Reflecting on the blessings

blogIMG_1006Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard once wrote:  “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Just yesterday morning, I visited for a short time with one of my dearest, long-time friends. The one who’s constantly in my prayers because of her serious health diagnosis about a year ago and her latest brush with a dire emergency that almost cost her life.

Since she was in the area for a short visit with her mother, we sat in my friend’s childhood home on the same living room couch where we spent many hours in the past chatting with one another as young girls, teenagers, and young adults. If the seat cushions of that couch could talk, they would divulge countless stories of our times together upon them.

Often when my friend and I converse, we spend much of the time reflecting. And yesterday was no exception.  In many ways, my visit reflected the past, the way life used to be.

And since I brought my Little One (granddaughter) along with me, we glanced at even more reflections of our childhoods past when my wee one played with some old toys that have called this place home for numerous years.

As we were leaving, we walked outside onto the front porch to say our farewells. And that’s when Little One spotted my friend’s mom’s bright green gazing ball resting on a pedestal in the yard. 

Little One was absolutely fascinated by it and laughed at her own reflection in the ball.  Over and over again. And then at our reflections as well, going round and round the shiny orb never taking her eyes off of those images she spied within it.

It’s ironic that this week’s photo challenge theme is reflecting when I’ve been ruminating over that word – one which evokes a couple of meanings in my mind.  Of course, there’s the obvious one of an image being mirrored.  And then there’s the one that connotes thinking or seriously considering.

Like thinking of and seriously considering the past. Similar to my little one circling that gazing ball, often my mind goes round and round those reflections of times gone by. Over and over again.

Reflections of the way we used to be.

And that phrase prompts the ongoing radio in my mind to play an old song by The Supremes:

Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me

Reflections of
The way life used to be
Reflections of
The love you took from me

And even though that song expresses a sad tale of lost love, happiness ripped away, and painful reflection, I find valuable reminders in those lyrics.

Through the mirror of my mind
Through these tears that I’m crying
Reflects a hurt I can’t control
‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holding on
To the happy times
Oh, when you were mine

Isn’t that how we so often view yesteryear? We attempt to remember only the pleasant moments and the joyous occasions when we reflect on times past. We keep holding onto those memories and that helps us through the present.

And that’s how my friend and I recall our childhoods.  Contented times, hours of fun playing together as children, sharing secrets and dreams as teenage girls do. Easy times of no responsibilities, no earth-shattering worries or occurrences, an idyllic age really.

Through the hollow of my tears
I see a dream that’s lost

Reflecting back now as adults, many of our hopes and dream for the future did not come to fruition, but some did.  And we both have had a blessed life, but not one without struggles and difficulties. This last year, my friend’s life has been a complete upheaval. 

In you I put
All my faith and trust
Right before my eyes
My world has turned to dust

In one consultation with her doctor, my friend’s world seemed to turn to dust. And it just kept splintering into pieces, one experience after another sawing its way through her strength leaving mounds of accumulating sawdust. 

Procedures, medications, treatments, hospital stays, medical emergencies, more hospital stays, therapies, home health nurse visits. At one point, when I sat beside my lifelong friend in the hospital, she confided her weariness over not having a normal life.

But here’s where my friend and I differ vastly from the song lyrics. Because instead of putting our faith and trust in another person (because honestly, we humans do let one another down often), we put our faith and trust in God.  All of our faith. All of our trust.

Because He never forsakes us. Never lets us down. Never stops loving us. He is the Great Physician. The Healer. The Savior. The Lover of our souls and Listener to our prayers. The One who is granting my lifelong friend’s desire to start to feel “normal again.”

So instead of singing “reflections of the way life used to be,” I believe I will change the song lyrics to “reflections of the way life needs to be; reflections of the love God has for me.”  And for my cherished friend.

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Warning, warning!

blogIMG_5956It lurks out there…everywhere.

It may be in the form of a blood-thirsty shark just cruising along the shoreline looking for its next victim. That is, if you believe the plot in the old movie, Jaws.

It may be in the dark.

Or in the woods.

Or maybe right next door.

It may be in the form of a horrific natural event like a tornado, a hurricane, a tsunami.

Or in climate change.

Or maybe just a snowstorm in your neighborhood, so run out quickly beforehand and grab up the milk, bread, and toilet paper.

It may be in the form of nuclear weapons aimed at your country.

Or in the politics of the land.

Or maybe in your own home.

It’s danger. And the world’s a dangerous place. Or so, some would have us believe. Every day it seems we’re bombarded with the message that it’s dangerous just to exist on this planet. I see and hear it on the television, on the radio, read it in print media and on the internet.

It’s dangerous, I tell you! Be afraid. Be fearful. Wring your hands and cry, “What is this world coming to?”

It’s this week’s photo challenge Danger! – and it reminds me of a science fiction TV show I used to watch as a kid called Lost in Space

In it, the Robinson family were space travelers whose spaceship was sabotaged causing them to land in a different universe where danger always lurked. And there was a trusty robot to alert them to peril at every turn by droning, “Warning, warning” and “Danger, danger!”   

Seems like the robots are still out there.  Warning, warning! Danger, danger!

To be certain, there are real and present dangers. That’s a part of life. But we can’t live this life constantly in fear. You know what President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in the midst of the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  

Fear is crippling and makes us indecisive. Realizing true danger should cause us to take action, not just freeze in fear. I know how that happens. Many years ago when Papa and I were newlyweds and living in rattlesnake country, we were walking on a wooded path when a snake slithered out in front of us. I totally froze to my spot in fear and literally could not move, could not run to safety, could not even think fast enough to react.

And you know what I needed? Help from another human being. I needed my husband to grab my arm and pull me to safety with him.

Whether great danger lurks ahead of me, I have no way of knowing. Whether all of the danger cited now days is real, I also have no way of knowing for certain. But I do know this: often times danger comes from ourselves, from our evil hearts and minds.

And I hope and pray that when and if threat comes our way, we spring into action to help one another through whatever we must face or endure.  

I hope our hearts are open and our actions unselfish because really, we are one big family. The family of humanity. And if we can’t help our fellow humans in perilous times or circumstances, we really are doomed to danger.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ~ Pope John Paul II

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

One May evening

blogDSCN0017Three years have passed since I snapped the photo above. The lighting was dim and I only had my small digital point and shoot camera with me, but I wanted to capture the moment for later.

I stored that photo in my desktop computer archives and a blog post idea away with it. And then as it always does, time has a way of passing by. And writing ideas have a way of being shoved back to the recesses of my brain where they may or may not be retrieved.

The calendar pages have flipped over to the month of May already and a brand new month found me without any good, solid concepts to write about. So I did what I normally do when I stare at a blank computer screen in an effort to produce a post, I open up my photo library and start viewing pictures I’ve captured but may have forgotten about.

And there it was. A photo of an elderly gentleman from our church showing my sister and me his handmade violin.  Three years ago this month.

Much has transpired in those three years as this kind, gentle, soft-spoken man, a farmer by trade but a talented musician and skilled woodworker passed away this year.

But let me take you back to the evening this photo was taken.

Every year, our church holds a mother-daughter banquet in May.  My sister and I usually attend and sometimes, if her daughter-in-law and grandgirls and my daughter and grandgirl can make it, they come along.

But three years ago, my daughter lived away from home and our grandgirl was just a whimsical thought, a gift waiting to be given to us a year later.

So my sister had a wonderful idea when it came time for the mother-daughter dinner. Since our own mother and mothers-in-law had passed away many years before and our girls couldn’t join us, it would just be the two of us attending the banquet.  

Sister’s thoughtful idea was to call a sweet, elderly lady in our church who had never married and, of course, had no children to join us for the banquet. This dear woman was in her 90’s then and relied on her brother (the fiddler) or other relatives to transport her places, so we arranged to pick her up at her family farmstead to ride with us to the church hall.

I remember when sister called Esther to invite her, she replied that she wasn’t a mother. Sis told her but she was a daughter and she could be our mother for the evening since ours was in heaven.  Esther agreed to come.

We traveled down the country lane to her home and helped her climb into my sister’s vehicle. At the banquet, Esther was all smiles, as she usually was, and I do believe she truly enjoyed herself. Afterwards, we drove her back home and she really wanted us to come into the house for a little visit.

We sat at her kitchen table and talked over days gone by, and relatives now long gone, and Esther told the story of how we were distantly related and how her mother and our grandmother were great friends. 

Her brother Paul sat with us and shared his stories too and we had a chuckle over the old tale of how he got his name when he was born. One of his older brothers, yet a child, had asked his mother to bestow our mother’s name, Pauline, upon the new arrival. Well, the new arrival was a boy so their mother agreed to name him Paul.

I shared how well I remembered this musical family playing their instruments at church when I was just a little girl.  Each one of their siblings had God-given musical talent. And that’s when Paul got up from his kitchen chair and left the room, returning with a weathered violin case.

He opened it and showed us a lovely violin, one of his own making. He even tuned it up a little and played a bit for us. I marveled at the fact that he had handmade the instrument and how nicely it sounded.

It was one of those sweet little moments in life you try not to forget. When you know in your heart that you’ve done the right thing just by taking the time to spend an evening conversing with two elderly, and possibly lonely, folks of the older generation.

Both Esther and Paul are gone now, but the memory lingers. And I’m so glad to have the photos to remind me of that warm, spring evening in May.

“The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune.” ~ English Proverb

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Some have it, some don’t

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Train trip from Silverton to Durango, CO – 1979

Sometimes I wish I had a bit more wanderlust. As defined by my trusty bookshelf dictionary (yes, I’m a dinosaur; I actually use a real book consisting of paper pages), when you have wanderlust, you have a strong impulse to travel.

“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” ~ Agnes Repplier

This week’s photo challenge theme – wanderlust – invites me to share a photo that represents travel to me.  I do have many photos from Papa’s and my travels, so it was hard to choose just one.  

But the photo above from a trip we took together early in our marriage called to me. Papa is fond of trains, and we’ve been on quite a few, but this one winding through Colorado mountains was special.

Traveling is an adventure and encountering new sights and experiences is something I relish, but I wouldn’t describe myself as having wanderlust.

Ironically, this topic has been on my mind because just yesterday morning, I ran into my last living first cousin at the grocery store.  He’s a bit older than me and has had some heart health issues in the last few years.  Since he was the nearest cousin in age to me and our families were very close, he has always been my favorite.

Cousin’s grown children and grandchildren live far away from our hometown like some of mine do.  And we talked about traveling to see them and how cross country trips can be tiring as we age.

Then he proclaimed his own dinosaur status and admitted he just doesn’t like to journey far from home any longer.  He always assumed that when he retired, he and his wife would do a lot of traveling. But other than one trip to our ancestral home in England, he hasn’t traveled abroad or even ventured to other areas of our country very much.  And he has no desire to do so. 

Wanderlust? He doesn’t possess it. He’s more than content to stay right here in our little neck of the woods with a few trips here and there to visit his family.

Perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I recall that my cousin’s father (my uncle and my father’s brother) never liked to trek far from home at all.  Matter of fact, my cousin and I shared a good laugh over a story about Uncle when he took his family to Canada for a visit.  The border guard asked him how long they were going to stay in that country and my nonplussed uncle replied quite seriously, “About 15 minutes.”

After we chuckled, my cousin told me the reason why uncle was without wanderlust.  He had served in World War II, yet never wanted to share much about his time in service. He did tell his family that he promised himself that if he made it out of the war in one piece and back home, he never wanted to leave again.

No wanderlust for my uncle. My dad was unlike him in that respect because Dad liked to travel away from home. He poured over his well-thumbed road atlas and enjoyed planning routes and sights to see along the way.  Mom was more of a homebody, but he did manage to convince her to take several cross country excursions with him.

I wonder what gives a person that sense of wanderlust? I enjoy taking journeys, but I wouldn’t classify myself as someone who has a strong impulse to travel. Papa likes trip-taking as well, but again I wouldn’t say he was bitten by the travel bug.

Now our daughter and son-in-law are birds of a different feather from us.  Wanderlust perfectly defines who they are. They live (and work) to travel! Daughter’s desire for adventure began with a high school trip to France. Then a three-week trek to Africa after she graduated from college.  Followed by short-term mission trips to Honduras, where she met her future husband.

From a honeymoon in Honduras to anniversary trips to Costa Rica and this year to Peru, those two are always on the go.  I’ve lost track of the places and countries they have visited. From climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to their next desire of visiting every high point in the United States, their bucket list is loaded with travel plans around the world.

I haven’t really composed a bucket list but I would like to visit every one of our 50 American states. So far, I count 33 under my belt and soon Papa and I plan to add three more to that list, which will make 36, so 14 to go.  

As far as travels outside of my country, my only claim to fame for that one is a couple trips to Canada.  If I could go anywhere in the world though, I’d choose my dream trip to the British Isles, especially the home of my forefathers in England, and another jaunt to Australia, where we could visit friends. Papa agrees but would add some other European countries to the list as well. And — gasp! – he’d like to venture on a cruise (this traveler nixes that one).

Whether we ever take those excursions remains to be seen. But I can always enjoy journeys to other spots in the world vicariously through my daughter’s wanderlust.

Maybe it will rub off on me.

“The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.” ~ Thomas Fielding, Selected Proverbs of All Nations

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Forest or trees?

blogIMG_8321Sometimes you really can’t see the forest for the trees.

One of the many truly amazing sights our family encountered while living in the Pacific Northwest was the dense, thick forests there. 

Moving from the mostly plains of the Midwest to that area of the country, I remember well how awestruck I was the first time I saw the size of the massive trees there.

After stepping off the plane on my first trip to the Pacific Northwest for a house-hunting mission, I vividly recall marveling at the colossal Douglas fir trees we saw as Papa and I ventured around the area in search of our new home.  

Once we moved there and settled in, we took our children on many excursions to explore our new domicile and again I marveled at the density of the forests.

As a native northeasterner, forests were nothing new to me. In my childhood, my family spent a lot of time in our modest “camp” near one of the national forest areas of our home state. So I’d seen thick forests. But not like the giants of the Pacific Northwest or the immense Redwoods of Northern California, which we also visited.

I wish now that I had taken the time to photograph those dense forests we visited, but after looking through all of my pictures taken with old-school film (long before digital cameras), I don’t have a shot that I feel does enough justice for this week’s photo challenge – dense.   

So the more recent photo above (a stand of bamboo at a zoo last summer) will have to do, although it is nothing like the thickness of the Pacific Northwest forests. This picture does show density, but not like the almost impenetrable forests ensconced in my memory. Those trees simply take your breath away.

But it’s true you can’t really see the forest for the trees. The trees capture your attention in such a way that you might miss a less commanding sight right there in the forest.

Sometimes things are so dense that you just can’t see your way through, just like those thick, concentrated forests. And often I feel like I’m just as dense.

Like when I just can’t see a solution to a problem even when it’s staring me in the face. Is it really because I’m dumber than a box of rocks? Or is just a case of stubbornness? Not wanting to face the problem or the solution? Maybe even pride?

I’m not sure but I know one thing for certain. When I can’t see the forest for the trees, I need to stop looking at the trees, no matter how glorious they may seem. The answer may just be on the forest floor right in front of me.

“Pride works frequently under a dense mask, and will often assume the garb of humility.”  ~ Adam Clarke (1760 or 1762-1832), British theologian and Biblical scholar

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com