Starry-eyed couples in love often think their marriage will be unlike any before or since. Soon we learn similar patterns occur and we need the counsel of others. Read some of of the advice we received here, and share your own.Read More...
God does not waste anything. While those exact words may not be found in the Bible, the concept is there. Over the last few months God has proven this in my life.
I had the usual childhood answers to “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Nurse, teacher, etc. As I grew though the answer changed – I wanted to be a missionary. In my young adult years I knew the location – Germany or Austria.
When an opportunity was presented at our church to join a new venture, called “World Class Cities Teams” I felt the tug in my spirit. World Class Cities were defined as a city of one million or more in population. I applied and was accepted to join a team that would plant churches in Vienna, Austria. As our team formed and began to learn how to work together and raise support we encountered some obstacles. Our team fell apart and most of us never made it to Vienna. This left me with pain and discouragement wondering why I had to go through that experience.
Many years later the organization I worked with partnered with an urban ministry, World Impact. We taught them about disability. They taught us about urban life, where many people with disabilities live; either by choice or default. The part of the city we were working in was known to be among the top zip codes in the state for violence, drugs, etc. Still, I would have moved there if I could have, but this community would have made Jerry’s life even harder than it is. I loved what I learned about urban life.
When our partner ministry moved out of that area, we joined forces with Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association. Yes, even the anacronym OCCCDA is a mouthful. This work was in a part of the city that was new to me. Additional lessons came my way. Urban life is as varied as suburban life. Once again, I found myself wishing I could spend more time working with OCCCDA. I joined their Board and loved every minute of working with this community.
Then God moved us to central Florida. We do live within the city limits of a medium sized city, but still very much in suburbia. Here is where I saw the threads of my life coming together in God’s weaving.
Jerry and I joined the missions team at our local church. Each missionary supported has a liaison within the church. One of the missions in need of a church contact was a seminary in . . . yes, Vienna, Austria! Guess who quickly volunteered to be that representative? Though this looks much different than what I had envisioned thirty-five years ago, perhaps God is allowing me to have some level of contact and ministry in Vienna after all.
Working with Luke 14 Exchange, Inc took me to a meeting held at the Dream Center in the northern part of our city, which is urban. On our first visit there we learned about scores of amazing programs the Center offers for people in that neighborhood and around the city. One area they did not have any program offerings in was the field of disability. Hmmm, seems Jerry and I may have attended this meeting for more than one reason.
Every time I am in the neighborhood of the Dream Center (just four or five miles from our home) I see people moving around in wheelchairs or scooters and using canes. We are still exploring with the Dream Center what God has for us together. So far it has meant I’ve had an opportunity to reapply some of the urban living training I received in the past. It means that last night was the first of hopefully many opportunities where I and some church friends helped distribute food bags to the community. And it means I am developing a new friendship with C, a woman who lives with her own disability, and has a young son with autism. In a few short weeks she has taught me so much about trusting in God, vulnerability and living by faith.
I don’t know where else God will take these opportunities in the future, but I am
encouraged to see God unfold blessings from times in my past, even some difficult periods. I wonder what the final tapestry will look like?
And this much I know to be true, if He has done that for me, He will do it for you! What experiences do you wonder why or how God will use?
A new friend and I recently chatted about the difference in our marriages because I married a man with a disability, and she did not. Yet more than 20 years later, her groom became disabled. We commented how the death of dreams is tougher in her situation because she didn’t expect disability.
The more I thought about that I came to a new understanding of my own self. If asked, I would reply that I did not encounter the death of dreams because I knew disability was a part of our marriage. Until these last few weeks. I now see that while the situation and expectations were different, the outcome is similar.
Jerry and I spent hours on our dates and through our engagement dreaming about how we would minister together, serve together and continue to travel for ministry, as we both did when we were single. We talked about how his life would be easier. By me helping him with his care needs he would gain an hour or two every day. I could assist him to do physical therapy exercises, again extending his functional abilities. We dreamed of me camping with friends and traveling on international mission trips. The pictures we created in our heads were beautiful, fully accessible and without any bumps in the road. Not to mention completely achievable.
Honestly, our marriage is beautiful. But my definition of beauty has changed. Acknowledging and dealing with bumps, and sometimes downright huge obstacles, contributes to my new view of beauty. It is a rugged rather than pristine beauty today.
Working and ministering together? Yes, we have done that about half of the nearly 24 years we have been married. It has been exciting, memorable, fulfilling, an area of struggle at times as we uncovered some sense of competition. The reality has not looked much like those dreams we shared during our engagement. As Jerry is fond of saying, “The best part of working together is we’re together all the time. The hardest part of working together is we’re together all the time.”
Assisting with personal care and therapy routines? Little did we know that it wouldn’t be too many years into our marriage before I too would have therapy exercises to keep my body functional to help him! If we both did all the therapies recommended for our various body parts it would take the full day! We had to pick and choose. Helping him with his routine impacted my previously free and flexible schedule. Not to mention the toll it took on my own body.
Traveling? We have been able to do a significant amount of travel around the United States, and brief ventures to some islands accessible by cruising. Such a source of joy. As for international missions trips for me, I am grateful for the experiences I had when I was single. In recent years I believe God is telling me this is not my time for international travel. I have pushed back and fought against that (with God, not Jerry). But God has held pretty firm. My place, my job, my primary ministry is to/with my husband.
Conversations about the pace we can continue to travel have been frequent in recent weeks. We are still talking through what we gain from that versus what it takes out of both of us now that we are nearing the next big decade of life.
I hope you hear my heart in this. I am not looking for sympathy. It has been healthy for me to acknowledge that I too have experienced the death of some dreams. But perhaps some of those dreams, were simply that – dreams. What God has granted us in place of those is a stronger appreciation and love for one another, a deeper understanding of what is important in life, and a gratitude for the time and opportunities we have.
What about you? How has God taken what may have been the death of one or more of your dreams and traded it for a new kind of beauty? I really want to hear your stories. For those who post a reply by Friday September 6 I will choose one random commenter to receive a free copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive, Live Happy. You’ll read a story from me in there. So start typing . . . .
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?
Many 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?
We 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.
Once Jerry and I became engaged advice started pouring in. Jerry recalls his favorite piece of advice was “buy a King Sized bed – you will need it.” For me the most memorable advice came from my friend Joni Eareckson Tada. Jerry and I had not yet begun work with her ministry, but had known her for many years in our single days as we partnered with the ministry. I can still recall Joni looking me straight in the eye and telling me, “Never let your husband give up on his dreams.” She shared some examples from her marriage with Ken, and in particular his love of fishing.
I know I received many other pieces of valuable advice, but for some reason Joni’s is the one that has stuck with me all these years. Pondering her words have helped me embrace the idea of Jerry completing his master’s degree, take other advanced courses, start his own business, attend more baseball games than I had ever imagined and so much more. Over this next year encouraging his dreams means a move to Florida for us. Some of his dreams are pretty amazing, and oh the adventure of supporting them.
Perhaps the reason God has allowed that piece of advice to stick with me is that He knows my propensity to want to be control. The truth is, control is a gift that is useful in certain situations, but marriage is not one of them. I am grateful for the reminder to do what is within my power to help my hubby live his dreams, which sometimes become my dream as well.
I am certain we are not the only couple who received marriage advice. What about you? What was the best marriage advice you ever received? Or what is the one piece of marriage advice you are prone to share with engaged or newlywed couples?