We missed the “deadline.”

She’s turning five.

That magic number in autism world has come. The age where “early intervention” is no longer early, and brain plasticity is… not so “plastic.” The age where the “window” of opportunity supposedly slams shut.

Three years ago we got the memo: For a “favorable” outcome, she should be talking by age five… or you can pretty much give up on her ever having functional speech.

So with a sense of urgency we have been fighting time, racing the clock, and trying to play catch up with our tails on fire. Three long years and a bazillion therapy hours later, our due date has come.

She’s turning five.

Many friends have recently assured me that this is just an “artificial boundary”. That some of their children actually made their greatest gains after five. (Thank you for the encouragement.)

And yet, as I look at her now – tall, lovely, and other-wordly… I know that we have entered a new chapter. Ready or not.

She’s turning five.

We prayed. We hoped against hope.

But the truth is, she has the receptive and expressive language of a 12-month old. If that. She will not understand that it’s her birthday. She will not march off to the local kindergarten with her peers. Last month, the neuro said that medicine had done all it could do. …

But I can say with all my heart, that HOPE did not disappoint. Hope, as in that knowing that things will turn out for the best — that hope did not, will not, shame us. Hope taught (and is teaching) us about patience. And faith. And character. And JOY. And perseverance. (Rom. 5:3-5)

We yet have hope, and Jesus is the fount of our hope. Hope abounds!

So I want to honor Rhema.

I want to honor the God who fearfully and wonderfully made her.

Rhema, on 4/4/04 at 4-something p.m. (I think that’s so cool), God gave you to me. That evening, you were crying a lot. Your father was away in a war zone. I whispered in your ear, all business-like, “So it’s you and me, girl. We gotta stick together.”

And you have stuck with me, my darling. I am so very thankful for you, for this journey. God has blessed you; He is speaking through your life. And lately you seem to be at peace with yourself, even comfortable in your own skin. I see you. You try so hard. You have a tenacity about you that blesses, challenges and inspires me. When you are determined and motivated, I believe you can do anything.

Your father and I know that God has amazing plans for you.

I admire you and love you so. I’m so glad you’re mine.

We celebrate you, sweet girl.


36 thoughts on “Five

  1. Our kids operate on their own timelines, no matter what artificial ones we try to impose in our own minds.

    What a beauty Rhema is. And a blessing.

    Happy, happy birthday, beloved!

  2. I love this picture of Rhema. She looks so happy. I admire your faith and your way of seeing the positive side in whatever life throws you.

    You know our girls… just when we’ve got something figured out, the rules change. I’m waiting for Rhema to blow you away at 5 and 2 days. We’ll be on the lookout for that post.

    Love you all; give Rhema a good birthday blanket rubdown for us.

  3. Happy Birthday, Rhema, you precious thing!

    Jeneil, I found these references for the number five:

    “Five – THE NUMBER OF GRACE. Redemption.

    Israel came out of Egypt 5 in rank (Ex. 13:18). David picked up 5 smooth stones to fight Goliath (1 Sam. 17:40). The Holy Anointing Oil was pure and composed of 5 parts (Ex. 30:23-25). Five is 4 + 1; there are 3 persons in the Godhead; 4 represents their created work. “The creation was made subject to corruption, mankind has sown to itself corruption, there is no life without death. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.” (Rom. 8:20). In this verse the word translated as creature is the Greek word ktivsi (ktis’-is), which means the creation, the thing created, or the act of founding or establishing. The Greek word translated as vanity is mataiovth (mat-ah-yot’-ace), which means what is devoid of truth and appropriateness, perverseness, depravity, frailty, want of vigour. Thus this verse could read, “For the creation was made subject to frailty…” Five is the creation plus another. The only possible answer to the corruption and death that is an inevitable part of the creation is Gods power of redemption. There is no aspect of creation and especially of mankind that deserves or could earn redemption. God can only give redemption as a free unmerited gift. There is an old fashioned word for this undeserved favor, grace. Five is the number of grace.”

    (Not sure about that first reference to Exodus 13:18 …)

    And, another reference:

    FIVE – Denotes Divine grace. It is 4+1. It is God adding His gifts and blessing to the works of His hands. The Heb. Ha’aretz (the earth), by “Gematria” (ie. the addition of the numerical value of the letters together) is a multiple of four, while Hashamayim (the heavens) is a multiple of five. The Gematria of (charis), the Greek for Grace, is also a multiple of five. It is the leading factor in the Tabernacle measurements.

    I was also struck by these references to “five” in the Bible”
    -Jesus fed 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes (isn’t Hope 2?!) (ref. Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6)
    “When the portions were served … Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s.” (Genesis 43:34)

    Sorry so long … again. 😀

  4. and that smile says it all.

    Love……..bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
    1 Corinthians 13:48

    and this is why Rhema never ever fails because your love for her never fails.

    Ok yes I do know the Bible a bit you can all pick your chins up off the floor now.

    Happy Birthday to a beautiful little girl! Show’em what ya got in there Rhema!!!

  5. Through you, Rhema’s life has spoken volumes — to me and to so many others. You may never know the impact you have had or will have — all because a little girl was born 5 years ago. Happy Birthday, Rhema!

  6. Okay Jeneil, so I’ve been super busy and haven’t dialed into your blog since “Extra Special Olympian.” What a feast of posts was waiting for me tonight! I love hearing about your life and sharing in the ups and downs. I’m inspired so profoundly by you, and your beautiful Rhema is in my heart always–every day her name passes my lips in prayer. Happy birthday, darling. Yes, indeed, God has great plans for you! Would love to connect with you soon.

  7. Ok Jenn, that line about picking our chins off the floor is CRACKING ME UP!

    Ya’ll are the best! Thank you for the birthday blessings for Rhema. 8)

  8. Look at that smile…. now look deeper at the smile in her eyes. Doctors can give statistics and estimates. But doctors are not God. There is only one God and He knows her future. He has special plans for Rhema. In HIS time she will hit the milestones. This is just the beginning of her miraculous testimony. For now, she is happy and she is loved. That is what is most important. Rhema has the support of her sister and amazing parents.
    Happy Birthday Rhema! You are a beautiful child of God!!!!

  9. All I can say Sis is “He’s an on-time God, yes He is…”

    I praise God for seeing Rhema to 5 precious years, and I look forward to hearing her sing Happy Birthday one day!

    I love you!

  10. How can or kids possibly be turning FIVE?

    I’ll be on the road, driving 10 hours with 2 kids by myself to see some relatives for Kayla’s birthday, but I’ll make sure to be thinking of Rhema at 4PM tomorrow!

    Happy Birthday, Amazing Girl!

  11. oh love, hold that hope and faith as closely and as dearly as you hold that beautiful little girl.

    happy birthday, sweet rhema.

    remember the man who came up to me to tell me that his grandson spoke his first words at 8.

    remember michael? this michael ..

    incredible, poised, articulate, college bound michael. michael who plays varsity football. michael who didn’t speak at five.

    numbers, dates? nit a chance vs love, faith and hope.

  12. Happy Birthday, Rhema!

    I understand feeling like missing the “5 deadline.” We are coming up on that soon and Christian will not be “functioning without help in a kindergarten classroom” next year like what was predicted three years ago. But that doesn’t mean we give up hope, either, because he has come SO FAR with what he has had to go through and I know just how brilliant he is — I can see it in his eyes. I can see that in Rhema’s eyes, too. May God continue to shower his blessings on Rhema, you, Hope, and your husband. Thank you again for such beautiful posts!

  13. Everyone is so nice and all I can say is this just makes me angry. Not at you, but at the people who make us feel like our children have a deadline. I know full well the feelings this brings up in parents. ALSO I have NEVER heard 5 as a deadline?? I always heard 7. So what’s with that? I heard 7 forever. I was in such a panic about Daniel turning 7. He has made more strides forward since 7 than before 7 I can tell you that. He, with a lot of speech therapy, is still, at 12, learning more about our language EVERY SINGLE day. I am constantly seeing great changes and leaps forward with his use and understanding of the language. We, as adults continue to learn every day of our lives (hopefully) why can our children not too? Why do they make us feel like the door is slamming shut? Luckily, you will see, I am SURE of it, that it isn’t slamming shut but that she has so much growing and maturing to do. I just had a parent tell me yesterday that her son did not have any speech at all until 6. He is 17 now and communcates fairly well. Don’t buy into this Jenille. Your boundless love and support of her is what she needs (and has!) the most. Bless you and your girl on her 5th birthday. Sorry for the rant.

  14. I’ve learned to ignore those deadlines as well. They could’ve driven me crazy. I’ve always had hope, but I struggle with trust. I remember selling my plans to God and deciding that Becca wouldn’t even have a diagnosis by five. Ha! I’ve really had to let go of all that. Jeneil, whatever He has planned for Rhema, you know it’s a perfect plan. God bless your beautiful girl! Happy Birthday, Rhema.

  15. Ok second comment cause I couldn’t stop thinking of you all today.

    We all know I am probably one of the least religious people that reads your blog, however, I think only God’s deadline matters and you won’t know when that is until He is ready to share that with you and your family personally.

    So the next person that shoves a deadline at you, tell them to stick it but ya know nicely like you know how to do not all nasty like I know how to do but if ya need the NASTY feel free to call me.


  16. Pumpkin Pie is six and still not talking or completely toilet-trained. I know how you feel about that “deadline”. I don’t ever want to give up hope but how can you not when everyone says that if they are not talking by five than they likely never will.

  17. A perfect week to celebrate this gift of life! Happy Birthday to Rhema and to her mom who has the courage and the pen for remembrance. Keep to it, and may the cross of Jesus Christ never shine brighter in your heart than in this pilgrimage of holy and consecrated privilege.


  18. Cried when I read this. We recently go the “kindergarten packet” in the mail. No, Jack will not be going to “regular” kindergarterten. Not even close to ready. The unexpected mail was sort of a kick-in-the-gut reminder that our life is full of those unexpected moments…

    But we have so many daily unexpected moments of victory. He truly seems to be a happy kid.. Definitely on his own timeline, but moving and grooving forward (most days.. :)) Rhema is moving and grooving too.

  19. Five schmive!@*#@#$%^&* As our early intervention case manager reminded me, this is a marathon not a sprint…and then when she moved on to get her PhD. showed me research that indicates our kids don’t really come “online” until about 12. Basically who knows, right? God alone. Love your message to Rhema. All of it true.

  20. Your little girl is just so beautiful. Her soul is present in her eyes alone. I am new to your blog and impressed by your hope and faith. Thank you for sharing them with me.

  21. Happy birthday RhemaLove.I know that someday you may find the cure for Autism,because God does not have deadlines for his Blessed children (and aren’t they all Blessed,)
    Love and kisses from GreatGramma and Grampa Smith

  22. My heart goes out to you. Good for you and your great attitude. My son’s birthday is May 28, 2004. He will be 5 in a little over a month. He was “supposed” to be caught up by now. A “delay” implies that you will eventually get there. We have done a bazillion dollars worth of therapy, ABA and biomedical interventions. Yet, our son speaks less now than he did at age 2. It’s heartbreaking. The poor little guy does not deserve it. I wish I had your attitude. I still feel so angry and hurt all the time.

  23. Rhema Beans,

    Auntie Chell loves you so. My prayers for your life have not changed. For years now I have prayed for you as Paul prayed. He said, “Pray for me that whenever I open my mouth utterance would be given me that I might boldly proclaim the mysteries of the gospel for which I am a bondsmen in chains that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak” I saw this as a prayer for you to be able to communicate verbally one day with all the glory going to God. I still have that faith. But I have come to see that God can get glory from your life without you uttering a single word. One way he has done this is through your mother. She has spoken for you in a way that has lifted thousands and drawn many closer to the gospel. Life gives us all our own form of chains and we have a choice whether or not to glorify God in the midst of them. These chains of Autism we never expected but they can not stop your life from speaking boldly about the greatness of our God. They never have and never will. And when I am tempted to despair or lose hope I will remember that scripture teaches us that our own Savior Jesus, in the midst of great suffering before he went to the cross, “entrusted himself to him that judges justly”.1Peter2:23 In keeping with his example I will entrust you to that same God my precious Rhema who judges justly. I have so many questions of why and how long but I will not put God on trial concerning you. I will trust him. Though to me your suffering can at times seem pointless I will trust him Rhema. And when I am longing to hear your voice I will thank him for the smile that lights our hearts and know that your life is speaking boldly and our God IS being glorified. And as your mommy does and always will I will celebrate you! Happy Birthday my sweet sweet girl.

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