Greetings of Grace: Our Story
Twenty four years ago, in 1984, my third child Gloria was born weighing only 4 lbs & 12 oz at full pregnancy. Little did we know a dark, dark cloud would soon come over my life in the years to come. Three years after my daughter Gloria was born, she was diagnosed with severe mental retardation and autism. This was the beginning of a life-changing journey.
For a long time, we were constantly running around dealing with multiple doctors and social workers to find a better education or possibility of treatment for her. We moved from place to place searching for the "right" school, which resulted in an accumulation of great credit card debts along the way. My husband was working for a small accounting firm at the time and tried to find other means to pay off our increasing debt while still putting food on the table for my three other growing kids. Years went by, but we still failed to make ends meet. So for the next 11 years, I worked as a waitress while juggling graduate school in accounting so that I could join my husband in the workforce as a part-time accountant.
Just as things began to look up, another tragedy fell upon us with our special needs daughter. On Halloween night 1999, Gloria was rushed to the ER with a stomach rupture that would later develop into a severe abdominal infection. She went through multiple operations and painful procedures that left her weighing not even 85 lbs. Because of her mental condition, her fragile hands would often be tied down to the hospital bed to prevent her from pulling the tubes (that kept her alive) out of her own body. Both my husband and I took time off work during that time to stay at the hospital to care for her and left our three other children, whom we also love very much, at home. I thank God they were so mature and were able to care for themselves for such an extended period of time. Our family spent Thanksgiving and Christmas that year at the Children's Medical Center in Dallas. After what seemed like an eternity, exactly two months and one week later, Gloria was finally released from the hospital. To our dismay, however, our debts remained as I was not able to work during my daughter's illness.
For me, going through life's tribulations and troubles had left me broken and devastated inside, often hanging on to mere threads of dying hope. I cried out to God asking why these things happen, why God would lay such a burden I could not bear. It was enough having to live with a special needs child, but to have her come so close to being snatched away from my hands, was unbearable for me as a mother.
When Gloria came out of the hospital in early 2000, the doctor prescribed that she be cared for at home by her family. That meant I could not go back to my accounting career and would have to find an alternate means at home to help support our family.
A few weeks following Gloria's return home, a friend introduced me to the art of pressed flowers. I became extremely excited over this concept of pressed flowers because ever since I was a child, I always had a profound appreciation for floral beauty. My loving husband would buy me flowers while we were dating (and while we were married too!), but I had always felt the lifespan of the flower was too short. The idea of allowing a flower to be kept longer by "pressing" it quickly became not just a hobby, but something more. It became my passion. They say passion spreads like wildfire because when you love something so much, it's hard to contain that love. And sure enough, family and friends quickly caught on and started asking me to make pressed flower art and cards for them, until one day my oldest son suggested a website for some of my creations and my pressed flowers! In 2005, we launched Greetings of Grace.
Sometimes life throws at us hardships and pain that are so difficult to comprehend. For me, 1984 was the year I thought I would never find happiness again. But truth be told, what my daughter Gloria has taught me is to persevere even in times when we don't understand what God has intended for us, to always be patient, and always faithful to Him who is faithful to us. In the end, Gloria allowed me to discover my passion, to find what I truly love doing; and that's something I could not have found without my special needs daughter. I love all my children very much, but to have one who's abnormal, is a unique blessing I have come to cherish.
The way I see it -- that's the beauty of life. It's like what one of the proverbs says, "No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow". No matter how cold, how rigid, how tough the winter season may be, there will always be another colorful spring waiting to bloom in all its glory.
Thank you for letting us share our story and our love for flowers with you.
Anna, and the Greetings of Grace team