A Moment Captured

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Cor 13:12


This photo has entranced us.

On Christmas day, Rhema’s grandmother snapped this picture of Rhema and her Uncle Ben.

I cannot quite explain it, but it’s a picture of a Rhema we rarely see.

For a brief moment, I fancied that this is what she would look like without the autism.

People often refer to autism as the invisible disability. The physical appearance of a child with ASD is usually no different than any other child. Certainly, at first glance, there is nothing about Rhema that screams “disability.” Friendly people in the grocery store (or wherever) seem naturally drawn to her. They make conversation with her – “Oh, what pretty pink boots you have!”, “Are you helping Mom shop today?”, “Are those cookies for you?” When she fails to look at them or respond, I usually explain about her autism and the fact that she has trouble communicating.

But to the experienced eye, sometimes autism has a “look.” For Rhema, it’s a faraway look – her big brown eyes set in a pale face, with dark circles underneath. The picture below was taken less than a year ago (-she’s come so far since then).  (Imagine me kneeling in front of her, slightly to the right, calling her name over and over. She does not, cannot look at me directly.)


I know I’m not alone when I say this: we have been trying to get a good picture of her for years. To capture a moment on film when she is
1) actually looking up, making eye contact
2) still
3) smiling
She smiles and giggles at her own private jokes. But so rarely do we get an “engaging smile.”


After cropping and zooming the picture every which way, it dawned on me that this is not a snapshot about autism, with or without.

It’s just my Rhema.

Finally. There she is.

And for once I get to gaze – as I long as I want – into those beautiful eyes.  She’s looking at me and smiling back at me.  She’s telling me with her eyes what she cannot yet express with words.  “I’m happy, Mommy. I’m feeling better… I’m loved.”

Thank you, Lord! In the end, isn’t that what we want for our children?

I’m thankful that we get to see it and hold on to it.

The fog is lifting. 

There’s so much more of her to see. I can hardly wait. 


In your eyes, I can see my dream’s reflections
In your eyes, found the answers to my questions
In your eyes, I can see the reasons why our love’s alive
In your eyes, we’re drifting safely back to shore
And I think I’ve finally learned to love you more

-George Benson

23 thoughts on “A Moment Captured

  1. I can get a good eye-contact photo of Foster about 15 – 25% of the time, but only if the photo is just him. Something about having anyone else in the picture totally overwhelms him. J and I were just talking about it last night – I have this photo from Disney Animal Kingdom of J & all the kids on my desktop and it’s nice (especially since I don’t get to see my husband in person every day lately) but it hurts me that Foster looks so affected and uncomfortable. J was frustrated with me that I can’t just enjoy the photo for what it is – a beautiful photo of OUR kids, just as they are. But it does bother me, because I KNOW he’s in there. And every time I see a photo of him turning away or with his eyes averted, way off to the side… I just want to DO something.

    I love that photo of Rhema – she looks so happy and engaged. She looks like she’s connecting not only with Uncle Ben, but also with her grandmother behind the camera. Amazing. Beautiful.

  2. Beautiful photo, beautiful girl! Right into the camera, wow!

    Yes, this thing about not getting eye-contact photos, we know it well. Our Christmas photo this year didn’t have eye-contact from Joy. When we try to get THE WHOLE FAMILY into such a shot, all bets are off.

    Every once in a while, though, the Joy just blazes through. Such a blessing.

  3. Simply beautiful Jeneal! God is so faithful to give us precious moments of affirmation and encouragement. It was just as her name states, a “breath of God”…maybe Him blowing you a heavenly kiss?

  4. What a beautiful picture! She has such a brightness in her eyes.

    I’m glad cameras are digital these days because it takes about 30 shots to maybe get one of Kayla making eye contact.

  5. What a great picture of Rhema. I know what you mean about children with autism having a “look”. Pumpkin Pie has it, too, in a lot of her pictures. I can often tell a child with autism just by looking now also since I am so used to seeing it.

    Pumpkin Pie’s dark circles have faded very dramatically with antifungal treatment. I had to snap a few pictures of her improved health to realize just how much she has changed since this summer.

  6. What a BEAUTIFUL photo! What a BEAUTIFUL GIRL!!

    I love your opening Scripture, too, Jeneil (1 Cor. 13:12). As I read your post, my heart was also led to another:

    And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

    What a precious reflection of His glory! 🙂

  7. Uh, I don’t know why my Scripture reference ends with a smiley face in sunglasses; it was supposed to be the closing parenthesis! Maybe the glare of the glory was just too bright; “the future’s so bright, ya gotta wear shades” … 😀

  8. Yes, again, I know what you mean….we just got our first relly good family portrait in 10 years serendipitously at a church directory photo shoot, of all places. It was magically redeemed when the photographer asked Reid to put his arms around my neck from behind. Never know what it takes?! In yours, it strikes me that Uncle Ben must be pretty special and have a chemistry that makes Rhema feel secure in herself.

  9. Wow! What a sweet gift. She is totally breathtaking, captivating.

    Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
    Give light to my eyes… Ps. 13:3

  10. It is quite lovely.

    Sometimes I used to think it was just because it’s impossible with three but then I learned otherwise.

    I used to think I’d try and duct tape them to the floorboards to get a shot, but of course…..

    I think it must be all the more difficult when there are so many little girls who quickly ‘get’ the camera, often from a quite early age and then they pirouette and pose with glee. Strangely, very few girls have a similar attitude when they become women, even if they are very beautiful. More recently my older boy will attempt a pose occasionally. I hope it will become more frequent. I can’t make predictions but it may just be that when she’s a little older there will be more photographs, just like this one, the document her growth in so many teeny tiny huge ways, and maybe if we’re even luckier, when they’re all grown up they won’t conform and grow camera shy like the rest of us. We can but hope, but we’re very good at that.
    Best wishes as always.

  11. Jeneil, I was so blown away by this photo of Rhema. She is so full of life. It captured me right away. I was filled with tears of joy and thanksgiving.

    I want to thank you for reminding me daily of the hope that lies within. You continue to bless me not only with your eloquent writing, but also how you find the beauty of our Lord in all this. You and Brandon are an encouragement to more than just parents living with the challenges you may face every day; your love and faith are a true testimony of God’s unfailing love.

    Please know that you are all in my prayers. I love you.

    Your Sister in Christ,

  12. What a gorgeous girl! I think you’re going to get more and more shots like that. We’ve been through all that as well. I have hundreds of pictures where Becca is totally disengaged, with that faraway look, or worse, twisting and squirming away as if being held for a family picture was just torture. That’s changing as she slowly recovers. Now she actually likes posing and showing off for the camera.

  13. What a beautiful post! I read it a few days ago but decided to come back and comment. I even let my teenager read the bit about Hosea (He had to prepare to teach his class about Hosea this week).

    Rhema is so lovely.

    Song of Sol 2:14
    O My dove, who are in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is beautiful.

  14. Hi My first time at your site. What a beautiful girl. I was going to say “the fog is lifting” then you said that. My son is 12, until he was 2 1/2 he could smile right at you. It disappeared and took years, but it has been coming back. Now he often takes good pictures and smiles all the time. You have so much to look forward to!

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