Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

Glee Mixed with Joy Equals… September 10, 2009

Filed under: family,friends,love,parenting,thanks — Mary @ 3:14 pm

This is also why he fell asleep mid-chew on Sunday night in the middle of a blaring restaurant.


Seeing and Being Seen July 25, 2009

When she was a senior in high school, my mom was nominated for and then won the Miss Elsinore contest in the little town she grew up in.  She went on to get a runner-up slot in the Miss Riverside contest that same year.  I remember being agog at the fact that my very own, every day, utterly normal (only in a kid’s eyes!) mom was a beauty queen!  I would press her for all sorts of details and was constantly left a little disappointed because she seemed so completely uninterested in it all.  She would say things like, “Well, it wasn’t ME on that stage.  I had on 10 pounds of make-up!” and “Oh I hated that picture…but you know, I DID get to leave class one day for that photo shoot and that was pretty fun.”

The first time what she was saying to me really started to make sense was when I was a teen.  I’d brought the story up again and begged her to drag out the photos and she told me a few details of that week to make me happy.  “Mom, were you SO popular then?”  She laughed.  “Well, I had a date every day that next week!”  The thought of it made my toes positively curl with glee.  “And did any of them end up being your boyfriend?”  “Oh, love, NO.  No.  They didn’t want to go on a date with ME.  They wanted to go out on a date with Miss Elsinore.  To say they’d gone out to dinner with the local beauty queen.”

And there, plainly, was the crux of the matter.  Mom did not feel like, when she won that contest, it was based on real things.  She did not feel that she had been really seen.  She didn’t feel that it really had anything to do with who she really was at all.  Any real piece of her that had been there for judging had been slathered under pounds of stage makeup.

When I fell in love with my husband, I barely remembered how to put makeup on.  It was in 2001 at the tail end of my mother’s first bout with cancer.  It had been a grueling year and I felt stripped of artifice of any kind.  When we met I wasn’t looking for a relationship at all — I was utterly unprepared to be charming or beautiful or socially acceptable.  I was in a stage of my life where I grossed people out inadvertently by just explaining the day-to-day basics of our lives.  What we found funny at home other people in non-cancer world did not find funny.  When people asked, “How are you?” I couldn’t gracefully tell anymore whether they really wanted to know or if they were just asking because that was how conversation was supposed to go and the next line was supposed to be “Oh, fine thank you!  And you?”

I remember walking toward Ryan one night at a little dive we used to go to after coming out of the ladies room and realizing that for the first time of any that I could think of when he looked over and saw me and lit up with a smile, he was smiling at me.  All my cracks and dings and rawness were right there in front of him and he was delighted to have me coming over to slide back into the seat across from him.  As much as I loved him for so many wonderful things, I loved him for that.

There is something, I think, about being laid bare, recognized for who you are, and loved in the face of it all.

This is, in the end, what makes the love of my Savior so intoxicating and breathtaking when I stop in day-to-day business and ponder him.

Think about it:  There are stars in the sky so far away that our very strongest telescopes can only pick them out as specks of light in the vast distance.  Yet our physical beings are determined by 25,000 human genes that were not fully mapped until less than a decade ago and are contained in such microscopic detail that no human eye could ever decipher them without powerful aid.  Romans 1 declares that what can be known of God has been made plain to men and that His eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in the things that have been made.  What creation tells us is that our God is unfathomable.  He is greater than we can even begin to comprehend.

With the greatest of care and imagination He knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs.  He named us before we had names.  He knew us before we could be known by any other being and knew us more fully than we even know ourselves.  Every hidden dark place, every decision made wrong, every hatred, every cheat, every selfishness, every slight given was before his eyes when he then chose to love us with a deep, never-ending, fierce, perfect love.  He holds back nothing in that love.  Nothing at all was too great a sacrifice — not even the cross.

If, tonight, you are needing to feel love — ponder on this for awhile.  As unlovable as you may feel you are loved beyond what you can possibly imagine.  If you are God’s and springing to the front of your mind is “Yes but you don’t know what I…” — I can tell you that no matter how you finish that sentence, no matter how dark the ending, God knows and he loves you anyway.  If you acknowledge him, if you love him, if the darkness of the things you keep tight in your heart make you understand your need for the cross and, therefore, thankful for it then I can assure you that He knows and loves you still with a love that makes all things good and new.  He sees you and He has allowed himself to be seen.

I’m just a little bit agog about all of this tonight and so I thought I’d share.  Maybe now my brain will quiet down enough for me to sleep.


The Art of Hospitality July 10, 2009

Over at the Girl Talk blog by the Mahaney ladies, there is a new series running on hospitality.

As many times as I’ve read the book of 1 Peter (and I’ve read it a LOT because I got assigned to read it every day for a month because I needed to understand what was in there a LOT but that’s a whole other post that my ego will have to retreat a bit more for me to write!) I never really stopped to consider that very clear little directive in 4:9, “show hospitality to one another.”  In other words, not “if your house happens to be clean and you don’t need a nap…” or, “if you feel called in this way,” or “if you’re particularly gifted in this way…”  Nope.  You need to do it.

The list of women and families who have shown me hospitality and blessed me through it is endless.  I honestly don’t think I could go back through and write out a list of all the people who have reached out to me over the years and shown me love not just in though but in deed, out of their resources and time.  The list, on the other hand, of people to whom I’ve reached out in the same manner is sadly short.  I want to change this!

So, when I read the first post in the series on hospitality, I was delighted.  I mean, how could a girl like me NOT love an opening like this:

“I used to think that hospitality was for certain, uniquely gifted women who “got into that sort of thing.” You know the type: she has three lasagnas in the freezer, a roast and potatoes in the crockpot, cookies in the oven and coffee just brewed. Her table is always graced with fresh-cut hydrangeas from her garden—even in the dead of winter (or so it seems). She’s never happier than when a few strays show up unannounced for dinner, except of course, when a family of seven comes to stay for the week.

Me, well I panic when an extra guest shows up for dinner. My hydrangeas barely bloom in spring, and I think the chicken in my freezer has a frosty coat. Oh, and the coffee? I drank that already.”


I think this is going to be an infinitely helpful and inspiring series and I’m really looking forward to the rest of it.  If you’ve never come across this blog before, check them out.  They are constantly practical, insightful, godly and inspiringly feminine.


True Romance June 30, 2009

Filed under: friends,hope,love — Mary @ 9:12 pm

I have this friend who, while I haven’t known him all that long, I know is a very dear man.  Recently he met and then started dating a girl I don’t know first-hand at all.  But I have heard about her through various different trusted sources, and I’ve also heard about her family.  All of it is good news.  By every account this girl and her family are kind, loving and true people.  So it makes me very happy for my friend as I have watched him walk out the door on his first meeting with her and then in subsequent conversations we’ve had about her since then.

I have been honored to have my friend ask me, a married lady, for advice and insight as he’s pondered this relationship, and I am so touched by the care that he’s using as he approaches this whole thing.  I am touched, too, by the careful and respectful boundaries they are setting for one another, within which they hope to continue getting to know each other and finding out God’s will for this budding relationship of thiers.

And you know, it strikes me, that in seeing this happen I sense more out and out romance than just about anything I have ever seen before.  It isn’t lines crossed and passions out of control like we see so much in our culture lauded as true romance.  No, instead I am seeing this man utterly concerned with showing how wonderful he thinks this girl is by handling her as though she is precious and to be protected — and he’s doing it not only out of his admiration for her, but also his desire to honor his Savior.

I won’t go on.  I don’t want to embarrass my friend should he ever run accross this blog.  But really, it’s brought me so much joy considering his good intentions toward this girl today and it has inspired in me a desire to cover and protect them with prayer as they start out on what could be a lifelong journey.

But it brings to mind the quote from Lewis that helped me title this blog:

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I guess that’s some of what makes this all so deep and lovely.  He isn’t aiming for what the world is telling him would be enough to be labeled “true love.”  He’s hoping according to a different standard and that makes his aim more true.

Poorly written tonight, my friends.  But completely sincere.


United We Paint June 27, 2009

Filed under: family,friends,thanks — Mary @ 10:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

My sweet hub agreed to come with me to a United We Paint event that our community group at church was participating in.  If you’re looking for a way to reach out in your community and UWP serves in your area, I highly recomment it.  It was well organized and very fun and, quite honestly, I was shocked at how nice the house looked with two new fresh coats of paint.

The lady who lived in the home where we worked moved into our community in 1939!  She’d lived in that house since 1954.  I just can’t imagine all of the changes she must have seen living in that little neighborhood right down the street from us for all these years.  Amazing.  This whole area used to mostly be farmland and flower fields leading up almost to the shoreline itself.  I wish I could have seen it back then.

There was something especially sweet about being with Ryan doing this today.  I watched how hard he worked at the painting we were doing, going back over spots that needed extra work and kindly admonishing me when he found some areas where I had not paid enough attention.  His kindness and the obvious capability with which he worked as we painted our way along our assigned area rounded out my love for him just a little bit more today.

Love really is a process, isn’t it?  It stretches and grows and fills out and cracks open and fills in again in ways that we can never really anticipate.  It’s beautiful.  I am very thankful to be married to him.


Wes June 21, 2009

Filed under: death,friends,grace,hope,loss — Mary @ 5:41 pm

Yesterday my husband and I had the opportunity to go to a memorial service for a man named Wes.  Wes was a deacon at the church in which I grew up and that I attended until just a few months ago.  He was good friends to my little brother even when my little brother was just a squirt kid in Jr. High school with a fascination for guns.  I remember hearing all the time about this cool guy, Wes.

I never got to know Wes well but he was a part of the comfortable and strong foundation of men and women at New Life who was always there quietly serving with an open heart and a big smile.  He and his wife, who were married for 54 years, are just dear, dear people and it’s hard to think of Pat without him.

As has happened at all of the memorial services that I’ve attended recently (three in as many months), I found myself leaving with a wish to have known Wes better before he was gone.  He was a remarkable and funny and dear man and he will leave a big hole in the heart of New Life and the community.

This is what I remember most clearly about Wes:  He rarely spoke but he always had the warmest smile and this fierce sparkle in his eye that let you know that all sorts of things were happening under that calm surface and it’d be a lot of fun to get a peek inside.  My husband, who knew Wes even less than I did said the same.

At the memorial service several people commented about how, when called upon to give the story of his life at a recent men’s retreat 3 months ago, Wes gave an emotional 6-word response, “For I know my Redeemer lives.”

And so, with hope, we ache and mourn the passing of Wes —  but he has left to dwell in utter joy.


Uncle Richard August 14, 2008

When I came to Ivey Ranch, heart held in front of me raw and scared, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing there. I only just knew I needed a garden, they had one for me, and by Jove, I was going to grow things.

Richard is one of the first people I met once I got there. He is the reason I made it. Without being asked, he offered to till my soil, wet my weeds for pulling, wire my gates against renegade bunnies, holler if my son wandered too near the road by his plot. Without his help I would have ended up worn out, burnt out, and ready to quit within weeks of my plot lease. But Dick was there every warm morning with a smile and a joke and, if I asked, humble but accurate advice on just about every thing from weeds, to corn worms, to kids.

“Hiya, trouble!” I’d call when I got to the plots and saw him with his knee pads on, working away on his own plot or some newcomer’s who he thought needed encouragement. “How’re you?”

“Fat, sassy and happy!” he’d tell me every time. I knew the answer. That’s why I always asked. I tried not to worry when he’d have a coughing fit while I admonished Eamonn not to pick the green tomatoes, worried over my watermelons, and bemoaned my plethora of squash. I’d listen to him joke and laugh with every single gardener there. He’d ask after kids, grandkids, plants, and pets. He’d give a hug and tell a joke any time you’d need it. I had to fight with him to get him to take some of my organic plant food when he demanded to know how I’d gotten my corn so tall.

“Over my dead body will you pay me for that food, Mister! It’s time for a little payback!” I’d holler at him with a foot stamp.

“Do you see??” he’d ask anyone listening, “Do you see what I put up with?”

I really, really love Richard.

Rumor has it, it’s lung cancer.

We all try to water when we can, pull his weeds when there’s time, pile up his harvest for his neighbor to deliver when there are things to pick. Everyone’s worried and no one’s quite sure what to do. But the feel of the whole place has changed. It’s pensive, and it’s quiet, and we all throw glances at that empty plot where no one is hollering out sass and encouragement like he’s supposed to be.

It is amazing how one man can shape the face of a place and how his lack can make it so empty. When I consider it, I ache.


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