Thank You . . . For My Marriage and So Much More!

A brief but passionate Marriage Monday post today . . . Thank you!

Thanks to those veterans and those who are currently serving our nation. Part of the freedom you gained for me is that I can be married to my best friend who was born with a disability. In other countries I have visited, he would never have been allowed out in the community, let alone go to school, college, post graduate school, drive, work and be married.

Thank you to those who left with able bodies to serve us and came back disabled. I am sorry, and I am grateful. I pray for you.

Thank you to the spouses and family members of those who serve and have served. Some of you have welcomed your warrior home, others never will. Only in recent years have I come to understand more fully (though know I never will completely) the sacrifices you made, and continue to make.

Marriage is hard, but can be so good. Marriage with disability is hard, but can be so good. Marriage with disability due to war and national service is hard. Yet I pray it may also be so good.

May this small and humble thank you bring you a moment of peace.  May you know my husband and I are grateful.  May your marriage be strengthened and blessed.

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Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh!

In our early months of marriage we tried to navigate the division of household tasks while balancing that with the amount of time it took Jerry to help. One of the jobs he took on was some of our personal needs shopping at Walmart. BenGay was on the list that week. One of us must have had some pretty sore muscles, because he bought the biggest tube he could find.

As we unpacked the bags, Jerry began to take some items back to the bathroom for storage. He tucked the tube of BenGay between his thigh and wheelchair frame.   As he moved through the hallway I heard a funny sound and then an, “Uh, that was cool, but uh oh!”

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Crossing the fifteen feet between us I was met with the overpowering menthol smell of muscle rub ointment. In a split second that extra-large tube dropped out his chair and onto the floor just as his heavy front tires rolled over it. The safety cap and foil seal were no match for the PSI applied to that tube.

Ointment exploded everywhere.  On the walls, into the carpet, over Jerry and his chair, and even into a couple different rooms because he was at just that place to create a wide-angle expulsion.

The most interesting place we found it?  Underneath the corner guards we had applied to keep the corners from getting nicked.  It’s phenomenal how far and into such tight regions that white stuff flew.

When faced with cleaning up a situation like this we had two options. Cry or laugh.  We chose to laugh.  It didn’t change how much clean-up we had to do, but it sure made that clean up a whole lot more fun.

share-2482016_1920You must have some “Uh Oh” stories – when things didn’t go as expected and you just had to laugh.  Will you share one?

Little Kindnesses

This week I was the beneficiary of some little kindnesses that impacted me in such a big way I want to share.

Here’s the scene. We were ready to head home from Ohio after a family visit. The drive, with stops, is about 10 hours. We’ve each driven it by ourselves. In more recent years sharing the drive has proved a healthier choice. The problem this time was that Jerry was not feeling well. I felt cautiously optimistic that I could complete the drive home, but still had a few friends join me in prayer.

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When packing the van, the hoyer lift always goes in first. I rolled it through the lobby to go out.  I noticed a few business men waiting for someone in the lobby.  I took the hoyer apart, loaded it into the van and came back in just as this group was leaving.  One of the men stepped toward me ever so slightly and looked me right in the eyes and said, “you have a good day.” Odd though it may sound, that small greeting spoke deeply to me.  It said he had acknowledged my responsibility and wanted to share a word of kindness with me. It felt like God was saying to me, “I see what you need to do today, I am watching and will be with you.”

The next load was the shower chair and a portable table.  As I rolled these items out a different man stopped and asked if I needed any assistance.  I’ve done this so long on my own that sometimes assistance is more of a hindrance than a help, and these were easy to pack.  I thanked him but told him I had this ok.  Again, another small kindness that spoke deeply to my soul on a day when I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders.

I doubt I could ever identify these two men, but I am grateful to them.  Likely they will never know the impact their 3 to 5 second phrase made in me.  But that’s ok.  I know. And God used their kindness to encourage my heart and remind me that I was not doing this trip on my own.

I even had back-seat kindness on the trip – whenever Jerry woke up on he checked in to see if I was ok, and then went right back to sleep.  I am glad I could minister to him by letting him rest, and we made it home safely.

I came home grateful, and reminded that it often is the little expressions of kindness and grace we share with someone that matter.  We may not ever know if, or how, our words or actions mattered.  But Proverbs 3:27 reminds us to do good to others when we have the ability to do so (my paraphrase).

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Baseball and Words

If your family is like ours, stories come out of the woodwork when we gather together. This weekend we visited with Jerry’s family – his sister, brother and lots of extended family and friends. There are always a few golden oldie stories that you can count on being retold, here is one.

Jerry and his brother are baseball fans. In fact, as I write this they are on their way to a game. Jerry roots for the Detroit Tigers. Eric for the Cleveland Indians. Many softball-1354947_1920years ago tickets for the Indians games in Ohio were hard to get. Instead Eric bought tickets for the Indians away games in Oakland since we were living nearby.

Jerry and Eric offered me a ticket to join them. Not being as fanatical about baseball as they are, I chose to go only to the last day game of the stand. The guys were at the stadium the previous night for a game that went into extra innings –  lots of them (see how technical my baseball knowledge is?). So many extra innings that the game had to be called around 1 am. It was announced that the game would be finished as a double header with the next day’s game.

The brothers said they were two of about 200 fans left in the stadium when they exited in the wee hours to come home. Didn’t I say these guys are die-hard fans? Don’t even get me started on what they did when Cal Ripken was celebrated for showing up to work for 2,632 days.

Anyway, after the guys got some sleep the three of us headed down to the stadium. We watched the conclusion of the previous game and then moved into the new game. At the end of the first inning Eric looked at Jerry and said, “she has already kids-2782718_1920spoken more words in this one inning than we spoke in 13 innings last night!”

 

Good thing they love me, and I can laugh at myself. They still invite me to join them for baseball games, but more often than not I encourage them to go and enjoy their (quiet) time together.

Can you laugh at yourself?  It’s one of the best things Jerry and I do in our marriage. Do you have a favorite story that comes up when your family gets together?  I’d love to hear it!chalkboard-620316_1920

 

It’s All About the Image

I grew up in a wonderful neighborhood in central New Jersey. Grandmom, and later my Uncle, lived in the house next door. I remember our sprawling yard, games of kickball and softball with the neighbors, and riding bikes to my friend’s house around the corner.  Summer cook outs and home made ice cream were a highlight. As far as I was concerned it was the best place ever to be a kid.

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We had a phone number for the town of Pennington, a mailing address of Trenton and my parents paid their taxes to Hopewell Township. When I went to college and people asked where I was from  I had a choice. I started by saying Pennington, NJ which is just outside of . . .  Here is where the choice came in. Pennington is about equal distance from Princeton and Trenton, NJ. Truthfully I spent much more time in Trenton growing up than I did Princeton. But Princeton sounded so much classier because of the University, Seminary and the Governor lived there. More often than not I would identify as being from near Princeton.

Recently I went home again. My parents haven’t lived there for nearly 30 years, but my uncle is still there. Every time I go back, his house still elicits the memories of Grandma.  But the neighborhood feels less like the place I grew up. New retail shops have popped up, traffic patterns have changed. That is to be expected.  Still that does not stop the sadness from coming when I see how run down parts of my beloved street have become, including our own (former) house.

I was amused though, to see how much “Princeton” has expanded.  No, not the town itself, but within the first couple miles of crossing into NJ from PA I began to see signs for Princeton Business Park, Princeton Commons, South Princeton Church, etc.

Much like my own experience, these buildings are closer to Trenton than they are to Princeton.  Somehow it seemed ok when I said it.  When I see these signs I scoff and princeton-97827_1280think, “get over it, you are just trying to seem more prestigious by calling yourself Princeton.  You can probably charge higher rent too.”

I guess I am not the only one who got hung up on image building.

 

I Lost Jesus

We often use puppets and role-play when communicating Biblical truth to students  with intellectual impairments. On this particular Sunday, the students were re-enacting the story with puppets. At the end of the replay, as the students were relinquishing their puppets one of the assistants took the Jesus puppet and quickly put it in a cupboard. She knew one student would lose all focus if “Jesus” was still in view.

After class was dismissed the assistant opened the cupboard to put the Jesus puppet away correctly. Imagine her surprise when Jesus was gone!  She began looking around for Jesus. A few minutes later one of the coordinators came into the room carrying “Jesus.” She also was aware of the one student’s difficulty focusing when the Jesus puppet was around. In an effort to reduce distraction, she slipped in and took him out of the room.

When my friend told me this story she began by saying, “I lost Jesus today.”

I snickered hearing the story.  Then I started to think about my own life. How many times do I put Jesus on a shelf, or tuck Him away – whether mindfully or not?

Misplacing a Jesus puppet is one thing, but mis-placing Jesus, giving Him any other position in my life than as the sole holder of the Throne, is another.

 

Philippians 2:9-11 NIV 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Rumors

Once upon a time, though this is a true story, I facilitated an informal support group of wives married to men with disabilities. Most of the ladies were older than me, most had little exposure to disability prior to their husband’s accident or illness. None of them chose to marry someone with a disability. Each month I listened to their stories and concerns and realized my life with Jerry was easy compared to theirs.  I held back from sharing too deeply from my life because it seemed to pale in comparison to what these ladies shared. They needed a safe place to be able to vent and talk freely.

After a few months I decided enough trust had been built and it was time for me to takehands-2374246_1920 the plunge with them. Jerry and I had recently been through a rough period – nothing earth shattering, but still, unpleasant. At our next meeting I shared some of that with the ladies. They expressed relief to know I/we were like them. I felt like our group had bonded on a deeper level.

Later that week I got a phone call from one of the husbands. After sharing the initial pleasantries he expressed his sorrow  to hear about the difficulties Jerry and I were having. He never thought we’d be on the verge of divorce like this.

WHAT?  I had no idea what he was talking about.

Then he went on to say that his wife had told him about the conflict Jerry and I had and he just hoped we would not split up. After all we were the first couple living with disability in marriage they had ever met.

My first inclination was to say, “Do you have any idea the things your wife has said about you?” Thankfully God held my tongue on that one. Next I wanted to ask to speak with his wife to see if she understood confidentiality. But God said this was not the time.

Instead I assured him that we had weathered a little storm, like every marriage encounters. We were not planning to split, and had never entertained that thought. I thanked him for his prayers and welcomed him to continue to intercede for us.

I learned a few lessons from this experience:

  1.  Groups want and need their leaders to be real. Even if the leader’s life is different than that of the others, authenticity from the start matters. Leaders though, need to  balance being open while also learning with whom and what we are safe to share.
  2. Marriage is hard. Every marriage goes through difficult spots. Don’t be surprised or alarmed when someone you thought “has it all together” shares that they don’t. We are all broken people in need of a Savior.
  3. Unless it persists, there is no need to fight back against the rumors, let them die.  Love one another, take the matter to God, and pray for the other people involved.

family colorful groupWe all need people who will accept us as we are, share real life with one another and encourage honesty and growth in our marriages.  Where do you find that support in your marriage?  If you don’t have someone, pray about finding that support, whether as a couple or individuals.

Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1 NIV