Reflections on Blizzard or Hurricane Prep

Blizzard. Hurricane. No, I am not thinking about the ice cream treat or drink by those names. Either would be more fun, than the weather events.

We are in the middle of living through our first hurricane season (June – November) in central Florida. Prior to this we endured more blizzards than we would like to count. Though they are very different weather events, there is a great deal of similarity in the preparation.

Hype. I understand by using that word I am indicating that there is some sensationalism to the reports we hear. Forecasting for both blizzards and hurricanes has improved, but still to a large degree a guessing game. Very rarely did the blizzards hit the areas, or with the intensity that the forecasters thought. Already we are seeing that the “cone of error” for Hurricane Dorian covers a 600-700 mile area. Still we don’t want to be caught off guard in either scenario, so that leads us to the next similarity . . .

Shopping frenzy. For blizzards the time period seemed to be 24 hours or less in advance to load up on milk, bread and eggs. For hurricanes the prep begins months ahead to have shopping-3225130_1280as much on hand as possible when the storm approaches. The lines for gas and last-minute groceries seems to start about 4 days in advance. For hurricanes people are not concerned with eggs and milk – we may not have power. But the bread and shelf stable food along with bottles of water and batteries are a must.

Uncertainty. I remember often with blizzards wondering if we should cancel a meeting or appointment a day or two out. One does not want to appear foolish or uncaring if we did get dumped on with snow and ice. But how many times does one change their schedule only to find it was not needed? In hurricanes the uncertainty revolves around do we go, or do we stay? Today it may look like we can stay, the next report may say the eye is coming to our specific address (or so it seems).

From where I sit today, here is what I know:

1) People are people. Every area, every event, is going to have people who don’t believe anything will happen, and others who believe we are facing Armageddon. Their response depends on many factors. My response depends only on one factor – Grace. When anxieties and uncertainty flare around us, a response of grace is always in season and fits the forecast.

2) Technology and forecasting have improved significantly over the years. Even the best acknowledges there is a large margin of error. I need to listen and wisely process the updates. My trust, however, cannot be in those forecasts, or my preparation. There is only One in whom I can trust. The One whom the winds and waves obey (Matthew 8:27).

3) As I prepare my home, family and self to the best extent possible I cling (pun intended as I think of a hurricane) to the truth of Romans 8: 38-39. Nothing – not height, depth, wind, rain, snow, ice, or flying debris can separate me from the love of God (my adapted paraphrase of the verses).

So thquestion-mark-160071_1280ere’s my reflections on preparations. What are yours? No matter where you live you likely have some type of environmental event to deal with. How do you prepare?

Marriage Dreams

Dreams of marriage . . . candlelight and romance . . . tackling projects together. . . kids that look like you, and act like him (or vice versa) . . . retirement days to travel and enjoy one another and the family. What was your dream for marriage?

Happy 284 +1Many of us don’t think about disability when we dream about marriage. But here we are, with wheelchairs, memory loss, seizures, spasms, paralysis or some other constant partner in our family because we either married into disability or one of you acquired it after marriage.

Often we talk about how disability results in the death of our dreams. I know that can be true. I also know that while we said “better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health” most of us don’t really understand what that might involve.

Let’s be honest. Are there any marriages – even those that do not involve disability – which do not deal with reality clashing with our dreams?

Early in our marriage we were taught that life would not be so hard if we did not expect it to be so easy. There is so much truth in that statement.

If you are in one of those periods today of feeling the loss related to disability, know that you are not alone. No marriage is easy. We all encounter loss.

Sometimes in marriage we see the disability as something to be grieved or overcome. There is nothing wrong with grieving or working to alleviate disability and it’s effects. But the final chapter has not been written. God is working good through our circumstances. How might disability be a tool God is using in your marriage?

share-2482016_1920We can all benefit from hearing from one another. Would you share how God is using disability in your marriage and relationships?

Stay tuned next week for some lessons I am learning in how God is using disability in our family.

PS – Kudos (or maybe since we are talking about marriage I should say hugs and kisses) to my  husband Jerry who helped me find the right words when I was working on this post today.

 

 

 

Don’t Forget Your Walking Stick!

Circle Bar B Reserve had been recommended to me by nearly everyone I’ve met since moving to Lakeland. People rave about the paths for walking or bike riding. Photographs fill Facebook with the variety of birds, plants, amphibians, and bugs that make their home there.

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I love seeing God’s love displayed in nature.

Today my schedule and the weather allowed me to venture on my maiden trek at the B. Thankfully, a neighbor was also able to go. While making plans a couple days ago, she ended our conversation with, “don’t forget your walking stick.”  I told her I did not have one. She assured me she had an extra one she would bring.

The next day I was talking with some other neighbors and mentioned Patty and I would be going to Circle Bar B. They responded with, “don’t forget your walking stick.”

I looked at them and asked, “what’s the deal with the walking stick? I keep being reminded to take one. I don’t have one, but I am not unstable on my feet. And I am not that old. Are the trails rough?”

Tim and Cindy smiled and said, “you want it to flick a snake out of the way if it comes across your path. Or you may need it for protection from other wildlife or animals.”

Ohhhhhhh. That makes sense! And now I want my own walking stick.

There is so much to learn in a new community and environment. While on the nature trail today I learned a couple fascinating tidbits about alligators. Did you know . . .

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See the gator between the two lower to mid log shadows?
  • The temperature of the nest in which the alligator eggs are laid determines the sex of the hatchling. Below 86 degrees F makes it most likely that females will hatch. Temps above 93 degrees F will most likely hatch males. (Don’t ask me what happens between 86-93 – maybe twins?)
  • The distance, in inches, between a gator’s eyes and nostrils will approximately equal their total length in feet (e.g. 4 inches between snout and eyes likely means you are looking at a 4 foot gator).

Patty and I had a great time. Neither of us needed to use our walking sticks for defense or offense. At least on this trip. But I’ll be ready next time. And if you come to visit I’ll rustle up a second one to share!

feedback-3387216_1920We’re never too old to learn new things. What is something new you learned recently? Please share; I have much to learn!

Through Another’s Eyes

NOTE: Thank you to all the kind readers who shared your thoughts and welcome back with me. I love hearing from my readers. I am particularly grateful to those of you who noticed, and pointed out the typo I had on last week’s post. Thank you. It has been corrected. Please don’t hesitate to share your observations, ideas and comments with me!

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Watching the groom as the doors swing open and his bride walks down the aisle is my favorite part of a wedding. The strongest of men turn to mush and tenderness when they see the woman of their dreams.

As the years go by, and day to day busyness piles up, it is hard to recall that gleam in the eye of your one and only. When I do hear words of pride, love, and complement I sometimes become jaded, wondering if there’s a reason I am being buttered up.

That is why the perspective a woman shared with me at the conclusion of a writers conference this week meant so much to me.

“I watched him when you went forward. His eyes got big. He had a huge smile. I could see him saying WOW! I even saw tears forming in his eyes. He was so proud.”

A couple months prior to the conference I had decided against entering any of the contests. I felt as though I did not have time to submit anything worthy. . . except for one piece . . . an article I wrote about Jerry.

Jerry agreed with that submission but encouraged me to make the time to enter multiple categories. I did.

Saturday afternoon we walked around the conference grounds. I told him that I only wanted to win in one category – the article about him, entitled, “A Most Unrealistic Life.” Placing would affirm that others could see the man I know.

With the awards ceremony underway, I rejoiced with each winner. When the category of articles was announced, I did not hear my name for honorable mention, third place, or second place. When first place was announced it sounded like my name, it was! Thank you Jesus, was the silent prayer I uttered as I made my way forward to accept the awardmedal-303422_1280. I didn’t get to see Jerry’s face of pride until I returned to my seat. My evening had been made. I looked at him and said, “it’s because it’s about you!”

The evening became a whirlwind for me as I was surprised, and humbled to place in some additional categories. Jerry asked someone take photos of me. I wished someone would take a photo of Jerry for me. I know the old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case the verbal picture this woman shared was a priceless gift.

We all need reminders from time to time that the relationship between us and our spouse is one like no other. As great as it is to hear the words from our partner, sometimes we need that outside observer to refresh our view.

arrow-1773931_1920How has someone outside of your marriage reminded you of the valuable gift your husband or wife is to you? How can you share words of encouragement about your spouse with others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I Can’t Imagine

One of my friends met Jesus face to face yesterday.

This friend lived a hard life. At first, I found it ironic that she spent her last several days in a hospice home that likely was the nicest place she ever lived. But then I thought that this peaceful place was “training wheels” for the eternal home she would soon enter.

Several years ago my friend gave her life to Jesus. The day she was told it was time for hospice she called me. We talked about the excitement of knowing our final destination but the fear of the route we need to take to get there. I encouraged her to run without delay into the arms of Jesus whenever He called her name. I believe she did.

sun-rays-182170_1920I know what the Bible says about Heaven. The pearly gates, the streets of gold, the homes prepared for us by Jesus himself, the banquet feast we will share, a place of no tears, a place of no sin, and best of all . . .  Jesus. A forever home with Jesus.

Yet my finite mind can’t really grasp Heaven. I am glad my friend can now. The suffering and pain she endured, I am certain she would say, pales in comparison to what she is experiencing.

I have no idea when God will say it is time for me to join Him. Until that day comes I want to be present and engaged with the life He has entrusted to me. But when my time comes, know I too will be running into the arms of my Savior.

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!   

Settled!

Hello again dear friends. I am excited to welcome you back to my blog. If you have followed me for any length of time, you may recall that much of 2018 was focused on selling our Pennsylvania home and moving to central Florida.

I have moved more times in my life than I care to count. Based on those experiences, I fully expected to have about four months of my life consumed with packing, selling, moving and settling in. Go ahead and laugh, I am –  now! I had not factored in  leaving a place that was home for nearly twenty years, or the reality of diminished energy as I age. My neat little four month plan turned in to well over a year.

But now . . . there are no more cardboard boxes around, or quick tidy ups needed for a house showing. We are settled.

Settled. 

Wow.

There was a time I wondered if I would ever feel settled again.

Thank you for those of you who prayed for us, encouraged us and shared that you were missing reading my blog. Keep those prayers coming as we embrace this new season of Raising My Ebenezer and Marriage Monday!