It’s All About the Image

I grew up in a wonderful neighborhood in central New Jersey. Grandmom, and later my Uncle, lived in the house next door. I remember our sprawling yard, games of kickball and softball with the neighbors, and riding bikes to my friend’s house around the corner.  Summer cook outs and home made ice cream were a highlight. As far as I was concerned it was the best place ever to be a kid.

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We had a phone number for the town of Pennington, a mailing address of Trenton and my parents paid their taxes to Hopewell Township. When I went to college and people asked where I was from  I had a choice. I started by saying Pennington, NJ which is just outside of . . .  Here is where the choice came in. Pennington is about equal distance from Princeton and Trenton, NJ. Truthfully I spent much more time in Trenton growing up than I did Princeton. But Princeton sounded so much classier because of the University, Seminary and the Governor lived there. More often than not I would identify as being from near Princeton.

Recently I went home again. My parents haven’t lived there for nearly 30 years, but my uncle is still there. Every time I go back, his house still elicits the memories of Grandma.  But the neighborhood feels less like the place I grew up. New retail shops have popped up, traffic patterns have changed. That is to be expected.  Still that does not stop the sadness from coming when I see how run down parts of my beloved street have become, including our own (former) house.

I was amused though, to see how much “Princeton” has expanded.  No, not the town itself, but within the first couple miles of crossing into NJ from PA I began to see signs for Princeton Business Park, Princeton Commons, South Princeton Church, etc.

Much like my own experience, these buildings are closer to Trenton than they are to Princeton.  Somehow it seemed ok when I said it.  When I see these signs I scoff and princeton-97827_1280think, “get over it, you are just trying to seem more prestigious by calling yourself Princeton.  You can probably charge higher rent too.”

I guess I am not the only one who got hung up on image building.

 

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?

 

 

 

The Crucible of Marriage

Last week a Facebook friend shared a link from the website Holy Ruckus.  It is a letter written by a guest who witnessed a young couple’s wedding ceremony  The letter is written in a different style than I write.  It comes from a faith perspective that is different than my own.  But I believe sometimes we need to hear things from a different voice or perspective. Those experiences provide a fresh way to look at, in this case, marriage.  There is much in her letter that I hope is characteristic of my marriage.  Read it here and then please leave me a comment below.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Carpet or Me?

It was late summer/early fall when Jerry moved from Indiana to California to marry me in mid-November. This time of year brings to mind the last minute preparations we made for our wedding, and the adjustments we encountered now living in the same area and learning to do life together. Over the next couple weeks leading up to our anniversary I will share some of those adjustments.

Before I even knew there was a possibility of “Joan and Jerry” I had purchased a condo. I purposely purchased a ground level single story because I wanted my friends with disabilities to come to my home. Though it was a ground level, there was still that nasty little three or four inch step up into the front door. For friends who visited periodically a small piece of plywood worked fine.

Once Jerry moved in (for the two months prior to our wedding he moved into my home, and I moved in with friends) we needed a more stable entry solution. A friend built a much wider semi-permanent ramp. Another friend volunteered to paint it. Jerry agreed he would stay inside that day. Before I went to work I pulled the ramp away from the door so he would remember to not wheel on to a wet ramp. We asked the painting friend to please not put the ramp back, I would do that in the evening to be sure it was completely dry.

Later that afternoon Jerry heard the mailman outside and saw the ramp was back in place, assuming that meant it was dry. He rolled out to get the mail and looked around our concrete patio and the driveway; he saw no paint residue so went back into the house.

Jerry has this fun habit of “pacing” in his wheelchair, by turning circles while he is reading mail or talking on the phone. After sorting the mail and doing a few circles he looked down (at the one year old light gray carpet I had installed when I bought the place).

A few minutes later my phone rang at work. The first words I heard were, “Do you want me to call the moving truck back?”

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I asked why would he ask that?  He told me what had happened, and though the concrete did not show any paint, the soft light colored carpet now sported brown circles of brown oil based paint! Apparently, our friend felt the paint was dry to the touch and put the ramp back in place.

My response was “Don’t move, I’ll be right home!”  I hung up and asked my co-workers how to get oil based paint out of carpet. After a quick stop to buy the cleaning solution I went home. First thing I did was pull the ramp away from the door!

We spent the evening cleaning Jerry’s tires, and scrubbing the paint out of the carpet. Jerry felt horrible. This was not the way he wanted to start our new life. Most of the paint came out, along with a slight bit of the carpet color. When we sold that house three years later if you looked carefully you could see light circles by the front door.

wheelchair-2047415_1920Over the years this story has made us laugh. I am sorry this happened to Jerry and howdistressed he felt when it happened, but I am glad it happened. It made it very clear from our earliest days together that stuff is just that – stuff. It NEVER is more important than people, especially each other.

 

If you come to our home today hopefully you will see that we strive to be good stewards of the resources God has given us, but they don’t control us. Our house is kid and disability friendly, it is not a museum. I want Jerry, and we both want our family and friends, to be comfortable and at home. Spots come and go – but Joan and Jerry – we’re in it for the long haul!

 

Enhanced Benefit?

In my part time work in a financial planer’s office I sometimes hear phone conversations between  one of our customer service reps and fund companies.  One of the questions that still catches my attention is when our rep asks the vendor if the particular product they are discussing has “an enhanced death benefit?”

I  shake my head and smile.  I don’t know how the vendor replies, but my answer every time wihtout fail is YES!  I have an enhanced death benefit – and it is called Heaven with Jesus!

Occasionally when someone has asked how I was doing I would reply something to the effect of, “It’s been a hard day, but it beats the alternative.”  One day it struck me how absolutely untrue that statement is for those who know Jesus Christ, so I no longer answer that way.   The absolute best day of my life on this earth cannot begin to compare what I will experience upon entering the pearly gates and meeting my Savior and Lord face to face (or more likely face to feet as I fall on my face before Him!)

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The reason I love and follow Jesus though, is not just because I have “an enhanced death benefit.”  I also have an enhanced life benefit.  Yes,  Jesus took my sin (and yours) upon Him when He died, so I was no responsible to pay that penalty.  By rising from the dead, and giving me His Holy Spirit as a seal on my heart and life, He made His life and power available to me each and every moment.

While the question my co worker asks a vendor strikes me funny, it is totally appropriate in the context of the office.  What is really the silly sad reality is how often I, who know better, do not fully embrace the enhanced life benefits at my disposal.

. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10b NASB

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If this post sounds like crazy talk to you, or has left you confused, please leave a comment.  I’d like to interact with you about this!

And Tonight’s Guest Is . . .

Less than 3 weeks ago we took hospitality and hosting to a new level when we started to share our guest room on Airbnb.  Our listing went live late on a Wednesday evening.  Living in a small borough we thought it would be weeks before we’d get a hit.  We were wrong.  Thursday afternoon we received our first reservation for four nights.  From that point on we have had steady traffic.  We have now hosted four guests over 12 nights and have two more guests booked this week.

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Eighteen days after opening our home, we have learned:

  • There is a greater demand for overnight accommodations in our little town than we would have ever guessed.
  • Travelers don’t make reservations too far in advance. Some requests come in for the very same day. None of our guests have reserved more than a week in advance.

Our first guests were a pleasant young couple from the Washington DC area.  They made a same day reservation.  While chatting after check in we learned the husband was from Bethlehem, “PA.”  Not Pennsylvania, but Palestine.  The irony was not lost on us that one of the first people we had room for was from a place where there was no room in the inn for Jesus.

Two gentlemen, while only booking short term rentals, were in need of transitional housing while they fulfill contracts with nearby businesses.  Both of these gentlemen were a pleasure to host and each asked if we would consider a long-term rental agreement with them (30 days or more).   They commented on how they visited other possible hosts and preferred our home.  We offer a private guest room with access to 1/3 of the closet. They share the bathroom with our long term tenant and friend, Scott.  Guests can make use of our kitchen and share the living room with us.  I am certain it is not the most spacious, or fanciest place they’ve stayed, yet they have stated they felt most comfortable here.

Jerry noted that some of our guests seem to have many more resources (financially) than we have, yet they are restless and searching.  We have less in the way of financial resources, but share joy and peace in our humble home. Our hope is that what guests are experiencing is the presence of the Spirit of God.

We started hosting for the income, it is an “easy” way to supplement our budget.  We have quickly learned that this type of hospitality is about so much more.  As we consider reservation requests, prepare the room, and engage with each person for who will occupy it, we pray for them.  Interacting with those who pass through our home is broadening our understanding of other cultures. We pray it has also planted a seed in their heart of the eternal home that can be theirs with Jesus.

Stay tuned and see how God continues to use this venture for His glory.

feedback.jpg                                                                                                                       Have you stayed in a host home or Airbnb while traveling?  If so we’ll love to hear your experiences.  Please comment below, or on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you are reading this.

Crowding Out Jesus

I see it so much clearer now.  I have heard countless messages and read scores of devotionals about keeping Jesus first in our lives.  It wasn’t until i sat down to my Breakfast with Jesus that I saw how subtlety I displace Him.

The morning started as each day does.  I gathered my breakfast, Bible and journal while taking my seat at one end of the table.  Then I looked to the place setting at the opposite end of the table and began to talk to Jesus.  As I did, this was what I saw:

Overcrowding Jesus

I apologized to Jesus for the stuff that was filling up His place.  Even as I spoke those words to Him, I knew His response.

“This is just a picture of what it is like for me in your life, Joan.”  He reminded me that sometimes the crowding can come from things that are good for me (like the fruit) – helping others, supporting my husband, loving our family, etc.  But if those actions replace Jesus, they need to change.

He went on to point out some of the rubbish that crowds Him out. (Please no calls from the Domino’s people – I am not saying their pizza is trash, it was just an empty box that needed to be thrown away.)  My garbage may be too much time on social media, finding my satisfaction in anything other than Jesus, ignoring a call I know He gave me, giving into fear and lies from the enemy, and on and on.

Yes, I know I can still have breakfast with Jesus when there are things at His place on the table, but it feels awkward and uncomfortable.  Having that tangible spot has provided a visual check when I set something down there to consider how I am doing keeping His place inside my life clear and focused.