You Want to Know What? When?

“What kind of car do you drive?”

I hate that question. It’s a red something. The emblem looks like three shields overlapping each other. The year is probably in the 90’s.

When it comes to vehicles, they are utilitarian to me. Make and model are not important. If it is comfortable to drive, can handle what I need to transport, and the price is right, it’s my favorite car.

I have mostly driven mini vans or small SUVs, in large part because of what I haul for ministry activities. After my favorite carshybrid was totaled in an accident, which was not my fault, God provided a small sedan. I felt like I was driving a Big Wheel down the road. Jerry heard my heartache and wanted to help.

Fast forward to that summer when Jerry and I worked two back to back weeks of camp. I had one day off between sessions.  I chose to spend the day alone, letting my mind wander and refresh for the week ahead. Jerry found himself in conversation with a person at camp who sold used cars. Excited that he could get me a vehicle better suited for me he initiated a trade negotiation.

Upon waking from my nap, Jerry’s first question to me was, “How much money is in our checking account?”

“I don’t know,” I grunted through my hazy awareness.

Believing once I woke up more I could respond with an answer he wanted, Jerry asked the same question a couple more s. As his intensity grew, so did his disbelief that I would not know that information.

I explained we had money in the account and were not overdrawn. Currently my focus was on camp, not our finances. Why was it so urgent to get this information?

Then I learned Jerry had been working with Phil on a car deal, with which he was hoping to surprise me. Shaking the remaining sleep from my head I assured him I was surprised, and quickly asked for details.

“Phil wants to sell the van his wife is driving, and it seems to be just what you need,” he told me.

“Are you kidding me?” I saw the van Phil’s wife drove to camp. It was a full-size van tricked out with a kitchenette, bed, and the comforts of a home away from home. We already owned one full-sized van, why would we want or need a second? Yes, I needed room to haul equipment to camp, and collect wheelchair donations, but a minivan would suffice.

Flummoxed, Jerry didn’t know what to do. Thinking the gentleman’s agreement hecalculator-3242872_1280 made would delight me, he simply wanted to know if the amount of a check he wanted to write to Phil would be good. We looked at each other wondering, what do we do now?

Left with no other choice, Jerry went to tell Phil the deal was off. Embarrassed, my husband told him there had been a misunderstanding, I was not interested in a full-size van.

I was surprised when Jerry came back to me, smiling, with Phil by his side.  Phil asked, “Joan, why are you not interested in the van?”

“We already have a full-size van, and the one Tara is driving is so plush that it would not work for the way I need to use it.”

Phil shared, “That is not the van I am selling. As Jerry described it, you need an extended length minivan. That is what Tara drives at home, and the car we are selling.”

The tension broke and laughter ensued. Jerry realized he had used the term “full-size” when he really meant, “extended length.” We all took a deep breath. The deal was a good one, once we got our communication straightened out. A week after camp ended the trade was made. That van lived a long and full life with us and was the ministry tool we needed, but almost missed.

Years later, Jerry and I reflect on this story and snicker. In hindsight we see how each misstep occurred. At the time we thought each other was operating in an alternate universe.

This story is a microcosm of communication errors that happen in any relationship, but particularly in marriage. One of us hears part of a story and acts upon that. We make assumptions about what the other person said or meant. We take offense if we don’t have the answer to a question someone asks. We may be incredulous that the other person doesn’t know or get what we are asking. We want to resolve the situation now. We don’t understand why someone isn’t appreciative of the effort we made on their behalf.

Communication mishaps are not unique to car buying. Couples need to learn to work on how, when and what we communicate. We do not always get it right, but here are some to the tips we try to remember.

Assume the best. I am thankful for my husband who wants to hear the cry of my heart and make my life easier. Jerry knew that if he could work out the car deal a huge load would come off my shoulders.

Together we find it helpful to offer a signpost before starting a conversation out of the blue. It might be something as simple as, “Is this a good time to talk about my thoughts on that purchase?” or “I would like to turn the page and talk about our vacation plans.” Sometimes we clarify, “Are we done on this topic? If so, can we chat about which lawn service we want to hire?” Remember to respect the answer, and not just ask the question.

Lastly, we try to clarify, particularly about big ticket items, whether we have arrived at the final decision or if this is simply a book mark allowing more time to process. This helps us avoid looking back and saying, “but you said OK, I thought you meant it was a go,” only to learn the other said ok, meaning I heard what you said and will consider that.

arrow-1538686_1920  What is one of the best tips you were taught, practice, or learned the hard way in communicating with your spouse? I’d love to hear!   

What’d You Get Me?

Jerry and I have most of our gift giving occasions between October – December.  That is the timeframe of both of our birthdays, our anniversary and of course Christmas.  The following post was written late in December several years ago, but the truth of it remains in my heart and mind–especially this Christmas day.
My husband and I have this game that we play around birthdays, Christmas or any other gift giving occasions.  It goes like this, “So what did you get me?”  Sometimes it’s said once in passing, sometimes it’s repeated over and over in rapid succession to try to wear the giver down to sharing some clue.  Yes, I know this sounds rather childish for two wellintomiddleagedadults to engage in, but I think it’s one of the casualties of not having children – we sometimes have to play that role in the family.
The morning of December 23 I was having a delightful quiet time with my Lord.  I finished my reading and my pondering, and was just about to put my pen down after recording the last word in my journal when I heard it . . .

“So what did you get me?”
 

I paused and listened to the voice
– but it wasn’t that of my husband.  It was my other beloved’s voice – Jesus!  As I tuned in to His voice I heard, “It’s my birthday soon you know, I’ve seen the gifts you’ve gotten for everyone else, what did you get for me?” 
When I shared this with my husband his response was “Isn’t that just like God to speak to us in our own game and language?”
For the remainder of that day, and the next several days I spent time pondering what I would give Jesus for his birthday. The better question was – had I even planned to give Him anything for his birthday?  If I hadn’t, why not?  And if I was, it was getting late, so I better decide quickly. 

What do you get the Lord of the Universe, who
owns everything and can create anything out of nothing?
The only response I could think of was “to obey is better than sacrifice.”  I think what Jesus was asking for was more of me. All of me in fact.  No need to spend time trying to figure out the hottest gift to give Him but to “just do it!”  To surrender myself and obey what He has already shown me. 
Funny several years later, I think this is still the gift He wants and the one I need to give.
So what about you? What are you giving to Jesus for His Birthday?

Thanks for the Compliment

A few hours ago, I returned from a weekend away with some ladies. Jerry encourages me to take advantage of opportunities like this, and works hard to schedule enough attendants to cover my time away. He tells me the first 24 hours I am away he enjoys full control of the remote. Which means, at least at this season, baseball is on all the time. If it is not on the television, he is watching a game in person.

By the second day the novelty has worn off and he is ready for me to come home. He remembers all the things he did not enjoy about living alone.

Like most of you, when I come home I unpack my car. We update each other on our time apart. And then it happens, no matter what time of day it is Jerry apologizes that he needs a little nap. I know that a little nap in this situation means a long solid period of deep sleep.
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I sometimes forget how much energy Jerry expends to live day to day. When I am away he does his best to keep things as tidy and together as he is able, increasing the amount of energy he expends. Giving me the grace to get a break, he accepts greater responsibility on his personal resources.

I could be frustrated that after being apart for a few days, I come home and he sleeps. Instead, I embrace it as a compliment. To me, it means he feels safe and content. We both know we’ll have the time to talk and tackle all the life decisions we have ahead of us tomorrow. Lord willing that is. And if we aren’t gifted that time tomorrow, we won’t need to worry about the decisions.

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Is there something in your life that could bother or irritate you, but it you look at it from another perspective it brings you joy. I would love to hear your story. Please share.

 

Building Sandcastles

Katelyn. our 10 ½ year old grand-niece visited recently. She is a loving girl who thinks deeply. Our family planned a day at the beach while she was here. In anticipation of the trip Katelyn told me she likes to build sandcastles, but not in the typical way with buckets and shovels. She described her method, but it all became much clearer to me when we were at the water’s edge.

katelyn sandShe digs a hole close to where the water laps the shore, allowing the hole to fill with water. Then she digs in and picks up a clump of wet sand. Moving to her sandcastle, just a short stretch away so it is out of the water, Katelyn slowly allows the goopy sand to drizzle out of her hand, creating odd shaped squiggles piled on top of one another. She continues to build it up until the water advances and washes it away, or it collapses on it’s own.

Right away she surveys the situation, digs a new hole and starts a new sandcastle. Then, she looks at me and says,

“Sometimes it gets wrecked, but that’s ok because it leaves a foundation to start the next one.”

Girl, are you really just 10 ½?  You just preached a message your grand-aunt needed to hear and I don’t think you even knew it.

Disability and Real Estate

This is the week we expected to be moving south, and we are still at home in the north.  It has been twenty years since we made a major move and sold a home. Much has changed since then in the world and in real estate. We made some mistakes early on, but with the help of many, we have corrected these things.

A plethora of comments have come our way on how to improve our chances to sell quickly. One is that we need to try to remove all, or at least as many as possible, vestiges of disability from the home.

Wow!

Not only is this our home, but we both work from home, and disability is very prominent in our life. We had our MLS (Multiple Listing Service) pictures cleaned up houseof disability.  I’ve come up with a plan of what I can easily move out of the house when we have an open house or showing. My husband understands, but sees this as another form of discrimination toward disability. People want new homes built with universal design, but don’t ever expect to need to use it. Encountering a home that does throws people off.

Because it has been so long since we’ve sold a home, we did a search on disability resources in real estate  From our exploration we have not found any standard training that is offered to realtors to help them understand disability and accommodations.  Nor is there any clearinghouse or single reliable site to share homes that do have disability accommodations.  It is a check box on the MLS, but that may mean that there is one grab bar someplace in the bathroom.

question-mark-160071_1280           So, dear readers here are my two questions for you. I would really love to get your thoughts!

  • Have you sold a home while living in it with disability (physical, intellectual, or any other type of disability)?  If so please share a tip, or two or three or four that you employed.  I’d love to compile a list to share with others who sell an accessible home.
  • Are you aware of any resources (aside from MLS, or Craig’s’ List) that does serve as a clearinghouse or publication of accessible homes for sale?

I am excited to hear from you!         sculpture-2275202_1280

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.

Man with Binoculars

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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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