"My Story For His Glory"
On August 25, 1988, I was born at 26 weeks gestation at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Since I was born so early, I wasn’t developing like a typical child. My parents were told that I had preemie syndrome, but I would eventually catch up and lead a normal life.
On November 21, 1989, at 15 months, during a routine ear check-up, my pediatrician came in, sat down and gently closed the door behind him. “Emily’s ear infection is gone. I’m so sorry to tell you that Emily has cerebral palsy." The words cerebral palsy came as quite a shock to my parents, since a regularly scheduled appointment delivered news that would change our family’s life forever. Little did I know that a journey had just begun that God would use for a very good and bright purpose.
On September 12, 1990, my parents took me for an evaluation at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were trying to find a doctor that would tell them what they so badly wanted to hear: Emily does not have Cerebral Palsy. Upon the doctor completing his physical exam of me, he rolls over to my parents, on his little black chair, and says the following, "Emily has a 95% chance of never walking but be thankful that you will be able to have a relationship with her as Emily is very bright and verbal."
Cerebral palsy looks different for each individual. For personal mobility, I use a power wheel chair called a Permobil and I need assistance with day to day activities.
At 4 ½, I attended a "Clown Are Coming To Town" show for kids at my church with my mom. At the end of the show, the clown explained how everyone had sinned and because of that sin, everyone has a broken relationship with God. Jesus Christ, being the perfect Son of God, paid the penalty for everyone’s sins which restores each of us to a right relationship with God. In order to be restored to a right relationship with God, an individual simply needs to accept the free gift of salvation offered by God through Jesus Christ. After hearing the clown’s words, I turned to my mom and said, “Mommy, I want to accept Jesus into my heart. Will you carry me down front and pray with me?”
A few months later, I celebrated my 5th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese with my friends. During the party, I watched my friends shove pizza into their mouths and run and jump into the ball pit. I, on the other hand, had to wait for help to eat and to play. I suddenly felt different in the midst of the happy party. The next day, the realization that I was different hit me and I broke down crying. I told my mom, “Mommy, my legs are useless! They are nothing but ornaments that I really enjoyed music, my mom decided to play the CD hoping the music would cheer me up. To my mom’s surprise, the song went:
“Some people think they’ll spend forever pushing up the grass
but I believe I have a date to leave this earth at last.
That graveyard is just a place to hang this old suit to dry
and with a brand new body I will spread my wings and fly .”
My mom went to turn the song off because she thought it would make me upset, but I said, “No, Mommy, no! Don’t turn it off. Listen! I won’t be stuck in this body forever, someday I’ll be in Heaven having a party with my best friend Jesus. I have a message in my brokenness!” God used that song to change my hopeless perspective to a hopeful perspective, even in the midst of my different life.
With that new perspective, I continued to be a normal kid who enjoyed going to school, being a part of student council, and hanging out with friends. At Springhill Camp, a Christian summer camp, I was helping clean up the kitchen when a friend asked me, “What’s wrong with you?” I went on to explain that I had a disability called cerebral palsy and exactly what cerebral palsy meant for me. I was unaware that my camp counselor, Shannon, overheard my friend and I talking. Afterwards, Shannon came up to me and said, “Emily, you aren’t disabled.” Shannon went on to say that I was able to mop the floor, just in a different way than everyone else. Then she said “Emily, you aren’t disabled! You are differently-enabled.” Even though my parents had raised me to have a positive outlook and self-image, this conversation with my camp counselor was life-changing.
Instead of seeing myself in terms of what I couldn’t do, I now saw myself in the light of what I could do, through the power of Jesus Christ. I now want to share the same hope of Jesus Christ to other differently enabled individuals, empowering them to view themselves not in terms of what they can’t do, but rather what they can do with the help of God.
After that life-changing summer, I went on to graduate from West Carrollton High School in 2007. I then attended Cedarville University, where I lived on campus receiving my BA in Communication Arts in 2011. Starting in January 2012, I began working on my online Master of Arts degree through Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana. I am currently scheduled to graduate in May of 2017. I enjoy hanging out with friends, drinking tea, and public speaking as the voice of “Em-Powering the Differently-Enabled.”
One reason that I’m so passionate about spreading the differently enabled message is that I’ve discovered that being differently enabled is not just an opinion or a personal experience, but there is a Biblical basis to this message. No wonder people with disabilities or those that take care of them are depressed and discouraged, the very word we use to describe disability implies can’t (dis-ability). John 9:1-3 says, “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Every one of us has some form of brokenness in our lives. Some brokenness is more obvious, like a wheelchair, whereas some brokenness is less apparent, such as emotional baggage. Every one of us struggles with something. The question is how we deal with the struggles that are in our lives. Do we let the struggles defeat us or do we surrender those struggles to Jesus Christ? God loves to transform something that was broken into something that is beautiful.