13 minute read

Miracles Still Happen

Miracles Still Happen!

by Karen Steinmann

Have you ever met someone who has faced an acute, lifelong physical disability and all the ramifications it entails, and thought to yourself, wow … look at God?! His glory seems to shine about her. Amidst all the pain and adversity she’s faced since birth, His beautiful joy just bubbles up from her soul, Yes, a woman like this really exists — a woman who has confronted and overcome more physical challenges than most of us can imagine; who breathes in His Word daily and breathes out Jesus to all who know her; who teaches and sometimes preaches the hope of Christ to fellowmillennials at her church; who works and serves at two nonprofits in the Dallas–Fort Worth area to encourage and advocate for others with physical and mental disabilities; and who is a budding actress to boot. An actress as well?

But how can this be? If you’re like us at MB Magazine, you’re intrigued and want to know more. You lean in closer, trying to understand how a young woman can praise and serve God so passionately in the midst of her infirmities. You want to figure out what she’s done to gain such confidence in who she is in Christ and her purpose on this earth.

And more than anything, you want to know about the miracles … the supernatural way God has brought life and healing to her grim, painful circumstances — guiding her to thrive so passionately and share His love in such genuine, compassionate ways.

Wow, we’re all saying now … look up. Look at God.

Meet the remarkable Gabrielle Harris. She is that someone: a 29-years-young whirlwind of encouragement who knows Jesus personally and blesses the socks off virtually every hurting and heartbroken soul in her world. She lays open her struggles in life and points everyone to her Healer, the one true God of the universe. And in doing so, we are supernaturally drawn to her — to her life and her story — perhaps like a doe drawn to cool water or a butterfly drawn to sweet nectar. But, we also must realize, it doesn’t have to be this way; Gabrielle could have

succumbed to despair and despondency early in life. But. Look. At. God.

Since birth, Gabrielle has daily navigated the chronic disability known as cerebralpalsy. Let that sink in. Cerebral palsy is a life-long condition that afflicts newbornsboth mentally and physically. “Cerebral” means having to do with the brain, and“palsy” means weakness or problems using the muscles. “I have the physical butnot the mental [issues],” Gabrielle explains. So, while her challenges are notcognitive in nature, she has dealt with a wide-range of debilitating physical issuesincluding her ability to move and walk, and her speech, eyesight, hearing, andWhen Gabrielle was born in Waco, Texas, in late 1992, her prognosis proved dire. In fact, her doctors “told my mom andgrandma that I would never walk or talk,” she explains. “I was the only baby of six that lived that night, and I was in anincubator for four months.”

As a young child, she indeed had floppy limbs, poor muscle control, stiffness in her joints, and years of delay in reachingmilestones. Years later when she did attend elementary school, “I crawled in on all fours,” she says. “Then Shriners Hospital inHouston provided me with a wheelchair, a walker, and crutches, and I used all those.”

Then later, “in English class, my teacher was like, ‘I’m going to teach you how to walk’ and we did it for five days, and the fifthday I took off walking on my own.”

Gabrielle created a video of herself just a few weeks ago, sharing her story in her own words. After seating herself in a leatherchair and then sitting up straight, with a beautiful smile and glowing dimples, Gabrielle first introduces herself, then says,“Today I’m going to share the joy that God has [brought] to my life.”

Gabrielle’s words, in fact, are laced with joy. She speaks quickly, pouring out her story in melodious tones, each sentencepunctuated with a rare confidence … a confidence in God’s loving hand over her past, present, and future … a confidence inher identity in Christ … and a confidence in His ability to transform even the most heart-rending story into one that breaksthe shackles of expectations and touches lives with the impact that only His presence living inside her could bring.

Gabrielle attests to her love and unquenchable thirst for God’s Word. She also shares her deep passion for worshiping herLord and Savior through uplifting Gospel music. In fact, she explains, the combination of these two — reading and meditatingon God’s Word and praising Him through the music of her favorite Gospel artist, Kirk Franklin, “is what has healed me,”she says.

“I’ve had 17 surgeries total,” she shares, “and during those 17 surgeries, it was really hard, because I’m behind a wall for almosttwo years to a year to six months [after each surgery]; it all depends on how the surgery went. So, I would read my Bible andlisten to Kirk Franklin’s music … [which] is what has healed me spiritually and physically.”

“I do believe music is healing,” she continues, “so I was able to share my story with him [Kirk Franklin] back in May of 2018, and that was one of the best days of my life … It was a blessing to finally share with him what his music has meant to me. And he gave me some great advice that will forever stick with me.”

Gabrielle says she doesn’t just know that God can perform miracles, still today and still tomorrow. But that He has performed them in her … frequently.

“It’s been a joyous experience to see God do so many miracles,” she continues. “I even had eardrum surgery recently — my eardrum had completely collapsed. And the Lord did a miracle. He said healing would take a year and it only took eight months.”

In May 2017, she was also diagnosed with a Rathke cleft cyst, a rare kind of benign tumor, she explains. “Because of its location, it’s messed up my vision.” Then in 2019 she was diagnosed with hearing loss and now wears a hearing aid. Both these events “have been two of the hardest tests for me,” she says.

“I’ve been through so much,” she admits. “So, I had to experience faith and really get to knowJesus for myself.”

“I do believe music is healing,” she continues, “so I was able to share my story with him [Kirk Franklin] back in May of 2018, and that was one of the best days of my life … It was a blessing to finally share with him what his music has meant to me. And he gave me some great advice that will forever stick with me.”

Gabrielle says she doesn’t just know that God can perform miracles, still today and still tomorrow. But that He has performed them in her … frequently.

“It’s been a joyous experience to see God do so many miracles,” she continues. “I even had eardrum surgery recently — my eardrum had completely collapsed. And the Lord did a miracle. He said healing would take a year and it only took eight months.”

In May 2017, she was also diagnosed with a Rathke cleft cyst, a rare kind of benign tumor, she explains. “Because of its location, it’s messed up my vision.” Then in 2019 she was diagnosed with hearing loss and now wears a hearing aid. Both these events “have been two of the hardest tests for me,” she says.

“I’ve been through so much,” she admits. “So, I had to experience faith and really get to know Jesus for myself.” In her early years, Gabrielle explains that she found encouragement in a diverse range of places.

When she was introduced to the movie Forrest Gump, she said, “I would watch it every day … I was so inspired by how he ran out of his braces” and just kept running and running, “and I told myself, that’s going to be me one day.”

Her family also “means everything to me,” she smiles. “My family shows me unconditional love every day. Although I have a disability, they don’t treat me any different, and they motivate and push me to live life and make an effort to fulfill all my dreams.”

Gabrielle’s face lights up when she talks about her older brother. “He’s been a huge inspiration in my life,” she shares. “I admire him so much. Throughout our childhood and even now, he has never been ashamed of me. He is very compassionate, not only of me, but of others. He taught me independence and how to step into my purpose.”

Gabrielle has indeed had a strong support system, a wonderful family and close friendships, including “my older brother who is my best friend,” she says. Yet, she

deeply painful times, and along the way, has developed an acute understanding of how it feels to have a marked disability, especially out in public and among her peers.

Not only has Gabrielle seen God work miraculously through the obstacles in her young life, but along the way, He has also guided her to help change the lives of others, with many facing some of the same battles and circumstances she herself has faced.

Now living in the Ft. Worth, Texas, area for the past 11 years, Gabrielle explains, “I work for an organization called To Be Like Me,” which has been “an amazing journey … We help to empower people who have disabilities by providing employment and a platform to share our stories and advocate for others. Knowing I’ve touched someone’s life and made a difference makes my heart happy,” she smiles.

“I also work for The Potter’s House IDD Outreach,” she says. (IDD stands for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.) “I’m happy to be part of a community that really wants to see people with disabilities thrive and become who God created us to be. Dr. Demetrice Smith [the IDD program director] is beautiful inside and out. As my mentor, she keeps me focused and demonstrates what it takes to be productive and successful. I’m blessed and grateful for her support and kindness.”

By helping to advocate for people with disabilities in these two venues, Gabrielle comments how she can “relate to them, having people stare at them, or being turned down for a job because of their disability. I want them to know they have support … and the same opportunities as [others]. I always give them examples of the friends I have, telling them they treat me normally. We go places and they genuinely care about me. I want them to know I am their voice and stand with them throughout all their challenges. If we all join together, we can make a difference in the world.”

At her church, Gabrielle is also part of the vibrant young adult ministry called Younger Generation Church. “I serve with the media team,” she explains, “and occasionally I preach when asked. I’ve made some great friends, and it feels good to be welcomed into a church that accepts my disability with no judgment. Pastor Allan and his wife, Deirdre, have made me feel so welcome.”

Gabrielle challenges those in her path to take one of her favorite verses, Romans 8:28, to heart. “No matter what purpose you have in life, fulfill it,” Gabrielle asserts. “God could give you a purpose to do makeup for people, hair, designer clothes … like for me, it was my story.I had a whole different

different plan for my life, but God had a better one, and it’s been very fulfilling.

I love doing what I do,” she continues, “talking about Jesus, trying to get the young people saved — it’s all a joyous occasion for me. So, I want you to sit down with God, study Scripture, pray with Him, ask Him what your purpose in life is, and fulfill it. Because we all have a purpose here; that’s the reason we are here on earth. I pray that this encourages you and you go out and fulfill your purpose, no matter how hard it is, and if you don’t understand it, ask the Holy Spirit to help guide you.”

For most of her life, the Holy Spirit has been guiding Gabrielle in an array of areas, including pursuing her talents in acting. “Ever since I was in my first school play in fourth grade,” she shares, “being in front of a live audience felt good.” She is now enrolled in acting classes, which she said, “has inspired me to really go after what I want and believe in myself even more.” When her acting coach challenged her to share her dream in front of the class, she realized that “by doing so, I was taking a step to achieve my dream.”

“I do believe you can find joy through circumstances by just having faith and not doubt,” Gabrielle counsels. “I do know for a fact that God can do miracles. God can change everything around for the better. It’s all by your faith of a mustard seed. I believe all things are possible through Him, and I do know He can heal you through everything you’re going through. He can bless you, even when you feel like the blessing is taking forever, it’s not; it’s just around the corner.

“You just have to have faith through all of it and have joy no matter what,” she shares. “Even if tomorrow you might feel depressed, you read that Scripture, and listen to that Gospel music, and it will get you through. You’ll see … it wasn’t as hard as you thought.”

In closing, she says, “And I hope this has inspired you as much as it’s inspired me.” Sitting in her chair, her big smile radiating into our hearts, we, too, feel changed. We look up, noticing tears in our eyes, and we thank God for His joy, igniting our faith inside.

And with all thanks to God, that’s a miracle as well; Christ not only miraculously saves us through our faith in Him but also provides miracles along the way to ensure our faith keeps growing, keeps blooming. Miracle upon miracle, Gabrielle spurs us on. We are so thankful for your story, Gabrielle. You do inspire us, perhaps as no one else can. Wow, everyone, look at our amazing God.

-KIRK FRANKLIN “Hello Fear”

Hello Grace. It feels like forever, I thought my chance with you was gone … Never knew your touch was endless, how you never run dry of forgiveness. Didn’t know how bad it was, was afraid just because. Sorry fear, grace took your place.