A Prayerful Knight: Peter’s Perspective

I grew up in an always-busy household with my parents and four older brothers. One of my parents’ goals was to teach us how to respect the opposite gender.

Those lessons started with the little things like learning how to talk to anyone, and learning to make eye contact with them as much as possible. In a lot of ways, respecting women meant acting like I tried acting with my guy friends—caring, fun, and generous. All of that was well and good, but I’m strong. The hardest difference was learning how to be gentle with my girl friends.

As much as I learned these concepts from my parents, I saw my brothers put those characteristics into practice as they dated and eventually married the women of their lives. As I watched my brothers learn what it meant to be men of God to their wives, I saw a common theme. With each on of them, there developed a role of becoming a protective knight to their wives, or their “knight in shinning armor” in other words.

Then I got married. Everything I thought I had learned about how to respect and protect women completely changed.

I remember one very long night when Cassie was having a lot of back pain. It was the first time I’d seen her in such excruciating pain. There was nothing I could do to help her except watch her be in pain and try to help her where I could. Honestly, those areas I could help were very little.

As I watched Cassie, deep down inside me I was a wreck. Everything I was taught to be the “knight in shining armor” for my wife wasn’t helping her. I felt completely helpless. I blamed myself for not being able to be there for Cassie. Wasn’t my job as her husband to protect her from pain?

As the night went on, Cassie’s numbing pain slowly went away. We started talking about what happened and how we could deal with the back spasms better next time. and after telling Cassie how I felt, she said something I will never forget.

She said, “Peter you can’t protect me like you want to protect me. My body is fighting against itself. You can’t fix that. This is where you need to trust in God that He is watching and protecting us.”

Those words hit me hard. Later that night, after Cassie fell asleep, I poured my heart out to God. It was a cry of guilt for not being able to be enough for my wife, and for not trusting in Him in this area in my life. But as my prayer went on, it turned into a sweet prayer of praise as I saw how God is and will always be our knight in shining armor.

That night I pled with God to take that role from me – so that I don’t have to worry about it anymore, and to let God be the protection Cassie needs. Honestly, that prayer has effected how I protect my wife. I protect her as much as I can in my broken armor, but the best thing I can do is to be a praying knight. My role as Cassie’s knight is to bow before our Risen and Perfect Knight who watches and protects us through all our needs.

There are times I still worry about how Cassie may be doing on a given day. But now, that is simply a reminder to go again before my Holy Knight and pray for her protection.

My role as her husband isn’t to be the knight in shining armor, but to be the praying knight and let God come first to my wife instead of me. It is hard, but it is so worth it. My perfect, holy Knight and Father comes through for my wife completely—every time.

He heals her wounds in ways I never could, and my attempts pale in comparison.

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It’s Okay to Lack

For most of my life, the same people were around me. I’m sure we had our awkward moments, but my friends had grown comfortable with my disabilities. Past the third grade, I don’t remember feeling as if I needed to “train” my friends on how to handle my high-risk limitations.

If my friends had questions about my disabilities, they either didn’t ask them, or they learned to watch me closely and found the answer themselves. My world was simple. My friend group was small, but everyone had my back and I had theirs. Any chronic issues of my life were talked about as if they were everyday occurrences and common knowledge.

Over time, I forgot I was disabled. But then I returned to Indiana to attend college.

All the sudden, my body-guard best friends were nowhere to be found. I was the new kid on the block, and I was obviously an oddity that needed observing. I quickly discovered my disabilities were still scary to some people, and down-right annoying to others. My confidence took a hit every time I had to apologize for my twitching limbs, my awkward stutter, or my random seizures.

It felt even worse every time I had to explain my limp, my crooked arm, or the reason I eat food with my right hand squeezed between my legs at all times.

I swallowed my pride and pushed forward, though. My new circle of friends learned to chuckle at my quirks, accept my limitations, and they realized asking for help didn’t mean I was weak. For the first time in two decades, I had to learn how to teach my friends.

Learning how to teach Peter, first as a boyfriend, and then as my husband, was a totally different experience. He had a right to know what was actually happening to my body, but all I wanted to teach him was how to cope with the awkwardness of my existence. I felt like I had something to prove.

Every time I attempted to prove to Peter that loving me was a totally normal and romantic adventure, I failed miserably. Most times, my attempts to prove my independence and strength left us both hurt, scared, and confused. For a time, I didn’t really care about the price of my short-sighted actions.

My antics were based on my fear of losing Peter. I was confident that if he realized how broken the cage of my body was, he’d walk away from me entirely because I was too high maintenance. I had to learn to trust Peter, and I had to learn to accept that God could equip Peter to handle my disabilities better than I ever could. We both learned—through trial and error—that our marriage needed authentic transparency and a willingness to talk through anything.

Training my friends how to handle my disabilities had been easy. I helped them cope with the differences because I love them. But with my husband, I had to let him help me bear the load because he loved me. Supporting me and defending me are two things he is biblically called to do as my husband.

I had to learn how to trust Peter’s heart and countenance with the Lord. When we confront yet another medical hurdle, I’m often unable to be exactly what Peter needs in a wife. It’s during those seasons, as a wife, I run to my Jesus and shout at the top of my lungs, “In my weakness you are strong, Jesus. You have to be enough.”

Our marriage is beautifully lacking in quite a few ways. But when my physical limitations force me to fall short for Peter, I’m forced to look for Jesus. And in much the same way, when Peter can’t fix, understand, or help bear my turmoil, he is forced to realize in a much deeper way that Christ is my savior, not him. We’re both learning to remember that although we may still be learning what coping with disabilities is like, Christ is all-knowing and never had to be trained in the first place.

(Over the next several months, to find the other blogs in this series, type marriage with disabilities in the search bar.)

Broken, Scared, & Beautiful

Shortly after my last post, my husband, Peter, and I were approached by some very sincere, genuine people asking us hard questions. Questions like:

“How do you do it? How do you make marriage work? Why did you choose each other? How can this be a good marriage when there’s so much turmoil underneath it?”

Peter and I have not hidden the fact that I am frustratingly disabled, that it impacts our marriage, and that my disabilities have been the crux of some beautiful God-sightings in the last year. To-date, I have cerebral palsy, epilepsy, broken heart syndrome, and a blessedly evasive anxiety disorder. It makes for some splendid fun (or somethin’).

Early on in our dating relationship, we had a few, very brutal-to-my-heart conversations about how I couldn’t sugarcoat the emotional and mental price I paid for the body I live in. Originally, I had a plan. The plan was to hide everything from Peter, and lead him to believe having a disabled significant other wouldn’t be hard. After witnessing a seizure which lasted a horrendously long afternoon, Peter gave me an ultimatum:

Tell the truth, trust him, or walk away.

For a woman who had been led to believe men wanted the perception of perfection and nothing else, that gentle demand was a harsh change of perspective on me. But from then on out, he slowly and methodically learned every dot and tittle of what living in my disabled self meant.

Two months before we were married, my strong-as-an-ox, healthy-as-a-horse future husband signed over as my Power of Attorney an hour prior to an emergency surgery which had more risks than we wanted to admit. Peter handled it like the God-fearing man he is, and signed on the dotted line after phrases like, “In the event this patient cannot respond, I the undersigned…”

Whatever dreams we had of riding off into the sunset together as a married couple came with a few clouds. And a horse with a limp. And no money. And… so many things which we weren’t willing to admit scared us.

Regardless, after all that, we thought transitioning into marriage with disabilities included would be a breeze–or at least a low-challenge adventure.

We–were–wrong.

The next season of posts — maybe three, maybe 40, maybe a 300-page book in the making — are thoughts we wish someone had shared with us before we were married. Thoughts about sharing a disability between two people but one deformed body. Thoughts about what it means to give up perceptions of perfection in order to strive for fairness and sacrificial love.

Mainly, you’ll hopefully find practical “You need to think about this” stories and anecdotes which made us shake in awe and wonder at the greatness of our God and how marriage points us to Him. Most of these posts will likely take on a “She-Said-He-Said” approach. We are both authoring these entries. They will all be real. They will all be raw. Some of them will be a bit terrifying.

And if you are like me–Peter–whose life hasn’t been controlled by the challenges of disabilities, I hope and pray you read these stories as things to glean from for your own marriage. Ultimately, I pray this series reminds you that marriage at its core has one design. Marriage was designed by God to be the light of Christ to the world, and though that design doesn’t mean marriage has to look one specific way, His light can be portrayed through different circumstances in different ways.

As the healthier person in this marriage, I have been taken down a road of humility and grace. This journey, designed by God, has now given me the eyes to see people I have never thought about before. So to you, I hope God will open your eyes not only to where you can grow to be a godly, supportive spouse, but to also have your eyes opened to where God is desiring to change your life’s perspective to become more like Him. It will hurt. Give yourself time to grow. Remember, though, He is still with us in those hard times and He is walking us down a road we could have never imagined on our own.

Over the next weeks, months, and years as we tell you our story, we pray this allows you to ask questions about our Jesus which are all answered with one simple phrase:

“Neither one of us deserved love; but Love Himself decided to love us anyway.”

To those of you who asked the questions roughly quoted at the beginning of this post, hopefully you’ll come to understand what we have fallen in love with. We needed Christ more than we needed each other, and we “make it work” by asking God to give us the strength to not ignore when marriage is hard. Because, if we focus on Him, the spirit-deep turmoil and unique challenges of a marriage with disabilities is so very worth every second.

Clashing Cultures

For me, being “one of the guys” used to be a treasured status symbol as a female teenager. There was something affirming about football players bringing me into the crowd, and wrestlers bringing me into practice just because it “made sense” to have me there. Somehow, my 4-foot-11-inch frame and spitfire personality afforded me rarely understandable respect and leadership among the “in-crowd.”

(The one time I laid aside my jeans and t-shirt to put on an evening gown, curl my hair and go to Prom, one of the guys memorably told me it was, “…weird to see [me] as a girl.”)

Fast forward a decade, and I find myself married to my best friend, learning what it means to be a wife, preparing for possible motherhood, and not being a “to-heck-with-estrogen” female. I’m still a strong-willed leader, but I’m learning to let myself be led.

It’s not a rare switch, but spiritually, it’s an awkward one.

This last year of marriage has shed light on so many soul-deep realities of why Christianity clashes with my American Culture. As a woman, I’ve dedicated my life to creating a persona of independence, leadership, responsibility… all of it. I’m good at what I do, and I know what I want. Though it goes against everything within me, somehow my audacious spirit makes people listen to what I say.

But as a Christian, I’m asked (commanded, actually, but that doesn’t sound as easy on the ears to we Americans) to lay all of that at the feet of Jesus and let Him designate where I lead and when I follow. To the culture around me, it seems debilitating because I seem to give up without a fight when I hear God whisper, “Let go of this one. You’re not in control; I am.”

I know how to be a strong, independent woman. Yet following Christ calls me to depend completely on Him and thrive within my weaknesses–not in spite of them.

I’ve given up power and status to sit at the feet of a Man who led by being a sacrifice for people who didn’t deserve it.

No wonder the world calls me a fool.

Trek to the Cross

The big Native man next to me smirked and mumbled in accented English, “You wanna see sumtin’ cool? Adventure? You? Me? Come!” I was 13, and I’d found myself in a small, remote village down the Yukon in Alaska. I was quite out of my element, and the friendly giant probably perceived my hesitation as boredom.

With permission from my mother, the next thing I knew I was on the back of a rusty 4-wheeler driving up a mountain, attempting desperately not to fall off. With every bump we hit, my friend *RJ would grab my ankle to keep me on the Honda and yell over the wind, “You be okay. Worth the risk. Promise.”

The beauty that met us at the top of the mountain was breathtaking. The small village we’d ridden away from seemed even smaller, and somehow God felt bigger to my young mind. RJ pointed to the destination of our adventure: A cross, slightly out-of-place and relatively unimpressive.

“It’s just a cross, but people like you like this stuff,” he said cryptically. Shrugging, he mumbled, “Sorry if you don’t like. We can go back now if you want.” Instead of leaving immediately, we sat under the cross and talked about Jesus, second chances, and why the cross was such a big deal.

RJ could barely grasp the true beauty behind the cross, but he knew he needed to show it to me–a total stranger.

Thinking about RJ now reminds me that, at times, God simply wants me to bring people to Him, and do nothing more. And then, even more often, when I obey Him by doing so, I’m equally as impacted by the truth of Christ as the one I’ve brought to meet Christ.

Unsung Faithfulness

“You can reach people with a story like that; I can’t.” It’s a line I’ve heard so often it takes supernatural strength to not scream. I understand what someone means when they say such a thing. On one hand, with medical trauma, trials, travesties, and long awaited triumphs, my story seems miraculously riveting.

After all, it’s not common to be told you can live with 3/4 of a brain, a neurological “shocker collar,” and a body which literally enjoys living in the realm of pseudo heart attacks. But to survive all that–praise be to God– and pursue a career in writing, get married, and live a life that seems subliminally normal? Yeah, that’s awesome.

Then you have the spiritual aspect. In not-so-Christian terms, at 17 years old, I told the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to take a hike because no logical person needed Him. Though Christ never left my side, He did let me experience life without Him. My sinful desires almost burned away every recognizably redeemed part of my soul. I shouldn’t be alive. I shouldn’t be safe. I shouldn’t be claimed as a Child if God. But somehow, like the Hound of Heaven that Jehovah is, He let me play the harlot, He let me experience my “prodigal power,” and when I’d had enough, He let me come Home.

So, yes. That story is riveting as well. Unfortunately, the story seems to shut up the individual who believed in the Lord Jesus as his or her savior at four years old and never looked back. Oh, with all my heart, I wish it didn’t.

If you are one of those Believers, take it from one of the people who gets handed a microphone way too often. You, my friend, are the Story that makes people like myself cling to Jesus even more. You are proof that returning to Jesus really is more than enough. As much as I am confident of my salvation in Jesus Christ, as head over heels in love as I am with my Savior, there are days I doubt whether leaving my life of sin was worth it. Redemption takes the place of the lies within your heart, but the lies can run deep.

I sold my Jesus for a season to get my way. You didn’t. Your story may feel boring. To people like me,though, it’s a breath of fresh air and the whisper of Jesus telling me to shut out the lies and keep my eyes on Him.

We were all given our faith journeys for a reason. Just because you don’t see your impact doesn’t mean it’s absent. Thank you for your faithfulness to our Jesus. Your faithfulness brings me to tears and reminds me to keep going.

Add to the Box

Dear Child,

I dreamed about you long before you existed. I have no idea whether you’ll have my independent streak, or your daddy’s merciful heart. I don’t know if you’ll have my ever-changing eye color, or your daddy’s cool blue eyes and cheeky grin.

I don’t even know if you’ll ever exist.

I don’t know if I’ll carry you, adopt you, lose you, or do all three. I don’t know if you’ll have your dad’s rock solid medical record, or my terrifying one. I don’t know if your personality will clash with us, or if you’ll enjoy being in our family. There are so many things I don’t know.

I just know I want you.

We started a project for you, and to be honest, I’m terrified. I’m not terrified that you won’t like it, but I’m terrified that you won’t understand it. It’s a treasure box filled with notecards. Some of them filled with prayers for you. Many of them, though, are filled with verses which have either brought us closer to our Maker King Jesus, or encouraged us to stay where we already are.

I’ll be honest, Kiddo, as much as I want to help you succeed, I want to give you the heart to love the Jesus those notecards talk about. My prayer is that you won’t walk by that treasure box without discovering the Christ who is our Treasure. I pray your relationship won’t hinge on whether Daddy and I are growing in Christ, doing well in our marriage, or even still alive.

We can promise to strive after Christ with you, but I pray we never hold you back simply because your desire to know Him may look different than we had ever imagined for you. I may want you more than I ever thought possible, but my heart’s cry is that you’ll never want me, your dad, success, or cultural security, more than you want the Jesus who loves you more than we ever could.

This world–our culture–is no longer accepting of people who are sold out for Jesus. Be a radical, Darlin’, regardless of what our world may say. Don’t close your eyes while you run towards Jesus, because if you do that, you’ll be blind to the people you should stop for in order to bring them with you. But run, Sweetheart. Run after Jesus. It’s all we’ve ever wanted for you.

Help me add to the treasure box, Little One.