Hound of Heaven

**Thank you so much for the cards to Brandon. I think he’s going to be the most popular soldier in Iraq! I know it means so much to him that people are thinking of him during this time. Thank you!**

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A few weeks ago, after Rhema’s Special Olympics gymnastics practice, I stopped to get the mail. It was 5:30 and already very dark outside. Our mailbox is located next to a fairly busy road, at the end of a long semi-circular driveway. I put the van in park, grabbed the keys out of the ignition and jumped out to get the mail. (Getting the mail was Brandon’s jobs and now that it’s mine… well, I’m doing good if I check the mail once a week.) It crossed my mind that it was risky to leave the van with the girls in it, but the mailbox was only a few steps away. We had lots of mail and it took me a few extra moments to gather it all.

As I climbed back into the van I saw that Rhema’s car seat was empty. I scanned the vehicle fast – maybe she had climbed into the back seat or the trunk? Not there. I felt sick to my stomach. “Hope, where’s Rhema???” I said desperately. My heart was pounding so loudly, I could barely hear myself speak. “Did she get out???!!!” I demanded.

“Yeah, she got out!”

After a few minutes of frantically searching the streets and calling her name, I heard her soft, happy hum. She was obscured by a huge evergreen tree, but I knew she was making her way down the other side of the driveway. I grabbed her in my arms, Rhema, and led her back to the car.

The thing I found most troubling about this particular escape is that Rhema seemed like she was on a journey of which I could never be a part. Completely oblivious to the danger or the cold, she was contentedly on her way, her eyes seeing things I could not see. She did not need me or anyone else – she was making her way, enjoying herself, her thoughts and her freedom in the dark. It seemed like if I had not stopped her, she would have just kept walking and walking and walking.  

It reminded me of something I read in the book Jewel by Bret Lott. A young man tells his mother that his sister who has Down Syndrome will always need someone to take care of her, to follow her as she walks through her life. “Momma, there’s somebody going to be following her the rest of her days,” he says.  

And I see myself following, chasing Rhema constantly, continuously– be it to prevent her from putting some non-edible in her mouth or getting into a mess or running into a busy street.

And our lives, hers and mine, stretch out before me.

And I will not grow weary; I will readily follow for as long as it takes. For I love her more than life.

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In this Advent season, I cannot help but think of God the Father chasing after us, longing to share the journey with us. From the first page to the last, the Bible tells the story of the Lord pursuing relationship with us. But all we like sheep had gone astray… turned our backs, took our own path… got lost. So great was His desire to bring us back to Himself, He sent His son to walk our road in this world.

C.S. Lewis wrote of his encounters with this ‘Hound of Heaven’:

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England …The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?”

Why would He choose to pursue me again and again? Me with my fickle, wandering heart and stubborn pride. How could He still want me as I am, and then bathe me in new mercies and healing forgiveness? I cannot understand why, but grace is the story of His pursuit of me.

When I think of myself chasing my daughter “across the margins of the world,” I think of the compassion of the Lord of Christmas, come down from heaven to be our Emmanuel, God with us.

He will not grow weary; He will readily follow for as long as it takes. For He loves more than life.

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18 thoughts on “Hound of Heaven

  1. I grow weary just reading this story. Your grace amazes me.

    I’m reminded of my favorite verse, from the book of Ruth : “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people will be my people, and thy God my God.”

    • Thanks for this. I love that verse! I said it in my wedding vows to my husband. Never imagined it would someday be applicable to my daughter.

  2. So scary. There was just a case in Canada where an autistic boy wandered out of his house in the cold and snow and they didn’t find him for a few days. It is so difficult for parents because they can not watch a child 24/7 and no matter how many precautions they take sometimes it is still impossible. Does Rhema also have home based services after school? I would get a lot of safety and ADL objectives written into her IEP and have the Neuropsych. recommend the need for home based services so she can be taught these skills in her home setting. Also, I am really, really against residential placement but sometimes it may be appropriate for the safety of a child. Has this ever been raised at IEP meetings?

    • Good suggestions on getting safety objectives in the IEP. We have a speech pathologist that works with her on weekends outside the home. We have been taking her to different doors and elevators and training her to wait for me (or another adult) to open the door. It’s a work in progress, but she’s getting it. Last weeked we let her roam and just quietly followed her. On 2 occassions she stopped and waited (-she didn’t look at us, but she stopped-) before going through a door.

  3. Oh, what love the Father has for us…..As God followed you He seen your heart and picked you to be Rhema’s mom. Moment’s like this seeing God’s heart through our eye’s. What love God as of His children………..

  4. He picked you to be Rhema’s Mom. He knows you. You are strong enough. Faithful enough. Filled with more than enough love and tenacity.

    I thought of you this morning when we heard Mary’s Song.

    “… I offer all I am
    For the mercy of your plan.
    Help me be strong.
    Help me be.
    Help me.

    Breath of heaven,
    Hold me together,
    Be forever near me,
    Breath of heaven.
    Breath of heaven,
    Lighten my darkness,
    Pour over me your holiness,
    For you are holy”

  5. So glad you found her. How utterly frightening to find her missing from her car seat in the dark car. My heart skipped a beat when I read that. You have more strength than most people I know. She is so lucky to have you as a mother.

  6. So scary. I watch Wyatt’s every move and will watch over him for as long as I am here. Rhema is blessed to have you as her mother and you are a great example of love and devotion to us all.

    Jasmin

  7. You’ve done it again Jeneil…tied the truth of scripture into the truth of our daily lives. Amazing isn’t it? how much we learn the heart of God from being parents. Lost and found, again; how well i know that pattern. Could one of those loving church volunteers could grab the mail?

  8. The love we have for our children does help us understand His love for us.

    Our CollegeSon introduced me to CS Lewis. (I am not as well read as CollegeSon is.) He is travelling tomorrow and it is easy to fill-up with fear as he makes this trek as an adult for the first time. I’m thinking of sending his photo – that you requested – to Brandon – since I have HIS address. 😉

  9. That was beautiful, just beautiful (not the scary escape part, of course, but everything else). God’s grace is surely upon you…it encourages me deeply.

    God has opened my eyes to that same revelation, when it comes to autism and the issue of pursuit. There have been times when I find myself getting frustrated thinking, why must I try so hard to engage my son? But then I think of God’s constant pursuit of me, despite my many flaws. He never, ever, ever, ever gives up. And neither will we.

    Your family is always in my prayers!

  10. Beautifully expressed, Jeneil. What a precious visual of our Father’s love for us … and our reflection of that love to our children.

    I’ve been scarce in blogland lately, but you, Brandon, Rhema, and Hope remain in my heart, in my thoughts, and in my prayers.

    May your Christmas be richly blessed!

  11. Oh, Jeneil, I KNOW that panic. I lived it through your words with Rhema. What great fear! I am thankful that I haven’t had a scare like that with Christian in a few weeks…

    Thank you for your beautiful visual of God’s GREAT love for us. I will try to remember that next time I go into panic mode chasing after Christian.

    Thank you. Have a very BLESSED Christmas!

  12. So true. God’s grace and patience with us every step of the way is immeasurable. Like the Kirk Franklin Christmas song says, “Why you love me so, Lord I shall never know. The precious Lamb of God.”
    Thank you, once again, for letting your life song sing of God’s love and kindness towards us.

    Praise God that Rhema is okay and is closer to His heart than we will ever know.

    Love you Neily…..

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