Don’t Accept Me, Expect Me

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One Red Fish Surrounded By Blue Fish.

I did it once. I gave in to my disability. I was struggling in college: juggling a double major, a part-time job, a sorority, and track season was right around the corner. My schedule was a breeze when going through manic mode. But when dealing with the low side of bi-polar, the battle was uphill and the finish line looked a lot farther than the 400m sprint I was used to training for.  So I gave in.

It was the end of my 8 am class and I went to my professor. It was just a general education course and I was only a semester away from graduation. I did what I had never done for any class. I told the professor about my disability. I chalked it up for all it was worth. I explained that I was dealing with med changes and my schedule was full. None of it was really a lie.

I don’t regret telling my professor that I have bi-polar disorder, but I do regret why I told him. I was looking for a way out; a way to make the day easier. The class didn’t really matter. It was just a nuisance class I had to take to graduate. I wanted an easy A and I knew that by gaining a little sympathy it would be possible.

Just to be clear, the one perk of having a disability is to use sympathy for our advantage. But taking that one gesture toward sympathy sets us two steps back in our abilities. That day when I told the professor about my disability, I was screaming for the professor to accept me for my differences. What he really did was even better; he expected me for being the same.

It’s not difficult to spin into the acceptance trend. Short or tall, red or blue, we want people to take us how we are. But when it comes to rising up to a challenge, we can be quick to remind others of our faults and excuse ourselves from rising to the top. We are no longer expected and we sink ourselves back down to the minority that is comfortable and safe.

As we gear up for the back to school season, I want to encourage all parents and teachers to not provide students with a letter of acceptance, but with an impression of expectance. There are many times that we say as novices that “we can’t” when the fact is that “we won’t”. When we decide that we won’t do something because our disabilities hold us back, then we will never really reach our full potential.

I got an A in that class. Though I told the professor about my disability for the wrong reasons, he was gracious in letting me take my time to learn in a way that was right for me. I didn’t go to class every day, but I studied, and I felt as though I earned the A.

How We Learned Happiness

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IMG_0994While growing up in a household with two brothers with Down syndrome there has always been one comment that digs under my skin. There are some comments I can let go, like, Wow. Your life must be so difficult. Or, Bless you for your patience. Yes, these too get to me. Because I don’t feel like my brothers have made my life difficult, and patience is not my duty. When these comments arise I grin a little and brush it off like hair on my sleeve.

Above all of these statements is this: People with disabilities are always so happy. Why does this get under my skin? Because there isn’t an always for everyone and everything. See, the statements above, I can see where people might get those impressions. There are times that life is difficult. There are times that I have had to learn patience. Those times felt like happiness felt as far as the East is from the West.

2016-02-21 21.41.37When our brother died in 2006 Eric sobbed. He felt the grief of losing someone close like a normal person. But at the viewing Levi didn’t shed a tear. At the funeral, Levi didn’t clear his throat or sniffle. Neither of my brothers had joy, but they expressed the pain in far different ways.

When our brother died, I thought I had to be the strong one. When I saw our dad cry for the first time in my life, I knew that I had to step up and fight for joy again. I tried so hard to stay strong that I eventually developed depression and I was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

So what is my point? Everyone handles grief differently. Levi ignored the pain. Eric accepted the pain. I fought the pain. You might say it defines whether or not we fight, flight, or freeze in adversity. Whatever any psychological study might entail, all three of us have struggled with disabilities. All three of us have experienced less than joy. And, all three of us have conquered agony.

You see, when you say people with disabilities are always so happy, you infer that we are not able to comprehend pain. We must be happy because we don’t understand stress, adversity, or grief. Honestly, I speak for all of us that carry a disability and say that we understand those things better than those that don’t have a disability. For centuries we have been alienated, mocked, and condemned for simply living.

Maybe there is some truth to people with disabilities being happy. It’s not because we don’t understand, but because we know what it is like to feel both pain and joy. We have faced the worst, so we can conquer the best.

A New Year’s Offer

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eric and leviChristmas is a beautiful time of year. For many is brings joy. For others it can be very difficult. But nothing in life is flawless. Even grievances add to the pristine and raw splendor that Christmas brings.

For many
of us, it’s a celebration of religion or collaboration with family and friends. While these are all the most important aspects of the holiday, one of my favorite parts is the giving of gifts. Now, before you stop reading because I sound materialistic, I want you to consider this: when you are given a gift, you are expected to accept it. For a homeless man it may be a meal. For a young lady it might be an engagement ring. Maybe it’s a silly white elephant gift. Maybe it’s homemade and packed deeply with nostalgia. Whether we cherish it or re-gift it, we have a chance to say thank you to someone for showing physically that they care.

Thanksgiving gives us a chance to say that we are grateful. Christmas gives us to chance to show that we are thankful. New Years can be equally beautiful because it brings hope. On Thanksgiving we muster up something that keeps life worth living. On Christmas we might not be able to give
or receive a gift. But the New Year helps us remember to say that maybe this new year will be better.

For the New Year, we don’t give gifts. But this coming year I would like you to consider taking an offer. An offering doesn’t have to be accepted as a gift does. It gives you the chance to say no. Why? Because gifts are meant for your enjoyment. Offers on the other hand lend the idea of a duty of you.

For this New Year I want to make an offer to you to accept. Not to just accept
the offer, but accept the offer of acceptance.

I told you that Holidays are beautiful because they aren’t flawless. People are the same way. As a sister to three siblings with disabilities, as an aunt to two nephews with autism, as a woman that struggles daily with Bipolar disorder, I am an advocate that imperfection is beautiful. I can say that more times than not it’s easier to admit that with humility than with pride.

For some our differences are inevitable, for others they are controversial. But without enduring hardships, without conflict, we cannot find resolution.

For this New Year, my wish is that you will accept the offer to accept others. My resolution is to enable you to find freedom in this acceptance. This offer may not be easy to endure, but the hope that will be gained is the gift of a lifetime.

Rainy Days Present Blossoms for The Spotted Cow Coffeehouse

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drive throughIt’s a slow day at the coffee shop today. Rain is trickling against the windows. Over the past few weeks I have come to the conclusion that this coffee shop is not my dream. But I tried.

It feels a little like failure. Like jumping into a race and fading out by mile two. Am I giving up too soon? If I pass it on, will it grow into something bigger? Is it a business that was meant to grow eventually, and was it out of my hands to make that happen? These are the questions that are constantly racing through my mind, as I on the outside, admit to failure.

But I didn’t fail. I tried.

My brother Levi, who has Down syndrome, decided to take a different route. Rather than work for me at the coffee shop, he decided to work at Frisches. He absolutely loved the job. He felt a pride in working in a normal place. All he really dreams of is being considered normal. But after one and a half months, the restaurant let him go. He was heartbroken. Not because he lost his paycheck, but because he didn’t measure up.

I can’t blame Frisches. Being a business owner, I understand the struggles of trying to run an efficient business while also surviving the ever-increasing minimum wage. It’s a battle to survive and when you try to develop your combat team, you want the fastest, the smartest, the most creative. Simply, businesses want a dynamically engineered labor force, and we’re stuck with, humans. We all fail. We make mistakes. There is not a perfect person out there, though some often seem to come close.

I opened the Spotted Cow Coffeehouse with people in mind. I didn’t create the business with the idea that I would have the World’s best cup of coffee. As a team we developed a great cup of coffee. The business was built to prove something—that individuals with disabilities do have the ability to offer creativity, knowledge, and efficiency. They know how to offer quality service and a great product.

My workers are successful. They have helped create a valuable product, and they offer great service. They prepare a product as fast and good as any normal business. I don’t hire people with disabilities out of pity. I look at their skills and what can be built from what they have. But because I don’t hire out of pity, I cannot help everyone. There are students in the area writing The Spotted Cow as their dream job, and the business cannot hire them. There are adults with disabilities constantly walking through my door with a sparkle in their eye, hoping to get a job, and I have to turn them away. They say the sky is the limit, but reaching that limit rings as low as the clouds are on this rainy day.

I’m not giving up on the coffee shop. Because I am not a quitter. I am looking for a way to live out my dream—to fulfill the dreams of individuals with developmental disabilities. I want to advocate for these individuals to employers so that they can help these individuals fulfill their dreams. But I cannot do that while running The Spotted Cow. My business will be under new management, but I will still be the owner.

Though today seems dreary, there is always sunshine and joy after rain. It brings new beginnings for both myself and individuals with disabilities. That is a joy in which I can find a glimpse of perfection.

Employment First?

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Regarding the Employment First Mandate, which states, According to state law in Ohio, employment services for people with developmental disabilities shall be directed at community employment and all people with developmental disabilities are presumed capable of community employment.

I am an employer of a small coffee shop in Urbana, Ohio. I am the sibling of three individuals with developmental disabilities, and I currently employ six individuals with developmental disabilities.
First, not all individuals with developmental disabilities are employable. As both an employer and sibling of individuals that are not typically abled, I am rather lenient compared to most employees when it comes to implementing the abilities of these individuals. However, there are many individuals that have a disability that I will never hire. My sister, whom I love dearly, will never have a job with me. No matter what training she is given, she will never be up to the standards I need to run an efficient business. If I, a dominant advocate for these individuals, will not hire, then it should be presumed that other businesses will not take the risk either.

Second, I will not hire these individuals out of pity, nor should any business be swayed to hire an individual with a disability for their life circumstances. Many county SSA’s have hounded me and a couple vocational programs that I work with to simply give an individual a job. It is assumed that because the individual is mandated to have a job that employers will jump on this bandwagon. That is simply not true. I interview every individual, whether typically functioning or not, to see how they will fit into my business.

Third, individuals are expected to get community jobs, where they are expected to build relationships with other abled-bodied individuals. Some individuals are empowered by getting a community job. Others are very hesitant. They feel that it will be similar to their education experiences, where they were always considered at the bottom, and they have no hope that they will ever see promotion. By mandating these individuals to work with typically functioning individuals, they will not have the same opportunity to build relationships. It is as if we are saying, your other disabled peers are not good enough; you won’t get the opportunity to build a relationship with them. It is an external fight to get employers to hire these individuals, but what is the internal value for employees within the workplace?

Fourth, individuals are expected to seek jobs directly after graduation. I would like to amend that these individuals are not expected to go directly into a job, but rather vocational and day habilitation programs. These programs should not all be disregarded, but implemented as a higher education method for transitioning these individuals into the workplace.

Finding Narnia

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My brother Levi has quite the imagination. For example, he has about two-hundred figurines, (elephants, cows, power rangers, little cheap kids meal toys, you name it!) On a daily basis he will act out some sort of story with them. Sometimes there is the power ranger that has to save the poor elephant from being tortured by villains, or there is the cat and two dogs that will take their homeward bound trip across our entire front lawn.

Levi also loves his movies. He likes the action movies, The Hulk, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Power Rangers of course. He likes the teenage dream in High School musical and Camp Rock. When Levi watches a movie, he will watch it over and over and over again. He will watch one particular movie so much that I have them all memorized just from walking in and out of the room! It’s like he studies them so he can memorize every step; so he can be completely engulfed in the story line.

One particular movie, The Chronicles of Narnia, took Levi on a special mission. My dad and Levi were picking some beans in the garden. My best friend Heather and I had just gotten done horseback riding, and mom was watering her garden. I remember our neighbor coming by to talk for a bit. But after a while, we noticed Levi was gone! He wasn’t in the yard. He wasn’t in the pool. He didn’t sneak back to his T.V. Where did he go?!

Here is a bigger glimpse of our setting. Our vegetable garden is right next to a large cornfield owned by one of our neighbors. While the rest of the family continued to search the yard, my friend Heather set foot through the cornfield to see if that was where he wandered to. Finally after about a half hour, Heather came back through the ears of corn with the adventurous Levi. “What were you thinking?!”, we asked. Levi said in a matter of fact tone, “I was looking for Asland!” (Asland is the lion in Narnia, in case you haven’t seen the movie.) He had traveled a quarter of a mile through the cornfield all the way to the tree line, seconds from venturing into the great forest of Narnia.

Though Levi had all of us in a bit of a panic, he taught me another one of his little life lessons that day. Levi may have been completely entranced in a movie, but he had one goal, finding Asland. Though everyday in our household is a bit of an adventure, I thought how often we go through the motions of life. Lucky for us Eric and Levi never leave us without a bit of spice in our lives.

You see, Levi wasn’t running away from home. He wasn’t just going on a nice stroll through the corn snake valley to the forest of coyotes. He had a goal. And he wasn’t going to stop until he achieved it. (Or until Heather set him straight back down the narrow cornfield row.) He showed me that once you have a goal in mind, nothing can keep you from working towards it.

Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating at the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. –1 Corinthians 9:26-27

In The Orphan’s Eyes

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If you read a few of my other blogs you will get to know Eric (Try the Chronicles of Eric or When Life Gives You Lemons…). He is my nineteen year old brother with a spunky personality, a few freckles, and an adorable smile. Everyday Eric surprises me with a new twist in our journey.

A couple days ago I picked Eric up from his drum lessons and we went to Buffalo Wild Wings to hang out with a few of my friends. (He is so much fun to hang out with! He always adds a little comedy to our mix.) But on our way home we had a little heart to heart. He started talking about how he has bad dreams. Eric says that a lot. Finally I had the courage to ask him, “Do you dream about your family before you were adopted?” He said yeah. Eric started off naming a bunch of names of his old family members. And he said I have two moms and two dads! I honestly had never asked him before. I mean he was adopted when he was four, how much could he really remember?! He quickly changed the subject to talk about his day and his drum lessons.

Then today. We went to a worship night where our high school church band played an amazing hour and a half of crying out to the Lord. (Now hold up! I know you might be thinking, “Great. Another Jesus Freak blog.” Just bare with me here!) After my talk with Eric the other night, the worship service added an entire new dimension. You see, Eric has always loved music. He played drums in his high school band and he loves to sing. But today it really hit me. His cries to Jesus during worship weren’t an act to get attention. It was raw emotion.

In front of the entire gathering of about a hundred people, Eric laid hands and knees in front of the band, crying out to God. He didn’t care what anyone in front or behind him thought. It was his moment with God. We were just singing the words, “I believe You are my healer. I believe You are all I need.” Eric sunk in every word.

Going through struggles, I empathize with Eric. You get in situations where you think, “What are you doing God?” or “Just let me do what I want. Don’t give me the challenges. Just let me have fun. I don’t need you.” I’ve been there, trust me. But there was Eric. Laying down before God, with more baggage in nineteen years than some people experience in a lifetime. But he gets it! He sees God is his healer.

After that night I talked with Eric, I thought, “How many times have I said, God just let me do my own thing. I want to be like everyone else around me! I want to go to college parties or date different people. I don’t want your dumb life lessons. I want to live my life!” My mind went back to Eric. He was taken from his family, passed from foster home to foster home before he was four. Now he was in our family. We had love…tough love. I am so selfish: I go through every different experience in life thinking, “my way is the best way”. But I realize now, I am blessed to have wonderful parents. Sometimes we have disagreements, but they always know what’s best. Sometimes they give me challenges, but they make me stronger.

It is difficult to understand the concept that God is our father. But my brother gave me a bigger picture. Our world and all of the exciting adventures are so inviting. It is so easy to drop everything and say, “I want that, not what God wants.” I realized, it might be difficult to listen to that nagging voice that says don’t do that. But in the end I would much rather go through life listening to the encouraging words of my dad. Eric knows. He knows what it is like to walk through the world as an orphan. He knows what it is like to experience life without someone to say they are disappointed. He knows that behind disappointment is love. The orphan that was trapped inside my little brother sees that you can do all of those inviting little temptations, but none of them are as rewarding as the security of love from a father. 

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke,  because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. –Proverbs 3:11-12

The Rocky Road To Independence

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This blog is a little out of date from when it should have been written, but trust me, it’s still good! On Monday of last week, our family packed up one of our business buses with luggage, kindles, dvds, and whatever else we could find to pass the time on our 12 hour drive to the cheese state. Here are some things that kept our wheels turning on our adventure within our journey through a special world.

Why Wisconsin?–24 years ago my parents left their dairy farm of about 250 cows to move to Ohio. About twice a year we take a trip to the dairy land to see my dad’s seven brothers and sisters, my 22 cousins, my 28 second cousins, and of course my brother, sister-in-law, and my two adorable nephews. (We also saw my mom’s four sisters. And if you think my dad’s side of the family is huge, you should see my mom’s side!)

On the Road Again

The little guys—On this adventure, we picked up a couple of mini hitch-hikers. If you read my previous blogs, you know that I have a brother that passed away about 7 years ago. He also left behind two adorable boys, Sam, age 9, and Seth, age 7. This year we took the little guys to see their giant family that they have no memory of.

The drive alone was a riot! Ok just imagine, four adventurous boys cooped up in a bus for twelve hours. Luckily, I was stuck in the middle of it all… Eric was singing at the top of his lungs because he couldn’t hear how loud he was with his headphones on. Levi was yelling “hi-Ya” every time a power ranger did a roundhouse kick to the villains trapped in his portable dvd player. And the other two played level after level of “Where’s my Perry” on the kindle fire. We had breakfast at McDonalds, lunch at Culvers, Dinner at McDonalds (again), various bathroom breaks and gas fill ups, oh and a couple stops to fill up on Green Bay Packer gear and Duck Dynasty attire. And we finally arrived at my brother’s house.

Just when I took a deep breath from the trip, I realized the adventure had just begun!

Side Note: I haven’t talked a lot about my oldest brother, but let me give you a quick run-through on their journey through a special world. A few years back, my brother and his family moved back to Wisconsin so he could drive his souped up Peterbilt truck for my uncle. (Long story short, when my dad left Wisconsin, the family farm began to focus entirely on grain processing. Now the farm is a multi-million dollar corporation with 11,000 acres of land.) Ok back to their story. My brother and his wife have two adorable sons, Zach, age 12, and Cody, 8, both of which have autism. As far as schooling, these boys are right on track. The oldest is definitely above average when it comes to the finest details in plumbing and electric. Zach has given me an entire run-through of what every pipe in the basement is for, and he has invented an eyeglass washing system that he presented to his class. Oh and both the little guys love music. I stayed with them last summer for a couple weeks and they definitely helped me prepare for my college senior recital. I had to give them a presentation everyday!

The biggest day of our little journey was July 4th. While we were in Wisconsin we used the convenience of everyone being in town for the holiday to have another graduation party for Eric and Levi.

Independence

Since we had the boys’ party on the 4th, I couldn’t help but notice the importance of this celebration. Obviously it is Independence Day, the day that we celebrate being a free country. It is a government for the people, by the people. (okay I’m done with the third grade history lesson) But we were also celebrating my little brothers’ graduation. It is a commemoration of their independence from school. And I just have to say I am so glad that I have watched them grow into the strong and independent boys that they are. They have their own apartment together, they do all of their own laundry, they clean, they cook, they are independent, but that still took work.

I also thought about Sam and Seth. This was their first time traveling back to Wisconsin in five years, and they were without their parents. (My sister-in-law has remarried since) They were away from what they knew, in an independent situation from what is their norm. But they still depended on our guidance.

Then there is Zach and Cody. Zach doesn’t need any guidance with creating his unique inventions, and the two of them certainly have no difficulty filling their knowledge with YouTube videos on plumbing and electric. I see them turning into the strong and independent boys that I know are within them. I can see them owning their own engineering business or something because they are so smart! But how much guidance will they need before they can become that independent?

Then there is my Grandma. We celebrated her 95th birthday while we were in Wisconsin. She is a strong and brilliant woman. All of her intelligence is still there. (In fact she can tell you all the names and birthdays of her children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, and great grandchildren!) But she has lost nearly all of her sight, she has trouble walking; she is deteriorating. It has to be difficult to have done so many things that she used to do independently, but now these tasks are slowly sneaking out of her grasp.

The fact is, we can grow our independence in many areas, but we still have little things that we must depend on others for. I depend on the knowledge of my professors so I can complete my business degree. My parents depend on employees to keep our corporation running smoothly. I’m sure you can think of something you depend on too. But there is one thing that we can depend on that will never steer us wrong: God. I can say there are many things where we ask Him, “What were You thinking there?!” But overtime we can see the importance behind his zany yet brilliant plans. Romans 8:28 says, In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.

And back to July 4th. On that day in 1776, we became an independent nation from Great Britain, and we designed a nation of the people, by the people, but it was also a nation built under God. I think our forefathers were right on key here. No matter what you run from or fight for, you always have something that you must lean on.

Build Your House on the Rock

24 z“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like aa wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” –Matthew 7:24-27.

Who Needs a Mustard Seed When You Have a Grapefruit?

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When you meet Diana, you may think she is a little different. But when you dig deeper you will discover that she has a stronger faith than many can even fathom. Through her entire life, her brother John has been there every step of the way. This is his account of their family’s journey through a special world.

When Diana was very young, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But over time her family realized that she was still a little different. Diana’s mother had taken Dilantin while she was pregnant with all of her children, but it affected Diana little differently. She had adopted a defect that affects only 1 in 10,000 people: William’s syndrome*. But this was only the beginning of Diana’s journey. When she was 10, Diana slowly began to lose her appetite, energy, and her smile. When she woke up in the middle of the night, screaming from the pain in her abdomen, her family had had enough with her agony and took her to the local hospital. On August 28, 2008, her MRI revealed more than just your average stomach ache.

Diana was taken straight from her MRI to Children’s hospital for emergency surgery. Her brother John remembers sitting anxiously in the waiting room, crowded with 30 of Diana’s closest friends and family. And after waiting a virtual eternity, the doctor rushed in to explain an agonizing fear. Both of Diana’s ovaries were the size of grapefruits, saturated with Burkett’s lymphoma. The doctor gave the family two options: remove the cancer, leaving Diana without the possibility to ever conceive; or leave the ovaries intact, and wait for the malady to consume her entire ten year-old body. Diana’s mother broke down, unable to answer the doctor’s options; unable to bare the news that her child would never have her own children, or fathom the idea that Diana could die. Without question, John and his father told the doctor to take out the cancer.

Six weeks later, Diana started chemo-therapy. Her cancer was still progressing rapidly, and she was deteriorating quickly. On October 8,2008, she faced the worst surgery of her battle. John got a call from his dad telling him to drive to Children’s hospital, and say goodbye to his sister. He remembered the surreal drive, gripping the steering wheel, and crying out to God. He walked into the room, and there lied Diana, without a hint of hair on her brittle body, and with only God’s will sustaining her. John held her hand and began to cry, when his sister explained confidently, “Don’t cry John. I’ll be fine. Jesus will take care of me.” Diana was taken into emergency-exploratory surgery where the surgeon began to slice and sever anything in her body that appeared to be cancerous. John walked with his little sister, enveloped in IV’s and cords, telling her that he loved her and she would always be with him, no matter what.

Just as she had asserted, Diana survived the surgery. But she spent the next 21 days in an induced coma. John often visited her lifeless body. He would talk to her, knowing there would be no response. Diana’s exhausted body was there but the sister he knew was invisible. She was big—fluid engulfing her body. She was not Diana.

The battle continued. Diana remained strong, and her family supported her through every step. John and every man in the family, and even family friends had shaved their hair, then used shaving cream and a straight razor. Because bald was new normal for Diana, it would be their normal too. (She was mad though and said they all looked funny.) Throughout Diana’s journey she faced rounds and rounds of chemo. Some were fast and aggressive to wipe out the insistent disease. Others were slow and steady to sustain her weak body. Diana endured a surgery every two to three weeks, totaling a lurid haze of thirteen surgeries over the course of nine months. The family spent every one of those nights wondering if Diana would still be alive in the morning. But she remained in good spirits, and kept a smile on her face.

Through the haze of the family’s journey, John said he could feel the presence of God; he could feel Him working. There were churches the family had never heard of, calling to say they were praying for Diana. There were thousands of people who had never even met Diana, and God was healing her through their cries. Then on Saint Patrick’s Day, 2009, John got a call from his dad at one in the morning, “the cancer is gone.” John was in disbelief. He sat with the phone to his ear, speechless, eyes filled with tears. After days of praying to God, “You are the great physician, you can heal any of that”, he was shocked. “God just healed my sister.” Not a hint of cancer was in her body. It was a miracle; it was the healing power of God.

This didn’t end the journey though. During Christmas Diana was home, but she was too weak to leave her bed. They still had trips to Children’s for low blood cell counts and excessive vomiting. She spent the next couple years in a wheel chair because of her weakness. And the family still lived in fear that the cancer could return. Diana visited the doctor for consistent check-ups, and overtime they got farther and farther apart—but most importantly, they all revealed that Diana had still won her cancer battle.

This past year would be Diana’s fourth year of being cancer free. She is now considered a survivor, and she got the chance this year to carry the Relay for Life banner. John explained “looking back, seeing my sister lay lifeless, and now being able to watch her carry that flag is amazing.”

When people say, I can’t overcome that, John says don’t make God so small that you think that He can’t. He had accepted the fact that Diana would die. It was a waiting game to see when. “We had funeral conversations. But that conversation was saying how small God is.” The journey showed that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t overcome. You have to take God out of the box that this is too hard for me, this is too big for me to handle.

John explains,

People don’t have ovaries size of grapefruit, and live. That goes to show, don’t read over the verse, with God all things are possible. And when you see that in real life, it is so much more meaningful. It proves God is the ultimate healer; He is bigger than all disease and weakness. The journey put me in awe of who God was and what He can overcome. He taught me to trust what He is doing. I leaned on the verse, In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

Diana and my mom have shared their journey at many churches and events. God is using that story to draw people to Him; to work things together for His good. He has also shown He has a plan. My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways. (Isaiah 55:8) He has a plan and we have to be on board so He can use His plan for His glory.

Diana also shared with me, “When I found out I had cancer, I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. I just prayed and I waited, and I waited. On August 10, 2009 they told me I was cancer free. And I thanked God for all He had done…When I tell my story at churches they clap, and I say thank you Lord, You are so good.”

On May 18th of this year, Diana turned fifteen and she is still cancer free. She has battled the side effects of hypothyroidism, she has overcome the adversity brought with William’s syndrome, and she has defeated cancer. Diana wasn’t supposed to live past eleven and she gives all of her glory to God.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

*Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone.  It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.  These occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.