When talking to Jen Bricker, you might be surprised to find how quickly you forget she was born without legs. No matter how much you initially want to ask what it’s like, or how she gets around, or how she hopes to have kids one day, you just… forget.
Being born without legs is not the story of Jen’s life. It’s a headline. It’s her starting point and the launching pad that determined the trajectory her path would take, but it’s not the main theme. No, the main theme is something much deeper and more substantial.
Her story is about determination. It’s about not putting even a single limit on your dreams. It’s about daring to fly without wings, jump without a net, or, in her case, rollerblade without legs. Jen’s story is about forgetting her own limitations in favor of faith in a God who can—and does—work miracles.
Finding a Family
Jen’s story started long before she was born. It began after her mother gave birth to three healthy boys and still yearned for a girl. When medical reasons prevented her from having any more children, Mrs. Bricker began to pray.
She prayed for ten years before meeting the incredible baby who would become her daughter.
“My parents were the least likely candidates ever to foster or adopt. They were both in their forties, and they already had three healthy boys. They knew nothing about disability,” Jen says.
Even over the phone, you can hear the smile in Jen’s voice as she talks about her family. Indeed, you can feel the palpable glow and energy this young woman puts off, even if you’re not face to face with her. Her parents are her greatest heroes to this day, simply because of the straightforward and simplistic way they raised her. In every triumph of her story is the undertone of an inspired and no-nonsense upbringing.
Back to the Story
So, Jen’s mom prayed faithfully for a decade. Eventually, she learned through a friend about a baby who’d been in foster care a few months and needed a family. She was a girl. She had no legs.
With instantaneous assurance, Jen’s mother knew this child was her daughter.
Despite knowing nothing about raising a child with disabilities, the Brickers moved forward with the adoption. They first spoke with their sons.
“The really cool part is that my parents set all my brothers down individually asked them how they would feel to have a sister with no legs. They asked what that would mean to each of the boys and what they would do if someone has a problem with her or thinks it’s weird. All of them separately said if someone has a problem, then they don’t want them in their life anyway,” Jen says.
The Brickers brought Jen home in record time, and they raised her with their rough-and-tumble boys. She grew up climbing trees with her brothers, jumping off coffee tables, and giving her parents near heart attacks, as children are prone to do.
Raised in a small town, Jen’s adolescence was blessedly normal. There was no bullying, no harrowing story of kids being mean to her for being different. She attributes this golden childhood to God’s shielding.
Again, as Jen talks, you almost forget that she, of all people, had reason to grow up differently. She describes playing basketball, becoming a champion tumbler and horsing around with her brothers. It’s not until your mind jolts you back to reality that you remember she has no legs. How did she do all this without legs?
“My parents never discouraged me. Not once. They didn’t just tell me I could do whatever I wanted or that they believed in me. They backed up their words with actions,” she answers.
And words in the Bricker house almost never included “can’t.”
When she wanted to play softball and volleyball, or when she wanted to learn to roller skate, her parents always agreed. They didn’t outline all the reasons she couldn’t or try to manage her expectations. They just got creative and told her to put her hands in the skates.
Jen laughs humbly as she remembers asking her parents to buy her first pair of skates. “I was obsessed with the limbo. That’s why I wanted to learn how to skate. I won every single time.”
Jen laughs a lot. At turns she is joking about her life without legs—about how, instead of struggling to navigate the airplanes she’s constantly on in her international travels, she is more often struggling to have patience with, well, too much unnecessary help.
But for the most part, she’s intensely serious. Like when talking about the day her life took a dramatic turn, with a seemingly innocent question posed to her mom:
“Is there anything you know about my biological family that you haven’t told me yet?”
Jen says this question wasn’t formed out of distrust. She never sensed her parents had held anything back from her. It was formed instead out of what she believes was a spiritual force propelling that question out of her mouth like a grenade, landing in the middle of a conversation with her mom that would forever pivot the trajectory of her life.
Surreal and Natural
When Jen was a little girl beginning to excel in the world of tumbling, she paid attention to the great gymnasts and tumblers of her day. She watched the American team compete at the Olympics and followed all the best competitors. But her favorite was always Dominique Moceanu.
“I was drawn to her as a kid,” remembers Jen. “I knew she was Romanian like me, and I thought it was cool we kind of looked alike.”
Here is where Jen’s story takes a turn from merely inspirational to downright miraculous, bordering on unbelievable. She asked her mother—almost rhetorically—whether there was anything else she needed to know about her biological family.
Her mother unexpectedly revealed that her childhood hero, Dominique Moceanu, was her biological sister.
“I was stunned. Obviously, I was so very stunned. I thought that this was unreal, that this was crazy,” Jen remembers.
Not only did she share blood with her childhood hero, but she also found out she had a younger biological sister who looked exactly like her. In the course of one conversation, with one simple question, Jen’s whole life changed.
Jen spent the next four years journeying to meet her newfound family. It took several tries and several letdowns, but in May of 2008, Jen Bricker finally came face to face with her two sisters, Dominique and Christina.
Jen describes the moment she met them in distinctly contrasting terms.
“It was surreal, and it was natural. It was surreal because the way everything unfolded and went down—it was very much like a movie. And then natural because our DNA was so strong. We all sound alike. I look like both of them in different ways… we have the same interests and like the same foods.”
It’s hard to miss the juxtapositions in Jen’s life. Raised in a family full of boys, her biological heritage was shared with a family full of girls. Blessed with a normal, quiet childhood, her life was destined to become famous because of this miraculous turn of events. Meeting her flesh and blood for the first time was the most surreal feeling in the world mixed with the most natural.
Courage to Stand
Yet even as life swirls unpredictably around her, Jen remains firmly rooted in a strong faith that holds her higher than the world around her. When she’s asked how she can believe in a God who lets bad things happen, or who allows babies to be abandoned, or who lets children be born without legs, she is unwavering.
“From the outside, someone’s going to say, ‘How can you believe in a God when that kind of thing happens—when someone is born without legs, abandoned, put up for adoption, not even given a name?’ But that was the biggest blessing that happened in my life. That’s when my life shifted to the right course that changed my life for the better. So I think a lot of it is… just understanding the right perspective.”
And Jen’s perspective seems to be determinedly set on following a God who will allow her to do more than she could ever have hoped or imagined.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, Jen is pursuing her passion in the entertainment industry as an aerialist. She travels the world and speaks to thousands of people. She has released her first book, “Everything Is Possible,” and you can read the first chapter here—jenbricker.com/book/.
Jen says she hopes to one day have a family and, when she says this, there’s a smile in her voice over the phone. She says, again with that smile in her voice, she is just called to continue walking in faith and standing firm in her trust of the God who allowed her to do it all.
For Jen’s full story, be sure to get her new book, “Everything Is Possible.”