And then.. I met Joe.

Last week, I spent three days learning about an amazing organization right here in Texas called Brookwood.  They so graciously opened their doors to all that were interested to see how they operate and care for the most vulnerable of our population.. those with special needs.  From the moment I pulled into their campus, I could feel the true presence of God and knew that I was about to embark on what would be one of the most moving experiences of my  life.

The tour started rightfully so inside their own personal chapel.  At the helm, Vivian Shudde.  Vivian over the next three days delivered some of the most moving speeches I have ever heard in my entire life.  Her mother, Yvonne Streit, founded the organization starting with nothing more than a dream.. and a child to fuel her cause.  “Everyone, has a purpose..”  Vivian would repeatedly say.  Yet it wasn’t until I took in the entire tour I truly embraced the depth of her conviction.

People came from around the globe to get a behind the scenes glimpse of one of the most successful and groundbreaking organizations providing housing supports and true quality of life to those with special needs.  I was humbled to have only had to drive 45 minutes away.

One of our first stops was to a ceramics shop.  While we had a guide to bring us to each location, when we entered the shop there was an appointed “Tour Guide” which was on one of Brookwoods very own citizens, Joe.  Walking into the room, at first I was taken aback.  I had to take a moment to absorb that every person working in this room, had at some level a significant special need.  As some would now say.. a significant SPECIAL ABILITY, which I couldn’t agree with more.  As I made my way around the room shaking hands with the workers and introducing myself.. I couldn’t help but to let the tears roll.  Every single one of them.. had a purpose.  It didn’t matter their ability or disability, there was a reason for them being there.  And the pride… my God the pride.. they felt in doing their work.  Some of them couldn’t see, but would sing to the others.  Some of them could not speak, but they would point to pictures.  Some of them, were full of joy and couldn’t contain it.. and that, is when I met Joe who very literally hopped his was over to me wearing his Santa hat and unforgettable ruler suspenders.

Joe greeted me as I was making my way around the room with a presence of such pure happiness that you couldn’t help but feel it.  I mean physically feel it. He couldn’t speak, so he gave me his card which read.. “Hi, I’m Joe!  I love getting emails and cards.  Please write to me sometime!”.  The moment struck me so deeply that it was if my whole world narrowed into this one moment.  This one person.  This one blessing of an experience.  While I thought I knew it before, I knew it then more than ever that God calls you to places physically, spiritually and emotionally in your life that help you realize your purpose.  This, was a time that I would not ignore.  Joe, and all the amazingly talented people I met that day in the ceramics shops had more to teach me about life that anyone else I had ever met outside of my own Eric. Who would I be to ignore that? Before I left the shop Joe ran back over to me to give me a card he made. A hand colored heart signed “I love you, Joe.”

But yet, here I am. Building my career to help support the calling He’s placed on me. Spreading me thin like watered down peanut butter. But as I look closely I realize.. God has put me in a place in my career where I have such amazing support from those I consider friends that it all starts making sense. My career, the lifeblood of this preemie non profit bestowed upon me… could not stand to suffer a set back in growth.  But He knew that, and has blessed me with the the staunchest of supporters than know every deal I do is for so much more than a paycheck. And as I look around I see all those who believe in me, and this cause, it gives me the strength I need to see it through.

When standing in front of The One who made us, how could we explain not following a calling we clearly hear?  Or even more.. that the path laid to that calling was all for not if we are too afraid to travel it? That the people placed in your way were not on purpose?

Vivian Shudde shared many poignant stories during my visit that will never leave me.  One, was about a mother who visited the campus she hoped would be her sons home one day. After realizing that part of living in the community also called for the residents to participate in work, she broke down in tears due to the fact that her son couldn’t “work”.  Vivian astutely asked when the mother seemed so awfully broken.. “Well, what can he do?”, to which the mother replied “He can’t do anything, he’s a paraplegic and cannot speak.” 

Even saying the words myself makes me imagine her feelings at this moment.

“Well, are his arms very still?” Vivian asked..

“Yes, he cannot move them at all…” the mother replied. 

“Can he smile?” Vivian inquired further..

“Well, yes he can..” the mother inquisitively replied. 

“Well,… he sounds like the perfect ribbon holder!!” Vivian proclaimed. 

And then, it was so. 

While to many it may not seem like much, this young man confined to his wheelchair would now be responsible for holding the ribbons across his arms that all of the Christmas ornaments Brookwood produced would need for hanging.  EVERYONE has a purpose.

What did this trip make me realize?  That we all have our purpose.  And that whatever path He has laid for us, has been ON PURPOSE.  We don’t just get to where we are “because”.  We get to where we are because it’s where He intended us to be. 

My career, ever so precious and fraught with 16 years in the field of hard learning.. has brought me to this conclusion.   I have been primed to embark on a venture that I could have never imagined.  Yet that journey ahead is long and will call on my truest of supporters.  Those of which who know that having a “JOB”, is more than just showing up each day… it’s living on purpose and for a purpose.  That having true relationship, personal growth and impact on your community is more than just a paycheck.  While I discover and follow the calling I feel, I pray that those who know me know this… That I am only in the place I am, and will be able to go where I need to go, because of them and the pure grace and intention of God. When His children learn true compassion.. believe in His word, that together, we can make a change in this world far beyond our own wildest dreams.

I, am a blessed woman.

For more information about the purpose laid on my heart and how you may be able to get involved visit


4 thoughts on “And then.. I met Joe.

  1. Absolutely Beautiful! I look forward to my students showing up Wednesday so I can allow each of them to embark on their journey with purpose and on purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Sonya, THANK YOU THANK YOU AND THANK YOU for pouring your heart out to and about Brookwood. I have been a board member there for over 35 years and every time I go out which is at least twice a month I feel exactly like you did on your recent visit. God’s fingerprints are all over Brookwood from the Cafe, the horticulture center, the ceramic building, the chapel, the assisted swimming pool and simply everywhere. God bless you for your gracious words and future support. Finest regards, Scotty Thompson


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