Thanks for the Compliment

A few hours ago, I returned from a weekend away with some ladies. Jerry encourages me to take advantage of opportunities like this, and works hard to schedule enough attendants to cover my time away. He tells me the first 24 hours I am away he enjoys full control of the remote. Which means, at least at this season, baseball is on all the time. If it is not on the television, he is watching a game in person.

By the second day the novelty has worn off and he is ready for me to come home. He remembers all the things he did not enjoy about living alone.

Like most of you, when I come home I unpack my car. We update each other on our time apart. And then it happens, no matter what time of day it is Jerry apologizes that he needs a little nap. I know that a little nap in this situation means a long solid period of deep sleep.
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I sometimes forget how much energy Jerry expends to live day to day. When I am away he does his best to keep things as tidy and together as he is able, increasing the amount of energy he expends. Giving me the grace to get a break, he accepts greater responsibility on his personal resources.

I could be frustrated that after being apart for a few days, I come home and he sleeps. Instead, I embrace it as a compliment. To me, it means he feels safe and content. We both know we’ll have the time to talk and tackle all the life decisions we have ahead of us tomorrow. Lord willing that is. And if we aren’t gifted that time tomorrow, we won’t need to worry about the decisions.

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Is there something in your life that could bother or irritate you, but it you look at it from another perspective it brings you joy. I would love to hear your story. Please share.

 

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?

The Future in My Past

Village Inn. A restaurant my friends and I frequented in college and in our young adult years. We counted on endless coffee and appetizers or desserts that when shared worked within our limited budgets. It’s been about 30 years since I was in one of their restaurants. That is, until I was house hunting in Florida a few weeks ago.

Seeing the familiar Village Inn logo flooded my mind with memories of the friends from that time in my life. Those memories drew me in for brunch.

In the past, my friends and I were the majority of the customers, making for a young crowd.  This time I was in the minority, being among the 5 youngest customers in the restaurant. From my booth, I had a clear view of those arriving. I smiled at the couples shuffling in together, some holding hands, others helping the other manage their mobility equipment. I realized that I was seeing a glimpse of Jerry and me 20 or 30 years in the future (if God grants us those years). man-3199386_1920

Our move to Florida is not for retirement, at least not for several more years. But seeing these people filled me with joy and anticipation of growing old(er) with Jerry. I want to be one of those older couples still holding hands while shuffling in together.

The following week, I observed another sweet elderly couple join me in a waiting room. As she came in with her walker, her husband carried her purse. I am a sucker for that look, it brings out the sentimental part of me. Sitting nearby their conversation wafted to my ears.

It was midafternoon and they were deciding if they had time to get dinner before going to a concert. As they talked about similar events they attended the husband referred to one as “high class and sophisticated.” Upon hearing this his wife said, “well maybe you don’t want to go to this one then, it is classical music.” Not missing a beat her hubby replied, “If you want to go dear, I do too.”

Awwww – I love that!

I don’t know how many more years God will give us, or if we’ll have the health and abilities to get out and about like these dear ones. Whatever time God gives us will be sweet. In fact, I find my attitude toward growing older becoming one of anticipation.

man-1050528_1920What about you?  What do you anticipate about growing older with your loved one?  What brings you joy as you think about the years ahead?

 

Driving Mr Jerry

This is week 3 of Jerry using his back up wheelchair while waiting on a new right motor for his regular chair. As I noted last week, that means he is unable to drive his van.

If you live with disability in your family you know that this is not all that unusual, these things happen. Paperwork drags on and on, calls don’t get returned, repairs can take weeks, if not months. Most of us could win a Gold Medal if waiting or insurance hassles were Olympic sports.

The difference this week is that I am back from my trip, and I am now, “Driving Mr Jerry.”  (Too bad a movie like that has already been made, I am sure ours would be a hit comedy)!  At least he is no longer housebound.

Yesterday Jerry had scheduled service for the lift on his van. There was no sense in him going along for the ride. I rearranged my schedule and took the van to the appointed service, about 45 minutes away from home. The shop is fantastic and provides a nice waiting area. I packed enough work to keep me busy for three years.

322615_3126101352345_993835468_oPrior to the van appointment I met with someone who has a child with a disability. My friend commented about how weary she is. She went on to say one way she keeps going is to realize what a privilege it is to serve Jesus by serving her child. She asked if that was the same among spouses?  As I thought about it she went on to describe how my trip to take the van for service was serving Jesus.

My life goal has been to love and serve God by loving and serving others. Given that, my friend’s comment should have been no surprise to me, but it was. I love Jerry, which means that (most days) it is a pleasure and joy to assist him. But I had somehow forgotten that by serving him I am also serving my Lord.

That reminder put a new spin on my day. When I got home that evening after running other errands the unexpected visitors we had, the unplanned need Jerry asked me to help with were no big deal. Getting to love and serve others while remembering that by doing so I am loving and serving God changed my perspective.

Instead of fretting about not getting a Marriage Monday post up until Tuesday, I chose to invest in and love my spouse and the others God brought to me that day. I hope you’ll forgive my delay.

Knowing that sometimes people who have a disability feel they become burdensome to their family or close friends I made a commitment to God and myself early in our marriage. I would choose to show joy when asked to assist (even being woken from a sound sleep in the middle of the night), and to always complete the task by saying “I love you” and sharing a kiss. I have missed that mark a few times, but it is still the goal for which I aim.

push for helpWhat about you?  What is it that helps you readjust your focus when you are worn and weary?  Do you have a strategy you use to keep your relationships healthy in the unpredictable dailyness of disability?

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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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.

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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?