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?

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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,

Ivan the Great

I was hosting a table to recruit volunteers at church this morning when an older gentleman I don’t recall seeing before walked up holding a coffee cup.  I asked if he was interested in learning about our event.  He asked if the computers I had at my table could get to the internet.  I told him they did, but all sites other than the church’s webpage were blocked.  I suggested some other ways he could get online if it was necessary.

He replied, “No, I am just upset, I have to calm myself down.”  Then he snickered and pointed at his cup of coffee and said, “the caffeine should help right?”  He went on to tell me that he just found out his car did not pass the emission test.  He appeared very shaken by this revelation and then walked away.

A few minutes later he came back by and said, “you better pray for me.  I need the weather to stay nice today because they tell me I have to put a thermostat on my car to pass emissions.  I’ve never done this before.”  photo_1832_20060728

I assured him I would pray for him and as he walked away again I asked for his first name.  He replied (with gusto), “Ivan the Great!”  I responded with “Nice to meet you Ivan the Great and I will be praying for you.”

Ivan took a few more steps away from my table toward the auditorium (as I was silently praying for him) and turned around and laughed, and said, “oh never mind, you won’t pray.”  I assured him I had already begun praying for him and invited him to come back to my table so I could pray with him directly.  He continued to snicker and walked in to the service.

At the end of the service Ivan came back by the table again.  He told me he looked outside and thought I was doing a good job praying because it hadn’t rained yet.

I don’t know if Ivan the Great got his thermostat in today.  I hope I recognize him again at church so I can ask him.  But I do know the God who is pleased when His children reach out and share their needs with one another and then with Him.

The funny thing is – I wasn’t even supposed to be at that table today.  In fact, we were not going to start hosting the table until next week.  But I got mixed up and set it up a week early.  Perhaps God wanted that all along so Ivan the Great could find out that someone cares for him.  Or perhaps God put Ivan in my path today to remind me that it is more important to be “present over perfect” (thanks to Shauna Niequist for her book of that title that is messing with my heart and soul).

 

Walk Like They’re Always Watching!

Man with Binoculars

Conversation at lunch today turned to a virtual reality game that is making a lot of headlines (a topic I NEVER thought I’d talk or write about – it means nothing to me!).  A couple coworkers were discussing what they know of the phenomenon.   One person said, “it’s a little creepy how much ‘they’ know about us.  It’s like we are always being watched.”

That’s when the thought that has been buzzing around my head for ages just had to come out. . .  I don’t get it when I hear those kinds of statements about being watched and how bothersome it can be to many.  Why are we surprised?

Isn’t that how we are told to live as Christians?  To know that both our Heavenly Father knows and sees all?    And beyond that to live with the knowledge that the world watches us whether we realize it or not.  “They” are seeing if our lives match up with what we say.

I like the way Ephesians 5 is labeled (bold titles) in the New King James Version, and particularly verse 15.

Walk in Love
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know,[a] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Walk in Light
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

Walk in Wisdom
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.[c]