Monday, May 23, 2022

The Soapbox: The Italian Project

….and you will be called Sought After, the City no Longer Deserted.—Isaiah 62:12

On what was the last full day in what has affectionately been called my pandemic cave, I prepared to depart for my next season. This meant I was going to be forced to purge collections of life “stuff.” While I once had a substantially larger house with family bustling about, post-pandemic life looks completely different in so many ways.

Since becoming an empty nester and party of one, I have become serenely sublime in my smaller, yet joyfully accomplished quarters. I am at peace. I have wonderful memories through the years of raising my son and running a larger, highly demanding household.

One of my fondest memories during that era was a trip to the Napa Valley. My love of science was satisfied, as well as my need for a little romance in the vineyard. The chemistry and mystery of God’s creation was in full force as we committed to receive the rare biodynamic Demeter-certified wine from the earth each quarter. This would be a wonderful asset to our table as we loved to grill and throw nice dinners for family and friends.

Since that time, I have come to love all the amazing rare earth tastes from the Benziger Estate. The allure of that place is in every limited edition bottle. In my empty nest cocoon, I continue to celebrate those memories every time I enjoy the fruit of the earth that takes me back to a happy time in that magnificent vineyard.

My choice: Oonapais, pronounced ooh-nuh-PIE-us. A splash works best for my joints when they ache. The artist in me thought it might be cool to do a project with each bottle, as I remembered the grape and had touched the vines in person. I remembered how I had been in that vineyard when the grape leaves hit me in the face while riding through on a golf cart and feeling the wind on my cheeks, rosy from tasting the fruity essence.

My intentions of an artsy project led to a design for a hanging chandelier with those bottles I saved. I was planning on hanging it in a cypress lodge that my two grandfathers built together when I was a little girl. I never did. Instead, I stored those five years’ worth of premium labels in boxes that I disguised as “The Italian Project” so nobody would ask any challenging questions.

When it came time to move out of the pandemic cave, I finally decided there would be no Italian Project. I questioned what I could have been thinking anyway, since at this time the reality finally hit home that the chandelier for the lodge was far more trouble than it was worth.

I piled the bottles in a huge garbage bag and made my way to a public dumpster near home. Just as I approached the dumpster, the bag broke and I was forced to toss them in one by one. I started laughing, feeling like Jenny Gump throwing those rocks at that white house, only I wasn’t sad or angry at a broken past. The neighbors looked on wondering what in the world kind of party I must have held last night with all of those bottles. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I walked away from that dumpster knowing that I am not the same girl I once was when I started that crazy collection of labels as a representation of another season of my life.

Once I arrived at my new place, I was left with a ton of boxes that needed to be broken down and tossed away. Without a box cutter, I made my way to Home Depot to purchase one. Mind you, I am skilled with a hammer. I am loosely acquainted with a drill. I thought I knew box cutters, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Right there on aisle 17, bay 7 of Home Depot, it came to my attention that every time I’ve ever handled a box cutter…it was handed to me—handed to me by a strong hand in my life. Suddenly, I realized that someone must actually open it up, use a Philips head screwdriver, and assemble the blade safely. Then, and only then, would it be effective.

When the salesman saw my confusion, I made my confession. “It’s just that …I’ve never had to assemble a box cutter.” I believe he thought I was talking about my ability or desire to do it, but I was speaking of my being without the strong hands of someone I once knew. I went far away to a place that the salesman couldn’t see, deep in my thoughts when I heard a big lie – No more strong hands on this earth to protect this girl.

If I think about the things I don’t enjoy in an empty nest, I hate taking the garbage out. I hadn’t looked up long enough to really consider all the tasks I had conquered in the double duty of being a single Mom and providing a home. Now with no carpool and band rehearsal to bookend my days, there is no REASON to do anything routine at all. I can eat dinner anytime I want to, or just eat bon-bons in my slippers if I so desire. I must have really looked horrified as these thoughts flooded my head, because the Home Depot salesman brought me back to reality when he said – “Let me help you.”

He picked up a screwdriver, opened up the packaging, and assembled it for me.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Thank you so much.” Then I rolled away with my fluorescent green $5.97 box cutter, only to walk into my new place and truly look up for the first time. I had never even noticed the light fixture in the new dining area.

With my now scrapped Italian project of saving our favorite bottles of memories to make a chandelier for the lodge, I noticed for the first time that my faithful husband Jesus Christ had prepared my chandelier without any effort from me. It was different than I thought, but better. Wouldn’t it be like you, Lord, to be different than we thought, but better? Thought my Savior was coming with a sword in His hand. To my surprise, He came as a child. 

Although it’s hard sometimes to walk just in blind faith during uncertain times…I surrender. I’ll wait, knowing in my heart His gifts, His ways, His plan might be different, but it will definitely be better.



Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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