I was raised to live the American Dream, “to be and have the best of everything”. I found a great husband, who had a great career and earned good money to support me. I enjoyed several careers along the way while trying to live the American Dream, but there was something missing.
My husband and I became the parents of James in 1984, when I was 24 years old. We were expecting the perfect child and planned our lives accordingly. However, 6 weeks before the due date, contractions started and all our dreams were shattered in a matter of hours. James was born prematurely with severe bladder and kidney problems, as well as related breathing problems. At five hours old, he was transported to Texas Children’s Hospital by ambulance, and he remained there until he was seven months old. At 7 months old, we were finally able to bring James home with the assistance of 24-hour private duty nursing care that continued until he was 18 months old. Shattered dreams grew into shattered lives that affect not just my husband, my son, and myself, but also our immediate family.
Over the next 12 years, I placed my entire being towards keeping James alive while still reaching for the American Dream. I tried to have a career in Real Estate Management and, although I succeeded, I wasn’t satisfied with life. James was definitely alive and improving, although kidney failure, dialysis, and transplant always loomed in our lives, as well as the many trips to The Texas Medical Center. My marriage suffered greatly, but thank God and my wonderful, loving husband, it is preserved.
Sixteen years ago, James – who had been attending church every week with my parents – nagged me into attending one Sunday. That Sunday was a turning point as I accepted Christ back into my life. I learned through study and service that giving of myself to others was the meaning in life I had been searching for all those years. Now, just one small hug from one of my “Treasures of JOY” gives me complete satisfaction and fulfillment for hours of preparation and work; it is never the money anymore. So at 53 years old, I now fully understand what I was created for. I was created to be the mom to James, an Unexpected Treasure. It may have taken me too many years to understand the gift, but in the end, I know he is priceless. As James’ mom, I have learned my second purpose is to be the advocate for other Treasures. This second purpose allows me to help other Treasures dream big and believe that God never makes a mistake; each Treasure needs to be all they can be for God’s plan.
In James, I can see my purpose realized. He loves everyone – unconditionally – and makes it his job to hug and love on as many people as possible each day. As long as James brings glory to the Almighty God through his love and his hugs, that is all the confirmation I need for my ministry.
JOYce Weatherford is the Executive Director of Treasures of JOY, a Special Needs Ministry founded in January 2011. JOYce has been married to husband, Robert, for 29 years and they have one son James. The birth of James changed the course of JOYce’s life from chasing the American dream to chasing after God, serving Treasures like her son.
Minister to Special Needs Families