Taking you on a tour

tourguide collage 2018It happens often so I’ve learned to keep my camera near to me.

While out and about, I countless times I’ve come upon a scene that just begs to be captured by my camera. If I go out purposefully looking for something to photograph, I don’t always succeed. More often than not, I just stumble onto a picturesque setting or a particular angle that catches my eye.

And more times than I can count in the past, I didn’t have my camera along. Those shots I missed only exist in my memory unfortunately. I could try to describe them for you, but I find the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” to be oh, so true.

I’m a bit behind in the weekly photo challenges, as last week’s challenge was tour guide.

If someone were to visit the area where I live and I would be his tour guide, what would I show him? I think I could conjure up several ideas. But the one thing that stands out to me is this,  the aspect of this place where I live that I love.

We have four distinct seasons of the year.

So let me be your tour guide and take you on a visit to each season – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter – in my neck of the woods.

And the collage I’ve fashioned for you above? I just happened to stumble upon those photo opportunities while I was doing something else.

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Advertisements

My beloved

blogIMG_2570.jpgIt’s February and now that we’re past Groundhog Day when that famous weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted to everyone’s dismay that we would have six more weeks of winter, we prepare to celebrate the other holiday of the month.

Valentine’s Day. And our minds turn to love.

Love is a word we banter around a lot.  I love this song. Or I love my pet. Love to ski. Love doughnuts. Love this, love that.

It’s one of those words in the English language that we use to proclaim our fondness for all sorts of things unlike the Greek language which has different words for different types of love.

The photo challenge for this past week was Beloved

While deliberating over what photograph to post for the challenge, I asked myself who do I love? Who is my beloved?

My husband of 40 years? Absolutely. My three adult children? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. My two adorable grandchildren?  Oh, yes, indubitably!  

My sisters and their families? Sure thing. Friends? Well, of course. And the list could go on, just like the many ways I could count to say why I love all of these people.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

You may recognize this as the opening line to a famous poem written by Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861). She wrote this sonnet (#43) to her beloved, her husband Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Even though I love those I’ve listed above beyond measure, there’s one I love even more. He is my beloved and I am his. His name is Jesus and he is my Savior.

It occurs to me that I could read this poem and address it to him and it would aptly fit. And he could read it right back to me because he loves me that much.

And he loves you the same, even if you don’t know him yet.

I don’t have a photograph of my beloved to share for this challenge. Oh, there are artists’ renditions out there of him, but we don’t know how accurate they are. But I do have something tangible that represents my beloved and I can photograph that.

It’s my Bible. And when I open it to read it, it tells me what I need to know about the one I love, my beloved, the one who loved me and you so much, he died that we might live.

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

“I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’  ‘This much,’ he answered. Then he stretched out his arms and died.” ~ unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Stitch by stitch variations

blogIMG_3927

blogIMG_0736Wouldn’t life be boring if it was always the same old same old? We need variety – isn’t it the spice of life?

We yearn for variation from the norm. At least I know I do. This past week’s photo challenge has been variations on a theme.

Several thoughts rolled around in my mind as I considered this challenge and I started scrolling through my photo cache to see if I could locate any photos that fit the bill.

My first thought about variations on a theme was musical. Stored back there somewhere in the archives of my quirky brain are a number of classical music pieces entitled thusly.  Composers would take a basic melody and then write variations composing a unique piece of music built around that one musical theme.

Click on this for an example that I particularly liked : Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky   

My next thought about variations on a theme centered around the age-old art of quilting. My mother was an adept quilter and it was a passion of hers to sit for hours creating beautiful, colorful hand-pieced (rarely by sewing machine) quilt tops which she then put into her large wooden quilting frames and hand-quilted – never quilted by sewing machine.

No doubt my mother learned to quilt from my grandmother who also excelled in this art. Back then, quilting bees were held in which ladies from church or just a group of friends would gather at one home or another and spend an afternoon stitching designs on one quilt. I can actually remember as a young child attending some with my mother.

Stitches produced at these gatherings were variations on a theme because each woman used her needle, thread, and thimble a little differently. Perhaps those who didn’t quilt often used long, uneven stitches but the expert quilters like my mother made small, tight, uniform in length stitches to produce a beautiful end product.

“There are only a handful of basic stitches which are the Adams and Eves of all the others…stem, satin, chain, cross, back, weaving, and filling–upon which untold variations have been built.”
–Erica Wilson

For this photo challenge, I could have opened my mother’s old cedar chest now gracing my own home and carefully lifted out not only a quilt made by my mom, but two very aged quilts made by my maternal grandmother and my husband’s paternal grandmother.

But I decided to save those for another blog post sometime. Instead I’m using other photos I’ve taken that I think personify the theme well.

The top photo is a picture I captured during a visit to the United States Air Force Museum a few years ago. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this branch of service, a huge commemorative quilt was made and hangs in the museum. Each quilt block represents a meaningful aspect of the Air Force but was fashioned by a different person with unique ideas. Hence, variations on a theme.

I snapped the other photo at a Mother-Daughter dinner once held at my church. Attendees were invited to bring some of their favorite quilts to display. And I think it all of those colorful, unique works of art aptly demonstrate variations on a theme as well.

I know I tend to stick to my ‘themes’ in life and share my themes often here in  Mama’s Empty Nest, but I do attempt to spice it up with a little variety from time to time. 

Variations on a theme make life more interesting.

“To me I think artists in general make a statement and for the rest of their lives every album, every book are variations on a theme.” ~ Mark Mothersbaugh

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Weathering my patience

blogIMG_2414I find it ironic that this week’s new photo challenge theme is ‘weathered.’

In these parts, weather is all people have been talking about, it seems. Everywhere I go I hear folks discussing and complaining about how cold it is or how snowy or how bad the road conditions are.

And you know what I want to say to them? Buck up. You live in the northeastern United States where we have four distinct seasons. Count ‘em. Four. Spring, summer, fall, AND winter.

It’s winter time. It’s going to be cold. It’s going to snow in these here parts.  Deal with it, people.

January is almost always frigidly cold in this neck of the woods. Yes, we’ve been in the lower part of the outdoor thermometer gauge for a couple of weeks.

Again, must I repeat it? It’s winter time. It gets cold here in the winter. And it snows. And it can be freezing. And sometimes, the temperature sits down there near zero degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Someone in my family just told me people from our area were whining about the weather on Facebook and saying they don’t ever remember it being this cold. Well, folks, then you haven’t lived very long or you suffer from some serious memory loss. 

(Disclaimer: For all you southern folks and those who live in balmy temperatures year-round, I’m not talking about you. You’re excused. I get it. You’re not accustomed to winter weather. I understand that and I’m sorry you’re experiencing cold temperatures that you’re not prepared for.) 

I grew up right here in this little spot of my native state.  I was born here and I lived in this area until the Papa of this empty nest walked down a church aisle with me after we vowed our I do’s to one another and he waltzed me out of this region for the next 20 years. But I remember many, many winters as a child, teenager, and young adult that were downright bitter cold with not just inches of snow but feet.

And in the almost 20 years that we’ve been back in this area, we’ve experienced plenty of big snowfalls and several winters that were….well….wintry.

Yes, there have been some mild winters, but honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised when Ol’ Man Winter arrives with a blustery blast of cold weather, snowy horizons, and icy conditions.

It’s what he does.

And really, Weather Channel, since when did we need to name snowfalls? And call them snow storms? Why do you insist upon scaring people about an upcoming snow so much that they have to run right out to the store to stock up on milk, bread, and toilet paper??

So my selection for this ‘weathered’ photo theme is the weather outside my house. It has looked like this for the last couple of weeks. And it’s looked like this for many winters before this one. Even though it’s supposed to warm up today, it will probably get cold again and snow will cover the ground once more.

Because it’s winter.

If I sound a bit cranky, it’s not the winter season that’s weathering my patience, it’s people and their reactions to it.  Just like the old saying, “This too shall pass.”

“If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.” ~ Frank Lane

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Come grow with me

blogIMG_2415(2)

She’ll grow into it.

Growth. Isn’t that a good word to focus upon for a brand new year?

Growth involves change. Growth generates transformation. And with a pristine new year lying ahead of us, maybe it’s time to embrace some growth and step outside that limiting box of life that has become your comfort zone.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” ― Roy T. Bennett

I’ve been contemplating direction for this blog since January 1 rolled around. Do I want to change it? Do I want to grow my readership? And must I head down a different path to do so?

Should I embrace that word growth?

For over a decade I worked for a Christian non-profit organization. At each year’s end, we gathered together – staff and volunteers – for a lovely Christmas luncheon.

Great food and even better fellowship were just a couple of aspects we looked forward to, but one activity we participated in at the party caused our hearts to soar.

Prior to the gathering, our executive director would spend much time in prayer asking God to give her ‘words’ for us for the upcoming new year. Words that would become our focus for the new year to come.

Sometimes the words were contemplative, sometimes the words seemed odd.  Every staff member and volunteer in attendance would pluck a folded up small piece of paper from a basket we passed around the room. Written on those notes were the words.

But before we chose the new ones, we shared aloud what our past year’s word had been and how we saw it manifest in our lives. Sometimes there were tears as we shared, sometimes laughter, often wonderment.

One year, I distinctly remember receiving the word growth, but I honestly cannot recall if that word displayed any special meaning to me that year.  Had I embraced the word? I guess not.

I must have grown in some fashion that year because I believe we continue to grow in certain aspects of our lives just as surely as we age one year after another. I must have faced challenges to bring about growth, but whatever they were, they’ve faded away into the inconsequential file.

I do recall other words that I received over the years when I was a part of that ministry because they were particularly meaningful to me, but some I don’t remember at all.

Choosing a new word to focus life upon for the new year has become a ‘thing’ in certain circles, but I no longer participate in that endeavor. For me, it’s kind of gone the way of making resolutions, a practice I abandoned many years ago.

I don’t or won’t keep those pledges anyway, so why bother? It’s the same with choosing a focus word. Nine times out of 10, I’ll forget about my focus word or just won’t incorporate it into my daily life.  

All of this comes to mind today because of a weekly photo challenge theme  – growth

Maybe I’m just more of a go with the flow kind of person than I ever thought. Or maybe I’m just not disciplined enough. Possibly I’m just a tad rebellious and the thought of sticking to one word for the year makes me want to just say no.

Perhaps that’s really growth. Realizing who you are and accepting it. Going your own way instead of following the crowd.

And for now, that’s what I intend to do with Mama’s Empty Nest. Go my own way. Grow in my writing and not worry about growing my followers list. Keep doing what I’ve been doing because it works for me and it seems to encourage my readers.

That’s why I write. To be an encourager. To share what works for me and hope it helps someone else. To make connections with those who read my blog.  To write what inspiration God places on my heart.

And in the meantime, I’m betting I will experience growth.

“Don’t go through life, grow through life.” ~ Eric Butterworth

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Just a peek

blogIMG_3659We have a hider in our family. 

Our oldest granddaughter, who will be turning three in just a couple of months, likes to hide. She hides behind chairs or the family room loveseat. Sometimes she just pulls a blanket over her head and hides that way. And she loves to peek out to see if you’re coming to find her.

Peek-a-boo. It’s a fun game for babies and toddlers and I’d venture to say most of us have played it over and over with a little one.

Lately, the sun has been playing this game around these parts. Some days, it shows its beaming face readily and gifts us with its warming rays. Other days, it hides completely behind dreary rain-filled clouds. Still other days, it peeks out from its hiding spot for a bit just to see if we’re watching.

Last Friday, I was out gallivanting with a good friend, one of my lifetime pals who has been in this friendship with me for 50+ years. We attended a Christmas craft open house in an old barn  – I’m still boggle-minded over the amount of items (and people) crammed into that space! – and then we treated ourselves to lunch and visited a nearby shop’s open house as well.

During our little excursion, the sun kept up its peek-a-boo game with us, sometimes causing me to don sunglasses, only to take them off again. At the end of our trip as we neared my home, the sun dropped its blanket of clouds and shone mightily.

Right on my house.

Literally, the sun’s rays were like laser beams focused on my house.  My white-siding house practically glowed like a brilliantly illuminated star and my friend exclaimed, “Look at your house! It’s shining!”

It was as if my house, and only my house, was hogging the spotlight. Gleaming. Practically sparkling.  Radiating light. It was kind of weird, yet amazing at the same time.

Later as I recalled that moment, something occurred to me.  Maybe that’s what heaven will look like.  As we near it, we’ll have the sense that we are home.  And home will be shining.  Light-filled. Dazzling in brilliance.

Nothing will be hidden. All will be once and for all brightly illuminated.

And the Light of the World (Jesus) will be there to welcome us home.

What a comforting thought.  And now as I recall that moment when I saw my home encased in sunlight, I’m thankful that the sun peeked out through the clouds just for me. I only wish I had had my camera with me, but of course, when I entered my home to retrieve it to try to capture this unbelievable sight, the sun had slipped back undercover once more.

That little moment in time – that peek — was gone for now, but my friend and I perhaps experienced a glimpse of things to come and peek  just happens to be this week’s photo challenge.  

“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrow currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

In a roundabout way

blogIMG_10491We go round in circles.

Did you ever give that any thought? Our daily lives do go round in circles. Cyclical because our hours are divided between wakefulness and sleep, between daylight and nighttime, between sunshine and moonshine.

Each day, although it may be different from the next because your activities may change, still is circular. We awake – most of us around the same time each morning – and then we sleep – those of us who are fortunate enough to fall asleep easily usually around the same time each night.

This week’s photo challenge is rounded.  

We go round in circles.

And sometimes, I feel like that’s all I do – go round in circles. Often when trying to accomplish a task, I get distracted by something else or someone else needing my attention. I divert, but then I come back around to finish whatever I started. Even if it’s a couple of days later.

We’ve all been told at one time or another in our lives that we need to be well-rounded. When my children were contemplating college applications, I can’t even remember how often they were given advice to be sure their applications showed how well-rounded they were.

It wasn’t enough to be a scholastic achiever with excellent grades and great college prep test scores. It helped if they showed they were involved in service activities for their school and community or athletic endeavors.

We go round in circles.

How often do we feel like we’re heading in no particular direction? I still remember traveling with my sister on a day trip to a town that I wasn’t familiar with quite a few years ago. No problem, my sis assured me, because she had a GPS.

We found our destination just fine and took a little side trip to find a place for lunch. After that, we started off for home, but that GPS kept confusing us over and over again.  Turn left, it demanded. I turned left. Recalculating, it informed me. Turn left again. I complied. Turn left. Turn left.

And you guessed it, that device kept us going in circles. We finally turned it off and found our own way.

We go round in circles.

Where I live there aren’t many roundabouts –those circular kind of intersections in which drivers travel in one direction around a center island without traffic signals or stop signs. They can be confusing if you aren’t accustomed to driving in one.

Back in September, Papa and I took a mini-vacation of sorts to a historical area, Gettysburg, in our home state. And right there in the center of town was a roundabout. We slid out of the circular traffic pattern into a parking spot to visit a museum where President Abraham Lincoln put the finishing touches on his famous Gettysburg Address.

While walking around the roundabout – going in circles – I snapped a few photos, one I posted above.  I know there was order to it, but watching the traffic flow in that roundabout seemed chaotic to me because I’m not used to traveling in many roundabouts.

But as I recall going in circles around that roundabout, I’m reminded of one thing, that life, even a well-rounded one, is short. Too short to be going in circles without direction, without purpose.

We go round in circles.

Going in circles is what we do when we have no plans, no structure, and probably no goals either. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of going round in circles and I’m willing to deviate from the rounded path, follow a few dreams, live what’s rest of my life with purpose, and ask God to guide me along the way.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” ~ William Shakespeare in The Tempest

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Heart to heart windows

blogIMG_1044Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could get a little glimpse of the future through a window?

Just for a moment in time maybe. Just to satisfy your curiosity. Or maybe prevent an event in your life or even prepare for an occurrence so it didn’t blindside you.

“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” ~ Peter Drucker

Of course, there are no magic windows that we can peer out of or into showing us what the future holds.

Papa and I were just talking about this the other day. The day before we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, we were honored to attend a lovely marriage ceremony and reception. The handsome young groom is the son of one of my oldest and dearest friends, who happened to be my maid of honor in my own wedding.

There was much to celebrate, not just the wedding itself but the fact that my friend who experienced some life-threatening health issues this year was recovered from her scary ordeals and well enough to see her firstborn pledge his love and faithfulness to his beautiful bride.

The wedding took place in a town quite a distance from ours so as Papa and I were traveling along the highway, we had plenty of time to talk, reminisce, and reflect on our own big day those 40 years ago.

We witnessed the young couple’s marriage vows along with all the other families and friends in a small but picturesque old stone church. So much happiness blended in with heartfelt hugs and congratulations.

Later, as we meandered our way down country roads in this gorgeous, mountainous area of our state to the reception venue, I posed a question to my own beloved.

“When we were getting married 40 years ago,” I questioned him, “did you ever look down the road and think about where we would be in 40 years? What our life would be like?”

His reply didn’t surprise me. “Nope, never even gave it a thought.”

Me either, I confessed. And maybe that’s some of the problem with marriages. We get caught up in the excitement and romance of a relationship and the wedding itself  – the fairy tale with a happily ever after ending – without seriously considering the future and what it may bring – rough times right along with the good ones. 

Because that’s what we say to one another in those marriage vows. If you tie the knot in a church like Papa and I did, the minister performing the ceremony asks both the groom and bride if they will take the other to be your wife/husband to live together in holy matrimony.

When you answer those two little words – I do – you vow to love, comfort, honor, and keep the other in sickness and in health, forsaking all others to be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live.

You promise to take the person who stands beside you in front of all your family, friends, and God from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death you shall part.

It sounds so easy, but it’s not.

And most young couples probably do as Papa and I did – not stop to take a glimpse through a window of time to the days and years to come.

To those days when that elated feeling of being in romantic love begins to fade a bit.

To those days when trouble comes, as it surely does, and you have to purposely choose to love your mate, not just base your relationship on a fleeting feeling of infatuation.

To those days when you or your spouse lose jobs and you may not have all the wealth you hoped to accumulate.

To those days when you lose cherished family members and you struggle with grief.

To those days when you may be a little heavier, your hair is turning silver, or you’re losing it entirely.

To those days when one or both of you have health issues, or suffers from depression, or is incapacitated in some way.

To those days 10 years from the wedding date.

Or 25 years. Or 40.

Or 50 years from the day you said I do.

Or if God grants you long lives beyond the golden anniversary mark, when your spouse has become more than just your romantic love, but your treasured companion, your best friend, and your entire being is entwined with the one you have chosen to love for life.

Heart to heart. Soul to soul.

Looking through the window of marriage into the future to ensure a long-lasting relationship, until death do you part.

That is my wish for young wedded couples.

“There is a window from one heart to another heart.” ~ Rumi

This past week’s photo challenge theme was “windows.”

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com