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Sometimes We Need to See Differently (like these high school students did)

Sometimes appreciation only comes when we choose to see differently.

Sometimes appreciation only comes when we choose to see differently. Click To Tweet

Although my daughter is 18 years old, she speaks with the aid of an iPad. Rachel cannot tie her own shoes or completely dress herself. She has been diagnosed with significant intellectual and physical disabilities. 

There are many things Rachel cannot do without assistance. Yet, my daughter is now the West Delaware High School Homecoming Queen!

"The moment before she knew. New West Delaware Homecoming King Sam Johnson crowns Rachel Sunne as Queen at the Homecoming Coronation Ceremony Sept. 22." (Photo credit Manchester Press)

“The moment before she knew. New West Delaware Homecoming King Sam Johnson crowns Rachel Sunne as Queen at the Homecoming Coronation Ceremony Sept. 22.” (Photo credit Manchester Press)

Seeing the Not-So Obvious

Rachel has been a student in this school district in Iowa since age 3 when she entered the Early Childhood Special Education Program. Although not without issues, my husband and I chose to keep her in the same school as her three brothers.

When a school staff member called to tell us Rachel’s senior class had nominated her to the Homecoming Court and asked if we’d allow her to be on it, I cried. She’s in a great class. Everyone’s drawn in by her daily joy and friendliness. 

Yet, never had it crossed my mind, they’d consider to honor her in such a way. We said yes. 

A week later, the entire high school student body voted and chose Rachel as their 2016 Homecoming Queen. I cried again. 

Why did these nearly 500 students choose a young lady with obvious special needs to represent them in such a way?

Maybe some thought it was sweet and the right thing to do.

Maybe some felt sorry for her.

Maybe some even voted for her because they thought it’d be funny. 

But after witnessing the joy and tears after coronation, I think many of the West Delaware High School students voted Rachel Homecoming Queen because they’ve come to value what she has to offer:

Unconditional Love

Unfettered Joy


Choose To See Differently

Every person on this earth has something to offer. Unfortunately, we often miss it because we judge one’s worth by wrong standards. 

Every person on this earth has something to offer, but it's often missed because we judge worth by wrong standards. Click To Tweet

Rachel will never do mighty things. She’ll never save the physical life of another. She’ll never support herself financially. She’ll never be able to properly care for another, or independently care for herself for that matter.

Her contributions are small. A smile. A “hi.” A wave. A hug … when she can get away with it.

These are attributes often overlooked in our cultural rush to make the next dollar, get the next promotion, or earn another title after our name. 

But Rachel’s friends recognize it. Her classmates have been on the receiving end of Rachel’s love and joy for 12 years now. 

They not only care about her, but they have grown to appreciate the little she has to offer. They see her small gestures as big and meaningful. 

I will never be able to express the gratitude and respect I have for the young people in Rachel’s high school. The same goes for the staff, administration, and Manchester community members who have done their little part in guiding and educating the beautiful girl who now wears the crown. 

Dear West Delaware students: You noticed the worth of a young lady many in the world deem unworthy and often unwanted. And you took the time and made the extraordinary effort to acknowledge what she means to you in a very public display. My husband and I applaud you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 

Rachel can’t offer much of what the world desires. But she possesses something far more valuable: unconditional love for everyone she meets. Kudos to you West Delaware students for noticing!

“You have been bought and paid for by Christ, so you belong to him—be free now from all these earthly prides and fears.” 1 Corinthians 7:23 (TLB)

 “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Reflections: Is there someone in your life you need to see differently?

If you haven’t checked out my new devotional that released  a couple weeks ago on the blessings of praising God, check it out! Praise: it’s just what each of us needs to find the beauty in the broken. Get it here. Everyday Praise Devotional


It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5367–5387. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Small victory of wogging on a morning when it was particularly hard to do; Words to write coming easily; Hanging out with my favorite guy watching Joey’s football game
  • Another awesome first: hosting a #Zoom online; Online face-to-face with some of the #EverydayPraise launch team members; Quiet evening home for the four of us before the busyness but fun of Homecoming sets in
  • Great eye report for Rachel; Successful homecoming coronation practice for Rachel; Attending a church with an open door policy during the week and a friendly administrative assistant!
  • *Challenge of figuring out a new editing program;*How well Rachel handled coronation;*I’m completely overwhelmed and touched by the West Delaware senior class who nominated Rachel to Homecoming Court and the student body who voted her Queen: no words yet
  • Rachel’s excitement at wearing her crown today; Our road remaining open despite the flooding; Daniel coming to the homecoming game to watch his sister in her role as newly crowned queen
  • Taking our young queen out to dinner and to the homecoming dance with her friend Shelby; Watching Rachel have lots of fun at the dance; A no-rain day
  • *More love and congratulations for Rachel at church; *Making the hard choice to outsource the printbook design for #EverydayPraise(now maybe it’ll get finished!); *My young lady, exhausted by the hard work of queenly duties, sleeping before 7

By His grace ≈


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Find hope in your real-life struggles. We'll chase it together! I am a wife; mom of 4 (including a young adult daughter with special needs); miscarriage mom of 5; author & follower of Jesus Christ. I write, edit, speak and enjoy everything outdoors.

6 comments on “Sometimes We Need to See Differently (like these high school students did)
  1. Cecelia Lester (Quiet Spirit) says:

    Julie: This post shows me this generation coming up has values. I once coordinated a daycare for a conference our former denomination held at our local university. One of the school age boys had down syndrome. He was a delight to watch and listen to. A few months later, in our denomination’s magazine, his mother wrote about her experience with rearing him. She said she learned quite a bit from him. Funny, I can’t remember their names but I remember what she said.
    I also have learned things from our son, although his issue in physical. God blesses those who love these special children.

  2. Bettie G says:

    Julie, This post was such a blessing! I have a dear friend whose daughter, Hannah, has downs, and she is one of the most precious gifts from God, blessing others everywhere she goes, in much the same way that your daughter does. Hannah shares her love, and the love of Jesus in such a free way. I want to keep opening my eyes to see things differently, and be more aware of the wonder that these beautiful ones help to bring in to focus. Also, I am being blessed by your EVERYDAY PRAISE book! Thank you for the encouragement that you are bringing through your words!

  3. Nancy Silvers says:

    Julie, I’m in tears, tears of joy for Rachel!! I’ve had two very hard days after my husband had a horrible accident that has caused him to lose parts of his fingers-I was feeling so exhausted and down. This, this my friend, blessed me so much. Every time I see a picture of Rachel and her big smile it brings me joy-you can see her love in her eyes and smile.
    What an awesome group of students to see Rachel’s beauty and heart. Many could learn from them and her in this world where bullying seems to be the norm. God Bless Rachel and each and everyone of her classmates!! God bless you too!!

    • Julie Sunne says:

      Oh, Nancy! I’m so sorry for the pain and fear you’ve been facing with your husband’s accident. Praying big for the hand of God to heal his injured body and for strength and rest for both of you!

      I tear up every time I think of how our school and the students have blessed us by recognizing Rachel’s incredible worth. They love AND value her: with her limitations, that is amazing. Thank you, sweet friend.

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  1. […] We wondered what she’d have to give back to others. We wonder no more.  […]

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