Merry Christmas 2014! Last year my Christmas day blog post read, “Merry Christmas! I have an extensive list of Grown Up Christmas wishes. One is that the ABLE Act of 2013 will make it to the floor and get passed!” The House and the Senate passed the Stephen E. Beck Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 in the final moments of the 113th Congress. The President signed it into law on December 19th, 2014. Wish granted one year later!
What a year! Below you will see our annual Christmas Card and a copy of our Annual Christmas Letter – sent just before the President signed the ABLE Act into the law of the land. I hope you will read at least my final paragraph. Merry Christmas to all of you and may you have a blessed 2015!
Jonathan and Jawanda: A Modern Day Tragedy/Comedy Chapter 25
For those of you who know me at all, you realize that this is the latest I have ever sent out Christmas cards. I have a good reason: #passtheABLEAct. More about that later. Our year ends on a high note but it has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, rich with blessings and dotted with some challenges. The challenges began in Feb. when we lost Jonathan’s mom Susan. It was quite sudden and unexpected. We lost Grandma Lucy in April at a young 101. She would have turned 102 on June 14. She lived a tremendous life and we feel blessed to have had her for so long. We also lost our friend Charley in the spring. Not related by blood but playing the role of adopted grandparents, Charley and his wife Sharon lived two doors down in Bartlett. Rachel, Uncle Charley & Aunt Sharon have a mutual adoration club for sure. These losses have been especially hard for Rachel but many have told us that through all of this they believe Rachel has a gift for comforting others.
Now you must be thinking, “What a way to start a Christmas letter?” Well, that’s been our life! But our blessings and adventures far outweighed our challenges this year. Rachel turned 15 and we celebrated by taking a couple of her friends to Memphis. We had a great time and were spoiled by our hosts Gina and Jim Wiertelak. A couple of other Rachel highlights included being a part of her friend Melina’s Bat Mitzvah in Chicago. Melina chose Down syndrome as her mitzvah project and chose to show Just Like You –Down Syndrome as part of the festivities. Rachel was an honored guest and Jonathan and I got to tag along. None of us had ever been to a Bat Mitzvah. It was a lovely experience and we were impressed with Melina and her friends. Another friend hosted a dance-a-thon in honor of Rachel to raise money for an accessible arts program in New York City. Rachel was selected by the Victory Project, an outreach of Sporting KC, to be their honoree at a Sporting KC game in May. What a great experience and a honor to be nominated by our friends over at Variety Children’s Charities of Kansas City. Rachel was in her 15th show, CYT’s “Shrek the Musical” back in February and was just cast in CYT’s “Cinderella Enchanted” (Feb. 12 – 15.) The stage is still her true love. She started high school at Olathe South in August. Still hard for us to believe that Baby Rachel started high school. She loves high school and has been very involved serving as the 9th grade volleyball manager and on Student Council. She won the dance off the first day of school, too!
Jonathan loves his work at Sedgwick as the Director, Social Media. He travels a fair amount and has some interesting experiences of course. He turned 50 on February 14 and ran another 50 mile ultra-marathon in the spring. I continue to blog and be involved in Down syndrome advocacy primarily through the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) Ambassador’s program. Rachel and I have enjoyed speaking at a few conferences this year. It is such an honor to share about our experiences and learn from others on this journey. Our family is happy that the Razorback football and basketball teams seem to be on the upswing. We were able to go to a UA baseball game last spring and a friend of Rachel’s from Olathe South will be attending on a baseball scholarship next fall. WPS! Jonathan and I celebrated our 25th anniversary late by going on a cruise to Key West and Cozymel. It was nice to get away and we appreciate that my mom could come and manage The Rachel for a few days.
Our most exciting news happened tonight. #passedtheABLEact! We have been working to pass the ABLE Act (The Stephen E. Beck Achieving a Better Life Experience Act) for 8 years. Many trips, conversations, emails, phone calls, office visits later, I am proud to say the ABLE Act was passed by the House and Senate and will be signed into law by the President in just a few days. I had the amazing honor and privilege of being present for the House vote. So proud to have our own Congressman and Senators as sponsors of this important legislation that will allow individuals with disabilities to save in in 529 type accounts without worrying about losing certain government supports. It is landmark legislation that will help individuals like Rachel. One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 3:20 “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than I ask or ever imagined be the glory forever.” A few months back I claimed that verse and started praying it for the ABLE Act. As I told Congressman Yoder when I first met him, “You should support it because it is the right thing to do.” He has become a champion for us. All to say that I hope during this Christmas season you are counting on Him to be ABLE to do something extraordinary and life changing. He is ABLE.
Merry Christmas and a blessed 2015 to you and yours.
Jonathan, Jawanda and Rachel Mast
Originated: December 16, 2015