Merlot Mudpies

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

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.

Advertisements
 

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.

 

Crying to the Cable Guy July 30, 2009


Well, with a frantic week of work, activities, heat, and hormones, my resolve about writing every day flew right out the window. Didn’t it? And I am sorry about that. So here I am, picking myself up, dusting my keyboard off, and climbing back into the blog saddle again.

What I want to write about is tomorrow. Because tomorrow a very little thing is happening that is going to make very big changes in our home. I’m both thrilled to the tips of my toes and scared to death. Tomorrow, the cable guy is coming. We have a torturous two-hour window time frame. If you hear a high pitched keening wail between 4:30 and 6:30 PM Pacific Time, it’s likely me watching the cable man shut off all our channels, packing up our DVR, and taking it with him — stopping to block our line on his way out.

Yup. We’re giving up TV.

Now don’t get me wrong. We are going to still have a DVD player and a handful of hand-picked videos to watch on it (what would life be without an occasional episode of 3-2-1 Penguins, I ask you??). And I know there are plenty of shows you can watch online. But we are severely limiting the ease of access to these things and I’m really quite thrilled about it all.

When I can think through the panic.

It’s not a monetary issue. The money we save will be nice for sure. But it’s an issue of value. We were paying for a whole lot of stuff that we loathe and a whole bunch of other stuff we didn’t want at all to get a limited few things that we sort of enjoyed sometimes.

The main adjustment will be for my son and I know that’s going to be hard for us. But frankly, I’m looking forward to that, too. I’m looking forward to my default NOT being turning on an “educational” baby sitter while I finish the dishes.

I’m going to have to plan my days better, build in longer times to get things done with his help, and I have a feeling I’m going to have a LOT more conversations in which the other participant responds only with one word, “Why?”

And hopefully, a month from now, it’ll be really normal and I won’t remember what it was I thought I’d miss about having channels.

But in the meantime…would it be SO bad if I walked crying through the courtyard and waved goodbye to the cable guy?

 

Buzzy Bees and Gargening Again…FINALLY! July 21, 2009

Filed under: family,garden,Gardening,love,stories,thanks — Mary @ 9:24 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Tomorrow I’m heading over to break ground at my new garden site — the back yard of a family friend.  It’s closer to us (less than a mile), has an enclosed yard, and is one block from the beach:  A good treat for my son when he’s been with me as I garden.  I have a rototiller to put together and beds to measure out and I just simply MUST put in my tomatoes which have been languishing in pots outside our apartment for three weeks now.

Is this odd?  I’m approaching this with much trepidation.  Getting started on a garden is just so much work.  But at the same time, I’m thrilled to death to get going on it.  It’s been a long time coming and my fingers are itching for soil.  My final inspiration was sitting in our living room last night after the tomatoes were watered.  I could smell them and the window fan was actually pulling the scent of them into the room on cool air after the heat of the day.  The ache for green is officially irresistible!

I’ll dig out my box of seed tomorrow and figure out what to start, as well.  Although we’re in a weird month to start growing.  I’ll have to pull up my old planting charts for this area, as well.

Before and after pictures will come, of course.

Last night as I finished up some work before bed, I listened to my husband and son in my son’s room.  My husband had gone in to cuddle him before he went to sleep.  The conversation went like this:

“I love you, Buddy.”

“I love you, too, Honey.”

“Hey!  I’m not your honey!”

“Oh yes you aaaarrree!”

“I’m not your honey…I’m daddy!”

“NO!  Your my honey!” (Accompanied by the beginnings of giggles.)

“Oh yeah?  Well…do you know who LOVES honey??”

“Who?”

“BEES!”

And then there was the most screechingly delightful round of tickles giggles and belly laughs heard in recent history. The perfect lullaby.

I am tremendously, infinitely, completely blessed.

 

A Family Day and a Rock Song July 11, 2009

Filed under: rambling thoughts — Mary @ 11:55 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This is a very boring post about a fabulously boring and perfect day.

I got a call from my pastor’s wife, Wilma, this morning, informing me that they were at a clothing sample sale near our neighborhood.  We had no plans at all and Ryan and I have both been needing some new clothes pretty badly of late.  So we rolled out of bed and packed into the car to go hit the sales.  Clothes shopping is usually really frustrating for me because there aren’t a whole lot of clothes out there that fit me — or rather, there are a whole lot more ladies needing my weird size than there are clothes for all of us.  So finding them is hard and then finding them on SALE…well, that’s just unheard of.  But today I managed to find a pair of size 6 jeans with a 34″ inseam for $15 bucks!!  And the waist isn’t so low cut that I can’t sit in them.  They FIT!!  We really did score today — both of us, did.

And you know, let me tell you something sweet.  Sitting in the car on our way home I was overwhelmed with thanks for this man of mine sitting next to me who gets up every morning faithfully and goes to his job, works his tail off, and comes home to spend time with our son and me every night.  He provides for us and allows me to stay home to care for our family and then thanks ME with appreciation for good food and a clean house.  And then we go out and have the luxury of buying new things that we need.  We are so very well taken care of.  And when I expressed my thanks to him his response was, “Oh, babe, I’m so glad we found what we did.  It was high time for both of us to get a few new things.”  Like it was nothing at all in the world.  But he works SO hard.

God is very, very good in his provision.

On our way home, my son made up a song.  This was the song:

Chorus: I DON’T KNOW! I DON’T KNOW!  I DON’T KNOW! x5,000

WHERE DO I PUT THIS? WHERE DO I PUT THIS?
THIS THING? I HAVE IT HERE. WHERE DOES IT GO?

Chorus: I DON’T KNOW! I DON’T KNOW! I DON’T KNOW! x 500,000

Bridge: WHERE TO PUT THIS THIIIIIIIING!

We let him sing it three times and then put the kaibosh on it because apparently it is to be sung only at the top of one’s lungs and there is just so much we can take.

So punk rock.

Lastly, the little man took a 4 foot skate board ramp by himself when his teacher looked away for two seconds on Friday.  To put this in perspective, he’s 3′ 4″.  He ate it at the bottom and this is how he repeated the story to his dad:

“Today I was at the top of a big ramp, and then I had a BAD idea…”

A bruised up nose was well worth it for the skate cred, apparently.

See?  Boring.  But I loved it.

 

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.”

Ahem.

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.

 

A Monument to Joy in Loss July 7, 2009


When we knew my mom was dying — really dying and soon — family began to pour in to see her at the hospital as we waited for hospice to be set up so she could come home.  We still thought that perhaps we had a few weeks with her but there was a certain urgency in my heart to say something to her.  To say…what?  I thought a lot about the things that people say in deathbed scenes in books and movies and on TV.  So many people feel the need to plead for forgiveness for that last wrong they thought of, that last hurt that had gone buried all those years, to confess, to clear the air, to leave no potential stone of regret unturned at the end.  I felt no need for any of that with my mom at her deathbed.

Throughout the Old Testament you read about the people of Israel raising monuments as reminders to themselves and all who observed them of the glorious things God had done for them and through them.  In the beginning of the book of Joshua, after 40 years in the wilderness, the people of Israel finally were able to cross the Jordan and enter into their promised land.  The first thing they did after crossing over the Jordan was take 12 stones, one for each tribe of the people, and build a monument with them.  Joshua instructed them to do this so that when their children asked what the stones meant, the people would be reminded to tell the children of God’s mighty work of stopping up the waters of the over-filled Jordan so that his people might pass safely on dry ground.

On the one hand, it’s sort of funny to think that a people would need a monument to remember a story like that.  You know?  HOW could you forget seeing the water piled up on itself as Scripture said it was, waiting for you to cross into the new home you’d been waiting your whole life to reach?  It’s preposterous!  Well, it’s funny and preposterous until you stop and take a good look at the frailty of your own memories and how they can be changed so easily and quickly sometimes.

We’re told later on that the people fell into sin and disarray almost immediately and that it was because they did not teach their children to remember the mighty ways of what God had done to deliver them.  They did not remember themselves.

And can’t you hear it?  Imagine, say, even fifteen years later, how the story might have been twisted at first.  “Daddy, really did God stop up the water?  Did it really pile up so high while you crossed over that it was taller than your head??” “Oh son, I was so young then and so small!  Why, I was shorter than you are now.  So perhaps the water seemed very high but…”  “Oh son, it was so long ago.  But the water was very shallow.  Perhaps it had been a dry season that year and we were so releaved to cross over that it seemed as if the very hand of God stopped the water and dried out the sand…”

But no.  No that was not how the story went at all.  And the people all together that first day lay those stones and all acknowedged the supernatural greatness of what had been done by their mighty God.  They acknowledged it together so that later together they could help each other remember how it really happened and so that they could continue to praise their mighty God and teach their children to praise him as well.

And so this is the monument I want to raise — a monument to the joy I was allowed while losing my mother, because of the God she loved and served and who I love and serve as well.  I nearly lost this memory, it very nearly got changed in the telling, and so I want to preserve it here now.

This was the last real conversation I had with my mom:

Sitting and holding her hand while my dear husband looked on, I was able to tell her thank you for her love and for the fact that I did not feel the need to beg forgiveness for anything.  It was not my own perfection that allowed me to feel this.  Rather, I felt no need to beg because I knew that forgiveness had been freely and openly given already and I rested in the peace of that — thankful, so very thankful that because of that forgiveness I could simply bask in her love and my own love for her.

I hurt my mother deeply through the 29 years of my life with her.  Sometimes I hurt her unintentionally and sometimes I did it very intentionally.  Sometimes I did not mean to be ugly and sometimes I was ugly just to feel the power of the effect it had on her.  I was, indeed, sometimes that kind of daughter.  And we did have wonderful, sweet times together — they far outnumbered the bad times.  But they did not make up for the bad times at all.  There was real and deep hurt there.  But Christ went deeper still.

And so sitting there wanting badly to say the right last things, the most important last things, I found that all there was in my heart was love and thanks and more love and more thanks and a whole lot of expectation for the time when, after I spend the whole rest of my earthly life missing her, I would get to see her again as we worshipped at Jesus’ throne.  And so that’s what I told her and she understood me perfectly.

You see, my mom knew herself before a perfectly righteous and just God.  She knew herself to be a sinner.  She didn’t think that, on her own merit, she would someday stand before His throne and hear “You did good, kid.  We’ll call it even.”  In fact she had a sense of her own sin that was so sincere that it seemed sometimes ridiculously out of proportion to the sweetness and the love we all knew from her.  But because she wasn’t comparing herself to the rest of the world but rather to her perfect Savior, she knew keenly that she fell short.  And that made the love and forgiveness she found at the foot of His cross so precious to her.  It was so precious, so powerful, so all-encompassing in its enormity that it changed her utterly and it made her like Him.  And because she was learning to be like Him I found in my mother love and forgiveness and tenderness and self-sacrifice all wrapped in real joy that taught me about Him, too.

And so, at the end of that confession of all that was in my heart to her, do you know what my mom said?  She didn’t deny that there were things that had had to be forgiven.  She acknowledged that all of what I’d said and known of her heart was true.  And then she told me that she was proud of me because she could see the fruit of Jesus’ love for me in my life and that other people had shared with her that they could see His work in me, too.  And she told me that she loved me.  And we cried — a lot.

It was the best deathbed confession I could have possibly come up with, only it wasn’t contrived.  It was what was in our hearts and it was real.

You might wonder why I’m writing about this now, almost a year and a half later.

Over the course of a few months this last year my memory of this time with my mom began to change a bit.  What I remembered were the parts of what I’d said to her about having no regrets to come to her with.  Somehow my memory changed and left out the parts that had to do with our mutual knowledge of God’s forgiveness in our lives.  I didn’t remember at all her response to me.  Rather, what remained in my mind became a picture of me blithely and somewhat insensitively refusing to acknowledge the full picture of our relationship together and insisting that it had been good enough for me to have no regrets.  I started to cringe at myself.  I no longer thought of that time with her at the end with peace in my heart and it started to color all of the other memories of that sweet and painful time of loss over the next few days before she went home.  Suddenly, where there had been none before, I had regret.

God is faithful where our memories are not and one day in my kitchen I paused over a counter I was scrubbing and was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to remember what she’d said to me.  WHAT had she said to me when I’d so calously informed her that I had nothing at all to be sorry for?  I paused and closed my eyes and forced myself to think through the hot shame that this partial memory brought and remember what she’d said in response to me…she said…that in me she could see the work of Jesus.

And the rest of it came flooding back.

Oh what relief to see that whole picture again!  Jesus!  He is mighty to save.  He is faithful to forgive.  He lives and pleads for me!  HE was the reason we had no regret.  HE was the reason losing her was suffused with joy.  HE was the reason, He was the topic, He is our mighty God.

When I read the story of Isreal and their monument at the Jordan I though to myself, “I must raise one of my own.”

Here it is.

God brought me over the trecherous river of my faulty memory safely and reminded me of the joy and peace only He could give.

Truly, He is my Rock and He is my salvation.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: