More Than a Dishwasher

I can learn how to wash his dishes with joy… I think. 

I live life big. After living on the edge of my seat with crazy adventures and scenarios for 28 years, I’ve learned I don’t know how to live life halfway. I’m either all-in or not in at all. When I say I’ll do something, I either do all of it or I hold on long enough to hear the Spirit question, “Were you seriously made for laziness?” 

And then I hit married life to a dreamy dude who asked me to join him in the one dream that made me slightly nervous. When I married him, I knew I was marrying a ministry-worker. I had no comprehension of the seasons that would require us to live through as a young married couple. 

However, as I say often, Jesus giggled, and Peter’s ministry vision became my vision. My heart aches more for the mainstream students we work with than it ever ached for overseas ministry. I love what God has called us to as ministry workers. It’s not just Peter’s heart… it’s mine.

But then, we entered the season of seminary. Three years of books heavier than a healthy newborn and writing papers so long, I imagine I’ll reread them four times just to keep up with the theme. Seminary is Peter’s job, though. Not mine. He has 195 pages to read by tomorrow. I have three novels I’m half-heartedly reading which no one cares about. 

He’s in seminary. I’m a wife on the sidelines of seminary. I’m not doing much. But this adventure is asking me to give parts of myself I never found important in the other life changes I’ve experienced. 

During our dating life, being intentional with him meant telling my girlfriends I had to leave a bit earlier than normal to walk him to work. Now, while our marriage is shared with seminary, being intentional means sitting near him so he knows I’m present but letting him work on a paper I’ll struggle to understand. 

I’m still that chick who lives life big. But now that means doing my part to support the journey of our marriage. So, doing dishes isn’t glorious. Making appointments and researching insurance is tedious. But I’m doing those things so that when someone sees our marriage as a whole it’ll be easier to focus on one main thing: 

That Christ was the center pursuit of our time preparing for – and living in – ministry.

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Unlikely Megaphones 

His cerebral palsy made mine look like a cakewalk. His hand wasn’t simply weak or lame, it was so twisted you only shook his thumb, not his entire hand. His speech was perfect, but he could only smile with one side of his mouth. His gate was jolted, unsteady and scary to watch.

I was 10 the first time I realized he was married; 12 when I met his wife for the first time. His wife never stopped talking about how happy she was and it was obvious they both loved each other and loved life. If anything, at my young age, I was a little grossed out by how “newlywed-ish” they were. 

But, regardless, I couldn’t get over it. He was married and he and I had the same disability. He was proof that disabled people could not only make marriage work, but make it work incredibly well. As a kid who struggled with being accepted because of my differences, the idea of ever being married was an impossible dream.

Over a decade later, with my own marriage as an example, I know the truth. My friend and his wife were not blessed with Pollyanna optimism. They both had to choose Christlike joy no matter their circumstances on a daily occurrence. But it came at a price. Almost always that price was steep, and equally worthwhile.

He had to give up his pride; she had to learn how to serve.

He had to trust her; she had to affirm him.

She had to learn to see beauty when other’s saw awkward; he had to learn how let her.

They had to work together to find fulfillment despite the daily hurdles they faced. 

They both had to learn to laugh at the unknowns and giggle at their differences.

They both had to ignore what the world said of their marriage and focus on what Christ called them to: Serving Him together and giving the world a picture of love.

Personally, I cringe every time I have to ask my husband for help. Memories of my mother entrusted with the same tasks and doing them alone taunt me on an hourly basis. But asking for my husband’s help gives me a chance to sacrifice my pride, and gives him a chance to serve like Christ. In return, I have a chance to prove God never wanted us to fulfill His glory alone.

In Sunday School, kids are taught the mantra and Bible verse, “In your weakness, He (Christ) is made strong.” Physical disabilities are proof of such truth. Marriages which involve disabilities are megaphones of that truth to the world. 

This disability is no longer my disability — it’s our platform to show Christ. What a glorious opportunity to be entrusted with… together. 

Laughing at Adjustments 

The “how’s-adjusting-to-marriage” questions crack me up. My dear husband of 20 days, in his insightful and sweetly introverted way, says what he always says. “It’s going well.” Only his family and closest friends know that it’s all in the inflection in his voice as to what’s underneath that statement. I find it funny, while quite a few others are left oblivious.

“It’s going well” = I’m tired, don’t know why you’re asking but I’m trying to be polite. I love my wife, it’s why I married her. So, yes. We’re good. Also, like everyone else, we still have no idea how to do this thing called marriage, so I don’t know what specifics you’re looking for. Need I say more?

“It’s going… well…?” = Help. I just discovered my wife’s hormones don’t magically turn nice when I tell her I love her. She’s crazy, a morning person, and went from laughing and crying four times today but I don’t think it’s my fault. So yes, we’re doing… well… just adjusting, that’s all. I still love her. I can just now fully confirm she’s human. 

“It’s going really well.” = We just somehow worked our way through yet another last minute crisis, and didn’t kill each other in the process. Also, I was just informed we’re somehow staying in-budget for the month after the 20th trip to a retail store. We’re good, just adulting and trying to remember that we live together now. Also, crockpot meals are awesome.

… My answers, on the other hand, prove to anyone wondering that I’m the chatty one in the relationship. In my late twenties and married for the first time, I laugh more at the little adjustments than he does. I’m independent, strong-willed, and sarcastic which means everything about marriage has been an amazingly fun, yet slightly awkward, adjustment. 

But it is going well. Not because we have it down perfectly, or because we don’t annoy each other at times. Marriage is going well because of the best adjustment of all: Peter is my reminder of Christ’s constant forgiveness and redemption and I am Peter’s. It makes life so much more fulfilling when we see Christ in each other. 

That’s the adjustment which always makes us laugh with joy.

When the Future Changes

There were two men in my life. They both wanted to officiate my wedding. They both decided – separately – that if they never met the man I married, I wasn’t allowed to get married. Or, as one of them clarified, if I did get married without them, they’d act like the marriage was a figment of my imagination until they could reinact the ceremony with their involvement. (I didn’t dare act like they weren’t serious.) 

Both Terry and Ray jokingly-but-not-so-jokingly fought each other as they planned for my future wedding together as far as who would get most of the limelight as the officiator of my wedding, who got to kiss my cheek first and who got to harass my groom the best. 

I could never decide if their surrogate- fatherly arguments warmed my heart or added to my anxiety. Usually, I just laughed instead of focusing on the confusion. I was loved, that’s what I needed to remember. I was 16 and both these men had higher dreams for my future than I did. When I nearly ruined my life with childish decisions at 19 years old, they both spent hours (and I mean hours) almost daily on the phone talking me through my decisions and asking me the hard questions no one else wanted to ask. 

Both of these men passed away within a year of each other.  It didn’t hit me until last night for some reason that neither of these men get to see my wedding. Neither of these men get to ask me the hardest questions of all: “Can you support this man when he seems unsupportable? Can you make him laugh when all you want to do is make him cry? Can you show him Christ when all you want to do is show him yourself?” 

Even at 16, they warned me about those questions. They told me what they wanted the answers to be and what they would do if my answers didn’t represent Christ. They were futuristically minded when I couldn’t be. They cared more for my future than almost any other nonrelated acquaintance ever had.

They didn’t plan on not being around to help me grow up, but they prepared me for the future just in case they weren’t.

What if we discipled like that more often? What if we strove to be involved with our mentees but prepared them to be just as godly, wise and prepared without us as they are when they are with us? What if we didn’t shield them from hard things but rather taught them that they can prepare for a storm before it comes? 

What if we discipled in such a way that those we disciple don’t pine after us after we’re gone but rather strive to immulate the Christ-like characters we focused on the most?

My Battle With Shame & Jesus

There’s unspeakable shame in being disabled. No one would ever say that, but every disabled person struggles with not believing the lie. (My dear friends, it is in fact, a lie.) Every time their body leads them to a hospital, sleepless nights, scary conversations, backing out of responsibilities, or even merely asking a friend to help in an otherwise simple task, their tears can be summed up in one word:

Shame.

It’s hard to understand the shame; as it should be. When loved ones whisper to their disabled family member, “You did nothing wrong,” all that’s said in return is, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” Sorry for inconveniencing, sorry for causing worry, sorry for being a burden…

The shame leads to fear. I wish it didn’t, but it does. Questions like, “Why do you love me?” become mental thermometers to that person’s value because, well, obviously no one would want to be be coupled with the “perceived shame” of a disabled person. The best effort is made in making sure the discrepancy is never seen, or if it ever is, only through the veil of humor and lighthearted playfulness. 

Battling that shame as a Christian is a minute-by-minute battle. I cling to passages like John 9 when Jesus declares that the man in question was born blind in order to show God’s glory to those watching. We live in an imperfect, sinful world. Somehow, God uses those imperfections to make His name famous. He doesn’t make mistakes.

… I’m not a mistake…? When my body forces me to need my closest companion, I sure as heck feel like a mistake. 

1 Corinthians 12:22-25b says, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

No one wants to be the “weaker link.” We often laugh at that concept because we want to tell ourselves we aren’t the “weaker one.” But when we are… this passage becomes simultaneously comforting and terrifying. 

It’s comforting because we’re constantly reminded that God sees us. Its terrifying because we have to come to terms with the fact that our  “discrepancies” are more for the benefit of someone else rather than ourselves. If God gave us these limitations in order to sow the body of Christ together in a more genuine way…

How dare we feel shame?
 

Silent Screams 

Whether you want to believe I’m an introvert or not, the one thing I’m not is silent. The command to “wait patiently” infers the command to be quiet and not jump ahead of the Lord. I have yet to experience a moment where that was my first choice.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and he heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

The idea that I’ve waited patiently for the Lord is a relative statement. Waited? More like asked God to give me what I want and then clean up whatever mess I leave behind. Patiently? What? That’s a… that’s a thing?

The promise that my God has heard my cry has been overwhelmingly seen in my life. He holds the definition of my tears even when I do not. The fact that he inclined to me is proof that he understands that, sometimes, he has to fix the small, inconsequential things within my mind before I’m ever willing (or even able) to wait and be patient.

I put the cart before the horse again recently. I asked God to show up. He took too long. I panicked. I’m not very likable when I panic, by the way. {Insert horribly indecent joke about being female here.} When I went about fixing what I was fairly certain was broken, I could almost hear God mutter, No, Baby Girl. You don’t want to fix that. Stop it. Hold on. You’re heart wants more than your actions will get you. Hold onto Me. Wait for Me. Be silent and wait.

Yesterday as I watched God answer my heart’s cry before I could even understand its need, I almost laughed at the beauty. Despite my shortsighted assumptions, He stepped over what I thought I wanted and gave me what I needed. It hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced, but within the pain lies the glory of God’s faithfulness.

When Psalms 40 is quoted, often time it is only quoted as an encouragement that God will hear us and we “simply” need to wait patiently. The reality is, that’s not where the Psalms’ deepest beauty is found. The deepest beauty is found when we come to terms with the fact that God inclines to us and hears more than just our prayers. 

He hears our hearts no matter how silently our hearts may be despite the words we shield it with.

Silencing the Parents

I was always that kid who moved mountains to keep things level.

I’d love to say my fear of disrupting the peace was something I sculpted into my pint-size personality over time, but that’d probably be a lie. As a 6 or 7-year-old, I heard my parents discussing finances (not arguing, fighting or crying… discussing) after they’d sent me to bed. I heard the phrase “we can’t do that right now” and took matters into my own hands.

From then on, I struggled to tell my parents what I wanted (Suzy Home Bake, anyone?) or what I needed ($15 for band supplies or fail the class…?). Now that I’ve been ‘adulting’ for a few years, I understand what my parents were doing that night. Their hesitation over the checkbook didn’t mean I was a burden as another mouth to feed. It didn’t mean I wasn’t wanted. It just meant budgeting would be a good idea for the next 15 days.

Sidenote: For all I know, they could have been talking about putting money towards a road trip, not some desperate necessity.

It didn’t matter what the scenario was, though. I wasn’t going to be a burden on my parents… 

Anytime I talk to my mom about my annoying people-pleaser skills (I mean ‘tendencies’) as a child, the reaction is always the same — utter frustration, heartbreak and an explanation of reality. It’s all stuff I’m completely aware of now, but the underlying question is still there: Why was letting your dad and I provide for you so hard for you to do?

I, unfortunately, don’t have an answer for her. All I know is I was fairly positive I understood life and could help my parents survive it by knowing more than they did. It’s sad. It’s unfortunate. Honestly, the idea of my future child doing that makes my blood boil.

But the reality is, no matter how much logic I can pour into that misconception to make it disappear, I’m still in danger of doing it. Only now, I’m the adult-child kneeling before my Heavenly Father uttering the words, “I don’t think I should bother you with this heartache…” 

Without hesitation, I hear Him chuckle as He replies, “You know better than to think that, but since you do, come sit with Me anyway. I just want time with you.

And, just like my earthly parents, as I sit with my Father God, I start to understand He understands me better than I understand myself. He knows what I need and, though it feels life-threateningly large to me, He handles it because He can.

Wait, what was I worried about, again?