Beware of Stairs

Yesterday, I went down a flight of rickety wooden stairs behind our house to get to the beach. The water level has eroded the sand and earth away to the point of shifting a concrete base securing the stairs, so the final descent was twisted and broken. I clung to the rail and felt like I was walking in a Escher painting. I knew it was dangerous to ignore the sign at the top that blocked the entry and said, “Under Repair”. I really wanted to get to the bottom to cool my feet in the water, and since there was no other way to get there, I took the risk. You might imagine the next part of the story continues with the stairs breaking away, and I fall and hit sense into my head or float out to the middle of Lake Erie; but nothing happened this time. I cooled my feet, found some beach glass and returned to the top. Why did I take the risk when a bathtub could have given me the same refreshing result? Exploration might have been my primary motive, or maybe there is a little part of me that rebells against authority, convention and caution. Most of my days are logical, methodical, and routine. Everyone needs to break away from those days sometimes in order to experience creative rejuvenation. Today, when I went to visit the staircase to climb down, our wonderful neighbor was making a Herculean effort to repair them by anchoring the bottom with bags of cement. It looks like their efforts will be successful until the water rises again to wash out the sands and stones. The winter icebergs can create enough power to push things around as well. Nature always gets her way. Given time, the earth heals from all that man has manipulated and vegetation grows over every human path and pillar. There may be buildings five hundred years old, but after a thousand years, all we find are ruins that were well buried. Five generations from now everything will be different. This is where I must recognize that God will be the same power and glory forever. We shall face challenges, take risks, and try to control our environment, but there is really nothing we can do to improve what God gives us. Whatever exploration I am on, my focus should be to find those who need love and pour it over them abundantly. Man made materials and machines are always exciting in their advances and seemingly the best way to invest our time and money, but they won’t even last our life time. Our words and stories make a lasting impression, so it is important to use our words wisely and share stories of God’s love and Power. I wish I could find a way to make a hug last and last. No matter how risky, I don’t want to miss a chance to to share the love of God. Go, therefore, into every nation; climb every mountain and ford every stream to complete the task God gives you. Make every exploration and mission a part of a stairway to heaven.IMG_0287

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Decades of Drugstores

Yesterday, I went to the drugstore. There are so many of them now, practically one at every major intersection. Back in the Sixties, there was one; The Ben Franklin Five and Dime. It was a fun place to spend our refund money after collecting pop bottles from construction sites. Getting a candy bar or a comic book was a real treat. Then, when I became a teenager, I might go in for lip stick or other beauty supplies, a magazine, and a diet drink. Now that I am sixty, I bought hearing aid batteries, compression socks, and medications. What happened to me? Good golly Miss Molly, I now qualify to be a grandma. That is actually happening this year and tonight I will know the gender so I can go shopping for pink or blue clothes! Forget the drugstore. Here I come infant department of every major department store! My sisters have alerted me to Goodwill for infant clothes that still have tags or look brand new; a smart choice when babies grow out of their wardrobe every two to three months. My girls wore matching KMart play clothes, hand-me-downs or back to school clothes from Carlisle’s. it has been a long time since I have shopped for little ones. It will be far more fun than my current drugstore trips. We saved a couple outfits from our children’s infancy, and most all of the furniture. The conundrum is how do we ship it all to them in Florida when it would be cheaper to buy all new, state of the art stuff. It seems smarter to sell it all or give it away and start fresh. Or, if anyone is moving to Florida, perhaps we could give you a few more things to take down? This decision making gives me heart palpitations and will land me back in the doctor’s office and the dreaded drugstore. “Breathe, take one concern at a time,” says my sage hubby. My thoughts easily go to places where people have next to nothing, or have to flee their homes and leave behind all their treasures and heirlooms. We put far too much value on our stuff. The Bible has much to say about this. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I know whether it is a boy or girl, this pending grandchild will steal my heart and suddenly nothing else will matter. All my friends tell me this is so. While our children prepare the baby’s room and create a safe and comfortable environment for their family, I will dream about being the best Grammy possible. Hopefully, health issues will never prevent me from loving the grans with my whole heart. Soon, very soon, we will walk holding hands into the drugstore to get a treat, like a smoothie and some kale chips, even though it will cost more than a nickel or a dime. The lesson today is: shopping is more fun when done with a buddy, and what we think we need now will be entirely different every decade we grow older. Which aisle can I find the Slowpokes please?IMG_0292

Under Pressure

This week we had a home incident that was not caused by my neglect, miscalculation, or buffoonery. Hubby and I entered the house after a holiday away, and I noticed a wine bottle cork on the floor. At first, I thought it was a large creature like we the ones that greet us in Charleston, but when I picked it up I was glad that it was not. Then hubby walked by and said, “What is this oil on the floor?” We both leaned over to touch it, and then looked around to see what was leaking. “Here is the culprit,” said hubby as he lifted a corkless bottle of Johannesburg Riesling from the wine shelf above the kitchen desk. “What in the world!” I exclaimed. Apparently, the 2007 wine bottle popped the cork under pressure that had been building. Half the contents glugged out on the desk below, being absorbed by a magazine and an old computer. Out came the Swifter to take care of the floor splatters as I contemplated what happens when pressure mounts beyond our limits. Okay, no snickering from the men on this, we all understand your anatomy. Extreme pressure is often caused by deadlines to complete a project or pay the bills. The pressure cooker I remember most in my life has been student performance in my classroom, especially when the superintendent and principal both walk in unannounced. “Please, Oh Lord, may all my children be on task and answer questions brilliantly,” I prayed. Everyday was a challenge; preparing meaningful and exciting lessons, motivating students, and managing the constant behavior issues of twenty to thirty little lives that all wanted my attention and acceptance. I wanted everyday to be perfect, but people just are not. We may all agree that confrontation is an occasion that causes our hearts to race and our emotional gaskets to blow. I will never get used to accusations and anger directed at me. There were a couple times when I confronted my own children and they saw me blow my top. Pressure may form diamonds out of coal, but that takes thousands of years. Who wants to endure a thousand insults in hope of becoming something valuable to others? Most moments that are extremely stressful situations cause a mess at the breaking point. This is never something we should do to another person. It takes more than a swifter to clean up a relationship in ruins. A sticky residue remains in unseen places in the form of mistrust and dislike. It take genuine love to forgive, and a good scrubbing in the way of confession and repentance to have full reconciliation. It must be from both sides with two people or groups. With God and man, the pressure has been released by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. He cleaned up our mess already and has open arms for everyone. If we see pressure mounting between people or political parties, it has to be released like the opening of a carbonated beverage- slowly without shaking. Hubby and I find de- escalating with a bottle of wine can be helpful. It may be ironic that my favorite is champagne. There is skill in opening a bottle under pressure. Don’t pop your top.IMG_0273

You Might Be Religious?

Last weekend, I was in the company of three lawyers for two days. How can a plebeian survive such an event you might wonder? There were deep discussions and intense questions about life choices. There were analyses of our theater and dining experiences. There were evaluations and high level thinking about politics, religion and ice cream. There were intellectual commentaries about legal matters and the judicial process. And I survived, actually thrived, because I love these three lawyers and respect them. One question still has me contemplating. Do I consider myself very religious? It seems a loaded question in today’s climate where religion can be equated with blind followers who are ignorant, or zealous opinionated people who are not enlightened by the current trends. My family might say I am very religious because they know I am devout in my faith, theology, and traditions. So in the style of Jeff Foxworthy, I have collected some ideas that may help define my answer.

If you believe there is a God and you pray to God, you might be religious.
If you go to a gathering place to worship with others most every Saturday or Sunday, you might be religious.
If you attend classes to learn more about the history of faithful people, you might be very religious.
If you like to sing songs of praise to God and read the stories about Godly people, you might be very religious.
If you meditate and read devotionals daily, you might be very religious.
If you teach others about your faith, you might be very religious.
If you are motivated to serve others according to the teachings of your faith, you might be religious.
If you establish programs to help the poor and needy, you might be very religious, or working for the government.
If you pledge money for missions and support a pastor in ministry, you might be religious.
If you are a missionary or pastor, you might be very religious.
If you look for answers to problems in the word of God, you might be religious.
If your issues have been solved through prayer and the words of God you might feel divinely blessed.
If you credit God for all good things, you might be religious.
If you believe you have a part in eternity, you might be very religious.

I believe the above qualifies me as very religious. I do not expect others to think or act the way I do because I am the product of several generations of Lutheran doctrine. I do expect the Holy Spirit to keep working wonders in the hearts and minds of everyone, so that they may find a spiritual purpose. What ever you believe in: work, love, magic, science, sports teams, people or God; it might be your religion. If you are passionate and share your enthusiasm for anything, you might be very religious. I will never be on the level with a lawyer and be able to articulate or defend the depths of my faith, or pretend I understand everything. I celebrate the anniversary of my baptism four years ago, it might mean I am religious, but that is my response to Jesus’s love and sacrifice. I hope that our family enjoys serving the community of God’s people for generations to come and that heaven includes regular ice cream socials. Make mine a coffee gelato please.IMG_0260

Oh That Glow

Last week, I had a one hour facial at the hotel spa while my hubby was at an annual conference. What a luxurious treat! My technician massaged an aromatic lotion gently over my face, neck and shoulders. Then, there was the hot towel, this was repeated two more times with an arm and hand massage between each application. The exfoliation process was tingly and refreshing, and my favorite was a final scalp massage. I nearly drifted to sleep under the last hot towel. That night a dinner, several people asked if I had spent the afternoon at the spa, because they said my face was glowing. This reminded me of the story of Stephen the martyr in the book of Acts. People noticed as he looked to heaven, his face shone like a light. Jack Graham discusses this in his book titles, “Angels”. People who do God’s work have a radiant face. He says:

“They watch for needs around them and joyfully meet the ones they can meet. They speak the love of God often to those living far from him. They keep short accounts when misunderstandings occur and beg forgiveness when they are to blame. They love well. They serve well. They speak well. They live well. They are light in a very dark world.
They have faces like those of the angels, you might say: holy, righteous, and bright.
You and I can be angel-faced too, no expensive face creams required. We can pulsate with the light of our Lord and Savior simply by residing in his presence day by day. We can choose victory over defeat. We can choose compassion over judgment. We can choose kindness over revenge. We can choose understanding over fits of rage. We can reflect the peace and joy of the angels, bright beings who themselves reflect the glory of God. And the world will take notice! You can’t conceal those who glow.”

This excerpt says exactly what I desire to do. To love well and choose the positive course of action. This takes a conscious effort because it is not our human nature to think of others before our selves. When getting a facial I did not think about anything while the healing touch of Marie allowed me to forget all my struggles of the month before. It may not take face cream to achieve an inner glow, but a face massage was so relaxing and a beautiful expression of tender care. We are given the ability to change how people feel with just a touch and should not ignore that gift. I believe more arguments would end quickly if we said, “Sit back, I giving you a facial.” That would look pretty funny in a courtroom or a classroom. My new mantra will be prayer instead of protests, facials instead of fighting. I might even start carrying a bottle of lavender lotion for emergencies. If you see people around you with a “glow”, it may be they have been to the spa, or they may indeed be angels. Keep in touch.

 

Old Baggage

Yesterday, I packed my suitcase and the zipper broke! It was NOT over stuffed. I pack light because I do not want to agitate the carpal tunnels on my wrists or the rotator cuffs on my shoulders. I only know those words because several family members have had surgery on those body parts. My first suitcase was a Samsonite. Actually, it was my mother’s little white overnight case. Just the right size for a visit to grandma’s house, or the one time I thought I could set off on my own with my Barbie dolls at age seven; and never have my mother boss me around again. My mother kept a little bar of Camay soap in the case to keep it smelling fresh. It had a burgundy satin lining and elastic bands to hold things in place. She explained to me that it was her wedding gift, and I would have to find something else if I was running away from home. My second suitcase was an American Tourister. It took me all over South America, to college, on my honeymoon, and now carries what is left of my Barbie dolls. My daughter’s Barbies are in there too, along with several handmade outfits that my mother expertly designed and sewed on her Singer Sewing Machine in the Sixties. In the last thirty years we have had dozens of suitcases. There was the beige canvas from Land’s End, and then four other brands and colors of luggage that have been abused and broken by various airlines, or permanently borrowed by our children. It is a little ridiculous how quickly they fall apart- usually the zippers. I have been very good at fixing zippers in the past, even when it has taken hours of patience. These bigger zippers are beyond my expertise and a professional fixer would cost more than the case. Sadly, this incompetent case is going to the Goodwill, and I shall fill it with clothing that no longer fits. My hubby always says it is worth paying the price for quality items that will last far beyond what is fashionable. I will go shopping and find the best case, hopefully on sale. The little lesson here is not to keep so much baggage. We can try to store them in our attic, but soon they become a nagging problem. We don’t need to remember all the disconcerting events of our past and load up with woes and regrets. Clear out the storage units and make room for fresh ideas and joyful perspectives. If the old baggage is no longer useful, it is taking up valuable space in our lives and minds. It is no wonder why we walk in a room and have forgotten what we needed there, if we are ruminating about something in the past. I am not ready to be called an old bag, so I will zip a lip to the overstuffed baggage in the past. Often we over pack just to be prepared for what might come. Packing light requires just the necessaries that are versatile and practical. Now, off to the store to find a four wheeler suitcase that practically rolls itself. It is time to look to the future with a solid case and renewed excitement.
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The Miracle Team

 

Yesterday, we stayed up until midnight to watch the fourth game of the NBA finals. This is not good for my mental health or my beauty sleep. After the first three losses, we had a fitful sleep and dark circles under the eyes in the morning. My skin is starting to resemble the surface of a basketball and I am now trying to throw garbage away from the three point line – unsuccessfully. It is the third straight year for the match up of our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors. There are excellent athletes on both teams that provide worthy rivals and unpredictable results. Last year, the Cavs did not look to be of the same caliber as the Warriors, but emerged victorious after seven games and lucky last minute shots. I seriously wondered if there were powerful prayers being said all over Ohio and bargains being made with God to have such an unbelievable comeback. My hubby and I were among those in Believeland who were on their feet, jumping up and down and willing every shot to go into the basket. It is interesting that we feel such spirited kinship with strangers. Most of the athletes are not from Ohio, where the team calls home, except for Lebron James of course. Why do we let our blood pressure spike when the outcome of the game does not really impact our lives? We watch because it is entertainment, but we may be trying to relive our old glory days when we were athletes. Are we wired to relish competition against a rival, and live vicariously through our sports teams? I personally like to cheer for the underdogs (yes, I am a Browns fan) and I love the feeling of joy when I am with a crowd of people and our team scores or makes a great play. The playoffs cause more adrenaline surge and excitement than I am used to. It is a marvelous victory for a city to win a Championship because there is renewed faith and pride that spills over into an increase in positive attitudes and economic prosperity. Perhaps this is similar to the way a town felt in ancient civilization when their soldiers fought battles against a fortified city and the walls came tumbling down. We feel like we have been part of the challenge and contribute to the success by being loyal fans and supporting the team. We love our schools, our cities, and our country when we are winners. How we react when we are losers is equally important, and it says a whole lot more about our character. Life is full of losses that could break us. This is when a team or a community should work even harder together to support each other and find a new strategy. Wallowing never works. Gloating is no good either. The Warriors were set to make history with a 16 game run undefeated in the playoffs. Instead, the Cavaliers broke records last night and won the game. We know they could make another miracle comeback, so there may be some restless nights ahead. The miracles I am praying for have been for the many loved ones who have been battling cancer. For those who are losing that battle but remain strong in their faith in the risen Christ, you are an inspiration and victory is yours. I will never stop cheering for the team that follows Jesus.
This one is for you Kelsey Walters.IMG_0235

Thy Lamp

Last week, I was on high intensity whimsical mode. I suggested to my hubby that I had an idea he would love, even though I was sure he would not. “Let’s decorate what is left of the old apple tree!” I suggested. “I will construct the Japanese lanterns from our daughter’s wedding, and you can hang them from the naked branches.” He said, “Yes!” We are both reluctant to say goodbye to the tree that has produced maiden blush apples to make hundreds of pies, cobblers, sauces and cakes for four generations. Sadly, the tree has lost all of the original branches and has a hollow trunk. It is amazing that it lasted through another winter. Two small remaining sucker branches are producing some bitty apples, so we decided to give her one more summer before we let her topple and become part of the compost over the bank of our back yard. How do you say good-bye to a cherished object, a family tradition, a love? It will be like losing a part of ourselves. Forty years ago, Ada Warren walked next door to meet my family when we moved in. She brought us a pie she made from the tree. Twenty years ago our children helped to prepare the apples for their grandparents, Barb and Jim Cordell, to make sauce. Now my sweet hubby cranks out fifty pints a year with my help, and sometimes on his own. This is a labor of love. His mama was wise to have two more trees planted from grafts. Actually, four were grafted, and the other two are at our Aunt and Uncle’s house – apparently loved by their deer population. Good-bye does not seem like an option, but we can’t hold on to everything we love forever. People, pets, and even plants are gone before we are IMG_0206ready. So, my thought is to celebrate those we love while they are with us. Instead of discounting what is old and bedraggled and of little use; honor it in a creative and special way. And so, our tree that gave its bounty to many people in the family and neighborhood, shall be decorated and adored in its very last year in our front yard by the fence. Those who pass by may snicker or wonder. The apple tree will know that it did its best every year to bring goodness and beauty and comfort to all these who would partake. Perhaps when I am very old, my grandchildren will find a whimsical way to decorate my days and reflect on the memories of love that we will share. For today, the lanterns on the tree represent a favorite verse, “Thy light is a lamp unto my feet”. I will follow the light of love, celebrate the givers, and say, “Good bye, and thank you for sharing your bounty, and blessing us with your presence.” To the next generation of apple trees and the children who will pick from them, “Be of good cheer and excellent health”.

Water With Care

Yesterday, I sat on the bed and arranged the items on the little round side table that has helped me through the last couple weeks. There was my reading glasses, Iphone, chapstick, tv remote control, half cup of tea, bottle of Advil, a picture of my darling hubby along with a green potted plant that is feeding me oxygen. So, I get the clever idea to water the plant with my remaining tea. You already see where this is going, I know. I poured the tea carefully into the dirt. Then, I noticed that all the liquid ran off across the other side onto the table, carrying bits of soil with it. Oh Lord! I immediately rescued the photo and removed each item one at a time for a wipe down. Next, I grabbed yesterday’s t-shirt to polish the table and further inspect all the items again to make sure they were dry. That felt like a days work for me after a very quite week of being waited on by my attentive hubby. I actually fretted that I would have nothing to write about in my weekly blog because the days were so routine and sedentary. Hah! What analogy can be made from this mishap? Perhaps it is that when we try to share and nourish others in small ways, our words may not be absorbed or our actions appreciated. They may flow right by unnoticed or even be rejected by the intended recipient. But that is not the end of the lesson. The result of my deed required immediate follow up. If I had left without seeing the water, it may have caused damage and left a mark. If we neglect a follow up, we could miss an opportunity to serve another way, or assist someone else. Others may be affected by our gestures in ways that we are unaware. People may observe us and benefit from our labors even when we think our attempts are futile. Our actions affect future generations that we will never know, just as the our grandparents and their forefathers are responsible for molding our destiny and character. We are an important part of a continuum, so stay the course. Sharing our stories and the love of God may run right through some deaf ears, on its way to fortifying another. That little bit of good soil might need to be spread around so others can grow and flourish. I will find a more suitable watering can to refresh my potted plant. God calls us to keep watering until the right amount sinks in.IMG_0180

The Walker

This week, I rented a walker from the Senior Center. Humbling. A little minor foot surgery requires me to be off my left foot for three weeks. Crutches are lovely for maneuvering, but the walker has four on the floor for best support when rising or sitting. Turtle pace for sure. Simple tasks are difficult standing on one leg. Hopefully, I am developing a stronger upper body and not putting to much stress on the right leg. I don’t want to end up without a leg to stand on. This happens figuratively when I try to argue with friends, and with out supporting evidence. My childhood bestie, Lise, and I used to argue about many things, especially religion. She became a well renown litigator in Chicago and I still defend theological dogma whenever challenged (yes, everyday on Facebook). If we want credibility, it requires research, experience, and strong elocution. Lise inspires me with those gifts.Some people might accomplish solid arguments with their sound bytes and internet links. Most of us just sound off. Truthfully, I would rather have a visit face to face and engage in deeper discussion. Come on over, and help your self to tea. I lack the skill at the moment. I tried to make lunch on my own and hubby insists I sit with my leg elevated. He is a marvel at food prep and shower assistance. He is also ever ready with the ice pack and a beverage. This is a true test of love and the best care I could imagine. While he is at the office, I have all this solitary quiet time and no place to go. I understand now, the value of visiting the shut-ins or those with infirmities. A friendly face and a few good stories have value beyond medicine. I am practicing my ukulele and reading the first Marshall Terry book in a series of seven. The author is a relative and was a professor of Literature at Southern Methodist. This should be inspiring for me to get started with a family memoir. I actually have a working title and outlined the chapters. “The Mother Daughter Banquet” spans four generations of Lutheran women in our family. And yesterday my daughter, Bethany, has announced they are expecting in November! I jumped for joy- on one leg, holding tightly to my walker. As I balance carefully to take steps, I already can imagine the excitement we all will have when baby Single takes the first steps. I know God will be there every step of the way and I pray the Lord will give me restraint when I am tempted to cover our new “love” with kisses and my poppy red lipstick. In our daily life journey, some walk ten thousand steps and others take baby steps. The important thing is to keep moving forward, even while we reminisce about how far we have traveled.IMG_0171