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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. 🙂