Tired? Worn? Who Cares for You?

I’m tired, I’m worn. These words by Tenth Avenue North in their song, “I’m Worn” could be the mantra of every caregiver.  The song continues, “a heart that is heavy; worn from the work it takes to keep on breathing, your soul feels crushed by the weight of this world.”

Do you wonder if the struggle of therapy appointments, equipment that needs repair, insurance pre-authorizations, specialists being far away, personal care attendants not showing up, or IEPs will ever end?

Not all of us feel this way, or at least not all the time. When these feelings strike me, I try to remind myself that there is a day when the struggle will end.  When our hearts that are frail and torn can be reborn.  Until that day I need to remember I am not alone in caring for my husband. God cares more for each of us than we could ever care for one another.

Let’s look at a few ways that God is our caregiver:

  • He gives us rest – Mt 11:28-30 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Jesus invites me to 1) Come to him  2) Work in unison with him (that’s the yoke part) and  3) Learn from him.

  • He sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and counselor – to live within us and empower us. John 14:16
  • Jesus is our advocate- those of us in the disability world understand advocacy. The Bible says Jesus is our advocate when we sin– how’s that for getting the best?  I John 2:1 
  • Alpha Omega – He is our bookends, He was there in the beginning and created us. He’ll be with us in the end. And He sustains us through every breath in between. He NEVER leaves us alone. Rev 22:13
  • He’s preparing a place for us – that’s pretty cool. Have you ever felt like you just don’t belong here? To some degree we all have. That’s because this world is not our home. Here on earth, we may only get glimpses of the rest that we will enter into in Heaven. John 14:1-4 

Can you imagine a better Caregiver for you or your spouse? Won’t you join me in taking His counsel from Matthew 11:29 and let Him teach us how to walk in the rhythm of rest.

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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).

 

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.

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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 . . .

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Photo by Simon Matzinger from Pexels