Take It Easy

Take it easy
Take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can . . .

These words, written by Jackson Browne and Glen Frey and recorded by the Eagles,  resonated in my head on a road trip we took this week. Our destination was a military post where our nephew and his family live. Our base access pass from our last visit had expired. Our goal, or more properly stated, MY goal, was to get on post between 3pm – 4 pm to get a new pass. If we arrived after 4 pm we would have to be escorted on base and listen to the stern counsel of the guard on duty to get our pass first thing in the morning.

Focusing on this target, we left home allowing a two-hour window for rest stops, fueling and changing of drivers, which is not as quick as it may sound as it involves physically changing the setup of the van. In previous posts I have disclosed that driving was our greatest challenge in marriage. Twenty-three years later, it is still true!

With each stop our two-hour window shortened. I became antsy, which sounds better than saying my need to control kicked in. On the one hand I was telling Jerry to stop asstress-2883648_1280 often as he needed when he was driving so he could change position and keep his body healthy. At the same time I was telling him our arrival window was down to only 30 minutes and we needed to be more mindful of the time.

While saying that, I felt guilty.

When Jerry pulled over so we could change drivers, he asked why I was so bound and determined to get there before 4 pm. He reminded me that we had not done that on any of our previous visits and survived. It was then that I confessed my motivation.

I wanted to make life easier for my nephew and his wife. I did not want them to have to pile the six kids into their van (three still in car seats) to drive the four miles out to the gate and escort us in. Concern for their comfort and ease made me compromise my husband’s comfort. My concern wasn’t even valid as our family reassured us it would be no big deal for them to come escort us.

The clincher to that conversation came when Jerry said, “When you try to make it easy for others, you sometimes make it harder for me.”

Ouch!

This is not the first time I’ve become aware of that tendency.

Next Monday I’ll share a little more about the dangers of making life with disability look or seem easy. Can you relate?  For now I am going to take it easy and enjoy these precious days with our family. Have a great week friends.

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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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I Left Him

Alone.

For one week.

In his back up wheelchair that is not retrofitted for him to drive his van. So now he is homebound too.

How could I leave him like that? He told me to. I offered to cancel my travel and stay home. He said no.

He knew I needed this time away. I knew he needed me to take him at his word that he would be ok. We both needed to trust God, and our wonderful circle of friends.

And they came through.

I left meals for him, friends also shared some meals.  My sister took care of household needs. Others stepped in to fill the gaps of morning and evening attendant care. A couple offered to drive him to church. Someone else walked uptown with him one night for dinner.

d56a9-img_3763Did we miss each other?  You better believe we did.  It’s healthy for us to remember that we each can make it on our own, even in challenging situations.  But even better is the reminder that we don’t want to make it on our own.  We truly are better together.

 

 

 

What about you?  What is your best tip for travel that does not include the whole family? Any lessons God has taught you in times of being apart?

 

 

 

Living Under the Cloud

Tech geeks, I am sorry.  If you clicked here looking for technical insights into the cloud where our lives and data circle overhead, you are at the wrong place. I am writing about “THE Cloud,” as identified in the Biblical book of Numbers.

I am a planner. I like to know what is going to happen next. I want to be fully prepared. No surprises here (unless they are chocolate and raspberry!).

In our family, Jerry is the visionary. He sees that mountain out in the distance and knowsdachstein-2863756_1920 that is the destination. What he doesn’t see (but I do) are the miles of gullies, hills, rocks,and the ongoing forest of trees that we must pass through before we reach that mountain.  And none of it is wheelchair accessible! Our differences make us a good team, or at least as he puts it, “makes us fun to watch.”

My penchant for the process is why I have boxes already packed and sorted, though our move is still some time away. That is why when reading Numbers earlier this month I spent so much time pondering the adventures of the children of Israel. We know there were at least two million people making this trek through the desert. I am thankful I was not asked to be their trip coordinator.

They had GPS, but not on a smart phone. Their GPS came directly from God who told them their arrival time would be in 40 years. Rather than giving them turn by turn 0379a-img_3505directions, He guided them with a cloud by day and a fire by night. Directionally that’s all they had.

When the cloud moved they (yes, all two million of them) moved. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. When they stopped they did not know if they were setting up camp for one night or for a year. They just knew they were to stay there until the cloud moved again.

When Jerry and I travel if we are stopping only one night in transit I pack a smaller bag with the things needed just for that night. Once we see the set up in the hotel we decide if we can make it work with the slide board. If we can, I leave the hoyer lift, shower chair, etc. in the van. It’s just so much work for one night.

I don’t think I would have been a good Israelite woman in this caravan.

“What?  You mean I unpacked every camel’s saddle bags and all the packs on the donkeys last night and now we need to leave again?”

“Jeremiah” (the Hebrew root for Jerry), “do you remember which camel we packed the cooking pot in?  If we aren’t staying here long I don’t want to unpack everything, but I can’t find it.”

trip-1422608_1920I know the children of Israel failed God many times in their journey by grumbling, complaining and jealousy. But I have a newfound respect for them when I think about their 40-year journey.

I too can easily fall into grumbling, questioning, doubt and the need to control. Forgive me God. Lord teach me to wait on you. Seems like the skies are lightening, but your cloud over our home has not yet moved. Help me to make the most of this time of waiting; and to be ready when you say it’s time to move.

What Am I Packing For?

Almost daily Jerry and I have conversations about our upcoming move to Florida. Last week one of those talks was followed with a devotion about Heaven. Jerry made the comment that it would be ok with him if God moved us on to Heaven before we got to Florida.  Smiling I said, if He is going to do that I hope it is soon before I sort through and organize any more boxes.

box-1209969_1920Packing and sorting, or more to the point, discovering memories, sorting, recycling, trashing, or repacking seems to be my constant activity these days.  While we don’t know the when of our move, we know the where (Lakeland, FL) and the why (just look at the weather in Philadelphia and Lakeland, among many other reasons).  I don’t want to be caught short when “the when” comes, so I am trying to stay ahead of the move details doing a little each day.

Like Jerry, I would take Heaven in a heartbeat over Florida or any place else. Like our upcoming move, I know the where (with Jesus) and the why (because I accepted His gift of love and grace to forgive my sins) of Heaven but I don’t know “the when.”  Most of us don’t. Each week, sometimes more often than others, I hear of people, from little ones to seniors, who enter eternity on a different time table than they or their loved ones thought they might.

I don’t know if I will be one of those who will still be alive to meet Jesus in the air when He comes again or if He will call me home sooner.  The chat Jerry and I had reminded me that I don’t want to get caught short when “the when” to eternity arrives for me. coast-565401_1920

He’s right that I don’t have to pack and sort any belongings for that move, but I still have a lot of preparation to do. Sorting out the areas of my life that don’t reflect Jesus and parting with them forever.  Packing my days with the joy of serving others, of building my relationship through Scripture and prayer with my Heavenly Daddy, and learning to know His voice better.  I can even make heavenly deposits by sharing my hope and inviting those I meet to join me in the ultimate move one day.

What about you? If you wonder how I can be so sure of my final move please ask. . .

Today, what are you doing to prepare your life and loved ones for the move to eternity? I’d love to hear from you.

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Twenty Plus Years in Graceland

This weekend Jerry and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. We marked the day quietly, just the two of us. This has been a hard year; the days that followed our 21st wedding anniversary carry some painful markings. If you are not aware of that journey, you can read some of the background here and here. Though we believe we did the right thing by resigning from a ministry we loved, the outworking of those decisions went very differently than we anticipated.

Perhaps that is why God allowed us to spend our 21st anniversary at Graceland. Yes, that Graceland in Memphis. We are not Elvis fans, but we were visiting our niece, and when in Memphis one of the things you need to do is the Graceland tour. At the time, Jerry Gracelandlaughed at the romantic way we celebrated number 21, the outlandishly decorated  rooms, gold records filling the walls, a strip of stores loaded with Elvis souvenirs, and banana cream treats. Still I found it oddly fitting to celebrate our anniversary at Graceland. The name seems to be an apt description of a good marriage.

Just a few weeks before visiting Memphis, we took another trip. This one to a marriage retreat hosted by Winshape in Rome, GA. If you are ever given the opportunity to attend a Winshape Marriage Retreat don’t hesitate for a moment – say yes without delay. The session we attended focused on working through conflict in marriage. At first I was a bit disappointed with this theme as conflict is something we had learned to manage. But it was the topic of the weekend we were gifted to attend. Little did we know how God was preparing us for the days to come.

Trustwalk Winshape
Preparing for the trust walk – Jerry will lead me through an obstacle course.

Jerry and I agree that while this year has probably been the hardest of our years together, our marriage is far better, stronger, and actually more fun. We have healthier communication, we understand and appreciate each other in new ways. For this we are thankful.

As we begin this new year of marriage, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we have learned in the graceland of marriage this past year. Winshape taught us that “Conflict is the pathway to real intimacy. It guides us to a deeper knowing” (Todd & Beverly Sandel, Winshape Speakers).The conflicts we were experiencing outside of our marriage, impacted our relationship deeply and we learned to apply a liberal amount of grace. Here are some of the signposts of grace we discovered.

1) Extend grace to one another as we each process grief and loss very differently and on our own individual time table. There was a time when we couldn’t help each other. We just needed to give space for the other to be. Thankfully most times when one of us was down the other was on their way up, so we could share encouragement.

2) Extend grace in what we hear from one another and how we respond. We had to make a conscious decision to not allow one another’s words to immediately alienate or anger us. Sometimes we simply could not get the right words out. We need to think the best of our spouse while clarifying what we heard.

3) Extend grace to ourselves rather than beat ourselves up when we have one of those days when we just need to be . . . and not do. Or just needed to be sad or cry.

4) Accept the grace offered by the other, try not to talk them out of extending that because of how messed up we are.

5)  Accept the grace from our Lord, who by allowing us to wake up together each day and sustaining us with breath and heartbeats means He is not done with us yet and still has a good plan for us together.

Winshape was right, conflict has brought us into a deeper and sweeter relationship with each other, and with our God. I wonder what lies ahead in this new year?

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What about you?  How have you see grace lived out in your marriage?

 

Directions Needed

Last week Jerry and I participated in our first seeJesus staff retreat.  We spent a couple IMG_4497days with 34 of our co-workers at a private retreat site in far northern Pennsylvania, near the New York border.  In preparing for the trip we were told that cell phone service was sketchy there at best.  Apparently I was not clear on the implications of that.

Because Jerry and I were traveling alone I printed off the list of everyone’s cell phone numbers in case we had any trouble in route.  I did not print directions (though we’d never been there before) because Jerry had his phone and we could use his maps app.  That was our ONLY option to find our way through all the back roads because my phone’s GPS was out of service.

We had been told that it would take us about 4 hours to get to the retreat site.  We were a little over 3/4 of the way there, enjoying the winding roads, the vibrant red and gold leaves and the sun glistening off of lakes when Jerry said, “I just lost cell service.”

At each turn he told me the turn I was to make, and then gave me a heads up on the upcoming direction.  At the time he lost the signal I knew I had about six more miles to go and then needed to turn right on route 487.  After that I had no idea.  The area we were traveling through was similar to areas where Jerry has said, “I don’t even know if Jesus could find us here if the rapture came right now.”  (This was said tongue in cheek, no need to write me on how theologically wrong that statement is – we know :))

IMG_4400As I drove those six miles I prayed that God would either allow the cell service to return or have some very clear directional signs at that intersection.

We came upon route 487 and I wondered what would happen next.  I am not sure our rear wheels had fully completed the turn when Jerry said, “Cell service is back.”

That may have been the quickest answer to prayer I have ever encountered.  Service stayed with us and led us directly to our destination.  I thanked the Lord for His quick response and vowed to next year print out the directions before starting out.

Isn’t that just like God?  He gives me the info I need to know on an “as needed” basis.  When that information comes to an end I need to trust Him for the next.  Reminds me of a saying I heard many years ago, “God is rarely early but never late.”