Tag Archive | Julia Gray

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!!!

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.