Posted in Home, Life, neighbors

Words for Wednesday: like a good neighbor

To have a good neighbor, you must be a good neighbor.

That’s not necessarily a quote from some famous person but something I’ve always thought myself. It kind of follows the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” rule – the Golden Rule.

That concept comes from Jesus’ words in the Biblical books of Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. I not only learned the Golden Rule in Sunday School lessons, but my parents taught it to me when I was a young child.

Having lived in different neighborhoods in different states during my life thus far, I found myself blessed with some truly good neighbors.

“Definition of good neighbor: someone to be trusted; a courteous, friendly source of help when help is needed; someone you can count on; someone who cares.” ~ Edward B. Rust, Jr.

As a very young child, one of my neighbors was the same age and became my playmate. We not only went to school together but church too. And not surprisingly, she became one of my best friends for life.

We were only neighbors over 50 years ago, but just a couple of years ago, she and her husband moved closer to where I live. So once again, we are neighbors although we live a little more than 1/2 mile apart. My neighbor/friend is someone I can totally trust, someone who genuinely cares about me, and someone I can confide in and count on to lend a helping hand.

When I was growing up, our next door neighbors’ daughter also became one of my life-long best friends, even though we lived many miles apart after becoming adults. She has always fit that good neighbor definition too. We have traded confidences more times than I can remember and I’m confident she is always there with a listening ear and caring heart. I know she has my back.

As a young, single college grad embarking on a career, I accepted a position in a small town where I knew absolutely no one. During my time living there, I had an exceptional neighbor who also was my landlady. Her husband worked night shifts and we became fast friends, spending evenings talking or just watching TV and sometimes eating dinners together. She was a godsend to me at a lonely time in my life.

Fast forward a few years, as a married military wife, I once again was blessed with a great next-door neighbor when we lived in Army post officer’s quarters. Both of us were first-time mothers and we shared experiences, fears, and joys with each other. What a blessing it was to have such a good friend just steps away right next door.

“A good neighbor is a very desirable thing.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Once Papa and I left military life, he changed careers and we landed in a Midwestern city far from our families in our home state. There we purchased our first house and again, didn’t know one person who lived in the area. But one day, a neighbor arrived at my door with her young daughters in tow to welcome me to the neighborhood.

Once more God intervened and provided a wonderful neighbor for me just two doors away with assurance I could count on her anytime for help. Our children became playmates and good friends, and this helpful neighbor watched our oldest daughter while I labored bringing our next child into this world at a nearby hospital.

Neither Papa nor I worried about leaving our little one with our neighbor because we trusted her completely and knew our daughter was in good hands. Just like the advertisement jingles for insurance companies– like a good neighbor, she was there. And we still keep in touch with one another after many years (and moves for us) have passed by.

Likewise, when our family moved to another part of the country to a brand new home in a brand new subdivision, great neighbors became part of the deal. We enjoyed social gatherings, our children played together, and sometimes we even celebrated holidays with each other since our native families lived far away. It was a truly amazing neighborhood with fine folks.

I wonder if people are neighborly like that any longer. Now it seems everyone just goes about their own way, not even acknowledging their neighbors let alone helping them. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that and if you have or are a good neighbor, please let me know and restore my faith in neighborly kindness.

God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” ~ Martin Luther

What prompted me to write about good neighbors is an incident that happened just last week. Papa and I live in a rural area on a two-acre plot of land. When we moved into our newly built home 22 years ago, no friendly neighbors greeted us. Life here proved different than it was when we lived in villages, towns, suburbs, or on a military post.

We do have neighbors in the vicinity, but we not only don’t know them (or even their names) but some of them we’ve never actually seen. They come and go in their vehicles and mind their own business, not being neighborly at all.

It’s not that they are bad neighbors, they just aren’t friendly either. When I once attempted a nice favor for one of them, I was rebuffed at the front door. Still others, we’ve waved to and have been ignored.

Except for one. Not too long after we moved into our home, a single man moved into the house closest to ours. Oh boy, we imagined that there might be a lot of noise, people coming and going, parties, etc. Not so.

Our neighbor Joe (not his real name) has been a quiet and good neighbor. He became a single dad, raising his young teen daughter, and he never caused any kind of disturbance or issue. Instead, he always chats with Papa when they are both outside mowing or working in the yard. He watches our home when we’re away and we watch his for the same reason.

Joe’s been helpful on more than one occasion, loaning us his rototiller for our garden or helping Papa repair something awry, lugging a huge Barbie house and assorted accoutrements that his daughter outgrew over to give to our granddaughter.  

He has been and continues to be a good neighbor. Just last week, he really fit the bill. Papa was down and out for several weeks with a respiratory illness, not feeling well enough to attach the snowplow to our trusty John Deere lawn and garden tractor.

And then it snowed and snowed and snowed, finally stopping after around eight inches of accumulation.

Papa bundled up and shoveled our sidewalk and then, since he couldn’t plow the driveway out, he pulled out the snow blower, which doesn’t really work that well in deep snow and on a long, gravel driveway.

Suddenly, there came Joe on his four-wheeler with a plow attached to the front of it. He cleared out our entire driveway and turn-around area. Neighbor helping neighbor. Lending a hand. Being there just when he’s needed.

We couldn’t thank him enough for his kindness and thoughtfulness. His response? “No problem!”

Joe is the kind of neighbor we’re grateful to have. And we try our best to reciprocate neighborly friendliness and helpfulness to him. In order to show our appreciation for him, he’ll be getting extra goodies from our garden this coming summer for sure.

Good neighbors. They are a blessing. And we all can be that blessing to others. I only hope that I have been just as good of a neighbor to all the people I’ve written about here as they were to me.

“Good exercise for the heart: reach out and help your neighbor.” ~ Mark Twain


Posted in hope, inspiration, Life

Words for Wednesday: chasing darkness away

Around my neck of the woods, winter months can be very dark. Daytime is shorter in length, so darkness descends its dim curtain in the late afternoon or just around dinner time.  But that isn’t the only reason accounting for the lack of light.

Wintertime, particularly December and January, tends to be dreary and overcast with cloud coverage. Sunshine doesn’t always grace our area. Just down the highway, our nearest city only gets an average of 59 sunny days, 103 partly sunny ones, for a grand total of 162 somewhat sunny days out of 365 for a year.

Not the best odds. This month of January in the brand new year 2022 has fulfilled the dismal outlook so far – gloomy and bleak with very little sunshine. Is it any wonder many people feel sadness or depression and perhaps suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder?

But even plodding through adverse weather conditions, there is always hope. Hope for days of sunshine to arrive. Hope for the first signs of spring to pop up. Hope for colorful scenes to replace the somber, drab landscape (sans snow) that we see when we peer out our windows.

I’m usually not adversely affected by the gloomy and cheerless time winter can be especially if a blanket of white, fluffy snow covers our lawn and trees because I actually enjoy the season’s cold, brisk air and beautiful snowfalls.

But this winter, I find myself struggling. Bleak, lackluster, dull days combined with early nightfall aren’t helping at all.

From December through the first few weeks of this month were rough here at Mama’s Empty Nest. Illness prevented our planned Christmas family celebration, and we still haven’t gathered together yet.

Usually, New Year’s Day finds us dismantling the holiday tree, taking down decorations, and storing them back in their bins for next year. When that occurs, I find new energy and motivation to clean, purge, and put my home back in pristine order for the new year.

But Christmas décor still adorns our home, waiting…waiting…waiting for a time when the family can come to celebrate. And that puts me in a funk. I’m not fond of waiting. I’m not a procrastinator. I like to be on time with whatever plans I have.

And that’s not all. My motivation and energy have waned significantly. Enduring almost six weeks of not feeling great have worn me down not just physically. And if I’m perfectly honest, worry over Papa stressed me as he too suffered with an illness for several weeks.

Then there is the troubled state of our world – disconcerting news, tragic circumstances, an ongoing you know what that eventually found its way to us. Even society seems so hostile and dark now with hateful vitriol spewed by those with hardened hearts.

It would be oh, so easy for me to fall into a melancholy state of mind.  To just muddle through the murky days without a spark of luminosity anywhere. But I remember the adage that “it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Through the darkness, light will shine eventually. A pinpoint of illumination will spread and become radiance. Darkness can’t last forever.

A plethora of encouraging words can be found if you search for them, words to bolster and reassure you that better days will come if you just hang in there.

“Whatever you are going through – don’t give up. It has been my experience that the biggest breakthroughs are usually preceded by the darkest times. If you quit- you will never know what’s on the other side of the coin. But if you have the tenacity and fortitude to endure, you will eventually overcome. Remember, even tough times don’t last forever. Eventually something has to give; it will either be you or the obstacle. Choose to persist and eventually the obstacle will start to crack. ~ Andy Holligan

Motivational speakers use words like those to inspire people, to foster perseverance. But for me, words that encourage me most come from one source – my Bible, God’s Holy Word.

The Word itself is brilliant, shining light because it tells me of God’s care for me, for us, for the world. And His light shines radiantly through His Son – the real sunshine of this world.

When I am weary with worry, fear, or just plain down in the dumps, God’s light is real to me. His Word truly illuminates a path before me, and that path shows me the way through the darkest night to arrive at the promise of a new dawn.

Hope. God’s Word brings me hope. And hope lights my way. May it light your way as well.

“Hope is your torch in the darkest hour.” ~ Katie St. Claire


Posted in empty nest, family, Life

Waiting for Christmas

It’s January and the beginning of a brand new year – 2022. Yes, I know this because my wall calendar showed me it was time to turn the page and plenty of Happy New Year wishes have been uttered and proclaimed across the world.

But for this Mama and Papa in the old empty nest, it’s still Christmas. We’ve entered a time warp of sorts, a wormhole perhaps, that’s keeping us at a standstill.

We’re waiting for Christmas.

The outside of our home is still bedecked with garlands of greenery, wreaths on the windows and front door, and tiny twinkle lights of white and red outlining our house and front yard shrubbery.

Inside, it’s much of the same. Lighted garlands on the staircase railings, fireplace mantle, and other spots as well.

The lighted Christmas village still garners the top of our kitchen cabinets instead of the teapot collection that usually occupies that space.

A regiment of nutcrackers of various sizes are lined up on the piano. Snowmen and Santa have their assigned places as well.

The Christmas tree still adorned with all those memorable ornaments blazes in the living room and a child-sized tree with trinkets – many handmade by our children when they were young – stands in a corner of the family room.

Gaily wrapped Christmas gifts remain to be given. A schedule of fun games, activities, and prizes await, even a treasure hunt for the youngsters.

Christmas cookies are stored in the freezer. Planned menus and a gigantic haul of purchased groceries yet linger in the pantry and refrigerator waiting to be consumed.

The dining room table is festooned with lovely tablecloth, candles, and centerpiece, yet no one occupied the empty chairs there.

Various nativity scenes remain on display because they represent the real reason our family celebrates Christmas – the birth of our Savior and Redeemer.

Christmas may have passed by us on the calendar, but our family gathering for this holy holiday did not occur…yet. Yes, the empty nest was indeed empty on Christmas this year.

2021 was the year all our faraway adult children and grandchildren were traveling “home” for Christmas. And we all anticipated it with so much excitement and happiness to have this empty nest filled with love, hugs, and laughter again, especially since one set of family members hasn’t been “home” since Christmas 2019.

But, here Mama and Papa are — still waiting for Christmas. Why? Because a nasty virus that has held the entire world in its vicious grasp for so very long cast its malicious spell on members of our family, this Mama included. For the safety of all, everyone remained at their homes.

In the meantime, as we wait until we can join together as a family, we pause and give thanks for the greatest Gift ever given to this world – a Savior named Jesus Christ. And we are grateful for each day of life we are given, whether we have a festive celebration or not.

Nothing can take away our hope. Hope in a God who loves us, provides for us, and saves us. Hope for a healthy, happy New Year. Hope that we can gather as a family once more soon and celebrate Christmas better late than never.

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis


Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: a thrill of hope

Lately, this world has seemed so dark, hasn’t it? Turn on the news and you hear nothing but dissension, senseless occurrences, natural disasters, and heartbreak after heartbreak.

It’s difficult to hold on to hope when our surroundings look dismal and hopeless. But I find comfort and a sense of hope each time I view a sunset. Every setting of the sun proclaims to me the beauty God has created and the fact that He has graciously given me another day of life on this planet.

Hope comes to me when I believe that after each sunset will come a sunrise and another beginning for another day of life.

Over Thanksgiving, Papa and I traveled southward to the state where our oldest daughter and son-in-love reside. One evening the four of us visited an expansive and lovely park that our loved ones frequent often.

With a bit of a chill in the evening air, we ambled along a path beside a pond and one that led us up a stone stairway to the crest of a hill where we could stand or perch on a boulder and face westward.

Just for the opportunity to watch the sun begin its descent on the horizon. And a gorgeous sunset it was!

But that God-painted masterpiece of a sunset was not all we observed. Situated on one of the rocks, right along a crack on its surface, a small, smooth stone had been placed by someone before us. (Picture at the beginning of this post.)

One word was engraved in that little stone – HOPE. I found it remarkable because most folks might not find hope in a sunset. And most of us who nurse broken hearts, whose lives may be cracked and fractured by distressing events or devastating circumstances, struggle to find hope.

But hope entered this world a long time ago. Hope entered in the form of a tiny baby born in the lowliest of places yet destined to become Savior of the world.

His name is Jesus. He is why we celebrate Christmas, the commemoration of His birth.

Because one holy night when the stars were brightly shining, the Savior was born at a time when “long lay the world in sin and error pining.” Yet when He appeared, the weary world rejoiced with a thrill of hope.

I am a Christian, a believer in a Savior named Jesus Christ, and I believe He is the hope of the world. And because I believe, I must express this hope that shines a brilliant light in the darkness of the world.

My hope is if you don’t know this Savior, you will. And in doing so, you will be filled with hope this Christmas and beyond.

“Jesus is the hope of the world and the local church is the vehicle of expressing that hope to the world.” ~ Andy Stanley


Posted in Christmas, Life

Tuesday’s Tales of Christmas Past, Part 2

(Join me once again on this Tuesday’s Tales as I revisit blog posts from Mama’s Empty Nest a few years ago while I try to catch up on preparing for our family Christmas celebration. All of our grown kids and sweet grandchildren are coming home for the holiday this year. This old post is from December 2014. I hope you find some encouragement from it.)

It happened while I was trimming the tree.

I hauled the over-sized plastic tote full of ornaments up from the basement, opened it, and started to carefully unwrap all the baubles, balls, and special decorations packed in it. 

Each one brings back memories.  There are the ones we purchased at various locations where we’ve vacationed over the years.  There are the ones commemorating special times in our lives like family occasions or anniversaries or new homes.  There are the antique ones which used to hang on my childhood Christmas tree at my parents’ home.  And there are the ones made and/or given by special friends which always bring them to mind.

I arranged the ornaments and since I was adorning the tree alone, I needed to use the step stool to reach the top third of the tree because, yes, I am too short and Papa usually is assigned that task.  The tree was almost completely embellished with all of its garnishes when, while standing on the top step of the stool, I leaned into the tree a bit to hang a wee star ornament that I remember buying in a specialty shop in Seattle. 

And that’s when I heard it, that familiar jingle jangling sound of something falling off the tree followed by the sound of splintering glass. I suspected it was one of the ordinary department store variety glass balls which I have plenty of and wouldn’t miss. 

I glanced down to the side of my stool and there a glass ball lay, perfectly intact on the living room carpeted floor.  Okay, no problem.  But then as I stepped back down off the stool, I saw something else and immediately, I cried, “Oh, no!”

Lying at the base of the stool was a broken glass ornament which apparently had hit the metal step stool on its way to the floor.  Oh, not this one!  This one was irreplaceable. 

It was a clear glass ball with the face of Jesus inside.  This one was special and always hangs front and center on our evergreen tree.  This one was crafted and given to me by a church friend when we lived all the way across the country in the Pacific Northwest those many years ago.

Shards of glass sprinkled my living room carpet and I gingerly picked up the largest pieces left and placed them on the top step of the stool as I vacuumed up the rest of the mess. Why did it have to be that one, I thought.  Why not one of those that had no special memories attached to it?

But then I looked – really looked – at the broken ornament. 

Broken.  Jesus.  He was broken.   

And it occurred to me that is exactly what He did for us.  He allowed himself to be broken. Broken for you.  Broken for me.  Broken on an old rugged cross to save us from eternal death because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be good enough to save ourselves.

Immediately the words from the King James Version of the Bible came to mind.  That passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 where the Apostle Paul tells us that on the very night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and told us to eat the bread, which symbolized His soon to be broken body.  And to do that to remember Him.

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” ~  1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV  

Just last week, I read a friend’s Facebook status which was a quote by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  Wilson said, “Jesus didn’t come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world full of broken people so that He could redeem us.”  

Yes!  That was exactly what that broken ornament at the beginning of December reminded me.

So as Christmas Day approaches, I will celebrate the birth of my Savior.  I will sing of that tiny babe born in a manger, the One who came to save us all, the most amazing gift God has ever given us. 

But I will also remember the grown up Jesus. The One who was born in Bethlehem, lived a human life yet became the Savior who entered this broken world to save broken people like me and you by allowing His own body to be broken. 

I will sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King and I will rejoice not just for the babe in a manger but for the Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday.  

And I will give thanks for a broken Christmas ornament that reminds me.

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.”  ~ Vance Havner


Posted in Christmas, family, Life

Words for Wednesday: no cookies

Time is of the essence and being waylaid with some kind of sinus infection has sent me backwards in Christmas preparation as all of our offspring and grandchildren are singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas….you can count on me.”

Right now I’m counting on Papa who is a tremendous helper in getting the halls decked inside and out. But we haven’t had time to make any cookies yet and that is an old tradition to have scads and scads of Christmas cookies on hand in this household. But I don’t think it would be a good idea to be sneezing into the flour, do you?

For now, I’ll just enjoy the photo above of the cookies I baked during other Christmas seasons while I look over the items I want to check off my list.

Suddenly though, I am reminded that my Christmas to-do list should not be my focus.

To quote Dr, Seuss in How the Grinch Stole Christmas “Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.

As a believer in a Savior named Jesus Christ, I know Christmas DOES mean not just a little bit more but a WHOLE lot more. So while being a tad under the weather has slowed me down considerably, I’ve discovered that is something for which to be thankful.

Slowing down makes me simplify everything. And in doing so, I can focus on the real and true meaning of why we, as a family here in the empty nest, celebrate Christmas.

Because in a lowly stable over two thousand years ago, a tiny babe was born and His name would be called “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Emmanuel, God With Us. And He would change the world.

I need to change my perspective in how I’m approaching this blessed holiday and I don’t need cookies to remember the greatest gift God ever gave us.

“Let’s approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush.” ~ Anonymous


Posted in Life

Words for Wednesday: when lost is found

Have you ever been lost? I mean really, truly lost in a place where you had absolutely no familiarity. A place in which you didn’t know how you got there or how to escape.

I often think how positively terrifying it would be to be lost in a wilderness. Lost in a heavily forested area in the dark. Lost on a mountain of snow and treacherous terrain.

I’ve never experienced those kinds of circumstances, and I certainly hope I never do. The closest I’ve come to feeling lost was during the you know what when Papa and I set out on a backroad’s country drive about.

It’s what we often resorted to when our state was on lockdown, and we couldn’t really go anywhere but drive around in our vehicle just to escape being at home all the time. And we were thankful we live in an area where we could do so.

Papa was driving on country back roads that were familiar to us but eventually he wondered where does this road lead to? And then, let’s turn here and see where this goes. And then, where might this macadam byway take us?

Eventually, we found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. We had lost our way. Honestly, we weren’t sure where we were, but we thought we were either still in our county of residence or near it.

Since we were definitely located out in the country where there were few homes, no places of business, and lots of wooded areas and hillsides, we soon realized the GPS on Papa’s phone didn’t work either. No signal.

I had no clue where we were even though I grew up here in this neck of the woods we now call home. Papa’s a transplant, having been born and raised in an entirely different area of our home state.

But fortunately, Papa has an exceptional sense of direction and can usually figure out which way to go with ease. It may be inherent or possibly a left-over skill learned while he was a military man.

In my case though, I get turned around easily and can lose my way quite quickly. I can’t always figure out what direction I need to go, especially when hills and curving roads disorient me. So, it’s beneficial that we don’t depend on directional clues from me.

Finally, after a few turns this way and that and a couple of turn-arounds as well, we found a highway which helped Papa ascertain where we were and how to head home.

Being lost is trying. It’s frustrating and can be downright confusing. When we lose something important or valuable, it’s very difficult.

Let me tell you about a loss I experienced. If I slip my wedding rings off, I always place them in a ring box. Several years ago, I did just that one evening.

But when I tried to retrieve my rings later, my diamond engagement ring was missing! I couldn’t imagine why my wedding band and other less valuable rings were in the open porcelain container (the lid had broken long before) and my engagement ring wasn’t. Where on earth could it be?

I knew with absolute certainty I placed both rings in that container when I took them off. I went into full panic mode searching the floor of our bedroom, under furniture, inside drawers…. everywhere it seemed.

No ring to be found. I enlisted Papa in the search and then our kids. We searched high and low, here and there without a trace of where my ring might have gone.

I couldn’t understand how it had become lost. I was beyond frustrated. I was upset. I cried. Then I got angry because we couldn’t find it.

Finally, I reached resolve that my ring had completely disappeared. Something of value and cherished sentiment being lost saddened me tremendously.

A day or two later, while cleaning Papa’s home office, I moved the desk chair aside to vacuum under the desk and between the chair and wall. And that’s when I noticed something shiny lying against the baseboard.

On closer inspection, I realized it was my engagement ring! How on earth did it get from the master bedroom in our two-story house to the first level office near the front door?

And then it dawned on me – the cat! Our beloved calico cat was a bit of a “cat burglar.” She loved all things shiny, glimmery, and shimmery and had been known to snatch, with her teeth, a piece of jewelry lying about anywhere, carry it somewhere else, and play with it.

Apparently, she had visited my dresser, spied the glittering object in my open ring box, and “stole” it. Then she must have carried it downstairs (again in her teeth!!!) and played with it some more until she tired of it.

I was so grateful to find my ring. I was equally grateful the cat hadn’t swallowed it or knocked it into a heating vent or any other space where it would not have been found. AND that I had not vacuumed it up unobserved!

Happy and relieved doesn’t even describe how I felt finding that ring. What was lost was now found.

Writing that statement reminds me that “I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see” because of God’s amazing grace. (Amazing Grace lyrics written by John Newton)

If it saved a wretch like me, His grace can save anyone who feels lost in this world. The lost will be found if they choose to be. And the Good Shepherd will rejoice when the lost “sheep” is found.

“You may feel lost in a sea of people but remember — He knows you by name. He knows your story. He knows your pain. And He loves you the same.” ~ Reinhard Bonnke

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: discoveries

From the mysterious to the awe-inspiring, we discovered many sights worth seeing on a road trip our family took over 25 years ago. (Photos shown on this Tuesday Tour were captured with a 35 mm film point and shoot camera.)

On our way to visit San Francisco (read about that here) from our home in Oregon, we traveled down Highway 101 into and through northern California.

One of the discoveries we had never encountered before that trip were observing massive Redwood trees in the heavily forested section of this state.

After living in the Midwest for several years and both Papa and I having hailed from Pennsylvania, none of us had ever seen such enormous trees. So, we just had to find one of those monster trees that travelers could drive through.

We did so in Leggett, California. Located in a privately owned park along Highway 101, we found Chandelier, a drive-through tree which still exists today. The park was established in 1922 to give travelers a place to stop. However, the huge redwood tree there wasn’t carved out for driving through until 1937.

Our young children got a kick out of experiencing this attraction when Papa drove us through in our station wagon. I took photos of us inside the tree and our car parked in it as well and then we visited the gift shop there.

I don’t remember if we paid to drive through Chandelier Tree or not, but today autos must pay a $10 fee and walkers, bikers, and motorcyclists pay $5 for the privilege. The site is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm daily and there are areas for hiking and enjoying picnics in the park.

On we continued to yet another mysterious sight – Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California. For 75 years, this family owned/operated attraction has existed.

After being greeting by a 49-foot, 2-inch statue of Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberjack, and his 35-foot tall companion, Babe the Blue Ox, visitors walk along a one mile hiking trail through the enormous redwoods.

The mystery comes when you observe the different formation of many of the trees like the one pictured below – the Cathedral Tree.

The trails are open year-round and in the years since our visit, a gondola ride, called the Sky Trail, was added so visitors can soar through the massive trees. There is, of course, a large gift shop and a free museum featuring Native American artifacts on the premises. Families will find a restaurant and motel also available there.

Before we headed into San Francisco, we stopped in Santa Cruz. Although the Pacific Ocean was no longer a mystery to us since we had made several trips to the Pacific Northwest coast, we spent a day on the beach in Santa Cruz soaking up warmth and sunshine.

Not something we encountered as much on the Oregon Coast, where the water is frigid and the sun doesn’t always shine. Our children enjoyed our day relaxing and playing at the Santa Cruz beach and experiencing, for the first time, a boardwalk with amusement rides, typical beach shops, and eateries.

After our San Francisco tour ended, we traveled north on Interstate 5 where we caught a good look at a 14,179-foot tall volcano, Mount Shasta. This snow-covered peak, surrounded by the Shasta Trinity National Forest and located in the Cascade Mountain Range, sits 60 miles north of Redding, California, and 60 miles south of the Oregon state border.

Both summer and winter recreational activities abound in the Mount Shasta area and surrounding Siskiyou County, where there are hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails and scenic lakes.

Yet probably the most awe-inspiring yet mysterious sight we discovered occurred when we entered southern Oregon and traveled to the deepest lake in the United States. The photo at the beginning of this post, taken by our oldest child, shows our younger selves posing there.

Thousands of years ago, a tall mountain volcanic peak named Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed resulting in the formation of Crater Lake.

Described as “one of the most pristine lakes on earth,” this lake has amazed scientists and visitors alike for its absolute pure, fresh, and crystal-clear blue water that is provided by rain and snow. Not only is it the deepest US lake at 1,943 feet (592 meters), it’s also the ninth deepest in the world.

Visitors can view the lake within the Crater Lake National Park, which was founded in 1902 to preserve this national treasure and is one of the oldest national parks in the US. Even though the park is open daily year-round, roads, trails, and park facilities close for the winter season.

Why? Crater Lake is one of the snowiest inhabited places in the country, according to the National Park Service website. Deep snows force the roads to be closed to vehicular traffic by November 1 or when the first substantial snowstorm hits.

While viewing the lake, visitors will also observe Wizard Island, a 763-foot cinder cone that was created after the volcano collapsed and when Crater Lake began filling with water. During the summer season, boat tours to the island can be taken and hikers can follow a trail leading to the island’s summit where they can view a 90-foot deep crater.

We visited in late summer and discovered the beauty of this area to be inspiring.

Discovery is one of the many reasons this Papa and Nana traveled with our children when they were young, and it is still a valid reason for our travels now from our empty nest.

“Discovery is exciting, no matter how big or small or close or distant.” ~ Mike Brown

© 2021

Posted in Faith, Life

Words for Wednesday: lukewarm

Looking out a kitchen window one morning, I noticed a battleground.

Not a literal battleground where one foe was pitted against another. But a different kind of battle. One side in contrast to another. A vast difference displayed right in front of my eyes.

Our backyard had transformed into a battleground of opposing sides. One side sunny. One side shady.

One side where bright green grass could be observed. The other side, shaded from the sun, where the same grass was muted in gray and blue colors.

One side hot from the sun melting the hoarfrost away. One side still cold from the previous night’s rime.

One side toasty. One side frosty.

And as often happens when I observe something visual, God’s Word comes to my mind. When I viewed those two distinct sides of my yard, two verses from the very last book – Revelation – of the Bible’s New Testament drifted through my thoughts.

That book of the Bible was written by the Apostle John, one of Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples. Revelation is different from the other five books in the New Testament written by John. God revealed events to come, occurrences that would take place thousands of years in the future to John and he recorded those in Revelation. But that’s an entirely other story.

The words John wrote that crossed my brain waves when I looked at our back yard were these: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” ~ Revelation 3:15-16

Neither hot. Nor cold. Lukewarm.

My yard was “hot” on one side and “cold” on the other. Lukewarm? Not so much.

So, I started wondering and pondering why these verses ran through my mind. Really, what do those words the disciple John wrote even mean?

Does being cold mean turning away from faith, rejecting it, even a dead, hard heart against God?

And by hot, did he mean being on fire for Jesus, having a passionate, consuming faith?

And what about being lukewarm? Maybe blah, apathetic, indifferent, uncaring. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Several years ago, I recall learning about those words John penned in Revelation. A good friend of ours, who is quite a Bible scholar, explained these verses by putting them into historical context pertaining to a church in Laodicea about whom these verses were written.

In John’s day, hot springs were located a few miles north of Laodicea and several miles east was a town known for cold, pure drinking water.

The hot springs provided healing aspects that made that area a kind of health center while the cold, pure water from the other town provided excellent drinking water. Laodicea did not have its own water supply, so water had to be piped there by aqueducts.

Whether it was the hot water that provided health benefits or the cold water that gave the town good drinking water, by the time it arrived in Laodicea, water was lukewarm.

In addition, the hot springs water was full of minerals like sulfur which would be nasty to drink. Certainly, drinking lukewarm, bad tasting water would not quench your thirst. So, what would you do? Gag and spit it out most likely.

So do these verses mean God literally will spit us out if our faith is lukewarm? If we truly have faith and have accepted God’s gift of salvation, God does not reject us.

But truthfully, those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ are not perfect Christians. We all have periods of time when we feel like we’re being lukewarm. Our faith wanes. We have doubts. Our passion and zeal for reading and studying God’s Word and praying sometimes falters.

God would rather see us possess a healthy, vibrant faith like the water from hot springs. Or perhaps embrace faith that refreshes and satisfies us like a clear, cold glass of water. When we’re lukewarm instead, it’s a warning sign that we need to be aware of our attitude, have a change of heart, seek Him and His Word more fully.

Being hot or cold, even though they seem polar opposites actually could both be good conditions of faith. But being lukewarm is not. These verses point out that the Laodicean church was unremarkable (lukewarm) when it came to their faith and they needed a change of heart.

Lately, I’ve been feeling just like that ancient church. Unremarkable in my faith. Downright lukewarm.

I think God used that visual picture placed in my back yard at just the time I needed it. Time to change. Time to be hot or cold, not lukewarm. Time to strengthen my faith with Bible study and more time spent in prayer.

And it took a backyard battle to remind me.

“Put your nose into the Bible every day. It is your spiritual food. And then share it. Make a vow not to be a lukewarm Christian.” ~ Kirk Cameron

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: falling fast


all is falling fast.

After practically a full month of balmy weather – mostly warm sunshiny days with some rainy ones mixed in, the weather has turned chillier. The days have grown shorter.

The deciduous trees in our neck of the woods did not proclaim their splendid color as predominantly this year. And all too soon, what color did burst forth quickly turned brown and windy gusts blew the trees practically bare.

Time to take down the tree swing, the porch swing, and store away the deck furniture. Time to remove the porch boxes with frost-bitten petunias, the potted herbs, and the other summer flowerpots with blooms now long gone.

It’s sad really, but necessary. It’s time to put summer and even the glorious days of autumn away and prepare for the winter season. And even though autumn and I have a love-affair and I will miss my favorite season tremendously, I will greet winter and be thankful for it.

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Experiencing four distinct changes of season is one of the reasons why I love where I live. This corner of my home state where I returned with my family over 20 years ago now enables me to enjoy the signs of spring, summer, fall, and winter and I’m so appreciative of that.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Winter will bring cold temperatures for certain. But I can be thankful for a warmly heated home and plentiful garments to keep me from suffering the chilled blast of winter’s breath.

Winter will bring snow, but I will find delight in those first few flurries of the season and spying a pristine, sparkling blanket of white hugging our yard and draping over bare tree limbs.

Winter will bring celebrations of the season and I’m grateful for those as well.

First, we’ll commemorate Thanksgiving when we Americans who have much to thank God for will gather around tables with loved ones and plenty of food to do just that – be thankful. And many of us who have abundance will provide for the growing number of those who don’t.

Next, we will celebrate Christmas – a holy holiday for those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ as we remember the birth of our Savior.

I’m hopeful this year that we will concentrate on the true meaning of the holiday instead of being caught in the commercial snares of consumerism. And again, we’ll find ways to help those who are less fortunate find a spot of Christmas joy.

After a season of being held in winter’s grasp, God willing, we’ll once again welcome spring. And the cycle of life and its seasons will begin anew.

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”  ~ Henry David Thoreau

© 2021