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.

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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.

 

Being Pharaoh April 24, 2009


I realized something this morning. It isn’t pretty. As per usual, it’s come from observing my toddler.  If anyone’s sitting there thinking right now that I’m mean for saying I’ve learned something bad from my toddler, I’m assuming you’ve never had one.  But for those of you who aren’t too offended to keep reading, I continue.  🙂

We’re at this stage with my son, who just turned three. It’s this stage where he has learned to follow rules, but his heart has not understood what it means to obey. Some of this is a lack in our parenting and example, I’m sure. Some of it, though, is that he is a fallen being and he was before he hit zygote stage. Scripture is clear on this.

This morning, Eamonn got up way earlier than usual. I have been getting up at 5:00 AM to have some time to myself — some time of peace where I can drink enough coffee to wake up and pray myself into the day. One of my prayer requests is that this time won’t keep getting shortened by Eamonn’s getting up earlier and earlier as he did this morning. So, finally, at 6:30 he was up for a bit and what I thought was for good.

You know, moms, those mornings, where every little thing — even the easy ones — become a battle? “Eamonn, it is too early for you to be up. But you can sit with me while I finish reading and praying. You may do a hidden picture sheet or you may read a book.” “Ohh…I think I play my dart gun.” “No, no dart gun. That is loud. You may do your hidden picture or look at a book. Oh, or you can do puzzles. It needs to be quiet because I’m not done yet.” “I play your computer?” “No. You may choose puzzles, book, or hidden pictures.”  “Ohhhh.  Okay I do puzzles.”  Which lasted for about 3 minutes when I heard both xylophones being played at once.  “Eamonn, you must play quiet things.” “But I AM playing dem quiet and in my room.”  “No.  This is not what I’ve asked.  I’ve given you three things you may do…” “But…”  I won’t go into anymore detial because it wasn’t fun for anyone.

But so it began. With every single option given, something else off the list was chosen — or, something partially on the list but slightly different.  Of all the available options, each of which he would love had he not been active in resistance this morning, none was chosen as presented. Look, I’m new at this. I’m sure plenty of you would have caught onto the issue way before I did this morning. May I blame it on not having had my second mug ‘o joe? Whatever, I’m getting to the point.

Puzzles were chosen again and I lay down on the floor of Eamonn’s room with him while he worked a puzzle and I started to read in Exodus. (I’m way behind on my ESV in a year reading plan.) I was at the 7th plague. This is one of those stories that you’ve heard so many times since you were a little kid that you sort of shut down parts of your brain when you read it because you think you already know everything that’s in there. That’s how I tend to think about things like Moses and the Plagues, or Noah and the flood, or David and Goliath.

But here is what hit me this morning that I’ve never heard anyone mention before.  Pharaoh obeyed a few times before the first Passover!  Well wait.  Let me restate that.  Pharaoh obeyed…sort of.  Moses said, “Let my people go.” And Pharoh said, “All right!  Go!  Well, okay, the men can go.  But the kids stay here.”  Plague.  Moses said, “Let my people go with all of their belongings.”  Pharaoh obeyed some more and disobeyed some more, “Fine.  GO.  Good riddance.  All of you go.  Oh, but I’ll need all your cattle to stay.”  I’m paraphrasing a little.  

First I thought of Eamonn.  Hooooo boy!  Yup!  My kid’s not just a pharasee — keeping the “whole” Law but rebelling in heart.  He’s PHARAOH.  Keeping part of the law laid down but resisting parts and calling it obedience.  I mean it was just all crashing in so clearly, what his problem was.  

And then a small niggling thought occurred to me.

I do this ALL the time.  I am called to submit to different forms of authority before God and I am the queen of partial submission.  I give on the items in my home especially where I agree and no sacrifice is involved.  But what about the areas where my husbad for perfectly legitimate reasons has an opinion or desire different from mine?  

I could go on and on in all of the areas of partial obedience in my life.  That content alone would constitute a whole fleshed-out category in this blog if I wanted it to.  But instead I want to focus on vocabulary.  It isn’t partial “obedience” at all.  Rather, it’s plain disobedience through and through because any alteration is resistance in full.  It’s hypocrisy at its clearest because it’s made to look like submission and obedience when really, somewhere, I’ve made it on my terms.

This is garbled because that second mug is still sitting on the table getting cold.  But I just had to get this down.  This morning I read Exodus and I identified with Pharaoh instead of the enslaved Israelites and Moses.

The difference, thankfully, is that my heart is not hard like Pharaoh’s.  I am allowed to see, by God’s grace, my own disobedience and resistance. And I am promised help in changing because I’m steeped in Love freely given, not plagues and wrath poured out on my deserving head.  I am hidden away from the final wrath and consequences Pharaoh was dealt because of the blood of the true Passover Lamb.  

So this morning as I go microwave my coffee, now cold on the table, I contemplate full submission and obedience and pray for the grace to carry them out.

And finally as an imitator of my Father like in Ephesians 5:1 and 2 I will walk in love and try to pour myself out well to my son as an example of real obedience and submission.  By God’s grace I will accomplish it.

 

For the Kingdom of Heaven Belongs to Such As These July 9, 2008


Today I made pancakes for Eamonn and Ella as a treat because they have been such loves this week. They have fallen back into their easy pattern together: sharing more than arguing, hugging more than shoving, and running to each other and flinging their arms around each other dramatically every time we get to the condo.

On the way down the freeway, the closer we get to Ella’s house, Eamonn tells me with more and more frequency at every mile, “Mom? I luff Ellas. Mom? I luff Sy (his name for Josiah). Mom? I see Tata (his name for Crista, which we find hysterical)? Mom? I Ellas? I luff Ellas and Yon (my brother).” In between each of these sentences I am peppered with demands to go to “Ampa’s” house and told that “Dah-ee” is at work and that Dah-ee, too, is the object of his undying luff.

When we get to Ella’s, I hardly get the door open before they are running at each other, a tangle of 5-and-2-year-old hug in the entryway. “ELLAS!” my son cries. “OH EAMONN!! I’m SO GLAD you’re finally HERE!” Ella responds. “Hi, Sy!” Eamonn croons at Josiah in his exersaucer and then cries, “Won, Ellas! I play!” Leaving me to the baby, Ella and Eamonn run down the hall together to drag her play table and chairs into the living room while I get Josiah ready for breakfast. They sit across from each other while Eamonn sips “cossee” and Ella reads, like the oldest old married couple you ever did see — perfectly content in their pretend routine and comfortable in the given of the other’s love.

This makes my mornings good.

Because we’ve had a reign of peace this week, as I said, we celebrated this morning with blueberry pancakes. “Aunt Mary?” Ella asked as I whipped up the batter, “Are these blueberry pancakes going to have chocolate chips in them? Because that would just be my favorite.” I secretly designed to put chocolate chip smiley faces on them, but to no avail — we only just had blueberries.

Over breakfast Eamonn chattered and Ella asked for interpretations or interpreted his words to her own designs. “I think he is maybe asking if we can watch TV after breakfast Aunt Mary.” “Really, Ella?” I replied, “Because he just said something about vitamins.” “Oh! Vitamins?” she replied, “Well why would he ask about vitamins? I just thought maybe he likes Sesame Street. That’s what I was thinking.”

It is very hard not to laugh over breakfast.

And then she hit me with it.

“Aunt Mary?”

“Yes, love?”

“Even though Grandma is with Jesus now, could we still have a party for her? You know, when her birthday comes? She still has a birthday, right?”

“Yes. Yes she does, Ella. It’s in October.”

“So, we could maybe have a party for her, I was thinking? We could remember her even though she’s not here anymore?”

“I think that would be a great idea. We could remember all the things we love about her while we were together.”

I swallowed tears and choked down pancakes.

“Aunt Mary?”

“Yes, love?”

“What did Grandma give me? I mean, which of my toys did she give me that I could bring to the party? I am thinking maybe I would like to bring two things to talk about that she gave me.”

“I don’t know, love. We need to ask your Mommy about that. Like…Eamonn…he sleeps with his tiger from Grandma Wagner and his Dino from Grandma Kathy…I know she gave you toys too but I just can’t think which ones those are.”

“I know I have some,” she said. “I just cant think what they are. But she did give me things.”

“I’m sure she did, love. I’m just not sure which things.”

It’s amazing how quickly pancakes, butter and syrup can taste like cardboard. We ate to the track of Eamonn’s chatter.

“Aunt Mary!!”

“Yes, love?”

“I thought of it! I thought of what she gave me!”

I thought she meant a toy and asked, “You did? That’s great! What did she give you, Ella? What would you bring to the party?”

“Aunt Mary, she gave me all of her MEMORIES! That’s what Grandma gave me! All the things I remember. That’s what she gave me. I will have those with me for always!”

And so, for the umpteenth time, I did not make it through breakfast without weeping.

Just as many nights I end the same way.

Twice in the last week my son has been woken in the night, weeping. I go into him and immediately after I calm him he asks, “Mom, pray?” Always, I agree and we begin to pray. But inevitably he interrupts me, “Mommy…I pray Ampas.” “You want to pray for Grandpa, Eamonn?” “Yes,” he tells me, “Pray Ampas.” And so, we pray. We pray for all our hearts but on those nights we pray especially for Grandpa’s.

The Lord used my Mom to touch hearts and she certainly touched Ella’s…a kid with one of the softest hearts I’ve ever encountered. And I am so thankful to see how my Dad has touched Eamonn in some way that goes beyond the explainable, but gives me joy all the same. As my mother-in-law so aptly puts it regarding these children, “There are waters that run deep.”

It is so humbling when your faith is challenged by that of a child, but it is hard not to be challenged in the face of Ella’s faith and Eamonn’s instinctual desire for prayer. I go through so many days challenged, hurting, not thinking of the hope I possess so securely because of what Jesus has done for me.

I keep stopping here and not knowing what else to write tonight. How do you go beyond something like that? Tonight I cannot. It’s as far as my heart will go. And for now I am content to be led by the wisdom of a child…and I am thankful for the solace of prayer and my memories.

Such pals from the very beginning…Mom and Ella
Mom and Ella together, peas in a pod.

Mom and Dad with Eamonn hours after his birth
Mom and Dad the day Eamonn was born.

 

What He’s Done for Me June 17, 2008

Filed under: grace,rambling thoughts,thanks — Mary @ 10:16 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I attended a church in our neighborhood this weekend as I was feeling under the weather and an hour round trip drive just wasn’t in the cards. I appreciated the service and appreciated, too, what the pastor had to say. None of it was un-biblical and everything that came out of his mouth, I needed to hear. But there was something missing and its lack rang loudly in my ears as I gathered up my notes which contained a stunning “to do” list of things that I felt incapable of accomplishing before I even left the doors of the church.

Do you ever feel that way? Whether you are a Christian or not, I imagine that if you’ve ever heard a sermon preached you likely wound up at some point thinking, “Give me a break. Who can really live like that? I know I can’t. And I doubt any of these people sitting here can, either. And if they say they are, they’re probably hypocrites.”

And you’d be right. Even as a Christian I must on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute basis answer truthfully if anyone were to ask, “I have failed.”

When we are focused this way, as I was with my “to do” list on Sunday, it’s hard to find the hope.

But then, I happily was reminded as I went to pick Eamonn up from Children’s Church, my hope is not in myself. It’s in Jesus and in what he’s accomplished. If my hope were in myself, and if my salvation laid in the things that I accomplished there would be little room for hope at all. But it is not my work that saves me, it is Jesus’ and it is out of thanks for this that I dare not to despair and to try to live a life that is pleasing to him.

It is amazing the difference you feel when you go from living a life of vain effort in the hopes that it will be good enough, to living a life of thanks for what has already been accomplished for you, secure in the outpouring of love and mercy rather than trying to earn a reward for which you are not worthy anyway.

I bring this up not to criticize the sermon I heard on Sunday. I was worshiping with a body of believers who love Jesus. I bring it up because that understanding — that Christ is your hope and that he is the one who has accomplished what you clearly could not — is so incredibly important, and yet it is so easy to lose sight of. We lose sight of it time and time again.

If you need to be reminded of that hope, or even if you don’t quite believe it’s real but you want to know more about it, I would encourage you to listen to “An Unjust Judge and a Persistent Widow,” preached by Pastor Ted Hamilton at New Life on the first of this month. In the last few minutes of the sermon, Ted takes all these floating points and draws them together in such a way that, upon the hearing, I wished a little bit that we spent more time shouting “Hallelujah” from the top of our lungs in Presbyterian circles.

And so I repeat to myself today, on a day when I felt like such a failure in so many ways as a mom, as a Christian, and with an insight on all of the sad things that go on inside of me every day as I struggle with my baser desires, pettiness and selfishness: I hope in Christ, not in myself. I am cherished because He is the first born. I am loved because He is loved. It is finished because He finished it. It is forgiven because He paid. For what He accomplished I am rewarded. And with the relief of that I can rest and pray to do better on the new day. Not to earn anything, but to say thank you for what He earned and gives freely to me.

 

Longing June 6, 2008


Eamonn woke up in the middle of the night shivering and crying and I’d brought him to bed with us for a little while so that he could calm back down and drink some water. I slept for a bit with my nose in his hair, remembering all the nights I clung to my mom when I was little, wishing that she could just stay the whole night with me. There are few aches like the aches we feel when we long for our mommies. I hold him a little closer when I feel like that and his poor, hot baby skin burned against mine while his fever did its work and he fell back to sleep.

I have been having strange dreams every night and last night was no exception. I keep dreaming I am with my mother and that she doesn’t know she’s dead and that it’s my job, somehow, to make her understand. I wonder what my heart is trying to process that makes me dream this over and over again?

When we woke up this morning, Eamonn and I were both a little the worse for wear. Since I was a little kid, a family remedy for morning blues was a trip to the local diner where all the waitresses know you. So I packed Eamonn up with promises of pancakes and we headed out to our nearest family-owned diner for breakfast.

My visits to this particular diner have been shaky at best since Mom died. It was a favorite of my mom’s and mine. It is where she, my mother-in-law, and I went for pie after seeing Eamonn on 4d ultrasound for the first time. We sat in awe with huge smiles and lots of tears, cooing to the waitresses about how clearly cute and talented my boy already was, even in the womb. We used to just sit there on rainy afternoons and laugh at Eamonn’s antics as he flirted with waitresses and old ladies who stopped by the table to say hi. It’s a busy place, but they never hesitate to pour you just one more cup of coffee over and over again when they know you. It’s the place mom took me for lunch to let me know that her cancer was back. She’s the only person I know who would buy you lunch to soften the news of her own cancer. Doesn’t it seem like cancer should be a free lunch ticket? But not to my mom.

On our visit to the Village Kitchen the week before last, I finally explained to Curtis, the owner’s son, why Eamonn and I had switched down from being a party of three to a party of two. It makes it a little easier to know that they know when I well up over my coffee, which seems unavoidable when I’m there these days. Today was no exception.

I ordered eggs, pancakes, and bacon for us. I always get cheese on my scrambled eggs and while Eamonn and I were eating we started to laugh as I pulled and pulled at a bite of cheddar and egg — the string of melted cheese was never-ending no matter how much I twirled my fork. Suddenly, like a loudspeaker had been turned on in my head, I heard my mom laughing. When Eamonn was about a year old we’d ordered him a grilled cheese sandwich and laughed over the very same melty cheese. “It’s longhorn cheddar!” she’d giggled, “What a dirty trick to play on a kid!” and we’d melted into hysterics while trying to help him manage his sandwich with such a little mouth and little hands.

Bam. Tears. That’s all it takes right now. Oh how I wanted her there.

Eamonn lasted beautifully through breakfast and then a trip to the hardware store for canning jars, but he was so tired when we got home. I put him down for his nap early and after listening to him cry for a little while he started to sob, “I lubbus, mommmm. Mommmmm, I lubbus!” His baby version of “I love you.” I couldn’t resist. I went and scooped him up and snuggled him against me in his rocker while he finally calmed down and slept. The smell of him, the weight of him, and the feel of his little hand on my neck — all of them made me ache.

This all got me to thinking about longing. I deal with a lot of longing right now. I shudder sometimes to think about the weight of the longing my father must feel without my mother there anymore. But in the midst of all of this longing, there is hope. And maybe this is why, though I long I do not fall apart the ways I expected to. And maybe this is why, too, I keep dreaming that my mother does not know that she’s dead. I’m trying to reconcile my earthly understanding of death and the seeming permanence of it with the faith I have that what we see here is not all there is.

Last night while I was cleaning, I unearthed the Christmas letter my mom wrote in 2006, only months before we found out that her cancer had returned. After all the family news was done, she mentioned that for the first time in years, we were all going up to spend Christmas with the extended family — her brothers and all of our cousins and our kids. She wrote:

“The whole bunch of us are going, and there’ll be lots of hilarity and reminiscing over old times, longing for others who won’t be able to be there, and remembering loved ones long gone. It will be a sweet time, and we can hardly wait.

There is another greater Family Gathering coming
that we both find harder and harder to wait for with each passing year. That gathering will be what our Creator took on flesh for on that first Christmas and BURST into history to do battle to reclaim. It will be what He WON, on the cross, at the cost of His own life. It will be what He planned from the very beginning — His living in warm-hearted “family-ness” with His people — no more guilt on our part, no more fear, only perfect security and everlasting purpose and contentment. And it will be just as real as you standing there with this letter in your hand reading about it.”

Yes.

And so as I weep and ache and long, I do not despair. My mind is trying to grasp that while she is gone from here, she is alive and well. And all shall be well. All manner of things will be well. And it will be just as real as you sitting here in front of your monitor reading this blog.

 

2 Months May 7, 2008


I don’t mean to keep a morbid time line of my mother’s passing. Really I don’t. But the fact that two months have passed by seems incredibly insane both in the “has it really been that long??” realm and the “no, it was ages ago” realm at the same time.

I miss her. Oh, how I miss her. I am fine most days and then there are the days where all I can do is cry.

But much of my crying is brought on by sweet memories. Here is one that was brought on by my sister-in-law Crista:

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I got strep throat for the first time. I remember having a sore throat and feeling soooo cold even though it was a hot day outside. Mom walked to school to pick me up from class and when she went in to talk to my teacher she wrapped me up in her own sweater and had me stand outside in the sun shivering until she could come back out so we could walk the few blocks home. It was so sunny and bright outside and I remember her telling me I had to have a fever if I was cold on a hot day like that.

When we got home she took me into the shower and got me all warmed up and into a clean pair of pajamas and bundled me into her bed where she served me a drink that, to this day, makes me smile and that I crave when I’m sick: Raspberry tea with milk and sugar. It was delicious. And while I sipped my tea-milk (that’s what I called it), she got out a book she had been saving for me. That was the day my mom first started to read The Secret Garden to me. It was a hardback, clothbound red copy with gold lettering on the spine. For three days we lay in bed and when I wasn’t sleeping, Mom read to me.

I was positively entranced. I knew that I loved books by that time, anyway, but that was one of the first times I lost myself in a book that I can recall. Even now, one of my standards by which I judge a book is whether or not it loses me. I can lose myself so deeply in a story that, when I put it down for a moment, I find the reality of my life jarring for a moment. That is the first time I remember that happening. When Dad would come home or Mom would have to get up to do something, I would be shocked to find myself at home in bed with a sore throat still, and not tucked away in Misslethwaite Manner with the “other” Mary and her cousin.

I asked Crista if she would mind my reading the story to Ella, as she found the original copy of the book my mom had used to read to me.

How appropriate, these days, that one of the ways I can carry on one of my Mom’s special memories with me is through a book named “The Secret Garden.”

 

 
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