Words for Wednesday: the mountain

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Camp on the trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro

When a mountain towers over us, some of us find ourselves immovable. Others are motivated to climb that mountain to the very top and shout, “I did it!”

Some of us are challenged by what seems a daunting task. Others dig down deep, find inspiration and motivation to keep moving onward and upward.

“Mountains know secrets we need to learn. That it might take time, it might be hard, but if you just hold on long enough, you will find the strength to rise up.”  ~ Tyler Knott

If you didn’t get a chance to read my oldest daughter’s story about developing perseverance while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro five years ago, please click here.

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Getting a little closer

Today I’m sharing some of her photos from that amazing journey she took – the one which not only challenged her physically but mentally as well. I’m proud to say she tackled that mountain both ways and found inner strength while doing so.

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Nearing the summit at daybreak

I hope you also can face whatever challenge before you, tackle your own mountains, and reach the rewarding summit.

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The summit

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”~ Barry Finlay

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Facing that mountain

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Taken by my daughter while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary

Today’s post features a guest writer for Mama’s Empty Nest, although this guest is no stranger to me. Let me introduce you to my oldest daughter, a self-proclaimed “science nerd,” adventurous traveler, and an excellent writer. Out of those three attributes, she only actively pursues two, but her mama thinks she should step into the writing arena because she has so much to say and is very adept at saying it.

Five years ago, my “the world is so big and I want to see it all” firstborn traveled to Africa with her husband and one of her best friends for a specific purpose: to take a week-long trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa (in Tanzania) and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341 feet.

It was quite a physical feat to accomplish trekking through five distinct climate zones as they climbed the mountain, but what my daughter learned about character and perseverance is of even more importance. Please read what she so beautifully wrote about facing mountains before us (and we all have them in one form or another), enjoy her photos from that trip, and be encouraged by her story:

Someone recently asked me what the proudest moment of my life has been so far. My mind immediately went to Mount Kilimanjaro – but reaching the summit was only part of it. More specifically, my proudest moment happened on day three of our seven day hike, when I felt like I had reached my breaking point.

I was exhausted – I had barely slept in the week leading up to the climb because I was incredibly anxious about it, not to mention it was impossible to sleep well while actually on the mountain. I felt sick – the altitude made me nauseated, gave me a persistent headache, and made me completely lose my appetite.

I was frustrated with myself – we had somehow started hiking that particular section with the “fast” members of our group and I was having a hard time keeping that pace, so I felt like I was slowing everyone down.

And I was out of shape and in pain – I had badly sprained my back months prior, which had derailed my training for the climb, so my fitness level was not where I wanted it to be, AND my back was still hurting.

At that point, I felt like there was no way I could do it. It was too hard. I had way too much working against me. I stopped to sit down on a rock and burst into tears.

I did NOT want to keep going. I wanted to turn around and walk down off the mountain and crawl into my bed back at the inn… and it would have been so easy for me to do that.

But after I was done with my little crying fit, I remembered the vow I had made to my husband, my friend, and myself that I was going to stand on that summit no matter what. Kilimanjaro had become a dream of mine, and I was not going to give up so close to achieving it.

So I made the decision to get up off that rock and keep going in the direction I had been heading. Just one step at a time.

“I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.” ~ Og Mandino

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Notice how small the climbers are in comparison to the mountain

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. On summit night, the altitude affected us so much that we were literally taking one step every two to three seconds. We passed people who were on their hands and knees, vomiting. We saw groups turn around with less than 45 minutes left to go until the summit.

But we did not turn around. Our whole group made it to the summit. We hugged each other in celebration and posed for pictures and I cried – this time for a much different reason.

I used to have this tendency to think that strength and bravery are demonstrated by doing big, scary, adventurous things, and I think that’s why I like to do those types of things – to prove to myself that I’m stronger and braver than I usually think I am.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro WAS one of those big, scary things, and I’m so proud of making it to the summit, but more than anything I am proud of that moment, on a random rock near Lava Tower, where I decided that I was going to keep going.

blogP1030516I’ve come to learn that true inner strength is proven in the small moments where you want to give up, but you don’t let yourself. Maybe for you it’s when you decide that instead of hitting the snooze button, you’re going to wake up early in order to stick to your workout plan.

Or when you decide that instead of letting your marriage unravel, you’re going to go ahead and schedule that first counseling session.

Or when you have a bad day, but get up the next morning to do it all over again.

Continuing to talk to God, even when you’re angry with Him. A class that you’re struggling through. A dream career that’s taking years to obtain. Loving someone when it’s hard.

Whatever you’re going through, whatever is too hard for you right now, you’ve got this. Don’t give up on your dream, or the promises you made. If I can get up off that rock and keep walking, so can you.

“Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good thing to happen. It gives us hope by helping us realize that the righteous suffer no failure except in giving up and no longer trying. We must never give up, regardless of temptations, frustrations, disappointments, or discouragements.” ~ Joseph P. Wirthlin

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: morning has broken

blogIMG_1336That tune, that old tune from back in the day, always comes to my mind when I see a sunrise.

I don’t always get to view the sun rise in the east. The way our home is situated on our plot of ground, sunrise is hidden from us by a hill.

So, even if I’m awake and up, I don’t necessarily see those beautiful hues of color painted across the morning sky as this side of the world awakens because by the time the sun crests that hill, some of the colors and beauty have dissipated.

Sunsets are a different story. We are privy to some pretty spectacular ones right off our backyard deck, but that’s another story. This one is about the rising of the sun when Morning Has Broken comes to my mind.

When my eyes do partake of a sunrise, I am always enthralled by its beauty. By the way the sun’s rays shine down through the clouds onto earth. By the palette of color presented before us.

And my mind starts to sing, “Morning has broken, like the first morning…” The version I know so well and remember playing on the piano as a teenager was made well-known by recording artist Cat Stevens in the early 1970’s.

But long before his rendition became popular, Morning Has Broken was published in 1931 as a Christian hymn. The words were written by an English author named Eleanor Farjeon and set to Scottish Gaelic music titled Bunessan, facts I never knew until recently.

Several mornings while walking with one of my best friends, we are treated to a sunrise. And those words, “morning has broken” arise in my memory as the sun shows its glory in the eastern sky.

But sunrises give way to even more words in my mind than simply morning has broken. Words I want to share with you on this Words for Wednesday here at Mama’s Empty Nest.

“Next time a sunrise steals your breath or a meadow of flowers leave you speechless, remain that way. Say nothing, and listen as Heaven whispers, do you like it? I did it just for you.” ~ Max Lucado

Each time I experience a sunrise, no matter where I am, my thoughts turn to God, the Creator of those magnificent occurrences. The following quotes portray my thoughts in words more aptly that I possibly can:

“If you want to be reminded of the love of the Lord, just watch the sunrise.” ~ Jeannette Walls in Half Broke Horses

 After a long, dark night, perhaps one of those sleepless nights that seem to be endless as you toss and turn or worry over a situation or problem, sunrise serves as a balm to your soul – a reason for hope as you embrace a new day.

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” ~ Bernard Williams

And sunrises are perfect inspiration for those who have a creative bent – photographers, writers, painters, and poets.

“After God perfected the sunrise, he created photographers, artists, and poets to ensure his feat remained immortal.” ~ Terri Guillemets

Sunrises are spectacular. They are worth awakening early in the morning just to watch the sun rise on those days when it’s visible. I can’t think of a better way to embrace a new year before us than by witnessing a beautiful sunrise.

“Sunrise looks spectacular in nature; sunrise looks spectacular in the photos; sunrise looks spectacular in our dreams; sunrise looks spectacular in the paintings, because it really is spectacular!” ~ Mehmet Murat ildan

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

And so this is Christmas

blogIMG_0169.jpgAnd so this is Christmas. Another holiday over. Another year almost at its end.

Christmas has come and has gone. There’s leftover food in the fridge. Garbage bags full of ripped wrapping paper and ribbons. Cookie crumbs all over the floor. Not to mention the containers of cookies and other treats not eaten taking up space on the kitchen counter.

The Christmas tree which once had gaily wrapped gifts gracing the floor underneath now stands bare and alone. But laundry baskets of towels and sheets are full to the brim.

Christmas is over and this place Papa and I call home is quiet and empty once more. Just a few days ago, the house was noisy and full of joy and laughter.

All the “kids” were home for the holiday this year along with Nana and Papa’s three apples of our eye, our grandchildren. Even the grand-dog, Barley, joined us to celebrate this year.

We enjoyed five days of celebrating together, filling our bellies with good food, our hands with thoughtful gifts, our ears with conversations, our spirits with merry-making and fun, but more importantly, our hearts with much love.

We worshiped our Lord together as a family at church. We listened to time-honored Christmas carols played on the piano by our oldest daughter.

We watched those Christmas movies that make us guffaw every single time and some old VHS tapes (remember those?) from our kids’ childhood that they want to watch every Christmas.

As we gathered around the dining room table for Christmas Day dinner, we continued our tradition of Christmas hopes, writing down our wishes, hopes, or goals to take place by next Christmas. First we take turns reading what we wrote for this year, then we write our wishes for the year to come.  

And we played game after game – some competitive like the candy cane (spoons) card game and Christmas movies team trivia; some just plain silly like charades and marshmallow tower building, and some ridiculous like Beard Ball (we don’t recommend it).

blogIMG_0197Nana fashioned fun times for the little ones as well. The two oldest (almost five and just turned three) searched the house for clues to a hidden treasure (a box of Christmas novelties under the tree) and played round after round of “find Santa.”

And we squeezed in two December birthday celebrations and managed to serve our family tradition of Christmas sundaes.  

All in all, it was a wonderful family Christmas celebration with a crazy white elephant gift exchange thrown in for good measure.

But I find myself wondering did we truly take time to honor the reason we celebrate this holiday in the first place? Were we so busy doing and preparing and gathering and eating and trying to get little ones down for naps and moving on to the next activity that we forgot to focus on Jesus? Did we truly honor our Savior?

blogIMG_1528Our Christmas was definitely family-oriented but I have to wonder was it Christ-centered? Did we really take time to remember the reason for the season? I think we did, but I also think we could have, should have done much better.

That needs to be my Christmas wish for next year and every year thereafter.

“The great challenge left to us is to cut through all the glitz and glam of the season that has grown increasingly secular and commercial, and be reminded of the beauty of the One who is Christmas.” ~ Bill Crowder

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: For You

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You, dear readers and friends, are important to me and I am thankful for each of you. My wish for you on this Christmas Day is that you have time to reflect on your blessings. 

Merry Christmas!

“Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us.” ~ David Cameron

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Holy Night

blogIMG_1525 (2)It’s Christmas Eve. A holy night. The Holy Night.

The holiest of all nights ever in the history of mankind for those of us who call ourselves believers in Jesus Christ.

It’s the night when it seems the stars shine more brightly than any other night.

It’s the night when we sing of angels’ voices declaring the Good News – a Savior is born.

It’s the night when our souls soar with the knowledge that the Messiah arrived in human form as a tiny babe in a lowly place to give us a way to cross an abyss of sin and suffering. A way to come to the Father, God of the universe, Creator of all things.

It’s the night of our Savior’s birth. A night not like any other. Ever.

It’s the night when hope entered this weary world to give us a reason to rejoice. And so we do, all these many centuries later.

We hope. We welcome the Christ Child, Emmanuel, God With Us.

We fall on our knees with thankfulness that God loves us with a depth that we can’t even comprehend. Enough to send us a Savior, His very own Son.

And we sing of this night divine. This holy night. This night when Christ was born.

This night when the prophet Isaiah foretold that a child would be born. And His name would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

I pray that as we celebrate this holy night, you may know the Savior. Jesus Christ. The reason we celebrate this holy night.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” ~ Isaiah 9:6-7

“A little child, a shining star, a stable rude, the door ajar. Yet in that place, so crude, forlorn, the Hope of all the world was born.” ~ anonymous

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Nutcracker memories

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Little One’s fascinated by them too.

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved the classical music of The Nutcracker, written by Tchaikovsky. I mean who doesn’t love the idea of a sugar plum fairy dancing in your head while you listen to that beautiful music?

A long time ago, I started a small collection of different nutcrackers and they almost always adorn someplace in our home at Christmas time. I don’t really recall which one I acquired first, but over the years, I’ve added more. But before the collection became too large, I decided to stop and just keep it small.

Of course, The Nutcracker is a famous ballet, usually performed during the Christmas season and I do have a vague recall of having seen it televised when I was a child in the early 1960’s.

Later, as a married adult I attended a live performance of The Nutcracker danced by a ballet company in the city where we lived at the time.  And as our children came along, I decided that one day we would take them to see the ballet as a holiday treat.

We managed to accomplish that, although our son, who was pretty young at the time, fell asleep and missed more than half of the performance. Still it’s a lovely memory in my mind: the five of us all dressed up in Christmas finery traveling into the city to enjoy a live ballet with a Christmas story line.

Our oldest granddaughter seems to share my fascination with nutcrackers. We’ve read the story to her and she remembered that Nana has a set of nutcrackers that decorate the top of the piano at Christmas time.

While Papa and I were hauling out the holly to set our house ablaze with lights and decorations, Little One was here as it was a baby-sitting day.

“Nana, can I help you get the nutcrackers out?” she asked. Well, I’m a grandmother, a doting one, and even though I probably never allowed my own children at her age to help with the nutcrackers in fear that they would break one, of course, I said, “Sure!”

I found the plastic storage bin where the nutcrackers were located, opened it, and one by one, Little One helped me release them from their protective layers of tissue and bubble wrap. Something needed my attention in the kitchen, so I left our granddaughter in the dining room with the decorations.

Re-entering later, I found myself amused that she had lined them all up mostly by height and was enjoying them. So I left again to do something else.

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“Okay, all of you nutcrackers, line up!”

Soon, I heard a little bit of thumping. I called to her and asked if she was alright. She assured me she was. A few minutes afterward, she sought me and asked me to come into the living room. I was shocked at what I found.

My four-year-old grandchild has an eye for decorating! She had crawled up onto the piano bench and placed the nutcrackers, one by one, in a very nice fashion. She was so proud of her accomplishment that she dragged her mama, when she got back from working, in to see her display.

We all chuckled when she announced that she did it all by herself and “I didn’t even get distracted.”

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Little One’s display — just as good as Nana can do!

Those nutcrackers gave me yet another Christmas memory to cherish. And some day, when she’s just a tad older so she won’t fall asleep, this Nana and Papa will take our granddaughter, dressed in her Christmas finery, to see The Nutcracker ballet in person.

And that will be yet another Christmas memory for her and me, I hope.

“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale.” ~ Vera Nazarian

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: The Reason

blogIMG_1523This beautiful stained glass window portrays the story of the birth of Jesus Christ from one visit to another.

The first visit was from an angel telling the virgin Mary she would experience a miraculous birth, the birth of a Savior. The last visit was a couple of years later when Wise Men followed a new and bright star in the sky to visit the Christ Child bringing him gifts.

If you don’t know this amazing story, I hope you can find a Bible to read the narrative. Or you can just search the internet for one of the Biblical accounts. Look up “Luke 1:26 through Luke 2:30.”

My hope is that if you’ve never heard about Jesus, who He is, how He was born, and for what purpose, you will understand the meaning of this photo after you’ve read or heard that passage of Scripture.  It’s why we, who are Christians, celebrate this holiday named Christmas.  

For those of you who know the Nativity Story, may you pause in all your busyness to remember what this season is truly intended for – to commemorate the birth of a Savior, whose name is Jesus Christ, Son of God (His divinity) yet Son of Man (His humanity).

“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: dear Santa

blogIMG_0023.jpgA trip to a nearby farm to choose a real Christmas tree for daughter and granddaughter also provided a fun visit to see Santa Claus. And an opportunity to write him a Christmas letter. blogIMG_0053

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blogIMG_0061Our little one truly has been very good this year so I imagine those special wishes she whispered to Santa just might be fulfilled.

“Dear Santa, I hope you and your elves been very busy, because I’ve been very good.” ~ unknown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com