Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Life with Cerebral Palsy" with Stephanie Cox: Love

Back in the 80s when Steph was just a kid, the group Foreigner put out a song called, "I Want to Know What Love Is," and it quickly ascended to the #1 spot on charts all around the world probably because it is a feeling we all can relate to. We all want to know what love is. 

So many young girls dream of their wedding days and love the idea of "being swept away by a prince charming and riding off into the sunset." 

Being born with a disabled body doesn't change that.

The Bible explains why we have this longing for love. God IS love and that we are made in His image. The Bible also tells us what love looks like and really, it isn't until we find someone who will treat us that way that we will really know what love is...

- - -

1. In the 1984 song by Foreigner, the lyrics say, "In my life I've there's been heartache and pain. I don't know if I can face it again." In what ways, looking back, do you feel that you suffered heartache and pains that you still fear experiencing again "today" and do you think they have anything to do with having been born with a disability?

In junior high and high school I had tons of crushes, but guys didn't see me in "that way." They couldn't see past the cp. They didn't want to feed me and be responsible for my well-being. And, if they were thinking about the future, I suppose the idea of marrying me freaked them out. While I can understand some of this now, it still hurt me back then nonetheless. We all want and need people to love and accept us for who we are despite our physical appearances. I was/am no different.

I absolutely HATED Valentine's Day in junior high and high school. All my friends and classmates had roses or stuffed animals from their boyfriends on Valentine's Day at school. Their lockers were decorated. I had nothing from a boyfriend. My mom would give me a stuffed animal on Valentine's Day and I'd take it to school so I had something. 

I wore black Valentine's Day too. I rebelled against it since no guy could see me as more as "the girl in the wheelchair." Or even "the retarded girl" despite the fact that I am not mentally disabled.

Also, I believe there is a huge misconception that people with disabilities are not sexual beings who need and want intimacy in a sexual manner. I'm here to tell you that that could not be farther from the truth. I have the same desires for sexual intimacy as every other woman.

Anyway, I never got asked to dances after grade school. Every time I thought I had a chance with a guy I liked, he quickly showed me I was wrong. So, yeah, I've had my fair share of heartbreaks until God gave me the most wonderful guy ever who is now my husband.

Also, I've been hurt by many girls who I thought were my friends. They've turned their backs on me and have treated me horribly. That has been heartbreaking too. I do not have a bunch of friends, so I'm terrified of losing the few friends I have. Yes, I do think cp has something to do with it since I can't just hop in a car and go have a "girl's night out." It doesn't help that all of my close friends who make time for me online also live far away.

2. In your life when have you seen love be patient and kind?

When friends make time for me. And most recently, all the people who contributed to my beautiful new wheelchair!! I now have a constant reminder of the kindness and love of people!

In my beautiful new wheelchair 2015. 
Thank you all who donated to make this possible!

3. Did you have dreams of falling in love someday and getting married? Did you ever worry that because you had cp that that would never become a reality?

Of course! From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a wife and a mommy. I wanted what every little girl wants. Cp does not affect how little girls dream about their future and their "knight in shining armor."

In high school I had a hard time because my aide told me every day that I'd never get married or do all of the things I wanted. 

I did go through a rebellious stage between the ages of thirteen and fifteen where I wanted to get drunk, high, and have sex like a lot of my friends were doing. Thankfully, God kept me from being able to do those things due to never being able to be left alone or able to sneak out. If I could have, I definitely would have just as people my age did—anything to forget the pain and fear and to be “normal” like everyone else. It was very difficult going from always having boyfriends in grade school to guys wanting nothing to do with me in junior high and high school, so I did worry that I might never find a guy who could see past my cerebral palsy in order to truly love me for me.

God saved me from that and even though I still got heartbroken by guys until Chip, I now know God had the perfect guy out there for me. It was when I stopped looking for a boyfriend that God gave me Chip.

4. When did you first meet Chip and how did your relationship build?

I knew Chip my whole life. He was my dad's friend as he and my dad were both amateur (ham) radio operators. I always thought Chip was cute and he always treated me as a "normal" child.

Well, I grew up and became a woman. Chip got seriously sick with diverticulitis. He almost died. It was while he was recovering at his sister's house that I got my first laptop and email address. We started emailing each other. At first, it was just as friends, but in three weeks we were in love. Really though we were in love at first email.

He couldn't understand me very well so when we began emailing, it was like the flood gates were opened and we had so much in common. But, we both fought hard against falling in love because of our age difference. We felt like we were completely off limits to each other. However, God had other plans. LOL! When he wrote me that he loved me just three weeks after we began emailing each other, I cried tears of joy. 

These lyrics to the song "Rest of My Life" by Blessid Union of Souls really describes our relationship:

"I know you're heard the excuses before
So I won't waste your time and I'll keep this short
I've bound my emotions 'cause I can't afford to be wrong
I know we've talked about being good friends
So we've been real careful of the signals we've sent
But all of your glances they came and the went to my head
And I'm not a man to throw words to the wind
When I said 'I love you' that's what I meant
And I plan to show you if it takes me the rest of my life
The rest of my life
The rest of my life
I don't want to rush this cause my greatest fear
Is taking for granted what's taken us years
To build from the ground up with all of the tears that we cried
We've taken our time and for this I'm so glad
Now we can be sure that this moment will last
We've traveled a road of mistakes in our past to get here
And I'm not about to throw words to the wind
When I said 'i love you' that's what I meant
And I'm going to show you if it takes me the rest of my life
The rest of my life
The rest of my life
And I'm not a man to throw words to the wind
When I said 'I love you' well, that's what I meant
And I plan to show you if it takes me the rest of my life."

We hid our love from people for the first few months because we didn't know how people would react. 

Chip's sister was the only one who knew from the start and she was so encouraging of our blooming love. I now know my mom knew before I finally told her. I went from a kind of sad, quiet person to happy and giddy. I also couldn't wait to get on my computer every night. How could she not know her daughter was head over heels in love? But I sure did my best to hide it.

Chip had a second surgery a month into our relationship to repair his intestines from the first emergency surgery and my sister took me to the hospital to see him a few days later. That's when he mouthed "I love you!" to me when my sister wasn't looking. I felt amazing and I knew God wanted me to marry him someday. We also exchanged Christmas gifts for the first time.

We still emailed constantly while he recovered and he said, "I don't think of you as disabled. You're Steph and you're beautiful." We used the month we couldn't be together as time to get to know each other. I told him how much work I was as well as how to do certain things with me care wise.

When I finally told my mom, she reacted soooo much better than we thought. She was concerned but happy for me. I am so grateful to my mom for not stopping our love.

Other's reactions ranged from angry to happy. We dealt with it the best we could because this was our life. I wasn't about to allow anyone to ruin this for me. I deserved love and a "normal as possible" life no matter how others felt/feel about it. God wanted us to be together for the rest of our lives.

5. How long did you date before you were engaged and how long was your engagement? What types of dates did you go on? Did someone who knew how to care for you have to accompany you at first?

Our first date was on Chip's birthday January 5, 1999. My mom dropped me off at Applebee's. Chip fed me and we talked. He did great getting used to "Steph Speak." We were so happy to be alone since he was still recovering from surgery due to diverticulitis and couldn't do much. Plus, he couldn't lift me yet due to recovering. We saw each other at my dad's but hid our relationship from Dad. I was so nervous and excited on our first date. But, being near him felt so good and right. Neither of us wanted that night to end. We had our second kiss that night before Chip took me out to my mom.

Our first kiss was a few nights before at my Dad's while Dad was in the bathroom. Dad didn't know about us until our one year anniversary, though he suspected something. My dad was abusive so I was terrified to tell him. He disowned me after we told him. Anyway, it was New Year's Eve and when my dad left the room, Chip jumped up and kissed me. It surprised me and we laugh about it now. But I was one happy girl!

Once Chip was fully healed, he'd come pick me up and take me out. Again, God had His hand in all this because Chip had (we still have it & use it as our only vehicle) a full size Ford van, so my manual wheelchair fit right in the back with no problem. He also had a ground floor apartment which I moved into after we got married. Perfect for having a girlfriend, fiancé, and wife in a wheelchair.

My mom would get me ready for Chip. I never was big into make-up and Chip prefers the natural look. Chip quickly learned to brush my hair and fix it if my ponytail came out.
Chip always made/makes me feel beautiful. 

The only "body image" I had/have is being too skinny since cp makes me move constantly. Daily living is a lot of work for my body and burns calories. I never have to worry about being fat.

Back to dates, my heart would race waiting for Chip to come get me. He'd be coming down the street and I'd see the van and yell, "He's here!" He never knocked. He came in and would hug and kiss me. We'd tell my mom when we'd be back and off we went. He put me in the van. We'd hug and kiss some more then he load up my chair and we go. I hated leaving him. I cried every time. And it was hard sometimes when I wanted to be with him but couldn't jump in my car to see him. God gave us strength when we couldn't always be together.

For our first Valentine's Day in 1999 we went to see the movie, "You've Got Mail," then we went to his favorite Mexican restaurant. He gave me a box of chocolates and a stuffed ape. Needless to say, I no longer hate Valentine's Day.

Our dates were/are like every other couple's dates. Going out to dinner, going to movies, he took me to my senior prom in high school, going to concerts, going shopping, hanging at his place. Normal dates.

Us during our dating years 1999-2001

The only thing Chip had to get used to with me besides "Steph Speak" was the fact that everything takes longer with me. But, we never let that stop us. He just had to learn to allow for extra time for everything.

We dated almost 3 years when he asked me to marry him. We went to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Before I go further, we did wait until marriage to have sex, but he did all my care by this point so I felt fine going on trips with him since we agreed that sex is for marriage.

Anyway, I knew he was going to ask me to marry him on this trip. He got my mom's blessing before we left for our trip. I was so excited! On Monday, August 6, 2001, I was so excited that I was very spastic and couldn't eat. He knew he couldn't torture me, so we went up into the mountains. He kept stopping at our different favorite look outs. Finally, we took this road up to Clingman's Dome, the highest point of the Smokies. We had never been up there before. It was beautiful. We stopped at a little lookout to get out of the van again. We were alone. He got on one knee and proposed! I immediately said, "Yes, yes!" It came out effortlessly. He put my beautiful diamond engagement ring on and kissed me. I cried with my mouth open to keep my ears from popping all the way down the mountain and Chip kept yelling out the window, "She said YES!" LOL!

That night we stopped at a fast food restaurant and ate in the van watching the sunset over the mountains. I kept looking at my beautiful engagement ring. I was so happy!!

This shows where we got engaged, my beautiful engagement ring, and our official engagement picture August 2001.

Our engagement lasted 20 months before our Big Day. I did all the normal things brides-to-be do in planning a wedding. I loved every second of it!

Shower fun March 2003.

Our wedding invitations. 
I had a Precious Moments theme for our wedding.

6. What was your wedding like and how did you feel on that day?

My wedding day was THE BEST DAY of my life. 

Thankfully, I got most of my crying out at the rehearsal because it was walking in our church for the rehearsal and seeing it beautifully set up for the Big Day that it finally felt real. I sobbed throughout the rehearsal. All the emotion just came out. I'm glad everyone there knew I was happy because you would have thought I was being forced into this the way I absolutely bawled. LOL!

Rehearsal fun except for me crying constantly
April 11, 2003.

The next day, April 12, 2003, (my maternal grandparents were married April 12, 1947) I woke up at 6. Our wedding was at noon. I didn't want to wait half the day to get married. I wanted to get up and do this. My friend slept over and my mom and friend got me kind of ready and we headed to the church so all my bridesmaids and my mom and the mom of my friend and her little sister, who was my flower girl, could get me ready. I was a bridezilla, though, as I had even given everyone a precise schedule to follow on my wedding day. Of course, that went out the window once the day got started. I just wanted everything to go perfectly. It did too!

I was excited and nervous. But God had filled me with peace. I did not want to cry during the ceremony like I had the night before. So every time I felt like crying while they turned me into a beautiful princess/bride, they'd sing a goofy song. It was hilarious but it worked.

One bridesmaid did my hair first. Then Chip's sister, my Matron of Honor, did my make-up. Next my bridesmaid and her mom got my veil on. My veil was my mom's.

Then my mom and all my bridesmaids got me in my beautiful wedding dress. I did surprisingly well with my spasticity considering how excited I was!

This is the most beautiful I had ever felt in my life. 
I felt like a princess and a woman.

Once they got me ready, it was time for them to get ready.

Our wedding was traditional. However, our Bible passage was the weirdest passage ever picked for a wedding. Even our pastor said so, but he did an excellent job creating a sermon for our wedding out of it. The Scripture we picked was John 3:1-21. I love the story of Nicodemus and Jesus. It makes me laugh every time I read it. God definitely has a sense of humor. Also, we wanted to share the Gospel as many at our wedding were unbelievers.

My mom walked me down the aisle and gave me away. 

I had to "quack" all the way down the aisle to keep myself from crying as everybody was crying, including Chip, as we made our way down the aisle. Chip said I took his breath away when he saw me for the first time in my wedding dress. 

In the lineup before we all headed down the aisle, my bridesmaids sang "Old McDonald" to keep me from crying, and one said "duck" which meant quacking. LOL! But, then my mom and I headed down the aisle and everyone was crying so I kept "quacking," especially as Mom gave me away because that made her cry. 

Once Chip sat down next to me, (he stood until Mom gave me away, then we wanted to be equal and truly face to face when we said our vows) he was wondering what I was quietly saying to myself. I eventually stopped "quacking" as I got into the sermon.

It all felt surreal. 

I kept myself as calm as possible because I move more when nervous and excited. I did great considering. Chip and I held hands during the sermon, then, of course, during our vows. 

One thing our pastor pointed out during his sermon was the fact that it's obvious I need Chip, but Chip needs me just as much as I need him. After almost 12 years of marriage, that remains so true. We are a team. We rely on each other constantly.

We said our vows like every couple. Chip and our pastor understood me, so I didn't worry about anyone else. Then Chip pried my hand open to put my wedding ring on. Even that went better than anticipated considering how excited I was. My Matron of Honor was the one who drove my chair when it was time for Chip and I to face each other. I was too nervous and excited to drive myself. My Matron of Honor put Chip's wedding ring in my hand and I put the ring in Chip's hand while saying the ring vows. Or actually, Chip pried his ring out of my hand. Chip put his wedding ring on his finger after I finished saying those vows.

Then as the pastor did the final announcements, I pulled on Chip and we kind of tugged each other back and forth so excited we were MARRIED! Then the pastor said, "You may kiss your bride!" And we kissed and everyone whistled and cheered. 

Then Chip turned me around and our pastor introduced us as husband and wife. We made it about halfway up the aisle when I lost it and let myself cry tears of joy, love, and relief that we were finally married. After that, I didn't care. I cried when I felt like it the rest of the day. My wedding was the most beautiful wedding ever. So many said so too!

The ceremony!

A few after-ceremony pix.

Our reception was typical. We did everything that "normal" couples do at a reception. 

I did have a small table behind our head table for eating since it made me too nervous to eat facing everyone. I cough and food falls out when I chew, so eating in front of a crowd, even though nobody would've cared or even noticed as they were talking and eating, wasn't something I felt comfortable doing. Plus, it gave Chip and me a little time to eat without the constant happy interruptions.

We danced our first dance as a married couple to our song "Truly Madly Deeply" by Savage Garden with me in Chip's arms instead of in my chair. Other than that, we danced a lot with me in my chair. I also drove around talking to people.

Cutting the cake was funny because putting a knife in my hand is, well, unadvisable. LOL! 

But, Chip put the knife in my hand and put his hand over mine, and we cut our cake together. I giggled as we did it. Then Chip fed me a bite and got some on my nose then I told him to help me give him some. Then we kissed.

At the end of the reception, everyone who was still there formed a big circle around us and gave us the well-wishes which was full of crying. Just typing this makes me teary. We had our wedding and video recorded. We cry every time we watch it. It was perfect except we forgot our Precious Moments cake topper, so my sister, who was one of my bridesmaids, put my bouquet on the cake when we got there. 

I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful wedding day.

Pix of our reception.

We honeymooned in the Smoky Mountains in a lovely cabin in Townsend, TN.

7. It's not uncommon in our world for relationships to end in divorce. Everyone looks so happy on their wedding day, but then soon things can just fall apart. The couples fight about what the other is not doing for them and how they are failing to show what love is. How long have you been married now and would you say that Chip has shown you what love is?

April 12, 2015 marks our twelfth wedding anniversary. 

We are like all couples. We've had our fair share of fights. Forgiveness is key. We do not hold grudges nor dwell on past hurts. When we apologize and forgive, that's it.

We are so blessed that God put us together. 

We are together 24/7 which would drive most couples nuts, but not us. Yes, every day we make time for ourselves. Chip operates his ham radio station and I get online, chat with friends, and family, read a book, or write. I do go out with friends very occasionally, but we truly cannot get away from each other and we truly wouldn't have it any other way. He is my human rock. I can't bear the thought of doing life without him.

One thing he always says is that he doesn’t have to care for me, he gets to care for me. This is something he truly wants to do! I could not ask for a better man!

Divorce isn't an option for us. In fact, he told me on our wedding night that he had almost broken up with me soon after our one year anniversary of dating. He loved me so much that he didn't want to hold me back in life, (this makes me laugh because I doubt I would have accomplished all that I have without him) and he was scared that he wouldn't be able to handle me for the rest of his life. It was the very night that he was considering breaking up with me that Chip received Christ as his Savior.

Thank You, Jesus, for intervening. 

Anyway, Chip purposely waited to tell me about almost breaking up with me until our wedding night, so I could be assured that he will never leave me.

Sometimes, after a long day, I worry he'll "get sick of me." Every time I do this he shows me his wedding ring. He reassures me that he's not going anywhere. At times he makes me show him my wedding ring and reassure him. Our relationship is a two-way street.

I show my love for him by telling him I love him throughout the day, supporting him, helping him emotionally, putting him first, telling him how much I appreciate him, listening to him, letting him enjoy his hobbies, and standing by him. 

Just because I can't do what "normal wives" do doesn't mean I can't love him.

I do the same for my friends if they'll let me.

Chip...does not get easily provoked when I need him when he's in the middle of doing something or in the middle of the night.

He doesn't keep a list of wrongs suffered when he forgives me fully and never brings it up again.

He always rejoices with the truth and brings out the good in me when everyone around me is putting me down or letting me down.

He bears all things as he must do everything for me and the house. He truly has a lot on his shoulders.

He believes in me even when I don't believe in myself. He is sometimes the only one, besides God, who believes in me.

He has hope and gives me hope for our future by telling me everything will be alright and helping me keep my eyes on Jesus when the world is falling down around us.

He has endured so much with me as from the start of our relationship; life has not been easy for us. We keep enduring life together!

Chip has shown me how the end...never never stopping loving me and continuing to show me that he never will.

(Sounds an awful lot like 1 Cor. chapter 13, doesn't it?)

How long did it take to answer these questions?

I worked on it and the pictures for a good week, so over 12 hours in toto. It is my hope these interviews are helping people understand that my severe cerebral palsy does not rule my life. Jesus does!

1 comment:

  1. Aw Stephanie that had me teary eyed myself !!! I am so glad that God brought you two together ... and that you have such a wonderful relationship too. BTW, one small thing. There are no 'normal' wives .. we are all different. Happy, sad, joyous, angry, loving, healthy and full of beans, healthy but quiet ... and then there are those who are not healthy .. or who have things like CP... or chronic pain etc that stop us doing a lot of things. Hang in there ... you are AWESOME and I am sure Chip agrees !! ;)


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