Riches in Secret Places (part 1 of 2)

This was first printed in a book entitled Hope published by Calvary Church Souderton, PA in 2012.  It is edited and reprinted here with permission.

Having worked with people with disabilities for most of my career, and now being married 16 years to Jerry (who was born with cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair) one might think that I have a handle on what it’s like to live with disability in the family.  Some days I do, but surprises pop up in the most unexpected ways.

Early on one of those surprises was the pace of life – it became so much slower!  Things I was able to do in a matter of minutes before could now take closer to an hour; there was no such thing as quick!  Just to load in and out of the van adds 15 minutes to anything we do!  Spontaneity is really not in our vocabulary.   Yet even as the pace of life became slower; the demands on my time and life increased significantly.  Essentially I have more things to do in less time.  Slower and fuller – what a combination!  Disability has been described as a part time job; and sometimes it feels like a job without benefits . . .

But there are benefits, and one of my favorite passages about those benefits is in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah.   Cyrus is the man God has appointed (though Cyrus hasn’t acknowledged God’s role in his life) to lead the children of Israel out of captivity.

Isaiah 45:2-3    I will go before you and will level the mountains I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. (My note – how’s that for making things accessible!)   I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

Treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.  I think it is safe to say that if someone (especially the God of the Universe) offered treasures and riches to us we’d love to accept if there were no strings attached; but there are some strings attached, so to Metal Doorspeak.  Isaiah tells us those blessings are found in darkness and secret places.  Not usually places we willingly go – especially if the path is not well marked or heavily traveled.

 

I am not saying life affected by disability is all darkness, but there are some tough times; and it’s ok to admit that.  There are things that just don’t make sense, yet because God is there and He is the one making the way before us, we know the adventure is not in vain.  Don’t miss the last part of verse 3 – God says He give us these treasures and riches in darkness and secret so that we may know that He is God and He is personally and intimately involved in our lives (summoning us by name) whether we are ready to acknowledge that or not.

Can I tell you about one of those days in my life?  I had a plan, my plan.  I had gotten Jerry up early (which means I was up even earlier); at 4:00 am to be exact, for a 6:30 am breakfast meeting. Once he was out the door at 6:00 I laid back down for 30 more minutes before getting up to have a quiet time and head to the Y.  It seemed like a good idea to me, and one that would surely honor God because it included taking care of me both physically and spiritually. . .

Check back here tomorrow for the conclusion.

 

And at the end of the day . . .

If you have been reading my blog for any time you probably know that I am married to this guy Jerry, with whom I also happen to work.  Often people say to us, “I don’t know how you do it, I could never work with my spouse.”

To be honest sometimes we don’t know how we do it either.  And sometimes we have to work through what Doug (who also works with his wife) calls, “Business Card Roulette.”  It goes something like this.  While we are inside the walls of this building my business card trumps yours.  Once we walk out the door that may all change!

Thinking back, in the twenty plus years we’ve been married we have only worked at separate companies for about 6 of those years.  I recall many conversations when we were dating and engaged and dreaming about our future – almost always they included working together.

Was that because we were starry eyed in love?  Most definitely.

Is it because we waited longer than most to marry so we wanted to redeem as much time together as we could?  Possibly.

Is it because we are strong willed and enjoy a good challenge?  Some days it feels like that.

Is it the way God built us?  Likely.

One of Jerry’s favorite lines about working together is:

The best part about working other? We’re together all the time (said with a positive lilt in his voice).  The hardest part about working together?  We’re together ALL. . . THE . . . TIME (said in a different tone to the previous statement).  And, at the end of the day SHE gets to take me home (again with a smiling lilt in his voice).

Are there days when a little more time apart might be beneficial?  Certainly, and over the years we have found a number of ways to create some personal space even in our togetherness at work and home.

Overall though, I am thankful that this is the way God built us and called us together.  There is something very soul settling to know that the one I am one with on this earth shares my dreams, my challenges, my days and my nights.

It may not work for everyone, but I am glad it does for us!

 

Hope and a Pink Moose Sock

A few years ago Jerry took me on an Alaskan cruise.  I think he hoped it would satisfy my desire to see Alaska and we could move on.  I certainly did enjoy the trip and the amazing beauty we saw. The trip actually whet my appetite to go back inland to see more of this gorgeous creation.

The one animal I really wanted to see was a moose.  I saw a number of
other animals, but no moose.  So instead I bought a pair of pink and moose sockbrown socks that had moose on them.  Yes, a purchase that had absolutely nothing to do with the “real” Alaska, but they were a fun memory for me.

Once I got home I wore them a couple times.  The last time I wore them (in 2013) only one sock came out of the laundry.  I was disappointed, but certain that the errant sock would show up soon attached via static cling to a sheet, towel or one of Jerry’s t shirts.

But it never did.  So I tucked the one sock away in a basket of socks, still believing that one day it’s mate would return.  When our dryer needed to be replaced in 2014 I asked the delivery guy to please check carefully to make sure no socks were stuck in it before he carried it away . . .he did and there weren’t any.

Fast forward to early December 2015 when I had foot surgery.  Finally I was able to wear my one pink moose sock since my other foot was adorned in bandages and a surgical shoe.  Such a fun perk.

Valerie

Over Christmas I shared that story with some of my family.  One of my niece’s (Valerie to be exact, who said if I shared this I had to credit her – so this one’s for you kid!) said, “Wow, that’s hope!”My family snickered, especially when I said I was going to blog about that. But she’s right!

Recently one our pastors spoke about hope and pointed out that Hope is never about the past or the present.  Hope is ALWAYS about the future – I think now I’ll really hang on to that pink moose sock.  It is a great example of hope and a reminder that “Hope is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.  So you better get busy living or get busy dying.”  (Credit to Andy D in The Shawshank Redemption)

Time to get back to being busy living –  who knows, maybe when the washer needs replacing I’ll find the other pink moose there!

 

To Roll a Mile In His Seat

I speak fairly regularly on the effect disability has on the entire family.  Having lived and worked with disability in my home for more than 30 years I genuinely felt I had a pretty good understanding of the reality of disability and ambulation.

Then I had foot surgery . . . .

To be fair the Doctor told me in advance that I would need to stay off my foot for two weeks.  I was sure though that I’d be able to go back to work after a coupe of days, after all I have a high pain threshold.

After surgery the Doc told Jerry, “now it’s your turn to try to tie her down the best you can for the next two weeks!”  Thankfully I listened and heard what he said – I can do two weeks now off my foot, and a relatively reasonable extended recovery.  Or I can push it now and then have a long drawn out recovery.

Prior to discharge from the hospital a Physical Therapist gave me a pair of crutches.  It didn’t take more than a few steps to realize they weren’t for me!  So then we tried a walker – still meant I had to hop on one foot only, but at least I had more stability.

The walker got me home (with the help of a friend and the lift on Jerry’s van).  But once I was home I took the seat of honor – one of Jerry’s older power wheelchairs.  Now that was the way to travel and survive this journey!  I could keep my foot highly elevated and still be able to mo

elevated foot
Snuggled in his chair, under his Tiger throw, elevating and icing my foot.

ve through the house.  A few days later a friend lent me a knee walker.  I’v
e been alternating the two throughout the week.

You know, sitting in that chair, even knowing that when absolutely necessary I could stand up for a transfer, gave ma a whole new perspective on my husband.  It’s not as easy as it looks to just manipulate that little joy stick and successfully navigate the corners, halls and doorways of a home. Getting things from the refrigerator take a considerable longer amount of time that I ever thought they “should.”  Shutting the blinds, or putting laundry away – it just doesn’t happen in the same way.  It’s hard to balance a meal you’ve just taken out of the microwave on your lap with one hand while moving the chair with the other hand.

Then add to that fun two wheelchairs, and a Christmas tree and the challenge moves to a whole new level.  If you want to see the fun for yourself you have a week or so left to come view our “dance” in person.

On the flip side Jerry, while not having the option to walk for this week has commented several times about, “Wow, you go through this every time you get a meal out for us?”  And mind you – he is “just’ reheating food that other have graciously brought us!   A quick trip to the grocery store becomes a full evening activity for him.  Taking a couple of hangers of clean laundry to the closet really does take about 10-15 minutes to complete.

Yes, this is just a temporary arrangement in our home and lives, but the eduction and appreciation we have both gained will hopefully impact our lives and appreciation of one another for years to come!  I know the laughter and tears from the memories will be there.

Forget that walking a mile in his shoes – I’ll ride in his old wheels any time!

When the Helper Becomes the One to Help

A year or so ago I took an informal survey among my caregiving friends asking them to complete the sentence, “You know you’re a caregiver when . . . ”  The responses ran the gamut from humorous to painful to thought provoking.  They were also plentiful.  If you’d like to read the compilation of all the responses, click here.

Over the last week I have been thinking about one of those responses, “You know you’re a caregiver when you consider your own hospital admission as a vacation.”  Tomorrow I am scheduled for some routine surgery on my foot.  Recovery will put me out of commission for a couple of weeks, but I am looking forward to the rest.

We’ll be in good shape though. Jerry has an excellent team of friends who will graciously step in and cover for all his attendant care needs.  Work is at a place where I can manage a little more time off and ministry events should not be effected by my recovery.

But then the tricky part for me came – I had to acknowledge that I will need some help.  See, it is much easier to acknowledge that Jepush for helprry (or anyone else for that matter) needs assistance.  I have no problem asking for someone else.  As Jerry and I talked we realized that meal help would be needed.  It was a huge challenge for me to contact our church’s meal ministry and ask for a few meals to be provided for two weeks.  It is hard to go from being the caregiver to the receiver of care!

I thought back to other times I’ve had a medical need and how did we do it then?  I don’t remember doing all this scurrying around to prepare the house, or the need to ask for meals.

That’s when it  me – this is the first time I’ll be “down” for a time since Mom has gone.  Two and a half years later and we are still hitting a new “first.” Once again I am grateful in hindsight for ALL she did for us that I took so much for granted.  I wonder if God can let her know that I realize it now?

Yesterday I had a melt down of worry.  Jerry was a bit under the weather which totally changed all our plans for the day.  I wasn’t ready for that – I had my agenda of what needed to be done, and how I needed him to be ready to take care of me. And just like the caring Daddy He is, God met me right there with Luke 12:22-34.  Worrying won’t help me one bit, and in fact can harm me.  Our Abba Father, Daddy God knows our needs and He is m
eeting them.

In fact, once I pulled myself together and the day moved along I was blessed by so many people offering to help us in so many ways.

I am aso grateful that we are not alone.  We are surrounded by a church and friends and family who will and even want to help us if I’ll just let the stubborn pride drop and be willing to acknowledge I need them.

Hands Help Represents Question Human And Solution

 

 

The Story of Jerry, Joan and Joni Part 2

This is the conclusion of my previous post; to read part 1 click here.

At the end of that busy summer of camping ministries (which we both did) he called me at home. He didn’t declare any intentions that night – but still I knew something had changed in our conference friendship.

From August through December 1994 he would call me periodically at home. Because we had a six year friendship already under our belt these conversations quickly took our friendship deeper.

January and February our conversations grew rapidly from once a week to several times a week to daily to several times daily (remember these were before the days of one price calling plans – and we had a three hour time difference!). We also began to email each other (again, these were the days of paying per byte of email sent and received!).

J & J First Date
What kids! This picture was taken the weekend of our first face to face date weekend in Clarksville, IN

In March 1995 we decided it was time for a face to face visit and to meet family and friends. I flew to see Jerry in Indiana, meet his friends, and see his ministry. In April he flew out to CA to meet my friends and see my life. We got engaged that weekend. In May I met him in northwestern Ohio where he grew up. This gave me the opportunity to meet his family, friends and help with a weekend of camp Power Ministries hosted. In June he came back to northern CA and worked a week of Family Retreat I was running “on loan” to Joni and Friends from the ministry I worked with, Oaks of Hebron.

Late August Jerry’s friends and family packed his van and a trailer, which a friend of his drove to Cotati, CA to the (accessible) condo I had purchased a few years earlier. A few days later Jerry flew out. He lived in my condo and I housed with friends until we were married November 11, 1995 in Sebastopol, CA.

We lived in Cotati, CA for three years while I continued to work for Oaks of Hebron and Jerry worked for Congregational Awareness, Sonoma County Pro Life and the Redwood Gospel Mission.

In 1998 we knew we needed to move east to be closer to our parents as they aged and to make travel to our families more affordable. Through a long job search we ended up taking jobs in Fort Washington, PA. Jerry’s brother and sister flew out from Ohio and helped us make the drive across the country. My uncle and aunt came over from New Jersey to help us unpack and move into an apartment.

The jobs we came east for turned out to not be a good fit for us. But we were here, and enjoying reconnecting with extended family in the area. We worked a variety of temporary jobs, did a great deal of foster/respite care and bought a house in Souderton, PA.

At several times in both of our lives we had worked on loan or in partnership with Joni and Friends. We had both been recruited by them in the past for staff positions, but the timing was not right. We reached out again now in 2000 to Joni and Friends asking if they had any positions available for us or wanted to start a Philadelphia office. We were told that in the recent days Joni had mentioned that they needed to reconnect with the Bortons.

At that time Joni and Friends was not hiring, but was instituting a new program called “Ministry Associates.” We pioneered as their first Ministry Associates, while still working some temporary jobs and raising funds to support the ministry. We began to help Joni and Friends with their summer Family Retreats at Spruce Lake and worked to help churches understand people with disabilities and offer support to families. As the years went on we were both able to leave our temporary jobs and work full time with Disability Ministry Associates, though 90% of our work was on behalf of Joni and Friends.

We are honored to call Ken and Joni Tada our friends, and to work as ministry partners with them.
We are honored to call Ken and Joni Tada our friends, and to work as ministry partners with them.

God blessed and multiplied our work. December 31, 2006 we closed the office of Disability Ministry Associates (which was located in our home) and reopened that same office January 1, 2007 as full time employees with Joni and Friends. Jerry became the Director and I the Program Manager of Joni and Friends Greater Philadelphia (www.joniandfriends.org/greater-philadelphia).

In 2008 we moved the office out of our home to 121 E Chestnut St in Souderton PA. Later that spring we hired our first staff person, Becca, to be our administrative assistant.

Since then God has seen fit, through the generosity of many supporters, the wisdom of many advisors and the pounding on Heaven’s door of many prayer partners to grow us to a team of five full time staff, a dozen volunteers who serve on a weekly basis and hundreds more who serve throughout the year to reach into the lives of more than 400 families affected by disability and over 200 churches who serve them.

The Story of Jerry, Joan and Joni Part 1

Three of the questions I am most frequently asked:

  • How did you meet Jerry?
  • Have you ever met Joni?
  • When did you start working for Joni and Friends?

Questions 1 and 2 are relatively easy to answer (in the opposite order), and number three takes a little more explanation. So perhaps it is time to put the story of Jerry, Joan and Joni in writing. Though really it is the story of “J to the fourth power” – Jesus, Joni, Jerry & Joan.

In fact, that is the order in which I met them.  Clearly Jesus is the common thread between each of the other relationships.

It was in the late 80’s when I was working in northern CA (Sonoma County) in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities that I was invited to a meeting in Wisconsin. Joni Eareckson Tada was the driving force of this gathering of about 40 people who worked in disability ministries around the country. The goal was to develop a consortium of ministries to support each other and expand disability ministry.

Joni and jOan singing
Joni and I both enjoy praising God in song. It is a joy and pleasure when she invites me to harmonize with her as we did at this conference.

The first evening we had a meet and greet prior to dinner. That was the first time I met Joni face to face. I happened to be standing next to her when for reasons I cannot remember, the person facilitating the evening announced that the first ones to identify all 5 points of Calvinism would lead the way through the dinner line. Joni and I pulled our church history and theology knowledge together and lead the way to dinner! Periodically when we are together we giggle at the memory.

Jerry was at the same conference. Both our names are on the attendee list. I recall him as someone who was funny and wore polyester (he’ll say because it made his transfers easier!). I even played piano for some of the group sessions, yet he does not remember me at all.

The following year this consortium joined Joni and Friends in an International Congress on the Church and Disability, drawing about 900 people from around the world to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Late each evening about 10 of us would gather and play UNO as we debriefed our days. Jerry and I were each a part of that little gathering. Again, I recall how funny he was; and somehow I made enough of an impression on him that he could now recall me

For the next six or eight years Jerry and I continued to attend the same conference, he coming from Indiana and me from California. As conference buddies we spent some time chatting together each gathering. Throughout the years we had some occasional ministry related communication.

It was the spring of 1994 when Joni and Friends invited both of us to a weeklong Institute they were hosting in Knoxville, Tennessee. If memory serves me correctly, about 30 of us attended that training. At the end of the week, everyone went home – except Jerry and me. Neither of us knew the other planned to stay over. Jerry stayed because he had some work to do with a college in town. I stayed as my parents came over from North Carolina to visit with me before I headed home to the west coast.

Jerry joined my parents and I for a meal or two that weekend. I remember him calling our hotel room early Saturday morning saying his attendant called out sick, did I think my Dad would go help him get up that morning. Of course, my Dad went and helped. The only thing I remember my dad saying when he came back was, “that boy needs new socks – his have holes!” (What dad didn’t understand was that those holes came from Jerry’s dressing stick that he used to pull his socks up independently).

As far as I knew, we parted at the conclusion of that weekend as we had after any other conference – conference buddies who would see each other the next year. Only later did I learn that Jerry left saying, “God, I wish there was someone like Joan in Indiana.”

Check back here on Sunday for part 2!