This week, I was hoping to see our yard man spreading mulch so I would not have to spend hours each day fighting with the invasive plants. He could not schedule us in, so I ordered fifteen yards of double shredded brown mulch myself. It was delivered two hours later and deposited on our driveway. Heart palpitations started at the sight of the mountain that I had to conquer on my own. After eight hours of of loading a wheel barrow, dumping it into the garden beds, and spreading it evenly around the shrubbery and flowers; I was exhausted and elated at how much I accomplished. Then hubby came home. He could barely pull into the driveway because of the huge pile that was still blocking his way to the garage. He changed his clothes and started filling the wheelbarrow and transporting the heavy loads to the places that were the hardest to reach for me. He spent a couple hours with the pith fork, while I spread the mulch in the flowerbeds with the rake. We had serious doubts about being able to play golf the next day, knowing our back muscles would be sore at us. As we climbed out of bed in the morning, bent over like ancient invalids, I prepared to return to the the mulch pile while hubby went to the office. The day was gorgeous and perfect for outdoor activity. I completed spreading shredded wood to all the places I hope not to see weeds for the rest of the summer. It looks like we only depleted the hill by half. At least seven yards of mulch are left! My neighbor asked if she could have a couple barrows full, so I wheeled them over. I suspect our driveway will become the neighborhood gathering place to get fine quality ground cover. I am not sure how I overestimated what I needed. Even though I am walking like the Tin Man in need of oil, it was great exercise for my upper body and quads. I was careful to drink plenty of fluid every fifteen minutes and work in the shade when possible. I tried to use good posture and took breaks so I would not put too much stress on my back. I prayed that I would not injure myself or my hubby in our endeavors. What is the lesson? Know your limits? That is hard because the consequences are not realized until after eight hours of sedentary sleep time have occurred. Stay in shape? I don’t really know what is reasonable for age sixty-one. Pay someone to do the work? I actually offered fifty dollars and hour to the truck driver to come back and spread the mulch. His eyes got big but he didn’t return. I think I will just remember that hard work happens. We have to do whatever it takes to accomplish the things that are important, and not be afraid to ask for help. God finds interesting ways for me to make friends and help neighbors. In this I am blissfully happy. I hope this mountain does not remain a conversation piece for too long. Faith in myself to move mountains was shaky, but now I know God would have me do it one barrow at a time. Our pitchfork is a symbol of a good day’s work. We did make it to the golf course late in the afternoon, and my stiff muscles improved my swing! I over-putted on every green, so I must have new found strength. I pray for many more opportunities to gather outdoors. Our world is a wonderful creation that does not need our improvements, but I am still trying to find Eden.
Yesterday, I was digging in the dirt. This is something I enjoy doing in the Spring because it means that we will reap the benefits of flowers, herbs and vegetables throughout the summer. I also love the aroma of the earth and the mint as I cultivate the things I have planted, and care for the vegetation that Grandma Warren and Mamma Cordell planted years ago. Well, yesterday I was showered and dressed in white jeans, ready to go on an adventure with my hubby. There was an hour before departure and the garden called to me, so I decided to tend to a few plants without changing into my grungy clothes. I knew full well that I was flirting with disaster. Of course I did not kneel on the ground, and I wore gloves to protect my freshly polished nails. It was a cool morning, so I thought there was no danger of sweating while I puttered. I put pansies in two pots on our front porch and added two echinacea plants in the herb garden, then went inside to wash up. There was no sign of dirt anywhere! Incredible that I took such a risk and came out clean. White clothes rarely remain without stains in our house. I have even quit the process of soaking and using Shout it out products, Tide to go sticks and washing in bleach. I just buy new “whites”. This gives me fond memories of one daughter that was always wearing white on spaghetti night. We were tempted to give her a bib even in her teens. Most of us want the appearance of being clean, but what matters most is that we are pure of heart. This condition could be as impossible as me keeping clean white jeans while gardening, but it is made possible by a Savior that loves us. In the letter to Titus we read:
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5
It was not my good luck and incredible carefulness that kept me clean. It is not my good deeds that keep my heart pure. It is mercy. I am reminded every week as I muddle through life, that I am here by the grace of God. I am loved by a merciful God that loves you too, and wants us to love one another. It is important to stop trying to dig up dirt on each other and instead plant a garden filled with joy, peace, patience, and goodness so that we may be whole: Spirit, Soul, and Body. Walk with me in our generational garden. There is something there for all of us. Our dazzling whites may not last, but real love lasts forever.
Last week, we were on vacation in Spain and Italy. We stayed in the ancient city of Girona near the Costa Brava, and then traveled to Florence to celebrate the Marriage of Ashley and Nick. It was a time of refreshing and reconnecting. We had to marvel at the ease in which we could adventure from town to town on the trains, and buses. And there was walking. Walking has been a struggle for me and hubby sometimes as our knees, feet, and spines are starting to complain. And yet, the cobbled streets and stone sidewalks beaconed to me, and made me stronger this time as we navigated through the beautiful Roman constructions that have been a fortress since the twelfth century. Every step we climbed to the castles and churches gave me a greater strength and endurance that I have been desiring. Our trip was nearly without mishap. Then, our first day in Florence, we were strolling around the Uffizi Plaza. The marble statues still evoke wonder, and I tried to capture some images on my phone. Every so often, my hubby would stand still to be in the picture. Once a day, I got him to take a picture of me in front of a lovely scene. (I don’t know what we will do with all the images stored in our cloud.) Well, I started to climb the steps for a closer look at the Roman Gods and stopped by the Lion. “Here honey, get a shot of this,” I said as I touched the Lion on his paw. There was a loose chain there that I lifted, somehow feeling that it was symbolic. The mighty lion breaks the chains of our captivity and gives us freedom to live in unity with the people of God- or something like that. My thoughts were halted by the sound of a whistle and the apologetic look on my hubby’s face. A women of some official capacity came up to me and said in a melodic Italian accented English, “Do not touch!” I moved along quickly as she rearranged the chain I had lifted. My hubby pleaded with me not to start a national incident and get us arrested. He does not know what to do about my impulsive behavior, so I tried to behave after that. My love language is touch. I like to touch people and I am a hugger. I like to touch the objects I am looking at. I am the second child, so my mother did not have the time to tell me not to touch things, and I learned the hard way. We should try to respect people’s space, so another way to touch someone is with our words of support and love. Lives can change and even be saved through our words of encouragement and hope. To the artists and sculptors who have blessed us with the beauty of their creations; I thank you. I could feel the lion roar and see the power in his sinews. I have been touched by the hands of the creator.
This week I was an accidental klepto. I had taken my cousin Mardi out to lunch to celebrate our love of painting and her victory of winning “Best of Show” in the Lake Shore Artist’s Exhibit at the Ashtabula Art Center. She picked me up and drove us to Mary’s Diner in Geneva. We were joined by her friend Cathy and we sat in a booth for a couple hours talking about everything from sports to politics. Even so, none of us could quite finish our lunch, so the server boxed up our salads. I offered to hold the boxes so Mardi could drive me back home. When we arrived, I got out of the car and headed to the front door still carrying both boxes and fumbling to dig out the house key. When I put the key in the lock, it was then that I realized that I still had Mardi’s salad. I turned around and ran down the drive to see if I could catch her. She was nowhere in sight. I called her cell phone, but it immediately dismissed me. So, I decided to call her home phone and invite her back for dinner to finish her delectable looking “Diana Ross” salad. She did not get the message or call me back. Later that evening I combined both our leftovers and ate them. Am I a weirdo? I don’t like good food to go to waste. This might possibly mean that I eat more than I should. We try to plan our meals and shop accordingly so that foods will not spoil before we can use them. This is more difficult when buying fresh organic foods with a shorter shelf life. It would be nice to shop daily for just what we need that day. That was more reasonable when markets were in walking distance in every village. Our super markets are very convenient, but lack the relationship that once was had between consumer and merchant. This is why I love the Farmer’s Market. The freshest foods and the friendliest merchants that value a little conversation, as much as sharing their goods, makes for a lovely experience every week. Shopping outdoors with live music is a bonus too. Charleston has wonderful markets that run from April to December, and Ashtabula Harbor is our favorite in Ohio for and after church stop. Bridge Street Market runs from May to September since our growing season is shorter. Ah, fresh bread and salad fixings are a delicious meal.
Back to my klepto problem. I will have to have Mardi back for dinner soon. I probably owe many more people for the things I have borrowed and not returned, or for the times I have been invited and not yet returned the favor. I am in debt to so many people that I have lost track. Perhaps that debt has been forgiven, just like the debt Jesus paid for our transgressions. How can we have a relationship with a person if we feel the guilt of owing. Likewise we must forgive the debts that are owed to us. In this there is freedom to love one another. Radical love is giving more to those who are already are in debt to you. God doesn’t keep tabs and neither should we. Let’s give freely to produce more love.
This week, I found a miracle cure. I have been suffering from a pain in the behind- no, not my hubby! I know some of you thought that and I won’t shame you because I have thought it a time or two. The issue was sciatic nerve pressure. I saw several specialists. The Physical Therapist recognized the IT band was harboring much of the pain as he rolled a gizmo down my right leg. That is right up there with the severe sensations that cause a verbal outcry. Daily stretches were not helping much. Fasting sugars did not seem to allow a cessation in the inflammation. So, I did an internet search on my own. One plausible source described the misdiagnosis for this aggravation. He claimed that the gluteal muscles are usually the culprit and it requires therapy. Rollers, stretches and chiropractic give temporary relief at best, but don’t remove the problem. I then remembered that my physical therapist mentioned that a golf ball provides the needed pressure on muscles to release the knot. Well, I went right to the garage and dug through the hubby’s golf bag. I pulled out one ball and returned to the family room to lie flat on my back. I pushed the ball under my right cheek until I found a spot that was super ouchy. Then, I shifted my weight so that a full force pressure was on the deep tissue damage. I rolled a little to hit another sore spot. One minute was all I could take. Yowza! When I returned to my feet and took a few steps, there was NO pain shooting down the IT band or in my hip. What in the world? That was so easy. I kept walking around feeling complete relief. Several hours later I was still pain free. This was a miracle!
A little pressure can be motivating. We may not like people to pressure us and lead us to poor choices that we regret, so it is best to apply our own force. Nagging others is not my favorite pastime to get things done. Few people respond well to that pressure. This is why God has given us free will. We have the rules and we know the results; still the choices are always ours to make. Of course, this is not true where people are enslaved. We have a responsibility to come to their rescue because this is still an insidious problem even in our own country. Wow, I did not expect this blog to take me to the issue of human trafficking, but here it is. Our physical pain can sometimes lead us to a completely different focus. It will take more than a golf ball or a charity golf event to end the misery that people inflict on others. Compassion, prayers, and planning can start us in the right direction. I know that too much sitting on my duff has caused the Gluteus Maximus to max out. Time to take a stand.
Yesterday, I went shopping for a color. There is one color I have always liked best, but I do not currently have any clothing in that color. I do not even have any decor with that color in the Ohio home where I live half of the year. It is the passionate and bold color purple. I have even been looking in consignment shops, and there were few items in any shade of purple, magenta, lavender, or even periwinkle. Of course, none of those were in my size either. Why is purple disappearing? I am in the silver hair stage of life, where lilac would look best with my complexion. Poetry has been written about women my age wearing purple. Please bring it back all you fashion gurus! Purple is the color of royalty as well.
Luckily, the iris bulbs I replanted last year are growing with the promise of splashing purple across our front yard. I couldn’t be more excited! Of the three days that were pleasant enough for gardening, I was indeed outside enjoying the sunshine and pulling the winter weeds. Spring is taking its time in Northeast Ohio, like the golfer who checks his alignment and takes a few practice swings, changes clubs, checks his footing, hikes up his pants and then finally makes contact with the ball. I plan to play a little golf this summer, but the weather has to be warm and sunny-above 60 and below 80. I will wear purple if I can find it. Come to think of it, I do have one lavender dress that I have worn only once. I could start a new trend in wearing the “mother of the bride” gowns to the golf course. There does not seem to be a dress code these days at the public courses. I am all for covering up in the sunshine to protect our skin and our dignity. My bikini body took a hike a long time ago, never to return. This may cause me to look at scantily clad women with some envy or disdain. Nevertheless, I am happy to give up vain pursuits and wear purple even if the younger generation should mock me.
When Jesus was on trial for blasphemy, he was stripped, flogged and mocked. Then soldiers put a purple robe around him and gave him a painful crown with thorns. This image has always been startling to me. The King of our hearts and the Light of the World has victoriously conquered the enemy. We are his royal heirs of a kingdom that has no end. If you can find it, wear purple with me to honor the Lord and claim your Kingdom has come.
Yesterday, I unloaded the dishwasher- carefully. We usually load it with such precision that plates can be lifted out all at once, and silverware can be gathered with one hand. Even so, I can cause quite a ruckus with clanging dishes, and my family has asked me to quiet down if they are still in bed. Why isn’t everyone up with the sunrise? All the dishes were put away and I left the kitchen to shower and dress. When I returned, the dishwasher was running. HUH? How an empty machine could start on its own gave me goosebumps. I opened it up and hit the CANCEL button. After a few minutes, I looked inside and saw that it was not draining and there was still an hour left to the cycle. I decided to fill it up with canning jars that were stored in the garage. Spiders were spinning webs around their storage box to claim them for their own purposes. This time I pressed the START button intentionally to finish the cycle. Why waste the good hot water? I have heard of starting something before being ready. I know I have started things without finishing them (like a musical that I am writing about Daniel that I began five years ago). How I started the dishwasher accidentally will remain a mystery. We blame things on gremlins and ghosts in our family.
My mother told me there was no such thing as ghosts. I trusted her completely, but still wondered about the shenanigans of eternal spirits that we cannot see? Most haunted houses and famous mediums have been debunked, yet the scriptures clearly point to evidence of visions, spirits, and even the resurrected Savior. The heavenly beings are in a realm somewhere that remains a fascinating but not frightening mystery to me. If they want to wash my dishes or rearrange my decorator pillows, that would be lovely. I do believe they have a higher purpose. When we need comfort, guidance, instruction, or rebuking; there is the Holy Spirit ready to give us the strength that we need.
Machines are meant to make life easier and so is our faith in God. I don’t believe in gremlins, but I completely trust in the Lord. There must be meaning in every mistake I make and a blessing in every blunder. If we confess our mess it is easier to move forward and not to recycle the same dirt. Truthfully, I tend to goof up often, so I write about it every week because I have to come clean.
Last weekend, my hubby treated me to an excursion in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We stayed at the historic Grove Park Inn and Spa in Asheville, North Carolina. Because it was my birthday weekend, wine and chocolate were delivered to the room, so we had a glass of Cabernet while checking on the progress of the Masters golf tournament on the television. The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the Spa and fine dining at the Inn. Sunday morning we packed up to head to Seacoast Church and then the Biltmore Mansion. “Why waste a half bottle of good wine”, my hubby thought, adding it to the snack bag.
The Asheville campus of Seacoast was a great experience. Friendly people and a live streaming service from Charleston included a sermon delivered by four generations of Surratt men talking about legacy. Well, the youngest is still in grade school, but he displayed great poise and wisdom as he contributed to the conversation. After church, the tour of the Biltmore was a glorious display of history, wealth and opulence. A Vanderbilt legacy. As we began our drive north to Ohio, my hubby and I naturally zeroed in on the topic of legacy and how we want to be remembered.
One Cordell legacy includes wine collecting and pairing it perfectly with the healthy foods we eat. This may not be the most noble of our pursuits, but it does aid digestion. Suddenly, my hubby’s sensitive nose detected the aroma of wine in the car, which unfortunately was leaking from the bottle. I had procured some snacks from the bag and accidentally tipped the bottle over. (No, we had not imbibed while in the car! ) We quickly pulled into a rest stop and grabbed the snack bag from the back floor to discover a saturated floor mat. I rescued all the chocolate and hubby tossed the wine bottle and bag into the garbage bin. Certainly he was thinking, “How does my careless clown wife make these things happen?” At the same time that I was thinking, “What a bad idea to transport an open bottle of wine on the swervy curves of Interstate 77 in West Virginia!?!?” And yet, no angry words were spoken. “I’m very sorry honey,” I said while wiping down the packages of nibbles. “Are you okay?” He asked. No chocolate was lost so I said, “Yes”.
I thought back to the time when I would help my mother prepare communion before services at our Lutheran Church. I was very careful not to spill the blood of Jesus, and thought the thin wafers were a sorry representation of the body of Christ. Even so, I continue to reverently join in communion each week in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice of Our Savior. Faithfulness to a loving God is the legacy for which I wish to be remembered. Many of the millennial generation do not understand this devotion. Perhaps they have not yet experienced the miracles I have or the unexplained strength I receive in times that are overwhelming. Yet, the stories of Jesus were bravely conveyed to each generation at a huge cost to those who believe without seeing. That sacred blood shed for me has liberated me from all my flaws. Hubby knows this too. Perhaps that is why his wine cellar is stocked and ready to serve whenever we gather and share our stories, our faith, and our legacy.
Yesterday, my daughter called while I was in a noisy restaurant. I answered and told her I would call right back on my way home. Of course, there were so many distractions, I completely forgot. Finally, after falling asleep on the couch, I was dragging myself to bed and retrieved the phone and noticed fifteen text messages from the family inquiring as to where I was and should they call the neighbors to check on me to make sure I am not in distress. If they had called, and the neighbors had flung open the door and bounded up the stairs to find me asleep in front of the television, I certainly would have had heart failure from the surprise. Then I saw that my hubby called thirteen times, but I never heard the phone ringing, which I had left in the kitchen a floor below. It may be time to return to the old rotary phone with that splendid “wake from the dead” ring that can be heard even when outdoors.
We all know cell phones have completely ruined our ability to focus on our immediate surroundings, and have turned us into hypnotized dweebs that thrive on entertainment and escape. That is no excuse for me to forget that my daughter was waiting for a return call. I was distracted by the first insect bite of the season and was wildly scratching my ankle while driving home. Then I experimented with solutions for relief. I started with rubbing alcohol and then peppermint oil to stop the itch. Ahh, that helped. By this time the phone was forgotten and my daughter was left wondering if her mother cared at all. When I saw the messages at 10:30, I immediately texted the family that I was okay, and very sorry I left my phone downstairs. I do care very much.
The question that came to mind was how God can care about all of us despite so many distractions and disasters occurring in the world every minute? I truly do not know, as I am failing miserably at consistently recognizing the needs of my own loved ones. Being a grandma might just be a second chance at improving my skills. Then there is God, who knows, loves, cares and makes a difference in our lives daily. We feel Him in our hearts and He dominates our mind, will and emotion. Yet, we constantly fight Him, doubt Him, and sass back.
Sunday is a chance to raise our voice in praise with millions, dare I say billions, of people who will sing of a risen and victorious King. The King of glory is not a man, and he is not a singular vision. This power of love and sacrifice, this power of creation and rejuvenation, this spiritual power of perfection is bigger than anything we have ever experienced. God is waiting to fill us and guide us into His perfect light. No name does justice, no explanation is quite satisfying to describe the wonder of a being that provides all that we need or imagine that we want. He is indeed calling us. Don’t forget to call back.
Yesterday, I decided to tackle the doorbell situation. The old one did not ding dong, so I bought a wireless one years ago with the Westminster chimes. I usually hear it by the eighth dong. The problem is that it refuses to stay on the wall. Four men attempted to hang it and one was an electrical engineer. Baffling. In addition to that, the door bell button was stuck by the front door with inadequate double sided tape that was supplied in the package. It could easily be removed and new batteries can be put in, but the tape did not withstand the annual power washing. The button and bell box have sat on the stairs waiting for attention for more than a year. Most friends know to text me or knock loudly if they want me to answer the door. Some wait interminably after they press the old button that does not ding. Eventually, I sense someone is at the door and answer with great apologies. So, after searching for hammer, nails, screws and such; I found some Velcro. I decided to add it along with all the other fasteners. This seemed to work perfectly for the bell box that needed a little more adhesive to keep it from shattering on the floor every time I closed the coat closet with enthusiasm. Aha, this could work for the doorbell button as well! I cut thin strips and stuck the button by the front door. Now I can remove it before the power washing. My workmanship may not be precise or pretty, but now I have the sweet music to draw my attention to the door when someone pushes the bouncy doorbell button.
Velcro is such a wonder. I kind of like playing with it. The sound of pulling it apart and the magic hold that it has when put together is fascinating. It reminds me of people and the mystery of physical attraction. Forty years ago I certainly clung to my future hubby like the mini hooks on the one side of Velcro. His curly hair did resemble the other side of the pulled apart strip and I admit to running my fingers through it often. As love grows deeper and we get set in our ways the attraction factor is still there even though our children do not want to see it demonstrated. Well, our children are rarely around anymore and our hugs and kisses are hardly the ridiculous scenes we see in the movies. Like Velcro, we are two very different sides of a tight bond. I am certain that what makes our relationship work is more than attraction. It is respect, admiration, enjoyment and a love that is whole; spirit, soul and body. We love because we look to the Lord as an example of perfect love.
If you try to ring my bell, the mechanics may falter and the equipment might break, but don’t give up! Knock loudly or sing ding dong ding dong and I will come dashing to the door and open it for you.