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.

Letters to Gabe

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Dear Gabe,

I can’t believe it’s been almost nine years now. Time sure flies. I know you can probably see me from where you are. I know you see that I have changed. Maybe for the better, but I will let God judge that one day. The day you left, I thought God died with you. How could He, the most powerful yet gracious entity take you from this world, from me? I needed you. I thought I could run any race until He took you. Was He just trying to show me how powerful He was and how weak we all are? I hated Him, Gabe.

I need to be truthful. I wanted to be like you. You were strong, faithful, selfless. When you left, those goals died. I sunk deep into the world. For a long time, I pitied myself because I lost you. My faith and trust in anyone or anything was gone. I thought if I shut out everything that I would become stronger. But it really only made me more weak.  For years a raced, running farther and farther away from the finish line, lost mid-course.

One night I found God again. I was alone, but He was there. You were gone, but He had always been there. I had lost everything. I was broken. He held me. And though you’re gone, He taught me something through your death. You kept the faith and you finished the race. I am so thankful that I had you as an example.

I wish you could see the world today; what Christians look like. They are self-centered, self-righteous, faithless. They are so consumed with how good they look. It’s so hard to run the race when your teammates don’t practice.

My heart goes out to those who don’t see who God is, and we Christians are to blame. We’ve made it look like Christianity is about being really good. Even worse, when we as Christians mess up, we lie, we cheat and try to mask that we are not perfect. To be honest all of my best friends don’t know who God is and they are better people than a lot of Christians that I know.

I’m so scared to tell others about God now. I’m afraid that they see me trying to make them another number of the hypocrites. How do I show them that it’s not about being good. It’s simply about believing. And how do you share faith? You can’t see it. You can’t prove it. It makes no sense unless you just look for it, and trust that it is real. Like one of our favorite songs, finding God is like trying to smell the color nine.

I love you Gabe and I hope all is well up there.

Your sister,

Bobbi Myrhee

Called

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IMG_1268In the last couple of weeks, an unusual number of people have congratulated me on my success of running a business. They tell me how much they admire my heart, my mission, my ambition.

Whenever presented with this, the inside of me cringes. My stomach flips. I cross my legs like I have to pee. I swallow the giant knot relentlessly wallowing up in my throat, and I quickly try to murmur a humble, thank you. I honestly hope I appear very professional when answering, but inside I feel like a one legged chicken trying to get to the other side of the statement.

I’m sure there’s a great many articles in Forbes on how to be a great business professional. How to overcome the anxiety and be the greatest leader in my industry. Build a strong sense of pride and you will always be respected, or, never let anyone know you’re scared to death to run a business.

First I want to say, if you ever have congratulated me on my success, I don’t want you to feel badly. You did absolutely nothing wrong. If anything, you were just trying to help. The fact of the matter is, I don’t feel like I deserve the credit.

Yes this is the point where I have to say, I would not be where I am without God. I realize this is the point where many of you will stop reading this. She’s just another oh-so-holy Christian that flaunts Jesus. I know that mindset, because I’ve been there.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that I lost a brother about seven years ago. The day he died, I decided God died too. I walked away because He let me down. The truth is, even though I left God, He never left me. My business exists because I almost didn’t, and God always has. I went back.

Many times people ask, why a coffee shop? My business response is: It was a good fit; Coffee is the number two import to the United States and I had good connections for production. My true motivation: Eric and Levi; Coffee is a simple yet creative opportunity for my brothers to create a quality of life for themselves.

It’s all about which type of leader you want to be. A leader that makes a point, or a leader that makes a difference. My analytical mind has me constantly wandering through the numbers—we should do this because it will effect this in an optimal way. But what about risky decisions? There can be so many outlying variables that even the most flamboyant person would get a little weary in the outcome.

That’s when God steps in. He said, “So you want to open a coffee shop?” Magically, a building was presented to our family. Mystically, someone was selling every item we needed in a bundle for a very accommodating price. Paranormally, all the funds aligned for me to open the doors of my business directly out of college. Some call me lucky, others say blessed. I say, called.

So why do I get so uncomfortable? Because I wear a title of Founder and CEO, but I’m really just a catalyst. It is a constant battle inside me. My worldly mind is filled with pride, and my heart is filled with humility. I have a vision to make this business as successful as possible. My mind tells me the idea of being rich and famous is intriguing. My heart tells me that I need to provide as many jobs to people that might not otherwise gain the opportunity. Both sides make sense. Maybe both methods are possible. But I know that I have been called to make a difference, not a point.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.—Galatians 6:9

The Vow

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This weekend I got the opportunity to speak at the Ohio Sibs Convention—an organization that supports both individuals with disabilities and their siblings. I came to an odd conclusion. I will without doubt, be the sole care provider for my brothers and possibly my sister one day. I had thought about it before. It would just be like old times, spending every moment with my best friends. But this time it really hit me.

I’m guessing it’s a similar feeling to that of a forced marriage, only with the opposite perks. A prince marries his princess, and they spend their lives in continued luxury, forcing themselves to build a relationship in order to maintain the esteemed family bloodline. They have everything they need but do they truly love each other?

Then I look from my side. I automatically have more mouths to feed, I might be giving up future expeditions with my potential spouse, or, what if I don’t even find a spouse because I’m seen as the intimidating packaged deal? After considering that there is one thing I know I will always have: unconditional love from my biggest companions. We lose societal advantages but we know how to survive together.

Both sides come across as selfish. If the prince or princess does not love the other then they are not pitied. Why should they be? Everything is handed to them from birth. Even a luxurious wedding. Or me, expressing the hard truths of raising my adult siblings. It is societally wrong to consider my own future solely, and complain about a family obligation.

The prince and princess are born to fill very expensive, uncomfortable shoes. I was born to fill the middle class supportive shoes while aiding in the tying, strapping, and zipping of the shoes of my siblings. Some may dream to toe-in the shoes of a princess, others may dare to lace my shoes onto their feet. But the ultimate Orthopedist made those shoes for us only. They will never fit anyone quite like they fit us.

Which has more worth, Luxury or Love?

To be frank, this is the point when I could narrate a multitude of parables and proverbs of why choosing love over wealth is what is right and what is just. On the other hand, the Holocaust, the murder of Jesus, and slavery of African Americans were all built on the foundation of it’s the right thing to do.

I am making a vow that I will be the future provider for my brothers. I will not do it because it’s the right thing to do. I will do it because I want to. I don’t need to taste wealth or fame to know that the relationship with my brothers is worth so much more. And I need my siblings as much as they need me.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them how can the love of God be that person? 1 John 3:16-17

A Letter to My Dream Giver

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Dear Inspirer, Mentor, Friend, and Dream Giver,

First, I want to thank you. There are some things in my life I cannot explain, and I wish didn’t happen. But you are always there for me, always providing the next move in my life journey. Sometimes I need reminding that you are not dead, and you never sleep. The steps it takes to give me everything I’ve ever needed must be exhausting, but you are never off course.

Among other things, you gave me a small white feather. It could float with the wind and I could wander aimlessly without even taking note of it. But I know inside the feather is a big plan; something that I am meant to fulfill. The feather looks so insignificant, but with your power, I can fly.

I can see me in the feather. In this world, I am small and insignificant; but needed. I know I am created for a purpose. A purpose only you could design. You gave me the choice to soar with your plan; or float. Floating is easy, and soaring is scary; but I know with your help I fly for your glory.

Sometimes I’m afraid to fall, but my sense of pride tells me I can soar higher and higher. I need you to help me hit the wind where you see fit, and not where I feel superior. Sometimes my strength seems to nonexistent. Help me have the power to fulfill this plan. I am fearful, prideful, and human. Help me be a servant for you.

I know the best way to fulfill these wishes is not like a genie. I will not be enchanted with power or magically enlightened with humility. Help me face trials with full dependence on you. Don’t let me steer from your plan. Don’t let discouragement overtake me, but fuel me to fulfill the big plan that you have instilled within me. Let me fly for you.

Sincerely,

A prideful, fearful, and hopeful somebody

Becoming Somebody

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“Not long ago and not far away, a Nobody named Ordinary lived in the Land of Familiar.”—Bruce Wilkinson, The Dream Giver

How many times have you felt like Ordinary? You wake up every morning to the nagging chirp of your alarm, you throw on your average clothes. You go to work, file the same papers, eat the same lunch, and drink the same coffee out of the familiar mug with an ordinary logo imprinted on it. Sometimes we don’t even realize our lifestyle because it’s just a habit; it’s comfortable. But what if you step out of that box?

For me, I grew up outside of the box. I’m the left handed girl that always bumps your elbow at the dinner table. I’m part of the quirky family that walks around with all the special needs kids. I’m the girl that majored in two completely different subjects (music and business). I’m not saying these things to be negative. They are part of what makes me not a nobody—but I still had to piece together how to become a somebody.

When I was born, The Dream Giver gave me The Big Plan. It was what He wants me to do with my life. He knew who I would be, that I would need my younger brothers, and a right brained mind that likes logic and creativity. (Not to sound cliché, but everything does happen for a reason.) After twenty-two years, I found my dream. Ok, yes I’m young. (But don’t think it was easy for me! Three college major switches, a fifth year of tuition and a pretty penny to match in school loans—that just tips the surface.) But I want to be like the Dream Giver. I want to help others recognize their dreams. My dream—to help anyone, but particularly people with disabilities find their dreams.

On the other side of familiar, it’s scary. There are giants that get in your way, coaxing you to give up on your irrational life plan. There are times the road seems bare, with no resources to help you to your dream. Worst, you step farther and farther from familiar, each step deeper into the unknown leaving you stripped of all confidence that you will ever make your dream a reality. Is your dream really worth it.

While reading about ordinary I have discovered that by the power of the Dream Giver, everyone is implanted with a vision. It wasn’t just Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Sam Walton, or Vince Lombardi. We are all born with a passion, but we don’t all take the road to fulfill it.

Think for a minute. If someone handed you a million dollars, what would you do? What have you always been good at? What needs do you care about most? Who do you admire most? What makes you feel fulfilled? Even if you haven’t discovered it yet, there is something in you that matches these questions. You have to ask yourself, “What legacy do I want to leave?”

In just a couple weeks I open the doors to my dream, literally. The doors to The Spotted Cow Coffeehouse, a workplace opportunity for adults with disabilities, will be open for everyone to see. Throughout the process I’ve had giants standing in my way, road blocks, everything. There was a point where I questioned, is this really worth it? I could just use my business major and get a normal desk job, and for once be a normal person! But I can stand in the shop, make a latte, and look into the eyes of my little brothers, and I know, this is what I was born to do. This is the big plan!

I’m the left-handed music and business graduate with the quirky family. But I’m also the girl who has a big plan to fulfill. I’m a somebody. You are too.

And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” –Daniel 8:16

Wilkinson, Bruce, David Kopp, and Heather Harpham Kopp. The Dream Giver. Sisters, Or.: Multnomah, 2003. Print.

To Eric and Levi: I Give You My Dream

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To my zany, quirky, sassy, spitfire, loving, caring little brothers, Eric and Levi,

First I want to say that, from the moment I met both of you, I knew you were special. Not in the way that the world saw you, but in your character, your smile, and your ability to light up a room. You are my best friends and my inspiration. And from the moment that Gabe went to be with Jesus, you were my protection. You gave the best hugs, and you always listened. You knew the same hurt, and we took the road together.

I remember when we were young (I was around eight and you were both five), I asked our older brother Gabe to build me a bus. I remember getting chuckles from mom, dad, and Gabe, but I was serious. They all asked me, “For what?”. It was for you. I wanted to have a bus to start a school that was designed for you.

As I grew older, I stuck with this dream. In seventh grade, I wrote a paper expressing what I wanted to be when I was older—a special needs teacher, I wrote. I saw your passions, your struggles, your happiness, and I knew that being smothered in your presence was my biggest dream.

I kept this dream into my college years and I studied to become a special needs teacher. But about two years in, I got tired. The concepts I learned, the classrooms I saw, that was not where you were. I stopped pursuing that dream. In the third year, God put me on a new road—business. I could see how God had helped mom and dad start Downsize Farm. Under His hand, they made a place for you. A place where you would have opportunity, friendships, challenges, and adventures.

I remember reading your IEPs once. Eric, yours said that you wanted to be a trash-man. Levi, yours was to work at Walmart. Is that what you want to be? If that is your dream then I want you to go for it! But if not, I am making something for you—a coffee shop. (I know you don’t like coffee, but we will have hot chocolate too!) I am designing a place where you can not only work, but be the strongest, and coolest employees a business has ever seen. I want to teach you what I have learned. I want you to be able to use all of your abilities to the fullest, and be able to show them off to every person that walks into our building. Most importantly, it is my eternal dream to create and fulfill the dreams that you have.

On May 21st I will open a coffeehouse. I know you think coffee is gross, but if you join this road with me I will show you something. Every bean in that coffee has a purpose. Some beans are big, some beans are small. Some are dark, some are light—but they all create a beautiful mixture to jumpstart the day. On this Earth you could say we are all like little beans. We run around, doing daily tasks, and fulfilling our flavored lives. But God put every one of us here to do something special. I hope that by fulfilling this dream, I am following God’s vision by helping you create your own dreams.

Will you, my red and blue power rangers, take on this mission with me?

Love,

Your crazy, quirky, hopeful, inspired, pink power ranger big sister, Bobbi Myrhee

Miranda and the “In Crowd”

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This summer we added another addition to our family. Miranda, one of the sweetest clients at our farm moved in with us this June.  But behind this stunning 21 year old is a long list of hardships. From the demise of her father at a young age, to her step father’s death this summer, she has built a heart of steel that still continues to flourish with inner beauty. She is not bitter, and she fills her surroundings with love.

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 4:2. It reads:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

In this chapter of Ephesians, Paul is explaining about how we should act, though Christ is no longer on Earth as our example. The passage is saying that though Jesus isn’t here, we, as followers of Christ can still show Jesus’ legacy through our own lives. Though I try and exhibit Christ in my daily life, I don’t always give 100%. And this is where Miranda steps in.

Like I said, Miranda has not had an easy life. But she is not bitter. In fact she is a prime example of the verse in Ephesians:

Miranda is humble: Our day program is a lot like high school in some ways. Though everyone has their quirks, the clients make their own rankings of who is smarter or more talented in different areas. Truth be told, Miranda is far above average for our day program, but she doesn’t brag about it.  She can read and write, she is creative, and she is even learning to drive. And though all of these things place her at the top of the desirable list for the “in crowd”, she continues to be friends with everyone. She has a willingness to help in any way that she can, and she doesn’t need to be praised.

Miranda is gentle: I’ve seen this more and more since Miranda has come to live with us. I think one of the biggest examples is how she works with Eric and Levi. She is conscious about their feelings and she has become one of their friends. One day this summer one of the girls at the farm was flirting with Levi, and they decided that they were dating. Miranda texted me right away. She told me she didn’t want Levi to get hurt, because this girl was also dating two other guys at the farm (again, high school). She didn’t know how to tell him, and she didn’t want to lose a friendship with the other girl either. I talked to my mom, and I’m not entirely sure how but the issue cleared. I had jokingly told Miranda to tell the girl, “be careful, you don’t want to hurt the boss’s son!”

Miranda is patient: I’d say Miranda’s patience shines most clearly with Randi. Randi, my other sister, absolutely adores her. Every time I see Randi all she can do is talk about Miranda. She tries to dress like her and act like her. Randi would spend every second with Miranda if she could. And Miranda adores her just as much.

Miranda is loving: Miranda had dated a guy at the farm for a while. But when he made a bad decision their relationship ended abruptly. Yes Miranda was upset, but unlike other girls, Miranda didn’t sulk and she didn’t try and find a new guy to fill her void. She continued to be her. Now maybe she has learned that things you love, leave. But she doesn’t dwell on it. She still loves life, and she still shows love to everyone around her.

I think every person that God puts in my life helps me learn something. The verse in Ephesians is one of my favorites because I can put it on my daily to-do list. I can’t always say I’m humble or patient. And though Miranda may not meet these goals everyday either, she certainly keeps me in check. See in all of the daily drama of life, the bible says we are in this world but we are not called to be of it. At the farm you may look around and say Miranda is in the “in crowd”, but she is not in the “of crowd”. She doesn’t have to have all the boys. She doesn’t have to prove she is the best. Miranda constantly shows that your beauty is not your image; it is your character.