Take It Easy

Take it easy
Take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can . . .

These words, written by Jackson Browne and Glen Frey and recorded by the Eagles,  resonated in my head on a road trip we took this week. Our destination was a military post where our nephew and his family live. Our base access pass from our last visit had expired. Our goal, or more properly stated, MY goal, was to get on post between 3pm – 4 pm to get a new pass. If we arrived after 4 pm we would have to be escorted on base and listen to the stern counsel of the guard on duty to get our pass first thing in the morning.

Focusing on this target, we left home allowing a two-hour window for rest stops, fueling and changing of drivers, which is not as quick as it may sound as it involves physically changing the setup of the van. In previous posts I have disclosed that driving was our greatest challenge in marriage. Twenty-three years later, it is still true!

With each stop our two-hour window shortened. I became antsy, which sounds better than saying my need to control kicked in. On the one hand I was telling Jerry to stop asstress-2883648_1280 often as he needed when he was driving so he could change position and keep his body healthy. At the same time I was telling him our arrival window was down to only 30 minutes and we needed to be more mindful of the time.

While saying that, I felt guilty.

When Jerry pulled over so we could change drivers, he asked why I was so bound and determined to get there before 4 pm. He reminded me that we had not done that on any of our previous visits and survived. It was then that I confessed my motivation.

I wanted to make life easier for my nephew and his wife. I did not want them to have to pile the six kids into their van (three still in car seats) to drive the four miles out to the gate and escort us in. Concern for their comfort and ease made me compromise my husband’s comfort. My concern wasn’t even valid as our family reassured us it would be no big deal for them to come escort us.

The clincher to that conversation came when Jerry said, “When you try to make it easy for others, you sometimes make it harder for me.”

Ouch!

This is not the first time I’ve become aware of that tendency.

Next Monday I’ll share a little more about the dangers of making life with disability look or seem easy. Can you relate?  For now I am going to take it easy and enjoy these precious days with our family. Have a great week friends.

take-it-easy-2015200_1280

Little Kindnesses

This week I was the beneficiary of some little kindnesses that impacted me in such a big way I want to share.

Here’s the scene. We were ready to head home from Ohio after a family visit. The drive, with stops, is about 10 hours. We’ve each driven it by ourselves. In more recent years sharing the drive has proved a healthier choice. The problem this time was that Jerry was not feeling well. I felt cautiously optimistic that I could complete the drive home, but still had a few friends join me in prayer.

Man with Binoculars

When packing the van, the hoyer lift always goes in first. I rolled it through the lobby to go out.  I noticed a few business men waiting for someone in the lobby.  I took the hoyer apart, loaded it into the van and came back in just as this group was leaving.  One of the men stepped toward me ever so slightly and looked me right in the eyes and said, “you have a good day.” Odd though it may sound, that small greeting spoke deeply to me.  It said he had acknowledged my responsibility and wanted to share a word of kindness with me. It felt like God was saying to me, “I see what you need to do today, I am watching and will be with you.”

The next load was the shower chair and a portable table.  As I rolled these items out a different man stopped and asked if I needed any assistance.  I’ve done this so long on my own that sometimes assistance is more of a hindrance than a help, and these were easy to pack.  I thanked him but told him I had this ok.  Again, another small kindness that spoke deeply to my soul on a day when I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders.

I doubt I could ever identify these two men, but I am grateful to them.  Likely they will never know the impact their 3 to 5 second phrase made in me.  But that’s ok.  I know. And God used their kindness to encourage my heart and remind me that I was not doing this trip on my own.

I even had back-seat kindness on the trip – whenever Jerry woke up on he checked in to see if I was ok, and then went right back to sleep.  I am glad I could minister to him by letting him rest, and we made it home safely.

I came home grateful, and reminded that it often is the little expressions of kindness and grace we share with someone that matter.  We may not ever know if, or how, our words or actions mattered.  But Proverbs 3:27 reminds us to do good to others when we have the ability to do so (my paraphrase).

kindness-1197351_1920.jpg

Just When I Think I Get the Hang of this Marriage Thing . . .

“You can do it AJ.”  (pronounced as one word, coined by my nephew).

This was Nathan’s response to me when I called him a few weeks ago while researching rental cars.  He had driven a hybrid for years. I wanted to know if I could make the adjustment. With him boosting my confidence I reserved the car.

Dragging my luggage through rows of shiny, clean, and polished cars in the airport garage I found mine.

Stowing my suitcase, I sat down to get the keys.  I checked the ignition; it’s push button so no keys there.  Glovebox?  Not there.  Console between the two front seats?  Nope.

Ok, so maybe because it’s a hybrid it does not need a key?  Well, that can’t be, I say to myself.  How would I lock and secure it when I get out?

Having difficulty finding help nearby I pushed the button, put the car in reverse and drove to a kiosk across the garage.  I told the attendant my problem.  He asked where the key was?  I repeated my dilemma – I can’t find the key.  He told me to put it in park so he could get in and check around.

That presented my next conundrum – how do I get the car into park?  I saw the diagram hybridon the screen but could not get the gear shift to move in that direction.  The man pointed out that there was a button labeled “park.”  With a quick push, I was set.

As soon as he opened the driver’s door he reached into the pocket on the door and pulled out the key.  Oops, I forgot that little pocket even existed.  With my confidence and self-esteem waning I began the circular descent out of the parking garage.

“Ok Joan, you can do this,” I told myself. And I did, even becoming very comfortable and familiar with the car in just a couple days.

Until going out for dinner one evening. Parking the car, I clicked the lock on the key fob.  Not hearing the familiar click, i tried it again.  I decided I was too tired and hungry to hear it, and went in the restaurant.

After a satisfying meal, I got back in the car.  “It’s cold in here,  almost feels like the AC is running,” I thought.

I looked over at my console screen.  The AC was running.  “How can that be?” I wondered, and at the same moment it hit me – I never pushed the power button.  I only pushed park.  No wonder the lock didn’t work.

That recognition morphed into alarm as I looked around.  Alarm gave way to thanks as I realized no one stole the running car, and my two computers, briefcase and clothes were still in the car. Feeling embarrassed and grateful I drove to my temporary home.  The remainder of the trip I was hyper aware every time I parked to push the power off button.

That experience reminded me of my marriage.  When we first got married I was nervous, anxious and everything was so new. Could I really be the wife he needed?  Over time we developed our rhythm; a comfortable pattern of how we interact, communicate, make decisions, work and relax together. I start to feel “I’ve got this marriage thing down.”

When I think that, my guard drops a bit, just like it did after a few days with the car.  And then it happens – we have one of those conversations. My confidence and understanding vanish.  I wonder how could we be married 22 years and I still made that same mistake, or am just now figuring something out?

When that happens it’s a reminder to step back, thank God for my husband and our marriage and tune up my attention to the little details in our relationship that carry such big results or consequences.

arrow-1773931_1920What about you?  How do you keep from falling into the “I’ve got this” mentality in marriage?  Where is God asking you to step back and fine tune your relationship?

Directions Needed

Last week Jerry and I participated in our first seeJesus staff retreat.  We spent a couple IMG_4497days with 34 of our co-workers at a private retreat site in far northern Pennsylvania, near the New York border.  In preparing for the trip we were told that cell phone service was sketchy there at best.  Apparently I was not clear on the implications of that.

Because Jerry and I were traveling alone I printed off the list of everyone’s cell phone numbers in case we had any trouble in route.  I did not print directions (though we’d never been there before) because Jerry had his phone and we could use his maps app.  That was our ONLY option to find our way through all the back roads because my phone’s GPS was out of service.

We had been told that it would take us about 4 hours to get to the retreat site.  We were a little over 3/4 of the way there, enjoying the winding roads, the vibrant red and gold leaves and the sun glistening off of lakes when Jerry said, “I just lost cell service.”

At each turn he told me the turn I was to make, and then gave me a heads up on the upcoming direction.  At the time he lost the signal I knew I had about six more miles to go and then needed to turn right on route 487.  After that I had no idea.  The area we were traveling through was similar to areas where Jerry has said, “I don’t even know if Jesus could find us here if the rapture came right now.”  (This was said tongue in cheek, no need to write me on how theologically wrong that statement is – we know :))

IMG_4400As I drove those six miles I prayed that God would either allow the cell service to return or have some very clear directional signs at that intersection.

We came upon route 487 and I wondered what would happen next.  I am not sure our rear wheels had fully completed the turn when Jerry said, “Cell service is back.”

That may have been the quickest answer to prayer I have ever encountered.  Service stayed with us and led us directly to our destination.  I thanked the Lord for His quick response and vowed to next year print out the directions before starting out.

Isn’t that just like God?  He gives me the info I need to know on an “as needed” basis.  When that information comes to an end I need to trust Him for the next.  Reminds me of a saying I heard many years ago, “God is rarely early but never late.”

The View from the Back Seat

In recent weeks, I’ve gone on two quick trips with a couple of my seeJesus Bethesda teammates. One to eastern Ohio and one to Norfolk, Virginia. On both we spent as much time in the car as we did at the events. Preparing for the trips we talked about who would drive. It turns out that all three of us like to drive and were more than willing to do so. Trusting the others, I felt completely free to say that I would be fine to not drive, and in fact to sit in the back seat. While the others offered to trade seats with me at any point in the trips, I was quite content back there.

Not driving, for the first time in what feels like ages, reinforced the fact that I was not in control. I did not have to focus on directions, road conditions, traffic, or timing. I also had the whole back seat as my little kingdom (perhaps using that word “kingdom” means I still needed a bit of control – ha!). I had my thermal bag with my drinks, a book, my phone and charger, a blanket, sweater and other assorted sundries.

As I enjoyed the journeys, I found that these trips are a good analogy for this last year of my life. Most of my years of work and ministry had focused on creating, developing and

night
Sometimes over the last year I felt like I was traveling in the dark to a destination I did not know.

leading various aspects of ministry and teams. I enjoyed that work and found it was a good fit for my gifts, passions, and stage of life. When that work came to an abrupt stop, life seemed to turn upside down.

Several months later when I joined the seeJesus Bethesda team I found myself in a position of being a learner. I knew some about the ministry, but not enough yet to represent it well. While I wasn’t sitting back doing nothing, I was now the one asking questions, seeking clarification and learning to skillfully use the tools in our ministry tool box.

In my other part-time job at a financial planner’s office I have a support role. I copy, scan, index, confirm appointments and transactions, and assemble mailings. And it is good. Most of the people I work with are significantly younger than me. Many are on track for future promotions and career growth. Not me. I am content to do what I can to let them shine.

When my mind whirs with details of to do lists, projects to be completed, etc. I can recall that I am not the bottom line. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I never try to step into the position of leader or controller (long ingrained habits change slowly). This new outlook has even carried over to my marriage.

Sky
Sitting in the backseat lets me take in the beauty around me.

Perhaps it is my age or my current place in this journey of life, but I am enjoying the view from the back seat and not anxious to change that any time soon. If a year ago you would have told me that I would find joy and fulfillment in “the back seat” both figuratively and literally I would have scoffed and disregarded your statements. Now after nearly a year as a supporting player on the teams God has placed me in, I find it refreshing.

arrow-1538686_1920What about you?  At this stage in your life do you prefer the driver’s seat, the co-pilot or the back seat?  What have you learned from your view?

Silly GPS

“Why on earth is this silly GPS telling me to get off at every exit and take a different route?”

That was my question while driving on I-95 last weekend after leaving a hotel in Virginia for our final leg home to Pennsylvania.  After about 5 miles of ignoring the GPS and repeating my question, I had a thought.

Sure enough – I was heading south on I-95 instead of north.  gps

Heeding the advice of my GPS I got off the highway on Chicken Foot Road (truly – I am not making that up!), crossed the highway overpass and joined the party that is known as I-95 north.  As soon as I did that, the GPS was happy and told me to stay on that road now for a couple hundred miles.

Jerry and I both wondered how that happened.  The location of our hotel  had a lot of construction, causing both of us to pay extra attention to the signs for I-95 north.  Even as I turned onto the ramp it felt wrong to me.  I questioned myself if I was headed north or south, but thought, “I followed the signs.”

What a great picture of life at times.  I think I read the signs correctly, and I follow where I believe they are leading.  But it’s not always the right path.  Signs may be a good indicator, but can be changed.

My GPS was the ultimate authority that day, pinpointing where I was, what was ahead and what was behind.  This inanimate object had more wisdom about my movements than I had.

How much more does the living, breathing Word of God need to be my ultimate authority?   I need to subject the signs I read on my journey to the truth in the Bible.  If they align with the Bible I am moving in the right direction.  If they don’t it is time to stop, listen, and read more to avoid backtracking.

 

I’ve Got Your Back!

Last week while driving to my first appointment of the day I inadvertently incited road rage in someone.  I wanted to change lanes and looked (twice in fact!) to make sure there was no one in the lane, or in my blind spot.  Seeing none, I began to change lanes when I heard a horn beep.  I looked again and did not see anyone so finished the lane change (assuming the horn was directed towed someone else).  Then the horn was “laid on” to clearly let me know it was meant for me.  I don’t know where the car was when I looked, (they may have turned out of a parking lot at the same time I was changing lanes).  Regardless of where they came from I realized I missed seeing them.  Perhaps you’ve noticed there really isn’t a good way to let another driver know you realized your mistake.  I tried to wave gently indicating that I was wrong and was sorry.  Either he couldn’t pick up that was the meaning I meant to convey or he didn’t care. Meanwhile I was simply grateful that no person or property was injured or hurt.

As I continued down the road I looked back a time or two to see if the person was still behind me.  He drove a car that looked similar to others on the road (I am not one to know car details).  About 2 miles after hearing the horn I stopped for a red light.  While waiting I heard an unusual sound behind my car and looked in the rear view mirror – just in time to see the man swing his jacket (which I think he had over his head) and walk back to his car.  The light turned green.

I thought it odd and then noticed that there was a “sticker” on my rear window.  I found a safe place to pull into a Car stickerpublic parking  lot, thankful that the driver had turned off and did not follow e.  I got out of my car and read the note he left me.  Let’s just say that he identified me by a name that is not a typical part of my vocabulary and shared his thoughts on how I could improve my driving.

I took the sticker off my car, got back inside my car and cried!  I think I was just shaken that I was trying to be safe, and felt violated by his actions, though I am glad that a sticker was all he had on hand – and nothing more aggressive. I called my hubby.  I assured him I was fine, but needed to tell him what happened.  Because I wasn’t that far from home he suggested I come home for a few minutes.

Driving home I found myself praying for the driver.  I have no idea who he is, and likely never will.  But that man must have had a tough morning, or live with a great deal of anger, pain or pressure to respond in such a manner.  I asked God to blessed with peace and smiles from people throughout the day; and that he would encounter Jesus and know His de
ep love for him.

A few minutes to be held by husband and have him pray for me as I reentered my day was just what I needed.

Back into my car, and on the road again I found myself looking around at all the drivers and praying.  I noticed one of the cars on the road carried two men I know from church.  We waved to each other and smiled.  As i got to the area where earlier that morning I had the unpleasant encounter, the car carrying these two brothers in Christ changed lanes and followed me, for the next couple of miles until they turned off the road.

I smiled and grinned as I thanked God.  It’s just like Him to show up in a way I can’t help but see to remind me that “He’s got my back” and I am never out of range of His care.