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!

Give of Your Best

Have you ever had someone describe the behavior of a family member and you thought, Who are they talking about? That’s not the person I see at home? This seeming dichotomy makes sense to me. Most of us were taught to be our best when we are in public. Home needs to be a safe place. Part of being safe is letting ourselves be real.

I like letting my hair down, changing into comfy clothes, and letting go of pretenses. But there is a danger in this thinking. Putting my best foot forward in public, but not at home, means my husband gets the dregs of my day and myself. Let’s be honest, some days there is little way around that. Those are times we cling tighter to grace and mercy.

three-red-heart-balloons-704748Most days though, I have a choice. The relationship I have with my husband, next to the one I have with my God, is the dearest to me. It makes no sense to treat him in a way that communicates anything other than this.

When I am meeting with someone who has asked to talk with me, I put my phone out of sight, I focus my eyes and my heart on listening to them. If I tell them I will get back to them on something I try to make that happen in a timely manner.

When I do not interact with my husband with at least the same respect, something needs to change. Usually it is me. I may need to be more mindful of how I tune in to him. I may need to cut something out of my day to have more margin for him. I may need to put my own desires aside to focus on him. I may need to ask for a do over so I can give him the priority he deserves.

As life ramps up this month celebrating the One who was born to bring us peace, I think I’ll take a step back in my head and heart and make sure I am giving my best to the ones I love the most.

It’s Been Said . . .

Sometimes a few well phrased words can speak more than paragraphs of prose. I hope you enjoy some of my favorite marriage quotes.

A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.  Dave Meurer

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.  Winston Churchill

Marriage is like watching the color of leaves in the fall; ever changing and more stunningly beautiful with each passing day.  Fawn Weaver

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.  Dr. Seuss

Any good marriage is secret territory, a necessary white space on society’s map. What others don’t know about it is what makes it yours.  Stephen King

Marriage is not just spiritual communion; it is also remembering to take out the trash.  Joyce Brothers

A good marriage is one where each partner secretly suspects they got the better deal.  Unknown
To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow — this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.  Elizabeth Gilbert

When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  ‘When Harry Met Sally’

All the above quotes are sourced here.

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – Ruth Bell Graham

What quote resonates the most with you? Is there one I missed that you would include in your favorte marriage quotes? Please share.

Just for fun – comment on which of the quotes above you think is the one I identif most with at this phase in my life.  I’ll fill you in next week!

We Passed the Test!

Last week we had the opportunity to put to the test one of the reasons we made the move to Florida a year ago. Most people, as they age, need some type of help or support. Those of us who live with disability in our families often need the help much earlier, and for a longer period in life. We did not want to wait to move until our post retirement years and be the needy newcomers. Our goal was to move while we still had time and energy to build friendships, be involved and give back in our community. Our hope was when the time came and we needed help it came based on our relationships.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Beside being the anniversary of when we purchased our home here, this past week was also the first time since moving that we both got sick at the same time. It didn’t start out that way, but I joined Jerry in being ill just a few days after him. A perfect time for an emergency test of our community building skills.

Do you know what happened? Neighbors and friends from church brought food. Many prayed for us – even coming to our front door to pray over us and the house. People offered to run grocery store or pharmacy errands for us. Someone helped create a temporary fix for a vehicle problem until we could get it repaired.

I get it. This does not sound like a world-shattering experience or revelation. At least it should not be. This is how healthy communities function. But I’ve been in both the disability world and church world long enough to have heard the stories from families affected by disability who feel so alone, it seems no one sees or hears them, or misses them when they are absent. That is heartbreaking, but it does not have to be fatal.

push for help

Please allow me a couple observations:

1) For families affected by disability, I know we may not have the time, energy or resources we perceive others do. First, perceptions are apples and oranges comparison, so let it go. But more importantly, how are you building into your community? It is unfair to expect everyone to see us and help with our needs if we don’t also make an effort to see them. It might start with a phone call just to ask someone else how they are doing. Or a quick email or FB post following up on something in their lives. Sometimes our community doesn’t know how to help, building a relationship will open understanding. We need to be willing to embrace others before we expect them to embrace us.

2) For the community person who is not affected by disability; Families affected by disability can’t always articulate our needs or be particularly grace filled when expressing them, some days it is just too much. Please don’t let us turn you off. We need you. If our name comes to mind, offer a prayer for us, drop a plate of cookies off, send off a thinking of you email, or call as you head to the grocery store to see if we need anything.

To our community and tribe, thank you! We love you and are so grateful for your love and care for us.family colorful group

To those wishing they had a community like ours, what is one thing you can do this week to build on a relationship in your circle?

Margins in Marriage

Margins . . .

We need them in our writing or creative arts so the focus of our work can be readily seen and embraced. We know we need them in other areas of our life, so we can catch our breath and re-energize for what comes next.

Merriam Webster gives several definitions for margin. Two that hit me hard are: a) a spare amount or measure or degree allowed or given for contingencies or special situations; b) a bare minimum below which or an extreme limit beyond which something becomes impossible or is no longer desirable.

It’s a catch 22 isn’t it? Because we live with disability in our families, we need more margins because our lives are full of contingencies and special situations (definition a). But at the same time, living in a constant state of special situations makes it nearly impossible to create margins. Yet I do not want my life, my marriage or my ministry to become impossible or no longer desirable.

Several months ago I attended a Caregiver seminar where I saw a visual that slabs-931581_1280made so much sense to me. The speaker took a tile and named a task she needed to accomplish any given day, like grocery shopping. Then another tile for a doctor appointment was laid on top of grocery shopping. A tile for a stop at the dry cleaner was next. There were tiles for cleaning the house, taking the child to physical therapy, making dinner for the family, attend small group at church and on and on. Soon she had a stack of tiles so high we could no longer see her face.

Then she took those same tiles, representing the same activities, and laid them out like stepping stones in a garden path. There was now space between each tile. Our speaker commented that by allowing space between each activity she was creating margin. When the road to the dry cleaners was rerouted it did not throw off the rest of garden-54366_1280her day; she had space to accommodate this unexpected delay in travel and still keep up with the other activities.

That visual came back to me recently when I was functioning in a stacked tiles kind of day. When I encountered a glitch the stack of tiles collapsed on me. It was then that I wished I had built some space into my day.

This week Jerry and I are trying to practice this lesson in our marriage and ministry. We are attending a conference that is a little less than an hour away from home, depending on traffic. Could we commute to attend this conference? Yes we could, but likely it would result in stacking tiles. We’d get home from the day at the conference and still try to pay the bills, do laundry, and tend to a myriad of other details before getting to sleep. The next morning we would get up, pack a couple phone calls in before returning for the next day of the conference.

So we decided to get a hotel room at the conference site for the week. We even came in the day before the conference starts. As we turned in to the parking lot I began to feel guilty that we were spending money to stay so close to home. Then I remembered our margin making mission.

As we get older (this month we each hit a new decade!) we must be wiser in realizing our time, health, and energy are worth at least as much, or perhaps more, than our dollars. Decisions cannot be made on money alone. Each of those things must be balanced to produce margin.

Kicking guilt out of the way, I remembered we made the decisions we did for the purpose of producing margin in our marriage. In the past we would arrive at the site the day the conference started, and already be exhausted. Then after a day filled with interacting with people and learning sessions, I would unpack us into the room. By arriving early we had time to unpack and set up our room (the hoyer lift, the alternating pressure mattress pad, the shower chair, etc.). We walked around the conference site so we would know our way around when the sessions start. We also had time to exercise and get a decent night of sleep before entering conference mode.

I realize we may not be able to do this every time we travel. But the difference in our stress levels and interactions with one another already tell us we made a good decision. Margins are not just boring white spaces; I could get used to this.

Still Driving Mr Jerry

In the fall of 2017 I put up a post entitled Driving Mr Jerry. Almost two years to the day, we just our van back after a week in the shop, and Jerry is now in week two using his old chair, while wait for repair on his typical chair. I needed to be reminded of the truths in the original post. Since I did, I thought you may too. May you be blessed and encouraged by this throwback Marriage Monday.

This is week three of Jerry using his back up wheelchair while waiting on a new right motor for his regular chair. That means he is unable to drive his van.

If you live with disability in your family you know that this is not all that unusual, these things happen. Paperwork drags on and on, calls don’t get returned, repairs can take weeks, if not months. Most of us would win a Gold Medal if waiting or insurance hassles were Olympic sports.

Yesterday Jerry had scheduled service for the lift on his van. There was no sense in him going along for the ride. I rearranged my schedule and took the van to the appointed service, about 45 minutes away from home. The shop is fantastic and provides a nice waiting area. I packed enough work to keep me busy for three years.

322615_3126101352345_993835468_oPrior to the van appointment I met with someone who has a child with a disability. My friend commented about how weary she is. She went on to say one way she keeps going is to realize what a privilege it is to serve Jesus by serving her child. She asked if that was the same among spouses?  As I thought about it she went on to describe how my trip to take the van for service was serving Jesus.

My life goal has been to love and serve God by loving and serving others. Given that, my friend’s comment should have been no surprise to me, but it was. I love Jerry, which means that (most days) it is a pleasure and joy to assist him. But I had somehow forgotten that by serving him I am also serving my Lord.

That reminder put a new spin on my day. When I got home that evening after running other errands,  the unexpected visitors we had, the unplanned need Jerry asked me to help with were no big deal. Getting to love and serve others while remembering that by doing so I am loving and serving God changed my perspective.

Instead of fretting about not getting a Marriage Monday post up until Tuesday, I chose to invest in and love my spouse and the others God brought to me that day. I hope you’ll forgive my delay.

Knowing that sometimes people who have a disability feel they become burdensome to their family or close friends I made a commitment to God and myself early in our marriage. I would choose to show joy when asked to assist (even being woken from a sound sleep in the middle of the night), and to always complete the task by saying “I love you” and sharing a kiss. I have missed that mark a few times, but it is still the goal for which I aim.

push for helpWhat about you?  What is it that helps you readjust your focus when you are worn and weary?  Do you have a strategy you use to keep your relationships healthy in the unpredictable dailyness of disability?

Dangers in Making it Look Easy

There is an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed in families who have a member with a disability. While others may look at us and think we have a hard life, when we compare our family to others with disability, we think we have it easy. Whether it is a Mom who has an adult child who needs complete physical care, or a young parent with a child with autism, or a husband whose wife became injured and disabled into their marriage the response is similar. Likely this is because we’ve become accustomed to our situation, and for the most part have developed coping mechanisms.

I fell victim to this many years ago. I was in a group of ladies who all had husbands with people-35681_1280disabilities. I perceived, both from my observations, and their talking, that Jerry and I had it easy in our relationship compared to them. I felt that if I shared any challenge we were having it would seem insignificant. So I stayed relatively quiet.

After many months I felt we had bonded as a group and I could now open up a bit and become vulnerable. I shared a story about a fight Jerry and I had that week. Usually we  resolve them quickly, but not this time. I told my friends how I didn’t even want to help him get in bed that night, but God told me I had to. I also shared about our resolution the following day. The ladies welcomed my sharing and commented that they thought we never had any problems. Oh dear – danger #1 in making life with disability look easy. If we are perceived to have it all together we become a superhuman to whom others cannot relate.

Danger #2 surfaced the next week. The husband of one of the ladies called me. He asked how we were doing. When I told him of a minor illness we had he said that was not what he was referring to. He wanted to know how Jerry and I were doing in our relationship. He went on to tell me that he was so sorry to hear from his wife (uh, I thought our group pillar-3126027_1280sharing was confidential?!) that we were having such a hard time and were considering divorce. WHAT?

It took a lot of time and talking to convince him he was mistaken, and that our marriage was solid. That’s when I realized by not being real with these ladies I had set us on a pedestal. When I became vulnerable, our pedestal was knocked to pieces and our image was shattered. Ultimately that’s a good thing – I want to be real. But part of real is experiencing and coping with trials.

The third and last (at least for today) danger in making life look easy is that we rob people of the blessing and  opportunity to serve and engage in life with us. I can’t even count the number of times I have been in a buffet line at church, camp or a restaurant carrying two plates and someone offers to help with one. I usually decline, assuring them I’ve got it. Or outside of a hotel when I am loading or unloading the van full of equipment and suitcases and someone offers to help. Again I say no, thank you.

I know I make my life harder by saying no. If I took the help at each juncture along the way perhaps I would not arrive at my breaking point so quickly. Hmmm, receiving small blessings and breaks may make a big difference.

I wonder if I also make it harder for someone on the outside to offer help the next time they see someone like us. Will they hold back because they’ve been told essentially their help is not needed. We have a friend who has learned to just jump in and help anyone, and often says, “Hey, don’t cheat me out of a blessing!”

So maybe making life with disability look easy actually makes it harder  . . .

What’s been your experience?