A good match

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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

Stitched together in love

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Beautiful quilts on display at my church

When the air turns frosty and the night is long, I reach for it. 

It not only warms my chilled body, but heart and soul as well.  And I sleep peacefully beneath it enveloped by comfort.

It boasts bright, colorful squares hand-stitched together and arrayed in a specific pattern.  When turned over, it displays yet another intricate design of the tiniest, near perfectly formed stitches.

It is a quilt, hand-made by my mother and woven together by thread, material, and love, that rests on my bed. When I pull that cover over me, I think of Mom and the endless hours she spent pursuing one of her favorite pastimes – quilting – and I’m reminded not just of her but of life. 

Quilts are composed of bits and pieces which by themselves look just like what they are – bits and pieces.  But when arranged, they portray a picture and often tell a story reminding us of joys or sorrows, good times and difficult times.  Somehow, when those bits and pieces are stitched together with loving hands, they become a beautiful work of art, just like life.

Sometimes, when I pull my quilts out of my Mom’s old cedar chest,  the lyrics of a song come to mind –  “Silver threads and golden needles can’t patch up this heart of mine.”  But unlike the song, remembering the thread and needles that so lovingly formed these quilts actually does patch up my heart when I’m feeling a bit melancholy.

I once read a quote that I stashed away in my tattered quotes notebook that said, “Love is the thread that binds us together.”   My treasured quilts truly do form a patchwork of love that binds me to my family history.

I cherish one quilt my maternal grandmother fashioned. Grandma married my grandfather in 1900 and times certainly were different back then.  Quilts were made not for displaying on a wall, but for daily household use.

Grandma didn’t purchase special fabrics in matching colors to make this quilt.  Instead it’s a jumble of many colors and shapes because the patches were cut from leftover material she saved from old clothing or even flour and feed sacks which consisted of brightly colored cloth.

Patches, irregular in size and color, form a unique design called a crazy quilt.  It’s safe to proclaim that my Grandma’s crazy quilt isn’t a beauty.  Odd, yes.  Beauty, probably not. But it speaks love to me. 

Each time I handle it, I reminisce about the grandmother who taught me old hymns and silly songs, rocked me in her rocking chair, and loved me for only nine years before she died.   When I lift that old quilt up to my face and inhale the scent of it,  I’m transported back in time to my childhood because this cover, well used and hodge-podge in appearance, smells like my grandma.  Often that makes me smile and weep at the same time.

I keep two other quilts fashioned by family members I never got to meet or learn to  love.  One quilt is worn, a bit stained, and slightly tattered, but it’s special to me.  The pattern is called fox and geese and it belonged to my paternal grandmother.   I assume she made it, but I’m not sure of that.

I try to imagine what she must have been like – that grandmother I only know from a few photographs because she died when I was an infant.  Widowed in 1920 with a houseful of children, one of whom was my father then just a baby,  I suppose she made this quilt to keep her family warm.  I imagine the stories Grandma’s quilt could tell me – stories of family and love and even heartbreak.

The other treasured quilt in my collection belonged to my husband’s paternal grandmother who he doesn’t remember well.  Her life is a bit of a mystery to us.  We know her name,  the names of her husband (my husband’s grandfather) and all her children, the oldest being my father-in-law who was born in 1898.  But we know little of this grandmother’s life, her history, her parents, her stories.

It’s been said that a quilt tells a story and that story is our past.  If this red and cream-colored intricately patterned quilt could talk, it would tell us about this grandmother and her daily life.  It would tell us family stories long forgotten and left untold to the next generation.

Last month, I attended a Mother-Daughter dinner at my church.  The theme revolved around quilts and many ladies loaned their quilted treasures for display there.  Wooden racks constructed to exhibit them lined the entire length of one wall of the fellowship hall. 

I don’t know how many quilts adorned those racks, but I do know that each one of those beautifully handcrafted works of art represented a family story, a fond remembrance, a life well-lived.

Together all of those quilts spoke of love.   One stitch at a time.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Dance with me

At a college dance in 1975

At a college dance in 1975

Just a few notes of a song from my youth ring through the air and I can name that tune.  Music always sticks in my mind.

And it does something else – it transports me back in time.  When I hear a familiar tune and commence singing along with the words, a kind of magic descends.  My surroundings fade away and it’s almost like I’m immersed in a time machine. 

Years, even decades, melt away and there I am.  Transported to the past, reliving a memory.  And all because of a song.

I experienced a little time travel while driving to work the other day.  Often I drive in silence with the car radio switched off.  I don’t listen to talk shows.  I don’t even listen to music stations very often although I do love music. 

I imagine after all of those years of being the ‘mom taxi’ and driving three kids and friends around while listening to chatter and loud disagreements from the back seat, I relish the quietness of just me and my auto.

But the other day, I switched on the car radio and a classic rock station sprang to life.  I moseyed down the highway singing, “big girls don’t cry” anticipating the next fun song from the past. 

The first couple of notes sounded and instantly my time machine, doubling as a car radio, transported me back in time to my college days.

The song was Dance With Me by the group Orleans.  I used to own that record album and I loved that song. 

Dance with me, I want to be your partner
Can’t you see the music is just starting?
Night is falling, and I am calling
Dance with me

Middle daughter & son-in-law

Middle daughter & son-in-law

As I sang along with the lyrics, I recalled dancing to that song with my college sweetheart, who is now my husband of 35 years.  We were young, we were in love, but we weren’t the greatest dancers. 

Dance inspires and moves me when I watch others interpret music with their bodies.  I can remember wanting to be a dancer as a kid.  Gliding on tip toe through the house, I pretended I was a ballerina. Or I danced and pranced like a go-go girl with dances called the Monkey, the Jerk, the Swim, or the Pony.

But I never was a very good dancer.  Enter boyfriend/husband, who was even more of a non-dancer than I was. 

Son & daughter-in-law

Son & daughter-in-law

My husband listens to music every day, but his sense of rhythm when it comes to dancing leaves something to be desired.  He knows it, he jokes about it, and he’s never been a confident dancer by any stretch of the imagination.

But that song…dance with me. 

Fantasy could never be so giving
I feel free, I hope that you are willing
Pick the beat up, and kick your feet up
Dance with me

Oh, how we danced to that song.  I recall the way his arms held me tightly and even though we just swayed, moving in a tight little circle to the music, it was heavenly. 

Listening to that song in my car reminded me of the first taste of real, true love.  My mind jumped to thoughts of my grown-up children dancing with their own true loves at their weddings last year.

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Oldest daughter & son-in-law

Let it lift you off the ground
Starry eyes, and love is all around
I can take you where you want to go

But then, the words of that old song from my youth suddenly transformed into new meaning for me.  I thought about true love and my first real true love – my relationship with Jesus.

As much as I love my husband, my children, my family and friends, my first love is for my Savior.  My dance partner for life. 

Thinking that over, I suddenly pictured myself in the arms of Jesus, my Lord. I could hear Him whisper the words of the song, even though they aren’t scripture.  I could imagine Him singing these lyrics to me.

And today, on this best day of the year, I wonder.  Can you hear Him sing these words to you?  Have you chosen Him as your life’s dance partner?

Dance with me, I want to be your partner
Can’t you see the music is just starting?
Night is falling, and I am calling
Dance with me

Let it lift you off the ground
Starry eyes, and love is all around
I can take you where you want to go

Dance with me, I want to be your partner
Can’t you see the music is just starting?
Night is falling, and I am calling
Dance with me

Dance with me

Dance with me.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Word of the day: Love

blogDSCN8698It’s Valentine’s Day.  The day we celebrate love.

Love, love, love.  It’s everywhere today.  Hearts and flowers.  Big red heart-shaped candy boxes. 

Yes, there will be gifts galore.   Jewelry, chocolates, red roses, stuffed animals, heart-laden cards, and fancy dinners.

 Who doesn’t love love and all it brings?  Who doesn’t love Valentine’s Day?

I’ll tell you who.  Those who feel unloved, that’s who.  Those who are lonely on this day and every day.  Those who have lost their loved ones.  Those who are burdened.

Valentine’s Day always brings romantic love to mind, but really it should be a day that we demonstrate love.  Period.  Love to everyone.  Kind of like that old 60’s song, “Put A Little Love in Your Heart.”

“Think of your fellow man; lend him a helping hand,

Put a little love in your heart.

You see it’s getting late;  oh, please don’t hesitate

Put a little love in your heart.

And the world will be a better place; and the world will be a better place

For you and me.  You just wait and see.”

I recall how my daughters disliked Valentine’s Day before they met their beloved ones.  Their friends with boyfriends reveled in valentine wishes, balloons, and gifts and my girls couldn’t wait for the day to end.  They certainly weren’t unloved because we loved them dearly, but romantic love seemed to rule the day, and it still does.

My beloved, my husband of 35 years, and I ceased bestowing valentines on each other years ago.  Neither one of us requires a gift to prove love for each other.  To us, the gift of spending time together means much more.

So there won’t be hearts and flowers or even chocolate candy dispensed at our house…well, there might be some chocolates pulled out of the kitchen pantry to share.  But love means much more than candy.

I read a newspaper article (yes, I’m a dinosaur who still reads my news in print form) this week about reaching out, especially on this day, to the unloved, the lonely, and those who’ve lost their beloved ones.  It made me think.  What if we did put a little love in our hearts by serving others?  You know, take that love and spread it around to our fellow humans….put a little love in someone else’s heart?

There’s an old saying that love isn’t love until you give it away.

So what if instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money on Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, we shared our love by donating money to a worthy cause in our loved one’s name? What if we called that friend who’s feeling lost, lonely, or unloved today and told her/him how much we care?

We can hand over gifts or donate to charity, but if we do so without love, it means nothing. We really have to have love in our hearts!

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says,  “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Verses 4-8 tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails.”

When I teach young people about relationships, I tell them that love is an action word.  And the best way to test whether you practice love for another is to insert your name in place of the word ‘love’ in that passage of scripture.

So if I truly have love in my heart, I should be able to say, “Cindy [my name, but you can insert yours] is patient, Cindy [your name] is kind.  Cindy does not envy, Cindy does not boast, Cindy is not proud.  Cindy does not dishonor others, Cindy is not self-seeking, Cindy is not easily angered, Cindy keeps no record of wrongs.  Cindy does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Cindy always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

And when I do all of that, put love in my heart and spur it into action,  I can truly say “Love never fails.”

It’s Valentine’s Day.  The day of love.  I’m writing it on my heart that today is the best day of the year because I love and am loved, but even more than that, I can put a little love in the heart of someone else.

May you love and be loved this day and be encouraged to put love into action.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 

Love times three

Love.

That’s the Word Press photo challenge theme this week.

Ordinarily, our thoughts latch onto romance when we think of love.

But the pictures I choose to depict love this week are love of a different kind.

My photos show my three adult children spreading God’s love

to three little children in three third-world countries

during three separate short-term mission trips.

Love times three.

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Love times three.

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©2013 mamasemptynestwordpress.com

Fairy tales do come true when God writes the love story

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“Once in a while,

Right in the middle of an ordinary life,

Love gives us a fairy tale.” ~ Anonymous

It really did seem like a fairy tale.

Amid fragrant, gorgeous flowers and glowing candlelight, there stood the handsome prince, tall and oh, so charming.

When the beautiful princess arrived attired in a stunning gown befitting the ball, she created a vision of loveliness as all eyes turned to her.

At the first glimpse of his princess slowly making her way to join him, the prince’s eyes filled with tears at the sight of his true love.

A bevy of lovely lasses arrayed in flowing gowns of purple, the color of royalty, served as ladies in waiting.  A gaggle of good-looking gentlemen, spruced up and dashing, escorted the fair maidens.

There was even a chariot to whisk them away to the grand ball that followed where there would be feasting, toasting, and merry dancing.

It was my son’s wedding just a few weeks ago – a fairy tale wedding with a happily ever after ending beginning.

It’s taken me some time to be able to write about this celebration.  I needed to process, weigh, and consider the feelings that washed over me throughout the wedding weekend and since.

Not because it wasn’t a joyous occasion, it truly was!  We were exuberant with happiness, welcoming a new member to our family, so very pleased and delighted for the newly married couple.

The wedding ceremony proved beautiful and meaningful as the two of them pledged their love to one another until death do they part.

Later, we feasted on sumptuous food, toasted the happy couple, and danced the night away at the reception with family and friends.

Yes, it did seem like a fairy tale, but the love that permeated their wedding day was much more real than fairy tale love.  It was love with purpose.

Even though rain descended on the wedding day, sunshine reigned in our hearts and love was the conduit. Like sunbeams reflecting onto a piece of glass and spreading out in multiple rays, love cast its light in several directions.

My son’s best guy friends all gathered to cheer on and support their friend as he took the biggest step in his life into matrimony.  Every one of those young men has been a blessing to my son and to our family as well.

Love infused my already emotion-laden heart when my son showed me the cuff links adorning his shirt.  Not just any fancy cuff links.  Especially treasured ones.

Cuff links that once adorned my father’s dress shirts.  The ones that my beloved dad, before he passed away, gifted to my son, the grandson he named.

The fact that my son chose to wear those special items of jewelry linked more than just his shirt cuffs, they linked present to the past.  Love remembered and honored from grandfather to grandson.

And love – that once in lifetime kind of love that waits for the right one –bestowed itself when my son’s bride quietly and privately presented the purity ring, which graced her finger until her wedding day, to her groom.

God bestowed His blessings of love in sunshiny increments that day in so many ways, but I first caught a glimpse of it the morning of the wedding.

Our family traveled to the state next door for the nuptials.  The evening prior to the ceremony, we all enjoyed the rehearsal and a scrumptious rehearsal dinner.

Afterwards, everyone helped themselves to an ice cream sundae bar graciously hosted by the bride’s parents at their home.

The next morning – the wedding day –  we texted our son, who was staying in the same hotel as us, to join us.  Nine of us piled into cars in pursuit of breakfast together.

Much discussion ensued as to where we would eat and after several changes of mind, we wound up at a family style restaurant nearby.  Totally random and totally unplanned, we thought.

As our waitress Shirley good-naturedly took our orders, my sister casually mentioned that we were celebrating her nephew’s wedding that day.  Shirley congratulated my son warmly.

We stuffed ourselves with breakfast food, shared stories and teasing, and enjoyed each other around the tables pushed together to accommodate us.  As we prepared to leave, our waitress reappeared at our table and asked, “Would you do something for me?”

Sure, we answered, not knowing that she would actually do something for us instead.  She asked if she could give us a blessing on our son’s wedding day.  We assented, and right there in the middle of a Bob Evans Family Restaurant, that waitress asked us to stand in a circle, holding hands.

She joined hands with us and prayed the sweetest words over our day.  She asked the Lord on behalf of our family for a beautiful wedding day for our son/brother/nephew/brother-in-law/friend and his bride.

She prayed for blessings for their new life together, for their children, and their grandchildren.  Her prayer for a total stranger and his bride, my son and soon to be daughter-in-law,  moved me to tears and prompted me to give Shirley a huge hug as we departed.

We hurried away to prepare for our son’s big day, but I couldn’t stop marveling at that waitress and how obedient she was to the Lord’s prompting.  I believe He tapped her gently on the shoulder and whispered in her ear, “Pray for them.”

And she, in faith and obedience, did so.  In front of other patrons, her fellow workers, and us.  What a walking testimony she provided to each one of us that day.

That testimony was just another example of love – yet another ray of light piercing the rainy day.   Even rain and a chill in the air could not dampen the joy and love we all experienced that amazing day.  A love that is real.  A love with purpose.  A love story written by the Almighty God.

Yes, it seemed like a fairy tale, but it was real.  Really wonderful.  Really blessed.  Really love.

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Showers of Blessing, Part 2

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)

blogIMG_8396That Bible teaching from my childhood has echoed through my thoughts for my entire life.

I’ve discovered over the years that wise admonition is so very true.  Life seems just so much more abundant when I bless others by giving, not just the gift of money, but through gifts of service – time, energy, friendship, love, and devotion – as well.

This past month, I’ve encountered that feeling of being incredibly blessed.   It’s as if these words written by American essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie have sprung to life – “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

There is much talk of love – true love – and marriage at our house as hubby and I witnessed our middle daughter’s marriage to her only one in June and will watch our son marry his betrothed next month, while our oldest daughter will wed her beloved before the end of this year.

For our family, it does feel like the whole world is engulfed in a conspiracy of love, a season of love…and bridal showers…and weddings.   And many, many blessings.  Showers of them.

Our showers of blessing continued when I hosted a small bridal shower in my home a couple of weeks ago for my son’s fiancée.

Since she is not from our area, she doesn’t personally know many of the people we included on the wedding invitation list.

So I wanted to give her an opportunity to meet and be blessed by some of my closest friends and family here and for them to see for themselves what a wonderful addition she makes to our family circle.

This sounds hard to believe but when my future daughter-in-law came to our home to meet us for the first time over a year ago, I knew she was different from the other girls my son had dated.  She immediately fit into our family in that easy way that seems like she has always been a part of us.

This bridal shower prepared with much thought was one of the ways I wanted  to show her how much she is accepted and loved. I’m pretty certain I succeeded.

Son and fiancée traveled abroad last year, and I think that during an excursion to Italy, their love for one another really bloomed.

So I incorporated an Italian theme with her wedding colors of purple and black and white damask into the bridal shower.  Grapes and grapevines with lanterns and candles completed the decorations.

Small corked bottles, which I filled with olive oil and tied purple ribbon tags on with the printed message,  “What did [son’s name] say to [fiancée’s name] on their Italy trip? O-live you!” served as guest favors.

The menu was simple. Linguini salad, warm from the oven garlic bread sticks, fresh fruit salad, pods of grapes, Italian crackers with three kinds of cheeses  – one with basil, a herb my son relishes and one which symbolizes love in Italy.   The story is that when an Italian suitor wants to demonstrate his love, he places a sprig of basil in his hair to win his heart’s desire.

Desserts included Italian style cookies:  cream wafers, clothes pin cookies, and almond and lemon pizzelles. White and purple grape juice mixed with ginger ale proved to be a tasty and easy to make punch.

As a special dessert, I baked brownie cups in damask cupcake wrappers and served a purple scoop of black raspberry ice cream topped with a piece of Godiva dark chocolate.  Check back tomorrow for my Wordless Wednesday post and you’ll see a picture of them.   They were a big hit!

But even more important was the love shared that day, shown in so many ways:

When fiancée’s mother and sister joined us in the celebration.  When two of my friends who’ve held 50-year-old friendships with me attended.  When guests shared their thoughts about my son to his beloved.

When my daughters warmly welcomed their new sister and catered to her every need.  When my sister and my cherished friends bestowed beautiful gifts upon the bride-to-be.

When one of my mother’s best friends, a sweet 95-year-old lady, shared her lemon pie recipe (which our son loves) with the soon-to-be wife.  When my treasured friend gave the loveliest and heart-felt prayer of blessing over the upcoming marriage.

Love permeated the air in my house on that day.  I could see it.  I could taste it. I could feel it.  And as I gave thanks for it, showers of blessings poured over me like refreshing rain over a dry, parched land.

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing.”  ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com