01 December 2010
Or I could look at my pantry shelves and my laundry baskets (which are at very manageable levels), and hold my head high.
Even if I could do a single post every day in December, I'd still be at my lowest number of posts ever for my blog. But I'm not hanging it up. Not yet anyway. This season of my life will pass into another one, and perhaps then...
But thanks for checking in. I haven't forgotten about this place. Really.
10 November 2010
My parents were just here visiting for two weeks from Oregon. Since 3,000 miles separate us, we only see one another about once a year or whenever I have a baby, whichever. And every time we say goodbye, we know that it could be the last time we see each other alive. Morbid thoughts, I suppose, but they do cross my mind. And usually after every visit, there is a letdown. For lack of a better word, a minor depression takes place. I think it is an adjustment period (for me) to recover from being spoiled by their presence. I've gotten so used to having my Mom wash the dishes, or my Dad to keep the coffee pot going, or my Mom to fold the laundry, or Dad to take us out to dinner--that by the end of their visit, I have a lot of re-training to do!
And aren't we all that way, to some degree? We have our habits. Our routines. We like things to be a certain way, done in a certain order. And when things get off-kilter, we sometimes get off-kilter too. But the strange thing is, that my parents' visit mainly had an influence on my personal routines (and theirs), but the rest of the world continued on with business as usual.
I'm reminded of a briefly dark time in my adolescence, when I was about to take an exam for my Calculus class, and exam for which I was not prepared to take. As I sat at my desk, waiting for the bell to ring to mark the beginning of class, I contemplated ending my life. (I had many other burdens to bear besides the test, but I am just remembering that moment in time.) I looked out into the hallway, and saw the face of a friend passing by, smiling and sharing a friendly conversation with another classmate who was out of my view. And in that moment, I realized that while I was having that rock-bottom emotional experience and wishing that I was dead, others were having a happy-go-lucky kind of day, unaffected by the Calculus exam I was about to take. And I knew that even if I died right there at my desk, next week, that same friend would likely be walking the halls at the same time, talking to the same people as she had before. Life goes on.
That idea is often difficult to see when you are in the position I was. And now in my thirty-some years, I have experienced other situations that were, comparatively, much worse than a Calculus exam, believe me! When you are in the midst of it, you wonder how you will ever survive. You believe your life will come to an end, or that it will be disastrous, whatever. I just heard heartbreaking news that a friend of mine was abandoned by her husband at an amusement park. He left her there with their two young kids, packed up the things back home, and later told her that he wanted a divorce. My head and heart are reeling from the news. I don't know what to say or what to do. I don't know how I would handle such deep disappointment and humiliation. It's painful to think about, and yet my friend is living with it as her reality.
So why am I writing all this? Like I implied earlier, this writing is cathartic for me. Whether this post actually gets published or forever stays in the archives, I just felt the need to get it out. Life does go on. And life is worth living. But the only kind of life worth living is the kind of life that has few regrets--the kind of life that desires to align itself with the Word of God to live in such a way that honors the Lord. The only good reason to be made a fool in the world's eyes is when one chooses to follow in obedience to God, regardless of what the world thinks. There is no dishonor in that.
"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit" Psalm 34:18
20 October 2010
Some things have gone on this year that have caused me to think about those areas of my life that I do well (or at least think that I do well), and those areas that I do not do well at all. Some things in our personal lives we can look at and pinpoint how or why we got to be that way. And knowing that might be helpful to understand ourselves, but it might also be a dangerous way of excusing ourselves from facing our faults. I know that this paragraph is a bit self-analytical, but I have to face the reality of who I am, and no longer blame others or excuse myself, but to take full responsibility for my short-comings. I don't need to feed my ego by reminding myself of what I do well so that I don't wallow in despair. I think it's time for me to own up to those areas of my life that only I can be held accountable for.
So this is not easy to write about. I want to be able to make a nice sermon out of everything. I want others to share in my convictions and see those same faults in themselves. I want to be right all the time. I want others to look to me as the shining good example, rather than the dinged-up bad example. And I care what others think about me. But that's not even the issue I want to ultimately focus on.
And...what do you know? The timer is beeping at me. I have to go pick up the kids from school, and my quiet moment of writing must come to a stop. For now. So consider this an introduction, and let's see where it takes us. In the meantime, think about an area of your life that you have struggled with--call it a weakness, a besetting sin, a shortfall--and think about how it has affected your life. Maybe we'll have a discussion. Or I could be talking to the crickets. Either way, I plan to return.
10 September 2010
While I was playing UNO with my 3-year-old yesterday, we had the White House press conference playing on the computer in the background. I was mostly interested in hearing what was being said about the issue of the flamboyant man in Florida who was planning to burn a particular religious book on public display, an activity that has received world-wide attention.
As I listened to the reporters ask their questions, I got the eerie feeling that we (the USA) might be headed towards a communist state, at the urging of our own people. You think I'm exaggerating? I heard suggestions that book burning (this particular book) could be considered a "hate crime," which could be determined to be illegal. There were also suggestions that the leader could be "detained indefinitely," basically until they determine what particular laws (that they haven’t come up with yet) has this man actually broken. And there was plenty of talk about various "commanders" and "the Commander in Chief" as people were grappling to figure out who has authority to tell this man what (or what not) to do.
I seriously got the sense that the people asking the questions were trying to help the White House figure out a way to get rid of this man, and make it appear to be legal. And the best things they could come up with were to either dismiss the Constitution, particularly the part ensuring our freedom of religion and freedom of speech, or lock the kook up under phony charges just to keep the peace. The next thing I expect to hear in the “brainstorm” of ideas might require all religious groups to be monitored by some branch of bureaucracy or military, and perhaps forced to take courses in diversity and tolerance and sign statements that denounce their exclusive and narrow-minded beliefs.
I don't consider myself to be particularly outspoken in political matters. But as a Christian, I should be particularly outspoken about religious matters, to some degree. And part of my time spent thinking about this issue had me imagining what would happen if that man went forward with his plan. And it's not a pretty thought, but one worth considering. The world is rapidly changing, as are public opinions. What actions, reactions, events and public pressures could we be facing sooner than we think? It's probably only a matter of time before another fool tries to one-up this one and another opportunity to preach the gospel presents itself.
I don't think American Christians should roll over and surrender their liberties, but we are generally pretty blind to the fact that they have been protected/given to us through the Constitution, and that document will not endure through eternity, nor does it have supreme authority over Christians. And let’s not forget that a large portion of the world's Christians exist/survive without such liberty. We may need to learn from them how to live for the glory of God while being oppressed, because it could be just around the corner. Better yet, we can learn from the early church and how they endured the persecution that came after Christ’s resurrection, by studying it in the Bible.
So Christians, prepare your "official statement." What is the 15-minute version, the 2-minute version, and the bumper-sticker version of the message you are commanded to preach? Why do you preach it? And Who is your commander? Are you prepared to preach it to the world, and suffer for it?
19 August 2010
I've been thinking lately about the way I sign my name when corresponding with people. You know what I'm talking about:
Dear So-and-so,But of course, if you've ever received such a correspondence from me, you would usually find the words, "Love, Merrilee." (And let's face it, my correspondence would have a LOT more than five words in it!) Not always, but most times, I sign Love. Why? I'm so glad you asked.
Blah blah blah blah blah.
I could write a lengthy post explaining the differences between the various meanings of the word love. You know, the four loves (phileo, agapao, storge, and eros)? But since I'm not a Greek scholar but in fact a mother of small children (who need to be attended to, by the way), I'll just keep it simple for ya.
When I sign Love, Merrilee, I'm not thinking "I love you." (Though, some of you: I do love you. You're my family--or adopted family. Or you're my best friends. Or you're my neighbor. Or you're reading this blog. Thank you; I love you!) Usually, if I'm thinking "I love you," I'll write I love you.
No, when I sign Love, Merrilee, I'm usually thinking of love in terms of a verb. Not in the first person indicative, but the imperative. You love. Go do it: love. Be about the business of our Heavenly Father: love.
So what? What's the big deal about it anyway? I don't know, really. I guess I sometimes feel the need to explain myself so that others will understand why I do strange things. I don't usually sign Love, Merrilee to perfect strangers. But I do sign off that way when I'm corresponding with a fellow Christian with whom we share the evangelical commission to go and make disciples. Our little correspondence has been a blessing to me. Now, let's go love. Merrilee.
13 July 2010
All that to say: As I was recently listening to a couple of excellent messages, I was shouting AMEN in my heart when I heard MacArthur say the following:
The above quote is from the message titled Jesus' Personal Invitation, Part 2 (from Matthew 11:27-30). If you click on the quote above, it will take you to the website where you can read the whole message, or even listen to it for free. I was truly blessed by it and I hope you will be, too. May your heart worship the Lord in spirit and in truth!
For those of you who are visiting with us, it is our custom at Grace Church to worship the Lord in the instruction of His Word. Sometimes I’m asked if I feel that teaching is a part of worship. And I guess I constantly answer that I think teaching is the most important part of worship because you can only worship a person that you know and you can only know Him as you understand His Word. And if we are to truly worship God, we are to worship Him as He is understood and as He is known and according to the worship which He demands which, of course, is revealed to us in His holy Word. So, as we come to worship this morning as always we open the Word of God to be instructed by the One we worship and I guess the essence of worship itself would be to listen to the One who is, in fact, the object of our praise.
12 July 2010
And then at breakfast, we read Proverbs 12. Over and over was a contrast of a diligent person and one who is often referred to as a sluggard elsewhere in Proverbs. And there's a lesson in there for me. I connected these verses together.
verse 11: He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.
verse 14: A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man's hands will return to him.
verse 24: The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.
verse 27: A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence.
Paying close attention to verse 24, there are two types of people: those who rule, and those who are slaves (put to forced labor). So I made two lists:
The Slave's List:
- pursues worthless things
- lacks sense
- has slack hands
- is forced to work
- doesn't roast his prey (doesn't make the most of his opportunities)
- tills his land
- has plenty to eat
- uses his words wisely
- is satisfied with good
- has diligent hands
- understands the value of diligence
To Be THAT Person, One must:
- pursue important, valuable, virtuous things
- be sensible
- be busy with one's hands
- work voluntarily
- make the most of what one has, improve on what one has
- work hard
- reap what one sows
- plan for the future
- enjoy the fruit of one's labor and the blessing of one's actions
- keep one's hands from being idle
- appreciate hard work
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:7-10)
20 May 2010
This one photo says it all. My house is in a bit of chaos, and I have a very active toddler. This is part of the reason why I haven't posted in so long. That, and I have spent too many precious hours reading about other people's lives on facebook. But no more. I have one week left to prepare for the arrival of Enoch's Mom and sister, to celebrate a particular boy of ours turning seven, and to complete some demo craft projects for our church's upcoming Community Bible School next month. So while I'm supposed to be cleaning the house, I'm also supposed to be making things with glue and Popsicle sticks, while at the same time not neglecting my motherly and wifely responsibilities and keeping everything else running as smoothly as usual. The good thing is that as a born procrastinator (16 days overdue and born on the last minute of the hour), I supposedly work well under pressure. Emphasis on the word work. And so thus I go.
15 April 2010
Recently he asked me if I had a choice for Jesus to return right now or sometime in the distant future, which would I choose. I thought briefly before answering. And I said, "Right now, of course!" I can remember being his age and tormented by the thought of death and eternity. While I knew the right answer would be to choose heaven rather than stay here on earth, I remember really wanting earth more. I wanted to fall in love and get married and have babies. I had much to look forward to that I didn't want to miss. And I didn't really look forward to dying!
I'd like to think that my answer now is due to the fact that I truly love the Lord so much that I can't wait to be in His presence. In my heart, I think that is my honest motivation. And I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that I have fallen in love, gotten married, and had babies. I have also tasted the bitter parts and felt the pain that comes from living in a sinful, corrupt world. My fair portion, I think, although I can say with confidence that there will be more to come. While on the one hand I still have so much to look forward to in this life, I have been blessed to have reached some of the major milestones that I have always dreamed of. And I would be happy, even thankful to the Lord if He were to bring it all to an abrupt end by returning or calling me to be with Him.
Some might call this musing a little bit morbid. Perhaps it is. But this is my point, I think: I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4) I am not only confident that we are leading our children to walk in God's truth, but I am hopeful that they will desire to do so even after we are gone. And whether we go now or 50 years from now, or if Christ returns before then, I have that desire in my heart and it gives me hope and joy to see it begin to show signs of fruit in their lives now.
06 April 2010
18 March 2010
17 March 2010
1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened
1 c. sugar
1 can Hershey's Syrup
1 c. flour
2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened
1 Tbs. water
1/2 tsp. mint extract
3 drops green food coloring
6 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. mint extract
Preheat oven to 350. In order given, mix the butter, sugar, eggs, syrup and flour to make first layer. Pour into greased 9x13 pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes. Do not over bake. Mix ingredients for second layer and spread on cooled brownies. For third layer, melt ingredients in microwave for 1-2 minutes. Stir until completely melted. Cool until slightly thickened, then spread on top.
Merrilee's additional tips: I've found the most success melting things in the microwave by using the defrost setting. It takes longer, but reduces the risk of burning the chocolate and rendering it impossible to work with. Since there's so much butter in these, you'll want to store them in the fridge if you're not eating them right away. But I think whole thing is best when eaten at room temperature. While I prefer to cook with butter, these taste just as good with margarine. If you just can't make brownies from scratch or with so much butter and eggs, you could try just putting layers two and three on top of your favorite brownie recipe. Happy Green-Minty-Middle-of-March!
08 March 2010
And my kids keep me humble. Sometimes I think I sound really good (and sometimes I actually do), and sometimes my voice is squeaky and probably pitchy in places (more than I’d like to admit). But they don’t seem to notice from one day to the next whether I’m having a good singing day or a bad one. All that matters to them is that we do it every night.I know I’m rambling on about this, but I just wanted to capture the thoughts and put them down. Because I love the fact that that is how my children end nearly every day, praising the Lord. And I love the fact that that is how I end nearly every day with my children, even the toughest days: thankful that the day is over and that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceased, His mercies never came to an end; and confident and thankful that they are new every morning.
Last night, I was reminded of a hymn I first heard sung on an old favorite cassette called Treasures by Bonnie Knopf. The original lyrics are by Isaac Watts, but these lyrics are as I remember them (not word-perfect):
I sing the Almighty power of God that made the mountains rise;This song really touched my heart as I recalled the lyrics and sang it to my children. I was especially thankful for yet another good song that enforces the truth of God's word, and the fact that He is the creator and sustains the universe. And that is all the musings for today.
That spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies;
I sing the Goodness that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.
I sing the goodness of the Lord, that filled the earth with food;
Who formed the creatures with His word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed wher’ere I turn my eye;
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze across the sky!
22 February 2010
Crock Pot White Beans and Sausage
1. Dump 1 bag of dried white beans into the crock pot. (Discard any yucky looking ones or foreign objects that made their way into the bag)
2. Brown 1-inch sausage pieces in a large skillet, and add to the crock pot. (Amounts of meat varies based on your family's needs. We like spicy Italian sausage, but non-spicy also works well.)
3. While meat is browning (if you didn't mince shallots and garlic ahead of time), mince 6-8 shallots and 1-3 cloves garlic. These will go in the pan after you remove the meat and wipe out excess grease. (If you don't have shallots, use any variety of onion you have on hand, about 1/2 cup or so.)
4. Add the "aromatics" (shallots/garlic) to the pan, but turn off heat. The residual heat will soften these a little before you add them to the crock pot, and will help soak up the tasty brown bits in the pan. You can also add a little water or chicken stock before dumping it into the crock pot.
5. Add thyme, celery seed, and salt and pepper to taste. (Fresh thyme is preferred, but use what you have!)
6. Add enough chicken stock (or water) to cover the meat with about 1 inch liquid over the top of the meat.
7. Turn on crock pot to desired setting and plan to have a lovely meal! Serve in soup bowls with crusty bread and a green salad.
03 February 2010
02 February 2010
So instead I finally took down the Christmas tree on my sidebar and changed the blog colors. At least its something. I'd like to take on a whole new look, but that will be my reward for actually writing consistently for a while. (And in case you're wondering, no, I did not just remove the Christmas tree in my home. It's been down for quite some time now.)
This morning I found a new favorite website that I hope to visit often in order to get myself more in the right mindset for writing. It's called Encouraging Words for Writers. I'm thinking about attending a conference this fall where Bonita Lillie will be speaking. Again, it might be a good reward for actually writing consistently for a while, and I already have some money put aside for it, which makes me more excited.
But it's going to take more than just re-arranging the virtual frosting. It's going to require that I wake up earlier, read more, and write more. But that's what I think I want to do. Stay tuned.
21 January 2010
I've not been very gung-ho about new-year resolutions in recent years. But I certainly am attempting to make small changes. One of them is concerning this blog. As you've noticed, I haven't posted here in a while, and I hope for that to change. But I will be making other changes as well.
One change that any regular reader of this blog should know about is a personal change: I've started another blog! I just started it today, in fact. And it will look much like this one. It's title is also very similar, Merrilee's Amusings. The only difference (so far) is that to access it, you will need a personal invitation from me. If you have not received such an invitation but would like one, please e-mail me at merrilee (dot) stevenson (at) gmail (dot) com. (Or I suppose you could also post a comment here and give me your e-mail address so I can send you an invitation.)
The reason behind this is somewhat complicated, and I only have a minute before I have to wake up the kids and go pick up the other kids from school. But it is for their sakes. I will no longer be posting photos of them here. So if you want to see how the weeds are growing and how wacky we are, you'll just have to get my permission first.
Sorry this is so short. This blog will still remain. I hope to do more writing here in the near future. But I at least had to take care of some business and get the ball going in the right direction first.