What’d You Get Me?

Jerry and I have most of our gift giving occasions between October – December.  That is the timeframe of both of our birthdays, our anniversary and of course Christmas.  The following post was written late in December several years ago, but the truth of it remains in my heart and mind–especially this Christmas day.
My husband and I have this game that we play around birthdays, Christmas or any other gift giving occasions.  It goes like this, “So what did you get me?”  Sometimes it’s said once in passing, sometimes it’s repeated over and over in rapid succession to try to wear the giver down to sharing some clue.  Yes, I know this sounds rather childish for two wellintomiddleagedadults to engage in, but I think it’s one of the casualties of not having children – we sometimes have to play that role in the family.
The morning of December 23 I was having a delightful quiet time with my Lord.  I finished my reading and my pondering, and was just about to put my pen down after recording the last word in my journal when I heard it . . .

“So what did you get me?”
 

I paused and listened to the voice
– but it wasn’t that of my husband.  It was my other beloved’s voice – Jesus!  As I tuned in to His voice I heard, “It’s my birthday soon you know, I’ve seen the gifts you’ve gotten for everyone else, what did you get for me?” 
When I shared this with my husband his response was “Isn’t that just like God to speak to us in our own game and language?”
For the remainder of that day, and the next several days I spent time pondering what I would give Jesus for his birthday. The better question was – had I even planned to give Him anything for his birthday?  If I hadn’t, why not?  And if I was, it was getting late, so I better decide quickly. 

What do you get the Lord of the Universe, who
owns everything and can create anything out of nothing?
The only response I could think of was “to obey is better than sacrifice.”  I think what Jesus was asking for was more of me. All of me in fact.  No need to spend time trying to figure out the hottest gift to give Him but to “just do it!”  To surrender myself and obey what He has already shown me. 
Funny several years later, I think this is still the gift He wants and the one I need to give.
So what about you? What are you giving to Jesus for His Birthday?

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).

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Does Easter Matter on Monday?

Holy Week was last week. Easter was yesterday. Today life returns to normal. Or does it?

passion-3111247_1920If the reality of Easter means anything it means change. The One who conquered death rose to new life. By doing so he changed the course of history, and each of our lives.

Maybe the details of daily life have not changed (schedules, care routines, appointments, responsibilities, etc.). But how I live and experience those minutes and hours each day better be impacted by the resurrection, or it was in vain.

Yes, there are still going to be mornings I don’t feel like getting up first to prepare for Jerry to get up. There will still be days when I just don’t want to pick up one more thing that has been dropped. Times of having our plans changed at the last minute because his body unexpectedly changed course will still happen.

If the message of Holy Week, culminating in Easter, means anything then I will whine less when waking early to serve my husband. I will smile when there is one more thing pexels-photo-424517.jpegto lift off the floor. I will exude grace when helping Jerry adjust to his body’s request and while calling the friends with whom we had plans.

This weekend I read Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn. I was struck by the way Kara (who was living through chemotherapy and then hospice care while writing this book with her friend), talked about “Big Love” and the “hards.” She endeavored to leave her family and friends knowing that even through the hard and difficult times of life we can share big love and make a difference. She knew she could only do that because of Christ in her.

share-2482016_1920Does your faith make a difference in your daily life? If it does would you share an example so we can all be encouraged? If you are not sure your faith does make a difference, don’t despair. We all hit those low points sometime. That’s the beauty of grace, you can start again right now. I’d love to hear your comments too – we want to keep it real here at Marriage Mondays!

 

 

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?

Just Call Me Sarai

I am a bit surprised that over the years my close friends and family have not nicknamed me Sarai. I don’t know how many times over the years I have read or heard the story of Abram and Sarai, but reading it this morning I was struck by how Sarai-like I am.

breast-feeding-1831510_1280Sarai believed God when He made the promise of a son to her and Abram. I believe God too when I hear His words to me.

Sarai waited for God to fulfill that promise. I have been known to wait for God to fulfill something He told me. Not always a patient waiter, but I can wait (though there was that period of time in my life when I could not sing the song “In His Time”).

Sarai decided God must be waiting for her to act, so she did. She gave her servant Hagar to Abram to bear their son (which was culturally appropriate at the time). I too can gethourglass-2910951_1920 tired of waiting and take things into my own hands because I “know” it’s God’s plan (at least the promise was His plan – my execution of it, not so much!)

Sarai had her name changed by God from Sarai to Sarah. With the name change came a promise of blessing, pregnancy, and descendants beyond measure, some even Royalty. When I call myself a failure, a screw-up, a hopeless case God reminds me He calls me beloved, His daughter, a child of the King.

Sarah, despite taking a wrong turn and suffering some difficult situations during the waiting, saw God’s promise fulfilled when at the age of 90 she did bear a son, Isaac, to her hundred year old husband Abraham. I have seen some of God’s promises to me fulfilled in amazingly unexpected ways and unconventional ways. Some I am still waiting to see.

So for today, I renew my commitment to live like a princess, who knows her Dad is King and God. What He promises He will deliver, in His time and in His way.

 

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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.

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?

 

What A Difference A Year Makes

Today has been a mostly ordinary day.  I helped Jerry get up.  I went to my part time job at the financial planners, and was able to confidently carry out my tasks with the knowledge I have gained there this year.  When my shift ended I attended a team meeting with my seeJesus Bethesda teammates in which we did some final planning for our upcoming fundraiser.  It is exciting to see the event and team come together.  Then I took a call from another seeJesus co-worker who shared a project that is just starting and asked if I would like to consider being involved with it.

As I pondered this request, as well as some other connections that came my way today I marveled at God’s goodness and grace.  You see, it was one year ago today, on this very rope-667319_1280date that Jerry and I got the first very clear information that life as we knew it was about to unravel.  We didn’t know the details, we didn’t know exactly how or when, but as the cliche says, the end was in sight.

To say November 2016 Started us on a tumultuous journey is an understatement.  But we’ve all been through our own kinds of floods, fires and trials.  You don’t need to hear the “down and dirty” from me.

What I do want you to hear is that our God is faithful!  Here we are at November 1, 2017 and we are growing in our new work and ministry roles, we have some exciting plans for our future, and we are stronger in our marriage than we’ve ever been.

Are we all the way through this rough spot?  Probably not – people tell us it will likely dance in and out of our lives for years to come.  But that’s ok – we are more snug in our cord of three, and that’s a knot I never want to undo!

Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV

Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.rope-970023_1280