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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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Compassion

 "Chinese Girl"  by Stu Mendelson.  Pen and ink, watercolor wash. 


"Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.” - Henri J.M. Nouwen

Henri Noewen is one of my go-to writers.   His own life, towards the end, was dedicated to  disabled people who were so profoundly retarded that, really, there was no way to "get" anything out of them. 

When I saw this quote posted this morning on facebook, my heart leaped......and sunk.  This exactly describes my current condition.  The inner war exists-----yes, I want very much to flee from Stu, or find a quick cure.  And I sometimes fear that my decision to re-admit him was a kind of running.  

But, as I examine it, it is really a slowing down, an admission that his pace is going to be much slower than I had hoped, that my own need to re-charge is profound,  that my less frequent visits are still visits.  I am not running away.  I am slowing my pace to match his.  

On Sunday, a young woman shared about her work with an organization called Bring Me Hope.  It's an outreach to orphans in China http://www.bringmehope.org/about..  I wish I had a transcript of her whole presentation, it was so compelling.  But the observation that hit the closest to home was when she put into words the heart of true ministry.  She said "It's really a story of two broken people, the counselor and the orphan, who in drawing together glorify God."   The compassion is not just for the one who appears to be needy!   We are all needy!  That helps me to breathe, to receive the love God offers, to pray that in that opening of my heart, he will plant yet more love, so that his compassion can flow ever more freely. 

 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God"  2 Cor. 3-5

I like the name of that organization......Bring Me Hope.  Really, it's what all of us need! 
Praying for compassion to be circulating among us----because that's who Jesus really is!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How it all started: Free Spirit.........



 I think I need to start with a visual.

It's 1975.....Picture a girl, 20 years old, with long brown hair parted in the middle.  She likes to wear clothes from the thrift store, long velvet skirts, and, when she's feeling bold (which is often) the gray wool cape that an admirer gave her, lined with red.   She often carries an autoharp as she walks across town to her job at a Montessori school.  She likes to think she carries it because she loves music and wants to be able to sit in a park on her way home and play-----but I think there's more theater involved than true passion.  She is pleased with herself that she has found a little apartment of her own, that she's been able to move out of her parents' home, that she is independent.  No need for a car----she has her bicycle, and her feet.  Sometimes she takes her shoes off as she walks home and knots the laces so she can sling them over her shoulder and make a picture for people passing by of how free she is.  I think she thinks a lot about what people think when they see her.  Which is funny, since I don't think she has any idea.  Any idea of what they actually see.  And I think she would be very surprised at what they found actually attractive.

This girl has a best friend, Donna----they meet almost every day and spend hours drinking coffee and talking.  I wonder what they are saying to each other?  It's very compelling for both of them----I think sometimes they touch on something below the surface, something indescribable.  Maybe that's why they talk so much----they keep hoping they'll get a hint of that indescribable thing again.  When Donna was 18 and this girl (let's call her Susan) was 19, they both got "saved" in an emotional, charismatic home church group.  There were mostly young people there, and a visiting preacher.  Susan found herself breaking down in tears when the preacher told her she had a lot of love to share.  She certainly felt saved!  She and Donna celebrated later by going to the beach and wading into the water together, a kind of baptism, I suppose.  But a couple of months later, in a similar home setting,  another visiting preacher singled Susan out with a message for her.......he wanted to lay hands on her and pray for her.   Susan didn't feel any need for prayer, particularly......but she stood up, and the man prayed earnestly and powerfully about......whatever it was, and then pushed her forehead in such a way that it looked like she was being knocked over by the Spirit.  But Susan knew that he pushed her,  He pushed her!  It wasn't the Holy Spirit at all!   She walked away in disgust from  Christianity.  Obviously it was a sham.

One day, many months later, Susan confesses to Donna that she has no idea why she's even here on earth.  What does it all mean?  Who is God----is there one, really?   She feels so.....empty.   She's only twenty.....isn't this supposed to be when your life is all ahead of you, and you have hopes and dreams?  Why does she feel so directionless? 

That's where this story starts.

Stay tuned.

Noah's Ark, by Stu Mendelson. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mitzvah (Commandment/Blessing)

Mitzvah (Commandment/Blessing) by Stu Mendelson (the picture is cropped----the actual piece is an arch shaped piece of wood, with color and texture applied.  Leather trim.  !2" w., 15" h, 4 lbs.
Well, I think my ears have finally stopped ringing after hitting the wall as hard as I did. Like one of those cartoon characters that smashes head-on into something and slowly turns into fragments that pause for a second before they fall to the ground with a pitiful tinkling sound.   And then, miraculously, in the next frame, the character is back together again.  Ready to re-group and discover what's next.

So I've been taking stock.

Life is, apparently, not going to be about taking care of Stu's needs.   Other people who are better equipped are in place for doing that.

How novel.

But because I couldn't see that before, I have left my bakery business on the back burner, wanting to be confident that I could serve customers well if I'm going to bake for them.  I have some regular clients who call in an order as needed, (you are welcome to join them!  I do love to bake for people)  but the tempo is slow and deliberate.  No push to get ready for the weekend, no pressure.  And I am finding that I really enjoy that.  Time to visit with the person who ordered the wholewheat bread or scones, time to have coffee with a friend, time to sit down and write this blog.  It's relaxed.

And now that I do see it, I sense a need to move in a different direction.  I heard an interview with Barbara Walters the other day, describing the transition from one occupation to the next, and how one needs to be able to say "I've done that" .  Meaning "I don't have to keep doing it.  I don't have to do it again."

I seem to be getting a lot of feedback about this blog, encouragement to "do something with my writing", as people seem to put it.   But when I hit that wall, one of the questions several of the fragments on the pavement seemed to be asking is "It's called STROKE of Genius.  If it's not about the stroke,  how can you continue?"  (I never said I was bright.......give me a minute)

So now that my ears aren't ringing any more, I'm realizing that although the blog was birthed out of the trial of Stu's stroke, it's never really been about the illness.  Has it?  It's been about one woman's response to something that shook her world.  And because that's something that has to happen to all of us at some point, it resonates.  Doesn't it?  It's my story------and I realized today as I was working on a bagel order that there's lots more to tell.  I think I need to start way back at the beginning of our relationship.   It's a long story-----I remember once trying to tell a condensed version to a dear lady who wanted to hear how I became a Christian, and I will never forget the look on her face (polite shock, maybe)  as I launched into the strange and quirky details.  She was a very nice lady, and my story is NOT very nice.  But it does say a lot about how God redeems seriously messy, sinful people.   So stay tuned.  I will probably be allowing ads on my blog, since you can earn income that way-----I've been doing my homework.  And I will also be showing Stu's art in a more purposeful way, with dimensions and prices if you are interested.  But, income or no, I think it's a story worth recording.  Looking forward to the weeks to come!

Next time:  Free Spirit meets Paradoxical Jewish Guy.  Oy vay.




Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding the Way

"The Way" by Stu Mendelson
It's been almost two weeks since I made the decision to re-admit Stu to the nursing home.
Ugh.
This whole new wrinkle in the saga has forced me to face some pretty unpleasant stuff.
Guilt.
Embarrassment.
Loneliness.
Failure.
Shock.

Wow----it's tough being a human being.  There's so much we don't know, and we are really so fragile.

I have been laid so low that I have no energy to go visit Stu.  I can't help guessing that the staff might  think the worst-----that I have dropped him off and washed my hands of him.   And what he himself is likely thinking.  His worst fear, abandonment.  He is having to face it, even if I haven't really abandoned him-----I'm just giving him a big break from...... me.   I always thought I could provide some kind of buffer-----um.....not my best thought.  As I look at it now, I see myself (my tiny self) standing between him and God.   If it wasn't so awfully wrong it would be funny.  Actually, it is funny.  I have to laugh.  After I cry for a while.

So, why am I sharing this with you?  

Well, as I was taking a long, prayerful walk yesterday, I kept digging underneath all the emotional debris, wondering what really matters.  The truth is, I am no hero.  And that's a good thing to face.  So, no need to be troubled about that-----it's just a fact of life.  Mistakes, even long-term, messy ones, are part of the journey.    But the situation is not just one long mistake-----there has been a beauty and a glory that shines through.   As I talked it over with one of my daughters, lamenting all the work that's been done to make this lovely little cottage happen, she remarked   "You know, Mom, no one did this based on the outcome.  They all contributed because they were moved to do it."  Well, yes, I knew that.  Except, down at the core, I was really rooting for a particular outcome.  Stu at home, getting better.  Not Stu back at the nursing home.  And that is very human of me, isn't it?

So, what does matter?   As I walked, the tears surfaced.......I thought about what I want to live for.  If this life is that fractured, that unstable, that tenuous .............it's just not enough.

  But what about the part that shines through?   That ineffable, unstoppable hope?   That humble, forgiving, transcendent force----that Person?  He is worth living my life for.  He died for my sins, my very run-of-the-mill sins and my spectacularly stupid sins, and my hidden sins that fool me.   All of them.  He knows all about them, and he extends his hand to pull me upright.  He gives me purpose.  "We love because He first loved us"  ( Funny how scriptures burst into bloom in a context like this)

And maybe that's what I've been doing all along, in my broken, human way.  That's the only way I've got------"We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.  We always carry around in us the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." 2 Cor. 4:7-11  

It occurs to me that we are stepping into the last week of Lent------Passion Week, I think they call it.
Praying that, for all of us who believe, these foundational truths are rooted more and more deeply.
Even if that has to come through adversity.  I'm saying, it's worth it!

Love you all!  Let's celebrate the Resurrection with great joy this year!