Turning Points

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Ashley Smith Robinson in her book Captive, discusses the turning point in her life when she was held hostage by escaped prisoner Brian Nichols in Atlanta ten years ago. At the time, she was addicted to drugs and struggling to come clean and get her daughter back. During her ordeal, Brian wanted Ashley to do drugs with him. It was at that moment she knew her choice would define her. She bravely said no and hasn’t touched drugs since.

Many of us can look back on our lives and see turning points. For me two distinct turning points stand out. The first was right after college. I had broken up with my boyfriend of 51/2 years and entered into a deep depression. Life as a an adult just wasn’t what I had imagined. I was drinking too much and behaving recklessly, grasping to find out who I was without someone beside me.

Here I am after my first turning point as a youth leader.

Here I am after my first turning point as a youth leader.

Then one day, I decided to go to church. I had not been in a long time. I went to the LifeTeen Mass at the church I grew up in. During the service, they were singing the praise and worship songs I fondly remembered from my youth – Our God is an Awesome God and the like. It triggered something in me and I went back to my apartment and dug out my old Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith cassette tapes and sang and prayed and asked God back in my life. Then I became a core team member for Life Teen at my church and it truly changed the trajectory of my adult years.

The second major turning point of my life was when my son was born, and diagnosed with Down syndrome. It is with that news that I became an advocate, found my purpose and eventually changed careers (sort of).

My son - my second major turning point.

My son – my second major turning point.

I quickly learned all I could about Down syndrome and discovered that there was a 70-90 percent abortion rate for those given a prenatal diagnosis. The reason for this is that communication about the genetic condition given by doctors is biased and outdated.

I also learned that my son had every opportunity for a typical life given enough early intervention and ongoing support, but that I would need to diligently advocate for those supports because funding was almost nonexistent.

I also learned that research on cognitive function for those with DS was advancing both behaviorally and clinically and that one day there may be drugs that help my son’s brain and memory. However, funding for DS research is among the lowest.

I knew I needed to be part of the solution, so I joined the board of the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta.

Later, I expanded my advocacy to all developmental disabilities and joined the staff of All About Developmental Disabilities after some 15 years in PR agency world. I now get to use my skill set to advance a cause I am closely passionate about.

Two turning points that changed my life and helped me follow my purpose. I am so thankful that although these moments were challenging, scary and even heartbreaking, I was able to trust where God was leading me. Have you faced any turning points that led you to #followyourpurpose?

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