On a scale of…

blogIMG_2963(2)On a scale of one to ten, I’d give this photo a ten.  Not because it’s an extraordinary picture.  Not because the photographer (that would be me) is a professional (because I’m certainly an amateur, hobbyist kind of picture taker).  And not just because it fits the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge theme of ‘scale.’

There’s Lady Liberty standing tall at 305 feet from the foundation she sits upon to the top of her torch. You might say Miss Liberty is living large.  Her feet alone are 25 feet long; her face is more than eight feet tall; and her right arm holding the torch measures 42 feet.

And if that’s not enough, her total weight is 225 tons (that equals 450,000 pounds).  

Compare her in size to the ‘little people,’ the humans gathering on her base in this photo.  The average height of an American man is 5’9″.  American women are on the average around 5’4″ tall.  It seems that the average weight here in the United States is on the rise but we certainly can’t compare to the Statue of Liberty’s weight.  

So on a scale measuring size, we humans look pretty insignificant compared to Lady Liberty.

But on a scale measuring importance, all of those little people mean more than this famous statue.  Because we are the defenders of liberty.  We are the people who must never forget what it costs to live free.  And we have the power to protect, guarantee, and ensure that the generations who will follow us will continue to live in that freedom.  We must never, ever take liberty for granted.

So if you think your voice doesn’t matter, you’re wrong.  If you think there’s no use in speaking out against government, politicians, injustices, corruption, immorality, or just plain wrongdoings occurring in our country – the land of the free and the home of the brave – you’re wrong. If you think your vote, your opinion, your rights, your beliefs don’t matter any more, you are wrong.  

Because we, the people, no matter how small we are, hold up Miss Liberty.  Without us, she means nothing.

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed — else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Expressing myself…again

My usual library choices

My usual library choices

Express yourself.  Just the phrase conjures up freedom, doesn’t it?  Let the real you show.  Use whatever means that works best for you to convey your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, what have you.

Just like plunking in a couple of quarters in a jukebox, flipping through the song options, and pressing a corresponding number on the buttons, an instant tune from the past comes to my mind when I read that phrase.  A song entitled “Express Yourself” from 1970 by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band sounds from the jukebox speakers in my mind.

“Express yourself! Express yourself!  You don’t never need help from nobody else.
All you got to do now; Express yourself! Whatever you do, uh, do it good…”

That photo challenge theme this week – express yourself – is still running through my mind.  Even though it’s a challenge to showcase a photograph, I always seem to find something to say in written form as well.  I guess I just always have the need to express myself verbally even in photo challenges.

When I view the world around me, there is a whole lot of expressing going on with a lot of freedom but not much of it is done well.  Or done for good purposes.  Or done to uplift and encourage our fellow travelers here on earth.

Folks express themselves in tirades on Facebook.  In online news and off, magazines, and on television. In denigrating comments on the internet.  And there’s a lot of verbal garbage being thrown around everywhere you look. 

And while we do have the right to free speech, when did that speech become so inundated with words from the gutter?  When did filth, demeaning and disgusting descriptions become socially acceptable? My ears are assaulted with foul language just walking down the street and frankly, I’m getting tired of those expressing themselves without any boundaries.

I just checked out a number of books from the public library and in doing so, I decided to take a little detour away from my usual fiction.  Instead of searching out some of my favorite authors, I decided to wander up and down the library aisles, books to the right of me, books to the left, perusing titles on the spines of so many editions lined up like soldiers in formation as I meandered.  If a title grabbed my attention, I slipped the book off the shelf, opened it, and read the quick synopsis on the inside dust jacket.

Some of them disturbed me immediately and they were promptly returned to the library shelf.  But at last, I found one that sounded like an interesting story, one of transformation and redemption if I could believe the reviews and the short description of the novel.

That book came home with me along with my usual novelists and some non-fiction as well.  But as I settled down to read this variation from the norm, I was assaulted by the very first paragraph dropping the f-bomb right in my lap. 

When did ‘good writing’ resort to the use of this word on practically every page of a book?  When did a work by “one of our most important and original writers,” according to one reviewer, become littered by graphic descriptions of sexual acts? And this was certainly not one of those torrid romance novels by any stretch of the imagination, nor was it that shades of a certain color novel.  Let’s call it what it is.  Pornography.

I closed the book, disgusted not just in the words printed on the pages but in myself for choosing such a disappointing read.  I reopened the book to the last page of the dust jacket to check out the author.  A woman.  An award-winning novelist with books that have been translated into several languages.  A writer that one reviewer gloated about wanting to travel with on ‘the journey called life.’

Okay, I’m not Pollyanna but I, for one, do not want to travel on a journey of life like the one described in this book.  I know the world is full of disgusting, filthy, vile people and things. I witness enough of that in front of my very eyes and every time I turn on the TV, read an article online or in print.  I get that.  But I do not agree that slime should be touted as award-winning and I certainly am not willing to make such degrading ‘literature’ my journey of life.

Isn’t it enough that the real world is so ugly?  Why does the make-believe world of fiction have to be the same?

If this is the kind of garbage that makes you a writer winning fame, accolades, and publishing contracts, then I want no part of it.  I’ve read a lot of classical literature both during my college days as an English major and in adulthood and can’t recall one time that any of those eloquent and articulate masters of the written word dived into the depths of cesspools that writers do today. 

I do not want to fill my mind with garbage by taking it in through my eyes or any other of my senses.  And I firmly believe that when garbage goes in, it comes back out, something I used to remind my children as they were growing up to caution them about what they watched, read, and listened to. 

I relegated that book back to my library bag for an immediate return and opened another volume of what I usually read – while not always written by Christian authors, it is what I call ‘clean lit.’ Ironically, when I finished reading that book, I noticed something sticking between the plastic sheet covering the book and the dust jacket.  Someone had left a bookmark there.  Accidentally or intentionally, I do not know.

Bookmark in the book where I found it

Bookmark in the book where I found it

But I know this.  It was encouraging to see.  The front was a well-known scripture, which you can see in this photo, and on the back were these words, “The Lord bless thee.”

Maybe, I thought, I should stick that bookmark in that other vile book.  Maybe someone reading that garbage would need reminding that God loves her or him very much.  Maybe it would show what real love is, not the immoral lust that book contained. 

I know one thing.  At no point do I want to find myself in a putrid, stinking pit again either in my own very real life, in reading, or in the one I express through my writing.  Because I do express myself.  I express myself in words that spring from my mouth and those words emerge from my heart.  Words that take form in the recesses of my mind.  Words that often easily surge from my inner self to my fingers as I type onto the computer screen before me.

And I want those words to be uplifting, not debasing.  To be encouraging, not degrading.  To be enlightening, not corrupting.  Just as that left behind bookmark encouraged me.

There is enough ugliness in this world, but my hope is fixed on something much nobler.  So I will continue to express myself using the following scripture as my guideline.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  ~ Philippians 4:8

And I’ll be more discerning over my choice of ‘literature.’

“All that a man is outwardly is but the expression and completion of his inward thought. To work effectively he must think clearly. To act nobly he must think nobly.”  ~ William Ellery Channing

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com


Expressed in love

Empty nest at sunrise

Empty nest at sunrise

Some of us are loud.  Some of us are quiet.  Some of us use bold gestures and words.  Some let others speak for us.

Some of us ‘speak’ without words through art, music, work, the way we dress, what we eat, and the list could go on and on. When it comes to expressing ourselves, the ways we do so are as diverse as the myriad hues of color. Variations upon variations.

This week’s photo challenge – Express Yourself – caused me to think about how I express myself.  I’m a communicator.  That’s why I love words – both spoken and written.  Expressing myself is one reason why I write this blog. 

But I also express myself through the lens of my camera.

“The camera always points both ways. In expressing your subject, you also express yourself.” ~ Freeman Patterson

I do imagine that my photos speak for me, describe me, help the viewer get a sense of who I am even without me expounding on them.  That’s why I enjoy Wordless Wednesdays so much.

What we do truly does demonstrate who we are.  And just like everything in this world, our actions can be positive or negative.  We can encourage others through our self-expressions or tear others down. 

This morning I thought about my family since they are an expression of me and how each one of them depicts themselves. And I thought I’d give you a glimpse into their expressions.

blogIMG_2151Oldest daughter expresses herself through music, she’s a talented pianist, but she also reveals who she is through her love of adventure in travel.

blogIMG_3056Son also demonstrates himself through music.  A self-taught guitarist, he reveals his engineering side through this cigar box guitar he fashioned that really makes beautiful music.

blogIMG_4282Middle daughter is musical too, she sings.  But how she really reveals herself is through emotions and you can usually see that through her facial expressions.

Papa serving others in his civic organization

Papa serving others in his civic organization

Papa shows who he is by his works of service from his involvement in a community civic organization to the many ways he serves others in our church.  That’s how he expresses himself.

But it occurs to me that none of our self-expressions mean a thing if they are based only in self, done to glorify self, to exalt ourselves, to bring attention to self.  Because when we focus on self, how can we express love?  Self-love maybe, but certainly not love for others. 

For me, expressing myself needs to have a backbone and that backbone is faith in my Savior.  Faith expressed in love.

“I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.” ~ Galatians 5:5-10 The Message (MSG)

That’s how I want to express myself. Faith expressed in love.

What about you?  In what ways do you express yourself? How does that show us who you really are?

“Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.” ~ Pearl S. Buck

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

That place called serenity

blogIMG_0334When you first see the word serenity, what thought comes to your mind?

Peace.  Tranquility.  Calmness.  That’s the pleasant path that word takes me down.  This past week, the photo challenge theme has been this word.  Serenity.

If serenity were a place, where would it be? 

For some, it might be seaside.  Basking in the sun on a sandy beach somewhere with the steady rhythmic roar of ocean waves lolling you to sleep.

For others, it might be standing on a mountain top after a long, strenuous climb just soaking in a magnificent view around you. 

Still others might find serenity in the midst of a deep wooded forest surrounded by grand towering trees where the only sound might be the gentle rustle of leaves when a whisper of wind comes along.   

Maybe serenity is found in your own backyard garden or thousands of miles away at your favorite vacation destination.  Serenity might not even be a real place but instead a spot that only exists in your imagination.

It started snowing this week, enough to accumulate a bit.  We haven’t had a lot of snow this winter season so far, not like some years.  Of course, winter isn’t ready to call it quits just yet.  Some of our biggest snowfalls in the last few years have descended upon us in February.

But snow silently falling on everything in sight gives me a peaceful feeling.  I love to watch snowflakes dance through the brisk, cold air and flit and float until they cover the world with that blanket of white.  I love to catch snowflakes and quickly inspect them to see if I can distinguish each different design before they melt from the heat of my outstretched, gloved hand.

There’s no doubt about it.  While some folks despise winter, I find solace in it.  I find peace.  I find tranquility.

Yes, I think you can find serenity in a season.  And for me, it’s winter.   Slowing down and hibernating a bit when the air turns cold brings a sense of peace.   A snowfall can turn a noisy, bustling day into one of quiet and solitude, temporarily bringing the craziness of life to a halt.   

blogIMG_4578Curled up under a fleecy throw with a hot cup of tea in the silence of an empty nest watching the world outside my window turn a fresh, clean white provides serenity. 

So can taking a peaceful walk on a snowy winter afternoon or evening, whether it’s here at my country home, down a wooded path, or even in a suburban neighborhood.

Serenity is where you find it.   I find it in prayer.  I find it in silence.  I find it even in the dead of winter.

What about you?  Where do you find serenity?  Is it a real place or just a state of mind?

“Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.”  ~ John Boswell

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just keepin’ it real

blogIMG_4960Life.  Sometimes it gets in the way of our plans.

If you’re a steady reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you may have noticed I’ve been on a writing hiatus for the last couple of weeks.  The evidence is a lack of written posts with only two Wordless Wednesdays showcasing a couple of my photographs instead.

The hiatus wasn’t intentional.  I didn’t just decide to take a break from blogging.  No, instead life happened.  Real life sometimes gets in the way of blogging life.  And you might just say, today I’m keeping it real.

As soon as this new year of blank pages arrived, my calendar started filling up with events and appointments and lists of things needing accomplishment the way life demands and…well, you get the picture.

Both weeks found me trotting off to school as I was scheduled to substitute teach two and a half days one week and two days the following week.  One week I taught middle schoolers everything from language arts to science and the next I subbed in learning support and worked non-stop with students from kindergarten through fifth grade in reading and math. 

But wait!  Just like the infomercials on TV, that’s not all!  Bible study resumed, so a lot of reading ensued and thought-provoking questions needed answering.  Several meetings also required my attendance and church activities increased because in a weak moment, I said yes.  Not just to one new obligation but two! 

I agreed to become a committee member for a church commission responsible for education of our children, teens, and adults and then because one of the Sunday School classes desperately needed a teacher, guess who is now also teaching young teens in 7th and 8th grade?  I mean who could turn down that opportunity when one of the young girl students specifically requested me?

So that meant acquiring curriculum, and checking it out thoroughly, preparing lessons, and because there’s that teacher side of me that insists a classroom should be just as stimulating as the lesson, I rearranged the dull-looking church room, added some visuals, and made plans to enhance the space more while spending way too much time on Pinterest looking for additional ideas.

In between all of that, home chores to accomplish, phone calls to return, friends to check on due to illnesses or just because they were going through a tough time, prayer chain requests to lift up to the Lord, and to be honest, a little worrying done over the safety of my world travelers (who, by the way, finally returned home safely from their three-week grand African adventure), and concern for the health of my pregnant daughter also grabbed my attention.

When it came to carving out time to sit down and write for my blog, I thought that either:  a.  I didn’t have time  or b.  I was just too weary/distracted/unmotivated to think coherently let alone write a decent sentence.   If I did snag a little block of time and sit down at the computer, I found myself just vegging out by scrolling through Facebook to see what I may have missed in the lives of friends and family instead of writing a blog post.  Yeah, I know….not a productive use of my time…but mindless which is what I needed I guess.

And that’s where I ran across this little gem.   If you’re addicted to social media in any way, you may find yourself taking these inane quizzes that pop up on your newsfeed.  You know the ones.  What flower are you?  Or what kind of house are you? Or what country are you? 

I usually pass by those but every once in a while I fall prey to one and succumb to taking the quiz.    I admit they are pretty ridiculous and random and I’m fairly certain the answers you get are random as well.  But occasionally, the results of one of those idiotic quizzes makes me think “Hmmm, that kind of does describe me.”

I know.  Silly. 

If you’ve read much of my writing, there is one thing I do think that stands out.  I do try to be genuine.  I attempt to be frank and authentic in my writing and I’ll use that buzz word that seemed to be making the rounds for a while – transparent.

In other words, I try to keep it real.

Well, wouldn’t you know it?  During this ‘off’ time away from writing blog posts, I answered one of those Facebook quizzes  named “What four-letter word best describes you?”  (That sounds a little risky, doesn’t it?) The resulting four-letter word could have been any one of these: hope, calm, kind, love, or real.

And this is what I got:  “REAL. You are a very sincere and honest human being. You’re very much in line with your values, and you always try to be a better person for yourself and for others. As a person with integrity, you are principled and you keep it real like no other. You don’t just talk the talk, you actually walk the walk every single day.”

While I’m not totally convinced that description really does fit me,  as a believer in Jesus I do strive to be the kind of person described in the above paragraph. So, I could explain my blogging world absence by saying I was taking time to concentrate on so many other areas of my life or that I was just so preoccupied with activities and events, I just couldn’t find time to write.

But you know what?  I’m keepin’ it real.  The truth is that my life is no busier than yours is.    And I’m certainly not perfect, nor do I lead a perfect life or keep a perfectly clean, tidy house.  The trash can is overflowing, dirty dishes are piled up in the sink that also needs a thorough scrubbing, and the carpet needs vacuumed. That’s reality. 

But the truth is sometimes I just don’t feel like doing it all.

So why didn’t I write anything during the last few weeks?  Here’s the truth.  I just didn’t feel like it.   And that’s keepin’ it real.

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com