What holds you back?
We all have something. For some, it’s finances. For others, it’s their level of fitness. It’s our intelligence or laziness, or our environment. There’s always that one thing that makes us say to ourselves, “If I could only change that, I’d be successful.”
What if that one thing was the absence of your very legs? Would that hold you back?
For Jennifer Bricker, it doesn’t—not in the least.
Jennifer was born with a birth defect which left her utterly without legs—a uterine band prevented blood from getting to her lower limbs. She once had feet attached to her hips, but they were removed at the age of 2, so that she might be better able to use prosthetics.
Her biological father, shocked at the sight of Jennifer when she was born, immediately gave her up for adoption, fearing she would die, or that they would be unable to care for her. Her biological mother never had a chance to lay eyes on her.
Meanwhile, Sharon and Gerald Bricker, an American couple living in Hardinville, Illinois, desperately wanted a little girl. In Jennifer Bricker’s book, “Everything is Possible,” Bricker tells of how Sharon held to faith, praying to God for a miracle, for a child to call their own.
And that miracle soon arrived, in the form of Jennifer.
When the Brickers finally met Jennifer, the tiny girl’s face blossomed into smiles, and they knew they had found their child. They loved her immediately, and that day, she officially became Jennifer Bricker.
Growing up, Jennifer was fearless, the lack of the appendages we all take for granted not slowing her down in the least. “Anything physically challenging,” writes Jennifer, “a sport, a game, a tree to climb—had my name on it.” She even eschewed the prosthetic limbs later given to her by her doctor—they just slowed her down. She learned, early on, that she “should never take my eye off my goals, or God’s promises for my life.” That wisdom made all the difference.
At age six, Jennifer saw Olympic gymnast, Dominique Moceanu—who she would later discover to be her biological sister—on television for the first time, and realized that this was what she wanted to do—that she would be like Moceanu one day. Loving the speed and the challenge of tumbling—an artistic form of gymnastics filled with flips and somersaults—from an early age, Jennifer spent most of her free time at Beth Allen Power Tumbling, quickly surprising her coach as she learned to do rolls, handsprings, and nearly all of the other moves that the other gymnasts could perform. She let no negativity hinder her, whether from within or without—once, she writes, an unnamed girl and her mother complained that Jennifer was placing higher in her performances, which was “unfair” because this girl had legs and Jennifer did not. Jennifer’s response?
“I was just better than she was.” And she was. She tried harder than anyone around her, and it showed.
As early as the fifth grade, she was featured on talk shows and local news channels, becoming something of a celebrity. Slowly, with the help of her mother’s words, “If you can help one person…then it’s worth it,” she began to realize the responsibility she held, and that she had something important and meaningful to say—her unique physical condition had given her the opportunity to say it.
She began to win state titles, becoming the first handicapped high school tumbling champion in the state of Illinois, participated in the AAU Junior Olympics, and went on to receive the U.S. Tumbling Association’s Inspiration Award for her skill and dedication.
Jennifer is now a successful professional acrobat, performing around the world and even having toured with Britney Spears as a featured performer. She is also not shy about her faith. The fact that she has become so successful, that her acrobatics are so skilled and mesmerizing, despite what could have held her back, is incredibly inspiring—inspiration which Jennifer has distilled into her book, which details her journey, and what she’s learned along the way. Jennifer writes that “When I’m talking about faith and trying to lift people up, I feel like God is speaking through me.” This is the core of “Everything is Possible”. Jennifer doesn’t pedantically teach—that’s not her style. Her words don’t come across as claiming we shouldn’t feel like our lives are difficult because ours aren’t as hard as her own. She simply lives out her convictions, showing the character of God through her willingness to use her talents help people realize their potential. Her book is an extension of this willingness.
A thinker and a reader, Jennifer loves C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series, having read them when she was young. As fantasy novels, they transported her to faraway lands, incredible situations, and introduced her to larger-than-life characters. It is interesting that she loved them so, and that she continues to enjoy the fantastical, even today—fantasy has a way of seeding the imagination, as Lewis once put it, of preparing us for the fact that yes—anything is possible. For Lewis, this opened the doorway for God and salvation, and for Jennifer, this likely helped prepare the way for her incredible career as a writer, speaker, and gymnastics legend.
And above all, the original and greatest story—the Bible—continues to be her source of wisdom, evident in her celebration of God as the one that made it possible for her to achieve what she has. Jennifer continues to inspire her audiences, showing them what they can do with the right attitude, and the right inspiration.
Take that which holds you back and look at it in a new light. Turn it over and examine it. You’ll soon find that it’s not as frightening or impossible as you first thought. Just as Jennifer is enabled by her positive attitude, so can you be. Remember—as her favorite verse in Mark 9:13, reads, “Everything is possible for one who believes.”