A Gift for You

If you have the luxury of sitting quietly for a couple of hours to indulge in an inspirational story, A Gift for Me by Tosha Holliman would be the perfect book! I was immediately captivated by the smile on the little boy’s face standing there with his two prosthetic legs on the front cover, and then I saw what appeared to be “a gift” in someone’s hands in the background. The gift was that same little boy, appearing to be not much older than a newborn in the picture, with no legs and missing part of one arm. HE was the gift, the good and perfect gift from above! (James 1:17)

It didn’t take long because just reading the table of contents sucked me in. Once I started, I honestly could not put the book down. It’s literally one that you can read from cover to cover without ever getting out of your seat. I found myself rushing through page after page because I couldn’t wait to see what the author was going to say on the next page. I felt myself full of all the same emotions she experienced as she described her life’s journey and innermost thoughts. The struggles with love, compassion, heartache, heartbreak, disappointment, frustration, shock, concern, anger, devastation, hurt, pain, and unforgiveness seemed so very real as I found myself praying along with her.

I could identify with Tosha, the wife and mother of 4, although I basically had nothing in common with her other than wanting what we all want out of our Christian walk with the Lord, a perfectly normal and happy family living a quiet and peaceful life. That would not be the case for Tosha and her baby boy; yet she discovered God had something much more precious in store for her. This gift came with strings attached because this gift was given to bring glory to God.

You’ll read the book’s synopsis on the back cover which explains against all odds, this mother decided to keep her baby even when doctors said you still have a small window to abort. As she felt him move and heard his heart beat for the first time, her heart, body, and soul connected with his immediately as he continued to grow and thrive in the womb. God gave her a glimpse of Aidan walking one day. She believed whole-heartedly in the power of God. In this excellent testament of a mother’s love for her child, she opens the story of her life and shares the true blessing of Aidan Jeremiah as God is continually being glorified through their lives.

I highly recommend anyone searching for answers or needing encouragement along life’s journey to pick up a copy of this book. You will experience God’s grace and mercy like never before. Although your journeys may be different, you will form an immediate connection with this loving, faithful mother. You will find yourself bonding with Aidan and cheering for him before he was even born. This is certainly a gift that will bless you beyond measure!

Please visit http://peculiarunlimbited.bigcartel.com/ to order your copy of this extraordinary book today!

Then visit https://www.facebook.com/PeculiarUnLIMBitedFoundation/ for more information and find out how Mrs. Holliman is encouraging and inspiring others to go from impossible to possible. Aidan is UnLIMBited and will inspire others to live life with no LIMBits! As an added bonus, you’ll find some very cute videos of Aidan on that Facebook page too.

As Aidan’s photo card says: Thank you for sharing my journey with me and for accepting me for who I am…. Aidan

If you’d like to meet Tosha, she’s hosting a book signing in the Memphis area on February 18, 12:00-2:00 p.m. Come get to know her while enjoying refreshments, prizes, and hear excerpt readings from her book. And guess what; I have a gift for YOU, the first 3 people who leave a comment on this blog post! I’m going to her book signing and will purchase 3 books to give away. If you’d like for me to send you a complimentary copy of A Gift for Me, just be one of the first 3 people to leave a comment on this blog post, and I’ll ship you an autographed copy after the book signing. That’s my gift to the first 3 people who comment on this post. Has Tosha’s story changed the way you look at challenges you may be facing? Have you ever received a gift you didn’t think you wanted, but now you can’t live without? What gift has God surprised you with?

Julia was a Dreamer

Sometimes there is so much history to a story that it becomes difficult to pick up from today’s thought without looking back first. Such is the case with this post. Please stay with me as this journey will be well worth your patience. You may know there are currently 4 books in my Living Inside The Testimony Book Series, the 4th written by my beloved friend, Julia Gray. Remember this video introduction I made about her book:

And then the book debuted on Amazon as a #1 Best Seller and #1 Hot New Release on April 13-14, 2015. Here’s my blog post that tells all about that… 

It Happened Overnight

So that brings me to April 14, 2015 when Julia sent me an email introducing me to Diane Grover, the wonderful lady who founded the International Down Syndrome Coalition (IDSC). The email included this link to a Huffington Post article about Diane’s IDSC:

From Birth to Advocacy, the Beginnings of the International Down Syndrome Coalition

Talk about divine intervention! Julia discovered Diane had a daughter who attended Madonna Learning Center with James. Diane was an international celebrity right here in our hometown! What are the odds of that happening? (100 out of 100 when God is in control!) Julia had not met Diane face-to-face, but she felt Diane may be someone whom she could reach out to about possibly helping us promote the book since Diane was a larger-than-life advocate for Down syndrome who lived just across town.

Julia also learned Diane not only founded the IDSC, but she had recently launched Dreamer’s Coffee House. We assumed her hands were full and that it may take some time to get a response from her. Julia simply sent Diane a copy of the book and anxiously awaited a reply.

In August 2015, Julia was thrilled to meet Diane in person for the first time at Madonna when the school was moving into their new building. As only Julia could do with such fun and wit, she described Diane to me in an email August 2, 2015. Isn’t it nice that deleted emails aren’t really deleted. I found this old email from Julia today that went like this:

Then, Diane Grover was there also (and may I vent a bit because she spoke to all the right people and never broke a sweat!  I never saw her leave a 10 foot parameter the entire time.  It was hot and just taking the effort to walk across the cafeteria gave you a wet head.  She was seen, thanked for being so much help, and promised to come any time they needed her – UGH!  Then she left without a hair out of place AND she has hair with a lot of body that she has to straighten.  That stuff should have gone POOF!).  She greeted me like she was so glad I was there (I love it when people do that.  I need to get better at it, like Diane) and introduced me to her husband and told him I was the one that sent her the book.  Then she went on to goosh about how it just DREW her in.  She really emphasized that.  All this made me so happy but I didn’t realize the real implication of it all until she and her husband started talking about all the books she has been sent.  She said that everyone that writes a book on Ds sends her the book and usually she reads just a bit and puts it aside because she can’t go on out of lack of interest but that she LOVED my book.  Eeee!!!  I said then spread the word and help me promote it to which she assured me that she had already decided to blog about it.  I was thinking, “DO MORE THAN THAT!!!” but I bet her blog reaches lots of people.  I’m assuming this is it… http://www.dianegrover.me/

Sidenote: Diane sure did a lot more than that!!! She even sent the book to a Christian movie executive looking to adapt a book about Down syndrome into a movie. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if The Book about James becomes The Movie about James! (Maybe I’ll blog about that later once Diane hears back from the movie executive.)

So anyway, back to this part of the journey. With that encounter, Julia’s relationship with Diane took off at an accelerated pace. She was hopeful that Diane would be able to help promote the book within the Down syndrome community and beyond. Julia was passionate about challenging people to have the courage to see things without preconceived notions and prejudices and desperately wanted to reach the masses with her message. We quietly waited until things calmed down with Diane’s coffee house launch. By Spring 2016, things began to move quickly. Diane reached out to Julia and wanted to start selling the book at her coffee house and through her Dreamers Merchants!!! Julia and I started making plans. I still have the document I compiled of all our text messages about Diane with all the plans Diane had for helping Julia promote the book. Needless to say Julia was ecstatic that Diane promised her “Wherever Dreamers Coffee goes, your book goes!” Julia and I had officially become DREAMERS.

Julia at her book signing at Dreamers Coffee House at Vantage Point Golf Center, 9580 Macon Road, Cordova, TN

And so it began on June 25, 2016, with a book signing at Diane’s coffee shop. Talk about a whirlwind romance! Within a year of hearing Diane’s name for the very first time, Julia and Diane had become very close. They had so much in common given that Diane also has a large brood of children, the youngest of which had Down syndrome, and she was a homeschooling mom too. Julia trusted Diane completely and knew she loved James and the book so very much. I got to meet Diane in person at the book signing, and I fell in love with her too. She REALLY liked Julia A LOT, and she committed to both of us that very day that she would take The Book about James wherever Dreamers Coffee went because she believed so strongly in the message Julia shared in the book. Julia was thrilled. Julia was actually beyond thrilled. She was almost giddy.

Julia’s book signing at Dreamers Coffee Shop June 25, 2016. Thank you Allison Thron for making it so special!

Julia was an official Dreamer. The Book about James hit the road with Diane and her coffee. Diane even took the book to the 44th Annual National Down Syndrome Congress in Orlando, FL in July 2016.

“The Book about James” was at Diane’s Dreamers Coffee Booth at the National Down Syndrome Congress in Orlando

Diane interviewed Julia for her own blog and had planned to share the interview last year during October for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As Diane said, “Life took a different turn. Instead of advocating in October, I spent most of the month of October praying for my friend Julia and her family. On the evening of October 7, only a short time after Julia and I were texting about her plans to speak about her book and my plans to work hard to promote her book, Julia collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest. Julia died on October 30. So Down syndrome awareness month took a back seat for me.” Diane shared her interview with Julia on her blog last November. You can read it here. As Diane said, “Like her book, it is part of her lasting legacy.”

Diane Grover’s Blog: A Very Special Interview with My Friend Julia Gray about ‘The Book About James’

So, like I said at the beginning of this post, sometimes there is so much history to a story that it becomes difficult to pick up from today’s thought without looking back first. My very dear, sweet, kind, compassionate, wonderful, magnificent, fabulous, talented, funny, humble, precious, beloved friend Julia passed away just over 2 months ago. I wanted to blog about her, but it was much too painful because my heart was shattered. It was difficult to even sit at the computer and type because every time I thought about her, I started crying and couldn’t see the keyboard for all the tears swelling in my eyes and rolling down my face. My intention today was not to blog about her, but somehow that is what I found myself doing for the better part of this cold winter day. My phone says it’s 18 degrees outside. The hole in my heart feels especially empty today. I’ve been texting Diane. I told her I was blogging about Julia, and she created that delightful “JULIA BELIEVED THAT DREAMS COME TRUE!” poster above for me. Diane has no idea that much of this blog is about her relationship with Julia. She won’t know until I post it, but I know she will be happy. You see, Diane is on a fresh new campaign right now with Dreamers Merchants to stand up in 2017 and share the dream with others. She believes in the dream of meaningful jobs for individuals of all abilities! She convinced me to wake up and dream with her too. She believed in Julia and The Book about James, and she promised me that she would keep her promise to Julia by taking the book wherever her coffee goes. That is the only way I have been able to see through these teary eyes this extremely cold day and finally blog about Julia. I sure didn’t want to, but I simply HAD to. I am a dreamer too! Julia made sure of that when she introduced me to Diane.

Thank you Diane Grover for waking me up so I can dream with you. Together, we will keep Julia’s dream alive!

 

 

 

Let’s See Where Baseball Takes Him

That’s the title of one of my numerous photo albums on Facebook.

It’s also part of living inside the testimony. This testimony is actually my youngest child’s pursuit of a college baseball scholarship.

Allow me to digress for just a moment for those who have not visited my website before.

I’m a nurse by profession, author by passion, and storyteller by the grace of God. My desire is to help readers discover that we all live inside testimonies meant to be shared to help inspire and encourage others. You’ll find yourself laughing, crying, rejoicing, and soul-searching all at the same time as my books take you on a roller coaster of emotions and self-enlightenment. Discover the inspiration, faith, hope, humor, and love we all have in common. I share my own personal testimony in the first book, and the remarkable testimony of others in all the books that follow.

Living Inside The Testimony® is actually my trademark. I really do “own” it. So why didn’t I realize my baby boy was living inside his very own testimony?

Brandon has been playing ball every year since he was a 5 year-old kindergartner.

Brandon Collier - 5 year old T-baller

Brandon Collier – Ellendale Little League T-ball (5 years old)

Like many parents, we thought he would enjoy playing different sports. His first sport was basketball, and that’s where he earned the nickname Speedy. He was so fast running down the basketball court that his coach simply started calling him Speedy. Later that year, he started playing T-ball too, and somehow the nickname just stuck with him. After all, he had been running ever since he learned how to walk. He had been jumping, and climbing, and defeating the laws of gravity ever since he was a toddler. He scaled my kitchen cabinets like spiderman and then sat on top of the counter when he was only one. He leaped across the living room from the sofa to the love seat, and I caught him in mid-air once to prevent what surely would have been a terrible head injury as he jumped from a chair toward our brick hearth before he even turned two.

Fast forward 12 years, and Brandon is now a 17 year-old senior in high school whose dream is to earn a college baseball scholarship. He wants to major in Business Management and perhaps follow in his dad’s footsteps and own his own business one day.

Brandon Collier, Boltoh High School Varsity Outfielder, Class of 2017

Brandon Collier, Bolton High School Varsity Outfielder, Class of 2017

He’s still Speedy too. Just take a look at this video composed of several short clips of some of Brandon’s high school games which I thought would serve as my personal memories only. Little did I know that I would use these same “home videos” to create part of Brandon’s online recruiting profile for college coaches, recruiters, and scouts to view. On the video, he’s the one batting and/or running bases.

Okay, since this is a blog and not another book, I’ll try to be brief and get to my main point… 🙂

Whether Brandon earns a baseball scholarship or not, whether he ever plays baseball beyond his senior year of high school or not, and whether baseball doesn’t take him anywhere other than where he’s already been, Brandon knows life will go on with or without baseball. He will still go to college. He will still have a career. He will still become the man GOD created him to be. College baseball is a dream. If this dream doesn’t come true, all he has to do is dream of something else. It’s all part of living inside the testimony. Baseball is part of his testimony; it’s part of his life, but it’s not his whole life. It has taken him places he otherwise would not have gone. Being part of a team and the life lessons learned on the baseball field will serve him well later in life.

However, I most certainly do believe he will get a baseball scholarship. He believes that too. I also believe Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sin, and I will spend eternity in heaven. He believes that too. I believe we were all created for a purpose, our lives should glorify and magnify our Creator, and we all live inside testimonies meant to be shared to help encourage and inspire others. I believe he’s too young to fully understand that although he does understand people are watching him. His life is a testimony, so wherever baseball takes him, it’s all part of the journey.

One of the first projects he had for school this year was to create a small poster with a picture of himself and 10 words to describe who he is. Along with 10 adjectives, he included this picture of his favorite scripture:

Philippians 4:13

Count the words in the scripture. Yes, it’s 10 words.  It’s not 10 different adjectives that describe Brandon but a combination of 10 words put together into one sentence which describe him. This is what he brings to the baseball field. This is what others will learn from him as he continues living inside the testimony, whether the testimony is on or off the field. It really will inspire and encourage others even though he may be too young to see it right now.

Where will your dreams take you?

I hope your answer is “Wherever God leads me.”

So let’s see where baseball takes him…. Click here if you’d like to see some of the pictures from my Facebook photo album. (I think you have to log into Facebook once you click the link in order to see the pictures.)


BONUS VIDEO

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. I’m throwing in this little video clip simply because it’s part of the testimony. Brandon is a massive 5’7″, 140-pounder who starts on his high school varsity football team as a wide receiver and cornerback. Needless to say, I have to trust the Lord every.single.day for his safety and protection when he runs out on that football field because he is one of the smallest players out there. This was the season opener last week. All I’m going to say is watch this #StompDown by #27 Blue, my baseball player… LOL. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy watching him play baseball and football. What’s even better is watching him grow up and become the young man GOD created him to be. We can certainly enjoy his athletics along the way. 🙂

Wake up and Dream This 4th of July

Independence Day, a day Americans celebrate our independence on the Fourth of July every year. It began on July 4, 1776, a day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.

Wake up and Dream, a dream of Diane Grover to open a coffee-house in Memphis, TN, which she did in 2015, where she employs individuals of all abilities, especially individuals who have a disability such as Down syndrome like her daughter. So in a way, Diane’s dream can help individuals with disabilities become independent entrepreneurs. Let me explain…

Diane took on the initiative of bringing attention to the abysmal rate of employment for individuals of all abilities. It has grown into a movement of sorts, and is expanding nationwide. She hopes you will wake up and dream with her and share Dreamers Coffee House with others. With every purchase, you can bring her one step closer to her dream of hiring individuals of all abilities and show the world that every person deserves the dignity that jobs innately bring!

Meet the Dream Team by watching this video to learn how Dreamers Merchants employs people of all abilities, including those with disabilities, helping them to find their own level of independence. It is indeed worthy of an Independence Day Celebration, complete with fireworks and a parade!

 

I accidentally discovered Dreamers Coffee House because Diane Grover is a friend of Julia Gray, author of the 4th book in my series, The Book about James. To make a long story not so long, suffice it to say Diane loves the book, she loves Julia and James, and she inherited me since I come as a package deal with Julia. She wanted to help promote the book because she thinks everyone needs a copy of this beautifully inspiring work, so she invited Julia to her coffee-house for a Down Syndrome Fundraising Event. Julia was there to talk about and sign copies of her book. Diane donated a portion of the proceeds to the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis & the Mid-South (DSAM.) I was there to help Julia promote the book (and take pictures of Julia of course) but what I found when I walked through the door left me speechless.

 

Julia Gray at Dreamers Coffee House

Julia Gray, author of “The Book about James” at Dreamers Coffee House for a Down Syndrome Fundraiser

Honestly, I’m not even a coffee drinker, but I simply fell in love with this place, my new favorite place! I saw a team of people with all abilities helping each other #WakeUpAndDream! I became an instant believer of the dream. I drank iced coffee for the first time and loved it. (Afterall, this was a scorching hot summer day in Memphis, TN.) I shopped in the gift shop and discovered unique gift items made by companies and entrepreneurs of all abilities, many with disabilities. I witnessed the coffee shop’s general manager, Allison, “wow me” with the love and attention to detail she gave everyone and everything, although she had no idea I was watching her every move. And I just had to take a photograph of the precious lady in the picture above, an individual with Down syndrome, WORKING on her job as a barista in this quaint little coffee-house.

I watched as Down syndrome families came in one-by-one, to support the DSAM and Dreamers Merchants. After all, it was a fundraiser for them. However, it seemed more like a family reunion. You see, what I learned that day is that we are all part of the same community, albeit we have different abilities, but we are all one in the same. Each family wants the same for their loved ones, regardless of their abilities. We are all Americans, and we all have the same dream, The American Dream, a set of ideals (Democracy, Rights, Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. (as defined by Wikipedia)

Families of all abilities came to support the dream #WakeUpAndDream

Families of all abilities came to support Dreamers Coffee so all individuals can #WakeUpAndDream

Like I said, I accidentally discovered this place. Even while I was there, I had no plans to blog about it. I was simply supporting Julia and her book. I took a few pictures so I could post on our Book about James Facebook Page where we serve as co-administrators. I posted the pictures and looked forward to Diane’s invitation for Julia to continue following her to other events to promote her book.

Then I had a dream. I couldn’t get Diane Grover, Allison, and all those I met at Dreamers Coffee House out of my mind. I dreamed about them that night. I thought about them the next day. I dreamed about them again the next night. Three days later I decided to blog about my new favorite place because I simply woke up and dreamed. I want everyone to know about this wonderful coffee shop. I want Diane to open coffee shops like this all across America and all around the world. Until those physical coffee shops are open, I want everyone to support the online Dreamers. Yes, if you’re wondering how you can experience a taste of this dream, just click here to visit Dreamers Merchants. There you can #WakeUpAndDream. There you can make a purchase to help the dream come true – meaningful jobs for individuals of all abilities! And there, you can meet Diane Grover, and read her blog. There is one blog entry in particular that I’d like to share here: Can You Hear Me Now? Diane Grover discovered after 50 years that she is severely hearing impaired and has been all her life. How did this wife and mother of 5 beautiful children survive her entire life without knowing she could not hear like the rest of us… and at the same time, launch Dreamers Coffee House? I think that was the biggest WOW-factor of my most eventful day. It’s time to celebrate Independence Day!!!

Bringing Awareness to That Which Is Invisible

What happens when others can’t see your pain? Does it make it any less painful? Ask most people with a chronic illness which causes physical pain that isn’t visible from the outside, and they will tell you they hear this all the time:

“But you look so good. You can’t possibly be sick.”

If only you could see what’s going on inside. Flip my body inside-out, and perhaps you will see a totally different person. That’s what happened when the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation (SSF) changed their picture of a lady exhibiting the hallmark signs of Sjögren’s.

Ways Sjögren’s Can Affect the Body

Ways Sjögren’s Can Affect the Body

If you could see all of those physical symptoms listed above from the outside, it would certainly appear that this poor lady is sick. Now take a look at the new picture.

This is Sjögren’s

This is Sjögren’s

That’s why Sjögren’s is considered an invisible illness. Doesn’t she look too good to be sick? She looks very healthy from the outside, right? But just read the small print, and you’ll see a totally different person.

Sjögren’s (pronounced “SHOW-grins”) is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. Along with symptoms of extensive dryness, other serious complications include profound fatigue, chronic pain, major organ involvement, neuropathies, and lymphomas.

April is Sjögren’s Awareness Month, and my goal is to help raise awareness of this debilitating and complex disease. I’ve written about it before. It’s actually the title of my third book, SHOWgrins. SHOWgrins

It was a year ago that I blogged about losing one of the five fabulous women in the book, Judy Kang. “What Do You Do When You Lose One?” Judy was a woman of great faith and fortitude, and she lived her life to the fullest amidst the uncertainty of not knowing from day-to-day what health challenges she would face, as there were countless of them for many years. Some days she never even knew where her next breath would come from. She summarized her battle with Sjögren’s like this: “In 1996 I was diagnosed with a lung illness which they realized was caused from primary Sjögren’s syndrome. I was on oxygen for 9 years and in 2010 managed to get a double lung transplant. I still have symptoms of Sjögren’s but luckily have a renewed life.” In April, 2014, she began her eternal life.

As sad as it makes me to think about my dear friend Judy Kang and her battle with Sjögren’s, I am filled with excitement and gratitude knowing I have an opportunity to help the SSF increase awareness of this very common yet silent and often invisible illness.

If I have sparked your curiosity about the invisibleness of Sjögren’s, please don’t stop with this blog. A good place to look for additional information is right here on the SSF website. You can also find interesting facts that will help you see inside the body of a Sjögren’s patient during Sjögren’s Awareness Month on Facebook. Just consider some of these statements made by Sjögren’s patients. You will find a new post each day on the SSF Facebook page during awareness month.

  • Living with Sjögren’s means I look healthy on the outside, however my disease is attacking my internal organs and destroying me from the inside out.
  • Sjögren’s means living with a disease you don’t understand & hating the feeling of always being sick.
  • Living with Sjögren’s is losing your teeth too young. I rarely smile or talk in public since my inability to produce saliva has caused embarrassing tooth decay.
  • On the days that I can barely get out of bed because of Sjögren’s fatigue, I think, “this is one more day of life that I have lost.”
  • I’m 23 & struggle to open lids/ bottles because of the debilitating pain I experience daily in my hands & wrists. I am so young but feel weak everyday.
  • Sjögren’s means living in daily pain but constantly hearing, “you don’t look sick.”

If you’d like to help bring more awareness of this invisible illness, please consider making a secure tax-deductible online donation here.

All donations go directly to the SSF, and I’ll send you a complimentary PDF copy of my SHOWgrins book for any donation amount. Not only do I write about Sjögren’s, but I also have Sjögren’s. The best part about having it is that I know I have it, so it’s not invisible anymore. I can learn to live well with Sjögren’s despite having it.

 

 

 

 

What a Difference Making a Difference Can Make

A year ago was the first time I had ever heard of World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD). Thanks to my dear friend Julia Gray and her son James, I learned after she became a #1 bestselling author literally overnight that one person really can make a difference in how the world perceives a person with Down syndrome. Please, give me a couple of minutes to explain…

When I approached Julia about writing The Book about James, it was simply a God-inspired idea floating around in my head that was dependent upon me being able to mentor her. I had no idea when I asked Julia to consider my book proposal that she had already dreamed of being able to write a book one day. I became her project manager, and (not so) suddenly 1,000 days later, The Book about James debuted on Amazon as the hottest new release and #1 bestseller. WOW! The Book about James

We first introduced the world to The Book about James on WDSD 2015 with this 2-minute video.

By then, it had already received 5-star rave reviews and remarkable endorsements. We waited with great anticipation after putting the finishing touches on the eBook for its grand book launch on Amazon and Facebook. Would it really make a difference in how people perceived special needs and children with Down syndrome? Or would our labor of love over the past thousand days go completely unnoticed?

In our quest to bring honor and glory to God by telling James’s story and revealing the sometimes raw and shocking emotional roller coaster, we held firm to the belief that we would reach those who needed to hear about the book. As Jo Gilbert, Executive Director of Madonna Learning Center described it, “This book makes you laugh, cry, and give thanks, but it also inspires you to experience the love and joy that children with Down syndrome have to offer. God places children with special needs in our paths for a reason, and he is in full control.

Fast forward to WDSD 2016. It has been almost a year since the book was released. I was blessed to host the Inaugural Book Signing & Reception for Julia.

Poster advertising the event posted throughout the city

Event Poster

Julia and her family

Julia and her family at the reception

Julia signing books

Julia signing books

Julia even appeared on a CBS talk show, Live at 9, to discuss the book after meeting one of the talk show hosts at her book signing. You can watch the interview here.

Julia being interviewed on "Live at 9"

Julia’s first live television interview

Julia's talk show interview

Julia was interviewed by WREG News Channel 3 hosts Marybeth Conley and Alex Coleman

As for the overnight success of Julia becoming a #1 bestselling author, you can read all about that here. 

So as I reflect back on the untold stress and uncertainty of this book venture, one thing is abundantly clear. We really did accomplish our #1 goal and that was to bring honor and glory to God. Julia’s purpose for sharing her innermost thoughts in the book was simply to challenge people to have the courage to see things without preconceived notions and prejudices is revealing itself right before our eyes. The reviews on Amazon tell the resounding consensus of all those who read the book. 

  • A heartwarming ride full of love, laughter, tears and fears!
  • I was moved to cry for joy and in sympathy and to praise God’s name all through the amazing words on these pages.
  • Inspiring, informative, touching, entertaining account of bringing sweet Baby James home from the hospital and adapting to life with a Down syndrome child. I loved every sentence!
  • This book will give you an honest, funny, and endearing look into the heart of a mother who has a child with special needs. It will give you hope as you see her feelings transform from uncertainty to total love, embracing all things Down Syndrome.
  • You will laugh and cry as Julia exposes herself-the good, the bad and the ugly.

So did Julia Gray really make a difference by writing The Book about James? Absolutely! And what a difference making a difference can make. This is only the beginning. We don’t know where this journey will take us, but one thing is for certain. When we get there, the difference will be extraordinary. A christian movie executive has already inquired about the book. They are looking for a book about Down syndrome to turn into a movie, and The Book about James is one of the books they are reviewing. What an honor and privilege! Even if it goes no further than the initial inquiry and influx of potential books, that is a great accomplishment just to be one of the books the movie executive is considering. Can you even begin to imagine the possibilities if it does go further? We can, and what a difference that would make!

What I’ve Learned from Living Inside the Testimony

It was never about me!

Yes, IT WAS NEVER ABOUT ME!!!

When I started writing what I thought would be my first and only book in January 2009, I thought it was totally about me. It didn’t take me long at all to realize that it was really about God’s amazing love and abundant blessings. The book was to bring HIM honor and glory. As I’ve noted on my website, I’m a nurse by profession, author by passion, and storyteller by the grace of God. My desire is to help readers discover that we all live inside testimonies meant to be shared to help inspire and encourage others.

Now that it has been almost 7 years since my first book, and I’m in the process of “wishing” to begin my 5th one, I want to take some time through this blog to reflect on each one. I hope that you have been inspired, encouraged, and enlightened. I hope that you have discovered that you do indeed live inside a testimony too and that by sharing your own testimony, you can help inspire and encourage other people. For we are overcome by the words of our testimony. (Revelation 12:11)


Living Inside The Testimony took me only 30 days to write the first draft from cover to cover. It took 44 years of living before I was prepared to write it. I had been living inside the testimony my whole life, but it wasn’t until God sat me down to right the book that I realized it.Living Inside The Testimony

I have come to realize that God was with me all along, and even when I did not acknowledge him in my life as I should have, he was always with me to ensure that I would walk down the path he had pre-ordained for me. Like the song says, Order my Steps in Your Word…. So even though the book is about me, it’s not “really” about me. It’s my testimony that I hope by sharing, others will discover God’s amazing love and abundant blessings in their own lives.

As one book reviewer described it, “This book is not your everyday read. It’s far from it. It’s a wonderfully amazing story of Ms. Collier’s walk with God. It’s her living testimony, her daily struggles, her daily acceptance that she is walking with her Father. Ms. Collier’s testimony is told with exuberance and love, helping people to understand that there will be trials along the way, but having faith and hope in your heart will help you to overcome any obstacle. From her ups and downs with her high school boyfriend, to marrying him, and living life as a wife, to work and pregnancy and family, Ms. Collier shares tragedies and milestones.” (Reviewed by Molly E. for Readers’ Favorite)


Angel in My Room is a story of love, compassion, and forgiveness. I hosted an online radio talk show for about 6 months (but that’s another story) and had the distinct honor and blessed privilege to interview Lillie Hopkins as she told her story for the first time after keeping silent for 31 years.  After the interview, it became apparent to both of us that she had so much more to share that would be a blessing to so many other people struggling with the insecurities of love, compassion, and forgiveness. We had no idea when the interview first aired in February, 2011 that the end result would be this book which I released a short 7 months later.Angel in My Room

I never thought I would write anything. I certainly didn’t think I’d write a book about my own testimony, let alone the testimony of someone else. But there I was in 2011 writing another book. Lillie had waited 31 years to talk about it, and she chose me to tell her story. Well, that’s not exactly true. God chose me. He knew all along that I would write it all those years later, and the sole purpose once again was to bring HIM honor and glory for what he had done through Lillie’s life.

Sometimes other people can describe it much better than I can. “Betty Collier has done an amazing job of writing Lillie’s story into a marvelous and inspiring book. The chapters flow nicely and once I began reading this book, I found myself so intertwined with it that I couldn’t put it down. I was truly moved and it tugged at my heart greatly. I also thank Lillie for sharing her story because it will inspire so many people who have not had the courage to forgive themselves even though God has forgiven them so easily. Through one woman’s journey, we feel her heartache and pain, her personal sacrifice, and her devotion to God. This is such a moving story and so many of us can relate to Lillie’s pain and suffering. Not all people are able to move past the agony and despair, but this book will change people’s lives forever.” (Reviewed by Rita V for Readers’ Favorite)


SHOWgrins will captivate you as you read the five inspirational stories of courage, determination and spirit from women who refuse to define themselves as only Sjogren’s patients. Join them on their journey of self-discovery as they reclaim their lives and find new purposes and meaning to how they can make a difference and be the women they always wanted to be. Those are the words of Steven Taylor, CEO, Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. Sjogren’s (pronounced SHOWgrins, hence the title of the book) is actually an autoimmune disease that few have heard about, yet 4 million Americans suffer from this incurable disease on a daily basis.SHOWgrins

I started my journey with this book basically because I identified with the common symptoms of this difficult to diagnose disease, and I thought I had it too. It wasn’t until midway through writing it that my doctor told me he didn’t think I had Sjogren’s. But I was determined to tell the stories of the five fabulous women in the book to help bring about more awareness and education, as well as to raise much-needed funds for research into treatment and a cure one day. I ended the book by declaring my life was far better after meeting these 5 incredible women even though I didn’t have Sjogren’s. Well, as God’s Master Plan would later unveil, 2 years after I published the book, that same doctor officially diagnosed me as having Sjogren’s after all. WOW! WHEW! WHAT!?!? I never wanted to have Sjogren’s, but I did want to know if I had it, so that I could learn how to live well despite having it. So once again, I realized it wasn’t about me after all. It was about the 5 women in the book and what I could learn from them. Had I never met them, I likely would have crumbled and fallen apart after years and years of searching for answers to all that ailed me. Not only was my mission accomplished to bring about awareness and education of this little known disease, I was well-prepared for what I would learn to face for the rest of my life. Instead of being devastated, I am more determined than ever.

However, for those of you reading this post who know my mother, don’t tell her I have Sjogren’s! I don’t want her to worry about me. Please and Thank You!


The Book about James is my fourth book, but I am delighted that Julia Gray wrote it for me! Okay, so I was her mentor, consultant, manager, coach, and even picked the picture for the front cover, but James is her son, and she was the best one to actually tell that story. The book was my idea, I had the vision, but I couldn’t write it like she could. I had planned to write it, but once again, “fate” stepped in, a.k.a. GOD stepped in. The Book about James Little did I know when I first asked Julia if she would be willing to share her innermost thoughts about raising James that she had always desired to write a book. I had no idea, and quite frankly, I was afraid that she would reject my book proposal. Once again, I learned by being obedient to what I felt God had called me to do, I helped Julia fulfill a dream of hers.  More importantly, the book is changing lives and misperceptions about children with special needs. According to Jo Gilbert, Executive Director of Madonna Learning Center, “This book makes you laugh, cry, and give thanks, but it also inspires you to experience the love and joy that children with Down syndrome have to offer. God places children with special needs in our paths for a reason, and he is in full control.”  Ms. Gilbert’s words ring true on so many levels. God puts many things, people, and situations in our paths for a reason.

As a judge from Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards noted, “When people of faith talk about situations that may not be ideal, sometimes the temptation is to sugarcoat the less glamorous side of life. Yet Mrs. Gray lets us see the darker side of her thoughts without becoming maudlin, self-pitying, or causing the reader to doubt God’s faithfulness. This book is uplifting and definitely one that will be appreciated by Christians everywhere. I feel certain this book will be a perennial resource for those who need it. I hope readers who need it most will find it.” So, with that being said, it doesn’t really matter that the whole thing was my idea, does it? What matters is that Julia did a beautiful job telling her story, and for that, God will once again receive all the honor and glory.


And finally, about this “wishful thinking” 5th book which I have actually been praying about for the past 4 years… I fretted over whether to include this as part of my post at all. I woke up this morning with no intentions of writing anything today. After all, Christmas is right around the corner, I have oral surgery for some major dental work scheduled for Monday morning (part of those issues I deal with because of Sjogren’s, but that too is another story), and I have so many other things to do. I won’t even go there as I’m sure your TO DO lists are just as overwhelming as mine. Anyway, halfway through the day, I grabbed my laptop and took a seat in my favorite room in my house to try to get motivated while I looked at all my pretty Christmas decorations. I knew it was time! I prayed, asked for guidance as to what I needed to share with you today, and if I should include this picture.Living Inside the Testimony with Keith Lee

No, it’s not a book cover, but it is the beginning of my next journey which actually began over 4 years ago. For the sake of brevity (which I think I have already surpassed) let me back up just a tad bit and explain. This is a picture of Mr. Keith Lee and me from a couple of months ago when I had the privilege of meeting him for the first time to present my book proposal. (I couldn’t leave without getting an autographed basketball! After all, I was a Keith Lee super-fan long before I became an author). He never said I couldn’t share this picture with others, but I have been hanging on to it and not saying a word as I patiently and prayerfully wait for him to give me an answer about allowing me to have the honor of writing his testimony! If you’re not from Memphis or didn’t follow his basketball career, look here for more information about Keith Lee. This is probably the most “public” information you will ever read about him. Even in today’s social media craze, some people prefer to remain private, and very little is known about the personal side of Keith Lee. As the article states:

The media had always wanted the quiet 6-11 giant to say more, and now here was another reporter, asking the 51-year-old former Memphis State forward to reminisce on his college playing days more than a quarter-century after he led the Tigers to the 1985 Final Four.

Lee very politely declined. Maybe some other time. “I thank the fans for their support,” he said softly, clearly still appreciative of his place in Tigers history and in the hearts of the thousands who cheered for him from 1981-85.

He would simply prefer to remain private, like he always has…

And while he remains a private man, Lee said he’s enjoying himself as a coach at Raleigh-Egypt, where he’s sharing his knowledge of the game with players too young to know how dominant he was at the college level. Five years ago, he earned his degree at Memphis in interdisciplinary studies.

“I give God all the glory. I’m just a vessel used by God,” said Lee, who spent three seasons in the NBA and several more as a pro in the Continental Basketball Association and United States Basketball League.

Although I have no idea if this book will ever come to fruition, just accepting the fact that it is possible gives me the faith to believe. Perhaps it won’t be Keith Lee (because he is really a very private person who doesn’t even grant interviews, let alone entertain the idea of someone writing a book about him) so if this doesn’t work out, I’m sure another name will pop in my head, and God will direct me further. I certainly won’t be discouraged. For now I am satisfied just knowing I can accept this idea without doubting God, so whatever he decides to do, and wherever he decides to lead me, I’ll be there, ready to interview and write the testimony… whether it’s Keith Lee or somebody who is completely off my radar right now. The more I think about it, the more insane it sounds, but I will leave this paragraph here anyway. Only the Lord knows if this is going to happen or not. And if it does NOT, then the seed has already been planted in my head for me to “dream big” so even if I’m not ever going to be Living Inside the Testimony with Keith Lee, it will be someone…. Someone who walks through the door that the Lord opens. (Actually this paragraph is what I wrote on 4/7/11 when I first started praying about this book, and I just copied it here because it seems to fit.) I thought it and wrote it in April, 2011, and I still think it now.

I know Keith Lee has a story to tell. He has never told it. I know he has a testimony to share. He has never shared it publicly. I know there is no one who can help him tell it better than I can. I am praying that God will help him understand that so that he can be a blessing to others. It has nothing to do with my confidence or lack thereof. It has nothing to do with my writing ability or lack thereof. As a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with me at all. Quite simply, “Living Inside the Testimony with Keith Lee” is all about bringing honor and glory to God. I am assured of that, whether I ever write the book or not.

What testimonies do you have just waiting to be shared with others?