Rhema’s Hope

This one’s for Maura – a sweet 13 yr. old I met in the waiting room today – who inspired this post.


When I was pregnant with Hope, people would ask me what we planned to name her. 

I always got nods of approval when I told them the name.

“Oh! What a nice name,” they’d say.

Then I’d follow up with, “Yeah, and her middle name is going to be SheSleepsThroughTheNight or She’sAGoodEater.” I’d get some weird looks.

Would you believe that I was so stupid that I was ANGRY at the world, myself, Brandon, and the ultrasound technician when we found out she was a girl? She was perfect and healthy, but I had the nerve to be upset because I wanted a boy.

I had no idea what God was doing.

Would you believe that I was so stupid that I actually had feelings of shame for being pregnant again? Rhema had a LOT of needs, and I wondered if her speech therapist thought I was being a tad irresponsible. I remember Rhema’s neurologist looking at my round belly and saying, “Aren’t you worried??”

I had no idea what God was doing.


She’s only 2.5 years old, but now I think I’m catching a glimpse of what God is doing…

She’s Rhema’s Hope.

She’s the one who demands hugs and high-fives …and gets them.

She’s the one who’s been sitting in therapy waiting rooms since she was weeks old. She’s the one who gleefully runs to Rhema and throws her arms around her after every appointment. Without fail.

She’s the one who reminds Rhema to use a spoon to eat her rice.

She’s the one who begs me to let her go with Rhema to her special needs school – because she’s in awe of her big sister.

She’s the one who cheers for her sister the loudest.

She’s the only friend Rhema’s ever had.

She’s the one who tells me sleepily as I tuck her into bed – as if she’s passing the torch to me – “Don’t forget to take care of Rhema.”

She’s the only one who tries to speak Rhema’s language instead of getting Rhema to speak hers.

She’s the one who understands sister on a deeper level than many adults. 

She’s the only one who can pull Rhema out of the gooey geyser.

Rhema’s hand is the only hand she wants to hold.  She pleads, “Rhema. Listen to Hope. I need you to hold my hand.” Rhema refuses. I try to explain to Hope that you have to have a firm grip to hold Rhema’s hand. Hope’s hand is simply too small. The words come out, but not exactly the way I mean them: “You’re not strong enough to hold her hand. You can’t walk with her yet.”


I stand corrected.



is strong enough

to hold her hand,

to walk with her,

 to be her companion.

And, Hope, although I wish you didn’t have to be such a wise old soul so young, I see God’s great love and provision for us in you.

Grateful does not even begin to describe this mother’s heart.


I see and read about “Hope’s” everyday. There’s Mark, John and Ben. There’s Allie. There’s Katie. There’s Rose. There’s Amy. There’s Piper. There’s Zachary. There’s Devin’s Olivia and Daniel’s Olivia and Christian’s Olivia. There’s Jeremy. There’s Laurie. There’s Lila. There’s Sarah. There’s Aidan. There’s Reilly, Sophie and Finn. There’s Cuddlebug and Bearhug. And many, many more (please feel free to write names I’ve missed in the comments).

Our special kids bring out the extraordinary in their siblings.

Note: I love that Hope respects Rhema’s position as the oldest even though Hope is “developmentally older.” As evidenced in the photo, she lets Rhema lead.

24 thoughts on “Rhema’s Hope

  1. i love this post. i love the praise for the siblings, every one of them. i have said it before – they will be the ones to change our world and the perfectly named hope will no doubt lead the charge.


    i can’t let the ‘i was stupid enough’ stand.

    darlin, nothing we FEEL is stupid. unenlightened i might buy, but not stupid. fear, shame – real stuff to churn through, and you did. ultimately – as you always do – you turned to God and you trusted in your faith. sometimes it takes a little doubt to make the bonds that much stronger.

    i’d like to ask you to envision hope or rhema coming to you someday and starting a sentence with, ‘mom, i can’t believe i was so stupid that i did …’

    what would you say to them?

    what would God say to you?

    be tender with yourself. forgiveness isn’t just for the rest of us.


    • thanks jess, i didn’t mean to convey that i still beat myself up about that. i don’t. what i meant to convey is that God knows so much better than me what’s good (perfect!) for my family.

  2. I always get to the end of your posts and have tears in my eyes.

    Yes, God knew what he was doing. He always does! He gave you just what you needed when you needed it.

    I love that Rhema has Hope and I love that Hope has Rhema. They seem to be such a perfect fit for one another.

    I continue to keep your family in my prayers.

  3. It was the other way around. I have a boy and wanted another, instead the OB said it was a girl. WOW. Connor is 4 and Ava just turned 2. They are so good for each other. Thanks for your post~

  4. “She’s the one who tells me sleepily as I tuck her into bed – as if she’s passing the torch to me – “Don’t forget to take care of Rhema.””

    This melts my heart (she’s so grown up)

    You have a real treasure.

  5. Gpd’s love is everywhere.I do not know why that phrase came into my mind,but I was thinking it as I read ths beautiful piece. His love is guiding HOPE,and his love is letting RHEMA respond and his love is showing you AND BRANDON his plan.Does that make sense.?
    Rhema and Hope are products of his LOve
    LOve Gramma Smith
    I wish I could express my self as well as you.but I hope you understand.

  6. …….you can add my Abigail…… I was about bawling when I finished this post. I can’t believe anyone ever told parents of children with special needs NOT to have siblings for them. Abigail wasn’t my choice (she was God’s CERTAINLY)….. HE is the only one who knew quite what she would mean to our family…. I am certain I still don’t know the degree to which HE has blessed us.

    “Rhema’sHope Mom…. Hope to parents everywhere” — God planned that one too!!

    ….reminding me of our BEST friend….. and a favorite song…

    “What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

  7. Hope is the perfect name for your sweet second girl. God’s hand was definitely all over your pregnancy. Aren’t you glad that sometimes He moves us forward even when we don’t think we are ready?

    I get frustrated that people say things like Rhema’s therapist, “Aren’t you worried?”
    It’s like a reporter sticking a microphone into someone’s face who has just lost something important or gone through devastation and saying, “How do you feel” or “What do you think went wrong?” I know it is human nature; I just wish people would consider their words more carefully…On the flip side of that I guess it can make one have to face their fears and can be a tool of God’s healing as well. Many stuff their fears and hurts as well.

  8. LOVE it!! Really beautiful, Jeneil.

    Have you all read the Juv. fiction book, Rules by Cynthia Lord? It’s about a Maura-aged sibling and her wealth of waiting room experience and wisdom. Awesome summer read that resonates.

    Praise God from whom all blessing flow…whenever we recognize them.

  9. The tears are in my eyes.

    I know I had people stop and look at my huge, round belly when Christian was going through his developmental testing. They had that “Is that the smartest thing?” look in their eyes. And I often wondered had we known about the autism earlier would we have tried to become pregnant at that point in time or waited. But God KNOWS. He knows what’s best for our family so much better than I do. And Christian and Olivia definitely are blessings to each other and to us.

    Thanks for the beautiful post. 🙂

  10. you know how I feel about siblings. I feel that’s why we didn’t get an answer about what the heck was going on with daniel, it gave me time to get preganant with Zachary. I think I would have been too scared had I really know the dianosis…but we will never know.

  11. Thank you for writing this.

    You think people judge you for having one more child in addition to your SN one? Try having FOUR other siblings when you have a SN one!

    My brother-in-law flat out came up to me when I was pregnant with our last child and told me I was being unfair to Natalie by having more children. I hate visiting my husband’s family. I feel like they blame me for Natalie not being high-functioning. I blame myself enough for that as it stands.

  12. Now I better understand the reason behind the name of your blog; I’m late in coming to your story, so I was so glad to read this bit of family understanding.

    Younger siblings seem to always stand in awe of the older’s. My youngest child is 6; she has three older brothers (20, 18, 8). I am so glad for the hierarchy that allows her the “leaning into” her familial elders. She needs them and will continue to do so in the days ahead. I imagine much the same for your daughters.

    Again, thank you for bringing my gratitude to the forefront for the life of my children. They are such a gift to the world…all of them.

    Sometimes it takes a mother to recognize this truth!

    Keep to it.


  13. Ahhh. This is beautiful. Made me cry.

    My daughter is an only child with cystic fibrosis. When I found out I could have no more childen, I prayed God would send my daughter friends that would be like brothers and sisters to her…and He did.

    My angel is named Courtney. My DD has been friends with Court since kindergarten. They are getting ready to start 8th grade together. She is that sibling my child will never have…bugs her to take her meds, get her treatments, and goes to the doc and hospital with us. She knows as much about cystic fibrosis as we do.

    PS: Nicole C. Mullen is one of my favorite artists….and the daughter’s too!

  14. I love this post! The love between siblings is something special for sure, and you have such a great way of putting it into words. The picture of Rhema and Hope is beautiful!

  15. Pingback: The Blog I Always HAVE to Read « To Sleep, Or Not to Sleep…

  16. This was beautiful, touching and inspiring. I love it!!! I’m excited and happy to be expecting again and sometimes in a weaker moment and I’m afraid, but God doesn’t make mistakes and I will trust in his plan for us. This post was perfect…thank you!!

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