Acute or obtuse, I want a right angle

blogIMG_2465You know how some occurrences just make you scratch your head and truly ponder how such a happening transpired?

You study it.  You carefully consider it.  You think and think and think it over some more.  You check it out from every conceivable angle.    And you still can’t figure it out.

That’s life, isn’t it?  Why do difficult events take place in some folks’ lives but not in others?  Why do some have their hearts broken into a million pieces and others live happily ever after? 

Why do some souls endure hardship after hardship while others coast through life with few or infrequent troubles? Why do some people make promises and keep them while others spout off empty words but break their vows at the drop of a hat?

This week’s photo challenge theme is “from every angle” and as many times as I try to figure life out from every angle, sometimes the reason things happen the way they do is elusive. 

I never was much of a mathematician (we English majors often have an aversion to math) but I do recall learning about angles.  Acute angles, right angles, obtuse angles.  I remember those.  And I vaguely remember something about straight angles and reflex angles.  There are positive and negative angles too.

Sounds just like life, doesn’t it?  And human relationships too.  Sometimes there is less (acute) than you’d like in a relationship while other times there’s much more (obtuse).  And sometimes, if we feel fortunate or lucky or blessed or whatever you want to call it, we believe we are in a right (exact) angle relationship with another person.

I saw a quote on Facebook recently that said, “People with good intentions make promises.  People with good character keep them.”  And there’s the rub.  How can we ascertain who has good character and who doesn’t?

We can study a person from every angle.  We can watch him interact with others.  We can converse with her.  We can hear her words and observe his facial expressions and body language.   

We can examine, we can consider, and we can scrutinize a person from every angle. 

Every. Single. Angle.  

But we can know a person for years and still not really know him or her.  Why? Because we can’t know what goes through that other person’s mind.  We don’t know her thoughts.  We don’t know his secrets.

It comes down to a matter of trust.  And sometimes that trust gets broken.  Smashed into bits.  It’s a part of living and breathing on this planet we call Earth. 

If we spent all of our time examining everything from every angle, we’d probably never step out in faith.  We’d never move forward.  We’d never take the plunge into trusting anyone any more.

I don’t want to live that way and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to either.  So what do we do?  We let every angle lead us to only one place.  The only place that’s important.  The cross.  And the only One who ever lived on this earth that we can place absolute trust in – Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” John 14:6-7

And when life doesn’t make sense – no matter what angle I view it from – and my loved ones or I are wounded by betrayal, broken by disappointment, or disillusioned by life itself, all angles lead me to the cross.

What about you? Have you tried every angle and still have no peace? Watch this video –  Lead Me – and let all the angles go straight to Him.

“The best angle from which to approach a problem is the try-angle.” ~ Unknown

©2015 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Perfection in an imperfect world

A perfect day?

A perfect day?

I call it a love/hate relationship.  Some days, I absolutely love it.  And some days, I just want to rant and rail against it. 

What makes me so impassioned one way or the other?  The virtual world of the internet.

I don’t tweet on Twitter; I don’t tumble on Tumblr; I don’t post photos on Instagram. 

I’ve limited my online interactions to writing this blog, two Facebook accounts – one Mama’s Empty Nest blog fan page and one personal –  and an occasional pin on Pinterest.

I love my blog but endure a tumultuous love/hate relationship with Facebook because it’s just too much unreality for me. You read that correctly – unreality. 

There’s either too much drama with too much spilling of one’s guts, or too much aggrandizing with that ‘look at me, I live an adventurous life and I’m proud to brag about it’ attitude.  

I’m one of those odd balls who prefers to function in the real, flesh and blood, good times and bad world.  Nothing makes me happier than spending time with real people, not just their online personas.

With that said though, I do relish my blogging community.  The bloggers I’ve connected with through this venue have proved to be real, honest to goodness folks.  And that’s why I love my blog, but kind of hate my Facebook.  I keep my FB pages because I can publicize my blog posts there, and it helps me maintain contact with faraway friends and family.

But the online world still troubles me and an article I read yesterday at work truly resonated with me.   Author Shauna Niequist wrote in Relevant Magazine that social media portrays life as nearly perfect and therein lies a problem.  When we view other people’s exciting, well-edited lives, we become dissatisfied with our own lives, even envious.  I think she has a very valid point.

She states, “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.”

She believes the danger is that we aren’t creating true community with those partial truths and well-edited photos.  And she’s right. 

She also states that when we view unrealistic, “perfect life” versions of others, envy rears its ugly head.  And we become dissatisfied with our own lives because of that nasty emotion.

Reading this article prompted me to remember a comment a friend threw at me  years ago.   She told me with exasperation in her voice, “Your life is so perfect.”

That comment sent me reeling.  It cut to the quick and I felt hurt by it and to be truthful, shocked.  But it forced me to evaluate my life and question whether I was projecting an unreal, perfectly plastic version of my family and our lives together or was she simply misjudging me? 

I wondered where her comment stemmed from.  Didn’t she see my pain?  Didn’t she notice my lack of contentment?  For crying out loud, didn’t she see my messy house??

At the time, I faced struggles – lots of them.  My family certainly wasn’t perfect; we had the same quarrels, issues, and messiness of life that every other family has.

I resented her for that comment.  Perfect life?   A perfect life would have no pain.  A perfect life would be living near extended family with lots of support.  A perfect life would be one without heartache, without sickness, without loss.  A perfect life would be one without disappointments, without fear and anxiety.

And I believed then and still do that while I’ve been blessed with a good life, a fulfilling life, I was in no way living a perfect life.

All of those thoughts tumbled back into my mind while reading this article.  And it caused me to wonder what readers perceive when they read my blog.  Do I portray a ‘perfect life’ here?  I hope not.  When I write, it’s from my heart and it’s real, but does that translate into my writing?

I’m not a Pollyanna.  I have struggles, but I don’t wallow in them.  I tend to look at the bright side because the alternative is just too depressing.  And I rely on my faith in Jesus to carry me through.   Because He is perfect, I am not.

It’s true I have a close-knit family.  We are immensely blessed that we’ve stayed that way.  And while my adult children are wonderful, they’re not perfect (sorry, kids!). 

I have a long-lasting solid marriage to a decent, hard-working respectable  man, but our marriage hasn’t been perfect (no one’s is).

I have a strong, enduring faith in my Savior, but my spiritual life has not been perfect either. 

So here’s my conclusion – I put down in words the thoughts and images that occur to me not to portray perfection but in an effort to build community with my fellow bloggers and loyal readers.  This blog isn’t perfect, but it’s my real attempt to connect with my fellow human beings in this virtual world.

Niequist aptly described community in her article this way:  “Because community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other’s actual voices, when we enter one another’s actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters.”

Since it’s not possible to actually sit together with my readers and blogging pals in their actual home or mine and to hear each other’s actual voices, my hope is that you can hear my voice through my blog.  It’s not a perfect way to communicate, but when it’s real and honest and true, it’s the best we can do.

I especially liked Niequist’s last paragraph: “And on the days when you peer into the screen of your laptop and all you see are other people’s peak experiences that highlight your lack in that moment, remember that life isn’t about the story you tell about yourself on the Internet. It’s about a million more beautiful and complex things than that, like love and faith and really listening. It’s about using what you’ve been given to craft a life of gratitude and passion and grace.”

Conveying a beautiful but imperfect life in an imperfect world.  May it be so.

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Mystery man, I hardly knew you

The only picture I have of this uncle

The only picture I have of this uncle

His real name was Arnold, but he answered to other names.  Some people called him Jim, some named him Skis, but I never knew why.   He was different, a little odd – definitely marched to the beat of a different drummer than most folks.

As far as I know, he never drove a car.  For certain, he didn’t own one.  Instead he walked everywhere he went or hitched a ride with someone.  He never married.  He stayed with relatives and for only a short time had a place of his own.

I don’t know what jobs he ever held, if any.  I suspect he just took odd jobs here and there whenever someone offered him some honest way to make a little cash.  He never had much money, which was evident.

He didn’t have many words to say either.  Every once in a while, he’d mutter something that you’d have to really strain to hear.  You couldn’t tell what he was thinking or feeling because for the most part he guarded his thoughts and words, probably because he had been ridiculed on one too many occasions.

He was a mystery to me.  Part of me was a tiny bit afraid of him, yet part of me wanted to get to know this strange man.  He was my uncle, my father’s older brother.

By the time I was born, he was middle-aged, but I always thought of him as an old man.  Many years ago, he passed away, but for some reason, this eccentric relative crosses my mind lately.

My husband and I lived in another state when my parents called to tell me that this uncle had died.   I don’t imagine many people  – other than a few relatives – attended the viewing or funeral.  My uncle didn’t appear to have friends.  Living so far away, I couldn’t attend either, and after the phone call announcing Uncle’s death, I felt like weeping.

Weeping for a man who no one, including me, really knew…or understood…or took the time to know or understand.  And that made me incredibly sad.

My family alluded to his being a little “off,” maybe a mental illness or a nervous breakdown, but I never knew the real story.  He often just showed up at our house unannounced, never strayed beyond the kitchen, never accepted the invitation to sit on the good furniture in the living room.

He’d only sit in a kitchen chair a few minutes, then jump up, pace back and forth, jingle coins in his pants pocket, look out the kitchen door, and then mumble, “See you” and he’d depart.  My mother, who treated him kindly but found him exasperating sometimes, would shake her head after he left, say “That man’s too nervous,” and continue whatever she was doing.

Sometimes he appeared at the kitchen door holding out in silent offering a honey comb from the bees that he kept.  I know he had discussions with my father, his younger brother, but for the life of me, I can’t remember one thing they ever talked about around our kitchen table.

A few vivid memories of Uncle from my childhood linger in my mind.  A tiny trickle of water ran through a marshy area on our property with weeds, cat tails, and reeds growing around it then into a culvert under the road.  In the spring, the little stream rushed with extra water from melting snows and rain.

I loved launching little plastic toy boats into the upper part of the steam and watching them sail under the road into our neighbor’s yard.   One day, shod in my rubber boots, I trampled through the weeds to find the perfect spot to set a boat adrift.   Uncle showed up, asked me what I was doing and growled, “You better watch out for copperheads.”

Snakes?  The thought had never occurred to me, let alone poisonous ones.  I gingerly picked up my boat, recoiled from the swampy area, and marched back inside, a little angry that he had spoiled my fun.   My 10-year-old mind was divided about his warning.  Part of me wanted to call him a silly old fool, but part of me believed him and thought he was looking out for my safety.

Another memory I harbor is of Uncle watching my father take pictures with his movie camera.   One spring the huge lilac bush in our back yard was lush with fragrant blooms. Dad grabbed the camera to take pictures and told me to get in the shot too.

As soon as I moved to the bush, Uncle bent a branch down low and near to me so blossoming flowers would be in the picture with me.  But he didn’t want my father to take his picture, just like the reclusive uncle not wanting to be noticed.   And I realize today that I have only one picture of this uncle when he was a young man.

My parents and I lived in what once was my paternal grandparents’ house.  When I was growing up, Uncle lived much of the time with his oldest brother, another of my uncles, whose home had a perfect view of ours.  Uncle seemed drawn back to his childhood abode – our house – but never visited us for very long.

I often wonder if Uncle just couldn’t bring himself to stay long in our house because all the memories of childhood and particularly his deceased family overwhelmed him.  As a toddler, he lost a brother to leukemia.  His father, my grandfather, died when Uncle was eight.  His only sister succumbed to cancer.   Uncle lived with my grandmother until she passed away, and then middle-aged Uncle was basically left alone.

I know he didn’t deal well with death because I witnessed that first-hand.   Uncle stayed with his elderly aunt and uncle from time to time, who lost their home to a fire.   A few years later,  his aunt – my great-aunt – passed away.   It was summer and I was home from college at the time.  My uncle showed up at our house, plopped down at the kitchen table, and did something he rarely did.

He looked straight at me and asked a question, “Are you going to town today?”

I looked back at him, noticed his weepy-looking eyes and answered hesitantly,  “Noooo…I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Okay,” he answered, jumping up and starting for the kitchen door.

“Wait a minute,” I stopped him.  “Do you need something?”  I felt really sorry for him for some reason.

“I just wondered if you’d get me a new white shirt to wear to the funeral home,” he replied. “But never mind.”

I was actually impressed that he wanted to look presentable to go to Great Aunt’s viewing, so I told him I would run his errand for him.  Did he want to go along?  A brief look of panic crossed his face as he pressed some money into my hand, muttered his shirt size, and darted out the door.

That evening, looking uncomfortable in his stiff, new white shirt and tie, Uncle sat alone in a corner of a far room at the funeral home.  No one really seemed to notice him; no one seemed to care to speak with him.

I quietly sat down beside him, noticed he looked upset, and asked if he was all right.  He nodded his head yes, then hung his head and that’s when I noticed huge, quiet tears streaming down his face.   It occurred to me that when Great Aunt died, he again lost one of the few people who probably were ever kind to him, one of the people he loved.

Because of his odd ways, people tended to shun him.   And I was just as guilty as they were.  But that evening was a turning point for me because that’s when I began to view this strange uncle as a real person with real hurts, fears, and the capacity to love.  And I wept there with him, not so much for Great Aunt but for him.  Years later, I again wept when Uncle left this world alone.

Even now, 30 plus years after his death, tears well up in my eyes as I think of this misunderstood uncle, lost in the world’s shuffle, that few people may even remember.  Today I wish I had taken the time to really explore his life, ask him questions, and try to understand him.

Opportunities present themselves to us every day, often we just aren’t wise enough to embrace them at the time.  When we realize we missed the chance to touch someone’s life in a positive way, it’s too late to make amends.

On this beautiful day, Page 18, Chapter 8, in my life’s book of Opportunity, I remember you, Uncle, but you’ll always be a mystery to me.

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Escaping the shyness gene

blogskydiving1

Not being a scientific type, I’m not sure if there really is a gene for shyness, but if there is, it must be – of course — a recessive one.

“Scientists have found the gene for shyness. They would have found it years ago, but it was hiding behind a couple of other genes.”  ~ Jonathan Katz

A little girl with stick-like legs hides behind her mother when someone talks to her.   In school, she never raises her hand to respond to her teacher’s questions because she’s afraid her answer may be wrong.

In everyday life, she won’t answer the phone or even make calls to people she doesn’t know.  In the bigger scheme of life, she’s not fond of trying something new or taking a risk.

She’s shy.  Her mother tells her she’s afraid of her own shadow, but that’s not true.  Other people’s shadows or things that go bump in the night frighten her because she’s afraid of the dark and unfamiliar things.

That little girl used to be me.   My shyness lasted all the way up to my senior year of high school.  If you asked my former teachers about me, they would say I was a quiet student, if they remember me at all.  But something happened during my senior year that brought me out of my shell.  I took a drama class.

My teacher, who also directed all the school plays, required all drama students to participate in some fashion in school productions.  I’m not certain how I summoned up the courage to audition for an acting role, but I did.  I vaguely remember my friends shoving me into the school auditorium for try-outs.   Once I was onstage reading the script, I forgot to be scared.  The result was I landed a leading role in the play.

At school the Monday after our weekend performances, one of my teachers stopped me in the hall, his mouth widened into a perfect O, and he said, “Wow, that WAS you!”  Yep, a scared little butterfly emerged from its cocoon.

Once I became mother to our three children, I was determined, genes or no genes, not to pass along the trait of shyness to them.   Together, hubby and I attempted to provide challenges and new, exciting  experiences for them so they would embrace adventures and unfamiliar territory easily without fear and hesitation.

For much of their growing up years, my husband’s job transported us to different areas of the country.  We endeavored to make each move a grand adventure for our kids.  We traveled as much as we could to investigate unfamiliar areas, learn new information, and experience various events.

Our oldest daughter attended a different school every two years, which could be detrimental, but instead became an asset for her.  She learned quickly to adapt, make new friends, and gain a sense of independence.   I think acquiring those skills molded her into the adventuresome woman she is today – one who traveled by herself for a trip of a lifetime to Africa,  served others on mission trips to Honduras, and moved to a state far from home without family or friends.

Middle daughter overcame insecurities and displayed confidence early in elementary school and on the soccer playing fields.   She’s faced uncertainties with courage and bravado even when she felt like yielding.  Her perseverance enabled her to become a strong and assertive nurse who has used her compassion for others in the mission field from poverty-stricken areas of Mexico to hurricane-ravaged  Mississippi.  She loves to travel, appreciates historical and scenic sights, and records it all with her ever-present camera.

To me, youngest son seems fearless.  He welcomes new experiences like a parched man gulping a long draught of water.   He’s always eager to taste diverse foods, attempt different sports, engage in activities he’s never tried before.  Go on a mission trip to Belize?  Why not?  Try sailing? Sure.  How about a little surfing?  Go for it.  White water rafting?  You bet.  He’s traveled westward across the country and Pacific to Hawaii and eastward across the Atlantic to Germany and Italy.

This weekend, all three of my adult children reunited for a sibling get-together.  Son traveled from the state next door, met middle daughter in the city, and together they drove all night to oldest daughter’s home down south.

The three of them planned a big adventure for themselves to knock an item off their bucket lists.  They are all going sky-diving together!

Has that once shy, fearful little girl succeeded to instill a sense of daring exploration in her children?  Did they escape the shyness gene? 

I’m happy (and a little bit proud) to say yes in my book called Opportunity, Chapter 8, Page 12.  And I can’t wait to hear all about their exciting escapade after I go pray for their safety!

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The best antiques are old friends

pexels-photo-296649.jpegI highly value friendship.  In my beloved quotes notebook, a plethora of thoughts on this topic gracefully unfurl over many pages.

“We need to have people who mean something to us, people to whom we can turn knowing that being with them is like coming home.” ~ Anonymous

My family roamed far from home for a number of years, moving around the country wherever my husband’s work took us.   At each spot we landed, God graciously provided amazing and supportive friends.  Friendships changed over the years, but I still cherish those far-away friends, even though many miles separate us, and stay connected through emails, social networking, and even this blog.

George Washington once said, “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”

Wise words spoken by a founding father of our country, I imagine he said this regarding other nations, beseeching our new country to be cautious about who America’s true friends were and which nations we could trust.   But I think we can extend his observation into our private lives as well.

I consider myself vastly blessed to possess some faithful and loyal relationships – tried and true friends in whom I have utmost trust – which have endured the long haul.   Just this week, I was granted the gift of spending time with two of them in person and one via phone conversation.

These three dear friends are named Mae, Annie, and Leigh (not their real names but they will recognize who they are).    My friendship journey with Mae commenced when we were five years old, just two little whippersnappers enjoying play time together.  We attended the same schools and church and our lives have always been entwined.

Annie and I met as school chums in first grade, staying friends all through elementary school, junior and senior high; we even attended the same college.   Leigh, younger than I, became my close friend when her parents built a home next door to my parents when we were kids; she was maid of honor at my wedding almost 34 years ago.

My friendship with each of these wonderful women has stood the test of time.  We never lost contact with each other as adults, through marriages and raising families, even though I moved away and they stayed in the region surrounding our hometown.

For 52 years, Mae and I have remained friends.   My friendship with Annie has lasted 51 years, and my history with Leigh encompasses well over 45 years.  These gals know me.  I know them.   They are women I turn to for a listening ear, women who give me good counsel, women with whom I have rejoiced, and women with whom I have wept.  They have seen me at my best and witnessed me at my worst, and yet they still like me!  I love them and they will always be my friends.

Time spent with any of the three evolves into a marathon because we have so much to discuss.  I have shared every important aspect of my life with these women and probably way too much trivia as well.  I know for certain that items I disclose to them is never turned into gossip fodder, and I keep their shared life stories just as closely guarded.

On Wednesday, I lunched with Annie.  We had over six months of life to catch up with since we last met. My time with her always seems too short because we discuss everything from soup to nuts and still have more to say.  She encourages me, supports me, yet isn’t timid about giving me food for thought when I need a change in attitude.   That’s why she is one of my most trusted confidantes.

We have shared a lifetime of memories together and we share our faith in God as well.  This quote in my cherished notebook describes what kind of friend Annie is:  “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”  ~ Anonymous

Mae stopped by my house for a visit on Thursday afternoon.  She couldn’t have picked a better time.  I was feeling low, actually physically not well either, and her visit lifted me right up out of my fretting, causing me to forget my physical maladies and easing my troubled mind as well.  Spending time with a dear old friend proved to be the magic elixir to make me feel better that day.   As always, we never ran out of words to say, thoughts to convey, or stories to tell.

She knows my history and I know hers.  We’ve grieved together as we’ve lost loved ones to death, and our friendship is like a comforting shawl we can wrap ourselves in to protect us from the cold reality of this world.  When I read this quote, I thought of Mae:  “A person is only complete when she has a true friend to understand her, to share all her passions and sorrows with, and to stand by her throughout her life.” ~ Anonymous

I’ll see my friend Leigh when I attend her daughter’s high school graduation party soon, so I spoke with her last night by phone to tell her we’d be making the trip to her home for the festivities.   That conversation lasted over three hours! When I talk with this good friend, it really is like coming home.  As next-door neighbors growing up, she and I practically lived at each other’s houses.  I love her parents because they were always like second parents to me.

Leigh has always been someone with whom I can share my innermost thoughts – be they good or bad.  We often reminisce about our childhoods, so when I ran across this quote, I automatically thought of her: “When we are grown, we’ll smile and say we had no cares in childhood’s day, but we’ll be wrong. ‘Twill not be true, I’ve this much care… I care for you.” ~Anonymous

Obviously, I don’t get to see these friends every day or even very often.   But just when I need them, they are there for me.  I count that as the most amazing gift.

As I give thanks for these three dear ones on Page 16, Chapter 7, in my Opportunity book of life, I hope they view me as a gift as well – one of those rare gifts, the kind you never want to exchange for another, or re-gift to someone else, because you just want to treasure it for yourself since that’s the kind of gift they are to me.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.”  ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

A bit of heaven at the airport

people-sign-traveling-blur.jpgLast night, I witnessed a tiny slice of  ‘heaven.’

“Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven.”  ~Tryon Edwards

I’m not fond of flying any more,  but if I’m not the one traveling, I do appreciate people watching at the airport.  Last night, our oldest daughter flew in from the Deep South for an exciting event and will spend the weekend with us.

Hubby and I made the trip to the city airport to meet her, and as is always our custom, we arrived early.   Upon entering the building,  we found a spot to park ourselves near the arrival escalators so we could catch sight of her right away and she could find us easily.  As we waited for her plane to land, I watched comings and goings because there were many flights arriving, even at the late hour of the night.

And there were scads of folks waiting to pick someone up – people of all shapes and sizes, colors and ages, young and old, casually dressed and professional.  I noticed the chauffeurs attired in white shirts, black suits and ties displaying placards marked with passengers’ names. I wondered what their jobs must be like, waiting in airports at 11:30 at night to meet a stranger and driving that person to whatever destination was necessary.  I speculated about whether they chat with their fare, or just drive and allow some privacy.

My attention then turned to others as they waited for family members, friends, spouses, or other loved ones.  There is something quite tender about watching people reunite with those they adore.   Those waiting tend to glance at their watches often as they anticipate arrival time.  Cell phones ring or vibrate with text messages as the awaited one sends news “Just landed!”

As the throngs of disembarked passengers start descending the escalators from the gate, those who wait arise from their seats anxious to catch a glimpse of their loved one.   I observed a young teenage girl, who appeared to be with her father, practically skipping by us with happiness.  I heard her exclaim to her dad, “I’m SOOO excited!  I can’t wait!”   She positioned herself impatiently at the bottom of the moving stairs with eager expectation and shrieked with joy when she greeted her friend.

Moments later, a little girl with long, flowing hair dashed away from her mother and sprinted to an older lady – Grandma!   Grandma’s face erupted in sheer delight as she spied her beloved grandchild.  The girl practically leapt into the lady’s arms!  The joy they shared as they hugged each other so tightly evoked such a heartwarming scene, I felt that feeling wash over me that signals I’m going to cry.  Not wanting to appear over emotional watching complete strangers, I managed to subdue it.  But it occurred to me that the joy of reunion with a loved one is so very sweet, a little bit like heaven.

An older, white-haired couple left their seats and ambled towards the arriving mass of humanity.   A woman in her 40’s started waving enthusiastically on the descending stairs.   She greeted the older couple with warm hugs and kisses, while the man accompanying her stood slightly back almost like he wasn’t sure where his place belonged in this family reunion.  All of a sudden, the older gentleman reached towards the man and grabbed him in a heartwarming bear hug.  The embraced man grinned ear to ear and joined the family circle.   His body language told me that he felt welcomed and accepted as the foursome moved toward baggage claim.

A middle-aged Mom waited with a white furred fluffy dog in her arms.  I wondered what her story might be and the answer soon arrived.  Her college-aged young adult daughter hurried to greet her mother and smother her pet with hugs and kisses.  The dog, in turn, was just as excited to see his mistress.

Another endearing story soon unfolded.   A young woman with a baby girl in a stroller caught my eye.  The woman was dressed in a lovely dress and high heels and baby girl was outfitted in a frilly dress as well.  I thought to myself, “Wow, why would you dress up like that to pick someone up at the airport?”  She paced back and forth pushing her stroller, obviously anxious for the arrival of someone.

Suddenly, she grabbed her baby out of the stroller and started running in her heels towards the crowd.   I turned my head that direction and that’s when I saw him.   The soldier, dressed in camos, maybe coming home from deployment, swerved around people who were slower, people who had stopped to greet their families, people in his way.

The three of them – soldier, beautiful wife and adorable baby girl –  met in a rush of emotion, intense embraces and the utter joy of reunion.    That scene taking place directly in front of me, moved me to near tears.   Watching their circle of three united in the strongest emotion a human can feel, utmost love, is a scene I shall never forget.

Of course, my favorite reunion was the one hubby and I experienced when our dear oldest child, now such a poised and confident young lady, disembarked from the moving staircase and the three of us also embraced in a circle of love.  And I wanted to cry, but there was good news to share and much to discuss as we whisked her off to the parking lot to begin our journey home.

“Where we love is home,

Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”

  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Homesick in Heaven

This morning, it’s Chapter 7, Page 8, in my Opportunity book, and I am compelled to share my story because I think home really is where our hearts are, and there is nothing so endearing as coming home to the ones we love.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Search and destroy becomes find and preserve

blog412Everywhere we turned, there was chaos.  The task before us seemed insurmountable, but it was time to roll up our sleeves and face the challenge head on.

It was a dirty job.  It was a tiring task.  It seemed like there was no end in sight.  But, we finally succeeded and conquered after two laboring days of toil.

Yep, hubby and I finally tamed the too-much stuff monster in the basement of our home.  We cleaned, we sorted, we organized, we tossed.

We managed to corral the stuff into four categories: keep and organize; haul out to the garbage for disposal; cart off to GoodWill for someone else’s use; and burn, baby, burn!

I still believe way too many items lurk in storage bins and boxes, but resting on shelves and nesting on top of each other, at least it looks manageable.  And items can be more easily found now.  Our grown-up children’s belongings are neatly stacked in boxes in areas reserved just for them.

Christmas decorations have found a new home, no more climbing up a ladder to retrieve them from the attic.  Come late spring, the basement will look even roomier when all of our deck and front porch furniture move back outside.

This task may not sound like something worthy of writing about on this ninth page of Chapter One (January 9th) in my book of Opportunity, but accomplishing it provided a chance to reflect on some food for thought.

Working side by side, hubby and I tackled the chore together, so much more enjoyable than attacking it alone.  We enjoyed the opportunity to talk as we toiled, we reminisced, we discussed, we laughed, and yes, we even disagreed.  But it felt great to complete the job as a team.

The second opportunity presented itself in boxes of memories.  Hubby discovered a forgotten box of some personal effects from his parents’ house giving him moments to remember and reminisce about his boyhood and his parents, who have been gone for many years now.

My opportunity for blessing came in the form of cherished letters written while hubby served in the military stationed on the other side of the world for a year while I, pregnant with our first child, tried to hold down the home front.  Today I read each of those letters in an effort to decide what to do with them – keep or destroy?

I decided to preserve those priceless memories written on paper, hopeful that someday our adult children (especially oldest daughter since she was born that year) may want to read them and get a glimpse at a year in the life of their parents.  Perhaps my opportunity will become their opportunity to understand how very much their parents loved one another and the struggle we endured being apart for an entire year.

So on this day, in the age of emails and text messaging, I will take the opportunity to save some good old-fashioned hand-written love letters.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Lunch – a glimpse of heaven

Some people drift into our lives for just a short sojourn.  You’re friends with those people for a season.

I have always believed that those friendships exist for a reason, either to aid your friend along this journey called life or to encourage you.   But sometimes circumpexels-photo-761854.jpegstances change and the friendship goes by the wayside, just slowly fading away.

Some folks though are lifetime friends.  No matter what changes may occur, these special people  have been and will continue to be your friends for life.  Even if you don’t see them all the time, they are there for you when you really need them and vice versa.  And when you do reconnect, it’s like you’ve never been apart.

Recently I had lunch with one of my lifetime friends.  We’ve known each other since first grade and our friendship has stood the test of time for 50 years.  Unfortunately, we live far enough away from each other to prevent us from seeing one another often, but every couple of months or so, we arrange to meet for lunch at a mall restaurant midway between our homes.

My relationship with this friend is aptly described by a passage written in the 1800’s by English novelist and poet Dinah Mulock Craik in her novel, A Life For a Life“Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring all right out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away.”

That personifies the kind of friendship I experience when I am blessed to converse with this particular lifetime friend.  She is one of the few people with whom I can truly “let down my hair.”   She has known me for so long, in good times and not so good times.

I know I can share my innermost thoughts with her and she won’t criticize or judge me or walk away saying, “That girl’s nuts!”  I would trust this woman with my very life, and I only hope I am as great a friend to her as she is to me.

Our lunch was lengthy…well, not the actual eating of soup and salad,  but the conversation that followed was full and meaty.  We had so many life moments to catch up on – her daughter’s recent wedding, updates of my three adult children’s lives.

We shared joys – her young friend’s getting his heart transplant on Thanksgiving Day!  What an amazing answer to prayer!  We shared trials and tribulations.  And as always happens when we spend our quality time together, our discussion is seasoned with God’s Word.   We marvel at what God continues to accomplish in our lives and the insights He provides for us and teaches us.  What joy it is to share those things with a beloved believing friend!

Sharing time with a friend like this is such a treasure that you don’t want the occasion to end.  But we did comprehend the rather pointed hint from our waitress when she visited our table for the umpteenth time and asked, “Will there be anything else before you finally go?” (Huge emphasis on the word go!)  That prompted us to check our watches, realize we had been there for well over three hours, tip our waitress again and exit the restaurant.

But still we weren’t quite ready to depart, so we stood in the mall corridor and chatted some more, eventually sitting down on a bench to continue our conversation.   Time marches on though and we needed to wind up our day and head back to our homes, husbands and daily life.  Why is it that immensely enjoyable times like this must always come to an end?

I imagine my experience with my dear lifetime friend is just a very tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like.  We will fellowship with beloved believers, worshiping and praising our Almighty God face to face, and that fellowship we share will be so sweet, but – here’s the good part! – that blessed time will never, ever end!

“A true friend is the gift of God, and He only who made hearts can unite them.” ~Robert South, British minister

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

An 80-year-old Gift

Imagine you’re in the winter season of your years.  You’ve witnessed much in your 80-plus years on this earth.  Seasons have come, seasons have passed.

I would imagine by the time you’ve reached your 80’s, 90’s, and beyond, you’ve probably experienced the loss of many of your loved ones – peers and family, except hopefully your children and grandchildren.

I know my own father, who passed away at 90 and was the youngest of his family, often talked about how difficult it was to be left behind.  Even though he received much joy from my sisters,  all his grandchildren,  and great-grandchildren, he missed those who had gone on before him – my mother, his siblings, parents, in-laws, and most of his friends.

I would suppose that the winter of your life could be a lonely, depressing time.  I’ve often heard friends discuss that it distresses them to hear their parents remark that they are just waiting to die.

For those who are saved by grace, it’s something they eagerly anticipate – their journey to heaven.   For those who are gravely ill, incapacitated, or just extremely weary after 80-90 years of life, they must be seeking relief and peace.

So imagine one day, you are just living your life much like any other day and someone hands you a gift.   A treasure for your eyes and your heart.  A poem you have never seen before,  written for you on the occasion of your first birthday all those years ago.   A piece of paper in your dear mother’s handwriting, the mother who died when you were 12 years old.  A gift of love  that you finally received today, 80 years later.

That’s what this elderly gentleman from Kansas City received. Watch this video and see if it doesn’t bless your heart the way it did mine.   (Note: For some reason, YouTube will not allow me to embed the video in my blog.  Just click on the arrow and then click again on “watch on YouTube” and it will take you to the video on YouTube.com)

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Parenting’s a roller coaster ride

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Being a parent is one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding jobs, you can ever occupy.

It’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes you just hang on for the ride.  Other times you want to throw your hands up in the air and see what happens.

One evening this past week, I joined a discussion group for parents of teens. I agreed to attend as a favor to my friend, a youth pastor, and as a representative of the non-profit for which I work.  My friend orchestrated the discussion at his church and because he isn’t a parent yet, he asked me to sit in and share any words of wisdom I may have about parenting teens. When someone asks me to give my thoughts on parenting, I always feel so inadequate.  My husband and I raised three children to adulthood, but I still don’t feel like an expert.  All I can offer as advice is to share what worked for my family.

I totally realize that when my now-grown children were teens, they were really good kids. Oh, we had our arguments and problems just like everyone else, but for the most part, our kids were respectful teens who made excellent choices.  My husband and I don’t take the credit but attribute that to God’s help and intervention.   He listened to countless prayers we lifted up for our children and He helped us guide them in their paths.   And thankfully, they listened!

One of the things I always tell those who ask my advice is that “Children will do what is expected of them.”  If you expect them to be smart-mouthed, rebellious brats, they will exceed your expectation.  If you expect them to be well-behaved, respectful, contributing members of the family, they will exceed that expectation.  I firmly believe setting boundaries and using discipline actually demonstrates to your children how much you love and care about them.

But honestly, my husband and I did not experience some of the heart-breaking situations that many parents face.  Oldest daughter, middle daughter and son:  you don’t have a clue how thankful I am that all three of you possess good heads on your shoulders and honor not only your mother and father but your heavenly Father as well by making outstanding godly decisions!  I am so proud of all three of you!

Two things do occur to me about the way we raised our children.  The first is that our family always attended church together. From the time they were born, we worshipped as a family.   We didn’t just drop the kids off at Sunday School every Sunday, their Dad and I attended adult Sunday School classes too.

Church was a major part of our life and trying to live a godly life was something we, as their parents and believers in Christ, endeavored to model every single day.   We attempted to teach our children that faith is more than religion, that it is a growing, personal relationship with Jesus.

Secondly, we always traveled as a family unit.  Part of this was due to the fact that for a good portion of our children’s growing up years, we lived far away from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and my husband traveled with his job a lot.

So the times we spent together as a family meant the world to us. We taught our children that as a family, we were a tight unit.  When one of the kids had a sports event, we all went to cheer her/him on.  If one of them was performing in a chorus or band concert or in the school musical, the rest of us were sitting out in the audience.

We ate meals together and played together.  We watched TV and went to the movies together.  We laughed and cried together.  We spent as much time together as we could and we talked and listened to one another.

Their friends were always welcome at our house, and we tried our best to make our house fun, yet still adhere to the rules.  As our children grew older, of course, they started to venture away from home, off on their separate ways, but we made sure our lines of communication stayed open and our bonds of connectedness remained intact.

I don’t know in what context she wrote this, but short story writer and poet Dorothy Parker once said, “The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.”

We tried to make our home atmosphere pleasant but never thought about letting the air out of the tires!!  If you try that parenting tip, let me know how it works for you!

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com