Several weeks ago I got an e-mail from an old friend. He was telling me about his 9 year-old daughter Allison, who was troubled by a belief that her teacher didn’t like her. She explained to him that her teacher (who gives stars for positive behavior) used to give her tons of stars. Allison was one of the leaders on the star board. But then all of a sudden the stars stopped coming for Allison, while other kids continued to get lots of stars. Some kids had gotten 15 or 20 stars since she last got a star. In her dry spell, she went from near the top to absolute bottom. When pressed, she confessed that okay, “there was this one ne’erdowell kid who had fewer stars than her, but among the human kids, she was dead last.”
Allison’s father suggested that they pray that she would find favor in her teacher’s eyes. So they did. The next day he asked her, “Did you get a star today?” She said that she did (her first star in like 10 days). When he cheered, she protested, “But EVERYONE got a star today. It was a star for everyone because we were good.” He said, “I understand what you’re saying. But we prayed to God for Him to help you to find favor in the teacher’s eyes. If she truly didn’t like you then she would have given everyone BUT YOU a star. Right?” (She begrudgingly said, “Yes.”) Her father continued, “Don’t cheapen God’s blessing. He answered your prayer today.”
Allison went on to get stars every day for a week, and she pulled out of last place. She came home one day and exclaimed, “Daddy, this is DEFINITELY God!”
What’s so special about this little girl and endearing about this story is that this occurred during the week when Allison’s mother received a diagnosis of breast cancer. And yet, Allison can still recognize the blessings in her life (like stars) and can proclaim with a knowing in her heart, “This is definitely God” as He moves on her behalf.
Why did I share that little story?
Lately, I’ve been troubled with something JoyMama illuminated recently. Elvis sightings. It’s a one-time utterance or action that comes surprisingly out of nowhere, and then disappears again. Or it’s something new and exciting that Rhema will do for a time, such as say hi or yeah, and then without warning she will seemingly lose the skill.
I hesitate to tell friends about Rhema’s progress sometimes because they do not understand the nature of these things. When I tell someone, she said Hi, they are so happy for us all assuming that the “language explosion” has finally come.
(I realize that this is not just something that affects kids with classic autism. My friend has a son with high functioning autism, and she told me that on a recent vacation they were absolutely amazed because he acted so typical. For a couple days, she and her husband caught a glimpse of “typical” in their son.)
Although we have come to expect that these things will go away, these glimpses – the Elvis sightings- leave us a little baffled, heartbroken and discouraged each time. Perhaps the hardest part is knowing that we won’t know when the last time will be that we will hear the word or see the action (- some other form of communication such as signing or consistent eye contact). We live waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Allison’s story about the stars was well-timed for me. First, I think I need to learn the same lesson: don’t cheapen God’s blessing. Like streams in the desert, God has allowed me rare insight into my daughter through these Elvis sightings. I’m learning to be thankful for them, as they are, pure and simple. Thankful that each “Elvis sighting” is just a little dollop of encouragement to keep pressing on. Thankful that the gains and setbacks keep us humble, keep us from taking anything for granted. Thankful that we know how to cherish the little things.
Again, I’m thankful for this space. That I can write about the unexpected, out-of-the-blue, blow-your-mind gains. And that there are friends who will cheer each step forward (even if there are two steps back). Friends who help us celebrate each and every little victorious moment, even if it is just for a moment.
I want to change my own demeanor and language starting right here, right now.
Instead of telling you,
“I think Rhema’s been saying “Mama” today (she’s home sick), but I know it’s not going to last…”
I’m saying, “Rhema’s been calling me Mama today…
This is DEFINITELY God!”