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Happy Thanksgiving! Where Have We Been?

Hey there! Long time, no blog! To say things have been crazy have been an understatement! Our last post was McKenna being in the hospital with an infection. Since then, urologists have figured out a medication that is keeping the infections at bay {for that we are THANKFUL}. This past year has been unexpected and crazy for everyone. Cole is no exception to the rule. He is officially a rancher. I know, the last thing anyone would expect. Let me (McKenna) explain…

When we moved to Colorado, Cole started helping my dad with his business and with the animals my family owns. Originally the plan was to live in Golden with Cole’s mom, but the family farm has captured our heart. We moved into a converted shed on the property and are currently working to make it the perfect home for us. Tiny house living has always been something that we have talked about. Now we get to make that dream a reality. Cole and I, along with my dad, step-mom (or as I prefer, best friend – we don’t use the “step” word), and my two brothers recently moved to a new piece of property where we have several acres for our animals and the expanding of our dream of tiny living.

photo of the tiny house when we first arrived on the new land.

These photos are what we have done to the kitchen/living-room area so far. Obviously we still have some work to do but we like it. It is tiny enough where I can manage it compared to out old house. It is also just big enough that it doesn’t feel like a “shed”. We love our new tiny home and all of the animals that surround it.
Three dogs, a cat, CC the horse, cows, sheep, and different types of goats.

This is just one of the many things that have been happening over the last few months. While this year has been a downer with all of the COVID-19 business, it has also brought great opportunities. Time with both Cole’s family and mine, learning new skills, adventures and vacays, new cars, homes, and so much more! We can’t wait to catch you up on all of it, so stay tuned!

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Welcome to Our Blog

You may be wondering what makes our relationship so unique… Cole has Asperger’s, and I (McKenna) have Cerebral Palsy. The challenges of life, coupled with our disabilities can make for a pretty interesting day-to-day life. In fact our life sometimes seems like anything but day-to-day. I suppose the same can be said for our relationship from the beginning. We started dating just over 4 years ago and decided that we wanted to have a courtship than your typical dating relationship.

For those who don’t know the difference between dating and courting, a short definition of courting is dating with the purpose of getting married, not just dating to date. Really wanting to know each other is key and, not only that, it’s doing everything in your relationship with Christ at the center; I can talk more about this in a later post. We met at college in Denver and continued a long-distance courtship for a year before becoming engaged. Now almost 3 years later we are married and living in ND. We both have had many people in our lives, both family and friends wondering how we make our relationship work and how we make things work in our daily life. At different points in our lives before we married, both of us wondered if marriage was even in our future, if living independently, working, driving, and many other things would even be possible. Well guess what?!?! WE CAN!

The purpose of showing people our lives, is to show people that disability doesn’t need to stop you from reaching your goals. You can still go to college, live independently, get married, and even have a family regardless of the cards you are dealt. We may not be your typical couple. we may not live “normal lives” but that doesn’t stop us from living the best life we can!

3 Weeks Until Surgery…

Tuesday of this week I went to the specialist to review the scans off my back and found out that I need to have spinal fusion surgery. This is something that I’ve known was in my future but now it is here. Since moving to Colorado I have had more back pain than I’ve had in years! When I had my last surgery 3 years ago, I told myself that I didn’t want to have anymore surgeries. I knew that at this point in my life I want to focus on quality of life and just living the best life I can. Well begrudgingly I went to see the doctor about a month ago because the pain has become debilitating.

When I was around the age of 3 I had a surgery that was experimental at the time. The best way i can explain this surgery, is that it basically rewired my spine to allow my body to learn to compensate and develop in the areas that were affected by my CP. This operation did allow me to do more than doctors imagined, walk, run (kind of), and live the life that I am so so thankful for. Unfortunately because the surgery was new at the time, no one knew what the long term effects would be.

24 years later, my spine isn’t holding up too great. Effects from my laminectomy combined with my CP and congenital back issues have left me with a huge lordosis curve in my back which is now compressing my vertebrae causing fractures. This along with stenosis and the normal pounding of my joints just because of my gait have left me in a pickle. Not only is this very painful but it is also causing numbness and tingling in my legs which make me fall. This makes my back feel even more wonderful. It is `also causing issues with my bodily functions and just my overall ability to function. I have been using my powerchair more and more over the last few months. This gives my back relief but is leading to weakness which is never a good thing.

The goal of surgery is to fuse my vertebrae S1 to L3. The hope is that this will help stabilize my spine as well as decompress things. Also while doing this the doctor will revise my previous laminectomy and remove some old scar tissue. As of now surgery is 3 weeks away, December 17th. Hopefully COVID doesn’t impact the plans for it. If the hospital is full because of COIVD and a bed isn’t available then my surgery time will most likely change but hopefully not the actual date. These restrictions also mean that I will be allowed one visitor a day. We aren’t sure what recovery will look like at this point. Recovery for this surgery is usually pretty straightforward. However, because of my disability recovery could look very different and I will most likely be going to rehab after surgery in order to learn how to adapt.

3 weeks to go. Pre-op appointments are keeping us in Denver for a few days this upcoming week. Then, it’s home to the ranch to quarantine and prep from surgery. Unfortunately quarantine for me means quarantine for Cole. So, laying low at home it is.

SEE YOU IN A FEW WEEKS WITH A SURGERY UPDATE!

A Different State of Mind

Having a modest outlook on life has really shifted my thinking. When I was in college I felt The Lord convicting me in the way that I needed to dress. More specifically I felt called to wear skirts. When I first started wearing skirts regularly I was very surprised at how odd or interesting people found it. “Why are you all dressed up?’ or “where are you off to?” This initially caught me off guard. Because I was wearing a dress or skirt people thought I was trying to “dress up” while in my mind all I was doing was being modest and obeying what I felt God was asking me to do. In a culture of sweatpants, tank tops, and skinny jeans I do kind of feel like an odd one out.

The feeling of being the odd one out simply because I was dressing in skirts and sleeves was sooooo weird to me I didn’t quite understand how it could be a negative thing. I feel so beautiful in my skirts and cardigans. Even on the weekends when I know that I’ll be lounging around the house in a comfy hoodie, I still wear skirts and it gives me a sense of confidence even when I feel tired or I’m in pain. That really does speak to our society doesn’t it? When modesty makes you so different. In a way it is meant to do that because as followers as Christ we are supposed to be different. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This verse is one that I try to live by. One of the easiest ways to do that is by what I wear simply because I naturally feel more confident. Part of this comes simply from the fact that skirts are easier to wear. When I was in rehab for a hip replacement surgery I realized that bending my hips up to put on jeans wasn’t easy and if I managed, it was very painful. Right from the start skirts were the way to go!

As i went through rehab I was dead set on being able to dress independently. I had surgery in April and my wedding was in September so there was a lot of internal pressure to learn how to get back to normal as soon as possible. So in my mind if skirts meant I could do it on my own then there was no question. Thus, The skirt trend has continues.

A great verse for all women to remember. Our beauty is found on the inside not the fake beauty that society tries to force on us.

In general I don’t usually wear makeup. Don’t get me wrong, Like every other woman I enjoy getting dolled up and feeling pretty but there is so much stress involved in putting on makeup. It has to look perfect. It has to stay perfect. I’m just not about that. In choosing not to wear makeup, I also found that I spent a lot less time in front of the mirror. Having less time to worry about my makeup gives me more time to focus on other things. This photo hung on the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I know, I know, it’s so cliché. To me this verse speaks volumes. I felt confident without makeup, and that’s what mattered. That’s where my focus needed to be. I needed to focus on my faith, My relationship and personal life.

Modesty has shifted my way of thinking from looks, and external things that don’t really mean much to focusing internally, at what God want’s’ from me and what is right. I stopped caring about other peoples opinions of me and focused on self-confidence.

Thank you Lord for this amazing shift of my heart and mind over the past few years. I commit to being open to the things you teach me and the ways you are calling me to change to be more like you. I pray for wisdom and that you would guide my heart and mind in the right direction. Thank you for putting this on my heart and giving me the courage and words to share it. Amen.

Your appearance has an impact on others

I didn’t realize this at the time but in retrospect I see that because I developed so much earlier, I became responsible for the way that people saw me and the perception that I gave others at an early age.

When I met my husband we were both attending a Christian University. While attending, both men and women were reminded that we needed to dress with the mindset that someone’s future spouse is seeing you. “Would you want your spouses eyes straying?” “Your spouse could be here, what kind of image do you want to portray?” At first when I heard this I shrugged it off. I didn’t think that I had to be held responsible for a man who couldn’t keep his thoughts in check. There is absolutely truth to this! However, it’s more complicated than that. When we started dating my husband told me that he was struggling with an addiction to pornography. When I found this out, I honestly didn’t know what to think. Up until then I didn’t know anyone who had struggled with this. If someone other than Cole had told me this, I would have said “What do you mean addicted? It’s not a drug?… Just don’t look at it, it’s gross and fake anyway,” I didn’t understand how sexual addiction worked.

I personally grew up in a very open household. My mom was very straightforward and honest about everything from sex and puberty to dating and her relationship experience and everything in between. Growing up my mother worked at shelters for domestic violence. I used to go to work with her. I saw the families and the children who stayed there. My mom explained to me (as much as she could at a young age) why the families came there. It was instilled in me that women are always to be treated with respect and love. As I got older the conversations evolved from, “Boys in your life should be kind to you”, to “Porn is disrespectful to women.” I have never looked at or felt the need to watch pornography. The point of my mom’s lesson was made clear and that was the end of it. Even at a young age I knew I wanted to be respected and loved.

Cole and I decided to pursue a courtship rather than a traditional dating relationship. We also dated long distance for our ENTIRE courtship. This was GREAT for us! It forced us to connect on a level deeper than looks, or “feelings”. From day one I made it clear that I was different than most women. I dress modestly, don’t usually wear makeup, I was (and did) saving myself for marriage. As I pursued a relationship with Cole, I realized that I loved the person he was. His addiction wasn’t my main focus anymore. I got to know him, his story, and know how he ended up where he was in life. We both learned these things about each other.

Cole told me how his addiction started and the more I listened, the more I saw the impact of my modesty on our relationship and Cole as a person. My college conduct code what right. The way I dressed and how I presented myself DID MATTER. Women who dress immodestly can lead men astray. Immodesty can cause people to see you differently. Not even just in relationships, in all aspects of life. Picture this: a women walks into a corporate office dressed in a short skirt and low cut shirt. Another women walks in wearing a formal skirt and blazer with a button up shirt. For better or worse, these two women are going to be seen differently. They are presenting themselves differently.
I wanted to attract men with a similar outlook as me. I wanted a man who also dressed modestly, shared my faith, had things in common with me. This meant I wasn’t personally attracted to men who presented themselves as immodest. I prefer men who wear pants, shirts with sleeves, and just dressed appropriately in general. Cole was this person. I already talked about how women can lead men astray but it works both ways. Even though I wasn’t attracted to men who were immodest, I can honestly say that they did sometimes catch my attention. This is natural for us as humans. Our eyes just automatically can become fixed on these types of things. Thank you Adam and Eve. Men also need to be aware of what their attire can do to the minds and hearts of women.

Because of our courtship Cole and I had a lot of time to discuss our standards, feelings, and hearts. I realized that my choice of modesty also had a positive impact on Cole as a person. If I dress modestly it helps him to be in the right frame of mind and because he understands my modest lifestyle he supports it for the reasons I have. We use our standards of modesty to support and love each other, to impact each other positively because we both know that we can impact each other. Men, women, realize that to an extent how you present yourself has an impact on others.

You can choose if it will be positive or negative.

Be Confident in the Body God Gave You

From my experience confidence and modesty go hand-in-hand. From an early age I developed a lot quicker than the other girls. This meant that I had to worry about my modesty at an earlier age. From the beginning my parents did instill in me a standard of modesty. Some of these standards included not showing my cleavage, not wearing too much make up and making sure that my skirts or dresses were of an appropriate length and my pants fitted correctly. These are standard that I still hold today but they shape my early definition of modesty.

Unfortunately this style also made it seem like I took less pride in my appearance or I didn’t care as much about how I looked. This wasn’t true because I had developed this whole look Because I cared so much about my appearance. But in the wrong way. I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t modest to respect my body, I was modest to hide it. I hadn’t learn to appreciate the body that God gave me. No, this doesn’t mean I’m going to give the whole “your body is a temple” speech. But I am saying that we should be confident in the body we were given.

Even during Freshman Homecoming I loved this modest dress. I just added a Camisole

Once I learned to respect and appreciate my body I became more self confident. I learned how to cover my chest and wear things that made me feel good while still respecting myself. However, Being a teenager made it really difficult to be modest at times. My peers were always wearing short shorts, spaghetti straps, and if we are honest this isn’t solely peer pressure. The world, the fashion industry they all tell us what we should wear, how we should look, they tell us that if we don’t dress the way they tell you then it’s wrong, or ugly. If we are to be truly confident and practice true “Self-love”, then we can’t listen to that, we can’t believe that.

It took me so so long to get to the place of true confidence. Before I met my husband, I was in a toxic relationship. During this time my faith was not supported, my confidence wasn’t boosted. I was made to feel like I had to dress and act the way that someone else wanted, it was devastating. I went from being this girl who loved long sleeves, and skirts to someone who was wearing tank tops and shorts, and what I was told because i was seeking approval. My life was being dictated by someone else.

After meeting my husband, My confidence grew exponentially. It wasn’t even that someone was telling me I was beautiful. I FELT beautiful and confident in my clothes and with my style. and Cole loved me for it! Not only did he also love the way I dressed and looked, he loved my confidence. He didn’t try to change me. Ever since Cole came into my life, he has supported my journey to modesty. Not only supported but encouraged, he tells me i’m beautiful, he see’s a modest outfit in a store that he knows that i’ll love and says things like “Hey hon, this would look great on you!”… “I can see you in this”.

Clothes do not automatically make you confident. However if you feel good in what you wear, the confidence is already there. You don’t have to try so hard. Being confident in the body God gave me was my first true step to my modesty journey and I truly truly hope others can learn to do this too. I hope me sharing my journey can help others.

Movie Review by Cole- “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Warning, major spoilers ahead)

When I first heard that a third Star Wars trilogy was going to be made, all the way back in 2012, I could’t imagine what I would be witnessing on screen. Now, over 7 years later, the final film of the Skywalker saga has been released and I must say, I was… Blown away. This film has caused some division among fans like the two before it, but I believe this is one of the best of all nine films for a number of reasons.

The characters Rey, Poe and Finn all underwent a fair bit of change between this film and the first, not to mention what I believe is a 5 year time jump. It was amazing to see the kind of Jedi that Rey was becoming, and learning along that journey that Leia was the one training her (more on Leia later). Seeing Finn and Poe’s friendship is always enjoyable, especially in this one where you see that they are close as friends and yet also have disagreements. C-3P0’s role in this film is also greater than in other ones, as he (spoilers ahead) is the only one who can translate and relay the Sith language written on a dagger that Rey finds, as they journey to find Emperor Palpatine. I must also point out that having both Han and Luke appear to Rey and Kylo Ren when they needed them the mosy felt appropriate for their movement in the story; Luke mirroring Yoda when he pulled out his X-wing from the ocean was a nice touch too.

I want to take a moment and focus on Leia. I was excited to find out that she has, in fact, not lost her connection to the Force when in The Last Jedi, she used the Force to return to her ship from space after the First Order attacked and is the one training Rey in Rise of Skywalker. It is also revealed that she was actually training with Luke some time after Return of the Jedi, even building her own lightsaber which Rey used along with the reconstructed Anakin/Luke saber. In short, Leia is even more of a bad-ass than we already knew!

All Star Wars films are known for being visual masterpieces, and, of course, this one is no exception. For instance, the terrifying planet of Exegol, where Palpatine is hiding, was visually stunning in its own way; we get a unique look at the culture and architecture of the Sith that lay hidden from the galaxy for a long time, and the constant Force-energized lightning strikes made it even more foreboding. The lightsabers themselves are also always a visual treat to see; they’re what I most look forward to seeing in one of these films. The ships, weapons, worlds, and depictions of Force powers used all met my expectations, although I also did appreciate the use of old-fashioned puppets and latex masks/makeup for some of the creatures instead of it all being CGI.

Finally, we must talk about the story. In the old Expanded Universe, Palpatine actually did return so it’s not too much of a stretch to see it here, the major difference being that who we see in the EU are clones and in this film it is actually the original Palpatine; his horrendous deformitiesand injuries make that clear. The overarching story of Palpatine returning and working to rebuild the Sith Empire lined with the story of Rey and Leia trying to keep the Jedi and the Resistance alive worked well, I feel; separate, but together. We are also finally given the full story of Rey’s heritage…. As Palpatine’s granddaughter! Seeing her come to grips with it and not succumb to the dark side was so satisfying and encouraging to see. There are so many other story elements I could cover but that would take too long so I will make it as short as possible and finish with this: the story was concluded in what I believe was a very fitting manner, with the ultimate end of the Sith, Kylo Ren’s final redemption as Ben Solo, Rey taking the Skywalker name as she stares at Tatooine’s twin suns, even Leia’s passing into the Force after she died.

So here it is, my review of the final chapter in the Skywalker story. I give it a solid 5/5, no questions asked! I hope all of you who have seen it enjoyed it as much as I have, and for those who haven’t, sorry not sorry for the spoilers, haha! May the Force be with you, always.

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