I Left Him

Alone.

For one week.

In his back up wheelchair that is not retrofitted for him to drive his van. So now he is homebound too.

How could I leave him like that? He told me to. I offered to cancel my travel and stay home. He said no.

He knew I needed this time away. I knew he needed me to take him at his word that he would be ok. We both needed to trust God, and our wonderful circle of friends.

And they came through.

I left meals for him, friends also shared some meals.  My sister took care of household needs. Others stepped in to fill the gaps of morning and evening attendant care. A couple offered to drive him to church. Someone else walked uptown with him one night for dinner.

d56a9-img_3763Did we miss each other?  You better believe we did.  It’s healthy for us to remember that we each can make it on our own, even in challenging situations.  But even better is the reminder that we don’t want to make it on our own.  We truly are better together.

 

 

 

What about you?  What is your best tip for travel that does not include the whole family? Any lessons God has taught you in times of being apart?

 

 

 

First Holiday Memories

We were married in November, so started the holiday season right after we got back from our honeymoon. I was excited to cook our first Thanksgiving meal and share it with my husband.

I got up early to make the stuffing and prep the turkey for roasting. I made everything I could from scratch. It was a long day but it was truly a labor of love. I set the table with our newly gifted china.  holiday-table-1926938_1920When everything was ready I called Jerry to the table.

We sat at the table laden with food, holding hands as Jerry offered our thanks back to God. He had barely completed the “amen” when I began to sob.

“Sweetheart what’s wrong?” he asked.

“I don’t feel good,” I cried.

Jerry asked me why I didn’t say anything earlier, or why I went to all the effort of the meal preparation that could have waited till I felt better.

“Because I wanted to make you a nice meal.”  And with that I crashed completely. I went to bed and curled up under the blankets while Jerry ate our first Thanksgiving alone.

I was so sick I couldn’t even get back up to put away the meal. Jerry called a friend who came and cleaned up the table, stashed away leftovers and washed all the dishes.

With this experience very fresh in my mind, the Christmas festivities began. This would be the first Christmas Jerry was not with his family. I wanted to bring a taste of home to his first west coast Christmas and do something special for him. I had heard Jerry and his family speak of Buckeyes, the candy type that look like the nut of the Buckeye tree. These were one of Jerry’s favorite treats, though I had never had one.

While Jerry was out I called his brother to ask how to make Buckeyes. He directed me to call Aunt Dollene, whom I had only met once. Of course she welcomed my call and gave me the recipe and explained to me how they should look when finished. I didn’t have all the exact ingredients she mentioned, but figured what I had could substitute sufficiently. Boy was I wrong!

74622_1723726333846_6721513_nWhen Jerry came home I was surrounded by sheets of parchment full of goopy peanut butter and chocolate puddles. I told him they were supposed to be Buckeyes. Somehow he contained his laughter and used a spoon to pick up some “California Buckeyes” and told me how good they tasted. They weren’t what he was used to, but he was grateful I made the effort. As the years went on I learned to use the correct ingredients and my Buckeyes came out as expected. Making Buckeyes has become part of our family traditions.

 

arrow-1538686_1920What are some of the holiday traditions that became part of your life through marriage?  I’d love to hear them, please share.  

Enjoy this simple recipe to try one of our favorite treats!

Buckeye recipe.

 

Twenty Plus Years in Graceland

This weekend Jerry and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. We marked the day quietly, just the two of us. This has been a hard year; the days that followed our 21st wedding anniversary carry some painful markings. If you are not aware of that journey, you can read some of the background here and here. Though we believe we did the right thing by resigning from a ministry we loved, the outworking of those decisions went very differently than we anticipated.

Perhaps that is why God allowed us to spend our 21st anniversary at Graceland. Yes, that Graceland in Memphis. We are not Elvis fans, but we were visiting our niece, and when in Memphis one of the things you need to do is the Graceland tour. At the time, Jerry Gracelandlaughed at the romantic way we celebrated number 21, the outlandishly decorated  rooms, gold records filling the walls, a strip of stores loaded with Elvis souvenirs, and banana cream treats. Still I found it oddly fitting to celebrate our anniversary at Graceland. The name seems to be an apt description of a good marriage.

Just a few weeks before visiting Memphis, we took another trip. This one to a marriage retreat hosted by Winshape in Rome, GA. If you are ever given the opportunity to attend a Winshape Marriage Retreat don’t hesitate for a moment – say yes without delay. The session we attended focused on working through conflict in marriage. At first I was a bit disappointed with this theme as conflict is something we had learned to manage. But it was the topic of the weekend we were gifted to attend. Little did we know how God was preparing us for the days to come.

Trustwalk Winshape
Preparing for the trust walk – Jerry will lead me through an obstacle course.

Jerry and I agree that while this year has probably been the hardest of our years together, our marriage is far better, stronger, and actually more fun. We have healthier communication, we understand and appreciate each other in new ways. For this we are thankful.

As we begin this new year of marriage, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we have learned in the graceland of marriage this past year. Winshape taught us that “Conflict is the pathway to real intimacy. It guides us to a deeper knowing” (Todd & Beverly Sandel, Winshape Speakers).The conflicts we were experiencing outside of our marriage, impacted our relationship deeply and we learned to apply a liberal amount of grace. Here are some of the signposts of grace we discovered.

1) Extend grace to one another as we each process grief and loss very differently and on our own individual time table. There was a time when we couldn’t help each other. We just needed to give space for the other to be. Thankfully most times when one of us was down the other was on their way up, so we could share encouragement.

2) Extend grace in what we hear from one another and how we respond. We had to make a conscious decision to not allow one another’s words to immediately alienate or anger us. Sometimes we simply could not get the right words out. We need to think the best of our spouse while clarifying what we heard.

3) Extend grace to ourselves rather than beat ourselves up when we have one of those days when we just need to be . . . and not do. Or just needed to be sad or cry.

4) Accept the grace offered by the other, try not to talk them out of extending that because of how messed up we are.

5)  Accept the grace from our Lord, who by allowing us to wake up together each day and sustaining us with breath and heartbeats means He is not done with us yet and still has a good plan for us together.

Winshape was right, conflict has brought us into a deeper and sweeter relationship with each other, and with our God. I wonder what lies ahead in this new year?

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What about you?  How have you see grace lived out in your marriage?

 

When Will We Get It?

It happened again.  My heart is broken as I heard the latest news report on another child with disabilities who was abandoned by his Mom in some woods.  There is absolutely nothing about this tragedy that is right.  Even so, it’s an indication of how hard life with disability can be.

Two years ago there was a similar situation in Philadelphia.  The reflections I wrote then still apply and reposted below.  Church – these stories beg for us to act  – what is your response?

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I am sure that by now most of you have heard or read the story of the 21 year old non verbal young man with cerebral palsy who was abandoned by his mother for more than a week along Cobbs Creek Parkway in Philadelphia while she went to her visit her boyfriend.  This young man laid in the park for multiple days with only a blanket and a Bible.

hospice-1797305_1920The mother, who has been arrested and is currently hospitalized (reason unknown), has been berated by all who hear the story.  I have to agree that this is a horrendous situation.  I am grateful that this young man lived and is now being cared for by CHOP and other family members.  There really is no excuse for what the Mom did.  It is wrong to endanger her son’s life in this way.

Now don’t flog me; while I completely disagree with the actions of the Mom and cannot condone them on any level, I have some compassion for the woman and some understanding of what she may have been up against.

Caregiving is hard!  It’s constant and continual.  I know, I’ve been doing it full time about a year less than this Mom.  And gratefully the person I care for is verbal and independent with all but his personal care.  He also has attendant care that spells me off a few days a week.  Even so, caregiving is exhausting and relentless.

While some may say she should have sought services to help, we are all aware of how difficult it is to get services through the social service agencies and governmental avenues.  If there is funding available the wait can very long, and often appropriate caregiving support is difficult to locate.  Again, this does not excuse what this Mom did.  Honestly what this story tells me is that I am in the right line of work!

The answer to the challenges of life with disability and caregiving is NOT more money or better services (though they may help).  The answer is Jesus Christ and His family.  The only hope we have is the hope that is greater than anything in this world, and carries us into eternity because life on this earth is not all there is .  While we are still in this world though, the answer includes those of us who call ourselves the Church (not any individual location, building or gathering but rather those who claim Jesus as Lord of life and want to live for Him) taking seriously the call Christ gives us to care for one another, to love one another and bear one another’s burdens.

These stories reminds me that it’s time for the Church to step it up.  I wonder if these stories would have had a different ending if some people in the community who are Christians would have come along side these Moms and been there to encourage her, help care for her son and let her know there is a better way than abandonment? 

I don’t know that for sure – there are so many factors involved in every family and life.  But this story gives me a renewed sense of passion to go to work tomorrow and build the passion, capacity and burden within the Christian community to come alongside families affected by disability so this type of thing never ever happens again!

Who do you know in your community who cares for a family member with a disability?  

What can you do this week to share hope and joy to let them know they are not alone?

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Happy 90th in Heaven!

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Dad and I on a college visit in 1976

Today my Dad would have turned 90.  Sadly for me, I never even got to know him as an 80 year old.  God called him home at the age of 74.  I’ve written about Dad before.  Rereading that brings tears of joy and sweet remembrances.

A lot has changed in the last sixteen years Dad.  The family has grown so much.  You have a granddaughter-in-law you never got to meet, but you two would have had a great time together Dad.  She’s not afraid to ask questions, and you were never afraid to answer questions, or ask other ones.  I would have LOVED to hear the conversations you and Courtney would have had.  You would have also appreciated what a great wife she is to Nathan.

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Nathan and his oldest, who is now 9!

All your grands have graduated college.  Two are wrapping up their Doctorates (one MD, one PHD).  You have 7 adorable and amazing great grandchildren who would have worn you out playing Yankee Doodle and combing your hair.  Ok dad, there is one thing I wish I could forget – the smell of Vitalis in your hair.  As a little girl, I loved when you sat and the floor and let me “do” your hair, but really – Vitalis?  I don’t even think it is manufactured any more, but the memory of that smell lingers on . . .

There are so many things I wish I would have asked you.  I didn’t know then all the things I would like to know now.  Sometimes Dad I think I need you more now in my late 50’s than I did in my teens and 20’s.  By the time we get to this age people think we know stuff, but I am not so sure.  How did you pull it off so confidently Dad?

When I stop and think about it, I know how you did it Dad.  Three of these well worn Biblesmom-and-dad-biblesjpg were yours.  The fourth is Moms.  The most consistent memory I have of each of you is the time you spent in the Word of God.  I am so happy to have these well used Bibles in my writing nook.  How precious to read the comments you each made as you worked through a passage.

On this 90th birthday Dad let me once again say I love you, and thank God for giving me the privilege of being your daughter.  You taught me well, and most importantly pointed me to the One who does have all the answers.  I look forward to the day Dad, when after I meet Jesus face to face, I get to hear you sing in the choir – Oh what a day that will be!

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,