Merlot Mudpies

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

The things we must have January 13, 2011

Filed under: christianity,Faith,grace,hope,rambling thoughts — Mary @ 12:02 pm

I was struck this morning in Genesis as I read the account of Jacob conspiring with his mother to steal Esau’s blessing.

Isaac promised Esau the blessing he knew God had reserved for Jacob (in spite of the order of the twins’ birth) because the old man thought he had to have some of the food Esau made from the wild game he hunted. He thought he loved the food so well…and yet his wife was able to deceive him with food from an entirely different source. So while the thought of the food ran him more strongly than his desire to honor God, he couldn’t even tell the difference in a counterfeit.

Man, I’ve so been there.

I think the things we must have, unless that thing is God, often deceive us. And it makes me stop and wonder, “What’s running me right now? Am I answering to God? Or am I answering to the things I think I must have?”

Perhaps some of why this stood out so strongly to me this week was David Fandey’s excellent sermon on Hebrews 6:13-20 on Sunday. Abraham was run by his desire for a son — God had promised him one! He believed and yet, he found it hard to rest in God’s perfect timing. In an effort to speed things up a bit, he took Sarah up on her offer of her slave girl to bear a son and he sired Ishmael…but as God made clear, Ishmael was not the son of His promise. So much heart ache and hurt resulted from that “workaround” to God’s seemingly slow movement. So often that’s the case.

But God DID come through in His perfect timing, and by the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, an Jacob, he blessed all the peoples of the earth because through that line came the Messiah — the Forever King!

God is faithful and his timing and his ways are perfect.

Lord…I believe! But help my unbelief.

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Real Repentence is Hard February 26, 2010


The thing about change is that it requires you to give yourself over to God’s intent for you and forces you to let go of some things you might feel entirely entitled to otherwise.  Giving yourself over and loving like God requires, in fact, that you give up many of what society tells you are your rights. This morning when I woke up — again in a funk and with the last vestiges of anger clinging on when I rolled out of bed — I happened to run accross this article when I opened my email:  Anyway Love.

I’ll take you to the heart of it:

In Luke 6:32-36, Jesus says we shouldn’t love because. We should love anyway. If we love someone because that person is good to us, or gives back to us, or is kind to us, we’re acting no better than anyone else. In essence, Jesus is saying you don’t need the Holy Spirit to love a man who remembers every anniversary – not just the anniversary of your marriage, but the anniversary of your first date and your first kiss. Any woman could love a man like that. Or if you love a wife who lavishes you with sports gifts, who goes out of her way to make you comfortable when you get home from work and who wants sex anytime you do – well, you’re doing what any man would do. There’s no special credit in that!

But if you love a spouse who disappoints you, who can be a little self-absorbed – now you’re loving anyway. In doing that, you’re following the model of the heavenly Father, who loves the ungrateful and the wicked.

This is so true. It is perfectly right. There is no arguing it. And yet, it is so, so hard to take from your head to your heart.  And this is where I find much of my walk falls down.  Sitting and reading this article my whole being resonates with the rightness of loving as God has loved me.  As the article puts it:

Christians are called to anyway love. That’s what makes us different. That’s what gives glory to God. That’s what helps us appreciate God’s love for us, because God loves us anyway. He gives and gives and gives – and we take Him for granted. He is eager to meet with us, and we get too busy to notice Him. He is good to us, and we accuse Him mercilessly when something doesn’t go just the way we planned it.

But God loves us anyway. To love anyway is to love like God – and to learn about God’s love for us.

Every fiber of my being knows this is true. But when I stand up, when I walk through my home, past messes, through rooms that overwhelm me, and listen to requests from the people I love, I sometimes want to stop and cry or scream. Sometimes I DO stop and cry or scream. And I know in my head that this flies in the face of how I should love and how I should respond. But getting from knowing to doing is hard. Right now I feel trapped between “SO HELP ME…!” and “Oh, Jesus help me.”

And I need Jesus’ help. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul talks about “taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ,” which means to me that our thoughts can be disobedient to Christ when we do not work to bring them into line with what we know to be true in God’s word.  Right now my thoughts and my heart are very undisciplined.  Can you think, for any of you who are perhaps struggling in a place of resentment and anger as I am, of the last time you felt at the end of your rope?  Can you track back your thoughts and their course?  I can because I’m in them right now.  I won’t detail through them again — it’s the last thing I need.  But I can tell you the general course:  I begin to fume and fester over whatever has made me upset that time and then, like a magnet attracting metal shavings, every other resentment comes to the fore and I find myself attaching the worst intentions, the greatest wrongs, remembering old hurts and seething until the entire situation is blown completely out of proportion.

I used to think that some of Paul’s language was a bit overblown in passages like these but here, thinking and asking for God’s help in understanding, I begin to see that facing my own undisciplined thoughts really IS like facing an army arrayed against the truths of Godly love seeking to make their way from my head into my heart and out of me into the way I deal with my family and my home. I’ll be honest, if that were the only hope I had, my ability to overcome my own sinful heart and desires and actions, I’d throw up my hands in despair and I’d have no reason to hope that this will change.

But I don’t only have myself to rely on.  I have the Holy Spirit, and I have the faithfulness of my Savior to trust in.  My hope is not in my ability to get up, let it all go and move on by the power of my own strength.  Rather, I am reminded of my real hope, the hope the author of Hebrews wrote about in chapter 10:

19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

He who promised is faithful.

I don’t sit here needing to find the perfect exercise on my own. Rather, by His grace, I’m reminded of God’s grace and that changes something in my heart, even now as I write this. It doesn’t mean I get to just sit. But it does mean that as I look toward some of the things I need to accomplish today, and am reminded of who it is I really serve in serving those I love, and whose love causes me to love…it all seems less onerous. And that means something has changed for me today.

The end of that passage from Hebrews says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” So as I get up to make my way into my day, my responsibilities and relating with my family, I urge any of you with whom this resonates to plead with God to touch your heart and remind you of all he’s done for you. He did it while we were undeserving. He did it while we were lost in sin. He did it while we resembled nothing good, nothing worthy, nothing beautiful. Ask him to make that the starting point for your heart change.

Nothing around me looks different. But that isn’t the point. The point is Jesus. I have dishes to do.

 

How’d I Get Here? February 25, 2010


Here I am at the end of another long break and when I read my last post in the middle of the 30 day challenge, I chuckle.

Why does huge transition seem to happen in September? That’s the last time I posted here. Maybe it’s the pattern set up with school — a new year starts in September.  For me, another birthday rolls around and everything feels new and ready to happen.  That was certainly the case this year.  We had family out from out of town for a few weeks, suddenly October was upon us and then, low and behold, we found out to our great delight that I was pregnant.  And we found out when I had swine flu, and while our son had swine flu too, and…uh…you get the point.

And I’ll be honest — this has been a rough few months.  I actually sat down tonight with no real intention to write.  I actually sat down to mope.  I am tired, my bones hurt, my stomach is queasy, and…did I mention I was tired?

But beyond the physical, I am also emotionally tired and overwrought.  What I really sat down to write was a rant to my husband.  An ungodly, poorly thought out, ungracious, and self-focused rant.  Only, much to God’s grace, I was very aware before I even started that what was in my head and in my heart was not what needed to come out of my mouth or the tips of my fingers.

I loaded up Mozilla anyway, gritted my teeth and grumbled, and then had to stop and chuckle (if darkly) when I saw in my start page a link to a post on Radical Womanhood called, “The Sacrifice of Silence.”  Even as riled up as I’ve gotten myself tonight, I couldn’t ignore a sign THAT blatant.

So here I am.  I have put my son to bed with a grumpy kiss and a half-hearted read of a chapter in the Big Picture Story Bible.  I then glared at my napping husband while I loudly slammed last night’s laundry into cupboards and drawers and only got more angry when he didn’t respond to my bad mood.  I stomped through a shower, so caught up in my mental tirade that I think I am more tense after taking it than I was when I got in.  And here I lie with my laptop, aware that I have nothing to show for my temper tantrum tonight but a heart sick at the knowledge of my own sin.  And on top of that, I’m afraid that tonight isn’t a lonely instance of these moods of mine.  This hasn’t really been a good few months.

I’m a little lost as to why I’m writing this in a public forum like my blog where I usually blather on about gardens, food, and my son.  But honestly, I felt compelled to write here tonight.  I’ve been clear in the past about my faith:  I am a Christian.  And I guess I’m left wondering, what use are my declarations if I don’t also share the times when I don’t live up to them?  Why go silent when I don’t look pretty if I write about where I really am?  I am a broken, selfish, sinful woman in the process of being redeemed.  And sometimes it feels like a very slow, arduous process indeed.

God is faithful when we are not and tonight I am aware at this low point that he is speaking softly to my heart, asking me to trust him and seek my sustenance in him.  I feel let down and angry right now because I’ve been leaning on so many other things to fulfill my needs and, as all created things do, they’ve let me down.  The biggest perpetrator of that is ME.  I cannot be who I need to be without Jesus.  When I trust in my own strength, my own charm, my own smarts, my own logic to be okay, I will not be okay — as shown in the dismal state of affairs in my own home right now.

I will wrap this up because I have some repenting to do, some praying to do, and some seeking to do.  But I just…I don’t know why — I felt like I needed to be honest tonight.  I felt like I needed to break the silence and tell you where I am and where I’d rather be.  If any of you reading this feel a bit like I do, I will lift you up in prayer tonight even as I lift myself — because He who promises to keep us and sustain us is faithful, even when we are not.

I will write about this more clearly some time soon.  Just no more tonight.

 

Ten Widdow Mon-teys, Yumpin’onna Bed August 18, 2009


Today I had a blast with Eamonn.  Do you know what we were doing?  We were cleaning.

We’re in week two of no channels on the TV and a lovely thing has happened — he’s started not to miss TV.  This morning he asked me, “Mom — would you play music on the TV?”  We don’t have a stereo and my iPod really only plays through headphones or in the car.  But we have a game console that will let me stream music from my computer or play off of a CD.  So we listened to worship music while he played with Legos and I put dinner into the crock pot.  Later in the day when we got home from running various errands around town neither of us even paused at the TV as we came through the door.  Rather, we lugged a toy cubby that I’d gotten from my sister-in-law in trade for a trike Eamonn never rode into Eamonn’s room and began sorting his toys into the various cubby holes.  He loved it.

“I have a ball!  This is an instrument, Mom!  Here is another train piece!”  We sorted through his toys which were in a big jumble in his wagon and gave them all homes.  As we rifled through his things we began to find monkey from a long-forgotten barrel of monkeys and started singing the “10 Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed” song together.  When Eamonn sings it, it goes, “10 widdow mon-teys, yumpin’onna bed…”  My heart nearly exploded with love several times and I kept thinking, “How did I miss the nuances of how much fun all of this could be?”  I’d fallen into this bad habbit of rushing through every aspect of the day and using TV to babysit while I did things quickly that, given a little more time, we could have done slowly and joyfully together while we talked and laughed and played.

I am not looking for reassurances that I’m a good mom or that everyone makes mistakes like this and gets caught up in the hurry and bustle.  I do know those things are true.  But here’s the other thing that’s true:  My hustle and bustle was a sign of some grave sin that has needed to be dealt with for quite a while now, and the Lord has gently and graciously let me see this as He’s also gently and graciously shown me some ways I could change the pattern.  I know we don’t like that word, “sin”.  But let’s call it what it is in my case.  Waste is a woeful category into which I so often and so easily fall.

The overall message that’s been ringing loud and clear in both my heart and my ears the last few months is that I have much to learn about stewardship of my time, my monetary and material resources, and the gift of a child.  This has come in various ways: realizing how much food waste was going on in my own home at my own hands without my realizing it; the natural progression from that realization to a hard look at the rest of my money flow; struggling to find time to sort these things then causing me to realize how much time waste there is, as well.  I want to learn to use my time and resources more effectively so that I am able to accommodate Eamonn’s pace rather than setting him aside in order to accommodate mine.

There are several resources I’m considering that I’d like to go through over the next few months as I work on getting some of my life in better order:

C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries did a series on time management earlier this year and I guess I should have raised the white flag immediately when I starred all of the posts in my Google Reader for reading later and then could never find the time to go through them.  However, in searching around and thinking about stewardship, I was reminded that he took the entire series and compiled it in a PDF for free download.  I’ve been praying for a study to do because I’m much more consistent with my quiet times when I’m working through something and I think this may be it.

In addition, my friend Beth and I have agreed to work together on our household budgets.  Amidst kicking, moaning, a few tears and some grumbling, I’m sure, we are going to be working through Budgeting for Dummies and Managing the Money Maze.  I think it will really help to have a friend with whom I’m totally honest about our finances and who will ask me how I’m doing with the budgets my husband and I agree on as I do the same for her.

Last, a natural categorizing of my son’s activities and interests began to emerge as we sorted toys today.  He has so many different kinds of activities that he’s interested in.  Previously when they were all jumbled together I think it was hard for him to figure out what to play with or what to do with his things.  But as we sorted things (I asked for his input on how he thought we should group some of his things and was delighted with some of his decisions) a post from Owlhaven that I read just yesterday on Homeschooling with Preschoolers came to mind.  In it, Mary shared an idea for play stations for kiddos my son’s age (3-and-a-half-but-almost-4-thankyouverymuch) and even younger.  In my jumbled mental store of notes I thought, “okay, must buy different kinds of things for him to play with…oh but the money…think about it later…”  But no.  We have everything we need already between puzzles, train tracks, building blocks, activity books, and art supplies.  I just didn’t know it because it was all jumbled together.  Already ideas for how we could play together and work together through our days at home has begun to emerge and I’m really excited at the time I’m anticipating spending with him.

This seems like a long laundry list and I think I’d easily panic if not for this thought that keeps threading itself through my mind and other considerations today, “You can’t do it.  But I can make it possible.”  And I trust Him, and He will.  I want to honor my Lord and I know He will help me to do it.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Selah

4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

 

Shelter is Not a Place, It’s a Relationship August 16, 2009


I had not heard of Raising Five until tonight but I’m so glad I found it (HT Owlhaven).  Katherine wrote awhile back about sheltering our children vs. giving them freedom as they grow and uses her own growing up as an example.  I hope you find the article as encouraging and insightful as I did.

 

Holy Bodies, Renewed Minds

Filed under: christianity,Faith,grace,hope,learning — Mary @ 9:50 pm

My boss recently had the opportunity to preach at my church.  He wrote a new series for us focused on Romans 12:1-2:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I love my boss and his wife anyway but these past two Sundays with him at the pulpit I was reminded how very privileged I am to work under two people who love God so passionately, believe his word so truly, and live their lives accordingly.  That is not to say they try to look perfect — they are real and therefore compassionate and insightful people as well.

You can access the sermons by clicking these links:  Holy Bodies, Transformed Minds.

 

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.

 

 
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