This past Sunday, Eric (my husband), and I shared our Faith Story about how Autism has affected our lives, at our newly created Special Needs Life Group at Cool Spring Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, VA, called “Building Bridges Life Group”. If you are a Special Needs parent please email me at Godfeedsus@gmail.com and I will send you our flyer which shares with you more about this Life Group and the dates of our next meetings.
So, when the leader, Sandra Bellina, asked us to share, I was like, “Sure, no problem!” On the day of our sharing though, I realized I had never publicly shared our Faith Story about Autism, only about Gabriel’s Faith Story with his MIRACULOUS heart healing a couple of days after he was born in 2004. Thankfully, God blessed me with the words to share and this was written in about 15 minutes due Him. When I read it that night, tears rolled down my cheeks, but it was like I was able to let go of a burden that I had been carrying on my own for so long. I praise God for bringing this Life Group to fruition and Sandra’s obedience in starting it. Thank you to Wendy Atkinson and the Bridge Builders Special Needs Ministry at Cool Spring, too, not only for childcare during our meetings, but for helping raise our children in the faith. God Bless You All for the Time and Effort and Love You Provide Our Children.
Now, here is what I shared on Sunday. Thank you for reading!
November 4, 2004, Gabriel was born and within hours of his birth he was diagnosed with an “aortic coarctation” and rushed from Memorial Regional to UVA’s hospital in an “operating room on wheels” in case an emergency surgery needed to take place.
At this time, we weren’t attending a church, but a friend’s father who was a pastor came to pray over Gabriel and the results were a healing that even doctors said were miraculous. Gabriel grew into his name that day and just like the angel, Gabriel, he speaks of the coming of Christ to those who will listen.
Fast forward 6 years to May 7, 2010, the day Gabriel was diagnosed with Autism. Where was he on the spectrum we did not know because the doctor said he was too young. Already, this date on the calendar held a devastating loss for my husband due to the loss of his first wife in 2000 and now another dream was dashed by the diagnosis of our son. As we ate hot dogs at a nearby restaurant, we kept asking ourselves, “Why would God miraculously heal our baby boy’s heart only to now have Autism?”
I still ask that question on the tough days.
- On the days where homework is hard to get through because he’s below grade level, his ADHD medicine has worn off, and he is in sensory overload because he’s kept it all together all day at school and now Mom is asking him to do even more boring schoolwork.
- On the days I see his same age peers ignoring him as they laugh, giggle and relate to each other so effortlessly while he is alone playing by himself.
- On the days that I am stressing over his future (especially in regards to the school environment). Public schools would not even recognize him as having autism (with a doctor’s note to boot), so no services were provided except for Speech and OT which pushed us into homeschooling him in 2nd and 3rd grade praying THIS was the answer. But, the stress level was too high for all of us and we found ABA therapy, through Spectrum Transformation Group, which helped to prepare Gabriel for returning to the public school classroom and advocated for us in IEPs so now he has Autism services in a school not in our district. Yet the battle now rages again due to starting Middle School next year.
- And on the days where I scroll through FB and see all of the awards and sports my friends’ children are achieving while I am happy that I can lure him to Challenger Basketball for the promise of a Coke and a Hot Dog.
Yep, I wonder why God healed Gabriel as a baby just to go through a different kind of heartbreak. The daily exclusion from the world and the difficulties to understand how to function in this world.
Today, April 10, 2016, I am sharing for the first time my Faith Story about Autism. I have shared Gabriel’s miraculous heart-healing testimony a few times in front of various groups, but never the Autism side of our Faith Story and I have found this to be a MUCH HARDER story to put to words.
Why? Because I have no closure. I have no pretty package, wrapped up nicely with a big polka-dotted bow that I can give as a present to another hurting, exhausted special needs parent.
Nope, I’m still living this AUTISM diagnosis out EVERY….SINGLE…DAY. Sometimes successfully – but most of the time not.
I mean, I do hand Gabriel over to God often, as I did when he was born, but that was because I knew there was nothing I could do to fix Gabriel’s heart. But, then a few hours or days later, I take my boy right out of God’s hands because of my impatience God. He’s just not working fast enough for me so that means I must need to fight harder, try some new therapy or diet or way of teaching him. I think to myself that I am the only one who can solve all of the problems and make the world easier for him to live in.
Well, then, my anxiousness reaches a point of being paralyzed with indecision and tears which won’t stop rolling down my cheeks and my husband has to lift my broken spirit back up into a standing position to remind me that together, with God as the head, we are doing the best for Gabriel in His timing…not our timing. And He has a good plan for our boy.
I will wipe my tears and be OK for a little while, but then the cycle returns and I will again feel like I’m not doing enough. It never feels like enough.
Which is why a scene in the recent movie we saw, “The Family Next Door” when, the mom, Donna Lund, says to the camera that she always feels guilty like she isn’t doing enough, I burst into tears. How could I not? I had found a kindred soul! I wasn’t the only mom out there who lived in this guilt daily!
When I was able to meet her at the screening of the movie a few weeks ago at the Byrd Theater (sponsored by the Autism Society of Central Virginia), I asked her through tears, what do I do?
We had a good chuckle because she feels the same way about her journey as I do about my sharing of this Incomplete Faith Story…she is still living through it with no clear resolution yet. This meant she couldn’t give me a map to follow, but she could say to me, that I am being the best advocate I can be for my son. She told me to Let Go of my perceptions of what Gabriel should be and like in his life. Instead, she said, let Gabriel be Gabriel.
So, just like Donna Lund couldn’t give me the answers, I can’t give you all clear-cut answers on what to do for your children to ensure they will be active members of society. What I can give you through my Faith in Jesus Christ, is a peace, understanding, and compassion as a special needs mom who walks in your shoes daily. I can give you an ear that listens and a box full of tissues so we can both dry our eyes as we continuously give our children back to their Father in Heaven. God is in control and He constantly shows me that through these two verses that I have hanging over my computer and which I carry in to each IEP meeting we attend.
And your children shall be taught by the Lord and great will be the peace of your children.
God will fight the battle for you and you? Keep your mouths shut!
In conclusion, I want us to remember that life hurts no matter if your child is deemed “normal” or “disabled”. Our job, while here, is to be in daily communication with our Lord in Heaven and to share our faith with our children, as well as, to love our children has He loves us.
I’ve done my best to share my faith to Gabriel through the life he sees me living and the music we listen to and the activities we participate in. I haven’t hid my son from the world (though I want to out of fear), but I force myself to place him out there to experience the world as only he can and to have an effect on the world that only he can!
And God has blessed me with following His commands because Gabriel became a believer over 2 years ago and was baptized here on October 19, 2014. This boy teaches me so much more than I teach him in regards to faith since he was born. He will pray (at the drop of a hat) if he hears of someone hurting. He will stand up for the child or adult he feels is being bullied or made fun of, he will speak openly about Jesus without fear, and he can’t wait to get to Heaven one day (in God’s timing) so he can spend all of his days with Jesus. What a testament to the Special Needs Ministry here at Cool Spring and to the staying power of the truth because through this all, Eric and I have not given up on God and His Story for our son and for us.
Hugs, Blessings and JOY ALWAYS!