Impact Story: The Bryan Family

This month we invite you to meet the Bryan family. Wally, Lisa, Kelly and Matthew happen to be some of our favorite people, and we think you will love them, too. Stories like theirs are the reason we are so passionate about the mission God has given us at Rising Above.

Tell us a little bit about the members of the Bryan family and what you all enjoy doing together…

We are Wally & Lisa Bryan. Our children are Kelly Thigpen (23) and Matthew (19). Matthew has Fragile X Syndrome. We have a dog, Lizzie and a cat, Raven. We live in Lawrenceville, GA (a suburb of Atlanta.) Our family enjoys going camping (well, glamping in a travel trailer really); watching sporting events on TV and sometimes in person; spending time together just "hanging out". Our favorite sports teams are University of Georgia Bulldogs, Reinhardt Eagles, Lenoir Rhyne Bears, ATL Braves and ATL Falcons. Matthew loves Thomas the train, Mickey Mouse, & The Wiggles. He loves to search on YouTube for videos and songs from all of these characters. And he loves to sing along at the top of his lungs!! His pure joy when he gets to singing is so amazing!! Matthew also loves recreating the train horn sound that is made at Mercedes Benz stadium every time the Falcons score ...LOL.

Wally and Lisa Bryan, son-in-law Gordan, son Matthew, and daughter Kelly

Wally and Lisa Bryan, son-in-law Gordan, son Matthew, and daughter Kelly

What was your family’s initial response to Matthew’s diagnosis?

We didn't receive the diagnosis of Fragile X Syndrome until Matthew was 4. The diagnosis came as a both a relief and a worry. We had struggled for years with trying to figure out what the cause of Matthew's struggles were. We saw many different doctors and therapists. When we finally got the diagnosis, it was somewhat a relief to finally figure out what we were dealing with. It helped to answer many questions. But it also set in a new set of worries and anxieties. The hardest part on me, Lisa, was the fact that Fragile X Syndrome was a genetic disorder and that I was the carrier and had passed it on to my son. I struggled for many years with the guilt of this knowledge. My response has always been the more emotional one...the worry wart if you will.....All of the fears and the "what ifs" came in to my mind. This is something that has been a recurring theme in my mind. Wally's response was much more of a factual response. He works in IT, and is a very logical thinker. I think he first responded with "how do I fix this". But he never wavered in his love for our son, or his love for me. Kelly was 3 years old when Matthew was born, and had such a strong bond with her little brother. She absolutely adored and loved him. She accepted him just as he was. And she still has continued to do so.


How did you first learn about Rising Above?

I believe there was a 1 day conference here in the Atlanta area that was hosted by Rising Above Ministries. I don't exactly remember how I heard about it...and I wasn't able to go to it. But after that, I went online to see what I could find out about the organization. Through that, I also discovered that there was a mom's Bible study group that was being organized in the Atlanta area. I was so excited to find out about this...I sent an email to the person, Donna Whaley, that was going to be leading the group. Unfortunately, the group was meeting on the other side of the Atlanta area, and it would be very difficult for me to be able to attend. I was upset, but I kept following Rising Above, and was able to go to a By The Brook retreat in Cookeville. Wow, Wow, Wow was all I could say after that weekend.


How has Rising Above impacted your life?

Rising Above has given me so much support and inspiration through the years. I've gained that inspiration through so many ways - Jeff's writings, friendships with other moms, By The Brook retreats, etc. It is so refreshing to be surrounded with a group of other moms that I can talk to about anything. I don't have to explain what our difficulties are, I don't have to explain Matthew's behavior.....I can just relax and let my guard down. I can be myself and still be loved. I can rest in the love of Jesus and refresh my soul. Without Rising Above, I never would have met so many wonderful people -- I never would have seen Fragile X Syndrome as anything other than a burden -- I truly believe that Rising Above Ministries has helped me grow closer to Jesus Christ and has helped in transforming my life.


Are there specific Rising Above events that your family enjoys?

I absolutely love coming to Cookeville every summer for the By The Brook retreat! It is the most relaxing and refreshing weekend of my year!! Wally has enjoyed going to the men's retreat each year!

Is there any truth that has been especially encouraging or vital to you in your journey as special-needs parents?

God has revealed Himself to me and our family in so many different ways through our years in the Special Needs World. Early on, I was dealing with a lot of guilt for being the carrier of Fragile X Syndrome. God put a Scripture on my heart - John 9:1-5. This Scripture revealed God's purpose in the life of a blind man. And this Scripture opened my heart and revealed to me that FX was not my fault. God had spoken directly to me to tell me that it was all ok...and that He was in charge of it all...and that our lives were for His Glory.

We are grateful for so many donors and volunteers who make stories like this a reality every day. Your partnership makes it possible for us to continue to pursue our mission of bringing the love of God and hope in Christ to special-needs families in the Upper Cumberland, across the nation, and around the world.