Friday, May 28, 2010

"...but God, Who called me here below will be forever mine."

My title today is from the original last verse of John Newton's "Amazing Grace." The first part of that particular verse says, "The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forebear to shine..." But the two parts together, and you have an amazing statement as to the constancy of God. Even when life as we know it is falling apart, God is still present, still working, and still personal. I think it's easy when going through times of hardship or worry to begin to feel like God is not personal. As a person who has grown up in the church my whole life, it's hard for me to imagine a time when I might think God wasn't present because in my mind, He's always been present. But that doesn't mean that I've always seen Him as personal.

I come from a family system that used a lot of isolation as a manipulation tool. My mom did not encourage me to have a lot of friends or to have any kind of social life. She got jealous and upset when I did have things to do that took me away from the house, and she even began to use church youth group events, at some points, as examples of how I was never home spending time with her to try to manipulate me into staying home. I have some understanding now for WHY she did this, but nevertheless, it hurt a lot and caused me to feel like a very isolated person. So, when life gets hard and I feel overwhelmed with challenges, I start to retreat into myself because that was my defense mechanism when my mom was challenging. But I also isolated myself because my mom made me feel like I was un-like-able. I have a hard time acknowledging whether she made me feel unlovable or not, but she definitely made me feel un-like-able. I would retreat into my shell because if she pushed me away and thought I was an awful person, didn't everybody else??

As I have grown in my faith, I have come to recognize that knowing God is there is not the same as knowing He is personal. When I would isolate myself, I would even retreat from God. I was so afraid of relating with Him, afraid He would only re-enforce what my mom had already made me feel. So, though I knew He was there, I was loathe to open up and be personal with Him for fear of what I would find. So, I spent years and years trying to relate to God while also tiptoeing my way around, fearing that all the love I thought He had for me would be snatched away and the bottom would drop out of my faith, all because I was a screw up. I didn't tell a lot of people this because it's not a very Christian thing to think. I have been a Christian since I was 7, and I knew enough to know that you don't tell people that you're afraid God's love won't endure your imperfections. In my mind, I thought they would either tell me that meant I wasn't actually saved or they would give me some trite answer that didn't really address why I felt so much self-loathing.

Loving Justin and having him love me really began to change my view of myself and, more importantly, God's love for me. But it was a slow process that involved sifting through 20+ years of emotional, mental, and spiritual garbage. We thought it would take years for me to really come to a whole and complete view of God's love for me. Notice the operative word here is "thought," not "think." About 3 months ago, I was in a Bible study group that was studying 1 Samuel. One of the main characters of 1 Samuel, King Saul, made some decisions without listening to what God was telling him. Our leader, who is a good, good friend of mine, asked us, "So what is it that you aren't listening to that God is telling you?" It took me a couple of hours, but one my way home that evening, I knew. It was like someone dropped it from heaven into my head and I knew. My whole life, God has been telling me "I love you and you are Mine" and I hadn't been listening. I had kept Him at arms length, afraid He would corroborate all the ugly things my mom had been telling me, while the whole time He had been speaking love, beauty, and peace into my life.

What's all this got to do with anything? For me, it has everything to do with everything. Life has its challenges-that's true for everybody. But my God is a personal God who cares. In the highs, in the lows, and in all the in-betweens, I know that my peace can come from the God of the universe Who looks on me and calls me His own. So no matter how my world may be falling apart or staying together, I "will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" Psalm 91

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Just Keep Rollin', Just Keep Rollin'

This feels like one of those weeks where I'm just going to have to keep moving forward. It's not a bad week; there's just a lot to do. I've had some pretty good, but very busy days. The past couple days have entailed teaching and accompanying, cleaning and cooking. And taking care of Justin. This morning, Justin's attendant didn't show up until 40 minutes after he was supposed to be here. I was so not happy. Justin had a doctor's appointment this morning, so we were on a tight schedule. Therefore, I had to get him out of bed, dressed, fed, the whole shebang. I was fixing his breakfast when the attendant finally showed up. We just had to send the attendant away because we were going to have to leave pretty soon anyway. That just makes me so frustrated because we depend on the attendant. The reason we have an attendant is so that Justin can be taken care of in a way that makes him independent and not dependent on me. But when the attendant doesn't show up and we don't know where he makes the morning fairly stressful. Learning and understanding the line between caregiver and wife, and how much that is crossed can be difficult. I wish it were clear cut, but when your husband is in a wheelchair, it's a very blurry line. And yet, no matter how crooked or indistinguishable that line is, there's has to be a boundary of some sort. When we were engaged, I told Justin that I would love for us not to have an attendant for the first week so that we could just be ourselves, get up when we wanted and be very private. But Justin, in his wisdom, said that of course we wouldn't have an attendant during the 2 or 3 days of our honeymoon, but that we should start using an attendant as soon as we were back on our regular work schedule. I'm glad he did that now, but the adjustment to having an attendant was hard. To have a person coming in every morning and sometimes at night can feel very invasive. They see you when your hair is messed up and you're wearing a robe or when you've just finished crying your eyes out because you're upset or when you're not happy with your husband and get snippy about everything. But, somehow, you learn to deal with it because they are a necessary part of keeping a boundary between caregiver and wife. And when they don't show up now, I get upset. I get upset because they represent one of the few areas that keeps that line intact. Their very presence gives me a bit of room to be a wife and not a nurse. And when life gets stressful and Justin needs more care than normal because of various and sundry things, that bit of room is all I have to separate the wife from the caregiver.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 7 in One of the Craziest Weeks Ever

I made it to Sunday...I made it through this hugely crazy week with only some 3rd degree burns on my arms and a huge case of the yawns. Ya know, I think I did ok!! I had my piano recital today and my students did GREAT!! I was SO proud of them! Some made a couple mistakes, but they kept going. In fact, all four of them played 2 pieces which can feel like a lot to prepare for, especially for the younger students, so I was proud!

We had an experience today that was very typical of dealing with a husband in a wheelchair. Justin had an unexpected bathroom accident this afternoon right before the recital. So, we had to wait until after the recital to take care of it, which made him pretty uncomfortable for that hour or so. That's just such a hard thing for us to deal with. He gets pretty down on himself when these things happen because he wants to be able to take care of it himself, but he can't. But on the other side, it's hard for me as his wife to take care of it. Don't get me wrong--I do it for him every time I can because I love him and I do what needs to be done. But that doesn't mean I like doing it. It's one of those hard parts of being a wife AND a caregiver. There's never a good time for him to have a bathroom accident and those are never easy to clean up. I'm just thankful that we could go to his parents' today and I could get some help. It's so much easier to do with two people.

Anyway, that's what today was. On to a new week that is thankfully less crowded with places to go and things to do. Happy Sunday everybody!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 6 in One of the Craziest Weeks Ever

Saturday is over! HALLELUJAH!!!! Today we had the first of 2 weddings that Justin is officiating this summer. The next one will be in 2 weeks. Thankfully, the walkie talkies worked fabulously and everything in the ceremony went very smoothly. It was such a special day for the couple and you can tell how sincere and genuine they are about their love for God and each other.

I will say, though, that the ceremony and the reception, especially, really made me think about some things. Justin and I have been married 2 years. Our wedding day was a beautiful and special day to both of us. But the romance and excitement you feel on your wedding day does not last forever, as much as you want to. As I watched this couple spend their first few hours as husband and wife, I found myself feeling a little melancholy...or maybe a better word would be nostalgic or bittersweet. It has been a long time, or at least it feels like a long time, since I felt those romantic feelings for my husband. Don't get me wrong--I love my husband more than anything except Christ--but that love has changed and morphed in the last two years. It's more stable, but I would say it's also less emotionally fervent. I'm not overwhelmed with emotion every time I see Justin. I don't gush about him to all my friends. I fight with him. I, not intentionally, hurt with my words because we are two humans that don't always get along. So, here I am at this wedding both missing that overwhelming romantic feeling I used to have with my husband while also wondering if where I am with him and my marriage right now is ok? Is it ok to not be overwhelmed with feeling every time you see your husband? I'm so afraid I'm becoming hardened by the things we deal with. Is it cynical to watch a newly married couple and think "enjoy this because life will catch up with you soon" or is it just the voice of experience? So many questions, so many transitions in life...what am I transitioning into?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 5 in One of the Craziest Weeks Ever

Well...I made it to Friday!! YAY!!!!! Today was my last day with my afternoon PDO kids. Next Wednesday, we will have a half day and that will be it for a few weeks until summer PDO starts. I love those little kiddos, but I'm ready for a break. They get to be a little much at times.

This evening, we attended the rehearsal for the first wedding Justin is officiating this summer. The couple are good friends of ours and we're so excited to see them get married. The ceremony will be interesting though...Justin has had to memorize the whole ceremony, even the vows, but he's feeling pretty nervous. And the nerves don't help him with remembering everything. So...we're going to do "Mission Impossible: The Wedding"! I'm going to use a walkie talkie that connects to an ear bud in Justin's ear so that I can read some of the ceremony to him, especially the stuff he has to get verbatim, like the vows, etc. It should be interesting!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 4 in One of the Craziest Weeks Ever

Daddy had his surgery today. Everything went really well, and he is going to get to go home tomorrow. It was a long day, though. We got to the hospital around 9:30 am and left around 8:00 this evening. I am so tired... Time to take a deep breath, get some sleep, and get ready for the weekend to be busy. Still praying for rest, but hopefully not in the form of more burns!! :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 3 in One of the Craziest Weeks Ever

Well, today was nuts. I got up to the PDO around 8:15 this morning, and the first thing my director tells me is that the 3 & 4 year old teacher is out on a family emergency. This really freaked me out because I had a program planned to do with her class during chapel today AND she and I were supposed to do ice cream sundaes with her class and my afternoon class. So, this morning, I was rushing around to get all the prep work done for both of these things since the teacher had a substitute who didn't know anything about what we had planned. So, by 8:30 am I'm completely stressed out and in constant motion which didn't end until all my kids had gone home at 2:45pm. Right after I left work, I got a text that my accompanist wouldn't be at choir practice tonight. So, I went on to pick Justin up, go work out, heat up and scarf down dinner, and head to choir practice. Choir practice went pretty well. I just had a lot of multi-tasking to do as far as playing, singing, and directing at the same time which causes me stress just to think about!

Daddy's surgery is tomorrow. It's not supposed to take too long, but I am nervous. I don't like to think about my dad being in the hospital for anything much less a surgery. Especially after he's had 2 heart attacks before. I think I also look to my dad as a source of stability and seeing him sick and having serious health problems messes with that view. Not to trivialize the situation at all, but I think this is just another place I am having to learn to let God be my stability and my Rock. There are so many places where I have to learn this. Even the fact that Justin is in a wheelchair can mess with traditional views of "stability." We struggle with not knowing when or where to get off Medicaid or if we ever can get off health care assistance and live a decently comfortable life. I worry sometimes about whether Justin will ever get another job if we move. Who hires a man in a wheelchair? But he has been hired now and God provided for us then, provides for us now, and will provide for us in the future. Stability--maybe I need to redefine what it means. Not immediate provision but assurance that God cares for me. Not meeting every desire but "give us this day our daily bread." And may I just say, praise God that He is the Most High God whose name is to be praised!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 2 in One of the Craziest Weeks Ever

So, today started as a very packed full and somewhat stressful day. I started early this morning with taking Justin to work. Because of some places Justin needed to go during the day and my busy schedule, taking Justin to work today involved getting him there, taking his van back home, getting my car, and driving myself to work. So, before I started actually working this morning, I had been driving around town for 40 minutes. Mornings like this morning are hard on Justin. He has difficulty with not being able to drive sometimes. He knows that there are certain "car juggling acts" we have to do when he has to go places for work that aren't "normal." He doesn't often get down about these things but when he does, it's pretty bad. I also know that I often have to just let him ride it out and talk to me later about it. As much as his inability to walk can affect me, he is the one who has dealt with it for 28 years, which often gives him an advantage with dealing with it, but sometimes it ends up making the pain very overwhelming.

So, after my accompanying this morning, I headed home. I had an organ lesson this afternoon, and Justin and I had a marriage counseling appointment to lead this evening. So, I decided to use a little time before I went to practice for my lesson to do some prep work for a crockpot meal to serve for the couple we were having over tonight. First, I had to sear some pork chops on high heat, then lower the heat on the skillet, add more olive oil and add some onions to carmelize. Problem is, unbeknownst to me, the oil in the skillet got pretty hot and pooled up in one area of the skillet. So I turned around from the cutting board, dropped the onions in and ended up splattering hot oil on both of my arms. Being in a hurry and not thinking much of it, I wiped the oil off and kept cooking. When I finally got everything in the crockpot, I looked at my arms and realized how burned they really were. Long story short, we cancelled everything for the day, and I got a prescription cream from the doctor and wrapped the burns in gauze. They're starting to feel better. I kept thinking, though, I've needed a time for rest, but why did it have to happen this way?? Ah a strange set of circumstances, it did happen and I am very grateful for a little bit of time to breathe. I will say this though: I don't know how I'm going to be able to sleep tonight! Maybe I can hold my arms up in the air like a zombie...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 1 of One of the Craziest Weeks Ever

I made it through the first day of this very long week. Started out at Monterey doing accompanying work, then on to teaching 4 afternoon lessons at different parts of town, a short stop at a retirement reception between lessons, then on to dinner and to my parents' house for dessert and presents. Busy, busy, busy... I worry about my dad. He's starting to look tired. He's having surgery this week and I hope it helps, but I also know my Dad--he's a hard worker and doesn't know when to stop sometimes. Like father, like daughter!! Well, here's to 1 day down, 6 more to go!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Scheduling Chaos

Justin and I are both in ministry. I really do believe being in ministry is a calling and that we have answered that call, but sometimes I wonder why God couldn't call us to something less time-consuming. I'm looking ahead to all that the next week entails, and I'm seriously overwhelmed. Monday we have my dad's birthday, Tuesday we are doing a marriage counseling session with a couple that Justin is officiating for in a few weeks, Wednesday I am leading choir practice at my church, Thursday my dad is having surgery, Friday we have the rehearsal for another wedding Justin is officiating, Saturday we have the wedding, and Sunday I have a piano recital for all of my piano students (only 5, but it's still someting to be at). I don't know how in the world I'm going to make it through this week. There are parts of it that are emotionally draining and others that are physically draining, and most of it is both. Add to that that Justin wasn't able to schedule his buses for this week, so every morning and evening we have to figure out the logistics of getting him back and forth from work. I'm just weary...this last week hasn't been exactly easy and we're heading into a doozy. I just want the world to pause for a moment so I can "get off'" and disappear. Sometimes I wonder, is it possible to turn your mind off for even just a moment to recharge? Is there a way to find rest in the midst of the busyness that is life? Because right now, all I feel is chaos. Like a train that's speeding down the tracks that's just figured out my brakes are broken. How do you make the chaos stop??

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Misunderstandings and Couches

I had an interesting experience the other day. A few days a week, I go to the pool with Justin at a local gym. I put him in the pool and then I usually get in to swim too. The other morning, we were at the pool and a woman stopped me while I was swimming and asked me if I was Justin's physical therapist. I gotta admit, the more that question ran around in my head, the more I realized all the "stuff" that's involved in that question. One of my first reactions was to be angry and indignant. I just wanted to throw my hands into the air and sarcastically say, "Well of course I am, because a man in a wheelchair couldn't be married, could he?!?" Then, I felt insulted, because what in the world does a question like that say about me? That I must be desperate? Or pitiful? I'm not either of those things! But assuming that I am anything but married to my husband is so INCREDIBLY frustrating. In the past, I've been asked if I'm his sister or his home health aide or his nurse. I already, admittedly, have issues at times with the "not normal" issues we face--I don't like feeling like the world is watching us, trying to put us in a box that makes sense to them because they are uncomfortable with the fact that we're married. And I know this won't change for us. In fact, it probably has the potential to get worse as we have kids, get old, etc. But I do know this--I would love for us to have a day where we can walk down the street and people don't see us as a novelty or oddity.

Justin and I made an interestng discovery today. We don't often get Justin out of the chair during the day, but today we decided to put him on the couch so we could sit next to each other while we watched some TV. It was actually a fantastic discovery!! We don't get a chance to be casually physical with each other very much. For instance, the only chance we get to give each other a real hug is when we go to bed at night. But, those small hugs during the day, the small touches of affecton are just different for us. I think that's why I discovered I like cuddling on the couch. It felt very normal, very "everyday." We actually got to hug each other! I know it's such a little thing...but it's the little things that matter the most...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hello Out There!

As I sit here, taking my first step in what will inevitably be a long journey, to be honest in a journey that has already begun, I figure it might be best for me to set out the purpose of this blog as well as give a little background as to why I'm here. Four years ago this July, I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband. He was intelligent, charming, a fellow follower of Christ, well-read...everything I was looking for, and more. And he was (and is) in a wheelchair. Even during our first date, I knew that this man had the potential to change my life in ways I couldn't even imagine, and I can tell you now, four years later, I was right, though I had no idea HOW MANY ways I was right. I am positively in love with Justin. He feeds my soul and my heart, while also being exasperatingly male at times, as I'm sure most married women would say of their husbands. But our life often seems very far from normal. And that's why I'm here. In school, my favorite poem of all time was Robert Frost's "The Road Less Traveled By." Well,I can very well say that I'm traveling one of those roads that is both exciting in its adventures and isolating in its struggles. Sometimes it feels as if we are actually having to cut the road ourselves. So here I am...ready to document our not-at-all-normal life in hopes that it will both be a reminder for me of all that we have gone through as well as encourage those who might find themselves in not-so-normal situations as well. So here it is...Ready!...Set!...Go!!!!!