Family | The Forever Constant

Standing Firm

“Like branches on a tree, our lives may grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”

1-DSC_0096“In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man’s skin,—seven or eight ancestors at least, and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Family quarrels have a total bitterness unmatched by others.  Yet it sometimes happens that they also have a kind of tang, a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that this is not for keeps;

1-DSC_0095 that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back.”  ~ Mignon McLaughlin

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“The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste,

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coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, 

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and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”  ~ Erma Bombeck

As I contemplated the Weekly Photo Challenge theme “Family” I could’ve shared oodles of family photos and memories. However, my fascination for the constant lessons of nature prompted me to use this tree I drive by nearly every day. It’s one of those anomalies of nature you just can’t miss.

Sometimes I take pictures, but other times I just stop, get under it, gaze at its never-ending branches, and admire its breathtaking beauty. But more than that, I admire it’s sheer strength. And if you notice, it’s even a bit lopsided. Its shape is not perfect and to tell you the truth, I’m relieved. It makes me feel more at home. But the tree is massive, solid, stately, so proud–you just have to see it to believe it.

It’s main “branches” are not the usual bending, thinner limbs of a tree. They are the size of trunks, which could be trees in and of themselves. Note the photo in full summer leaf above–it easily shades the entire width of the road and more. But notice the photo of it in barren winter (below). That’s when you really see the way it’s limbs anchor the whole.

I’ve tried to capture it with a camera as best as I can and if you look at its new white fence nearby, perhaps you can get a bit of perspective. It’s probably been there since the Revolutionary War.

I wonder how many generations have passed this tree in its lifetime.

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“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1: 4,5

I’ve driven past it in sun, storm, snow, and treacherous winds. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it would survive some of the worst storms. But it’s always there. It possesses a strength unfathomable and survives untouched and unscathed through it all.

I wish I could say the same about myself. 

I try to remind myself that I’m but one of the smaller branches near the ends, still being tested and tried. And that massive, huge trunk at the base is holding on to me.

And believe me, I’m hanging onto it for dear life.

image“Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up.” ~ The Bible Proverbs 22:28

Family–the forever constant, stamped indelible. May we branch out high and wear it proud. But when we hit those storms that threaten to snap us away, may we return to the open, loving limbs of home–the place of constants—love, acceptance, shelter, safety, sanity (or a bit of a necessary dose of insanity!).

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“Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some have just a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking.” ~Author Unknown

Family–the forever constant.
The place where you breathe in the comfort and exhale a long sigh,

“Ahhh … there’s no place like home.”

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“The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.” ~Dodie Smith

The Lesser Light| WPC: One

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“And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.” ~ Hafez

The theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge is “One”, in which we are to focus on one subject. I chose one of my favorites, the ever elusive moon. In photography light is everything and for outdoor photography the light source is usually the sun. We look for certain times of day, angles, cloud cover, or clear. And the sun takes it from there. In fact, when you combine the best of these factors the sun really does all the work for you. Think sunsets and sunrise, the Golden Hour. An endless array of colors provide astounding results. No skills needed.

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“The moon is friend for the lonesome to talk to.” ~ Carl Sandburg

But the moon is a different challenge altogether. For a great moon shot you have to really work at it. Photographers go through great lengths to capture the immediate presence and stunning glow the moon provides. Even then it is hard to capture the emotion of moment. You just have to “be there” and experience it for yourself.

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“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.” ~ Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

In the Bible the moon is called the “lesser light” (Genesis 1:16). It is too dim for cameras to mimic exactness, but for the human eye it holds not just brilliant beauty but deep, deep emotion. For some unexplainable reason the moon feels like a faithful friend. It provokes us to stop, quiet our busy minds, take a few deeps breaths and just relax. I don’t know of anyone that can gaze at a brilliant moonlit night and not feel a simultaneous sense of glory and comfort.

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Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy. ~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Perhaps it is the lesser light because of this very thing. We need a constant, unchanging reminder that we are not alone, that there is greatness and majesty tucked in our universe. A reminder of the presence of God through every dark night. And that is this lesser light.

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The lesser light may take second place to the other grand luminary. But perhaps it is this very notion that makes it so human. And in this sense we see that our great God, by giving less, actually gave more.

Peace, Alexandria

N “But even when the moon looks like it’s waning…it’s actually never changing shape. Don’t ever forget that.” ~ Ai Yazawa

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Related Articles:
Wenjie Zhang of LightSlant on how to photograph the moon
Weekly Photo Challenge: The Power of One, Travels and Trifles by Tina Schell
Clicky Chick Creates, Christmas Favorites

What a Community of a Few Can Do | WPC: Community

We meet for prayer

Day One. We arrive in Guatemala. Hungry, Tired, Wet.

Fifteen people. Nine days. That’s all we had.
So few of us, so much to do. “How can we make a difference in nine days?” An oft-repeated murmur: “Wow, we are here for only nine days. Nine days seem so short to do anything.” And the most repeated: “What will we leave when we go?”

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Build What??? With What???

Another time. A similar question. “There are so many and we are so few. And we have only five loaves of bread and two fish. How do you expect us to feed all of these?” (Matthew 14:17)

Crowd waiting for glasses

And this, too? A crowd larger than expected waits for eyeglasses

Why is it we think value in terms of numbers?

“Bring them here to me.” (Matthew 14:18)
Here we are, Lord. Tired. Hungry. Wet.

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” (Matthew 14:19) That’s how we feel, Lord. Broken. Broken people. How did you do it? How will you do it? Umm…what was that you just did? Gave thanks? With barely enough food for a single family you gave thanks?

“Then he gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people.” (Matthew 14:19b) And so we began. From sun up to sun down, non-stop, never-ending–we set out to do what seemed impossible. We’re not sure about all this! As the week progressed, our goals loomed far away. But we just pressed on.

New living quarters“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:20, 21) Note that the number of just men was five-thousand. Add the women and children to that and the number grows.

But everyone was satisfied. And there were even leftovers.
Well, our week finished. Were the people satisfied? We don’t fully know but their countenance reflected joy and thanks. We think they were more than satisfied. And we were delightfully surprised, elated actually. So few of us and so little time, broken humanity, giving thanks, serving. He did the multiplication.

Did we have leftovers? Indeed. This is what we left.

An earthquake-proof rebar-filled foundation for new staff living quarters at a men’s drug and alcohol rehab center—complete with plumbing, electrical, and a smooth concrete floor.

The gift of sight through donated eyeglasses for an entire community and local school.

Lettering the title and logo on the wall entrance.

Also for the school children: their first very-own box of crayons and backpacks. School supplies for their teachers. Their first watercolors ever. Their very first school pictures ever. A colorful mural on a classroom wall. A newly painted gymnasium.

Visiting two orphanages and hearing their stories. Playing with and holding the children.

Family portraits of the community.

Connections made. New relationships started. Longtime friends reunited. And not only that. Three months later, as of this very week, two more orphans have a sponsor to provide their need for a home, family, and education. That sponsor is my sister.

Two children. Let’s see, what was that distant thought breaking the surface of my mind? We only have fifteen people and nine days. Like a pebble cast upon the water, we cast ourselves, adding faith with thanksgiving.

We see but a few ripples, but it is enough. Enough to know that ripples are never-ending. And, by faith, we believe that is enough for now.

Final result“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14 NKJV)

“To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition—to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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This is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge with a theme of “Community”.
It’s just a bit longer than usual and I’ve had it sitting in the drafts for a while. When I saw the theme this week I thought it fit very well. I hope you do, too. If you ever get a bit jaded or in a rut about life in general, I urge you to take a mission trip to another country. It usually involves a rigorous schedule so be ready. Research the area you’re going, take some good safety measures, learn a little of the local language. I also recommend going with a group that does some sight-seeing. A good blend of work and taking in the sights and culture bring a nice sense of balance to the trip. And be ready to be blessed. It’s a great feeling to step out of your comfort zone and give, expecting nothing in return. You’ll be amazed at the skills you’ll suddenly develop.
How about a few comments from any of you who’ve done it?
Peace, Alexandria

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