When Our Mountains Moved

We don’t know how to tell people about the last four months of our lives. When we talk about it with people who have known me all my life, we’re met with tears–lots and lots of tears. Some of those tears are joyful excitement. Most of them are silent but constant fear.

I’m pregnant. Oh, oh my Jesus, I’m pregnant! Everything about my body says this shouldn’t be happening. It was hard to get my epileptic, broken-heart syndrome, cerebral-palsied brain around that back in July. It’s even harder now, at 17 weeks, to get our minds wrapped around this pregnancy despite the seizures and pseudo-heart attacks which have laced our nights from time to time.

Peter and I, as much as we wanted kids, took a long time to process what pregnancy with my medical condition would mean. Would the baby survive? Would the baby be wounded while in the womb simply because of an epileptic seizure or one of my Broken Heart Syndrome episodes? Could I actually mother this child with my own vast limitations? Will Peter be raising our child(ren) virtually alone while my disorders get worse?

The questions nearly killed us as each question was met with silence and a disheartened shrug as we realized the mountain in front of us. Adoption has a huge corner in our hearts, but I never found myself on adoption websites. I found myself researching things like, “epileptic mother, fetus survival rate.”

It’s now quite obvious that I’m not barren, but most medical professionals probably would have preferred I acted as such. They don’t know, though. They weren’t there. They don’t understand….

We let the fear and unknowns drive our decisions for far too long. Finally, in a moment of desperation, we did what Gideon of the Bible did thousands of years ago. We told God we’d stop attempting to control the future, and if He wanted us to be pregnant, He’d have to move mountains.

10 days, three pregnancy tests, an insurmountable amount of crying, celebrating, and phone calls later, we finally accepted the truth.

God had moved our mountains, and somehow we were adding a baby to this family. Hallelujah!

We’ve both had to learn how to surrender our expectations to the Lord with this baby. As the child grows, it’s getting harder and harder to mutter with confidence, “You give and take away, Lord. Even if you take this baby, our hearts will praise you.”

Yet as our hearts grow towards parenthood, we’re constantly given glimpses of God’s tenderness towards us as His children.

Every time Peter talks to the baby, we’re reminded of the times our Heavenly Father talks to us and we don’t hear Him, yet we feel safe because of His presence. Every day the baby is just a wee bit too still, we’re reminded of the times God sits with us in silence, waiting for the moment we want to continue our journey together.

As each day progresses and our child grows, both of us are reminded how impossible this pregnancy is. Equally, though, we’re reminded how impossible God’s love for us is, and yet He continuously woos us to Himself.

Because of that, we lose sleep at night wondering just how much this child’s existence will testify to the One who held his/her little head long before we could.

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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.

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.)

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.

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.

When My Talent Died

So, I’ve stopped writing. Much to the chagrin of former journalism professors, old fans, and many family members, I’ve just…stopped. I still work in communications, so, when deadlines arise, I sit down with my trusty li’l iPad and I spit out something. Usually, I turn it in with the thought, “Really? That’s all you’ve got? You’re a published author and a Journalism graduate. You’re barely scratching the surface here. You can do better than this!” 

And somehow, despite my angst, God still makes my writing impactful. I just really don’t understand how He does such a thing. I still know how to write. I’ve just forgotten how to write for myself. (Hence the reason this blog hasn’t been touched in two months.)

Let me explain. My parents handed me an old laptop when I was fourteen and told me to write. My life had been so packed with medical trials, traumas, and troubles, they just wanted me to have an outlet. Without actually knowing what I was doing, I set out to make my pain make sense, and I took advantage of that outlet.

I needed to find God when my body gave me reasons to believe God was dead. So, I let my pain infiltrate page, after page, after page of defining Jesus within my very lonely and hurting heart.

I found my talent within writing. Writing somehow made my pain beautiful. Writing gave me a way to understand that a traumatic and painful life didn’t erase God. Writing helped me see that pain simply chips away at religious pretenses and makes you feel every inch of your desire to follow an invisible God.

But now, almost a decade and a half later, my life is not run by pain or medical trauma. By now, I’ve told all my stories, I’ve cried all my tears, and truly, my heart is filled with joy. I love it! … I just don’t know how to write about it, or write within it. I’m at a total peace for the first time since I can remember, and all the sudden, my need to write has disappeared.

The funny part is, God has made it clear I’m not done writing. It’s just I no longer have to write for myself. In other words, a blank page doesn’t give me anxiety. It’s just a reality. When God wants me to start writing, the fire in my bones comes back and nothing can hold me back. I’m okay with that.

Now my journey is learning how to let my talent include joy.

Don’t Trip Over Me

I clearly remember the day I decided to leave my childhood church. I had walked away from that particular body of believers (who were and are amazing people) when I decided Christ was the last thing I wanted to pursue. When I returned after my two year hiatus, I was broken beyond recognition spiritually and wanted anyone to tell me the pain dulls someday.

Actually, I wanted more than that. I wanted someone to hear about my wounds and tell me how to heal; because I had no idea how to do it myself. Growing up, I was the picture-perfect Christian kid. I knew the right answers. When Christ renewed my faith, I knew the right answers but my life made those answers feel foreign, unfamiliar and unobtainable. 

I needed help but was given the impression I seemed “fine.” I was experiencing redemption, but I felt anything but fine. The day I told old friends why I needed a fresh start, a few people gave me very vague answers. I heard lines like, “I’ve been there.” “I know why you’re hurting.” 

… But in my childishly adult 20-year-old mind, those particular responses had come too late. I’d sat wounded and feeling alone for months. I had needed someone more spiritually experienced to get me back on track and it felt like that counsel never came. I’ll always remember the confusion I felt when I was told someone understood my struggles right before I walked out the door. I had no clue I had people to go to to get help… until it was too late. They seemed too perfect to include me.

So, I left and “started over.”

That was close to ten years ago now. Christ saw my spiritual hunger and gave me a Body of believers who loved me deeply but didn’t let me get away with anything. Change isn’t always a bad thing, and to this day, 3,500 miles away, I’m genuine friends with people from both churches. 

I was told recently that I seemed like a very “open book.” As a pastor’s wife, that sentiment is both terrifying and terrific. Too little transparency and people feel as if you’re fake. Too much transparency and your ability to co-lead with your minister husband gets hazy. I want to be relateable; I’m afraid of being a stumbling block.

As I struggle with finding that balance as a new wife to a pastor in training, I’m constantly kicked back to how I felt drowned in loneliness when I first came back to the Lord. I let people see my healed and now-beautiful wounds because I’m learning leadership first starts with being touchable. 

You don’t have to be perfect to be in my group of believers. You don’t have to have all of your sin “Christianized” before being a godly impact on others. You simply have to be willing to realize Christ is the source of your joy and your love. When you realize that, your story loses its shame and Christ changes the game by being the Victor.

If you stumble over anything when you notice I’m an “open book,” may you stumble over the Cornerstone of Christ just as I did.