. At least, for me. 

If you are a regular follower of Mama’s Empty Nest, you probably notice this photo looks familiar.  Last week, on Wordless Wednesday, I shared the same view only from a different angle.

And that’s when Faith, Love, Soul, a kind reader/fellow blogger’s comment provided a little spark that flamed into a fire of inspiration for this post. She let me know the photo gave her a sense of peacefulness and calm. 

Serenity, you might say.  And those were exactly the feelings invoked in me as well from that picture and the one above. 

My human eye spied the photo op first and it appealed to me so much I had to try to capture it with my camera.  For an amateur and hobbyist photographer like me, when a photo op turns out exactly how your eye saw it, it makes you happy.  

But there is more to those pictures than meets the eye.

Peaceful. Calm. Serene. Tranquil. All words to describe the scenic harbor and hopefully, the way gazing at this image makes you feel.

But the scene behind that photo was anything but quiet and placid or peaceful and serene.

I took the photo during Papa’s and my vacation back in June.  We traveled northward to a couple of New England states, one being Massachusetts.

After touring Boston in excessive heat and blistering temperatures, we decided to cut that visit short and head out for uncharted territory, meaning places that were not on our original itinerary.

One of those spots was Plymouth, Massachusetts, where history tells us the Pilgrims first stepped foot into the New World after their arduous sea-faring journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

We found Plymouth quaint and lovely while we meandered through its streets to find the Pilgrim landing spot. When we located the area, it wasn’t exactly how we pictured it.

Congested, not with scads of tourists but with construction workers and vehicles surrounding this historical site on that weekday, it was anything but calm.  

Apparently, the base upon which Plymouth Rock rests had deteriorated and was in a vast state of disrepair. So workmen were in the process of pouring concrete around the famed boulder to form a new base.

blogIMG_0035.jpgPlymouth Rock itself was encased in plastic coverings to protect it, so what we viewed turned out to be an industrious construction site with all the deafening noise accompanying it.

Looking outward from where the Rock was housed proved to be a beautifully peaceful and calm harbor as shown in my first photo. 

But behind the spot where I stood to photograph the harbor, an overwhelming scene of hectic activity with workers, tourists, and policemen directing traffic, construction cones everywhere blocking paths, and the loud din of machinery, cement and dump trucks existed.

Stark contrast, that’s for certain.  What you see doesn’t always tell the entire story, does it?  I’m fairly sure that when you viewed my pictures, you never imagined all the chaos going on behind them. 

And that reminds me of life.  Sometimes it’s just full of turmoil and strife everywhere we turn.  So much noise and confusion that it quickly becomes overwhelming. Not at all how we pictured it to be — you know, calm, peaceful, serene.

But we can attain that sense of serenity even amid the commotion around us. It’s found when we seek the heart of God.

There’s an old hymn that explains it:

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
Refrain:
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

 

Peacefulness right in the middle of disarray.  Calmness in the center of pandemonium. Serenity inside of confusing bedlam.

All we have to do is call out to the Savior.

He gives us safe harbor from any storm. And within that safe harbor lies peace.

“He who has faith has… an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well – even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly.” ~ B. C. Forbes

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

What could be worse?

blogIMG_0823You know what people say? Be thankful it wasn’t worse.

True enough because when life goes awry and problems befall, you can always think of situations that could be so much more difficult.

Kind of like the funny sign I photographed above at a little zoo one day. You might make the animals sick, but it would be worse to be eaten by them, don’t ya think?

When considering the worst things that might happen, that Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared” comes to my mind.

Apparently, when scout founder Robert Baden-Powell wrote that he meant that one should always be “in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” I’d add when worse comes to worst to that definition.

Obviously, I was never a Boy Scout or even a Girl Scout for that matter, but be prepared has always been a mantra of mine as long as I can remember. 

I’m one of those proverbial “what if” thinkers.

What if the car breaks down? Make sure your cell phone is always charged when driving.

What if the car breaks down in a secluded spot on a sun-scorching hot day? Be sure to bring water with you in the car.

What if the hotel doesn’t have your reservation when you get there at 11 p.m.? Make sure you have your confirmation number and reservation information with you.

What if the GPS doesn’t recognize the direction you want to go? Be sure a road map/atlas is in the vehicle.

Be prepared. I try to be.

I can probably trace this trait back to my parents who grew up during the difficult era of the Great Depression and were married adults during World War II. I’m sure they taught me that lesson for trying times because you never know what’s coming down the pike. And they experienced that all too well first hand.

Save money. Be frugal. Don’t spend beyond your means. Don’t discard useful household items that can be used for other purposes. Always keep your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer stocked with food. Never let your gas tank fall below the quarter of a tank mark, especially in the winter season. Just a few of the be prepared lessons learned from my folks.

Because you never know what might happen. I mean what if?

No doubt growing up in the 60’s reinforced that be prepared way of living for me also. During the Cold War, school days were interrupted with air raid drills. I still vividly can recall sitting in my elementary school’s inside hallway with my face to the wall and my hands over my head.

Fast forward several years, Papa and I lived for over a decade in Tornado Alley. What if a tornado struck when the weather service issued those warnings? Be prepared, learn what to do should a funnel cloud be spotted.

And that readiness actually did help when a twister lifted up into the air and blew over my head one spring day.  I knew to get inside a walk-in closet, lie prone, and cover my  head until it was clear to emerge, unscathed and feeling very thankful.

Even when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, preparedness was on my mind. Each September at the beginning of the school year, we packed individual earthquake kits to send to our children’s classrooms.

You know, just in case. Because, what if an earthquake occurred when they were at school? They would have gallon sized baggies containing water, food, and some basic essentials.

Be prepared. Because what if the worst that can happen happens?

But see, here’s the thing. We cannot be prepared for everything that might occur. No matter how much we plan, how often we draw up a scenario to follow if the dreaded ‘what if’ comes our way, and how prepared we think we truly are, life and its circumstances have a way of knocking us for a loop.

Often, a giant loop. One we never saw coming. One that literally makes us gasp in alarm and causes us to think this is the worst that could happen.

No matter how prepared we attempt to be or how often we ask and answer those what if questions in our mind, we just don’t feel equipped to handle it.

Those are the times when I realize I just can’t manage on my own.

I can’t be completely prepared for everything that comes my way. I can’t outwit the what ifs of life, no matter how relentlessly I try.

When the what ifs turn into reality and even seem like the worst that could happen, I must turn it over to Someone most competent and powerful and yes, most prepared.

Because there’s something so soothing, so comforting about leaning on the everlasting arms of a loving God. Safe and secure from all alarms.

Even if I’m prepared for battle just like Proverbs 21:31 says – “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord.” – victory over difficult times comes from putting my complete trust in God, no matter how suited up with armor I am.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV

I just might take a spill here and there that I’m totally unprepared for and fall flat on my face, but I know who will pick me up and who will grant me hope to carry on. His name is Jesus.

“You have to be prepared to take a spill.” ~ Shaun White

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

We gather together

blogIMG_0680

A little reading teepee  for rest in the middle of the children’s games

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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Family Circle, Happy Moments

blogIMG_0467I sit here in our home office at the desktop computer in quietude.

Solitude.

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!

blogIMG_0485 (3)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

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Birthday resolution

blogIMG_9867 (2)

This was one cake I could have and eat too

Another trip around the sun just completed. Yep, a full year has gone by and I celebrated another birthday this month. 

Sixty-some years on this planet and I can honestly say, I’ve never before in my lifetime seen so much animosity exhibited between human beings as I have in the last few years.

All the name-calling.  All the politically-charged posts on social media. All the mean-spiritedness because someone doesn’t agree with you. All the disrespect for other’s opinions. All the anger. All the rage. All the crude vulgarity. It literally makes my stomach churn.

And you know what else it does? It makes me wonder how far it’s all going to go. How horrible of a world will my grandchildren have to live in if this hatred continues?

Because call it what it is. Hatred. On both sides of the issues.

I logged in to my personal Facebook page on my birthday and my newsfeed was assaulted with sites that seemed to provoke divisiveness. Blasting comments arguing over issues that they do/don’t agree with.  It left a really bad taste in my mouth on a day I just wanted to sit back and enjoy.

The smiles and good will my FB friends meant for my birthday in the form of kind wishes and greetings posted on my wall seemed overshadowed by all the other ugliness I saw. Each time I scrolled down my newsfeed more hostility continued to affront me causing me to cringe, log out, and not return, determined to not let it ruin my birthday.

But I must get something off my chest. I’m sorry, I just cannot believe that social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, is the proper place to air all your fury and wrath against this or that. And I certainly cannot see where it does any good in changing folks’ opinions. It just seems like arguing vehemently just for the sake of arguing. And really, who needs that? Doesn’t it raise your blood pressure to an unhealthy high?

Foremost, I want to ask those who do so, do you really, truly believe spouting off on social media and attacking others’ for their beliefs and opinions is going to change their minds? Seriously?

I’ve said it before and I will continue to repeat it. A verse from my Bible, spoken by Jesus, tells me that a house divided cannot stand.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” ~ Mark 3:24-25 New International Version (NIV)

In this same month, June, back in 1858, Abraham Lincoln used part of this scripture in his speech upon receiving the Republican candidacy for the United States Senate, a seat he lost to Stephen Douglas. At the time, according to an online article about our 16th President, even Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, considered Lincoln as morally courageous but politically inappropriate in using the reference in his speech. 

Lincoln is quoted as saying this about the reference: “The proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”

A house divided cannot stand. …that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times. Maybe we need to take heed to those words and apply them today.

Years later, Herndon said Lincoln’s speech “did awaken the people, and despite Lincoln’s defeat, he thought the speech made him President.”

As we all know, at the time Lincoln delivered that speech, our country was headed for a Civil War, which did occur during Lincoln’s presidency. Civil War. Divisiveness against each other in our own land. Brother fighting against brother. Hatred against one another because of opinions and beliefs.  Is history repeating itself? It surely seems so on social media and on the news.

It saddens me to see a great divide in this nation. I know we are not a kingdom, but we are a country called the United States of America, and all of this in-fighting causes me to think it will be our demise.

But you know what? I realize I can’t have my cake and eat it too. So, I dismissed the ugliness for my birthday at least, and tried to enjoy the rest of my day, which I did.

However, I’ve made a kind of birthday resolution that I will not be a part of this. I’ll continue to stay out of the social media frenzy and fray.  I still have my strong beliefs and opinions and I willingly share them with those who want to have civil conversations about that, but I will not plaster my disagreement with others via Facebook or here in my blog.

Why? Not because I live in a rose-colored world where it’s all flowers, rainbows, and lollipops. Remember, I’ve been on this earth for more than 60 years now and I am a realist.

I know that what I say can be twisted and misinterpreted and cause dissension and strife. I know that what I say may cause others to react defensively and stir up anger.

Because as a believer in Christ, I do not want to cause other people to stumble.

And because my actions and words are models for my grandchildren, and I do not want to teach them to hate those who don’t sit on the same side of the playground as they do.

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.” ~ William Wordsworth

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Order in the vault

blog056 (2)I guess it’s time to let you in on a little secret.

I’m kind of an orderly person. No, if I’m honest, I’m kind of an order freak.

When my house becomes cluttered, items get misplaced, or stacks of out of place belongings start appearing, it totally stresses me out.

I like order.

I like neat and tidy.

I like to have all of my ducks in a row.

Yes, I am that person – the organized one. Everything in its place and a place for everything – that just makes me happier than a kid running up to an ice cream truck on a hot, summer day.

Chaos and disarray make me feel out of control and – ask Papa and he will vouch for this – when that happens, I am one majorly cranky Mama.

So it doesn’t surprise me that when I noticed that this week’s photo challenge theme is order, a photo in my cache came to mind.

Several years ago on a trip to the Deep South, Papa and I drove through Louisville, Kentucky for a bit of sight-seeing.  Before a stop at Churchill Downs, we decided to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum.

It was a fun way to spend a fall morning and we both enjoyed the museum and the factory tour where we got to see how those famous wooden baseball bats are made.

I made sure to photograph a number of items that caught my fancy, including Ken Griffey, Jr.’s bat, who was our son’s favorite baseball player at the time.

One of the areas of the museum that caught my attention though was the Bat Vault. Louisville Slugger bats are used by about 60% of major league baseball players. The Bat Vault is a special room where model bats that were fashioned for 8,000 players who signed contracts with Louisville Slugger are stored.

In order.  Baseball bats used by the greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. Nice, neat rows of Louisville sluggers preserved for posterity.

It was enough to make an organized gal like myself breathe a sigh of admiration.

“Good order is the foundation of all great things.” ~ Edmund Burke

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

If I call you friend

blogScan_oldfriends

Me (front right) with some friends on my 13th birthday. 

Friend. It’s the weekly photo challenge theme.

And the timing of the challenge is perfect because I recently received a surprise long-distance phone call from a friend wishing me a Happy Birthday. 

My friend lives all the way across the country from me. My friend is someone I spent a lot of time with over 20 years ago. She is someone who I haven’t seen in person for about 15 years.

Time and distance separate us, but yet when I have the chance to talk with my friend, it’s like time and distance disappear. We pick right up where we last left off and away we go. There’s never a lull in conversation. Never an awkward moment. Never enough time to talk as much as we want it seems.

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I can think aloud.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friend. How many people can I attribute that title to?

Friend. If I look on my blog stats, I have 1000 friends because so far, that’s how many people follow my blog. But a huge majority of those people are folks I’ve never met or shared any kind of conversation with online or in person.

So, even though I appreciate each and every one of those who follow my blog regularly, I can’t really call those readers my friends. What you know of me is only what I write publicly and very few of you even know my name. And what I know of you is probably much less.

When it comes to Twitter, it’s the same story. Many followers, but only a couple that I actually know. So friends? I don’t think so. Not so long ago, I deactivated my account because Twitter just seemed so senseless to me. (I know what people believe about having writer’s platforms, etc., etc., but it’s just not for me.)

Turning the social media page to Facebook, at last count, over 100 people like this blog’s fan page. Some of those are personal friends, some are not. Some are complete strangers to me. 

On my personal Facebook page, I have only 245 friends – small potatoes compared to those who have thousands of “friends.” But I purposely keep my personal Facebook page limited to people I actually know, those who have personal connections with me,  and folks from the past with whom I’ve continued to maintain a friendship. 

So if I call you friend, who are you?

Friend. Childhood friends come and go, but three of my childhood and teen years friends have always been there for me, sharing happiness and sorrow, disappointments and accomplishments.  True steadfast friendships that have endured to this day. Lifelong friends.

Friend. College friends seem like your best friends during those years because you share living spaces, new experiences, heartaches, and fun times with them. But only a couple of those friendships have stood the test of time.

Friend. During my season as a young married military wife, friends who shared the same hardships and the ups and downs of standing alongside husbands who served their country became lifelines. Some of those friendships have prevailed over the years, others have not.

Friend. In my career years, gals I worked with were my supportive and understanding friends. Ones with whom I could share frustrations with over lunch or on break or during a shopping trip. But many of those friendships have faded over time.

Friend. Then came a season of stay-at-home motherhood and I found myself in a new circle of friends. Moms like me with families and a home as our priority. These friends provided a listening ear, a helping hand, and much support since we lived so far away from family. Several of those friendships remain intact even though we are separated by distance, we connect on Facebook.

Friend. And then there were my friends of faith, particularly when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest. How precious they were to me as they helped me cultivate contentment in my circumstances, or how to be thankful in all things, or how to pray consistently and effectively for my children. Those friendships always remain special to me.

Friend. As my season of life changed yet again with a move back to our native state, friends helped sustain me through the illness of my mother, both my mother and mother-in-law’s deaths, and getting acclimated to living in a rural setting once more after so many years in suburbia.

Friend. While working for a non-profit ministry, I gained another new set of friends. Mature and spiritual friends with whom I regularly prayed. Friends who anointed and laid hands on me for healing when I faced my own cancer diagnosis. And to quote a Michael W. Smith song, “Friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them.”

Friend. The empty nest, when the last of my three children graduated from college and moved away, literally knocked me for a loop following the death of my father.  I felt adrift in a turbulent sea without a rudder to steer by. 

I struggled with the concept of friendship during that time because those relationships I had with my children’s parents changed dramatically.  My heart ached for like-minded friends who were willing to be soul-sharing kind of friends, not just acquaintances.

That’s when I turned to blogging to pour out words which seemed trapped in my head, heart, and soul. And that’s when the Lord orchestrated another crossing of paths in the pursuit of friendship.

Friend. I never would have thought that I would find good friends online. People whom I’ve never met in person, yet are so dear to me for their encouraging words, thoughtful emails, and in one case, even handwritten letters, texts, and phone calls.  Only a handful, yet you know who you are.

Friend. Being friends requires a lot of giving of oneself. Friends require understanding. Friends must travel a two-way street.  Friends need one another. Friends are good sounding boards, cheerleaders, and sympathetic listening ears.

Much about this life is uncertain, but one thing is clear. If I call you friend, you truly are just that.

Friend.

“To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed – that can make life a garden.”~ Goethe

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com