And that’s a wrap

blogIMG_91863I’m not always a fan of black and white photos, although I can see beauty in them. 

Perhaps I’m just a color-a-holic, I need my fix of color to make things really come alive for me. Maybe it’s because a large portion of family photos in my possession were taken with black and white film.

Family pictures in color didn’t appear until the early 1960’s in my collection. Even though color film existed, I think it was expensive to purchase and also to have processed.

When I look back at those old family pictures, I find myself wondering what color was my mom’s dress in that one or was that new car my dad is proudly standing beside silver or blue? I would like to have seen what my mother-in-law’s hair color was when she was younger because all of my memories of her are with gray hair.

Color would just make those photos come alive for me, I think. But instead, I must imagine the colors when I view the pictures.

And that’s probably why I don’t often choose to share photos in black and white unless they are for nostalgic purposes.  But today, I have to put my preference for color photos aside. Because today – at last! – I am completing the very last challenge in the Developing Your Eye workshop that I missed last summer. 

Day 10 is the end. A wrap. And that day’s theme was architecture, but the directive was to photograph the subject in black and white.

And if you know me really well or have read my blog for long, you’ll understand that phrase – black and white – dials up song lyrics in my brain (of course). A popular group in the 1970’s, Three Dog Night, performed a song entitled “Black and White.”

The music and its lyrics are playing in my head right now:

The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day and then by night
A child is black, a child is white
Together they grow to see the light
To see the light.

And those old song lyrics speak to me today to remind me that color doesn’t matter, at least on people’s skin.  Regardless of our color, we are all human, all brothers and sisters, all inhabitants of this earth and for our future generations’ sake, we need to see the light of living together in peaceful harmony. A wishful thought perhaps, but I believe it’s what we are called to do. 

As much as some folks seem to think, the world isn’t just divided into black and white.  No, there are different hues and shades and a myriad of ways of looking at an issue. Not just one way or another. Not polar opposites. Not my way or the highway. There’s an entire spectrum of varying colors in between that we need to consider to see the full picture. 

I think I found varying colors in a photo I snapped entirely for this photography theme. Even though I wasn’t actively involved in the workshop when it was being promoted, the themes were still mulling around in my mind and occasionally a picture just presented itself to me for a certain theme.

The picture I’ve showcased here is one I captured on a cold, clear January day during a visit to our nearby city. It screamed architecture to me for obvious reasons. I mean, just look at this building. And it made one gorgeous color photograph with a gorgeous blue sky backdrop.

But the directive for this theme was to capture architecture in black and white – monochrome – because that can create one very dramatic photo. The instructions were to “look for architectural elements that translate into black and white: sharp lines, patterns, defined shapes, large surface areas, and a mix of very light and very dark colors.”

I think I was successful. And I’m glad I was successful in completing the photography course, even if it was several months later. But my biggest hope? To continue viewing my world as a mix of colors and being grateful for it.

“Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves.” ~ Julia Morgan (1872-1957) American architect

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Pop of color

blogIMG_8591 (2)This week as winter shows itself one more time before giving it up for springtime, it seems appropriate to share my version of Developing Your Eye Day 9’s photography theme – “pop of color.”

The vista outside my window is devoid of color today as snow still covers the earth. Shades of black, brown, and gray punctuate the horizon around my home.

But soon – very soon we hope – color will pop up everywhere we look and the glorious season of rebirth, Spring, will arrive.

But until then, this photo I shot one summer late afternoon when a lovely butterfly deviated from its usual hang-out on our large butterfly bush and landed on the floor of our backyard deck will provide just that pop of color we need.

Color makes us smile especially after a steady diet of the dormancy of winter. Color rejuvenates us and makes us want to crawl out of our cold season of hibernation and burst forth into sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Color is one of God’s lovely creations. And I, for one, am most thankful for it.

“Colors are the smiles of nature.” ~Leigh Hunt

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Treasured thoughts

 

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You know that old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Truth be told, huh? Items I consider valuable might be something you would toss into the garbage bin with no hesitation.

Treasure is Day 8’s theme in the Developing Your Eye photography workshop, which I’m determined to complete. That word – treasure – stirs up some recollections which swirl to the surface of my memory pond.  

The photography directive to zoom in with your camera on something you consider a treasure prompted me to hone in on my grandma’s glasses sitting atop my well-worn Bible – both items treasures to me. While doing so, my thoughts zoomed in right along with these remembrances.

When our children were very young and we lived in the Midwest, our family dentist had a treasure chest in his office.  Each time my little ones visited him for a check-up, they got to open that cardboard box resembling a treasure chest and choose a little trinket from it.

Oh, the excitement of it all! Well, that and a trip to the nearby TCBY frozen yogurt store with the coupons he always gave us made it going to the dentist fun for them.

For our oldest daughter’s birthday one year, we had a treasure hunt at our house for her and her friends. Clues led those little girls from place to place until, with squeals of delight, they finally found the treasure chest and opened it to find birthday party goody bags full of fun stuff and candies.

That treasure chest was actually a large, beautiful tin box that military friends of ours had sent us from Germany one year chock full of goodies and chocolate candies for Christmas. Getting packages delivered to your doorstep always seems like a treasure, at least to me.   

Adults aren’t much different than children when it comes to our treasures – the things that make us squeal with delight. They might include material things like an accumulation of wealth or expensive jewelry studded with the finest gems. Or you may think your fancy car is your treasure or your lovely home.

Or possibly, you consider items that just can’t be replaced as your treasures. We have a few of those caches here around Mama’s Empty Nest.  Personal possessions that once belonged to our parents and grandparents, while of no great monetary worth, are treasured keepsakes because of their sentimental value.

I need to sit down someday and make a list of all of those mementos so that my children know who they once belonged to.  Of course, they may not consider those items to be treasures because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so folks say.

Many years ago when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, one of my friends and I decided to start attending estate sales.  As we walked through homes of dearly departed folks perusing their former possessions in hopes of finding our own treasure, I often had a sense of sadness.  Not because I knew the deceased but because I imagined that the person had once treasured some of those items marked for sale and now those revered things were on the liquidate quickly list.

Treasures no more.

One of my estate sale finds was a lovely, well-aged, pale green porcelain teapot with a music box inside its base that played “Tea for Two.”  It still sits among my teapot collection and when I take it off the shelf to clean it, I sometimes wonder about its previous owner, what kind of person she was, and whether the teapot was a special gift from someone she once loved.

That’s the thing about treasures.  They have stories to tell, but far too often those stories are lost or not remembered by the next generation. (Which again is why I do need to record some of those stories about my family treasures in written word.) 

So many of the “treasures” in my home that I cherish would be inconsequential to you. You might even shake your head and wonder why I consider such things as treasures. If my children or grandchildren don’t desire to keep them, these items will most likely be purchased by a sale seeker, donated to a charity organization’s thrift store, or discarded to a dumpster someday.

Treasures no more. I accept that fact because, as I said, my idea of a treasure may not be the same as yours.

But when I think of treasures, I also reflect on things I cherish that aren’t necessarily concrete. Memories of loved ones now gone, time spent with my family and especially my adorable grandchildren, heart happy conversations with dear friends, meaningful and thought-provoking moments in worship. Those are treasures as well.

The Bible tells me, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34)

That truth causes me to place what I consider treasures in perspective. Where should my heart’s focus be placed? On material wealth, possessions, my time-honored family heirlooms, myself? Absolutely not.

Earthly treasures never satisfy that longing in our heart for something more. Something to fulfill our deepest need. Something that fills our cup until it runs over. Possessions only make us happy for a moment then lose their appeal.

What I treasure most is something eternal. Something that is even hard to explain sometimes. Something magnificent and more loving than I can even imagine yet powerful and majestic to inspire awe to the maximum. Something that fills empty holes in my heart like no earthly treasures can ever fill.

His name is Jesus.

“You must keep all earthy treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let Him have your heart.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Connected

blogimg_8342Are you feeling connected?

Last summer, I just couldn’t get connected enough to participate in a Developing Your Eye photography workshop, even though I wanted to do so. I’m many months late to the challenge but I’ve chosen to post my take on each day’s theme until I’ve worked my way through all 10 days, even if it takes 10 weeks.

Today I’m posting Day 5’s theme – connect. I’ve chosen a photo of my oldest daughter connecting with her niece (my granddaughter) last summer on a zoo excursion because I enjoyed watching them connect in a loving way. 

As humans, we have connections with anyone with whom we associate. And if we don’t have those connections, we try to make them. Ask any job seeker. Connections are important in the business world, not only to secure a job, but often to get ahead or gain entry into an organization.

Of course, connections are also essential in technology.  I confess I’m not the most technologically savvy person, but without my electronics and yours being connected to the internet, I know I couldn’t publish my blog online and you couldn’t read it. For simplicity’s sake, connections are fasteners linking one thing to another.

We also have our family connections, belonging to or being associated with a group of relatives. I know what you may be thinking – sometimes we have family members who we would rather not be associated with, but for the most part, we do want to belong to a family, be it native or adopted, blood-relations or not.

Connection takes on an even more important role in our personal lives. We humans have an inner desire to be bonded or linked with someone, but it seems to me that often we just don’t know how to achieve that connection very well. 

I’m reminded of a time years ago that I attended a family reunion picnic.  It’s an annual thing but I had never attended in the past, partly because I lived far away and partly because I didn’t really feel like I belonged.   

Technically, I am a part of this “family” because my grandfather possessed this last name and reunion attendees are all descendants of his 12 brothers and sisters. But honestly, I don’t have real connections with this extended family.  Matter of fact, most of them I do not even know.

My grandfather with this family name died in 1964 at the age of 88.  His only child, my mother,  would turn 98 this year if she were still alive. Most of the family members that she knew are deceased as well. So as Yoda of Star Wars fame would say, far removed I am.  I just don’t have a close connection to these distant relatives.

Connections have become part of our daily lives though. We truly are inundated with connectivity more than ever because of technology. Pick up the cell phone and you’re connected. 24-7.  

Whether you text, tweet, or scroll through social media sites, you’re connected. Then why is it that some people feel the exact opposite?  Why do we feel disconnected? 

I speak for myself.  For all the ways I am connected to others, I still feel disconnected too frequently.  Is it just our society? Is it the time we live in now? Is it that our lives are too filled with busyness? I don’t know.

I do know that two things remain constantly connected in my life.  My family, even though our children don’t all live in the same state as we do, is still very much connected to one another. And I am so filled with thankfulness for that. 

The second connection I’m grateful for is my faith in God. I believe that the Lord God created us to be connected. He instilled in us a need to be linked, to be joined, to be loved, and it is He who fulfills that desire by providing a connection to Himself.

God didn’t fashion us to be completely solitary, disconnected from our fellow human beings or from Him.  That’s why He bridged the gap of disconnectedness between His holiness and our sinfulness, by sending His Son, Jesus Christ into this world to provide that vital connectivity link.  Without that, the disconnection I sometimes feel would be unbearable.

And it occurs to me that there is one more connection I’m grateful for – friends I’ve acquired by writing this blog. Some of my readers have become dear friends and I’m so appreciative for our connection.

It’s what gives me encouragement to continue writing and hope that my words in these posts touch your life in a good, meaningful way just as your words, whether they be in a blog of your own or just by your comments, touch mine.

Thank you for that connection.

“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” – Frederick Buechner

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Blissful appreciation

blogimg_8245I saw a sign one day somewhere – possibly on Pinterest – that read “Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.”

And of course, it caused me to stop and ponder as I tend to do when something profound hits me.  So often in life, don’t we do the exact opposite of that sign though?  Expect everything. Appreciate nothing.

Seems like we’ve been conditioned in our culture to expect everything. Expect that things will always go the way we want. Expect that everyone will believe the way we do.  Expect to fall madly in love while you’re on a reality television show. Expect that your candidate will win political office.Expect that a new job will be the best one ever. Matter of fact, expect that you will get a hefty raise in salary while you’re at it.

Even in faith circles, there are so-called ‘prosperity preachers’ who tell us to expect God to give us what we want, expect to have our best life now, expect a miracle, expect healing, expect, expect, expect.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having high expectations and our omnipotent God could easily give us those provisions if He chooses. But, truth be told,  our expectations often go unmet. And we find God doesn’t give us what we want. He’s not Santa Claus. But I do believe He gives us what we need.

We, however, are like spoiled, overindulged children who, when given everything because it is expected, appreciate absolutely nothing.

Isn’t that why we are so very disappointed when things go awry? Not according to our plan. Because we do too much expecting and not enough appreciating?

I think we’d be happier people if we awakened each day expecting nothing.  I imagine we would appreciate each and every thing that comes our way then.

Like a beautiful sunset, appearing as a hand painted canvas stretching out as far as the eye can see.  An unexpected sight to behold at the end of a long well-lived day.

Sunsets are just one of the things I appreciate about life but don’t expect to see a breathtaking one every day.  Living out here in the country where I can view them unobstructed is just one aspect of my daily life I do appreciate. Holding my beloved grandchildren, embracing my husband and children, sunshine-filled days, and time to worship and pray are just a few more simple joys that I appreciate so very much.

And I find I’m a happier person when I’m appreciative.  You might say appreciation for life provides my bliss – perfect happiness, great joy.

So I want to embrace these words each and every day: Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.  Appreciate bliss when I experience it.

(I’ve written this post and published this photo, which I snapped one July evening,  to continue the online photography workshop – Developing Your Eye – that I missed participating in last summer. The theme for Day 4 was ‘bliss.’)

“Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss.” ~ Alexandre Dumas

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
 

Something in the water

blogimg_1434Back in the summer when I was hibernating, I missed the opportunity to participate in a Developing Your Eye photography activity on Word Press.

Summer zapped me big time and I just didn’t have the energy nor the inclination to join up. But cooler fall weather finally awakened me from my slump, although occasionally I am still as grumpy as a bear staggering squint-eyed from its lair.

So today’s post is focused on that challenge’s third day photography theme – water.

Water, what would we do without it?  Scientists say the surface of this planet revolving around the sun 365 days of the year is 71% water.  In comparison, adult humans’ bodies are comprised of around 60% water. Water sustains life, we’re told, because every living cell must have it to continue functioning.

Without water, we die. It’s as simple as that. Our bodies can only survive three to five days without it, although in some cases, people have lasted a week. Regardless, we need water. It’s a must.  I drink a lot of it every single day and it is my preferred drink with meals.

But we don’t just physically require water for life, I believe.

Even though I am not much of a country music fan, the words to Carrie Underwood’s song, “There’s Something in the Water” came to my mind as I began thinking about this theme and perused my photograph cache – both digital and film pictures from years ago. That song embraces a spiritual aspect of water.

There must be something in the water (amazing grace)
Oh, there must be something in the water (how sweet the sound)
Oh, there must be something in the water (that saved a wretch)
Oh, there must be something in the water (like me)

For me, there obviously is more to it than just something ‘in’ the water. There’s something ‘about’ the water as well.

You see, I seem to take an abundance of photos of water. Streams. Rivers. Lakes. Waterfalls. Oceans. Rain. Water drops. Even puddles.  For some reason, I’m drawn to water – not to be in it, no, I’m not an avid swimmer, no water dog. Nor am I partial to being on the water either. Ask Papa about how many times he has suggested us going on an ocean cruise.

But I do like to be near water. To sit beside it. To listen to it. To gaze at it. To see beauty in it. And to attempt to capture all of that in a photo.

I turned to my Guidebook for Life – my Bible – and I wasn’t too surprised that water is mentioned over 600 times in the version I read the most – the New International Version – from Genesis, the very first book, to Revelation, the very last.

Water. It’s not just vital for our human physical life. It’s vital for spiritual life as well which is why you will find so many references to water in the Scriptures. It’s used to symbolize a variety of concepts in God’s Word and you could spend a lot of time just studying this one word.

I tend to think of spiritual water as a refreshing, cleansing element just like that Carrie Underwood song.  That’s why a passage in Chapter Four in the book of John in the New Testament speaks to me.

Jesus asks for water from a Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her about living water when he says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He’s talking about the gift of salvation that comes through belief in Him.

My sweet little granddaughter likes to drink water. Inevitably, she swallows, smiles, and then says, “Ahhhh.”  She’s already learned that water satisfies our thirst like nothing else.

And that’s like Jesus. He is the kind of living water that satisfies all thirst. Each time I gaze upon the water, hear either its roar in the ocean wave or its delicate tinkle in the flow of a stream or its constant pitter patter of rain on my roof, or taste the cool, refreshing sip of clear, clean water, I think of Him and what He accomplished on the cross for me and you.

And I am refreshed.

 “Did you ever feel the tongue dry, the lips parched, and the throat feverish, and then, bringing a goblet filled with pure water to your lips, do you remember the sensation as it trickled over your tongue and gurgled down your throat? Was it not a luxury?… Here is a beverage brewed for us by our Heavenly Father—brewed, too, in beautiful places…. He brews pure water, far away on the mountain top, whose granite peak glitters like gold in the sunlight; away again, on the wide wild sea, where the hurricane howls its mournful melody, and the storm sends back the chorus, sweeping the march of God!” ~John Bartholomew Gough, English-born U.S. temperance orator (1817–1886)

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Feeling at home

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At home in my own backyard

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. Home – that’s a subject I find myself writing about often in this blog. You might say I adhere to that old saying, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart has always claimed home.

So Papa and I live in this house which we call home. It’s just an ordinary house, nothing fancy; it has that country farmhouse look to it, especially plunked down in the middle of a field that we purchased from an elderly farmer to make our building lot.

I do love my home. I’m happy in it. And I hope that when folks come to my house they feel welcomed and ‘at home.’ But this place that I call home is just a house that Papa and I have lived in for over 16 years now.

There have been other places we have called home over our 39 years of marriage.  His hometown is in the central part of our state, mine is here where we live. The home in which I spent most of my growing up years in is only a few miles down our country road. That place was the anchor that I tethered myself to while Papa and I wandered across the country from one place to another during a good portion of our married life.  

No matter how far away I wandered though, I knew home was still there waiting for me. It was a difficult task for me to relinquish my parents’ home after they both died and my sisters and I decided to sell it. The ties that bound were strong.

Having lived in several homes in four different states, home takes on an entirely different meaning for me now as I’ve matured not only in age but also in wisdom. But even more importantly, as my faith deepens and matures, the thought of home evokes an even more profound meaning than it once did.

The words of an old gospel song ring through my memory bank:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

This home here on this planet revolving around the sun, on this earth held in place by the omnipotent hand of its Creator, is really just temporary. My permanent home lies beyond in a place I can’t describe but will know and recognize it when I finally see it someday.

But for now, I offer up praise and thanks to God for the earthly home He has provided, for the wondrous work of artistry He paints on the day and night canvas right outside my window, and for the loved ones He has given me in my life to share this home with. 

In this crazy, mixed up world, I can only feel at home when my thoughts are centered on the One who loves me beyond measure, enough to die in my place, enough to leave His glorious home to enter ours. His name is Jesus.

 What signifies ‘home’ for you?

[Day One’s theme in the “Developing Your Eye” photography challenge this summer -which I missed due to my hibernation lethargy – was “Home.” The photo above which I captured on a sunny early September day represents both the theme and my thoughts today.]

“God’s thoughts, his will, his love, his judgments are all man’s home. To think his thoughts, to choose his will, to love his loves, to judge his judgments, and thus to know that he is in us, is to be at home.” ~  George Macdonald

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com