Truth Be Told: Accepting Mercy

I had a yucky experience during a medical procedure. “Yucky” seems less traumatic than hearing the head of the department at a renowned hospital say, “I am not really sure what is happening to you. This has never happened before.” So, I am going with yucky because it sounds a little less terrifying.

But it’s not my physical reaction that was the most significant. I was my spiritual one — my resistance to accepting mercy when I know how other people’s compassion can bless both the giver and the receiver.

A friend offered to bring my family dinner. Typically, if anyone offers to feed me, I accommodate with the gluttonous joy of a counter-surfing Labrador. I don’t like to cook. I end up with splatter stains on my clothes, salmonella all over my counters, and an overcooked entrée that I worry is still lurking with salmonella. Yet when my sweet friend offered to bring us dinner, I immediately refused. Unlike me, my friend loves to cook and doesn’t neurotically overcook things to avoid food pathogens.

Still, I resisted. I resisted because accepting help sometimes makes me feel vulnerable. I resisted because I didn’t want to acknowledge how much my health issues over the last year have distorted my identity. I resisted because I didn’t want to admit how powerless I felt. I didn’t want to be on this end of mercy. It feels so much easier to give it. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I didn’t want any of this.

Yet, here I am. Read more

Mercy Matters at MD Anderson

The beautiful thing about giving mercy is thinking about the person who is on the receiving end and what our small acts of kindness can mean to someone else. In my book, Simple Mercies, I share a beautiful act of mercy that my friend, Julie Anna, did while I had been at the hospital all day with a dear friend who died unexpectedly. I will never forget her kindness because it was the only light I saw on that dark day.

She is so thoughtful that it didn’t surprise me when I learned that despite being several states away, she was still doing acts of mercy. This time, with a little help from a friend.

This is how Julie Anna does mercy:

Mercy Matters!

Recently, my cousin and her husband traveled from their home in Missouri to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston hoping to qualify for a clinical trial for terminal cancer. Some of their friends from Missouri travel internationally teaching about God’s healing so they had their friends from WoodsEdge Community Church welcome my cousin to Houston. They visited my cousin and her husband at MD Anderson offering support and prayers for healing. Mercy.

My cousin posts updates to family and friends on the Caring Bridge site with specific prayer requests for a healing miracle for her husband. When I read her post about how the WoodsEdge Church welcomed them I wondered if this was where my close friend, Lesley, who had recently moved from Jacksonville, Florida to Houston, Texas attended church…And it was! A God Moment of Mercy, Not Coincidence.

I reached out to both women to let them know of this “small world” God moment and put them in touch with each other. Both women are amazing prayer warriors and are true inspirations of living/speaking your faith, trusting in God, and sharing it with others.

Lesley wanted to do something in addition to praying to help my cousin. Lesley’s 13-year-old daughter, Lindsey, was cooking dinner and told Lesley she wanted my cousin to have a warm meal. Lesley then made the 40-minute drive to MD Anderson, dropped it off at the nurse’s station, and drove back home. Mercy Me!

This act of mercy that Lesley and Lindsey made happen brought me peace. It’s so hard to be far away from a loved one when they are suffering and not be able to do anything to help. My cousin was so touched that a total stranger would bring her mercy. Lesley is now my cousin’s prayer warrior and can be available for them if they need her. Two strangers now connected by God’s mercy. Not a coincidence. Just mercy.

Small everyday acts of kindness matter! God’s mercy moments matter. I am learning to recognize these moments and thank Him!

PLEASE PRAY for my cousin Stacey and a Healing Miracle for her husband Russ ~ Julie Anna.

Hi, all ~ I love stories like these that have so many connections that could be passed off as coincidence but really have the hand of God all over them. And, I love how Lesley and her daughter, Lindsey, readily stepped in as an act of mercy to the sick and an act of friendship to Julie Anna. The picture above is of the cooler that I found on my dining room table on the day my friend died unexpectedly. I had spent the day pouring out mercy in every way I knew how and I came home and received it. Mercy matters. Giving. Receiving. Simple Mercies. ~ Love, Lara

To purchase Simple Mercies: https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 or locally at http://bit.ly/larabooks

 

Parties, papers, and podcasts – oh my!

Thank you for the support you all have given me with the launch of Simple Mercies. I absolutely love being able to share it with the world and everyone has been so generous to help spread the word. Two dear friends opened up their homes so I could speak about the book and I so enjoyed meeting new people whose compassionate hearts make our community a better place. If you are interested in me speaking at your home, church, or organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out at lara@mercymatters.net

I have also been busy recording different podcasts. Here is one I hope you will enjoy https://ultimatechristianpodcastnetwork.com/meet-lara-patangan-author-of-simple-mercies/?fbclid=IwAR3eBHR2sLfOibvvmB3COFtL3Xz8ST9IR1pWPdNgG-hAYLUiGOfdqS2XosE

Lastly, I wanted to share this article that recently ran in The Florida Times-Union about the year I spent doing works of mercy. The author, Beth Reese Cravey, really did an amazing job capturing both the spirit of the book and that year. (I apologize for the gaps in the article. I had to make it into four PDF’s to share it here. And, by me, I mean my husband who actually reminded me that I was his only employee and that maybe I should be nicer to him. His comment made me really happy because by saying this he did the work of mercy to “admonish a sinner” while simultaneously bringing me grapes — “feed the hungry.”  So, if you think about it, I’m a soul-saving kind of boss).

To purchase Simple Mercies: https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 or locally at http://bit.ly/larabooks

 

Mercy! Being Mama is Hard

When my children were young, as routine as saying my nightly prayers before bedtime, I would recount all the mistakes I had made with them that day.  Some failings felt so significant that I would measure them in how many extra years of therapy they would require.  While most people worry about saving for retirement, I worried about saving for my children’s counseling copays when they were grown and their mama-messed-me-up issues would manifest like a scary clown face popping out of a Jack-in-the-Box.

Motherhood was hard and it seemed like the harder I tried, the more aware I became of the spaghetti sauce dripping from the kitchen ceiling.  (Truthfully that scarlet drip would have been there regardless of my children because whenever I am in the kitchen catastrophic events occur.)

Now, a mother of teenage boys, I look back on those years and the litany of suffering I subjected myself to and I realize how little I knew God.  I couldn’t show myself any mercy because I had yet to know his.  God was this perfect being who couldn’t possibly understand the trials of being an imperfect parent.  He had never wrestled anyone with an arched back into a car seat or saw the need to abandon the baby’s stroller in the parking lot after realizing it was more likely that he would collapse from frustration than the too-complicated-to-fold buggy.  Of course, Jesus did wrestle demons and I am sure collapsing was a possibility when he endured 40 days without food or water in the desert.  Still, in those early days of motherhood, I relied more on parenting books than our perfect father. Read more

Funerals: Beauty in Shades of Gray

The color black is symbolic of funerals, representing everything from the heavy grief that overshadows the bereaved to the most common color-choice for attire.  How strange then that the decision on whether to attend a funeral isn’t always as clear as the delineation between black and white.  Many people fall into a gray area of not knowing the deceased well, but still wanting to support the grieving.  It can feel like an awkward palette from which to draw — blending the darkness of death with the comfort of light.

Last year, I attended several funerals.  It felt unnatural to lose the people that I lost.  Too young.  Too loved.  Too unbearable.  Too many.  At this point, I have decided you don’t move on from grief you carry it with you – this incredulous realization that you will never see someone you love again. The reality folded up reverently and tucked away in the gap created by the loss in your heart.  Every now and then, you unfold it, look at it in disbelief, and weep for a love that was once tangible.  Then, if you’re lucky, you wipe away the tears and find the smile that acknowledges the best parts of your loved one you’ve kept alive by the illogical, eternal merits of love.  You breathe out, fold it back up, and carry on.  The losses from last year were close to me.   The black I felt was as dark and as empty as a galaxy without stars.  I never thought twice about whether I would attend the funerals.

Sometimes, it’s not that clear.  We aren’t always close to the deceased.  We aren’t sure if it is appropriate.  If we are being honest, we aren’t certain we want to go.  Generally speaking, they are not a lot of fun.  There is nothing to me so private as grief, so I understand the feeling of not wanting to intrude, pry, or feel like a gawking voyeur during moments of another person’s certain despair.  I also know what it meant to me when I lost a close relative and friends who did not know the deceased showed up.  They weren’t there for the dead, they came for the living.  Seeing some of the people who were there for me was so touching that momentarily I didn’t feel grief, I felt love.  It was a beautiful gift.  I don’t know how much vacillating they did between black and white before deciding to go.  I just know in that gray area of uncertainty they chose to come, bringing me a moment of mercy that was as restful as the color white on tired eyes.

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Out of the Ash: American Heroes

I remember exactly where I was when a plane crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was a profoundly sad day. It changed lives and an entire nation. I will never forget the unthinkable, unimaginable horror as I huddled around the television watching the ash of innocence unite a country in anguished grief. As the morning went on, the plane crashes went from one to four, each one an almost unrecoverable blow of terror, multiplying devastation into exponential heartache.

A new commitment to patriotism rose like a phoenix out of ashes on that pivotal day. We were less naïve and more united. A surge of civilians stepped out of their air-conditioned offices and into the desert heat to join our military. They traded the comforts of civilian life for the trials of war to ensure freedom.

I don’t doubt the urgency of the call to serve that those newly converted soldiers felt. I was almost eight months pregnant with my first child on 9/11. Things that mattered to me before that day—the décor of the nursery, the name I would choose, decisions about going to work afterward, and finding a pediatrician—were suddenly inconsequential. Somehow, life as we knew it was in jeopardy. My body was full of the promise of life, and the sky was falling. Read more

Practicing What I Preach

Sometimes I look at my life, and I don’t know whether hypocrisy or irony is screaming louder.  I write about mercy,  because I believe whole-heartedly in its power to change lives and, in a broader sense, the world.  That is not hyperbole.  It is a truth that exists regardless of whether we acknowledge or believe it.

Despite my enthusiasm, doing works of mercy sometimes feels like a struggle.  You would think in my zeal, I would embrace them with a “Woo-hoo! Here’s another opportunity for me to serve!”  But often my “woo-hoo” sounds more like, “woe is me.”

Frequently the service we are called to do is organic, and, like the produce in the grocery store, organic always costs more.  It has always felt easier to serve when I plan for it, choose the capacity, and have had a shower.  When someone else’s misfortune interrupts my plans or to-do list, it can be frustrating.

Recently, I took my mom to the doctor, because she was sick.  I tried to be peppy about it despite my manic Monday mentality.  My mom was pleasant and chatty on the way to her appointment, and, instead of gratitude for her attitude, I begrudged it for being better than mine.  After all, I was the healthy one.  Why wasn’t I bubbly and bright?  Maybe she should have been driving me around! Read more

Below the Surface: Going Deep for God

I was in an existential funk questioning my purpose, God’s plan for me, and the universality of suffering.  Someone suggested as a solution that  I should be more shallow.  While I understood the spirit of love in which it was made, it was a funny thing to hear.

Besides, I’ve tried.  I’ve wrapped my self in the superficial that society hawks.  But when my closet starts to cram contents together, I am more interested in streamlining than another sale.

I am always telling my boys when they ask to buy something (that they already own four of) that it’s not going to fill them. I tell them God is the only one who can do that.  Of course, this does little to discourage their desires.  Still, I hope the message eventually settles in.

There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, enjoying a good sale, or a great pair of shoes, but the joy it brings is superficial, unsustainable, and nothing like the satisfaction we get from a relationship with God.  Thinking about the work of mercy to clothe the naked, it seems almost archaic considering the number of clothes we all own.  I recently visited several thrift stores for an outfit for an upcoming 80s fundraiser, and I was struck by the volume of clothes in these warehouse-size buildings.  It was astounding.  And while I understand that there are many areas in which this work of mercy still applies, such as a woman fleeing an abusive relationship, families who lose everything in natural disasters, poor families who can’t afford to replace their children’s outgrown clothes, and the homeless who lack proper shoes or jackets, I can’t help but think of clothing the naked on a deeper level. Read more

Parenting: Instructing Mama

The work of mercy that most embodies parenting is to instruct the uninformed.  Only it took me a while to figure out that maybe it was me, the mama, who needed the most instruction.

From the earliest days of motherhood, when I frantically thumbed through pages of parenting books in the dark of the night in a desperate attempt to find a way to coax my son to sleep, I felt more clueless than confident.

No matter how many books I read, I could never get my son on a nursing schedule, sleep schedule, or a mama-really-needs-a-shower schedule.  I had friends who were more successful with following the instructions, and, of course, I resented their efficiency and ease.

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