Self Care When You Just Don’t Care

Anyone who has a child or spouse with a disability has experienced days/weeks/months which are hard. Many times there is no option but to gut through it.

Other times, by forfeiting the most basic of self-care – sleep, eat, breathe I may make some unwise or unhealthy decisions. The biblical story of Esau and Jacob found in Genesis 25:29-34 brought this point home to me.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

Esau spent the day hunting. He returned home and was famished. I’ve been there, have you? I spend the day running errands, managing appointments, taking care of the house and everyone else except me And I become hangry. Watch out!

By allowing himself to get past the point of hunger, Esau made a rash decision. He traded

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Photo by Thiébaud Faix on Unsplash

his birthright (his role as the eldest brother and future inheritance) for a bowl of stew. At the time it seemed reasonable to him. He was convinced he would die without food. In hindsight, that decision adversely affected the rest of his life. It could not be undone. The effects of his decision overflowed to others in his family and community.

This story is a good caution for me. When I lack margin, am hungry, overtired, or cranky it is a clue I may have neglected self-care.  It’s time to backtrack and take care of me and avoid making decisions. Life and those around me may look different after a satisfied tummy, rested body, or a walk around the block.

 

 

 

 

It’s Just a Little Toggle Switch, Big Red!

Accessible vehicles are such a blessing most of the time – until they are not! Then they become a huge stationary driveway ornament. That’s what happened at our house this week.

When we bought this van and had it modified for Jerry’s needs, the emergency brake was connected to a toggle switch on the driver’s door. Nice and handy for him to access easily. We never needed or thought about a backup plan?

Until this week.

Jerry got in the van and closed the lift. He locked in and was ready to roll. The last task before putting the vehicle in gear is to release the emergency brake. The brake is always on when the van is parked as it is necessary to operate the side doors and lift.

My cell phone rang, and Jerry asked me to come to the driveway and give him a hand. IMG_0503Neither of us could get the toggle switch to respond. We’ve had the frustration of being stuck outside the van when the lift doesn’t work. It would be even more problematic if we somehow got the brake off so he could drive, but then not be able to get it back on so he could exit the van.

After he exited and closed the lift, I tried to find a manual brake release. I came up empty. We called our mechanic, who thankfully makes house calls. We scheduled time the next day for him to check it out.

Sadly, it became clear that the issue would have to be addressed by the conversion company mechanic. After four calls we got the van scheduled for service. It will be towed to the shop one week after the brake switch died.

It seems crazy that the van works fine mechanically and the engine runs well, but it is not drivable. But without the release of the emergency brake, it’s not going anywhere. And neither is Jerry.

I’ve been asking God what lessons He has for me from this experience. I’ve come up with two.

The first is this. Life can look good on the outside. My husband and I can “clean up well” and function at church, in the community, at work, etc. and everything looks and sounds dandy. But something as seemingly small as a toggle switch can bring everything to a dead stop. I want to be more aware of the toggle switches in our relationship and deal with the small issues as they arise.

My second lesson is to ensure redundancy in any future vehicles we buy. All the other systems in the van have a backup, except for the emergency brake. That’s a problem, as we just learned. Sometimes in relationships, I’ve heard it said that if two people can do the same thing one is not needed. That’s just not true. I will celebrate those areas in which Jerry and I are similarly and equally skilled. We may do things differently, but still as effectively. It doesn’t get much better than having your spouse step in and save the day when one of your own toggle switches gets stuck.

Marriage Blanket of Grace

“Their marriage was a blanket of grace that had been so many years in the making.” Home for Christmas by Melanie Wilber.

I love that imagery. There’s something so cozy about curling up under a heavy blanket that provides warmth for the body and the soul.

I read the quote to Jerry and asked if it provoked any thoughts. He responded that grace develops over time. The longer we are married, the more grace abounds.

So true. It’s not the time alone that increases grace in our lives. It’s the way we handle the little moments that seem insignificant, the everyday occurrences, and the monumental memories or stories that grow bigger each time they are recounted.

I envision our marriage blanket of grace as a quilt top secured to a fuzzy soft velour backing. I wrap myself in the snuggly side and ponder the memories and meaning of each quilt piece.

I see a piece of the blouse I was wearing on our first face-to-face date.

There’s a fragment of his sweatshirt I wore camping one weekend. Oh, how silly I was waking him up in the middle of the night to ask if I could take it.

Satin and lace from the ring pillow made by a friend and carried by another friend at our wedding.

Fabric from the shirts I made for Jerry in our first year of marriage. And to think our friend who was years ahead of us in marriage told Jerry to enjoy them now because I’d never make another. Four years ago I made him two more, just to prove our friend wrong!

Tears fill my eyes as I see the pictures printed on muslin scattered throughout the quilt. Our first home together. Posing at the accordion statue downtown before we moved away. Minor to major league baseball games. Visits with family, cruises and beach vacations. Not only is each picture worth a thousand words, but every photo also coveys a bushel of grace.

Other pieces of the quilt came from event t-shirts we served in together.

Oh yes, that scrap is from a favorite dress that fell off the bed and got caught in wheelchair tires. I remember laying on the floor cutting it apart to free his wheels to turn.

Snippets of hospital gowns one of us donned remind me to be thankful for good health now.

A section of a guest bed sheet helps me recall the hundreds of people we have hosted in our homes.

A strip from one of Jerry’s wheelchair bags brings to mind that life is made up of day by day activities.

That corner of a kitchen towel is reminiscent of all the messes and memories we’ve made sharing meals.

There are many more pieces to remember, but not today. Instead, my focus turns to the stitching holding it all together.

Copious amounts of love, prayer and grace are in those threads to be sure. But the thin strand is strengthened by forgiveness, patience, acceptance, honesty, integrity, mercy, tears of joy and pain, growth, battling through loss, laughter, and celebrations. I wonder what we will add in this new year?

What are some pieces that comprise your marriage blanket of grace? I’d love to know.

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Grandmom Borton made a quilt for each grandchild. This was the one given to Jerry when we got married.

Tune My Heart

For some people recent weeks have held visions of sugar plums dancing in their head. Not at our home. We were, and still are, full of Christmas cheer, and deep gratitude for the gift of Jesus.   But, when not thinking about Christmas words like Hulu, Netflix, Streamers, Sling and antenna have been bantered about in the search for an appropriate tv service. The goal is to find the one that will get the right sports channels for Jerry and the preferred chick flick or lifestyle channels for me.

At the suggestion and experience of a neighbor we went with an antenna. It appeals to me because once we pay for the sevice, there is no monthly fee. Less cost comes with more experimenting to find just the right angle to place the device. If we point the device just 3 or 4 degrees to one side or the other we gain or lose channels.

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Photo by Andre Moura from Pexels

But you are not reading this to get a television service recommendation. And frankly, I don’t have one to share. As often happens for me, God used this experience to teach me a lesson.

This morning I was moving the antenna around the house to get the clearest and greatest reception.That’s when it hit me – the antenna is like my heart!  I want to have the strongest possible connection to my Lord Jesus. Too often I allow my heart to be led astray by something shiny or intriguing, taking it just a few degrees off center. It is subtle, but that small change in focus compromises my relationship with Jesus. Sounds like something he warned us about in the Bible – no one can serve two masters.

Maybe I’ll like this antenna deal more than I thought. Not for what I can view, but for the reminder to constantly re-calibrate my heart to stay in tune with my Lord.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.                                     

Ezekiel 36:26 New International Version

Making Room

Sunday mornings. When Mom lived with us she was always ready for church earlier than she needed to be. To pass the time she would sit at the piano and play, and sometimes sing favorite hymns. I treasure those memories.

close-up-photo-of-person-playing-piano-1246437If it was good enough for Mom, it’s good enough for me. I have picked up Mom’s tradition. While playing Christmas songs recently I was reminded of the old hymn, Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne. If you need a refresher, click here to listen.

I love the way this songwriter takes us through the entire Gospel message in one song. Jesus left his home in Heaven, never being truly at home on earth. He gave his life at Calvary and now prepares room for me where he will one day call me to live.

The choral response to each verse of this amazing story is:

Come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee.

For several days I have been pondering how much room I have made in my heart for Jesus. That has to be the first step – my personal relationship. But next has to come the question – how much room is there in the heart of our marriage for Jesus today? Is it more today than there was yesterday? Or last Christmas?

As we celebrate the One who left His Throne for us, Jerry and I will be looking for ways to make more room for Jesus in our marriage and home. Won’t you join us?

Christmas Blessings my friends!

The Living Word

Building memories, that’s what we did last week with three of our grand nieces and nephew. We explored, created, laughed, played, and wore one another out. Periodically I would think how I wished God had allowed my parents more time with their grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Preparing for a three hour car ride home, twelve year-old Katelyn, asked Jerry if she could borrow a Bible. Jerry showed her a shelf of Bibles and invited her to take one.

After I delivered Katelyn and her siblings safely to their mom, I checked the car for any left behind belongings. It was then I noticed which Bible she borrowed. It was Dad’s; the last Bible he used prior to his passing in 2001. I remember buying it with Mom fourteen years earlier.

Katelyn, her siblings and cousin never met their great grandfather. It’s bittersweet to  think about how Dad would have impacted all six of his great grandchildren’s lives.

Wind whipped around me as I stood in that parking lot and told Katelyn whose Bible she used. Tears of joy warmed my face, and my heart as I realized Dad’s legacy does live on. Through the notes and markings he left in his Bible, he continues to invest in the lives of his family.

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Merry 19th Christmas in heaven Dad. Thank you for example. I imagine it will be many more years before you get to meet these amazing kids when they are called home to heaven. What a joy it will be to worship as a family the One who reconciled God and man (a nod to your favorite Christmas song – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing).

 

Enjoy Your Coleslaw!

In our newlywed years we lived across the street from a grocery store. One night while preparing dinner I realized I did not have lettuce for salad. I asked Jerry if he would mind going to the store to get some. He was amenable to the task.

Wanting to make life as easy as possible for him I told him it did not matter what type of lettuce he got, I could work with anything he selected. As I said this, I was thinking Romaine, Green or Red Leaf, Butter, Iceberg, etc.

Jerry came home pleased that he could take care of this need and smiled as he pulled a large head of green cabbage out of the bag. I am not sure what I said, but I thanked him and thought, I guess we’ll have coleslaw instead.

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Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

What I do remember is his surprise to learn his purchase was not lettuce. Apparently, he had tossed salads growing up that were made with cabbage. That was a new idea to me, but, ok.

 

Our families of origin had some significant differences. But in the things that matter (faith, love, care) they were more similar. It was always intriguing to make a visit to one of our parents homes. We often uncovered more things in our family backgrounds that we just assumed were “normal,” only to find others did not do things the same way.

I think of that little story now as we prepare for Christmas. I hear from couples how difficult it can be to spend holidays with in-laws. I am thankful this was not our experience. I would love to visit again with any of our parents, but they have all passed. If you are blessed to still have your families of origin may I make two suggestions to perhaps ease some seasonal stress?

First, remember your in-laws are the ones who raised the man or woman you love. Even if they do everything polar opposite of you, they did something right in raising the person you chose to commit your life to.

Secondly, time is too short to sweat the small stuff. When you trip over a difference in your families, celebrate it. Talk about it, maybe even laugh about it. Try not to let it ruin your trip, or negatively impact your visit. From my experience – enjoy your cabbage salad, you may even find you like it!