We gather together

blogIMG_0680July. 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

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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

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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

 

Ruffled feathers

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An experience I encountered a couple of weeks ago still surfaces to my mind and I find myself wanting to write about it.

Thinking back over what happened, an entire list of old-fashioned sayings came to my mind. You know, the kind your mother or grandmother used to say. Now days, it seems people tend to use vulgar language out in public instead of those archaic, mild-mannered phrases.

Myself, I’d much rather say and hear more genteel versions than the rubbish that comes out of people’s mouths now.  I much prefer to be in the company of Downton Abbey’s Countess Dowager who said, “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.”

But I digress because the instance that’s on my mind did not include vulgarity of language, but instead perhaps rudeness of character.

When I was young and someone invoked my temper or said something that offended me, my mother used to admonish me with this old saying, “Don’t get your feathers ruffled.”

Today, we’d probably say, “Don’t get your shorts in a knot.” Or maybe, “Put on your big girl panties.”

Well, I encountered someone whose feathers definitely got ruffled.  By me. By an innocent comment I made which invoked a rant causing me to not be able to get a word in edgeways even if I had wanted to.

Papa and I traveled out of state to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and baby granddaughter for Mother’s Day weekend. We had a lovely time spoiling baby girl, conversing with family, and witnessing a sweet baby dedication at church for our little one.

One of our excursions included attending a vendor/craft show at a nearby shopping center on a leisurely Saturday afternoon.  As we strolled along, eyeing up the wares for sale, we stopped at one kiosk to take a closer look. Everything was hunky-dory at first.

The gift items for sale were hand-made and very nice.  A few had sports themes and as I pointed to one cute baseball-themed gift, which was decked out with logos of only one particular MLB (Major League Baseball) team, I casually and quietly remarked to my daughter-in-law, “That’s really cute even though I wouldn’t buy it because I don’t root for that team.”

Well… batten down the hatches!  (There’s one of those old sayings meaning prepare for trouble.) My comment apparently went over like a lead balloon (another one of my mom’s old sayings) with the vendor.

Her head came up and her eyes made a bee line for mine.  It was more than obvious that my comment got her goat and definitely got her dander up.  She definitely wasn’t as happy as a clam!

My son tried to explain my comment by saying, “Oh, they’re from… (and named our nearby city).”

And heavens to Betsy, instead of diffusing the situation, that just really put her nose out of joint. Added fuel to her fire.

Between you, me, and the bedpost, she obviously had a bee in her bonnet, and she was going to let it out to sting us. We endured an outburst about how much she hated our city’s NFL football team. I mean HATED. Hated our team’s quarterback. On and on it went.

She beat that horse until it was as dead as a doornail.

And all I could do as her tirade continued, even while my daughter-in-law was purchasing an item from her, was stand there like the cat had got my tongue. I was speechless at her animosity towards a potential customer.

Okay, in perspective, it’s only sports but I had not insulted her favorite team. For crying out loud though, she certainly didn’t keep it under her hat how she disrespected ours, and in turn denigrated where we were from. Her sour grapes left a bad taste in my mouth.   

As we quickly moved on to the next vendor, I couldn’t help but think that she really had cut off her nose to spite her face because I would have continued to check out her wares and may have even bought something if she hadn’t let the cat out of the bag.

I’m not sure if she was trying to take me down a peg or two or just couldn’t get off her high horse.  But her reaction and her rant caused me to hope that her chickens would come home to roost (her rude interaction would come back to bother her).

She did ruffle my feathers a bit and I felt like I escaped from her wrath by the skin of my teeth. Part of me wanted to tell her she was too big for her britches and another part of me wanted to throw a couple of other old phrases at her: “Heavens to Murgatroyd, lady. Don’t have a cow!

It would have been easy as pie to retort back in a rude manner, but instead we all chose to hold our horses, like it or lump it (endure it willingly), and just move on.

Maybe I should have left her with one parting comment, one that my mother always said to me when I was out of sorts – “You’ll be better before you’re married.”

But then again, I think she was already married. And I think I pity her husband because he better go whole hog and root for the same sports teams as her or he might be up the creek without a paddle

“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” ~ another old saying attributed to Aesop

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Reflecting on the blessings

blogIMG_1006Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard once wrote:  “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Just yesterday morning, I visited for a short time with one of my dearest, long-time friends. The one who’s constantly in my prayers because of her serious health diagnosis about a year ago and her latest brush with a dire emergency that almost cost her life.

Since she was in the area for a short visit with her mother, we sat in my friend’s childhood home on the same living room couch where we spent many hours in the past chatting with one another as young girls, teenagers, and young adults. If the seat cushions of that couch could talk, they would divulge countless stories of our times together upon them.

Often when my friend and I converse, we spend much of the time reflecting. And yesterday was no exception.  In many ways, my visit reflected the past, the way life used to be.

And since I brought my Little One (granddaughter) along with me, we glanced at even more reflections of our childhoods past when my wee one played with some old toys that have called this place home for numerous years.

As we were leaving, we walked outside onto the front porch to say our farewells. And that’s when Little One spotted my friend’s mom’s bright green gazing ball resting on a pedestal in the yard. 

Little One was absolutely fascinated by it and laughed at her own reflection in the ball.  Over and over again. And then at our reflections as well, going round and round the shiny orb never taking her eyes off of those images she spied within it.

It’s ironic that this week’s photo challenge theme is reflecting when I’ve been ruminating over that word – one which evokes a couple of meanings in my mind.  Of course, there’s the obvious one of an image being mirrored.  And then there’s the one that connotes thinking or seriously considering.

Like thinking of and seriously considering the past. Similar to my little one circling that gazing ball, often my mind goes round and round those reflections of times gone by. Over and over again.

Reflections of the way we used to be.

And that phrase prompts the ongoing radio in my mind to play an old song by The Supremes:

Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The love you took from me

And even though that song expresses a sad tale of lost love, happiness ripped away, and painful reflection, I find valuable reminders in those lyrics.

Through the mirror of my mind
Through these tears that I’m crying
Reflects a hurt I can’t control
‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holding on
To the happy times
Oh, when you were mine

Isn’t that how we so often view yesteryear? We attempt to remember only the pleasant moments and the joyous occasions when we reflect on times past. We keep holding onto those memories and that helps us through the present.

And that’s how my friend and I recall our childhoods.  Contented times, hours of fun playing together as children, sharing secrets and dreams as teenage girls do. Easy times of no responsibilities, no earth-shattering worries or occurrences, an idyllic age really.

Through the hollow of my tears
I see a dream that’s lost

Reflecting back now as adults, many of our hopes and dream for the future did not come to fruition, but some did.  And we both have had a blessed life, but not one without struggles and difficulties. This last year, my friend’s life has been a complete upheaval. 

In you I put
All my faith and trust
Right before my eyes
My world has turned to dust

In one consultation with her doctor, my friend’s world seemed to turn to dust. And it just kept splintering into pieces, one experience after another sawing its way through her strength leaving mounds of accumulating sawdust. 

Procedures, medications, treatments, hospital stays, medical emergencies, more hospital stays, therapies, home health nurse visits. At one point, when I sat beside my lifelong friend in the hospital, she confided her weariness over not having a normal life.

But here’s where my friend and I differ vastly from the song lyrics. Because instead of putting our faith and trust in another person (because honestly, we humans do let one another down often), we put our faith and trust in God.  All of our faith. All of our trust.

Because He never forsakes us. Never lets us down. Never stops loving us. He is the Great Physician. The Healer. The Savior. The Lover of our souls and Listener to our prayers. The One who is granting my lifelong friend’s desire to start to feel “normal again.”

So instead of singing “reflections of the way life used to be,” I believe I will change the song lyrics to “reflections of the way life needs to be; reflections of the love God has for me.”  And for my cherished friend.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Warning, warning!

blogIMG_5956It lurks out there…everywhere.

It may be in the form of a blood-thirsty shark just cruising along the shoreline looking for its next victim. That is, if you believe the plot in the old movie, Jaws.

It may be in the dark.

Or in the woods.

Or maybe right next door.

It may be in the form of a horrific natural event like a tornado, a hurricane, a tsunami.

Or in climate change.

Or maybe just a snowstorm in your neighborhood, so run out quickly beforehand and grab up the milk, bread, and toilet paper.

It may be in the form of nuclear weapons aimed at your country.

Or in the politics of the land.

Or maybe in your own home.

It’s danger. And the world’s a dangerous place. Or so, some would have us believe. Every day it seems we’re bombarded with the message that it’s dangerous just to exist on this planet. I see and hear it on the television, on the radio, read it in print media and on the internet.

It’s dangerous, I tell you! Be afraid. Be fearful. Wring your hands and cry, “What is this world coming to?”

It’s this week’s photo challenge Danger! – and it reminds me of a science fiction TV show I used to watch as a kid called Lost in Space

In it, the Robinson family were space travelers whose spaceship was sabotaged causing them to land in a different universe where danger always lurked. And there was a trusty robot to alert them to peril at every turn by droning, “Warning, warning” and “Danger, danger!”   

Seems like the robots are still out there.  Warning, warning! Danger, danger!

To be certain, there are real and present dangers. That’s a part of life. But we can’t live this life constantly in fear. You know what President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in the midst of the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  

Fear is crippling and makes us indecisive. Realizing true danger should cause us to take action, not just freeze in fear. I know how that happens. Many years ago when Papa and I were newlyweds and living in rattlesnake country, we were walking on a wooded path when a snake slithered out in front of us. I totally froze to my spot in fear and literally could not move, could not run to safety, could not even think fast enough to react.

And you know what I needed? Help from another human being. I needed my husband to grab my arm and pull me to safety with him.

Whether great danger lurks ahead of me, I have no way of knowing. Whether all of the danger cited now days is real, I also have no way of knowing for certain. But I do know this: often times danger comes from ourselves, from our evil hearts and minds.

And I hope and pray that when and if threat comes our way, we spring into action to help one another through whatever we must face or endure.  

I hope our hearts are open and our actions unselfish because really, we are one big family. The family of humanity. And if we can’t help our fellow humans in perilous times or circumstances, we really are doomed to danger.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

One May evening

blogDSCN0017Three years have passed since I snapped the photo above. The lighting was dim and I only had my small digital point and shoot camera with me, but I wanted to capture the moment for later.

I stored that photo in my desktop computer archives and a blog post idea away with it. And then as it always does, time has a way of passing by. And writing ideas have a way of being shoved back to the recesses of my brain where they may or may not be retrieved.

The calendar pages have flipped over to the month of May already and a brand new month found me without any good, solid concepts to write about. So I did what I normally do when I stare at a blank computer screen in an effort to produce a post, I open up my photo library and start viewing pictures I’ve captured but may have forgotten about.

And there it was. A photo of an elderly gentleman from our church showing my sister and me his handmade violin.  Three years ago this month.

Much has transpired in those three years as this kind, gentle, soft-spoken man, a farmer by trade but a talented musician and skilled woodworker passed away this year.

But let me take you back to the evening this photo was taken.

Every year, our church holds a mother-daughter banquet in May.  My sister and I usually attend and sometimes, if her daughter-in-law and grandgirls and my daughter and grandgirl can make it, they come along.

But three years ago, my daughter lived away from home and our grandgirl was just a whimsical thought, a gift waiting to be given to us a year later.

So my sister had a wonderful idea when it came time for the mother-daughter dinner. Since our own mother and mothers-in-law had passed away many years before and our girls couldn’t join us, it would just be the two of us attending the banquet.  

Sister’s thoughtful idea was to call a sweet, elderly lady in our church who had never married and, of course, had no children to join us for the banquet. This dear woman was in her 90’s then and relied on her brother (the fiddler) or other relatives to transport her places, so we arranged to pick her up at her family farmstead to ride with us to the church hall.

I remember when sister called Esther to invite her, she replied that she wasn’t a mother. Sis told her but she was a daughter and she could be our mother for the evening since ours was in heaven.  Esther agreed to come.

We traveled down the country lane to her home and helped her climb into my sister’s vehicle. At the banquet, Esther was all smiles, as she usually was, and I do believe she truly enjoyed herself. Afterwards, we drove her back home and she really wanted us to come into the house for a little visit.

We sat at her kitchen table and talked over days gone by, and relatives now long gone, and Esther told the story of how we were distantly related and how her mother and our grandmother were great friends. 

Her brother Paul sat with us and shared his stories too and we had a chuckle over the old tale of how he got his name when he was born. One of his older brothers, yet a child, had asked his mother to bestow our mother’s name, Pauline, upon the new arrival. Well, the new arrival was a boy so their mother agreed to name him Paul.

I shared how well I remembered this musical family playing their instruments at church when I was just a little girl.  Each one of their siblings had God-given musical talent. And that’s when Paul got up from his kitchen chair and left the room, returning with a weathered violin case.

He opened it and showed us a lovely violin, one of his own making. He even tuned it up a little and played a bit for us. I marveled at the fact that he had handmade the instrument and how nicely it sounded.

It was one of those sweet little moments in life you try not to forget. When you know in your heart that you’ve done the right thing just by taking the time to spend an evening conversing with two elderly, and possibly lonely, folks of the older generation.

Both Esther and Paul are gone now, but the memory lingers. And I’m so glad to have the photos to remind me of that warm, spring evening in May.

“The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune.” ~ English Proverb

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A good match

blogmama-and-papa2

He is tall. I am short. He loves seafood. I hate it.

He didn’t wear glasses until the last few years and needs them only for reading.  I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old and need those to make everything blurry clear.

He’s a terrible speller. I always excelled in spelling.  He admits he is not a writer and doesn’t enjoy doing so. I’ve always been a writer and it gives me joy.

He came from a family of brothers. I came from a family of sisters. He had lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins in his extended family.  I had only a handful.

His family vacationed at the Jersey shore every summer. My family took very few vacations and I never saw the ocean until I was a young adult.

He grew up in the city with bricks for a yard and no grass. I grew up in the country with a yard a couple of acres large to play in.

As a youngster, he ran up and down the halls of the Capitol building in our state capital while playing with neighborhood friends.  I rode up and down country roads on a bicycle playing with my neighborhood friends.

He has the patience to read the instruction manuals. I have little patience with them and tend to just wing it until I encounter a problem; then I turn to him and his instruction manuals.

He is usually slow to anger. I often possess a short fuse.

He takes his good old time working on projects. I want to hurry up and get them completed ASAP.

He loves all things historical and pertaining to the military and reads just about every display card in museums. I am more fascinated by the personal touches of history and am not interested in movies, books, or displays about wars or the military. I also am way ahead of him while making our way through museums.

He would love to go on a cruise someday. I am terrified of the concept.

You might say we have enough differences to prove we are not compatible at all. But you would be wrong. Our differences aren’t what define us. Our shared history together makes us who we are. And we are not totally mismatched; we do have several things in common.

We are a married couple who have spent the last 43 years together – dating for three years before marriage and this fall will mark 40 years since we said “I do” in front of family and friends.

We’ve endured separations when Papa was obligated for military duty far away, many moves, job changes, health scares, and difficult circumstances during our time together.

We’ve experienced grief and sadness, but we have shared so much joy and laughter as well. And through it all, we endured together. Ours isn’t a perfect relationship but it is one cemented with commitment, love, and respect for one another.

You might just say we are a good match after all (which happens to be this week’s photo challenge).

“It’s not about having the perfect relationship. It’s about finding someone who matches you and will go through everything without giving up.” ~ Unknown

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com