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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Paradox

Pen and ink sketch, by Stu Mendelson



Quite a few years ago, Stu and I  chose this image and quote for our yearly holiday greeting.   Not what you might expect in your mailbox----we commented even then that you don't usually get a picture of a guy wading through the sewers of Paris carrying an injured man on his back as a Christmas card.  But you know, as the years have unfolded, the thought expressed here resonates.  In light of Stu's stroke, it is even more poignant.  So I share it with you this season, by Stu's request.

I'm grateful for this blog, where I jot down all the ups and downs of our story as we go along-------this holiday season, for me,  has been full of baking and gift-making and celebrating with friends and family.   At the same time, I am never far from remembering the paradoxical truth, that there is light to be found, even in dark places.  I recently received this reminder from a writer I admire, David Roper, (it was actually written by his wife, Carolyn.  Both of them have been an encouragement to me through their writing)  and I pass it along to you here:
Carolyn wrote this as one of her "Morning by Morning" meditations. Thought you'd appreciate it…

Morning by Morning
12.14.12
An Exceptionally Good Christmas


"I think we're going to have an exceptionally good Christmas."

If I had written these words I would probably have been thinking that our family would all be together for a white Christmas. I would probably imagine that well ahead of time all the cards had been mailed, all the preparations made and everything would be "just so." We would have a brightly lit tree and lovely red and green decorations, filling my heart with good memories. There would be the just-right presents to bring delight and joy to each one. There would be singing and laughing, playing games and a festive meal, with everyone decked out in their Christmas finery and caring for one another.  And I would find a fresh way to present the Christmas story at just the right time, which would be meaningful to all. There would be no worries, no loneliness, no health issues, no one missing from our family circle, either spacially or emotionally. At our house Evie would be singing "Come On Ring Those Bells" to welcome everyone in!

"I think we're going to have an exceptionally good Christmas."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote those words to his fiancée while he was isolated in a dark, cruel Germany prison as World War 2 was raging. He went on to explain:

"The very fact that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious, the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: "We're beggars: it's true." The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ's home on earth."
Letter to fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer, December 1, 1943

Because of God's priceless gift of His Son, may each of us have an exceptionally good Christmas, content with what is truly essential. Content whatever our Christmas looks like this year.

Blessings,
Carolyn Roper

The selection from Bonhoeffer comes from the work, God Is in the MangerReflections on Advent and Christmas; compiled by Jana Riess.

Finally, friends, just to complete the paradoxical theme, I include this fun photo of Stu
May your Christmas season be full of the joy that Christ brings!
 
                    

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks


Who Knew?!
                                                   
Got a chance to take pictures today of Stu standing with his therapist, Dale.

Pretty heartwarming, isn't it?

Last time I saw this, it brought a scripture to mind, from Ephesians 6:13-14  I remembered
noticing that in that passage, in my NIV translation, the word "stand" appeared three times in just two sentences.  "Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace". 

Here's what I jotted down in my journal that day:

"As I read through Ephesians, with all the standing references, I wonder if, in a way, our souls are as weak as Stu's body-----if the Holy Spirit is our "Dale", energetic and encouraging, wrapping the belt around our middle and reminding us that we do indeed have strength in our muscles to stand.  Like Stu, we are only able to do it for short periods at first-----but more and more with His help"

Praying that as we are strengthened and encouraged by God's work in us, we will stand tall and give thanks with joy!

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Standing on the Promises of God

Last night, before Stu and I headed over for our weekly "date" at NewSong church for their Wednesday Bible Study, Stu's therapist bounded into the room and said "I'm glad you're here a little early-----I have something to show you." Dale, his name is, and his already upbeat personality was even more so.  Two of the CNA's stopped what they were doing and joined us, as interested as I was.  "I heard about this", remarked Heather.  "Me, too" said Jackie.

"Ready, Stu?"  Dale had already wrapped a gait belt around Stu's middle, and as we watched,  Stu and Dale went through a little performance----something they had obviously been practicing together for a while.  "One, two, three....up"  For the first time in over a year, I was seeing Stu sit up on the side of the bed.  "O.k., Stu, do some warm-ups"---Stu obediently bent forward and then straightened, to the count of ten.  He has not been able to do  anything like that since the stroke-----that was in March, 2011!

And then I watched Stu stand up, using the muscles in his own legs.  Dale helped, Dale steadied him----but it was Stu who was standing. 

My eyes filled with tears.  Who would have predicted it?   Perhaps there is mercy in a slow-release miracle----and perhaps more glory to God.   I thought over all the months of grief and sorrow, the crushing of very understandable hopes, the faith that endured, the wisdom that has flourished-----and my heart filled with indescribable gratitude for its effect on both of us.  I am seeing a kinder, gentler Stu these days----this new ability to stand is infinitely less miraculous than the change I see in his heart and attitude.  And  the story has affected me deeply,  drilling down to my very core----I hope this post conveys just a little of the wonder of this unlikely path we're on.  Paradox and mystery-----the theme continues!

Meanwhile, our association with NewSong church has blossomed over the past few weeks----I've been so encouraged that Stu has continued to go on Sundays, escorted by Aaron and treated to donuts, coffee and kindness from everyone.  This leaves me free to stay connected at our home church, Lumen Dei, but still join Stu on Wednesdays for the Bible study.

And, after a full and rigorous four months at Grower's Market, I made the decision to let the last weekend in October be my final one for the season.  I am cultivating my facebook page, (under Studabakers-Bakery!! on Facebook) where I post weekly updates and photos and take orders-----Lord willing, that will sustain me over the winter months until the weather is again settled enough to set up my tent again :-)

I'll keep you posted as we go along----I have a Thanksgiving blog brewing in my head right now, but I think this is enough for the time being.

Until next time

Blessings from Sue and Stu


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stu's Prayer

This afternoon, Stu told me about a prayer he had prayed recently.
He said he had been gripped by a thought about what might happen to him in the future.
"What if I die homeless?"  is how he put it to me. 
Unlikely as it might be, the thought had teeth, and it worried him without mercy, as such thoughts do.
He tells me he prayed a specific prayer.
"Lord"  he said "please send me a sign that there are people who will love me and take care of me".

This morning, he tells me he got the answer to that prayer, in no uncertain terms.
In the first place, one of the kind men from NewSong, the church next door, offered to escort Stu over there for the Sunday service.
To multiply the blessing, our son-in-law Jerome and Rachel decided they'd like to join him at the service, too.  They've been thinking along those lines for a couple of weeks, but it's interesting to me that today was the day they decided to follow through.

This afternoon, as I visited with him, I listened to the way it impacted him.  Glad I was wearing an absorbent scarf-----when my grateful tears started to flow, I needed it.(I did find some Kleenex when it was time to blow my nose :-)  Ha!

"Sue, it was so wonderful.  Aaron came over a little after 9:30, and he walked over with me and helped me with my wheelchair.  And then his wife Angie brought me a doughnut and a cup of coffee.  That doughnut was so good, Sue.  God just let me enjoy it.  And Angie brushed the crumbs off of me, just like you would.  She was so kind."  He went on to mention several other people who greeted him and welcomed him, and was obviously heartened by their warmth. 
"Then," he said, "when the service started, I was sitting right where we sit when you come on Wednesday, and we were singing a wonderful song about God's glory, when I felt a hand on my shoulder, and it was Jerome!  And right to my right was Shayna, with the sweetest smile.  I started crying then.  But I really started crying when I saw Rachel.  She told me they wanted to come and join me at church, and I knew it was God answering my prayer"

Well......the story stands all by itself.  But I wonder if you will stay and look at it with me for just a minute, to appreciate the layers of meaning in it.  Because this was not just one man's prayer that affected one man.   And really, because of God's nature, every prayer is multi-layered and reverberating.    In this one small example, a prayer of my own was acknowledged.  I am always praying that Stu will experience God's love without me as a "middleman".   The more he takes his own steps of faith, the more he owns it.   And I would say that God was encouraging Aaron and Angie and the other folks at NewSong as they ministered to Stu;  likewise,  Rachel and Jerome.  I think of the impact that such events have on my grandkids, and my imagination is not big enough to contain the depth of it.  And then there is the staff at the nursing home, seeing  the story play out.  And the other members of the church.......are you with me?  It opens up your mind to vast possibilities, doesn't it?   And you know, friends, I would say that the power of prayer is in that opening up of our minds to the Greatest Mind, the Creator.  When we get a glimpse of who he is, worry and fear are eclipsed by the wonder of his goodness.   My own overarching prayer for every one of us is that we would "taste and see that the Lord is good".  

Until next time!

Sue



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Power

Many years ago, when I was in my twenties, I went to visit my parents in Big Bear Lake, California.   During my visit, my Dad suggested we take a canoe across the lake to visit a friend on the other side.  I had never rowed before, and I remember  being very gung-ho and wanting to do my part in getting us across that lake.

Big Bear Lake is pretty broad, though.  Halfway across, my arms were aching and I was puffing.  I had to take a break, feeling like I was somehow letting my Dad down.

The next minute I felt a surge of power shooting us across the lake.  The canoe was cutting through the water effortlessly----I looked behind me in the canoe and saw my Dad, smiling and getting us across the lake in no time.  I don't think he had any idea what had been going through my mind-----it was no big deal for him.  But the little picture has stayed etched on my mind ever since.  Whenever I feel like I need to "row as hard as I can",  I take it with a grain of salt.  There's Someone bigger and much better equipped than I am to get me where I need to go :-)

Fast forward to 2012.  
Stu and I are at the little church next door to the nursing home,  enjoying an evening of worship music.  (NewSong is blessed with quite a few excellent musicians, I have noticed, including the pastor!)   The evening is drawing to a close, and by this time I am standing up, behind Stu's wheelchair, my arms around his neck and using his chest as a drum.  We are both singing loudly, but at the same time I am reflecting that in the old days, Stu would have had many sharp criticisms of the music, the people, the church, the community----you name it, he would have had something to say about it.   So much of that has melted away since the stroke!  A miracle!    In those days, I often despaired of ever being able to share with Stu the sweetness of just enjoying and loving God's people, singing with them, praying with them, caring about them, worshiping our Father together.   I tried, sometimes, to find some way to cross that gulf myself----to row across that "lake".  Lake Skeptic, you might say!   But my efforts always failed.  I was forced to stop trying.  And in the not trying.....in the surrender (an ongoing surrender, I must tell you) .....I feel the surge of power.  I feel great Shoulders at work, navigating waters I can't understand,  and I take a big, deep breath of relief.  I know He will smile when I feel ready to row again, and maybe even give me pointers on doing it better-----but our destination doesn't depend on me.  He just gives me the sense of participation because............He's my Dad, and every good Dad loves to include and encourage his kids

I think the following passage, from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, illustrates God's character and his relationship with us.  Notice that it is a power that originates with God, but is shared and nurtured in us by Him:
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
     Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."   Eph. 3: 16-21

   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Unconditional

Unconditional love----what does it look like?

The question has been rattling around in my consciousness for a while, really.
I know the concept, of course.
I have read my Bible.
But the practice!  Do I get that?
Less, rather than more, I find.

So, as always, my life circumstances are a patient teacher, slowly but inevitably showing me where my expectations are once again rooted more in results and my personal perception of progress than

 Just....
                                   plain.....
                                                                  love.

Love sits next to a frightened and querulous husband in a hospital bed and understands that he's too freaked out to return the love.  He can't really master his emotions.  He desperately looks for assurance from the nearest human being, and sputters and spits when that human being fails.

He is a Love Detector!

 And the people around him feel "found out" over and over!  None of us can produce that love!

 My most beautiful moments are the ones where I quietly admit, right on the spot, how bankrupt I am in and of myself.  Somehow, that confession opens the door to One who can show us what unconditional love looks like.  We need His example,  don't we?  And by looking at Him in impossible circumstances, we can see through the paralyzing  fog of our perceptions for just a moment, and Unconditional Love floods our surroundings.  The querulous husband quiets, aware of something greater than himself, and is comforted.

Daily I pray that Stu will be comforted by that One.  His thrashing and resistance is only in a more obvious form than my own----he is a living picture of the human condition!   The stroke has stripped him of his natural cover, and his insecurity is laid bare.  But is he really any different than you and me?   If  I was not walking through this territory on a daily basis, I'm sure I would be much more likely to think that I was "better than that".  But the stroke is teaching me that......I'm not.

Paradoxically, something that comes through more and more forcefully as the months roll by is that I must sometimes stand back and let Stu suffer for a while without me.  This is good for both him and me, whether he agrees with that or not (usually not!)  Recently I had to take more than a week of "sabbatical" from my usual pattern of visiting and calling.  I tend to dread these times, since "all hell breaks loose" at first.   His behavior is more erratic and demanding.  He panics.  I put it off until something in me knows that if I continue it will become drudgery and duty.  Ugh.  That's even worse than facing what might come up while I'm gone.  So I lay low-----and I pray FOR him.  I suppose I share this with you because all of us, I think, have a "Stu" in our life.  And it is hugely tempting to try to manage it yourself.  But I encourage you to do a reality check.  How does it go for you when you do manage it by yourself?

After more than a week away, spent in deep prayer, I find myself refreshed, my own cup refilled by  a merciful Father.  One night I laid awake, gripped by the drama of the situation, and trying desperately to remember what God has told me about Himself.  The next second the words of the 23rd psalm floated to the surface of my mind
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death,
I will fear no evil, for he is with me, his rod and his staff, they comfort me." 
Each separate thought in this first part of the psalm is loaded with meaning for me.  (if you have not pondered through it yourself, I highly recommend a little book called "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" by Phillip Keller)
Because I have committed it to memory, it was there in the dark night, waiting to comfort my soul.

So today, on this fresh September morning, I am ready to go up and spend some time with Stu, interested to see what will be revealed.   I can trust that, in God's economy, it is good.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Stu goes to church......

On Sunday, a lovely thing happened.

Stu and I went to church together again.

I have seen the church next door to Laurel Hill all along, but Stu's condition was not very stable, he wasn't comfortable in his wheelchair for extended periods.....bottom line, I wasn't getting a green light about it, and he wasn't asking.  So I waited.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, a former neighbor of ours stopped by the stand at Grower's Market with his darling daughter, asking how Stu was doing, wondering where he was staying......and when I told him it was Laurel Hill he burst out "That's our church next door!"

The wheels started to turn :-)  I knew the building, and remembered it as being open enough to be wheelchair friendly.   It was worth a try.  I asked Stu how he would feel about visiting, and he thought about it.  After all, it's a big step to do a "normal" thing when your body is no longer "normal".   On the phone, after thinking it over for a few days, he told me "I'm determined to see it through".

So, Sunday morning, he navigated over in his wheelchair (on a side note, he has been receiving daily training at the facility from an occupational therapist----Dale.  A very encouraging fellow.  His time at the facility is limited, but the timing of it couldn't be more perfect.) 

Everyone was so, so welcoming-----I wish you could have seen Stu shaking people's hands and introducing us, beaming and glowing, making jokes and just reveling in the environment.  There is a very large area before the sanctuary, with a coffee bar on the side,  and we got to meet and greet to our hearts' content. 

When the service started, we were able to sit in the back and just let the music wash over us.  I could hear Stu's good bass voice joining in on Amazing Grace.  In the past, Stu has often been critical of church, church services, church music, church people.......there was none of that today..  His heart has been softened.  He enjoyed every last drop of our time there----although we did have to leave just before the service ended because his leg was troubling him.  As the person who has walked by his side through many years of  unpleasantness and bitterness, I will say that I saw a miracle----produced by very unexpected means-----in his attitude yesterday.   A broken body has yielded a quieter, humbler, more contrite Stu.   A Stu who can appreciate what God is doing through ordinary people.  He commented at one point "I can see that this is how heaven will be.....ordinary people, worshiping God together." 

We will see how things unfold from here-----if there's one thing I'm learning, it's "one day at a time".   I will keep you posted on his doings, as always.  Quite a few people have responded to my invitation to come visit him at Laurel Hill, and that too has been a blessing.  He told me one day that he was fervently praying that Jesus would appear to him, and when he opened his eyes, there was our good friend, Doug----!  And  later that same day, his beloved Ruth paid a call.  It definitely made an impression on him!    I trust that God will nudge others to do the same.  It sure makes a good story, doesn't it?

Until next time

Sue

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Berries are Coming Ripe.......

Tonight it struck me that outside my cottage window there was a quiet miracle happening.
The blackberries are coming ripe.
(If you are among those who curse blackberries for all their negative qualities, you may want to stop reading here.  I am going to appreciate them.  My apologies:-)
The sun was low in the sky, and had lost most of its heat, the light was golden-----I needed to walk away from my to-do list and my favorite distractions and simply roam along the long living wall of berries that borders my property.  I took a small bowl with me----nothing big enough to seem like work. 
As I picked,  thoughts came to mind that seemed  large and relaxed and comforting.  I had done nothing to make these berries grow.  No planting.  No watering.  No worrying about what kind of crop they would produce.  Yet here they were, more berries than I could ever harvest.  Doesn't it make you think about God's way of looking at things?  It did me.  He seems untroubled by what we might consider waste, somehow.  What is His secret?

In my humanity, I am always and forever looking for ways to make the most of my resources, maximize my potential, etc. etc.----a trait much admired in our country.   But on a good day, I wonder about that.   I wonder about it very much, and I take it with a grain of salt.

This is helpful as I walk through this newest chapter of God's Stroke of Genius with Stu.   So much of his story seems like a waste on first examination.   If he was going to end up in a nursing home for the last part of his story, what was the point?   It looks, to my human eye, like all thorns and brambles.   Stu himself can not understand what has befallen him, and goes up and down the gamut of emotions, trying to find a balance point.   I do what I can to reassure him, but really, who am I?  Just another traveler.  The thorns grab at me,  too.  Some days I feel pretty scratched up!

But down deep, where thorns can't reach, I am at peace.  And I believe that the same is true for Stu, even if it's sometimes hard to tell.   The One who planted knows the outcome.  He knows the pattern of growth, and what is needed to produce a crop.  I find myself grateful that even during the waiting, there are days like this, where a hedge of blackberries can remind me of His nature.   How good He is!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

He is Still Drawing Doves.......


June, 2012 , 15 months after the stroke
We are in the familiar place again, Stu in his hospital bed, me in a chair by its side.
He has asked for a china marker (the kind used for marking laundry-----he loves drawing with them)  and a pad.
I watch him take the marker in his right hand and begin to sketch out lines on the pad.
He looks up at my face and then swiftly back down to the pad----he is trying to capture my face.
"I can't make the lines the way I used to" he comments, matter-of-factly.  He seems free of frustration or self-pity----a miracle, really.  He is still working away at the lines, undaunted.
It's true, the sketch is disjointed and hard to interpret-----but I notice that the lines look vigorous and deft.
I become curious......"Have you been drawing more, Stu?"
"Yes", he smiles the new, lopsided smile that came with the stroke.   He seems a  little surprised at his own recent industry. "and writing, too"
"Can I see more?"  I ask
"Yes, there on the yellow legal pad"

I am a little taken aback at what I find.......he is, apparently, more active in his writing and sketching than I had realized.  Many pages are filled with random thoughts, more coherent than I would have thought possible.  There are love letters to me and about me,  an enthusiastic praise of one of the women who takes care of him at the nursing home, full of gratitude, and then, strikingly, this one:

       It is hard to read, I know----but here is what it says:
How vain and self-absorbed I am to be anxious and ashamed to need so much help in so many small matters.  I am still held prisoner by my body, and I cannot thank God for daily suffering, may He forgive me and bless me to be grateful for everything, please Father.  It's hard to tell outwardly, (but) I am devoted to Him inwardly.
Wondrous secrets of God!!

Anyone who knows Stu, knows that doves have always been a favorite theme for him.  When I found the little drawing at the top of this page (complete with catsup stain-----it's a nursing home, after all)  I could not help but think "He is coming back to us.  He is still Stu.  What has always mattered in him is safe and vital.  And why should I be surprised?  Would God let that be harmed?  Not His style, I'm finding.  He knows what is of value, and he is quite careful with it.  As I turned onto the quiet Sunday streets of Grants Pass, heading home, I reflected, with a catch in my throat, how many times God has taught me what matters through this unpredictable man.  I hold his prayer close to my heart and realize that it is my prayer, too.  And I agree with him, tears in my eyes, that these truly are wondrous secrets of God.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Update on Stu's condition

Sometimes it's like pulling teeth.  Why there's so much resistance in some situations is beyond me, but it seems to be a fact of life.  So, over a week after Stu's seizure we finally got an appointment with a doc who was covering for his vacationing PCP,  and he confirmed what I had suspected----that such seizures are very common after a stroke.  It was just good to have a doctor examine and advise us.  We had the option of starting him on an anti-seizure medication, but because it's the first one, and there is no pattern of seizures, we chose to hold off on yet another medication.  Stu also has a follow up appointment with his regular doctor in July, and that will be a relief to have him evaluated.

 I would appreciate prayer for wisdom in dealing with these situations that crop up----the medical community speaks a language that is quite foreign to me.  I often feel like a stranger in a strange land----one with land mines!   On a bad day, it feels like one false step will send me and Stu into irrevocable harm.  Grateful for a friend who reminded me today that I am not the one calling the shots : " You did the best you could.  God clued you in when you were to be clued in.  I think as humans we tend to operate out of prevention.  Stop the bad thing from happening!  Find a way to never let it happen again!  God is not thinking in those terms.  God has his ways!  He seems to be bent on teaching us something.  He loves in a way that is out of this world.  Or at least out of something we don't love from.  Cause we don't love like He does."   I have trouble remembering that.  Guess that's why I have friends to remind me sometimes.  And I am passing it on to you!  And still asking for prayer as I stumble through this experience.  Thanks, Friends!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To Market or not to Market?, That is the Question......

Typical Grower's Market conveyance :-)


My heavens, it's been weeks since I've written.  Writing is a mysterious thing-----when the fit is on me, there's no stopping it.  When it's not, there's no use trying to dredge it up.  People have asked me recently about that, and I'm finding that, for better or worse, that's how it is for me.

Last time we met, it was before I had started to toy with the idea of returning to Grower's Market-----and yes, it's still a twinkle in my eye.  But a dim one, at present.  First I called long time Market Manager Marti Fate, sounding her out about the idea.  It's been over a year, after all.  She had to tell me that, at present, our old spot is occupied, the market is full to bursting with vendors, and even if she could find me another spot, the ones with electricity are limited.  Aaaargh.  That's the deal-breaker for me.  No electricity would mean no toasted bagels with cream cheese.  I can't face it.  Hard enough to go without Stu, and with less products and a smaller stand----but no toasted bagels??  Not an option.  For me, the ceremony of plastering a fresh toasted bagel (that I made with my own two hands)  with cream cheese,  while I hear the latest news from the customer waiting for it, is the main reason for even being there.  The laughter, the updates, the prayerful moments.  Still, Marti was hopeful that there would be an opening in July, and urged me to contact her at the beginning of that month.  I confessed that I hadn't even visited the market since last year, because I was afraid I'd break down and cry.  She replied, in her distinctive Tennessee drawl "I'm sure of it, and other people with you!"  Marti always did have a way of hitting the nail on the head.

I have learned to push through discouraging news to the other end-----a risk, since there are times when the other end also appears discouraging.  Ha!  But still, armed with this conviction that it's better to move into the hard stuff than to run, I plucked up my courage, clamped my old Grower's Market baseball hat on my head for fortification, and decided to wade into the Saturday morning  extravaganza that is Grower's Market in Grants Pass: the colors, the smells, the faces, the wares.  As a visitor instead of a vendor, I had to adjust to the change in perspective.  For one thing, I had to find a parking place!  I have heard customers grumble about this challenge for years----the cheerful ones simply see it as an opportunity to take a morning walk.  That's how I looked at it----part of the morning adventure.   I decided to make it really weird for myself by starting at the opposite corner of the market from our old spot.  I was sneaking in.  Wow....I never noticed that food truck before......come to think of it, I hardly ever made it to this end of the market.  Too busy in my own little corner.   "Who ARE these people?"  I found myself wondering as I passed  space after space of unfamiliar vendors.   "Where are all my favorite customers?"   Maybe it was just a funny time of day, but I saw only a few familiar faces in the crowd, and only a handful of vendors that had been comrades during all the years we worked the Market.

As I rounded the corner that brought me face-to-face with our old spot, I had the sensation that people must have when they visit their old neighborhood and find the corner store turned into a parking lot, or their old house torn down and replaced by.....a newer house.  "It's not the same" something in us wails......and it's not.  Life happens.  Circumstances change.  A life event can knock your world upside the head.  Funny thing, as I wove through the crowd, I spotted a customer I hadn't seen for a couple of years.  She hadn't heard about Stu's stroke, and I hadn't heard about her husband's death.  We looked into each others' eyes with deep and wordless compassion.  Veterans.  It was good to see her.  It helped me put things in context.  I liked the way we didn't have to explain to each other-----we are at once more sorrowful and richer for the experience of our lives.  Infinitely richer.

As I slipped away, ready to move on with my day, I found myself on the other side of the discouragement.  And it was quiet, and not very dramatic.  No tears necessary.   I have everything of importance I need, I realized, even if I don't have my old spot :-)  And if I return to the Market, the old skills will take a new turn, and we will all enjoy how that looks.  I found myself once again profoundly grateful for the way God shapes and molds my life.  Speaking of which, I'll tell y'all about the Writer's Group that has come into my life next time.  And I should have a full report about Stu's condition after his seizure last Monday.  (Short answer, he seems fine.  Waiting on test results.)   Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Walking in God's Territory

Hebrew Dove?? :-) By Stu Mendelson


I need to write this down before I forget how he put it......today I took a day off from visiting Stu, but as I settled down to watch one of his favorite movies, "Spartacus" by Stanley Kubrick, I thought of him and how he might enjoy reviewing it----so I picked up the phone and gave him a call.  He was in good form, and welcomed the idea of me bringing the movie to share when I visit next, but what stands out for me is how he ended our conversation :   First he thanked me for calling, and remarked that a call is almost as good as a visit:-)  Then he shared "Oh, by the way, dear, I was reading Lamentations by Jeremiah in the Bible today.  It's as good as seeing you when I read the Bible." he said "I feel not as lonely, and like I'm at home when I read the Bible.  It's like walking in God's territory."   Oh, my.  Lump in my throat.  Prayer answered. 

Here, too, is a poem that he penned a few years ago.  I find it compelling still.


Psalm______________________
Stu Mendelson 
My Lord, my Creator,
          I put my trust in the path that is straight
                                           and of the right width.
Every tree that I pass bears fruit
                                    that pleases my soul.
The several kinds of birds that inhabit their branches
        sing to me,
            each its song of light.
The breezes that follow on my heels cause the leaves to flutter
          an herbal essence that calms,
         and as I kick up the dust and grit at my feet
                 I'm reminded that I am but a man,
                          a fashioned creature.

My Lord, my Creator,
      destine my steps to lie ever yearning to your Word,
                walking in eternal joy
                         onward, onward,
                               Your Face my destination.
How I long to see your love shining as a star
          from divine Eyes that will not turn away.
Let me keep my eyes fixed on You
      On whom my very peace and being depend.
                                                                                     Amen


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pebbles with a Purpose


For reasons I don't need to go into right now, it's been a challenging week.  We all have them.  This evening a poem I wrote a few years ago floated back to my consciousness, and it struck me that the thought still holds true. Those pebbles pack some punch!  Or maybe it's the One who gives them to us :-) 

On the Battlefield
 
Once again on the battlefield,
tiny in the face of my giant enemy,
I reach into the pouch for my ammunition:
How can these pebbles make any difference
against all the armor, spears and sheer muscle I see before me?
Unlikely weapons:

 Humility
           Submission
               Patience,
                          Kindness,
                                    Gratitude
I begin to smile as I recall Who gave them to me.
He's never failed me yet.
My heart lifts as I load my slingshot
I am filled with His confidence and joy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Free Spirit, Part 2: Enter Paradoxical Jewish Guy

So one day, as Susan was sauntering up Loma Vista Avenue, on her way to the toy shop where Donna worked,  she was only slightly aware of the portly, reddish haired fellow who was walking a few yards ahead of her.  He vaguely reminded her of her brother Mark-----a good reason to be uninterested.   Not her type at all.  But then the fellow did something unexpected.  He turned around, right there on the sidewalk, and came a few steps towards her.  And he said, in a distinctive New England accent "Would you mind if I walked with you?"  Well.  What could a Free Spirit do but say yes?  "Oh, sure!"  she said.  "Why not?!"  They walked along together, exchanging pleasantries.  "I've never done this before."  he commented.  "Done what?" she asked.  "Asked a girl I don't know if I could walk with her."  He struck her as a little formal and somehow----different.  Definitely not a prospect.  "Oh, here we are!"  she said, as they approached the toy store.  In she went, waving goodbye with no idea what the next two weeks would bring.

Later that day, Donna told her that the same fellow had left something for her.  It was a piece of notebook paper with some kind of design on it, with a note inviting her to meet him at the pier that afternoon, and a flourishing signature.  Stuart.  S t u a r t????  Definitely not a cool name. (try not to write her off----she was twenty and had very little scope)  But as she and Donna squinted at the broken lines of the drawing, it suddenly came to her what it was-----a boy, sitting cross-legged, reaching up for a butterfly.  It filled the entire page.  Once she saw it, she wondered why she hadn't been able to make it out before.  It was strangely touching.  "Why not?" she thought, considering his invitation.  "I like artists."

At the pier, he was waiting on one of the benches that line the long finger of boardwalk that stretches out past the breakers.  It was blustery, with seagulls hanging suspended in the wind like a living mobile, held in place by the current of air.  They walked a little, and he had a lot to say----Susan didn't really understand a lot of his thoughts, but they seemed very spiritual and compelling.  She had never heard anyone talk like that----not even her last boyfriend, the one who had experimented with astral travel.   Stuart seemed to understand a lot about unseen forces.  But after an hour or so, Susan was ready to go home.  She said goodbye and didn't think twice about him.  Definitely not a prospect.

Imagine her surprise a few days later when the ladies at the Montessori school where she worked informed her that there was a fellow waiting out front for her.  "What does he look like?" she asked, apprehensively.  It was Stuart.  Susan did what any self-respecting Free Spirit would do when she detected obligation----she ducked out the back door, through the garden!  But this Stuart fellow had a determined side-----he was waiting for her there at the exit, and she didn't know how to tell him to go away.  And so for the third time, they walked and talked.    And the strange thing is, some of it was starting to make sense to her.  Just like the drawing.

Next time:  Guru


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Who Woulda Thunk it....?

Lately I've gotten several calls/comments from friends, wondering how I'm adjusting after the failure with the adult foster care home.  I can understand people thinking that this must have been a final blow.  But truly, I think the grief work I did last year was so effective, that this last little fiasco was simply confirmation.

Now that Stu has been back at Laurel Hill for a few weeks, I see a positive change in him.  He is accepting that this will be his context for healing.  These people who care for him 24/7 are his main support system.  That must be a humbling thing, to depend on people that you did not pick.  And to reconcile with the fact that it is a long term need.  When I think of the emotional mountains he's had to climb,  I have a new respect for his resilience------ and God's determination!    God is at work in him.  And he is slowly but surely being shaped as God intended.  That says a lot about God, I think----He works his will in even the most reluctant clay!  (Yes, I would call Stu's response to God's shaping reluctant----for most of his life! )  

So yesterday when I was visiting, I had to laugh.  Stu was sharing how he's entertaining the staff lately.  He makes up songs and sings them as they attend to him.  Yesterday he borrowed the tune from "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" (from "My Fair Lady")   His new words :"I'm getting up in my wheelchair in the morning......ding dong the food is gonna stink!.....but I'm gonna eat it (dum dum) I'm gonna eat it (dum) cause I know it's gonna keep me in the pink!"  What was priceless was the goofy look on his face------so Stu.  It's good to see his personality emerging out of all the trauma.

Meanwhile, I am busy working on re-inventing Studabaker's.  And investigating ways to publish my writing.  And keeping my newly beautiful property in shape.  It's all a little overwhelming at times-----but only if I look through the binoculars the wrong way (you know, through the big end so everything looks smaller.  Self-focus, in other words.  Or, as a wise friend calls it, "Navel-Gazing".  When I turn the binoculars around, there's a lot more promise.  

Hope to see you at my June 2 Open Bakery Day.   10 a.m to 3 p.m..  We will be convening in the Cottage Green (in front of my cottage), with a new Butterfly Garden, swingset and activities for the kids, and more parking available in the driveway.   You can still poke around the barn for interesting leather, art, and funky junk  finds,  walk through the cottage (it's a fun place), and smile at my new place for  the red-white-and blue van.   You might even want to enjoy your bagel there :-)  This time I get to toast bagels and spread cream cheese, too-----I've missed that!

Until next time!

Cloud dough will be one of the activites for the kids
Bagels waiting to be kettled, then baked.
Sue


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Many Hands.....:-)



So, if you've ever been on my property, you might well ask "How does she keep up with it?"  And then again, maybe you've been here and realized "She doesn't"  Ha!  It's a battle, that's for sure.  This year, the graduating class of TEACH, our local homeschool association, must have had a clue, because they voted to make my property their senior class service project.  I was floored!  I had been praying for some kind of help, but had no idea it would come in this form.  What an army!  There were four Dads, one Mom, 11 graduates (hope I counted right), a twelve year-old with his own weedeater, which he wielded with great expertise, and one enthusiastic five year old.  They descended on the property at 9:00 a.m., and by 3:00 they had transformed this place.  I always knew it could look like this!  To celebrate, I plan to host another Open Bakery Day on June 2.  More details on that in the next week.  In the meantime, I am planting flowers and smiling every time I look out my cottage windows.   Just so you know, I asked for a very severe pruning of both the apple and the grapevines---------hoping to build a tree house or fort up in the old apple.  That whole yard will be once again devoted to kid's crafts and play on the Open Bakery Day.  Last time we did chalk drawing, a coloring project, and bubbles.  It should be fun:-)











In front of bakery after
In front of bakery before
Round bed after
Round bed before
Grapevines after
Grapevines before
Apple tree after
Apple tree before
Honeysuckle after
Honeysuckle before
Willow tree after
Willow tree before

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Home again, home again.......

"Triune" (detail) by Stu Mendelson .  On display next weekend at the OWOW conference at Trail Christian Fellowship.   Among other works by both Stu and me.  Just sayin' :-)

Well, we tried.
Although the setting was beautiful and the food was good, Crystal Waters was just not where Stu belongs.
By Sunday, the owner, Lisa, and I could both see the handwriting on the wall.
You know, I usually feel at a loss to describe the reasons why.   I see the behavior in operation, the unquenchable neediness, the fretfulness, the insecurity.  I have my theories, of course.
 But as I walk this kinky, complicated path with Stu, the most striking thing about it is that, whether I understand the underlying psychology or not, it is a path he needs to walk.  And he needs, more than anything, my non judgemental company. And you know, I can do that.  And it does me good.

I'd like to say a word about the staff at Laurel Hill.  They've been walking through this saga with us, too, handling all the nitty gritty details of his daily care, lifting my burden----literally!   Yesterday,  as I walked into the facility I was greeted with a giant hug from Tracie, the social worker there, friendly smiles from every employee I saw, nods of sympathy and understanding about Stu.  These people have seen Stu at his worst,  seen me at my most broken, laughed with me, encouraged me.  They seem to know something about compassion.  Now, isn't that a nice thing to consider-----so much "news" about such places seems sinister.  After more than a year here, I feel blessed to have such an option.  Perhaps other facilities are less encouraging, I don't know.  God led us here, and as always, his tenderness with us is boundless.

As I left yesterday, I caught sight of Dan, the maintenance man there.  His most remarkable feature is his ever-present good humor.  He raised his hand in a friendly wave and remarked "It's good to have you back!  We love Stu, and we love to see your smiling face"

We are, to my surprise, home.



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The new digs

Just drove home from Stu's new digs.  It took me the same amount of driving time as the regular trip to Laurel Hill, but what a different route!  The scenery as you travel from our house on Coutant Lane across to Fish Hatchery Road (where the new place is located) is all rural, and the farms and woods were a feast for the eye.  One long fence was draped with so much wisteria I thought it would keel over.  But, I digress........

The new place is called Crystal Waters.  The address there is 263 Felkner Rd. (off Fish Hatchery)   There are three sweet quiet ladies there, and another man who will be sharing Stu's room starting on Friday.  The room is huge, with a sliding glass door that leads out to a deck.  The deck looks out over banks of tall pines and other evergreens.  It's like being at a very deluxe cabin in the woods.  The owner seems to know her business, and I've heard good things about the place.  Tonight they are having chicken breast with organic basmati rice for dinner.  There are smoothies for breakfast every morning.  All this to say, it looks promising.

After the past year of unexpected twists in the road, though, I am holding my breath a little.  I think it will take a few weeks to feel confident about Stu settling in.  I know many of you pray for us----and that is a comfort.  Please continue to hold us up in prayer.  Because he is once again in a home setting, he can receive physical therapy again, so I do have hope that maybe he will rally.  We shall see.   Stay tuned!

ON the home front, I am doing my second annual Amazing May Barn/Art/Bakery sale at the home property this coming Saturday, May 5.   Hopefully this link will take you to the events page----not sure if you have to log in to facebook to see it or not.  Anyway, I will be baking up some of those legendary bagels, raspberry date bars, brownies, lemon bars, and marionberry streusel hearts.   I'll also be showing off some of Stu's art for sale in the old barn, plus an assortment of leather odds and ends from his leather shop and plenty of classic yard sale goodies.  Come by if you live close enough, it should be a lot of fun:-)   Lily here (pictured above) will show you around:-)

Finally, the work has started in the main house-----Jerome is in action again, ripping out old kitchen cabinets, scraping acoustic ceilings, (Thank You, Thank you, God!!!  How I have hated those ceilings!!!)  and pulling up old ratty carpet (see above thanks.....same story)   As you can see from the above picture, sometimes he gets some help from Rachel:-)  I can't wait to see how the place gets transformed!  And soon Lily and her brother and sister (and their mom and dad) will be my next door neighbors.  That's really something to be thankful for!

Until next time!

Sue

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Some words from Stu himself



Ran across these  writings and sketches by Stu that struck a chord for me.   I hope they do for you, too.





                        
 "Through the clamor
       of this stormy life,

    Pervasive wretchedness,
          Oh, foolish, brutish strife......

                      From the thrash and
                             Beatings on this fife
 
         Comes the mellowing and
              Softening of my heart

Becoming I to my Lord Jesus
        His Bride, His wife."

And this:

"I have no depth of my self, Lord                                           
You are the deepest depth,
Of yourself abiding in my soul.
All my selfish Pride is as nothing and means nothing.
The meaning I find in me is You in Your pure holy meaning.
Nothing of pride itself can destroy or make of no effect
the relationship I have with Thee, Father."


These words of his comfort me.
If he wrote them at one time, he knows
these truths, even if they seem inaccessible to him
right now.  God knows him.  God is ministering to him,
even in his affliction.  Stu is, and has always been,
IN GOOD HANDS.