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.

IMG_0489
Grandmom Borton made a quilt for each grandchild. This was the one given to Jerry when we got married.

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.

food-water-summer-texture-134877
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.

Loving Well

Recently, in one of “those talks” I told my husband that there were several ways in which I didn’t feel like he was loving me well. I felt I was valued higher as his co-worker in ministry and caregiver than as his wife. He took my feedback well. Over the next few days I affirmed him trying to put more focus on me, his wife.

Funny thing is, though I noticed his efforts, my feelings of being cherished as his wife did not change. I began praying that God would show my husband how to love me in a way I could experience it.

You may be able to imagine what came next. As I prayed that prayer God nudged me to pray that I would love my husband in ways that assured him of my honor, respect and love. Then God prompted me to do some introspection.

After evaluating myself, I asked to talk with Jerry again. This time I shared that perhaps this whole experience had nothing to do with how he loves me. The problem was me. I was the one putting more energy into being the co-worker and caregiver I thought he needed. Interacting with  him as my husband came in third. I apologized and began to focus on ways to spend more time and energy in our personal relationship.

man-and-woman-wearing-cloths-sitting-on-brown-sand-near-792729
Photo by Anastasiya Lobanovskaya from Pexels

It would have been easier to assume and lay the blame on him. But only easier in the short run; ultimately that ease would morph into tension. Owning up to my part doesn’t mean my feelings change right away, or that our relationship has no bumps. It does mean that when I am feeling underappreciated, or under-loved, it’s time to take inventory of how I am giving love.

Generally I support the idea “it’s not about me.” But sometimes I must step back and make it about me just long enough to do a better job at loving my husband and those around me.

Marriage, such a joy and such a work in progress . . .

heart-shape-multicolored-stand-698420
Photo by Simon Matzinger from Pexels

MARRIAGE MONDAY: 24 by 24

Today marks 24 years since Jerry and I stood before our family and friends and committed our lives to one another. The plans and dreams we had then have changed. We have certainly changed, as indiviudals and as a couple.  But we wouldn’t turn back the clock, even if we could. Here are 24 lessons in marriage we have learned in the last 24 years.

 

  1. Never stop dating.
  2. A good marriage looks nothing like what we see on tv or in the movies.
  3. Learning to disagree or fight well takes time.
  4. No matter how many more days or years God gives us together, it will never be enough.
  5. Let your kisses linger at least ten seconds.pexels-photo-424517.jpeg
  6. Appreciation and gratitude are the kindling to keep the marriage fire burning brightly.
  7. Resolve anger before you go to sleep.
  8. Never let your spouse give up on their dreams.
  9. Submission is not a big hurdle when my husband loves me as Christ loved the Church.
  10. Wives are called to submit twice – to God and their husband. Husbands are called to  submit to Christ and die! To die means to stop putting my own goals, ambitions and desires first.
  11. Nobody is ready to get married when they do.
  12. Your spouse is proof of God’s grace to you.
  13. Praying together is one of the surest ways to strengthen your relationship.
  14. It really does take a village, a family, a church to do marriage well.
  15. Being married means you get instant feedback – good or bad.
  16. When you get married you become one, but it takes a lifetime of learning and living together to work that out.
  17. You’ll be surprised what are the points of tension or struggle; it is rarely the big things.
  18. Disability is not our biggest challenge.
  19. There is no shame in seeking help or mentoring in your marriage.
  20. Figure out what works for you as a couple. It’s likely not identical to your family or friends marriages.
  21. The roller coaster is more fun than the merry-go-round. Also scarier and more intnese, but still more fun!

    kent-weitkamp-AlkZ18Jsg-8-unsplash
    Photo by Kent Weitkamp on Unsplash
  22. Make time to talk each day.
  23. Spend time together in the Word of God. But don’t let the enemy discourage you when you don’t. Accept grace and start again.
  24. Marry your best friend. If you didn’t, make your spouse your best friend.

We would love to hear your lessons, be it 1, 24 or 50!  We know we still have much to learn in marriage, please share . . .