To Be Known by Name

November is National Caregivers Month.  Peter Rosenberger, a ministry colleague at Caregivers With Hope created a video to honor caregivers.   We showed this video at our recent Caregivers Day of Pampering to 120 women who provide care for a family member affected by disability or special needs.  There were few dry eyes in the auditorium as the video played.

What is so striking in this video is the names.  We are so often acknowledged as “Jerry’s wife” or “Matthew’s mother” or “Kim’s sister.”  Yes that role is a very big part of who we are, and a role we (usually) cherish.  But every once in a while it is needful and appreciated to take a few minutes (or even hours) to be known as Joan, Sharon or Beth.

12238058_10153208770271778_5381036211214562344_oI think that is why at our Pampering Days one of the first “spa stops” for many of the ladies is the paraffin hand dip.  It affords a few minutes to sit down and be face to face with another person who calls us by name.  Conversations can quickly go deep as the “pamperer” looks the Caregiver in the eye and massages their hands.

This month (and beyond) one of the best things you can do to honor and respect a caregiver is to learn their name, call them that, and spend a few minutes looking in their eyes and getting to know them as Marie, Stacy, Janice, Amy, Maria, Trish, Marilyn, Carin, Pam, Colleen, Kelly, Janine, Candy, Savine, Cindy, Marty, Helen, Gwen, Shirley, Jennifer, Michelle, Rose, Kim, Nina, Debbie, Jenn, Theresa, Joy, Lisa, Gwen, Anne, Leann, Katy, Eleanor, Brittany, Jill, Rachel, Maggie, Leanne, Willa, Betty,   . . .

Isaiah 43:1-4 ESV  (italics added)

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,

Love Our Village

The saying “It takes a village . . .” can be true of much of life.  Today as I was driving to Spruce Lake where we will host our first two weeks of Family Retreat for families affected by disability I was so thankful for those in “our village” who make this, and so many other parts of our lives easier.

People like Denise, who I asked to pick up a prescription that wasn’t ready yet before I left and bring it to us at camp when she comes.

Guys like Scott, Roger, and Gary who step in while I am at camp and Jerry is at home to help him get up each morning and to bed at night.  Then there’s Ron who comes to camp (hauling much of our equipment) to help Jerry here so I can focus on my role.

Ginny, my sister who said dinner will be provided the night we come home exhausted from two weeks of camp.

Once I pulled into Spruce Lake there was Lucas who offered to carry my suitcase to my second floor room.

And the best thing about our village?  They love Jesus, and they know by serving us they are serving Him.  Can’t wait to turn some of that love around these next two weeks to serve other families affected by disability at Family Retreat!

“Behold! How they love one another.”

Want to get more of an idea of what happens at Family Retreat?  Follow our hashtag #JAFjourney2joy for the next couple of weeks.

Riches in Secret Places (part 2 of 2)

 

If you missed part one of this story you can read it here.  It sets the stage for what follows.

A little after 6:30 the phone rang, it was Jerry’s cell.  I answered “What’s wrong?”  He said, “I am coming home, I have a wheelchair problem and need your help.”

A few minutes later he pulled in the driveway.  The cord that supplies the connection between his wheelchair motors and joystick came apart.  This had happened a few times recently, in fact a new wire was recently ordered.   Today when Jerry tried to plug it back in while sitting in the van in the restaurant parking lot there was a spark.  This is NOT GOOD when he is still sitting in the chair and has no way to get out of the van.

I realized that I would need more light and space to maneuver than I had in the van if I had any hope of fixing this.  Now imagine getting 500 pounds plus of stationary wheelchair and husband out of a full size van under just “wife power.”  I tugged and pulled and grunted, trying to balance the need to use enough force to pull him over the hump and onto the van lift, without so much force that I’d loose my balance and topple over, or more likely plop off the lift.

Jerry on lift

Mission accomplished, now to push him up the ramp, in the door, and to the room where I could transfer him out of the chair so I could safely try to fix the chair without endangering him.  After about 15 minutes it became clear that the spark in the parking lot did more damage and this was not going to simply be a “reconnect the parts” type of job.  We deemed the chair temporarily out of service and I trudged to the garage to get his old back up chair.

I got to the garage only to find a problem there; the large power door would not raise to get the other chair out.  Thankfully adjusting the door sensors was a simple and easy fix I could do.  As I took the old chair to the house I realized that I was now at least 15 minutes behind schedule, MY schedule, for getting to the Y.  Thinking I may have to let that part of the schedule go, I consoled myself with the thought that since Jerry was already up early to go out to breakfast, maybe he would take me to breakfast instead!

At about 7:15 just as I am about to help Jerry into this chair he said, “I don’t think it’s worth going back to the breakfast.  I think I’ll nap for  half an hour before I go to the office.”

How do I respond?  I really wanted a reward for all I had done, and thought that going out to breakfast together was a great plan.  But I also thought about how worn down Jerry’s body was and how early he had gotten up.  After a short debate in my head I replied “Ok” and he shut his eyes and was immediately asleep.

Gathering my wits about me, I headed to the kitchen to make my breakfast and have that quiet time I planned on an hour ago;  all the while muttering to myself, “my life is not my own!”  This is not the first time I’ve uttered those words.  Nor is it the first time I’ve heard the still small voice of God respond with “And the problem with that is? “    Consistent, isn’t He?

And then God reminds me . . . what is it I want my life to be about?  In high school I once had an assignment to write my epitaph.  I wrote “A woman who loved and served God by loving and serving others.”

“So my daughter,” God gently asked, “isn’t that what you are doing?”  He makes a good point!

Could I trust God enough that if I do what He is calling me to do now in this moment, perhaps He could help me find another opportunity to swim?  Would it not follow that if I were truly loving and serving God by loving and serving others that my life would not be my own?  In fact the Bible tells me that I am not my own but have been bought with a price (I Cor 6:19-20).  So yes Lord, my life is not my own, and that’s a good thing.

Nap well sweetheart!  And Lord let me again rest in the assurance that You have bought me and I am Yours.  Thank you for the riches you have stored for me in secret places, that lead me to You.

Riches in Secret Places (part 1 of 2)

This was first printed in a book entitled Hope published by Calvary Church Souderton, PA in 2012.  It is edited and reprinted here with permission.

Having worked with people with disabilities for most of my career, and now being married 16 years to Jerry (who was born with cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair) one might think that I have a handle on what it’s like to live with disability in the family.  Some days I do, but surprises pop up in the most unexpected ways.

Early on one of those surprises was the pace of life – it became so much slower!  Things I was able to do in a matter of minutes before could now take closer to an hour; there was no such thing as quick!  Just to load in and out of the van adds 15 minutes to anything we do!  Spontaneity is really not in our vocabulary.   Yet even as the pace of life became slower; the demands on my time and life increased significantly.  Essentially I have more things to do in less time.  Slower and fuller – what a combination!  Disability has been described as a part time job; and sometimes it feels like a job without benefits . . .

But there are benefits, and one of my favorite passages about those benefits is in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah.   Cyrus is the man God has appointed (though Cyrus hasn’t acknowledged God’s role in his life) to lead the children of Israel out of captivity.

Isaiah 45:2-3    I will go before you and will level the mountains I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. (My note – how’s that for making things accessible!)   I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

Treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.  I think it is safe to say that if someone (especially the God of the Universe) offered treasures and riches to us we’d love to accept if there were no strings attached; but there are some strings attached, so to Metal Doorspeak.  Isaiah tells us those blessings are found in darkness and secret places.  Not usually places we willingly go – especially if the path is not well marked or heavily traveled.

 

I am not saying life affected by disability is all darkness, but there are some tough times; and it’s ok to admit that.  There are things that just don’t make sense, yet because God is there and He is the one making the way before us, we know the adventure is not in vain.  Don’t miss the last part of verse 3 – God says He give us these treasures and riches in darkness and secret so that we may know that He is God and He is personally and intimately involved in our lives (summoning us by name) whether we are ready to acknowledge that or not.

Can I tell you about one of those days in my life?  I had a plan, my plan.  I had gotten Jerry up early (which means I was up even earlier); at 4:00 am to be exact, for a 6:30 am breakfast meeting. Once he was out the door at 6:00 I laid back down for 30 more minutes before getting up to have a quiet time and head to the Y.  It seemed like a good idea to me, and one that would surely honor God because it included taking care of me both physically and spiritually. . .

Check back here tomorrow for the conclusion.

 

And at the end of the day . . .

If you have been reading my blog for any time you probably know that I am married to this guy Jerry, with whom I also happen to work.  Often people say to us, “I don’t know how you do it, I could never work with my spouse.”

To be honest sometimes we don’t know how we do it either.  And sometimes we have to work through what Doug (who also works with his wife) calls, “Business Card Roulette.”  It goes something like this.  While we are inside the walls of this building my business card trumps yours.  Once we walk out the door that may all change!

Thinking back, in the twenty plus years we’ve been married we have only worked at separate companies for about 6 of those years.  I recall many conversations when we were dating and engaged and dreaming about our future – almost always they included working together.

Was that because we were starry eyed in love?  Most definitely.

Is it because we waited longer than most to marry so we wanted to redeem as much time together as we could?  Possibly.

Is it because we are strong willed and enjoy a good challenge?  Some days it feels like that.

Is it the way God built us?  Likely.

One of Jerry’s favorite lines about working together is:

The best part about working other? We’re together all the time (said with a positive lilt in his voice).  The hardest part about working together?  We’re together ALL. . . THE . . . TIME (said in a different tone to the previous statement).  And, at the end of the day SHE gets to take me home (again with a smiling lilt in his voice).

Are there days when a little more time apart might be beneficial?  Certainly, and over the years we have found a number of ways to create some personal space even in our togetherness at work and home.

Overall though, I am thankful that this is the way God built us and called us together.  There is something very soul settling to know that the one I am one with on this earth shares my dreams, my challenges, my days and my nights.

It may not work for everyone, but I am glad it does for us!

 

What Does Joy Look Like to You?

Joy verticalGrowing up, JOY was a vertical word to me.

“Jesus and others and you, what a wonderful way to spell Joy. Jesus and others and you in the life of each girl and each boy. J is for Jesus for He has first place. O is for others you see face to face. Y is for you, in whatever you do, put yourself last and spell Joy.”

The song’s message was clear (or so I thought) – I am not important. There came a time though in my adult life, when that became a real problem for me, I had totally abandoned the idea of taking care of myself because it was all about Jesus and others.  Joy horizontal

I realized I had to change my visual of JOY.  I tried looking at it horizontally, but ended up at the same point – myself last.

 Rereading Scriptures I had previously misapplied (e.g, Philippians 2:4), I now see JOY as a set of gears. As my relationship with Jesus functions properly, it empowers me to move in right relationship to others while also caring for myself.  Now that is JOY!

 

Gears

When the Helper Becomes the One to Help

A year or so ago I took an informal survey among my caregiving friends asking them to complete the sentence, “You know you’re a caregiver when . . . ”  The responses ran the gamut from humorous to painful to thought provoking.  They were also plentiful.  If you’d like to read the compilation of all the responses, click here.

Over the last week I have been thinking about one of those responses, “You know you’re a caregiver when you consider your own hospital admission as a vacation.”  Tomorrow I am scheduled for some routine surgery on my foot.  Recovery will put me out of commission for a couple of weeks, but I am looking forward to the rest.

We’ll be in good shape though. Jerry has an excellent team of friends who will graciously step in and cover for all his attendant care needs.  Work is at a place where I can manage a little more time off and ministry events should not be effected by my recovery.

But then the tricky part for me came – I had to acknowledge that I will need some help.  See, it is much easier to acknowledge that Jepush for helprry (or anyone else for that matter) needs assistance.  I have no problem asking for someone else.  As Jerry and I talked we realized that meal help would be needed.  It was a huge challenge for me to contact our church’s meal ministry and ask for a few meals to be provided for two weeks.  It is hard to go from being the caregiver to the receiver of care!

I thought back to other times I’ve had a medical need and how did we do it then?  I don’t remember doing all this scurrying around to prepare the house, or the need to ask for meals.

That’s when it  me – this is the first time I’ll be “down” for a time since Mom has gone.  Two and a half years later and we are still hitting a new “first.” Once again I am grateful in hindsight for ALL she did for us that I took so much for granted.  I wonder if God can let her know that I realize it now?

Yesterday I had a melt down of worry.  Jerry was a bit under the weather which totally changed all our plans for the day.  I wasn’t ready for that – I had my agenda of what needed to be done, and how I needed him to be ready to take care of me. And just like the caring Daddy He is, God met me right there with Luke 12:22-34.  Worrying won’t help me one bit, and in fact can harm me.  Our Abba Father, Daddy God knows our needs and He is m
eeting them.

In fact, once I pulled myself together and the day moved along I was blessed by so many people offering to help us in so many ways.

I am aso grateful that we are not alone.  We are surrounded by a church and friends and family who will and even want to help us if I’ll just let the stubborn pride drop and be willing to acknowledge I need them.

Hands Help Represents Question Human And Solution