“Our Night to Shine”

I’ve always loved Rascal Flatts. They’re one of my mom’s favorite bands, and I remember riding in the back seat listening to her sing along with “Fast Cars and Freedom”. They were the first concert I attended, and last year, they honored my sweet friend Kate with a backstage tour and a serenade at one of their concerts. And now they’ve done something else that makes me love them even more: the final track on their latest album was written for the 75,000 kings and queens who attended the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine prom.

Held on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, Night to Shine is an annual worldwide prom for people with special needs. Guests are cheered for as they enter the prom on a red carpet, and at the end of the night, each guest is crowned king or queen of the prom. I attended Night to Shine for the first time this past February, and it was such a magical night. I went with a friend of mine, and it turned out that a few other good friends of mine were there volunteering, so we all hung out and danced together! I usually don’t dance because I feel like I look strange when I dance, but that night, surrounded by people that I love and with the Lord so present, I let go of my insecurities and had a blast. The Lord was so evident in that room, and it was so beautiful to see so many people come together for such an amazing event. It was a night I’ll never forget.

To me, the song completely captures the light and beauty that is Night to Shine. It put a sound to the happiness that I felt that night, but what means the most to me is that now, so many more people know about the incredible work the foundation does. The foundation has brought faith, hope, love, and light to the lives of so many, including me, and I’m so happy that others will know about it through this song. Since being granted a W15H by the foundation in 2015, I’ve met so many incredible people and made so many amazing friends,  and the first time I listened to “Our Night to Shine”, I had to hold back tears. This song completely captured how much I love each them and how much they mean to me. Timmy, TTF, and the TTF family will always hold a special place in my heart.

To listen to “Our Night to Shine” and see highlights from Night to Shine, visit this link.


Cerebral Palsy · Faith

God is Within Her

“God is within her, she will not fall.”
-Psalm 46:5, NIV

I think I’ve written before about my fear of falling. It absolutely terrifies me, because I don’t have the ability to put my hands out and catch myself before I hit the ground. My cerebral palsy prevents those signals from being transmitted from my brain to my limbs. The best way I can think to describe the fear is that it feels like being in the ocean, with no way to come up for air. It’s that intense. It’s that scary.

I think part of the problem is that I can’t get up off the floor by myself. It’s something I’m working on learning how to do, but right now, I’m not strong enough to get up on my hands and knees and then pull myself up using my walker. That’s part of the source of the fear, because all I can picture is falling when I’m alone and hitting my head and then being stuck on the floor for hours because I can’t reach a phone.

Whenever that fear starts to overtake me, I lean on the words of Psalm 46:5: God is within her, she will not fall. I lean on those words, and I picture Jesus standing next to me with His arms outstretched, ready to catch me if I fall. My faith is my life vest when I feel like I’m drowning. Jesus brings me comfort, He gives me strength, and He gives me the courage I need to do whatever task it is I’m trying to accomplish.

What verse do you lean on when you’re afraid?

Cerebral Palsy · Faith

God is Stronger (Part 2)

Earlier, I wrote a post about how God is stronger than our fears, stress, and pain. This weekend made me realize something else: He is also bigger than my disability.

We spent the weekend at the lake, and yesterday, I asked my dad if I could go on a jet ski ride with him. Despite the fact that it would probably hurt their backs and that it would be difficult, he and my mom helped me get into the jet ski, which was… an ordeal. But my legs are so tight that I couldn’t ride it- the pain from the way it stretched me was too intense to bear.

It was frustrating. It was so, so frustrating. I hate it when my cerebral palsy prevents me from doing something I want to do- it makes me feel like my disability controls me. But I think what’s worse is the knowledge that no matter how much I stretch, how much physical therapy I have, or how much I wish I could change it, my battle with my disability is one I’ll always have to fight.

Long after the physical pain disappeared from my legs, the emotional pain remained. I was discouraged, I was upset, I was frustrated. I felt trapped and bound by my disability. I felt like I was a puppet and my disability pulled my strings. After a few minutes, I did the only thing I could think to do: I closed my eyes and prayed.

The night before, I had asked Him to help me overcome CP. I’d asked Him to walk with me as I learn how to live independently; I asked Him to carry me through it, because I can’t do it alone. So this time, I did something else: I thanked Him. I thanked Him for my family, my friends, the beautiful sunshine, His love, and His blessings. And as I prayed, I realized something: He was so much bigger than what I was feeling. He was bigger than my frustration, my pain, and my disability. I realized that while there are times when  I’m discouraged or frustrated, I’m never alone. He’s always right next to me, and He’s with me every day, every minute, every moment. And  I realized something else: He is so much bigger and stronger than my disability.

*Photo via Google

Florida Gators

WordPress Daily Prompt: How One “Natty” Started It All

When I read today’s Daily Prompt, I immediately thought of the 2006 BCS National Championship Game, where my Florida Gators took on the Ohio State Buckeyes, because it was that national championship that started it all.

Despite the fact that I was only six years old, I grasped what an incredible accomplishment it was just to reach the game. I can still picture the Ohio State player running down the field to score on the very first play of the game; I can still hear my dad tell me, “This is what we’ll get if we win tonight” as he showed me a picture of the crystal trophy. My parents made me go to bed at halftime, but the first thing I asked when I woke up the next morning was, “Daddy, did we win last night?”

I never could have imagined that, ten years later, I would get to sit down and have a conversation with Urban Meyer about that game. I never could have imagined that I would have the blessing of getting to know not only Coach Meyer, but then-freshman quarterback Tim Tebow. And I never could have imagined how much I would grow to love the University of Florida and college football.

As I got older, my love of UF and Florida football only grew. Saturday afternoons quickly became my favorite part of the week, because I would get to watch and cheer on my beloved Florida Gators. The team’s successes became a source of encouragement for me as I overcame the daily challenges of my cerebral palsy, because I knew that to overcome it, I would have to put in the same amount of work as the players I watched every weekend did. Whenever I got frustrated or discouraged, my dad would always remind me of the work the team puts in, and of the standards they are held to. Tim Tebow was my inspiration, and it was with his perseverance and the team’s dedication in mind that I got through weekly physical therapy, daily stretching, and challenges that CP brings.

I was in sixth grade when I went to my first game in The Swamp. I’ll never forget that day. During the Gator Walk that morning, both players and coaches said hello and gave me high fives, and I even got to take a picture with one of our offensive linemen. An already-amazing day was made even more so when we went into the Swamp. The atmosphere was electric; I loved the sound of 96,000 people singing the fight songs together and chanting “Orange!” “Blue!” It was incredible, and it made my already-intense love of the University of Florida grow even stronger.

Now, all these years later, not much has changed. I still live for fall Saturday afternoons when I get to watch my beloved Florida Gators play; I still lean on the team’s dedication and hard work for encouragement as I continue overcoming my cerebral palsy. Tim Tebow is still my inspiration, and I still love the sound of 96,000 people in the Swamp singing fight songs together and chanting “Orange!” “Blue!” I still have an intense love for the University of Florida, and that love has led me to friendships I will forever cherish and memories I will forever hold onto. That love has opened doors and created incredible experiences, and it’s a love that will never fade.

Florida Gators

Why I’m Excited About Malik Zaire Coming to UF

Late last night, former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire announced he would transfer to the University of Florida, and spend his final year of eligibility as a Gator. I couldn’t be more excited.

Yes, we have four other quarterbacks on the roster (Jake Allen, Felipe Franks, Luke del Rio, Kyle Trask), and Kadarius Toney is also vying for the starting job. But with our quarterback troubles as of late, I think adding one more is a smart move. In 2015, after a 5-0 start, Will Grier was suspended for PEDs, and our offensive production plummeted. We no longer had the ability to successfully move the ball down the field, and as a result, we lost our undefeated season and lost four of our next eight games, including a 27-2 loss to FSU and a 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Last season, after Luke del Rio was injured in the North Texas game, we were again forced to turn to a back-up. Austin Appleby played well, but we still lost our last three games. Adding one more quarterback gives us one more option, should we face a similar type of adversity in the 2017 season.

He also brings experience to our roster, something you can never have too much of. The knowledge and experience he and del Rio have will only help our offense, especially if our starter ends up being someone who hasn’t started a college football game before. There’s also the fact that, since he is a senior, he can be a leader. If we want to have a successful season, we must have guys step up and lead the team. He could be one of those guys, and that could have a major impact on the outcome of our season.

Here’s the bottom line. We haven’t had success at the quarterback position since Tim Tebow graduated. If we want to be a dominant force in college football, take down the Tide, and be back in the playoff conversation, successful quarterback play must be there. While Zaire may not be our answer, he could be one piece of the puzzle.

What are your thoughts on Malik Zaire coming to UF? Let me know in the comments!

Summer Reading

Out of My Mind: Book Review

Image result for out of my mind novel

Out of My Mind synopsis via Goodreads:

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom – the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it – somehow.

In this breakthrough story, reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.

Main character Melody Brooks is a force to be reckoned with. She navigates the world with a wheelchair, two loving, supporting parents, and Mrs. V, a lively, animated neighbor who will be sure to make you smile. Though she doesn’t have the ability to speak, she has the cognitive ability of a nondisabled ten-year old, and she takes in everything around her, describing her world with a voice that is both lively and vivid. Through Melody’s eyes, readers gain a view of cerebral palsy that is startlingly realistic and accurate.

Things I Loved

  • Draper’s Writing Style

The instant you begin reading Out of My Mind, you’re a part of Melody’s world. Draper uses words to paint a picture in your head, and by the time you finish the book, you feel as though you know Melody and the people around her. The dynamic between the characters is realistic and often humorous, and she writes with vivid detail and touching emotion, two things which leave an impact long after you close the cover.

  • The Portrayal of Cerebral Palsy

I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy in the way Draper portrays CP. From the frustration that comes when your disability doesn’t allow you to do something you want to do, to the difficulty of getting into public places when buildings are inaccessible, to the pain that being stared at causes…. Draper was right about everything. And as someone who goes through these things each day, I can’t tell you how comforting it was to read about a character who experiences the same things I do. I felt understood, and I felt as though I wasn’t alone. It was refreshing.

  • The Technological Aspect

I absolutely LOVED that technology was a part of this story, because technology has opened so many doors for me. A shower seat allows me to be independent in my bathroom, a walker gives me the gift of freedom, and elevators let me navigate stores and other public facilities that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I appreciated that Draper acknowledged the impact technology has in the lives of those who are disabled, because it plays a major role in allowing us to navigate the world.

What Wasn’t My Favorite

The ending. To me, it didn’t completely finish the story, and it was cheesy. A few conflicts were left unresolved. I understand why authors do that, but she could have executed it a little better. Draper had created an incredible character and an endearing world, and I felt they deserved something better than the ending they were given.

My Overall Rating

Four out of five stars! Despite my opinion of the ending, the story was touching and endearing and one I would definitely read again. I loved reading Melody’s story, and hope to read books similar to Out of My Mind in the future.

What books have you read that you’ve been able to relate to on such a high level?

Also, this is my first book review… I know I have room for improvement. What constructive criticism do you have for me?

Faith · thoughts

Kate: My Friend, My Inspiration, My Angel

We lost her six months ago, and I still miss her. So much.

I miss her smile, her silly faces, her beautiful voice, and her kindness. She was so kind. And she spread it to everyone. She spread kindness, light, and love, and she gave me all three.

I met her on March 11th, 2016, at the Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Gala. Instantly I was struck by how beautiful she was, and the way the Lord’s light and love radiated off of her. She seemed strong. So strong. I knew right away that she was a fighter, she was a force to be reckoned with.

I’ll never forget the words I told her: “You’re so beautiful and we all love you. Never forget that.” I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her. I was so touched by her kindness. The next day, at the golf tournament, she came over to say hello and give me another hug. I listened to her mom tell a foundation staff member about her treatment, and how we could be praying for her. I remember thinking that I’d see her next year at the tournament, because I knew that Timmy and TTF would grant her a W15H, and she would be back for the W15H events. She would make it. Of that, I had no doubt.

She was never far from my mind, or my heart. After the tournament, I thought about her, I prayed for her, I told so many people about her, all the while keeping faith that she would beat her cancer.

To say I was ecstatic when I found out about her W15H was an understatement. If I could’ve jumped up and down, I would have. Immediately, I texted my contact with the foundation and sent her something I’d written to Kate, which she promised to share with her. That night, I found pictures of her brunch with Timmy that morning; she was smiling, she was happy, she was radiant. My heart soared. But that night, I also found something else: the Facebook page her mom had set up so she could chronicle Kate’s battle. It was through that page that I found something else: an address where I could write Kate letters.

So I wrote to her. I wrote to her, telling her how much she inspired me and encouraged me and she was always in my prayers. And I told her I loved her. Whether she got them or not, I don’t know, but I hope and pray she did and that they brought as much joy to her as they did to me.

The night she died, I didn’t sleep. I tossed and I turned and my mind whirled. The next morning, I got up and just cried. In my heart, I knew she was in a better place. Now, she’s healed, she’s free. That knowledge brought me comfort, but it didn’t ease my pain.

I write about her now and I share her story because I want to keep her light alive. I want others to know her story; I want people to know about her faith and her beauty and her strength. I want people to know about the little girl who touched my life, the little girl I will always be inspired by. A few days after we lost her, I made myself a promise: I would finish the book I’m writing for her. I’ll do it for her and I’ll dedicate it to her. I’ll dedicate it to her and I’ll share her story with the world. She will never be forgotten. I’ll make sure of that.
Kate, I love you and I miss you. So much. You’re my strength, you’re my encouragement, you’re my inspiration. And you always will be. You touched my life that night. I pray I’m living in a way that makes you smile and makes you proud, and please know that you’re always on my mind and always in my heart. I love you, beautiful angel.