For the Broken

I did not see that coming.  Twice, in fact, I paused in awe within the last seven days.

First, I went to spaghetti-a-plenty night at our local Larosa’s restaurant with the young man who has helped us accomplish countless house tasks over the last two months.  He and I have painted wall after wall and multiple ceilings while worship music played.  We sang or talked about life along the way while occasionally saying we’d go get spaghetti when the list of to-dos were done.  He’s done carpentry and plumbing work.  The list is long.  He’s 26 and he could have chosen to be anywhere.  He didn’t know us until he answered a random church text to go help a family in October.

That introduction day surrounded by our mess, he looked deep into my eyes to size up the situation.  He promises that he will not leave our family’s side until the house is ready to be put on the market.  “I’ll care for you the way I would care for my own mom,” he said.  He delivered mercy with a paint brush to my soul.

During dinner he shares, “I look at your husband whose body is broken and it makes me think of how broken I have been on the inside.  Through this time with you I am reminded that no matter how his body is failing him that he has everything I’d ever want:  a wife and family behind him.  Kids that love him.  ALS can’t take that.  He is more whole than I have felt in a while.”

I see the reflection in this young man’s eyes that his heart is healing and he is moving on with God into the next season of his life.  He’s spending time in prayer, scripture, and seeking wisdom.  I hope I get to serve punch at his wedding one day.

Second, yesterday Hubby and I went to church.  Often this fall we watched online as the home tasks were many and his body struggled.  It is Christmas.  We want to be inside our church to worship.

Hubby had a rough morning so we need more than the rollator.  I quickly load the wheelchair into the trunk.  The sun is shining.  The car is old but warm.  We are smiling.  A friend checks in on text and I reply that I feel peace and hope to carry it through the holiday.

And then 10 short minutes later…

As we roll toward the door the gravity of Hubby not being able to walk into church rips open my tear ducts.  We can not get into the sanctuary where it is dark fast enough.

I don’t make eye contact with Hubby for the first half of service.  I look away to wipe my tears and wonder about my mascara status.  I place my hand on his knee.  I hope that he will take my hand.

He doesn’t.  I can feel his pulse.  It’s a strained rhythm like the rhythm happening in my own body so I know he is fighting tears too.  Eventually I peek and see his wet eyes.  I don’t know if he’s missing our son in the Air Force, missing his mom who passed away this fall, or if it’s the weight of simply everything we face right now.

Releasing my stubbornness, I stop waiting for his hand to move and move my own hand to find his.

I am reminded that whatever brokenness we feel, there are many more who feel angst too.  Sometimes the holiday lights amplify pain or grief.  For all who suffer right now I lift up this prayer for you.

Dear God,

We praise your name even when times are difficult.  Lord, lift up the brokenhearted.  Please help the lonely feel your presence this season.  Be with those who long for a loved one who has passed.  Your Word in Psalm 34:18 says you are near the brokenhearted and we claim that promise right now.  Be near us.  Bring joy in the simple things.  Heal the sick.  Give hope to the hurting.  Bless the caregivers.  Ease suffering.  Be with military families near and far.  Help all who feel alone to find joy that can only come from you.  Wrap everyone with your love and peace.

Amen

With love to all,

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Eyeballs On Row4ALS

They finally caught my full attention after months of me casually following them on Instagram.

“They” are a team who is preparing to row across the Atlantic ocean!

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On board will be the first person with ALS to be part of such a feat.  You can read Alan’s story on their website http://www.row4als.org.

As I type the Row4ALS team is in Spain preparing for their December to February journey.  Their goal is to raise money to cure ALS.

I am concerned that they do not have enough social media followers!  Please follow or like Row4ALS on Instagram or Facebook!  They have a Twitter account too, but it does not seem as active as Instagram and Facebook.

As readers know, ALS has hit our family hard.  I am inspired by the Row4ALS team.  Most mornings when I wake up, I pull the covers up and ask for a hug from Jesus.  Then I read verses from the Bible.  Then I look to make sure Hubby is breathing.  Then I watch the latest on Instagram from Row4ALS.

Go Alan & team!  Thank you for seeking a cure!

Deuteronomy 31:6 ~ Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid…; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

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Whistle Stop For Self Care

I saw the train at the top of the hill on two previous trips.

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Once again I head toward Cleveland to take a class.  Surely I could stop at “that exit with the train restaurant” this go round.

But by the time I finish home duties Thursday there is no way I can make the trip before midnight.  Shucks, no train.  Hmmm, if I can slip away from the class right away the next day…then maybe.  I need to return through Cincinnati before President Trump shuts down the road with his evening visit, and I need to get home to prep walls for paint and visitors.

Post learning on Friday I slip away asap and head to the location I find via Google:  Buckeye Express Diner.

Alone and near giddy, I drive up the hill.  I ration 30 minutes.  I need a late lunch and I crave minutes of peaceful adventure.

“First time?” The man at the counter asks.

I scan the menu posted on the wall and place my order before finding a seat in the train.  There is a juke box and TV screen.  I opt to look out the window.  I take time for slow breaths.  I attempt mindfulness.

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My server is sweet and attentive.  I wonder if people like her know how their random kindness is extra appreciated these days while I am tired and putting together the puzzle pieces of a home move.

The food is good.  Yum!  I eat half of it.  It is just enough.

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Time’s up.  I am reminded as I exit that there are more good things in the future.  There is special seating (with permission) in the caboose area.  I make a goal to sit there next time.

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Love,

Signature GSE

 

 

Not Forsaken

Is that a trick question? I wondered.

The Wells Fargo operator had asked, “Is this a time of hardship?”  I didn’t understand why she asked at first, but then realized it was because I paid the October mortgage bill on the last day of the grace period.  For me I felt like we were winning–aka, no penalty. The mortgage company sees this differently than I do.

A month ago I wondered how in the world we would get the house ready to sell.  Hubby’s muscles have left us.  The 16yo has to be taught how to do every odd job plus has homework.  The 20yo is 1526 miles away with the Air Force.  I have multiple jobs.  We gave most of our money away over the years doing the ministry I thought God asked me to do.  The clock is ticking.  We have one asset, the house, and it needs to go in order to start over.

Help comes from unexpected places.  Someone I work with said she’s been reading scripture and decided she would get people together to help.  Two miracle gift cards showed up to help purchase paint.

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I prepped the house as best I could and busy friends took time to help me move furniture around and patched a ceiling hole.  A neighbor and co-worker helped me sell other furniture and miscellaneous items to make room and to assist with the cost of more paint and supplies.

October 13 came and I had little idea who would come.  I thanked God in advance for whatever muscles that would arrive.

First, dear friends near my age came along with a 32yo new dad who could choose to be anywhere but chose to paint with purpose.

Around mid-day two young guys arrived.  I thought they were going to be disappointed that the basketball goal was already sold the hour prior.  “We’re here to paint,” they said.  When one took off his sweatshirt and out popped an arm with Jesus’ face tattooed on his muscles, my tears were unavoidable.  I knew right then miracles are happening.  The hands and feet of Jesus are present.

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As the weekend progressed people came for different reasons.  Some said they want to give back because their life has been better lately.  Some because of their love for the Lord.  One couple came partly because familial ALS is in their family too.  I began to pass out house keys like candy.

One young man looked deep into my soul, sized up the situation, asked me to list out the projects that scare me, and promised he’d stay by my side until the jobs are done like he would for his own mother.  He’s 26 and has a lot of carpentry, plumbing, etc. skills.  Wow. Wow.  Wow.

We’ve been full steam ahead with volunteers ever since.  I’d love to say some of their names, but I haven’t asked for permission.  I do my best to thank them personally.

On Tuesday night I went with my best friend since birth to see Hillsong.  I had no idea how I could stand on my sore feet and I stressed internally that I should be home working.

During the song I Am Who You Say I Am God mushed my heart like Playdough.  In a prayerful time I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “You answered the call.  You gave up a lot.  You never let go of the house or lifestyle, and you’re going to have to let go of that now too.  It will hurt.  And you will go on.”

Like the song says:

I am chosen, Not forsaken

I am who You say I am

You are for me, Not against me

…I am a child of God.

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The castle I painted for our sons is gone, covered by “falling snow” white semi-gloss.  We are packing for a new adventure.  I am struck how the answer is “surrender” every time I am perplexed.  I look forward to sharing the manuscript Surrender on the Trail with readers one day.  As it turns out the trail was merely the beginning of what I am learning about surrender.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S.  Thank you to new and old friends from Springdale Nazarene Church and SNC Norwood who took time to help our family.  May you be blessed abundantly.

Dear Ed Sheeran

Before sunrise Hubby stumbles across the bedroom and kindly whisper mumbles, “Good morning.”

My response is internal, I don’t like mornings and I hate ALS.  I need your body to help me with this blankety blank moving sale and I know you can’t physically share the load.  I speak nothing.  To be fair, he helped in the ways he could yesterday.  I’m grumpy and tired from weeks of prep in a house with a to-do list that has gotten away from us.  ALS has stolen the feeling of team chores over the years.  The playbook has shifted.  Team means new things now.

My mind wanders to the letter I had wanted to write Ed Sheeran a while back.  I planned to say, “Wow.  You sing the most perfect lyrics for our marriage in the song “Thinking Out Loud”.  Please meet us in Pompano Beach, FL on our 25th anniversary weekend, bring a guitar, and sing that to us on the beach.  Just once please.  That would be cool.”

I pull back my inner crazy lady and did not send such correspondence.

On Saturday of our trip we figure out the mechanics of getting us both on the sand.  Once settled, YouTube plays the Ed Sheeran song.  Then we listen to the ocean waves for hours shaded by an umbrella.  That was my favorite day.

Sunday he rests and I suggest we do dinner out to officially celebrate.  Monday could be another rest day before navigating the airport with a wheelchair Tuesday.  Oh, the things I’ve learned.  For instance, there are indoor hills, PeopleIndoor hills.  Pacing ourselves is important in the approach to such phenomenon.

We arrive at public parking for the restaurant 5 minutes before our reservation.  The parking meter doesn’t work.  It’s humid.  The restaurant is across the street and upstairs.  We see there is an elevator down the road.  I clumsily pay through their online app.  I wonder if I look pretty.  We gals can fit 100 thoughts or more into such moments, can’t we?

As we roll to the crosswalk, we hear music.  The beginning chords play “Thinking Out Loud”.  Hubby says it’s a popular song so no surprise.  But in my head I’m like, The Universe got my letter!  Thanks, Ed.  Thanks, God.

The words follow us all the way to the restaurant.  The patio overlooks a boat dock.  Our table has a sunset view.  It is a lovely evening.

Peace & love,

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When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks

And darling I will be loving you till we’re 70
And baby my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

When my hair’s all gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way
I know you will still love me the same

‘Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And baby your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
I just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand

But baby now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
Thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

So baby now

Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh darling, place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are
Oh maybe we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are

25 years & 25 lessons

I cry at some point of almost every wedding anniversary.  I am a closet spoiled brat.  I like the feeling of celebration, of feeling special on special occasions.  I can be ridiculous with my internal thoughts while being poker face cool externally.  Meanwhile my other half is practical, kind, and loving.  He’s a good guy.  We have opposite approaches to life and opposite personalities by most measures…Myers-Briggs, DISC, Zodiac Signs, Chinese Calendar, and so forth.  On paper we should not be together.  Fortunately we have overlap on the Gary Chapman Five Love Languages test results.  And Jesus.  Jesus is our key common denominator.

This year we hit the big 2-5.  25 years married.  Wowza.

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He warned me when we dated.  We were 20 and 23 years old at the time.  He said something like, “Things go wrong for me.  I am a walking Murphy’s Law type person.”  We proceeded to argue.  I said he had the wrong attitude.  He said attitude is a result of things that happen to a person.  I pollyanna’d that attitude is what you bring to any day or situation.

I maintain that sunshine viewpoint today, but he’s right about how little things tend to go wrong in his world.  Ride in a car with him to a new location and you’ll see what he means by the number of missed turns.  The good news is he has adapted what I call Overcoming Murphy’s Law Strategies.  For example, before going on vacation he spends quality time with Google Maps to the point that when we arrive at our destination it seems like he knows exactly where he is going–because he does.

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Here are 25 things I’ve learned over 25 years of marriage:

  1.  It’s true.  Opposites attract.  Take time to respect the differences rather than to fight about them.
  2.  Less expectations can lead to sweet surprises.  Example, Hubby made sure I had my all time favorite donut on vacation:  Key Lime from Dandee Donuts.  Yum.20180929_073646
  3.  Praying for your mate is a better plan than nagging your mate.  God has a way of opening up his or her heart so you can communicate.
  4. Children can strain relationships because they create a new kind of tired…an 18 year plus kind of tired.  Recognize the tired and take time outs as needed.20180929_112724
  5. Ask for what you need.
  6. Before you ask for what you need, ask if this is a good time to talk, aka a time where you can hear one another.
  7. Listen to understand.
  8. Kiss.
  9. Our premarital counselor said to always fight naked.  I’ll leave that right there.
  10. Speaking of counseling, get some.
  11. Grow together.  Share how you are growing, maturing, learning.
  12. Grow solo too.  Counseling is good for you.  Take notes.  Untangle the knotted parts of your brain.
  13. Agree to be on the same page.
  14. Agree to discuss what the same page looks like.
  15. When you’re on different pages, acknowledge and discuss the pages.
  16. Have family meetings.  I love that Hubby has initiated family meetings with our kids several times over the years.
  17. Make each other breakfast from time to time.
  18. Acknowledge seasons that are hard for your spouse and give grace upfront.
  19. Enjoy special songs together.  I could make a song scrapbook of meaningful songs from the different stages of our life.
  20. People say hurtful things.  Don’t be that kind of people.
  21. If you do say something hurtful, then say I am sorry.  Be sincere with your apology and do better.
  22. Hug, hold hands.
  23. Do activities the other person likes to do.  I’m not good at this.  Eh, it is good to know about improvement opportunities.
  24. Love your spouse’s family.  They are your family too.
  25. Stay centered.  For us that means Jesus is at the center of our home.

“For better or worse” is in generic wedding vows for a reason.  I could not have predicted at 21 years old when we married that I would feel like we won when we figured out how to take a long weekend trip with a wheelchair for the first time.

20180929_100448On the way home I said, “I didn’t buy you a card.”  He said, “I didn’t get you one either.”  And that’s a-ok.  I didn’t cry on our anniversary this year.

We both cried leading up to the day because a painful reality hit when his mom passed away the week prior to our get away.  Also, a close family friend passed away suddenly the week before as well.  It’s been a sad time and a quiet time.  A wise friend said, “If you are feeling numb, then stay numb and watch God work.”  I have taken that advice to heart.  Thank you to the family and friends who helped with our kids and home responsibilities while we were away.

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*Pic of me sitting on the rock and looking back is from our 1993 honeymoon.

 

Why #WildWednesday

The first time I used #WildWednesday on an Instagram post, hubby said he was a little concerned what I was up to.  I blog Wednesdays and Saturdays on the steady with a few special occasions sprinkled into the mix.  Wednesdays are extra special to me.

We were married five years before children arrived.  Wild Wednesday is a term we used long ago before two people became three, then four.  Being young and the lowest seniority at each of our jobs meant we often worked weekends.  When off days fell on Wednesdays we could take quick road trips.  The world seemed quiet and travel costs were less expensive mid-week.  #WildWednesday is a nod to a sweet time.

On this Wednesday I am still thinking, praying, and meditating about the 3-Day Surrender Experiment.  Coming up Saturday I plan to post about “capacity”.  In the meantime, I am feeling a little wild indeed, wild about cutting down shrubs and tidying landscaping outside our home!  My imagination chopped down ALS a few times too.

Caregiving means more than caring about someone else.  This week caregiving involves sawing gnarly trees and bushes while singing the song “All By Myself”–not the verses in the melancholy Celine Dion way, but belting out the chorus in a proud anthem type way.  Happy Wednesday, y’all!

Colossians 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord….

No Games

Each year I spend a fair amount of time listening to friends tell me about their heartbreak and the guys in their lives who are not fully committed to participating in a relationship.

Frequently the behavior described leads me to respond with “he may be a coward.”  A coward is timid or uncomfortable doing unpleasant things.  And guess what?  A relationship can be filled with unpleasantness.

Relationships require work to be successful.

In the spirit of love for my husband, I’d like to brag on him for a moment.   To follow are ways I knew when we dated that he is not a coward:

1.  He didn’t lose my phone number.  He called when he said he would.

2.  He didn’t flinch when a different girl flirted with him.  He knew what he wanted and ignored her.  He wasn’t waiting for someone better.  He did not play games that left me guessing.

3.  He wrote a letter to me every day I was away on a summer mission trip the first year we met.  I treasure those love letters.

4.  When I made a mistake mistakes he said, “Let’s talk about it.”  I eventually agreed.

5.  When he made a mistake mistakes I said, “Let’s talk about it.”  He eventually agreed.

Sidebar: We are both stubborn, but we knew even at a young age that we must set time aside to deal with our mistakes.  With angry lips quivering we still found a way to create safe space for discussion.

6.  He was able to apologize and to receive apologies.

7.  He loves Jesus.  We do church together.  There was zero doubt from the beginning that faith would remain an integral part of our lives.  Someone gave us a framed poem called “Marriage Takes Three”.  I agree with that poem more and more year after year.

Opposites do attract.  We are living proof.  It is not uncommon for each of us to argue our perspective on a topic.  Most of the time when we stop to listen we realize we are saying similar things.  Not one year of marriage has been easy, but I am thankful that I have never questioned his love or integrity.

8.  Humor helps.  Yesterday he shared that his arm muscles are starting to fail due to ALS.  He made a gesture with his arms that led me to call him my T-Rex.  Somehow laughter joined the conversation.  Today he sent me a cute T-Rex cartoon text.

We are finding ways to lighten a heavy load.

Ephesians 4:2-3  With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

How do you maintain unity through the ups and downs of a relationship?

Friends on the Trail

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Steam Team friends 2016 near Rapidan River

I’ve noticed that loss and loneliness often go hand in hand.

To stay the course of cleaning out our home of 20 years before putting the house on the market, I’ve said no to several fun get togethers and adventures this summer.  Spending hours alone in a dusty basement is a recipe for lonely.  Ugh.

I remember 10 years ago feeling lonely as I grieved the deaths of my mom and sister-in-law.  No matter what interactions I shared with people the fog of loss did not lift for many months.  The grieving dominated while I went through the motions of life as best I could.

This loss is different.  I am thankful to not have the intense brain fog, but my mind is noticeably strained with long to do lists and some sadness nonetheless.

While sorting items from our home, I relive memories of friends and family over the years.  Cards, pictures, movie tickets, toys, and journals have resurfaced.

I laugh out loud, snap a picture to capture certain memories before tossing items, and give thanks for the experiences.  I don’t need the fading construction paper from my children’s preschool masterpieces, but I do want a remaining image of their artwork in case I choose to revisit digital pictures that do not require space or dusting in our next home.

I feel lucky for friends in my life whether they are here for a season, reason, or ongoing.  I’ve had time to think about friends and how much they’ve meant to me along life’s trail.  I am reminded to text or email girlfriends I haven’t spoken with in a while.  And close friends who know what’s going on have helped or offered to help in this process.

It’s like I’m in adult time out.

I have long talks with God on my worn path to Goodwill.

Memories made with friends along the trail of life improve my energy.  Oh, and ibuprofen could almost be called a friend at this point too!  Ouch, my muscles hurt.

Sometimes I think when this is over I will spend a week in bed, but I really won’t do that when the time arrives.  I will call a friend and choose an adventure.

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When Was The Last Time

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2009 Shaw Farm

When was the last time he took my hand and we took a walk together?  When was the last time he could stand up from the couch without thinking about how to stand?  How many years ago was the last time he could golf–his all-time favorite activity?  When was the last time our home did not involve daily groans and pain?

As a mother, I vowed to cherish everything about our sons:  every flutter as they swam in the womb, first grins, first toys, first words.  My heart skipped beats when their little hands kept reaching for mine well into elementary school years.  I knew their childhood would end.  I treasured their soft skin and cuddles.  I would not squander those moments.  And while storing up sweet memories I welcomed the fact that one day our boys would move on to a greater destiny beyond their mom’s heart.

What I did miss was treasuring simple moments with my husband.  Yes, I appreciated him.  Yes, we tried to spend time together.  Yes, we overcame the fact that opposites really do attract and chose to draw closer to God, our translator, to communicate.  Yes, we did not give up on our marriage or each other.  But did I truly cherish him?  I didn’t think he was leaving.  And he hasn’t left, but sometimes it seems like he isn’t all here either.  My mind reaches for precious moments of ease that I forgot to store in my brain.

Grief arrives in many forms.  Sometimes we grieve the loss of a job or relationship.  I’ve endured the pain of people close to me passing away.  You may have too.  And now I endure the pain of watching chronic illness ALS-21 steal expectations we had for our present and future.  Our youngest child is a teenager.  I thought we had more time before hubby and I grew old together.  But symptoms of old slowly moved into our home decades too soon.  We are like the metaphoric frog in the pot of tepid water who didn’t know the heat was about to turn up.  We sat calmly in the pot not noticing that the water began to boil our circumstances.

I spend hours each week clearing “stuff” out of our house.  It feels like we are in a race against the clock to move to a more accessible place.  We had plans to remodel that will never happen while we are here.  I feel the ugly emotion of jealously toward people I haven’t met who will do projects here that I likely will not see.  Tears drizzle my checks occasionally over leaving our home of 20 years too soon.  What really got me down deep was when our oldest son was home on leave from the Air Force.  A couple nights he didn’t want to go see friends.  He shared that he just wanted to enjoy the walls of our home because he knew he might not ever again get to come home to this address.

On the flip side of the moving coin, I celebrate the thought of being in a home where my husband doesn’t have to crawl upstairs at night.  Are we old enough to require a no steps living arrangement?  Apparently yes.  This thought process requires me to clear clutter faster.  Time is not waiting for me.  I’ve quit looking at other homes online because I need to focus on the task of leaving this home first.  I trust God will provide the right place for us at the right time.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

I often tell myself that our situation could be worse, that there are worse things that people deal with.  These thoughts push me along to be grateful for the good things in our lives that we do have, or things that are better because we’ve had to adapt.  For example, I’m not sure my husband has ever verbally appreciated me more than he does now.  His kind words mean a lot to me.  We are also more forgiving and appreciative these days.  It seems like we have reached a calm place where we are slow to anger and less judgmental.  I thank God for the side benefits of sticking together and pushing through tough times as a team.

Are you grieving a loss or expectation of any size?  It takes time to grapple with it.  If you have tips or favorite verses about grieving that you would like to share, please comment.  I’d love to hear from you.