John Farrell: How has your faith helped you through the tough times, whether it be the surgeries or something else?
Angela Ray Rodgers: When we first found out about her genetic disorder, it was scary. Any parent that has a child has to learn all about the disorder and become a strong advocate for their child. You can’t make rash decisions about their health. You have to step back, pray about it, and let God guide you. That’s a big thing we’ve had to do because we’ve had to switch doctors a couple of times.
Some of them have been doctors we loved, but we have to stop and listen and wait for God to show us the direction to go. At first that was hard for me because you think everything has to be solved now; it has to be done now, now, now, or something bad is going to happen.
I really learned to rely on Him to guide us on what to do with her. With her surgery she had last March to straighten her legs, we took her to Scottish Rite in Dallas. The surgeon told us he could not guarantee he could do both legs at the same time. I was upset because I didn’t want her to face another leg surgery and six weeks with a different casting on top of what she’s already getting.
They started the surgery and called us after about four or five hours with an update. They said, “He’s not going to have time to do the second leg.” My husband told me, and I sat there and started to cry and get upset. Then I thought, ‘No, God knows what’s best for her. If they had started the second leg, something may have gone wrong and we may have lost her. He knows what’s best for her.’
I told God, “Okay, I’m trusting You. You know what’s right for her. I don’t. You do what’s right for my baby.” It was another hour before we got another phone call and my husband said, “Well, they’re doing the second leg.” I started crying again. He said, “I thought that’s what you wanted.” I said, “God was just showing me He’s got her. He’s got her.”
You can’t constantly worry about it because when you have a child that faces the things she does it’s easy to give in to worry and try to fix it yourself and do everything yourself. And we can’t. We just can’t do that. It’s that faith in God that He’s got this that I can lie down at night and go to sleep knowing He’s going to take care of her and He’s going to take care of my son Isiah. He’s got us. Just let go and let Him do it. It was almost like he was saying, “See Angie, I told you.”
JF: “Just listen to Me. I got it under control.”
Fast-forward a couple years to when she became a celebrity. Could you please walk me through what happened and how she so quickly became a viral YouTube sensation? Also, what was it like when you first realized that her video had gone viral by way of one of Sammy Kershaw’s representatives?
Angela: She was three years old, and I know people think I’m crazy when I say this, but we sing the national anthem a lot. I do. My husband’s not as big a singer as I am, but I’ve always loved to sing. I walk around the house singing, and that’s something Grace Anna does. Most of the time when she’s doing something, she’s singing while doing it. I love the national anthem. It’s one of my favorite songs. I have a lot of love for our country.
I had given her a bath that day, and we were sitting on our couch. She started singing it with me, and I thought, ‘I’ll record her singing it. That’s cute as a button, and I can send it to some of the people that we’ve been in hospitals with.’
We started a page, and I thought maybe all the people we’ve been in the hospital with could watch it, whether they live near us or not. I didn’t think anything about it when I posted it. I really didn’t. I knew she could sing, but I didn’t know how well she could sing compared to most kids her age. That’s the way it is now. She has a real gift.
It had probably been two or three weeks when I noticed it start to pick up a little. Then one night we were in bed and the phone rings. It’s a woman representing Sammy Kershaw. She said, “Sammy wanted Grace Anna to know that we love her. We loved her version of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’” I thought, ‘I wonder what she’s talking about.’
I got out of bed to look at the video we had posted. It was up to like 255,000 views, and she had gotten all these new followers. I didn’t keep up with it much because we were busy taking care of her. It just exploded from there.
We ended up on Katie Couric. She has sung the “Star-Spangled Banner” at a lot of events. We expanded her page a little bit to show who she is and to inspire others through her life to live life to the fullest. That’s our biggest thing. Choose joy. Choose to find the joy in life and live like she does – full throttle. Everything she does is usually 110 percent.
It shocks me sometimes the impact her life and her story has had on people because it has nothing to do with what I do. I think God has given her a little gift in her heart and her story to touch others because I’ve seen the impact firsthand in the people that we meet and the letters we get.
Early on in Grace’s story – before she hit a million followers – we were at a restaurant in Somerset, Kentucky, when this lady came up to meet us. She was sitting in the chair and Grace was probably five or six years old. Grace Anna reached out her arm to touch that lady’s arm, and said, “Are you okay?”
Tears started rolling down her cheeks, and Grace started singing “Amazing Grace” to her. This lady starts a full-blown cry at our table. She said, “You don’t know how much I needed that Grace Anna.”
That has nothing to do with us. That’s something within her that God has placed on her heart. She really has a heart for other people.
When she thinks about herself, she doesn’t think that she’s pitiful. We get a lot of people who say, “I’m so sorry, she’s this way.” She has read some of the articles that people have written about her and one of the things she hates to read is when they use the word “suffer” – “Grace Anna suffers from a rare form of dwarfism.” She’ll ask, “What do they mean ‘suffer’? Mom, I don’t suffer.” She doesn’t see her life as suffering. She is just this funky, happy little girl.
Her little back right now is curvy and it sticks out, and she’s had all these huge double hip surgeries. They’ve broken the bones in her legs to make them straight. But when she goes to her doctor appointments and they ask, “Grace Anna, are you in any pain?” Her answer is always, “Nope. I’m never in any pain.”
I see kids in similar situations, and they’re in a lot of pain. I’m just so thankful that God has touched her in that way, that she doesn’t suffer with the pain also. She has tough days where she’s sick or she has tough days with therapy. And sometimes she doesn’t want to do it.
That’s something big we’ve talked to her about. Her walking is coming along, but I tell her, “This is something I can’t make you do. It’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to work hard to walk, but that’s gonna be up to you. That’s a tough decision at nine years old to work hard so you can walk, but that’s something you have to decide to do. If you don’t want to do it, I’m not going to push you. I’ll do the exercises to keep your legs straight and keep you healthy, but if you want to walk, that has to be something you decide on your own.”
She said, “Mama, I want to keep trying.” I said, “Okay, I will fight with you when you want to fight for it.”
That’s just like the singing and the stuff we put on our page. We don’t force her to do anything. I don’t think that’s what a childhood should be about. A lot of times we don’t do stuff because we try to do what’s best for her to make sure she has a healthy and happy childhood.
Stay Tuned for Part 3 of Angela Ray and Grace Anna Rodger’s Interview
Order a copy of Grace Anna Sings: A Story of Hope through a Little Girl with a Big Voice by Angela Ray Rodgers
Grace Anna Rodgers entered many hearts at three years old when her performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” went viral. With her sweet spirit and happy personality, she inspires others to live a joyful and happy life through her own journey, and she shares her story and songs across various social media platforms. Her mom, Angela Ray Rodgers, is an advocate for people with disabilities and the author of Grace Anna Sings. She serves on the HART Supported Living Grant Program Council and is an Arc of Kentucky Advocate in Action. Angela is married to her husband, Jeff, and has two amazing children, Isaiah and Grace Anna. Learn more at GraceAnnaSings.org
Featured Image Credit: Grace Anna Sings YouTube Channel
John Farrell is a Digital Content Writer / Editor of Inspiration.org.
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