I'm a licensed clinical social worker with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, a condition caused by trauma to the brain, usually during or shortly after birth. All four of my limbs are affected by this condition, and because of high muscle tone (muscles that are constantly tight and contracted), I struggle to move and control the muscles in my arms and legs. As a result, my limbs are often stiff and don’t always do what I want them to do. I can walk with a walker, but I utilize a power wheelchair and a service dog for independence and mobility in my daily life.
At 13, I was going in for yet another routine surgery when I had an encounter with a social worker that changed my life. She approached me and asked if I needed to talk to her regarding my upcoming surgery. I politely told her no and stated that I had been through this before. Then she told me I could talk to her because she knew what it was like to be me. This woman appeared to have no visible signs of disability, and I can remember thinking that no one knows what it's like to be me.
After that encounter, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a social worker to help individuals with disabilities and their families. Not because I knew what it was like to be them but because I knew what it was like to be me as a person with a disability. I never imagined where this desire would lead or the trials I'd face.
I started on my journey to gain employment as a social worker in 2006. If you are going through a trial, remember that whatever you are going through is only temporary. Remember that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day (2 Peter 3:8). Also, remember God is in control, and His timing is perfect. Keep praying for the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4-6, Psalms 20:4-5) and pray that God will provide opportunities to use you and your trials while you wait (Galatians 6:9-10).
One such opportunity came in October 2016 after I had been laid off from my second job in five years. My church had started the sermon series Joseph: Seeing the Good in God’s Detours. During this series, I felt the call to share my story, the story of Team Chally, and nine months later, on April 23, 2016, Making Independence Happen was published. If I hadn’t heard that sermon, I wouldn’t have stepped out on faith and way out of my comfort zone to write a book and become a motivational speaker.