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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reflections on a Haiku

 This is for all of you facing a not-picture-perfect Christmas (I know you're out there!!  It's not just me!)

A few years ago,  a little haiku came to me as I was contemplating contentment

                            Contentment is my surfboard,
                                     Skimming turbulence;

Contentment, I think, usually conjures up images of a cow in a field, chewing its cud.  No worries.
But I find that it has a much more dynamic character, actually-----the character of Christ!

So this morning, when I awoke to a Christmas Eve with the same turbulence I've been facing since the end of March, I had to add a line to my haiku-----if contentment is my surfboard, discontent is my riptide:-(

Here's what I wrote in my journal:

12.24.11   Ugh.  I can hardly muster a "Good Morning".
                 But knowing that it's You I'm greeting , I feel some measure of relief.  I know You understand my heartbreak----better than I do!   I am sore at all the stress----mostly emotional----that seems to go with this season.   "Contentment is my surboard"  indeed.   As I reflect on it, it seems that I need to know well the character of contentment, and also how discontent enters.  I need to recognize and rebuke the discontent.  A powerful tool lately has been to rehearse the fruit of the Spirit:  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.   They are my Christmas ornaments this year!   And to realize that "Think on  these things" is not just an option, it's a necessity.
          I think of Stu, and I see that in him I face a confusing outer layer of discontent.  That's what he keeps showing me, and trying to get me to wrestle on that level.  I think he must know peace on some level, though.  His eyes reflect it, and sometimes he shares thoughts and prayers that show it. 
          As I pray for him once again this morning, I ask for connection with You, Lord, recognition and the relief that it brings.  I pray for a deep humility to engulf him and win the war for his soul.  I pray for the wisdom and courage to let go of him as I love him-----not really humanly possible, but You are the one who invented miracles:-)  In You, all things are possible!
          There, I feel better-----Once again, You have breathed life into me!     Amen

Merry Christmas, my friends!  There is reason to rejoice!  

Thursday, December 22, 2011


 I've been thinking about the paradox of Joy for a long time.
My first brush with it was in 9th grade----my catholic high school had hosted a two day on-campus retreat for the students.  As my friend Janet and I walked home on the second day, we found ourselves contemplating the difference between happiness and joy.  "Happiness is temporary" we concluded, "but Joy is eternal"  Don't know if we used the word eternal, but we had hit on something.  Sometimes a 12-year-old can be pretty profound.  (We also discussed racial prejudice that day, a huge issue at the time, even though neither one of us knew a single black person in tame Ventura, California:-)  Still, we were on the right track.  "You know", Janet ruminated, "I think there are good black people and bad ones,  just like with white people.  You can't decide about someone based on their skin color".  Seriously, we were really on the way to solving the world's problems.  Unfortunately, puberty got in the way...........! 

Fast forward to the year 2000.  That's when this image of a Christmas tree, topped with Joy but woven through with the words of James 1:2-4, popped into my head.  Considering the events of the past year, it seems to me to be a very appropriate image for my Christmas greeting to you all!  Wish I could afford to send each and every one of you a handmade card, as I did that first year-----but the photo has some patches of light in it that don't appear on the original, and they make me think of Christmas lights.

Joy is a surprising (to us) byproduct of  suffering.   "For the joy set before him" it says of Jesus in Hebrews 12 as it describes his death.  C.S. Lewis titled his autobiography "Surprised by Joy" (put it on your reading list if you haven't already read it!)   And as I walk through my own little trial here, I can testify personally that I have never seen God's face so often and clearly----and that is a lasting joy, his greatest gift to me.  I guess that's what I want to end with, in this season of gift giving.  We have been given an incomparable gift already, by the Definer of all giving!  Praying that you all experience the joy!

Merry Christmas, Friends

from Sue and Stu

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Book of James kind of Thanksgiving.

Good thing I've read the book of James.
Otherwise I could not have endured Thanksgiving Day at a nursing home.
I was prepared for the general lack of hominess-----we've been enduring that for the past almost eight months.
I wasn't prepared for Richard.
He's Stu's new room-mate.
He arrived the night before, with a pile of smelly luggage.
Richard smells bad, looks bad, and acts horrible.
He seems to be in pain a lot, and groans loudly for long stretches of time.
"God, help me die!!!   Kill me, someone kill me"
When the pain subsides, he demands food or whatever else he needs without grace or consideration for the staff.

I find myself, for the umpteenth time, impressed by the self-control and patience displayed by the staff.  This is their Thanksgiving Day, too, and they are serving some distinctly unthankful people!   Neediness and pain are big trials for us all, and not everyone is considering it all joy:-)

We had already decided (wisely!) as a family to forego eating together at the nursing home.  Instead, Rachel and Jerome and the kids came to visit before the mid-day meal there.    Fortunately, I had thought to bring "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", and the kids didn't seem to notice Richard and his groaning.   

We all got to watch as Stu used the transfer pole to get into his wheelchair,  a definite sign of progress.    Then Stu and I said goodbye to the kids in the big dining room, (not without a few tears) and they headed home to cook Thanksgiving dinner for later while I stayed with Stu for the afternoon.  (I joined them later-----a sweet evening together that ended with hymn singing.  Are you surprised that our last selection was "It is Well With My Soul"?  Always a treat to hear Jerome's fine voice and Rachel's sweet alto singing timeless words.  And the kids pitch in even when they don't know the words)

There were a few thoughts that helped me get through this "not-the-way-I-would-write-the-script" day.  

I realized that there must be many, many people on this earth who were having a less-than-joyful day.   People in abusive situations; prisoners; people without family;  homeless, forgotten people.   My prayers for them were heartfelt!   I was experiencing a little of their disenfranchisement today.   I prayed that they could experience the comfort of having the Lord Jesus at their side.

I also thought about a hundred years from now.  How would I like to remember going through this difficulty?  Walking through it with faith, holding my head up cheerfully and encouraging those around me, as Jesus encourages me.  That sounded right.

Let me confess that this morning when I woke up, my heart was full of lament.
"God, why are you putting Stu and me through this trial?   What about Christmas??!!!  Ugggghhhh"
Is my heart that much different than Richard's?  
Not in it's raw state, it's not.  
Smelly luggage and all!   
God patiently deals with me every single day.  
And he has given me some words to live by, and the light to absorb them.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverence.  Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

Apparently God's perspective is longer-ranging than mine:-)  He's aiming at eternity!   I can be truly grateful that he has taken me in hand, and shows no sign of letting go.  Now THAT'S Thanksgiving!

Christmas season, here we come!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Schvesters Hit Grants Pass!

Stu's Sisters, Sandra and Brenda, traveled from Rhode Island (Sandra), and Colorado (Brenda) to see their brother this week.  What a blessing.   For those of you who don't use Facebook, (where I posted more of them) I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took while they were here.
I think they cheered him up:-)

Sandra, left, Brenda, on the right
Lily enjoyed the Aunts very much. 
As always, Lucas entertained us with his antics.  When he appeared in this get-up, we were all cracking up.  He's a ship's captain, FYI
Brenda and Shayna.
The Aunts were impressed with Shayna's reading ability.  Lucas has a ways to go----note the book in his hand.   Upside down.
Sheathing his sword-----a wooden one made by Stu for Becky many years ago----the R was for Rebecca AND Reepicheep:-)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Peace.....where are you?

Peace Rock

From my journal a few days ago:

 When I walked in, he was crumpled in his bed, his head small and buried in the pillows, his eyes huge behind his glasses.  He looked lost and a little mental.  He wore only a polo shirt and briefs-----no shorts.  He was covered by thin white hospital blankets.  "Hi, Sue" he said, in his abrupt, muffled voice.  Since the stroke, his voice has changed.
"Are you getting up for dinner?"  I ask
"No" he says
My heart sinks.
Something in me rises up in outrage, disappointment, fear.  I want to chastise  him, change his mind.
Something stronger, though, meets the flood of reaction and counsels me to hold my peace.
Peace......where is it?
My heart is so broken at the futility of his situation, all I can do is sit quietly and wait for the peace that has carried me through all the turbulence to re-surface.
It takes many minutes.
I am very quiet.
And then I start to weep, overwhelmed with sadness.
He is quiet, watching and waiting.
The tears are a wordless confession of my helplessness, and they speak volumes to him.
As I cry, I am relinquishing the bitter accusations, the assumption that he is "doing this wrong"
I am relaxing enough to consider that this may be exactly how he's supposed to go through this.
As I cry, I am admitting that, at the core, it is You, Lord, who is steering this situation, and if you are not revealing yourself to him in a way that looks familiar to me, it says more about my limited scope than anything.

The enemy attitude in my heart shrinks, loses its hold, slinks away.  I am left with......Peace.  There it is!
I look again at Stu.
We talk quietly to each other, I wish I could remember the words.
He has a gift for relating to me in my brokenness, it doesn't upset him.
In fact, it seems to bring out the best in him.

I tell him that although I dislike the circumstances, our relationship is so important to me that I push through them to stay connected.  He makes me say it again, he loves it so much.  I also tell him he is a good husband, and he makes me repeat that, too.  "I know you wouldn't say that if you didn't see it."  he said.  True.  I see it because of you, Lord.  You are my light.  Today I pray for as much of that light as you can allow me.  The times are dark, but you are not.
For a short space in time, we are Stu and Sue, transcending earthly travail and reaching up to touch your face together, Lord.  It's a promise from you.  Someday we will live forever in joy with you.  Until then, we keep the faith, each in his own Godgiven way.  And we speak the truth in love, one to another. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


They're working on it.......:-)

"Is Stu home yet?" 
My favorite question :-(
The answer is so simple----but so complicated.


I struggle with all the elements that go into that "no."

And the questions that come next (I would ask them myself)
"Do you know when he'll be able to come home?"  or "How come?"

One of the things I love about our church is the fellowship time afterwards-----sometimes as I talk things over with my friends there, I get some insight about what's happening in this situation.  It happened today as I answered these questions in a group of ladies who have been following the saga since it started.   I ticked off the complications:  The remodel is progressing, but we battle weather and schedules----almost all the work is volunteer, so weekends tend to be when work can be accomplished;  Stu himself is far from recovered, and requires major care, but until the bathroom, flooring, roofing and addition walls are finished, I can't really start the process of interviewing caregivers.  I need to give them a time when they will start-----but I can't predict when the work will be finished!  All the equipment needed also has to come through SDA, and who can tell how long that will take?   There's more, but I think you get the drift.

As I described all the factors that are conspiring to keep Stu at Laurel Hill, it struck me that they are like cords of difficulty, binding him to an unhappy circumstance.  If you have read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", you will remember the scene where the witch has the great Lion Aslan lashed to the stone table, after shaving his mane (a picture of humiliation), and then kills him.  He is left on the stone table, hopelessly lashed to it, and Susan and Lucy watch from the shadows, devastated by the tragedy.  They want to unbind him, but they don't have the power.  They feel utterly helpless and broken-hearted.   But God sends unlikely liberators, doesn't he?   Mice!  Mice nibble away at the cords and free Aslan.   And then Aslan comes back to life!

I think that sometimes we are lashed to our circumstances with cords we don't know how to sever.  And I think it's easy to look at the difficulty we're facing and despair.  But God has ways of liberating us that are so simple and unexpected, it makes me laugh out loud with delight.  I am learning to expect it of him!   So, as bewildering as the current state of affairs seems, with more loose ends than finished,  I trust that God knows exactly what He's doing-------he is knitting together things I don't even know about.  I think gratefully of the long string of miracles that has bound this chapter of our life together, and I take heart.  God's knitting is more enduring than those dark cords that trouble us!

As always, I will keep you posted!

Until then, join me in keeping the faith, friends!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's been happening........

Heavens, where do I start?
October was so crammed with miracles, I've lost count.
Oct. 3 was the anniversary of our vow renewal ceremony a year ago.   So this year, I "celebrated" by falling off a ladder while working on the bathroom remodel and breaking a bone in my wrist.  It's a stretch for even me to consider that a miracle----but as I think it over, it seems to have opened the door for all kinds of help.  Somehow, my left arm sporting a purple cast seemed to make my need for help obvious:-)  And help was abundant!

Our dear friend Moriah Yoho arrived on October 6 for a ten day visit, which was, of course, planned before my accident-----but the timing was interesting, don't you think?  Her companionship and assistance were such a comfort during that time.  I thank God for her!  She is a talented photographer, and took some amazing pictures during our time together.  Hope most of you got the picasa link I sent by email.  My computer skills are not strong enough to figure out how to share them here.  If you are not on my email list and would like to see them, contact me at vesuevius@gmail and I will share the links with you.

So, at the start of October, we had the bathroom framed, and the rest of the cottage was gutted, with only one electrical outlet in use.  In one short month we saw the roll-in marble shower installed, the concrete foundation for the additional room poured, the room framed, all the walls in the cottage mudded, taped, primed, textured and painted, the vinyl floor in the bathroom laid, all the electrical work finished, (My cool cobalt blue track lights are in place and  Right now we are waiting for a few clear days to get the roof done and the walls of the addition up and finished.  This weekend Jerome and his friend Jim are scheduled to put in the laminate flooring and hang doors.  Lord willing the bathroom will also get finished (the sink and toilet need to be installed)  Keep in mind that all this is being accomplished by volunteers in their spare time!  Huge thanks are due to Bernie Conrad and his friend Earl, who cheerfully showed up for a week to do all the painting prep work (the job I tried to start that led to my purple cast).  Bernie also found me a jewel of a painter who did a beautiful job with the interior walls.  

I also need to acknowledge the huge gift of time and expertise that has come to us through John Lingafelter, of Lingafelter Construction, who is helping us with the addition.  What a gifted contractor he is----watching him work is an inspiration!   

Tim Kasdorf is another professional who has graciously contributed time, materials,  and expertise to frame the bathroom and advise us on what kind of shower and fixtures to install.  His cheerful spirit is infectious----we are privileged to know him!

I have not even mentioned the work that Youth For Christ has done all during this month, outdoors.  I think that deserves a separate blog!  They are amazing young people-----one of them poked his head in to the bakery as he was leaving and thanked us for allowing him to help!  That just melts my heart.  

So, when I say miracles, imagine that they have names and faces:-)   God truly is building this house, and he is using willing servants to do it.  

And how is Stu, you ask?  I think that deserves a separate blog, too.  Stay tuned:-)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What a week!!!

On Monday, I posted about the anniversary of our vow renewal last year.  By that evening I was flat on my back in the bathroom we're remodeling, wishing I had remembered to step on that bottom rung of the ladder.  Oy vay!  I guess I broke the fall to some extent with my left hand, cuz that's what started swelling.  At first I was not too concerned----I could still wiggle all my fingers, and a friend who happened to come by checked it out and didn't think there were any broken bones.

The next day was an important meeting with Stu's Care Team-----we got down to brass tacks about a discharge date (Oct. 31 is the aim----we'll see if we can hit it)  They assured me that he will receive as much support and equipment as he needs, wheelchair, hoyer, shower chair, caregivers, compensation for supplies and transportation----and whatever else we need to take care of him.  I know he will be relieved to be at home.

  I also needed to find someone to lay the vinyl floor tiles in the bathroom for me,  on VERY SHORT NOTICE, since my wrist was out of commission.      The roll in shower we had ordered was scheduled to be installed on Thursday morning, but the floor needed to be in first.  Yikes!  I put out an S.O.S. on Facebook, and Lo and behold! got a lead on a retired flooring specialist.  I called him up and explained my predicament.  "When did you need it done?" he asked, just to clarify.  "It needs to be finished by Wednesday....."  I gulped.  There was a pause and then "You're kidding!"  "I know"  I said "it's pretty improbable, but I had to try"  "I'll be right over"  he said.  And not only did he come right over. but within five minutes of assessing the job, he was on his knees, scraping the floor!  "I guess he's gonna do it!"  I marveled.   As I hung out with him, watching his progress and assisting in my one-handed way,  I felt doubly blessed because he had so much wisdom to share.  We talked about God and prayer and making mistakes as we waited for floor leveler to dry.  I said to him as he was departing "You are just one more miracle in this story full of miracles"  And we both smiled, all the richer for the experience.  Later, when I asked how much I owed him, he brushed it off, saying "You've got enough troubles, you don't need to trouble yourself paying me". 

When I woke up on Thursday morning, my hand was still swollen despite diligent icing and a storebought splint.  I broke down and went to the ER to have it x rayed.  And guess what?  A small bone was indeed fractured.  Oy Vay!  I am typing carefully right now with a wrist-to-elbow splint, and will have it casted on Wednesday!  My first-ever cast!  Interesting timing, don't you think?  Esp. in view of the fact that our dear friend Moriah was arriving for a ten day visit this very day!.   Not sure what to make of it all, is what it is:-)    We are all still laughing as we work through each day's challenges----laughing, crying, praying, enduring, reminding each other of our hope in Christ, and rejoicing because we are his.  Jerome is in the cottage today, hanging the rest of the drywall,  finishing up the placement for the cool light fixtures I found on craigslist, stopping every so often to drink some sparkling ice water and compare notes on what matters----today it was end times, for some reason.  I love my son-in-law.  He is a mensch.  (look it up)  Please join me in praying for him as he balances his many resposibilities:  full-time job, husband and father, and main work force in this remodel.  I pray for competent extra hands to help him, and supernatural wisdom for us all. 

I'll keep you posted!


Monday, October 3, 2011

The Vows

Today, October 3, is the one year anniversary of the day Stu and I renewed our vows.  The memory of the dear friends, the hugs in the receiving line, our children playing the music for the ceremony, the loving decorations and food, all warms my heart.  I have often remembered that day during this time and marveled at the perfect timing of it.  I think what we said to each other that day has even more significance in light of the past six months.  Here is what Stu said:

My Dearest Sue, My Faithful Wife,
         You and I have been through a remarkable journey together these past 35 years, a journey of discovery of the love of our Father, the one true God of all creation and His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
         I wish, in the presence of this company of people, to proclaim my commitment to continue this most miraculous journey, ever more deeply into the loving heart of God with you, Dear Sue, the best friend that I have ever known on this earth, the most faithful companion I have ever had.  We have shared such intimacy in His Holy Spirit!  I am devoted to finish the course God has set for us, Sue, my one and only true love, under God our Father. 

And here is what I replied: (with a hanky in my hand)

 My devoted husband,
        I am so grateful to have the opportunity to say to you, in the presence of this warm company, how very much I value you and our marriage.

     Stu, God blessed me beyond measure when he put us together.  This parnership has true chemistry!  I have learned SO MUCH about God's very nature------his mystery, his forgiveness, his paradox, his mercy----and I feel like we have just scratched the surface!

What we are doing here today is different from the wedding vows of a new couple-----for newlyweds, promises are made as they step into untried territory.  And that is a good thing, full of hope.

But Stu, you and I have been through the fire together.  We have sometimes wondered whether we would survive!  But by God's grace, we stand here today.  And that is a better thing, full of conviction.  We know by experience that God never fails, even when we do.

So, as we begin this new leg of our journey, I can promise you that I will keep depending on our Heavenly Father to guide and protect us.  I believe that out of that dependence comes profound respect for you as a man and myself as a woman.  We are made in His image.  May we become ever truer mirrors for each other, until all we see is Jesus.

Wow, as I review this, it seems almost prophetic.  Truly, we have just scratched the surface!  And truly, we are safe in God's very capable hands!  I'll be posting about progress with the remodel and plans to bring Stu home in the next few days.  Please keep us in prayer as I meet with the staff at Laurel Hill tomorrow to hammer out a discharge plan.   Depending on all things working together, we hope to bring him home by the end of this month.  From where I stand, that will be nothing short of a miracle!  But let's remember, this whole situation has been strewn with miracles from the beginning.  I'll be sharing about a couple of the most recent ones in my next blog.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

wait mode

Got a note from a friend the other day letting me know that a situation she had hoped to get resolved is still in limbo after all.  "NO-O-O"  I wrote back "I hate when that happens!  Guess we're both in wait mode" referring to my own suspense about when Becky will go into labor with the newest grandchild!   (She was due on Saturday, fyi, and as of this writing has still not gone into official labor)

My friend emailed back "I HATE WAIT MODE!", and I have to laugh.  Don't we all!

Now, don't jump all over me for this, but I have to say something about this wait mode thing we all dislike so much.  I have found it to be a very enlightening place, when I finally stop screwing my eyes shut, and take my fingers out of my ears, and stop yelling "You can't do this to me!" about it.   Right now, there's a yellow light about quite a few things in my life-------the shop remodel, Stu's ability to come home, the new baby.  That's really just scratching the surface.  I could go on and on.   But before Stu had the stroke, back in February, I had an interesting conversation with God about things I don't like on my plate.  (I would consider "wait mode" one of them.  A big mess of brussels sprouts, staring me in the face)  "Lord" I said to him "I really don't like the way this stuff looks.  But you have brought it before me so many times, that I'm starting to think there's something there that you want me to digest.  Ugh.  Whenever I try to pass on it, You seem to bring it back again.  So this time I'm gonna take a bite.  And I can hear You telling me how important it is to chew every bite, and let it nourish me."  Well, friends, I have to tell you that I am very glad I took that bite.  And many more.  As I chewed, I began to see things a little differently.  Maybe a little more the way He looks at things.  And that prepared me for the coming storm.  The Stroke of Genius I've been chewing on since March 26.   I suppose it's another way of saying "Consider it all joy".   As I chew, I find that the most bitter-seeming circumstances become tonics for my soul, I find I can laugh freely and truly rejoice in all things.  God is a pretty good Father, I guess:-)   He knows what we need. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Big Fat Miracle

the Lord is my Shepherd, by Stu Mendelson
It's 3:00 a.m.  My sleep has been peaceful tonight until now,  but suddenly I am wide awake and gripped by the hopelessness of my situation.  I am hemmed in by circumstances beyond my control.  Stu is inexplicably losing ground-----no one seems to know exactly what's wrong with him.  He's excruciatingly uncomfortable in his wheelchair lately, driven to distraction by a pain in his tailbone.  But if he doesn't spend time up in his wheelchair, he will lose strength and be at risk for pneumonia.  The regimentation of nursing home life is wearing away at his spirit, but I have no control over the progress of our remodel.  Until the remodel gets done, we cannot bring him home.  My gut feeling is that home is where he will finally be able to relax enough to heal.  No amount of human reasoning, encouragement, challenge, or any other of the usual goads that we use to prod a person to action is effective.  The situation is thickly planted with catch 22's.  There is no human reason to feel any hope at all. 

 So why, in the dead of night, do I have hope?

I see Jesus.

He is here, bright as day.  He knows the outcome of all this, even if He's not telling me what it is right now.  

He knows Stu, knows what he needs, knows when he needs it.  He reminds me that there are times beyond counting when He has showed up when there seemed to be no hope at all and deftly turned the situation on its head, showing everyone with eyes Who's in charge.

I see Jesus.  He is real.  He has power I can't understand.  And I am walking right up to him, confident of his love for me and confessing: Lord, I need a big, fat miracle.  Will you redeem this situation? 

I can hear him saying, a smile in his voice "I thought you'd never ask"


Friday, September 2, 2011


This past Monday, Aug. 29, as I drove up to Laurel Hill at 5:00 pm for my daily visit with Stu, I could hear sirens, and an ambulance pulled up at the same time I did.  One of the nursing home aides was coming out the front door and crooked her finger at me.  "Is it Stu?"  I asked, already knowing.  He had had a seizure of some kind while in the shower and they couldn't find a pulse.  By the time I got into his room, there was already a swarm of very tall-seeming techs working to stabilize him.  I lost count at ten----there were EMT's, firemen, AND police.  Kinda overwhelming.  The questions were coming at me fast and thick----especially "should they do CPR or not?"  Stu and I had agreed after the stroke that, should there be an emergency, we wanted the least intervention-----but Stu was alert enough right now to ask him directly.  "Do you think I could have two or three minutes alone with him?"  I requested.  The head tech didn't skip a beat "Everybody out!" he commanded, and they cleared the room in seconds.  I was very aware that this could be the last few minutes I would spend with him-----I had been told that if they didn't act quickly, his heart rate was so slow that he would die within minutes.  "Stu" I said to him, my hands gently on his chest, "do you want to let go now?  Are you ready"  "No" he said, "I don't think so"  That seemed like a pretty clear directive.  I said a brief prayer for both of us, asking for strength and wisdom, and then I called the posse back in.  Later, at the hospital, the head EMT approached me as I waited in the hallway and smiled in a head-scratching kind of way.  "You know", he said "I've been doing this for about twenty years, and I've never had someone request that.   I wouldn't have thought I'd do it, but it was fine."  I told him I wanted to be confident about the direction we took, and knew that prayer doesn't have to take a long time.  He said "Hey, can I use that in the classes I teach?"  Yup, you sure can:-)

Ultimately we were sent to RVMC to have a pacemaker placed.  The hospital stay turned out to be a blessing in diguise----when I walked into Stu's ICU room, the first thing he said is how much happier he was there!   I think the change of pace (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) was refreshing for him, and during the next two days we got visits from several of our friends from church.   We had been praying during the past week for fellowship for him----it gets a little bleak at the nursing home.  What a funny way for God to answer that prayer.

Pacemaker surgery is a pretty routine procedure, and after watching the videos at the hospital, it made me wonder if Stu hasn't suffered from undetected heart trouble for quite a while.  There is some hope that he will now experience an upsurge in energy.  That would be welcome!

The whole episode was over by Wed. afternoon.  Stu is back at Laurel Hill, the surgery site covered with a telfa pad.  I come away with a deep sense of comfort and connection from my friends in Medford.   They really took care of me and shared the crisis with me.  It was another stitch in our knitting together as a church family.  It all happened so fast, there was no time for me to send out an update, but I am ever grateful for the prayers of those that got Rachel's message on facebook.  

Tomorrow I will write about the exciting remodeling that is happening here!  Stay tuned!  

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Greetings all
          Wow, it's been a while since I blogged.  It's not that there's nothing to report, it's just that it's all so open ended.  No nice neat conclusions-----at least not yet.
          Stu is still at Laurel Hill Nursing Facility.  There have been a few breakthroughs in his therapy----Tex got him standing up a few days ago (with lots of assistance), and has also been using electrical stimulation for his left hand and arm----but nothing major, really.
            And last time I wrote, we were feeling good about the idea of buying this property from our longtime landlord.  Unfortunately, after that writing I was contacted by the landlady and told that they had been advised not to sell after all (both their attorney and their CPA advised against it because of the current poor market)   They have no objection to us making improvements to accomodate Stu, at our own expense.  The only reason this seems like an option is that moving would be even more expensive in the long run, and I would no longer have the bakery.   But if we got a clear signal that there was a sensible place to move, I would not object.  As always, only God knows how this will all play out----in the meantime, the daily exercise of keeping the faith keeps me on my toes!   (See what I mean about no nice neat conclusions?!)

Which brings me to TODAY:  Today, we went to the Josephine County Fair, the first time Stu has been out of the facility since June!  Laurel Hill offers this option to any resident who wants to go, arranges the transportation, wrestles with wheelchairs and transport schedules----God bless them!    Let me tell you, there were skeptics when it was first suggested that Stu might go-----after all, he complains about sitting up in his wheelchair after only an hour----how would he withstand the at least four hours for this adventure?   Somehow, though, he and I both kept thinking we should follow through with it.   So, this morning at 9:15 I was there with a lunch packed and a baseball hat for Stu.   As I walked in the door I was greeted with a lineup of residents in their wheelchairs extending down the main corridor.  Why does that make me smile?  The smell of sunscreen was thick in the air, and there were some flamboyant hats on unexpected heads-----who knew that Lori even owned something that big and floppy?   And Shirley actually looked cute in her sweet little straw hat.
                We had to wait a while due to a mixup in communications about the bus schedule, but by 10:15 they were loading the wheelchairs one by one into the vehicle.  Stu was the last one on, riding in the back of the bus.  He was very sober----I thought about how long it's been since he's seen the streets of Grants Pass, and let the pang hurt my heart for just a minute.  I knew this trip would have it's share of moments like this, and the best way to deal with it is to acknowledge it briefly and let it pass. 
it's a hosta leaf----I just like it.

Once we got through the gates, it was agreed that we would all go our own way and meet up at lunchtime, and Stu and I made our way to the Flower Building.  Nice way to start-----quiet, restful, cool, and sometimes spectacular.  We worked our way through several buildings, marveling at giant cabbages, impressive sunflowers, not so impressive zucchini (come on, those baseball bats are the ones we all don't want to see in the garden, let alone on a paper plate at the fair!) 
           We passed the arena with the dogs dressed in strange costumes (?), and wound up in the cow barn.  It was quiet and peaceful in there, and there was a bench where I could sit for a while.  It was time to hear what was going on in Stu's heart.  "I'm in a wheelchair!"  he admitted, almost surprised.   I knew something had been bothering him.  At Laurel Hill, everyone's in a wheelchair.  Out here, it's an adjustment.  "Yes, you are" I agreed with him.  Ever since we started reading the book of Job, I've been struck with how easy it is to miss the person as you struggle to explain his condition.  Better to just walk alongside and share the moment, I think.  That morning I had heard something on the radio about "leaning into grief", and I thought now what a good way that is to put it.  Let it do its work.  I prayed for Stu as we sat together, munching on the chicken salad and cornbread I had brought.  The cows in the nearby stalls were large and passive, just....... there.  They seemed like fitting companions.   
              When we got back to Laurel Hill, both of us tired but content, I could see how happy Stu's aide was that he had actually done it.  "When they first told me he was going, I almost had a stroke!" she quipped.  "How was it, Stu?"  "It was nice" he smiled. "I had a good time".  And you know, he did.  Sometimes, facing your fears is the best medicine of all.
              As I got in the car to go home, the song on the radio brought tears to my eyes----"Dancing in the Minefield" by Andrew Peterson.  It was on the last verse:
"We bear the light of the Son of Man
So there's nothing left to fear.
So I'll walk with you in the shadow lands
Till the shadows disappear.
Cause He promised not to leave us
And His promises are true
So in the face of all this chaos, Baby, I can dance with you.
So, let's go dancing in the minefield
let's go sailing in the storm
let's go dancing in the minefields
And kicking down the door.
Let's go dancing in the minefields
and sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed but I believe
That's what the promise is for.........
       That's what the promise is for."

Still dancing with Stu, even after a stroke------whatever comes, we are blessed beyond measure.

Until next time


Friday, August 5, 2011

Light in the Darkness

I knew I would wake up again tonight.   It happens every night now, this falling asleep for a  short time and then waking up.  In my natural self I have been dreading and resisting it, fretting that it was unhealthy and that I would somehow lose perspective.   But this weekend’s meltdown taught me something.  (I went over the line (briefly) between healthy compassion for Stu and co-dependence, enough to feel the heat.  It refreshed my memory about the huge difference between pressure from God and pressure from hell.)  And you know what?  This pressure that I feel each night now is something to yield to.  As I say “yes”, whole passages of scripture leap into full color, even brighter in the face of the darkness and emptiness of my circumstances.  I ache so deeply.  And there is an answering comfort to the ache, a Person who meets me.  He promises no remedy, at least nothing particular and earthy.   No resolution of the dilemma that shouts its facts at me daily.  But He does answer------he seems to be urging me to consider an answer that is intangible.  There is an assurance that accepting what He offers will actually satisfy on a much deeper level than a mere fixing of the physical reality.  He is offering healing.    I believe, Lord.  Help Thou my unbelief. 
         I step outside to the midnight stillness.  My property is a refuge, the stars like a living, breathing canopy assuring me of His presence and providence.  I am profoundly safe with Him, even in this darkness.  As I walk through the days,  I am profoundly alone with Him.  Again, I sense the pressing to accept the aloneness as a gift, to trust that He is steering this experience masterfully,  that there is a difference between willful isolation and this setting apart.  Isolation would be me trying to preserve myself-----this is something different, a yielding to His design.   My heart is filled with wonder and lightness-----I am the woman at the well, and he is giving me Living Water.   Whether I sleep tonight or not, I am refreshed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Kleenex Kind of Lunch

We are in the dining room at Laurel Hill, a large room with wood floors and enough tables for all the residents and any guests who show up.  It is lunchtime, and our daughter Becky is here for the first time-----she and her husband Matt live in Eugene, and are visiting this weekend.   They both look so young and healthy, a refreshing but slightly jarring contrast to the assortment of broken, aging bodies in wheelchairs at the tables.  Becky is in her seventh month of pregnancy, beautiful in a summery dress.  I am watching Stu carefully as he eats, making sure he puts his fork down between bites, reminding him to wipe the left corner of his mouth,  listening as he tells me about what's on his mind-----I look up to see Becky reaching for her kleenex.   Suddenly I realize how different life is, and how much I've adjusted.   I see the scene through my daughter's eyes, and I stop for a minute and let it hit me.  I reach for the kleenex, too.  It's good to have someone to cry with.

Before long the rest of the clan arrives as planned-----first Shayna, eager to see Zaydie, followed by Lucas who is fascinated by Uncle Matt.  Rachel is right behind them, and Jerome is in the van looking for Lily's shoe.   In a few minutes he shows up with a barefoot Lily-----oh well.....(grin).    We are all together around the table, and Stu is encouraged to see everyone.   He starts to tell them all about how this experience has made him realize how much he loves me, and begins to cry himself.   It seems to be a kleenex kind of lunch!   I tell the kids how encouraged I've been that Dad is starting to show that kind of emotion.  And it makes me marvel at the elasticity of our marriage-----truly for better or for worse!

Finally it is time for Stu to be put back to bed in his room (this still requires a Hoyer lift, as he is still unable to sit up reliably by himself.)   When the attendants give us the all clear, the nine of us congregate in Stu's room for a final goodbye.   Stu requests a family prayer, and we take some time to lift him up, thanking God for the progress that's been made and the faith that is being forged.   And then we sing: "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!  Praise Him all creatures here below!  Praise Him above ye heavenly host!  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!   Amen"   How I love that simple doxology-----it says it all!

the kid's table in the barn, surrounded by Stu's art

a handmade card from a young guest

my funky ladder decoration

They're taking notes for twenty years from now:-)
We celebrated that evening with a baby shower for Becky-----she is due in mid September.    Couldn't resist sharing some pictures from that lovely evening-----we even needed some kleenex during that!  But not too much, and there was plenty of laughter to balance it out:-)

Until next time


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nose to pupik

 Just wanted to share a short video of Stu's physical therapist, Tex, working with him.   Pupik (pipik?) is Yiddish for bellybutton.   Stu's ending comment is so......Stu!   Enjoy!  If this link doesn't seem to work properly (I had trouble myself!) just try this youtube link:http:Nose to Pupik

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unless the Lord Builds the House.........

Greetings, All!
             I've been holding off on reporting anything until I had a better feel for what's coming up next.  Lots of possibilities in the works, but no firm plans yet.  Still, it seems to be time for another update.

             First of all, last night Stu showed me something new------he is able to move his left leg!  The muscles are, of course, very weak, but his PT guy, Tex, has been working with him steadily and he is making progress.  It will still be a while before he can put any weight on that leg, but it's good to see it starting to come back to life.   Also, the feeding tube has not had to be used in several weeks, and there is discussion about removing it.  Yay!!  Stu is able to be at all three meals, in his wheelchair, another encouraging sign.  Most encouraging of all to me is the steady stabilizing of his spirits------he has down days, of course (who wouldn't), but we have had many wonderful conversations, full of hope and good cheer.  I spend the dinner hour with him most days, often on the patio outside-----sometimes I bring him a homecooked meal, sometimes we both eat whatever's on the menu at Laurel Hill.  Then we take a turn around the patio, sometimes venturing into the parking lot.  The routine is stabilizing for both of us!

             Now about the plan to bring him home......   The long range plan is to remodel Stu's old leather shop, making the bathroom and entrances wheelchair accessible, and making the space workable for both him and me to live in.  Our daughter Rachel and her husband Jerome would live in the main house with the grandkids, (a welcome change for me from living alone on these six unruly acres.)  All this would involve a great deal of remodeling----I have been making sarcastic jokes about dynamiting the whole house and starting from scratch for years now.      I like the way Jerome's eyes light up at the thought of farming this property-----maybe he will be able to bring my long-held dream to life!  I have always pictured this place as a working farm, with my little bakery right at the heart of it. 
             With this vision in mind, Jerome, Rachel and I sat down last week with my landlady of fifteen years and talked turkey.  She and her husband are amenable to the idea of a lease/purchase.  This is new!  The combination of our situation and the lagging economy has opened this door.  She is consulting an attorney about the best way to proceed, but it looks good.  The next day I met with the transition coordinator from Senior and Disablity Services about the remodel in the shop.  She came out and looked at the space, and was able to advise me on what would be needed and what kind of help we could get.  She assured me that Medicaid will help with equipment needed and caregivers.   There is also some help available with the remodeling-----but there has been an offer from my church to make the remodel a church project.   Wow.  Wouldn't that be a glory?   We will see how it all pans out, Stu and I are right in the middle of an amazing story!   Truly, God's Stroke of Genius!   If any of you has skill or materials that you would like to contribute, let me know.   On Thursday, after talking over all the work that needs to be done with a contractor, I found myself discouraged and overwhelmed by the project.  "How will it all be accomplished??   There's too much, it's never going to happen"  (this is my default mode, by the way-----I'm sure I'm not alone!)   It didn't take but a few minutes for this scripture to come to mind, though:  "Unless the Lord builds the house, he labors in vain who builds it"  Psalm 127.   It occurred to me that if God wants this work done, it will certainly be done----and if He doesn't, no amount of scheming or fretting on my part will bring it about.   He gave me that verse many years ago, and I have found it to be true on many levels.   Not just our earthly houses but our spiritual, eternal houses are planned and built by Him.  He knows what He's doing, and it's sometimes a surprise----but always so much better that my own limited imagination!
            Finally, my little bakery is finding it's feet after three months of limbo.  There were some hard weeks when I slowly had to face that I wouldn't be returning to Grower's Market in the foreseeable future.  Heavens!  I have not had a summer off in 29 years!   It's a little like standing in a cage with the door open-----is it really all right to step outside?  I'm finding that it is!   I am receiving private orders that I fill as they come in.  I have several accounts that keep me busy: The Human Bean, Grants Pass Pharmacy, Rogue Express, and Goin Rogue all carry cookies or scones.  And I had a Bakery/Barn/Art Sale last week here on the property and reconnected with customers, sold off some no longer needed items, and totally forgot to put out Stu's art!  Ha!  Guess I'll have to do it again to get that one right.  This week and next I'm preparing for our daughter Becky's baby shower-----our first grandchild from Matt and Becky is due in September, a little girl.  Hooray!  I am already calling her Scout (if you haven't read "To Kill a Mockingbird", you won't get it)   And there has been a constant string of birthdays, graduations, and celebrations of all kinds to keep me busy making cakes and party food.    Somehow it's all good----even Stu's current condition.  Last night, during our weekly reading of Job (truly a godsend for all of us every week, by the way),  Stu commented  "I am so encouraged by what we've said here tonight that I'm actually looking forward to being alone tonight with God after you leave!  This has reminded me that I really know him, and He loves me!  God is so good!"   Just another example of how the Lord builds the house-----from the ground up.  And He builds to last.   Can't wait to live the next chapter of this story-----I'll keep ya posted!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monday nights with Job (and Stu)

Job Rock 

We are gathered in Stu's room tonight, the three of us: Ruth, Nancy, and myself.  Stu is in his bed, right foot keeping up a steady beat-----maybe to make up for his lifeless left side.  We are reading the fourth chapter of the book of Job together, and it strikes me that there are three of us-----just as Job had three friends.   Tonight we are hearing what Job's "friend" Eliphaz has to share with him.  Nancy nails it "He's kicking him when he's down!"  Makes me reflect how easy that is to do.  I'm sure Eliphaz thought he was being helpful.   

We feel the atmosphere in the room-----we hear the sounds:  Suzie down the hall, moaning again.   Stu comments:  "She does that every night".   Beeps, hums, footsteps.  We notice (in spite of how quiet he is) the roomate at the other end of the room, Dave.  He doesn't make a sound, but his eyes are wide open.  He is listening.   And we just keep reading, commenting, listening to each other.   Laughing. 

God is in the room with us.  His presence warms and charges the atmosphere.  We are safe, and we are worshiping him with this simple gathering.

Ruth reminds Stu that God strengthens us when we call out to him.  

Stu prays "Oh, Lord Jesus, I pray that you strengthen me to remember what we've said when these three women leave and I'm all alone for hours and hours. "   We can feel the ache in his heart as he prays-----and we know that the One he prays to will answer him.

We are his friends, and maybe we've learned something from the mistakes of Job's friends.  Hope so.    

Stu tells us that we must each kiss him on the forehead before we go.  So we do, and I sneak in an extra one.  

On the way out I say goodnight to Dave.  His eyes are still wide open.  I wonder what he's thinking. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

when bitterness strikes........

"repose"  by Stu

From  my journal:                                                                      
            Felt sullenness plucking at my sleeve this morning-----Stu was anxious and hard to reach last night, and I went home sad.  A steady diet of sadness can lead to sullennness, I'm thinking.  Lord, strengthen me to rebuke such an attitude, I pray.  It brings nothing but misery.  It blinds me to the everyday miracles that are everywhere.  Let me feast on the daily bread you give me, not allowing the enemy to steal my joy.  As the bitterness strikes, let me stand firm in your sunshine, that transforms bitter, unripe fruit into something sweet, soft, and delicious.  It just takes time!  Grant me a patient, trusting attitude, I pray.  

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.  You too be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near"  James 5:7-8

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grateful for the Lord Jesus, by Stu Mendelson

"The Cross" by Stu Mendelson.   Left corner: wedding invitation w/art by Stu
Found this in one of Stu's notebooks after the stroke.  It was deeply encouraging at a time when I couldn't really communicate with him because of the severity of the stroke and the heavy medications.

Grateful for the Lord Jesus

Stu Mendelson         Feb. 2011

1)  I am grateful for Him, Himself

2)  I am grateful that He is willing to correct and heal me.

3)  I am grateful for a wife that loves the Lord and His way,
         and that she patiently endures my struggles.

4)  I am grateful for all the blessings that surround my life.

5)  I am grateful for all the suffering that He uses to lead me to
       repentance and lead me to the truth of how pride works.

6)  I am grateful that I don’t have to------indeed I am told by Him NOT
     to------- burden myself with how insane I’ve been about my flesh and
     its stresses, my fears, and my selfish obsession for comfort.

7)  I am grateful to know and believe that even though I crave the comfort of my flesh more than I crave His Holy Spirit, He knows my weakness and forgives me and only desires that in my suffering I persist in recalling to my mind, over and over again, the truth of Him, His Spirit, His love, and my destiny through Christ to be well in His timing.