The real reason for Memorial Day

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It’s not about a day off of work.  It’s not about bar-b-ques and family picnics.  Or the beginning of summer fun.  This day is a day of remembrance for every one of our American soldiers who put their lives on the line.  For us.  As we remember our fallen heroes today, let’s also remember this.  They sacrificed their lives so that we may live in freedom.

And it is our duty to protect our liberty so their sacrifice wasn’t in vain.

May we never forget the real reason for Memorial Day.

    ©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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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

 

Do this in remembrance

blogIMG_0492It’s Maundy Thursday – a day of remembrance for those of us who are Christians.

Good Friday is but a day away.  And then we wait for the day spectacular.  The day of rejoicing.  Resurrection Day!  Easter Sunday – the day Jesus proved He is the way to victory over death.

But as we wait, we commemorate.  Tonight at church, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper.   As believers in Christ, we will gather together in our country church.  We will read Scripture and ponder those last days Jesus lived on earth in human form.

We will follow in His footsteps.  We will eat a meal together – we call it a Love Feast – just as He did with His disciples before He was arrested, tried, convicted, beaten, and crucified on a cross.

John 13:1:  “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.”

Today we will partake in Communion.  We will break specially prepared bread, handmade by our church deacons using a long-used recipe.  We will give thanks for it before we eat, just as our Savior did before he spoke these words recorded in Luke 22:19: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Then we will take the cup, again giving thanks in remembrance of what our Lord did for us on the cross when His blood poured forth to save our souls. In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  ~ Luke 22:20

But there is something else we will do.  It may seem unusual to some, but it is an integral part of our faith as we remember the significance of this Holy Week, the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for human kind, and the love that overflowed from Him.

We will fill basins with water, gather towels, and kneel in front of other fellow believers in Christ and wash their feet.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” ~ John 13:3-5

In Jesus’ day, prior to a communal meal, it was common to have your dirty, dusty feet washed before reclining at a low table to eat.  This job was relegated to a lowly servant. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate in love, humility, and servanthood by performing this act for His disciples.

And then He told them and us, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, not is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” ~ John 13:14-17

So why do we do wash the feet of another?  Not only do we do so to follow Jesus’ example, but also because even though as believers we have been washed clean of our sins when we come to Christ, we need cleansing from living in a sin-stained world.

Sanctification (cleansing) is performed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the “washing with water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26).   As followers of Jesus, we desire to emulate Him, serve others with humility in our hearts and minds, and build one another up in love.

It is then that we will be equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

On this best day of the year, I can’t think of a better way to spend it than serving my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ by following the footsteps of Jesus.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Remembering for Pete’s sake

pexels-photo-41135.jpegHis name was Pete and he was a stranger to us.

Alone, he entered the little corner restaurant where my sister and I were enjoying lunch, paused at our table, and announced, “You girls were waiting for me to come join you, weren’t you?”

Now my sister and I aren’t exactly “girls” anymore, but to this older gentleman, we must have appeared to be young ‘uns.  We smiled at him, joked “Sure!” and laughed as he moseyed to the lunch counter and sat down.   He ordered from the menu and turned around to speak to us once more.

We chatted a little, then he began telling us a story.  We asked him to join us at our table as it was easier for him to converse that way.   While he sipped his hot tea and waited for his meal, he talked.  And he talked.  And he shared some interesting narratives about his life.

He relayed stories of his wife, who died five years ago, a wife he loved dearly, so much so that he still sports his wedding band on his left hand.  He shared accounts of their travels to far off places like Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii to name a few.

He made us laugh and when we rewarded him with our laughter, he would say, “Now, you’re not gonna believe this but it’s true.  And this one’s really gonna make you laugh!”  And he’d treat us to another story or two or three.

We listened to anecdotes about his family, childhood, work, and even bowling accomplishments and dancing.    Tales of yore rolled off his tongue in between bites of his hamburger and deep-fried mushrooms.

He was the youngest in a family of eight – the baby of the family.  I mentioned that I was the baby of my family too, and he replied, “Well, hello there, baby!”  I retorted back, “Hello to you too, baby!”

And we laughed some more – the three of us.  But his last story was a serious one, and one that definitely warranted remembering and sharing.

One of his older brothers served as a medic in World War II and that’s where the story began.  His brother was with a unit that had been under heavy fire with many wounded.  The medics thought they had found everyone who needed medical attention and were preparing to leave.  That’s when his brother heard a very faint cry for help.

He rushed to find a badly wounded soldier and carried the man out of harm’s way to a spot where he could be treated and sent to the field hospital.  The soldier would have died left alone if not for Pete’s brother.  He saved the soldier’s life that day but he never saw the wounded soldier again.

A few years later in the Korean War, Pete also served in the military.  He was stationed in the states helping prepare GIs to head to the conflict across the world, but soon he too would be shipped out to that foreign land and face battle.

Pete approached his sergeant and begged him for a three-day pass to go home and see his wife before he left for Korea.  The sergeant denied his request saying no one was allowed a three-day pass because the commander so ordered.

Imagine Pete’s surprise when shortly afterward, the sarge told him he wanted to see him.  It seems the commanding officer came through and as was his custom, he wanted to see the roster of soldiers.  When he came to Pete’s name, the commander told the sergeant, “Give this guy anything he wants.”

Sarge said, “Well, he’d like a three-day pass to go see his wife.”

The commanding officer replied, “Make sure he gets it.  And if he can’t make it back in time afterwards, send an airplane to pick him up!  Give this man anything he wants.”

Why was Pete granted such special treatment?  Because that commanding officer was the man Pete’s brother had saved on the battlefield years before.  He never got to meet Pete’s brother, but over the years, he kept searching soldiers’ rosters for Pete’s last name.  He wanted to repay the man who had saved his life.  When this officer learned that Pete was his rescuer’s own brother, he saw an opportunity to bless that family.

What an endearing story!  Pete’s eyes glistened a little as he recalled it for our benefit.  “That man was a very good man,” I told Pete.

Pete simply replied, “Yes, yes, he was.”

Time flew by and we needed to leave because I was due for an appointment.  Before we bid Pete farewell, he asked us our names and told us how much he appreciated talking with us.  He said he hoped we wouldn’t think he was a crazy, old man.

Pete was an old man, that’s true.  But crazy, no.  Lonely, I think.  In need of good company.  All he asked for was a listening ear and a chance to share the important stories of his life.  And isn’t that what we all need?

Someone to listen.  Someone to care.  Someone to share a laugh.   I once found this Turkish proverb which said, “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.”

Silver-haired Pete shared his silver gift of telling stories with my sister and me that day, and I’d like to think that as we listened, we gave Pete a gift of gold.

I’ll probably never see Pete again.  I don’t live in his town nor do I visit the area where he lives.  But I’ll never forget him, for Pete’s sake.

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Do this in remembrance

blogDSCN8862Every year during this very special week I find myself a little speechless.

Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter,  always leaves me at a loss for words.

To remember that my Savior entered Jerusalem triumphantly to the cheers of a crowd shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”  yet just a few days later, Jesus hung on a cross dying to jeers of the crowd simply astonishes me beyond words.

After observing the Passover meal with His disciples and trying to prepare them for what He knew was to come, Jesus established what believers in Christ call the Last Supper.  Then He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus was betrayed, arrested, deserted and denied, tried and condemned to be crucified until death, beaten, scourged, and mocked.

To consider that He bore the sins of the entire world on His shoulders willingly, knowing the pain and agony He would bear and to realize He loved me (and you) enough to offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb takes both my breath and my words away.

Last Saturday evening, the day before Palm Sunday, my husband and I worshiped the Risen Lamb with 14,000 other believers at a Casting Crowns concert in our nearby city.  What an incredible night.

What an amazing way to usher in this Holy Week, listening to and singing along with one of my favorite Christian performing groups.  Surrounded by a packed arena full of fellow Christians.  Again it rendered me speechless.

My own words seem so inadequate to express what my Savior did for us.  Often when words fail me, pictures and music suffice.  So as this Easter weekend unfolds, I’ll post music that is meaningful to me and captures the waves of emotion I feel.

And all because of this:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Lest we forget

blogShanksville pixSeptember 11, 2001 is a day Americans will never forget. It’s a date ingrained in our minds like December 7, 1941, that peaceful Sunday when the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor.     

People ask one another, “Where were you when the planes hit the twin towers?” just like they ask (if you’re old enough), “What were you doing when President Kennedy was assassinated?”

Thinking back to any of those shocking days evokes deep-rooted but raw emotions.  As we remember the 10th anniversary of one of the most frightening days we’ve experienced as a nation, I believe words cannot adequately express the feelings and emotions many of us vividly recall.

My family did not experience personal loss that day, but the magnitude of the loss of others affected us in such a profound way.  A family friend worked at the Pentagon,  but blessedly escaped harm.  A couple of my family have visited Ground Zero in New York since that fateful day, but I have not.

Traveling through Pennsylvania on vacation two years after the attack, our family found our way to the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville.    We parked our car in a gravel lot and quietly stepped out of the vehicle.  As soon as my feet touched the soil there, I felt an indescribable wave of sorrow wash over me, and I fought to restrain sobs of grief that battled my restriction and seemed desperate to escape from my throat.

As we walked toward the many makeshift memorials left there by thousands of visitors, there wasn’t a sound.  No one spoke.  Everyone there just silently viewed the surroundings or quietly asked a question from the volunteer who manned the site.

Nature had healed the field where the crash took place and it was recovered with grass.   You wouldn’t have realized a jet liner crash once had scarred the landscape if you hadn’t known what took place there.

But a huge wall attached to chain link fencing told the story.  Even now, I struggle with words to adequately describe it and what my family felt that summer day in 2003 when we visited.  So I offer as a means of remembrance this picture I took back then of the ‘memorial wall’ erected in a field near the small town of Shanksville.

For the families of those lost in the catastrophe 10 years ago, the survivors, and the valiant and heroic responders, I remember you this day on Page 11, Chapter 9, of my book called Opportunity and I keep you in my prayers.  May God give you comfort and peace this day.

©2011mamasemptynest.wordpress.com