Thursday, December 9, 2010
I honestly don't even want to write this...it makes me weep. I am going to do so because I think it's important to remember the journey God takes us through in life. If we forget the path we've taken, we will be unable to extol him with the glory He so rightly deserves. Really what is life about anyway? Giving God glory.
"Consider it pure joy". Those words have been running through my mind and have been piercing my heart all day long. God tells us that we should be joyful in trials because it helps us to learn to persevere... it helps us become mature and complete in Him. Those words from James 1 are truth. Sometimes the truth hurts a little bit, yet still remains true.
Yesterday, our two year old daughter Isabella was diagnosed with autism.
Just saying that leaves my heart aching. It seems so real.
Back up a bit...
The second we laid eyes on that tiny little girl, I knew we were meant for each other. When I was pregnant with Bella, I remember praying to God one night, "God, if this little person inside me is "imperfect" in any way, I would be honored to call her my own"... What an ironic prayer? Where did those feelings in my heart come from? What the world regards as imperfect, God regards as beautiful...
Bella has been late in meeting all of her milestones (but we attributed that to her being a preemie and were told she'd catch up). Well, when Bella turned one I started noticing her falling more behind. I also noticed a few things that seemed a bit "different" from other kids her age. Namely, the fact that she rarely responded to her name, made eye contact, or granted me that winning smile of hers. Yes, friends... you must work hard for a smile... but it's so worth it:)
In the midst of this I started my Masters in Special Education. Not really because of Bella. I love helping kids learn who really NEED help. I think Special Ed. teachers are amazing. I know I am a patient person and I believed God could use me in this capacity. Well, as I was researching autism for my classes, I started analyzing Bella (of course). It was like I was reading a book written about her. Most doctors brushed my questions off stating, "well most babies do this" or "that's perfectly normal". I finally convinced Bella's pediatrician here to refer us to a specialist. It took almost half a year to get the appointment we went to yesterday. That is partly our fault because we've been traveling so much and partly the military's because they would not approve us for an appointment unless we came home.... so we did.
At the appointment she was observed for two hours. The Neurodevelopmental Pediatricians and a Speech Therapist worked with her while asking me questions and looking into her file. They then went away for 30 minutes and came back in the room (looking serious and a bit somber)....you know, the eyes that pity you....knowing they have some "news". They went through all of the observations and explained that Bella met and exceeded the checklist for autism spectrum disorder. Then they said it, "Bella has autism". I had held it together up to that point. But, when she said it... I lost it. I was alone in this room, looking at the love of my life and feeling like I had lost all sense of grounding. Like someone had tipped my life upside down and given me a few shakes for good measure. I cried, not because I wasn't expecting it... I was. I cried for Bella, then I cried for Josh. I knew this news was going to be harder for him to hear because he's been away from her for so long. He cannot hold her and kiss her to make it ok. I finally composed myself and told the doctor I was SO THANKFUL to finally hear those words come out of someone's mouth...
I got into my car and wept. Then composed myself again. I wasn't even sure why I was so sad. I think I was sad for my Bella. Only because she now has this label that people will use to try and "define" her... I will never let her be defined by a label. I can promise you that....
I was thankful for the diagnosis...and here's why...
Imagine (if you have children) never hearing your daughter say "mommy". She's never said it to me. But, it's ok. She says it in the way she holds me and kisses me. Imagine asking your child to do something 14 times and never, not once even getting eye contact. Imagine leaving your child at nursery and them not even noticing you left. Imagine trying to make a list 3 pages long for your babysitter (just to help them not encounter a melt down). :)
It all makes sense... that's why I am thankful. It explains why I work so hard with her and see such minor results. Minor results for me and Bella are major. I love them. I will read her 30 books a day just to get her to say a word we've been working on! So friends, I am not sad. I am not questioning God on this. I am thanking him for giving Josh and I such a gift. I have felt humbled to hear many of you (family/friends)s tell us that "if any couple could handle this, it's you".... humbled because we have to work really hard to be strong.... to be that couple.
We will rejoice in our suffering. I don't even consider it suffering. We will rejoice in our Bella. We love her endlessly. We also love all of the encouraging words we've received. We truly cherish your prayers!
A friend sent me some encouraging words from Psalm 34 (I selected my favorite parts)...
1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Lastly, Josh. I know this was hard to read. I love you. Bella loves you. We will be together soon and will enjoy each other once again... you are my dream.