Can She Cook for You?

20 10 2014

01_JAWed_C.Smucker-7708“How will she do her housework?” A wedding guest asked my mom after watching Joe half carry me up the aisle and then make our grand entrance into the reception as “Mr & Mrs” with my groom pushing my wheelchair.

I suppose I did seem rather helpless.

A lot of folks at the wedding, who don’t see me all the time, were shocked at my seemly very frail state.

I felt deceitful.

Just the day before I’d been walking around without even my cane. I wasn’t as frail as it seemed. It’s just that if I trigger, the muscles in my back and neck pull backward so that my balance is usually rather bad and often my back will bend backward, sometimes almost double. Most times I can handle it with just my cane but if there is a lot of walking, especially with other triggers involved, it only aggravates the situation and can push things into a seizure and so that’s when I use my wheelchair.

Dystonia does affect my every day life, but I’m not an invalid. The wheelchair usually just takes up space in our spare room and my cane is used sometimes every day, sometimes several times a week, and sometimes not at all.

My type of Dystonia doesn’t cripple you, you just have to be aware of what’s happening around you and be prepared.

I haven’t written much about living with Dystonia… I got engaged a few months after being diagnosed and since then my life has been full of learning to live with this new disease while holding down a job, wedding plans, and house renovations.

Interestingly enough, Joe gets asked lots of questions about our life.

“Does she cook for you?” they wonder. (I know he’s skinny! but does he really look that bad?)

“Can she wash your clothes and clean the house?”

Well yeah, I can!

To be honest, there are some days when I drag myself out of bed and make breakfast. Then I head back to bed, get up and make lunch and back to bed I go.

Some days Joe cooks his own breakfast and gets lunch from mom. (I have a great mom!)

But other days, I get up in the morning and go to school for my weekly devotional with the high school girls. I’ll come home after peeking in on everybody, work on a project, make lunch and do some laundry. I fix supper and by the time I’ve cleaned up, I’m exhausted & hurting, but it’s a good feeling of accomplishment.

Right now, my good days and bad days are about half and half. We’ve learned to make the most of the good days.


Weddings and Wheelchairs

20 10 2014

03_JAWED_CSmucker-193“I pray every day that things will go well at your wedding.” Read a card I received at my bridal shower.

“I’m praying for you as you prepare for your wedding,” wrote a friend in an email the week before our big day, “what are some specific things to pray about?”

“I think Miss Andrea is probably gonna trigger.” One of my little students gravely informed Rosalie the morning of the wedding as she collected them for photos. “Well you know what we can do about it?” She replied, ” We can pray for her.”

Many people were praying for me that day. They were praying that I would be healthy and that I would be able to walk. They had faith that God would answer our prayers.

So when seeing me in my wheelchair before the wedding, several dear caring people whom I love very much, were saddened. “Bless your heart!” They whispered in my ear as they leaned down to give me a hug.

“I was just praying and praying she would be doing well! But I noticed she isn’t walking very well.” My aunt said to my mom with tears in her eyes. Now bless HER heart.

So did God not answer my prayers and the prayers of the people who mean so much to me? I think He did.

I wasn’t disappointed, I was happy. Very happy!

Because you see, maybe I don’t have enough faith, but I wasn’t expecting more than that.

I have Dystonia. It’s not just going to go away for a bit so I can have a “normal” wedding, anymore than people with diabetes can ignore their disease and eat their wedding cake.

I like to think of it as realistic faith. To demand absolutely perfect health from God is saying I know better than God, and would not be allowing Him to direct my life.

Perhaps I didn’t bounce gaily into my reception on my brand new husband’s arm, but I was happily clinging to his hand as he gallantly pushed my wheelchair.

And perhaps we couldn’t use Christy’s talents to the fullest and get lots and lots of amazingly styled portraits because I was tired and running out of energy, but I have many lovely photos that tell OUR story.

We weren’t able to be a part of our wedding service, but there was something very special about watching it in a separate room with our closest friends.

I couldn’t mingle with the guests but many of them filled out the cards placed on their plates and Joe and I got to read lots of fun comments and marriage advice.

Almost every one of my “triggers” was present those last few days, with the exception of cold. But I did amazingly well.

I believe God answered my prayers because he allowed me to walk down the aisle. This was something we didn’t know if I’d be able to do until the very last minute… But God was incredibly gracious and I walked!

Now Joe thought it would be totally romantic to carry me up and the whole way back… But he understood how much it meant to me and carefully helped me, supporting my back so I wouldn’t make a scene and setting a slower pace.

When we got to the back of the church after being pronounced husband and wife, I just burst into tears. I was so overwhelmed by the goodness of God. This amazing man, to whom I had just pledged my life, and walking up the aisle, were such precious gifts from Him!

On our four month wedding anniversary, I was having seizures and muscle cramps. My body would just shake for hours. We ended up having to move home for a while so my family could help care for me.

This could have happened over our wedding. I could have been very ill and hospitalized… Instead I was enjoying my wedding, even if it was from a wheelchair.

Thank you God.

Our Long Awaited Wedding Day

4 09 2014

Oh however is this possible? To blog about a day that contained a lifetime of emotion and generated almost one thousand photos?

When I thought of wedding photos the first person who came to my mind was Christy. I met Christy years ago when her husband Steve and I co-taught at Cold Spring Mennonite School. We’ve corresponded off and on through the years and I loved the idea of a friend doing the photos. I also knew that Christy was good and would be able to deliver even if we couldn’t allow as much time as normal for photos and that she would be sensitive to my health needs. I was thrilled when some friends offered to help with the cost as a wedding present so I could afford her services. And so the photo credits in this post go to the talented C.Smucker Photography and her wonderful assistant Jolene.

I’ve had a very hard time deciding which photos to post! *clicking on any photo will bring it up in a larger image*

If you will remember, months ago when Joe & I were first engaged, my desire was to be able to walk down the aisle. We endeavored to plan our day in such a way that allowed for as much rest as possible. We took our wedding photos in about three different sessions rather than everything the morning of the wedding and the wedding began at two in the afternoon.

O U R  B R I D A L  P A R T Y

The amazing people we’re blessed to have a part of our lives!

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte, “that in itself is a tremendous thing.” -E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

The day of the wedding my walking wasn’t very good. The photo shoot and rehearsal the evening before had maxed me out and I was “pulling”. I had two very amazing personal attendants and my Aunt Marta insisted I stay in my wheelchair. She was conserving my strength and I do believe that played a huge part in my being able to walk down the aisle.

watching guest arrive from the quiet of the bridal suite


O U R  C E R E M O N Y

It was important to Joe & I that our ceremony would be a time of honoring God. Throughout our relationship we were keenly aware of God’s leading.  Joe & I are committed to this marriage for life. Divorce is not an option for us. The only way this is possible, is for us to keep our focus on God and maintain a relationship with Him. And so we wanted the focus of our ceremony to be on God’s unconditional love for us and our commitment to Him as Christians.

I’m finding that I can understand a little more of God’s love for me when I see how Joe loves me. My diseases don’t deter him. To him my limitations are just another way for him to show his love. Even when I’m upset and don’t know why he just stays calm and works through things with me and makes me laugh. How did I get so blessed?

One of my favorite songs that was sung by my talented cousins at our wedding was My God, I Thank Thee by Adelaide A. Procter

My God, I thank Thee, who hast made
The earth so bright,
So full of splendor and of joy,
Beauty and light;
So many glorious things are here,
Noble and right.

I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made
Joy to abound;
So many gentle thoughts and deeds
Circling us round,
That in the darkest spot of earth
Some love is found.

I thank Thee more that all our joy
Is touched with pain,
That shadows fall on brightest hours,
That thorns remain;
So that earth’s bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain.

For thou who knowest, Lord, how soon
Our weak heart clings,
Hast given us joys, tender and true,
Yet all with wings;
So that we see gleaming on high
Diviner things.

I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept
The best in store;
We have enough, yet not too much
To long for more:
A yearning for a deeper peace
Not known before.

I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls
Though amply blessed,
Can never find, although they seek
A perfect rest;
Nor ever shall, until they lean
On Jesus’ breast.

We did not enter the sanctuary until it was time for the vows. Rather our bridal party watched the ceremony with us in another room via live video. It was very special and a lot less nerve wracking than sitting up front the whole time! Our Mennonite wedding ceremonies are a worship service and are typically an hour long.

This was actually OUR wedding!!

And suddenly it was time for the big moment!

…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.


and we are… Mr & Mrs Bontrager!

And I WALKED! I needed my back supported so I wouldn’t pull back too far… those of you familiar with dystonia will notice the classic dystonia pull. Just after this photo Joe decided it was enough walking and picked me up. =)


 T H E  C E L E B R A T I O N

We missed a very important person that day… he tried to come, but health prevented the six hour trip. We kept his seat reserved, cause no one can take Eddie’s place!


Our wedding meal consisted of belizean rice & beans with ricardo chicken. Going back to our roots, you might say, as Joe & I spent 6 simultaneous childhood years in the small country of Belize. And never met! We had wonderful cooks, Ken & Rosie Kratzer. They outdid themselves! The food was amazing!

And the flowers! I can’t forget them! I loved my flowers! A dear lady by the name of Leona Beiler agreed to do my flowers. She had never done flowers for a wedding before, but she is quite talented and really should get into the business! Not only did she do an amazing job with the flowers but she pitched in, doing whatever she saw needed to be done. She took responsibility for printing the cards for the vases of flowers we took to the hospital after the wedding and also made sure the flowers got rearranged in the thrift store vases we’d found for that purpose immediately after the reception. She is a jewel… that one!  And of course, Casey, who found the last minute flowers and made the long run to Greenville to pick them up! Bless her dear heart!

There was a small room off the the main reception area where I took several breaks from the crowd. It wasn’t too bad really… at least while people were seated. our table was back and away from the crowd which helped.


 T H E  P O R T R A I T S

and us…

03_JAWED_CSmucker-211 (1133x1700)He hath made every thing beautiful in his time. Ecclesiates 3:11 

This verse meant a lot to me during our engagement as I thought about marrying my best friend, the man I love!

Another song sung at our wedding:

In His time, In His Time
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As You’re teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say
In Your time.

In Your time, In Your Time
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing
In Your time.

…you will forever be my always…


Stephanie J. Leinbach

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