Yesterday, we said good bye to our children. They have become remarkable adults who planned and executed a week long birthday celebration in the Napa Valley for their daddy’s sixtieth. Apparently, Napa means “need a nap” which usually struck me a 4:00 each day, often on the bus, and once on the comfy sofa with a view of the vineyard and rolling hills. We visited ten wineries that our daughter Elise chose thoughtfully, and learned a great deal from our marvelous guides. A few educational highlights are: 1) Stress on the vines from sunny climate is preferred to cause the roots to grow deeper and absorb valuable nutrients. 2) Blended grapes produce magnificent wines most pleasing to the palate. 3) Rare Yukon Gold Soil is perfect for for a varietal that cannot be repeated anywhere else. 4) French oak is preferred by coopers to impart a complex bouquet during the final fermentation. 5) Effervescence from tiny bubbles creates the most refreshing sparkling wine. These five things reflect similar family strengthening qualities. Stressful situations cause loving families to be rooted and grounded in strong support. A blend of backgrounds and talents result in a delightful cooperative time together. Good loam soil is like a positive attitude where wisdom is planted and flourishes, and no resentment is contained like water in clay. Fine oak barrels that house the wine represent a home that is well designed as a comfortable environment for gathering. The bubbles simply depict fun and a happy disposition. Having one bubbler in a family keeps things lively, but lots of little effervescent moments result in a cheerful family. Finding a good balance to all of these qualities can be tricky, but the end product is valuable and meant to be shared. Is it any wonder that Jesus chose wine when he said, “This is my blood”. My brother Greg and his wife Sue were able to join us at the wineries as we often do on weekends in Ohio. It is a good place where we celebrate the years of the family growing bigger and stronger. As we watch the grapes grow, I will be reminded of the hard work and careful choices that go into the finest wines. One glass is more than enough for me, which means there is plenty to share. I welcome this new season where our children are now mature adults. The harvest is ready.
Yesterday, I grabbed a hammer and went searching for nails. I decided the two falling planks on the front of the house could not wait another day to be repaired. Three other people said they would take care of it last month, but why wait another day if I could do it myself? Where are the nails: not in the tool boxes, not in the garage, not with the hardware in the cabinets. Ah, a glass jar with a handful of three inch nails was hidden in a corner of the basement. I grabbed a couple and felt confident that my home improvement skills would result in another item checked off the dreaded list of emergency fixes. The repair looked simple and I was careful not to hammer my thumb while humming, ” I’d hammer out danger, I’d hammer out warning,”-which does sound ominous. I could not pound with any force at the angle facing forward, so I knelt down backwards at the corner of the house and swung the hammer sideways. Even then, I could only get the nail half way in after a sixty swacks and and a few minutes of noise that sounded like I was trying to knock the house down. Carpenters must have a whole lot more brawn than this girl. Then it occurred to me that Jesus must have been rather muscular working with his father. He must have been able to drive nails through the hardest woods. There is irony in the fact that it was nails which held him to a cross. It is also ironic that he was executed for crimes that he did not commit. It is ironic that he had the power to escape, but he chose to die so that all people could be redeemed. That is radical love. Each day as I meditate on the words of our Lord, I have been enlightened by his directives for us to show radical love. I am delighted every day when I see stories of people leaving their comfort zone and going beyond expectation to show radical love. Love is all that matters. Even children understand and voice this from the time they learn to speak. Power, fame, fortune, even rights don’t mean a thing. Love is ALL that matters. I thought the fragile weathered wood might split if I hit the nail again. It is, in fact, my heart that is splitting with every news piece about hate. Love is more powerful! There are more people that are caring for others, helping others, supporting others; than there are people destroying others. Hate will never win even if it is all around. Jesus’ death and resurrection wins over all until all eternity. The almighty lives in our hearts even when they are breaking. I tried to hit the nail on the head and when I find more strength I will drive it through. This is the house that The Lord built.
Yesterday, I noticed the laundry was piling up, the mail was piling up, the dishes in the sink were piling up. I realized if I didn’t start addressing the issue, it would soon become an overwhelming task to find order again. Strangely, the tragic news in the US and around the world is also piling up this week and has become overwhelming. How will we find order in the midst of chaos? I am not ignoring my tasks, but I do get sidetracked. I don’t expect that someone else will come over and clean up for me. I will reset my priorities and do what needs to be done. This is also what I expect from our world leaders. They must reset priorities and focus on the daunting task of regaining order. I need to stop multitasking and finish one project, even though it is a never ending process that starts all over every week. Our leaders also have a never ending job that requires vigilance. They cannot ignore the escalation of violence, or get sidetracked with petty issues because they are easier to tackle. They cannot hope for someone else to clean up the mess. It seems like there is no way we can help them prevent acts of anger or violence; but we can. Every community effort counts. Every time we gather to worship, pray and sing, we reset our souls to look for the will of the Father. Every time we gather in efforts to serve others, we reset our minds to follow the way of Jesus. Every time we gather to love our neighbor and celebrate life, we reset our priorities for giving. July is a big month of birthdays and celebrations in our family. I am wondering how we will find a spirit of joy as we mourn the death of so many innocent souls that were lost in unexpected violence. How can we sing or laugh when others cry? I feel the sadness hanging in the air like laundry left out on the line in a rainstorm. The anger and hate will be washed away only when we gather and focus on our priorities: trusting the Lord, accepting His plan, knowing the truth is in His word, and embracing every person that the Holy Spirit sends to us for intervention. While we may not know all the components that are at work within our government, military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to provide protection for us around the world, we do know there is only one who can protect our hearts and minds so that we may live in peace. My task is easy and my yoke is light compared to what I expect from the world leaders. I pray they are prepared to take the next step wisely. My clean dishes and clothes are now in new piles waiting for the next step. The music of John McCutcheon will now be on my mind as I look to unite with you in efforts to prevent the pile ups and live in peace. “Step by step, the longest march, can be won, can be won, many stones can build an arch, singly none, singly none. And by union what we will, can be accomplished still. Drops of water turn a mill, singly none, singly none.”
Yesterday, I removed carpet and padding from the guest bedroom. Well, I had help from Dustin who rolled it up and took it away. He told me that he could scrape off the hundred staples, but it might scratch up the hard wood floor. He recommended that I pull each one out with pliers to preserve it. I am still pulling them today. I didn’t keep count, but there were more than a hundred staples keeping the padding in place and my hands are throbbing- thank you for the hand massage sweet hubby. The black spots left by the rubber padding was something akin to beach tar stuck on flip flops. There were thousands of spots that slowly came off with four hours of scrubbing and Dawn dish liquid on a scruffy pad. Now to tackle the stain the spots left behind. My hubby has already offered to call someone to sand and refinish the floor. Hooray! I felt like I was trying to scrub spots off a leopard. The floor was not cooperating and I sweat buckets for a second day in a house with no air conditioning. Can we please add that to the appliance list? Those spots made me think of the obvious. They represent every bad thought, poison word, and selfish deed I have ever done. Forgiven, yes, but the shadow still remains. People don’t forget our mistakes and their clouded opinions remain. If only we could sand down our souls and buff our spirits to a shiny finish so that people would see the love in our hearts instead of being defined by our past. If we want healthy relationships it is essential to give others our best and forgive them as we wish to be forgiven. For me this would be less complaining, worry, and pushing. Now that I have blown through another pair of rubber gloves, three scruffy pads, and maybe a kneecap; I will get some much needed help. Professional help is always worth the price. For my mental and spiritual health, I will continue with daily prayer and meditation. Lady MacBeth and I will continue to work on the dark spots. Thank you Jesus for your cleansing solution.
Yesterday, I pressed the button to start the dishwasher. There was no sound of water or machine parts moving. I pressed cancel and tried a different button. Nothing. Another fourteen year old appliance is acting up. Two years ago the number three on our oven was on the blink. Imagine trying to bake slowly at 299 or quickly at 400 degrees. The day we were being measured for new appliances including: a gas stove top, a microwave, an oven that is big enough for a turkey and a free dishwasher for buying the other three pieces, everything came to a indefinite halt because the cabinet was not big enough for the standard new oven. Not to worry, I pressed the three button that day and it has been working ever since. “Gremlins”, I say. So, as I wash dishes by hand with heavy duty rubber gloves, I have scalded myself twice when suddenly the hot water seeps into the top of a finger. Two gloves that I thought were impervious are now shot because of micro tears in the finger tips. My hubby says I must buy some new ones that are not pervious. Well, how about some new appliances with good old fashioned buttons that don’t quit at crucial times- like when company is coming. The cabinet may mysteriously fall down while the hubby is at the office next week. A cabinet redesign is certainly in order. Perhaps the dishwasher will work after we give it a rest, or maybe we just don’t have the right touch. I use my iPad daily and it can be a bit touchy and get creative with my words. Gremlins again at work. Think of all the buttons we press with vigor when we want something to happen.The lesson is how nicely things work when you approach them with a gentle touch. People are also more apt to cooperate when we take the time to give them our personal touch. A gruff approach elicits a defensive response. Along with gruff, I would include sarcasm, accusatory, and superior approaches to be in the less desirable category. When we are helpful, patient, and understanding; relationships strengthen and build. I will go back and talk sweetly to our kitchen appliances and more kindly to my hubby who provides wonderful things to make my life easier. I am reminded, of course, that everything we need in the world has been provided by our creator. So, with a thankful heart I will focus on a personal, gentle and careful touch. I can’t guarantee that I won’t push a few buttons, but please stay in touch.