Tag Archive | Down syndrome

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!!!

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!

It Happened Overnight (after almost 1,000 nights)

It took 2 years and 9 months (approximately 1,000 days) to get to this place on our journey, and then overnight, an amazing thing happened. Our destination was confirmed, and The Book about James debuted on Amazon as a #1 Best Seller and #1 Hot New Release on April 13-14, 2015. #1 Best Seller

The fourth book in my series, The Book about James, was written by Julia Gray. I initially approached her about my idea for the book in July, 2012. We’ve been working together ever since on this project which is very near and dear to both of us. It’s more apparent for others to see why it’s so close to Julia because she is James’s mother, and the book is about him. However, in some ways, I think it was even closer to my heart because I had to find a way to make this book all that she had hoped and prayed it would be. If it was not a success, it would have been like never reaching the promised land, and I feared I would have failed both Julia and her precious James.

Success to us was not that it would become a best seller, but rather simply stated, that God would be glorified throughout the pages. I had a vision for the book, and Julia trusted me completely to lead her down this very uncertain road of writing and publishing. I could not fail her, and more importantly, I knew I would have to trust the Lord to lead me as I should go because Julia was following right behind me. Suffice it to say our faith was tested, but we never faltered. As Julia wrote in her reflections at the end of the book, “The sole purpose for writing this book is to bring honor and glory to God, for it is he who blessed me beyond measure by giving me the honor and privilege of being James’s mother.”

You must be curious as to what this book is really about, so take a look at this 5-star review by Ashley Tetzlaff for Readers’ Favorite:

In her work, The Book about James, Julia Gray shares her thoughts on raising her son born with Down Syndrome. The book is broken into twenty-one “articles” – chapters that can be read as stand alones or in conjunction with the rest of the book (just like a magazine article). In each article, Julia Gray deals with a particular issue or experience: her reaction to James’ birth, schooling James, trusting in God when things are rough, side-effects of Down Syndrome, etc. Julia is honest about how her feelings were and what they are now. For those who are just starting to walk this road, this book will offer encouragement and hope. For all others, it’s a peek into the ups and downs of life with Down Syndrome and God’s grace for it all.

Wow! Julia Gray’s The Book about James blessed me so much! I confess, I have always had this little fear in the back of my head that I would have a “forever child” – a kid with Down Syndrome or something like it. This is funny since as a kid I had friends who had DS and I loved to be around them. Who doesn’t enjoy a forty-year-old who plays like someone who is six? But I was afraid of having one myself. Julia Gray came face-to-face with her own fears when James was born: what would others think of her? Of him? How would her other children be affected? I really appreciated Julia’s honesty. She is willing, not only to share her joy in James NOW, but the feelings of fear she had THEN. I was encouraged that even if I do have a forever child one day, DS can be a blessing and not a burden.

Even though my two children are “normal”, I still found much encouragement in this book as a mother: no matter what our kids do or don’t accomplish, they are special just the way they are. And God gives us the grace to deal with everything – no matter how overwhelmingly big it seems to us. He really does work all things together for good and The Book about James shows us that. Beautifully written. Wonderful witty style. Well edited. Altogether highly recommended. Is there such a thing as a dozen stars? (Read more 5-star book reviews here)

Now, back to what happened after 1,000 nights…. After our arduous task and what we felt was an inspired mission from the Lord, it was time to reveal the book to the world, so we started with a Facebook Book Launch, hoping those who had been waiting almost 3 years for this book would be excited to finally read it. And boy were they excited, so much so that after we announced its availability in eBook format on Facebook, it instantly became #1 in its category on Amazon the very first day of the launch. It was the hottest new eBook released on April 13, and right after midnight, it soared to the #1 spot for best sellers… Literally overnight our prayers were answered, and God was indeed receiving the glory for making this book what HE intended for it to be.

Amazon.com

So as we busily prepare for Julia’s Inaugural Book Signing and Reception on May 15, I am still in awe at what we have been able to accomplish. Julia wondered if she had written anything interesting, helpful, or worthwhile. I assured her that she had, but I guess she needed to hear it from others. They spoke very loudly and clearly by rushing to purchase the book, and the instant feedback was the confirmation that she needed. She wrote on her Facebook page, “I have been overwhelmed by the response of my friends to my book release. Thank you all so much for your support, sharing of the book with others, and most of all – encouraging words!!!”

Things really did happen overnight, but we had to live through those 1,000 days first. Now we both see exactly why God chose to take us down this path. So I encourage you to fulfill the plans God has for you as well. Do you feel as though the Lord has given you an assignment that is much too big or too difficult for you to accomplish? Do you feel ill-equipped to do what he has called you to do? Just trust and depend on him to direct your path, and you too will find yourself right where you need to be on this journey through life. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

I will leave you now with the 2 quotes on the back cover of the book and an invitation to come to the book signing and reception on May 15.

As a father of a child with Down syndrome, I could resonate with so many of the emotions, experiences, and steps of faith Julia described in her journey with James. Every parent, family member, or friend of someone with Down syndrome or any special needs should read this book. ~Andy Savage, Pastor, Speaker, Author, and Host of The Andy Savage Radio Show

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. ~Jo Gilbert, Executive Director, Madonna Learning Center

The Book About James Poster for 5.15.15

 

 

Intro to “The Book about James” on 3.21.2015 World Down Syndrome Day

I’ll be brief this time so you can watch and listen instead of read. March 21, 2015 is the 10th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day. This video introduces the 4th book in my Living Inside the Testimony series entitled The Book about James, written by Julia Gray, the mother of James. It’s an emotional roller coaster of 21 unique short stories about James Gray, Julia’s 9th and youngest child, who just happens to have been born with Down syndrome. So please watch the video and be sure to LIKE us at Facebook.com/TheBookAboutJames

How I Came to Know I Had Faith (on World Down Syndrome Day)

If I was confronted with devastating news that dramatically changed my life forever, would I remain steadfast in my faith in God?

Would you still have faith to believe if you had to endure an unwanted situation which you felt God should have spared you from having to go through because you are a born-again believer?

In observance of today being World Down Syndrome Day, I decided to feature a guest author who had to answer that question for herself. In an article she wrote entitled, “How I Came to Know I Had Faith,” Julia Gray, an award-winning author, takes us to the delivery room where she is faced with the daunting realization that her 9th child was born with Down syndrome.

The Book about JamesThis story, along with many more, will be released next year as the 4th book in my series. But for now, let’s see how Julia came to know she had faith.

Excerpt below from The Book about James, Written by Julia Gray, the Mother of James

Even though numerous ultrasounds had been performed on me throughout my pregnancy, not only did we have no idea of the sex of our baby, we certainly did not know that he would be born with Down syndrome.  It understandably came as quite a shock and, as I have said many times, I was not pleased, with great emphasis on the word “not.”

The doctor and the nurse who were present seemed to have no concerns, and all seemed like a typical birth.  I was at a disadvantage from my very vulnerable position and couldn’t tell too much about what was going on, but I had pretty strong concerns.  James was not crying out like newborns usually do.  Everything seemed much too calm and quiet.

The nurse had placed James in that little plastic baby bed, and as she moved out of my view, I could see James for the first time.  He was in profile, and I immediately saw what was undeniable, but I hoped was not true.  I calmly asked, “Does he have Down syndrome?”  I asked calmly hoping with all my heart they would just laugh at my ridiculous question.  You know, newborns have been through a lot and that can really alter their appearance.  Maybe that was it.

The nurse did respond very sincerely but with a little giggle, “Now, why would you say that?”  That didn’t help like I had hoped it would.  Even though I didn’t want to accept it and wanted to continue in the denial, deep down, I knew.  My dearest husband only confirmed my fears in his response, “Well, look at him.”

OK, a side note on Kevin’s response because I don’t want anyone to think he was some kind of jerk in that life altering moment.  My beloved is just a matter of fact kind of guy.  I’ve often said, “His last name might be Gray, but he sees everything as black or white – right or wrong.”  He is a man of absolutes.  He could respond like that because he already knew that whatever the Lord had given him that is what he would accept.  Later, you will see how he helped me get to that point too.  Just another reason I am so thankful he is going through this life with me.

Back to me…In the next few hours, I wrestled with what I knew to be true.  I wanted to escape.  I didn’t want this to be part of our lives.  I didn’t want to be in this club!  Rapidly the scenarios ran through my mind, terrible scenarios.  I could run away leaving my husband and other children behind.  I could abandon James.  I could smother him.

Are you shocked?  Are you horrified that I would even think that for a moment?  Well I did.  Just for a very brief moment, but yes I did.  I felt trapped, devastated, crushed.

Then a peace came over me.  A very shaky peace but boy, did I need even a shred of light at that time.  I began to realize that I was prepared for this.  God had already laid the foundation for me to be able to withstand this next trial.  Even though I wanted to throw a tantrum and reject this trial, I knew that I would and could go through it no matter how badly I did not want this to be in my life!

The memory of sitting in Bible study one Tuesday morning years ago came to me.  I don’t remember exactly what we were studying, but I do remember that we were discussing how God will send trials into the lives of those he loves.  I do remember being troubled by the thought that my life had been one of relative ease and that I really had not had trials.  The trials I had experienced were ones caused by my own sins, and I just didn’t think those even counted.  Even more troubling to me was that God might decide he loved me very much and start sending trials.  This seemed to be a situation I just could not win.  I didn’t want to be on either side of that coin.  My theology may have been shaky, but it is how I felt.  This led me to wonder if I even truly had faith.  If I was confronted with a serious trial would I still even trust in God?  This question nagged at me for a while but would be solved one dark December day as you will see.

It was December 23, 2003.  Just the day before we had buried our daughter, Meredith.  She had been only an infant, a perfect infant in the eyes of the world.  She would have suffered none of the problems that we were worried James would suffer.  Yet, she was dead and buried.

During her funeral, that had certainly been dreaded, I felt such a calm sense of joy.  There had been a happiness and supernatural peace.  But as I stared out into our yard this next day, there was no peace.

The day was cold, rainy, and overcast, just dreary.  My heart broke as I realized my daughter, the baby I should be protecting and caring for, was in the ground out in this terrible weather.  What kind of mother leaves her child in such conditions?!  Then, in a flash, peace surrounded me once again.

She was not out there alone, in that forlorn ground.  She was there in body only.  My baby was in heaven with her true Father.  A much better place than my aching, empty arms, indeed!  In that moment, in that divine moment I realize that I did have faith.  Faith that got me through that time in my life was faith that would get me through many more situations to come – including accepting James.

For more information about World Down Syndrome Day, click here.

For more information about Julia’s upcoming book, click here.

Click pictures below to enlarge for easy viewing.

James and siblings dressed up

James, far right, along with 5 of his siblings. YES, Julia, you do have faith!!! The proof is in the picture.

James on Madonna Learning Center Poster

Today, James is a “superstar” at school. He was chosen as the only student featured on this 2014 poster promoting his school’s fundraising gala and auction.

Kevin, the father of James, with 6 of his children. Can you look at these happy faces and not have faith?

Kevin, the father of James, with 6 of his children. (James, far left, with arm around his brother’s neck.) Can you look at these happy, adorable faces and not have faith?

An editorial comment from Betty: I saw a post Julia made on Facebook about her husband, and I had to borrow it. “Right after James was born and I was so NOT happy about the whole Down syndrome thing, Kevin said something like, ‘Big deal. I bet he won’t be a Jerk. You can’t test for that.’ I immediately felt better.”  

Wow! I knew right then that Kevin was a keeper. After thinking about James, I started thinking about “The Book of James” in the bible, which is an example of practical advice and wisdom, consisting largely of moral precepts and examples. Then I started thinking about how inspirational it would be if Julia would take all of the wisdom and revelations she has learned over the past 6 years and write a book about James. But then I started thinking about the thousands of books which have already been written about Down syndrome. What else can possibly be said about raising a child with Downs?

Immediately, the answer came to me. No one has ever written a book about James.  The biblical James calls himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Julia calls her son James “a gift I never wanted yet now can’t believe I was blessed enough to receive.” I simply call it the beginning of the book about James. It’s certainly not your ordinary book about Down syndrome, nor is it a sappy book written by a mother professing her unconditional love and devotion to a child born with special needs.  Although Julia is a Christian with very strong beliefs and faith in God, you will not find this to be a preachy book with mini-sermons on unconditional love and child rearing the Lord’s way. Instead what you will find is a remarkable and heartfelt story of being given a gift you never thought you wanted, only to discover you cannot imagine living without. In an Erma Bombeck sort of way, Julia’s uncanny sense of humor will take you on a spiritual journey of what was first thought of as a terrible tragedy. The roller coaster of emotions and adjectives that come to mind will engulf you from the very beginning, and you will soon find yourself mesmerized and fully engulfed by her passion and love. Look for The Book about James, coming in 2015.