We Passed the Test!

Last week we had the opportunity to put to the test one of the reasons we made the move to Florida a year ago. Most people, as they age, need some type of help or support. Those of us who live with disability in our families often need the help much earlier, and for a longer period in life. We did not want to wait to move until our post retirement years and be the needy newcomers. Our goal was to move while we still had time and energy to build friendships, be involved and give back in our community. Our hope was when the time came and we needed help it came based on our relationships.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Beside being the anniversary of when we purchased our home here, this past week was also the first time since moving that we both got sick at the same time. It didn’t start out that way, but I joined Jerry in being ill just a few days after him. A perfect time for an emergency test of our community building skills.

Do you know what happened? Neighbors and friends from church brought food. Many prayed for us – even coming to our front door to pray over us and the house. People offered to run grocery store or pharmacy errands for us. Someone helped create a temporary fix for a vehicle problem until we could get it repaired.

I get it. This does not sound like a world-shattering experience or revelation. At least it should not be. This is how healthy communities function. But I’ve been in both the disability world and church world long enough to have heard the stories from families affected by disability who feel so alone, it seems no one sees or hears them, or misses them when they are absent. That is heartbreaking, but it does not have to be fatal.

push for help

Please allow me a couple observations:

1) For families affected by disability, I know we may not have the time, energy or resources we perceive others do. First, perceptions are apples and oranges comparison, so let it go. But more importantly, how are you building into your community? It is unfair to expect everyone to see us and help with our needs if we don’t also make an effort to see them. It might start with a phone call just to ask someone else how they are doing. Or a quick email or FB post following up on something in their lives. Sometimes our community doesn’t know how to help, building a relationship will open understanding. We need to be willing to embrace others before we expect them to embrace us.

2) For the community person who is not affected by disability; Families affected by disability can’t always articulate our needs or be particularly grace filled when expressing them, some days it is just too much. Please don’t let us turn you off. We need you. If our name comes to mind, offer a prayer for us, drop a plate of cookies off, send off a thinking of you email, or call as you head to the grocery store to see if we need anything.

To our community and tribe, thank you! We love you and are so grateful for your love and care for us.family colorful group

To those wishing they had a community like ours, what is one thing you can do this week to build on a relationship in your circle?

Blessings of Disability in Marriage Part 2

I am glad so many of you enjoyed the Top Ten List last week.  Disability in the family is not all about sadness, challenges, ir missing out.  There is much joy and blessing in our families, as there can be in any family.  Let’s take a look at some additional blessings found in my own marriage and the marriage of others shared by friends.

  1.  Vulnerability – My handsome and wise husband, Jerry, puts it this way, “because I was born with a disability, and need the assistance of others for my daily living and personal care, I believe it creates openness to vulnerability in other ways too.”  I think he is right.  It is hard to hide – physically or emotionally when dealing with a disability.  We see a carry over into our vulnerability with one another emotionally, mentally and socially.
  2. Community – As hard as we try, we can’t do life on our own – even with the two of us together (and our Lord’s presence).  Here is where that vulnerability ties in again when we say to one another or others, “I/we need help.”  It is humbling and beautiful to see friends and strangers alike step up to assist us and share in carrying some of our needs.   Not only do our needs get met, but we also learn to shed some pride. Through the process we have made some incredible friendships that we likely would not have discovered without disability presenting a need.
  3. Values Clarification – Disability in the family quickly brings what is really important to the surface. How do we spend our money?  Is image what we should strive fort?  With limited energy what is the best way to use my time and strength?    Is this battle worth fighting? I like the way one mom put it when she contacted me, “It seems like there have been seasons of added stress . . . that require an almost daily decision to pull together and get stronger together, trusting God, rather than to push apart and try to deal wth the difficulty on our own.”
  4. Commitment of Vows – It does not take long once disability becomes a part of the marriage to have an opportunity to determine if we are going to live out the vows we spoke, or were they just something to say in a ceremony.  The full impact of “love and honor in sickness or health, richer or poorer, till death do us part” takes on a much deeper meaning. We learn that the commitment to our vows may look very different than we thought they would when we spoke them. It is not just that I will alter my plans to care for you while you have the flu, or to take some time off when our child has surgery.  Rather it may be making the choice to serve my spouse will surpasses everything else.   Even though there is a dailyness to our life that takes so much time, there is still no one else I want to walk with through this amazing journey called life than Jerry Borton.
  5. Image of God – One of the things disability does best for all of us (not just in the affected families) is teach us about the image of God.  The Bible makes it very clear in both Genesis and Psalm 139 (among other passages) that every person is created purposefully and intentionally and bears the image of our God.  I love that.  To me it means the image of God has nothing to do with how one looks or ambulates, how quickly or deeply one can think, how eloquently one can speak or write, how far one can hit a baseball or throw a football or anything else we tend to emphasize.  The image of God is something far deeper – it is our soul, that regardless of special need, disability, or a “perfect” body and brain in which God communes with each one of us.
  6. A picture of Christ and the Church – God instituted marriage asa picture of the Church (not the local building, but the people who follow Jesus around the world) and Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Peter Rosenberger dedicates his book Hope for the Caregiver to “Jesus Christ, the ultimate caregiver of a wounded bride.”  That image grabs my heart and my mind and reminds me that my role as a Caregiver spouse is just a small example of the lengths Jesus Christ went to to care for each of us, by giving His life for our sins.  I hope when people look at our marriage they see some small glimmer of that.

Let me wrap this up with an excerpt of an email I got from a wise friend.  She and her husband each have a different disabling conditions.

When we have had difficulties, we have chosen to remember that God put us together for His purpose and His best for our lives.  We have chosen to, individually, and jointly, to allow our experiences related to disability to build character and increase compassion towards each other, and it has also opened our eyes to the needs and struggles experienced by others who are affected by disabilities.  And caused us to be more compassionate toward them and willing to look for ways to encourage them toward success in their lives and relationships.

Thanks for reminding us my dear friend, that we have a choice each day, each moment to allow our family life to glorify God.  Who’s with me?



Your turn now – please share your thoughts on these blessings, or others you encounter.






Building Community in an Age of Privacy

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now.  Building community seems like a buzz phrase these days.  Every church, business, borough, or city talk about building authentic community, a safe community or a supportive community.  It is almost like “insert your favorite adjective here” community.

Generally the word community implies that we have something in common, be it family colorful groupgeographical bounds, ideologies, interests, passions or goals.  The Latin root, according to Wikipedia, implies public spirit or shared in common.

I juxtapose that thought with the idea of privacy that is also a phrase we are confronted with regularly.  Nearly every business we encounter shares their privacy statements.  We get them from our medical offices, our credit card companies and banks, schools and more.

On the personal level we see postings about privacy on social media (a community) all the time.  I am sure you’ve seen them. Someone posts that as of this date they are stating that all they post on a social media platform is their own private property and they give no right to anyone else to use those thoughts or images, or anything about them.  Those are not the exact words but a paraphrase; please do not copy and post that to your site!

I find those postings comical, even if it were to be valid who is going to scroll through kazilions of posts each day that come across a newsfeed to find that one disclaimer?

More to the point though, I wonder why those people are on social media.  I am not extolling the values or faults of a platform.  I simply wonder why one joins a network that is intended to be a social community if privacy is their intent.

Those warning posts give me even more pause when it is posted by a Christian, someone who has surrendered their life to live for Jesus.  How did Jesus address the idea of community?

There are scores of “one another” commands in the Bible: love one another (John 13:34-35), be kind to one another (Eph 4:32), pray for one another (James 5:16), encourage one another (I Thes 4:18) , accept one another (Romans 15:7),  forgive one another (Ephesians 4:13) and many more.  (If you want to see more google “One another commands in the Bible.”)  What if we used social media platforms as a way to “one another” each other?

What if we took seriously God’s words to us in Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV)?

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty salt-19016_1920again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

light “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are called to make a difference – to put our lives out there for others to see, to influence those around us to see Jesus and glorify God.  This doesn’t mean every post should be a Scripture verse. For me it means I need to be real on my social media platforms, admit I struggle but not lay out my dirty laundry.   Through those posts I want to season and light the way for others. It also means I don’t post things that will reflect poorly on others.

I think this is what makes an authentic, honest, supportive and healthy community of which  I want to be a part.  As a follower of Jesus my privacy matters far less than representing my Lord the best I can so others want to join our eternal community.

Disability Humor and Insight in the Christmas Story

We who live/work in the disability world sometimes laugh about how people often assume that a person with one disability has them all.  For example, because Jerry uses a power wheelchair he must also be hard of hearing so they shout at him, others assume he cannot think or talk so they ask me what he wants.  This is not unique to us, you’ll hear similar stories from anyone who has a disability or special need.

While reading Luke chapter 1 last week I saw this phenomenon in the Bible which neither Jerry or I had ever noticed before.  Here’s how it goes:

Zechariah scoffed and was struck mute when he was told by the angel Gabriel that his wife Elizabeth (who was well advanced in years) would bear a son.  He was told that he would remain mute until his son was born.

I’ve looked this passage up in multiple versions and notes of the Bible and all tell me he was “only” mute – not deaf.  Nine months later when his son was born and Elizabeth named him John the people nearby thought he should be named after his father and began sign_languageto make gestures to him to confirm the name. When Zechariah wrote “His name shall be called John” he was able to talk again.

This story illustrates the words in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun.  We think that it is a current world issue that people treat a person with a disability as having all of them. Here , just a few months before the birth of Jesus and the people were treating Zechariah as if he were deaf, though he was not.  It made me smile and snicker.

Upon further thought it also made me see another similarity to today.  Zechariah became mute before his wife became pregnant; roughly he was silent for nine months. Scripture tells us the people learned as soon as he came out of the temple that day that he could not speak.  I have to think that perhaps they didn’t engage much with him once he became “disabled” or they would have figured out he could hear and would have verbally asked rather than gesture to him about the name.

As we move into the new year I have a challenge for you:

Is there someone you know who has a disability or special need with whom you could invest some time to get to know?  Not only might you make their day/week or year – you may also find they have a whole lot more to add to the community and you’ll be richer for it. Don’t get hung up on communicating “the right way” or with the “right words” when you meet someone.  Let them see your heart and get to know them.  It appears Zechariah extended a great deal of grace to those who treated him as if her were deaf.  Others will too!

And the Seasons, They go Round and Round . . . (thanks Joni Mitchell)

This new season in our lives came round when life in the super fast lane suddenly and unexpectedly experienced the brakes being applied (don’t fear, we are safe I am speaking metaphorically).  As one might imagine this sudden interuption of momentum resulted inspeedometer  a great deal of change.  It has been interesting at twenty plus years of marriage to see the different ways Jerry and I respond to this experience.

Almost immediately I welcomed this “sabbatical” (of sorts) to slow down, allow my brain, body and soul to rest and replenish.  Jerry on the other hand found the slow pace unsettling and dove into tackling the enormous amount of paperwork that comes with a vocational change.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am for his leadership in this area.  My eyes glaze over with this kind of stuff, and he just plows through it.

Then a funny thing happened.  After about a week to ten days, we switched roles without realizing.  Jerry began to see the value of some down time, and I became busy with meetings, helping a friend post surgery, spending time with some of those I love, and volunteering at one of my favorite ministries.  All of a sudden I felt like I was nearly at full speed again, and wondered how I ever managed to work full time and have a life.

Now that we are two and a half weeks into our journey of transition what am I learning?

  1. Busyness is insidious.  It really has little to do with job status or hours and all to do with making right decisions.  That is knowing what to say yes to and standing firm on the things we say no to.  It doesn’t take long after stepping out of the rush to see the value of slowing down; but it also doesn’t take much to speed back up with barely a thought.  I must guard my time.
  2. We each have to process transition in our own way with our Lord. But as a married couple we also have to make time to talk, pray, worship, laugh and play together and let grace rule when one’s needs seems to be out of sync with the other’s.
  3. Proverbs is right!  There is safety in wise counsel.  “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.”  Proverbs 15:22 The Message.  In just these first few weeks we have sought counsel from our pastors, business associates, close friends who know us well, friends who have traveled a similar path and a financial planner.  We need the objectivity of others and their wisdom when our “normal” becomes abnormal.
  4. I have time.  I don’t have to know today (or even this year – good thing since we are already half way through December – ha!) what my next steps are.  I need to be obedient to the call and leading of our Lord, use this time to dream, pursue interests and explore the range of opportunities.
  5. God is the supplier of my every moment and my every need.  In just a very short amount of time needs we didn’t even know we had have been provided. Here is one example.  Friday a friend and I volunteered to wrap gifts at an urban toy store.  Afterwards we planned to stop for lunch.  As our shift was ending one of the urban church partners said he wanted to bless us all (7 volunteers) with lunch.  A short time later he returned with boxes of pizza and some drinks.  Not only was it incredibly kind of him, but it spoke volumes to me on two levels.  First, here was a man who we thought we were serving by helping him and his parishioners to have Christmas gifts.  He turned the blessing around and served us.  It is very humbling to be on the receiving end.  The second blessing came to me in realizing that here, once again, God was supplying my need.  Yes, I had budgeted for the cost of going out to lunch with my friend, but God provided for us to have lunch at no cost to us but still enjoy the fellowship together.

So how do I sum up these first few weeks of transition?  Honestly, with the words shared at the last staff Leadership Conference we attended.  We were encouraged to live “Adventurously Expectant.”  That is a call I want to live.



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,