Notes about God and a girl

We’ve been packing up the house and have comes across many of my handwritten notes about Rhema. The notes date all the way back to 2005 when we were living in Germany and she was only 19 months old. I recorded when she stacked blocks, when she led me to something she wanted, when she clicked her tongue in imitation. All of the notes highlight my fears and worries and my hopes in her progress. Finding the notes has stirred a quiet ache in the husband and me – we didn’t have a diagnosis back then; we did not know what was ahead.

While cleaning today, Hope brought an old yellow notebook to me.

I absent-mindedly flipped it open and the memories were so heavy I had to sit down.

I had lists. Every word she ever approximated, repeated, whispered, said or maybe said, I wrote it down. How careless we are with our many words.

Every word counts.

There was a year’s worth of notes. Each day I recorded something new or amazing about Rhema. Some days it was hard to find a positive story to tell: Today Rhema recovered from her tantrum… quickly… relatively speaking…

I’ve known parents who receive the life-changing news that their child has autsim with calm, courage and grace. I wish I could say we took it well. We did not. We were absolutely devastated.

The first page in the notebook was a letter I’d written to Rhema on the day I finally knew she had autism – we had not even see a developmental pediatrician yet, but I could no longer deny the truth. The pain of that day came rushing back and tears burned my eyes. All I wanted was to talk with my daughter, but I could not. I desperately needed to know her, to hear how she felt, what she thought.

But as I read the letter I found again the comfort and hope that has carried us the past five years.

Rhema still has autism; we still fight for words.

But the Word has been poured into her. It’s the only Word that really speaks.


Excerpts of a letter from a mother to her daughter:

My Rhema,

On this day I live with the revelation that all is not well with you, sweet baby girl. You have a significant speech delay, and you exhibit behaviors and delays consistent with an autistic child. But let me try to write of how our God is an awesome God, how his Rhema Word has heartened my grieving spirit. 

Simply put, my dear, we have Jesus. He is our hope of glory.

Psalm 61:1-2 “Hear my cry, O God: attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” O my girl, what a comfort there is in Jesus. Without Him I would surely fall. I can say that even if things are the absolute worst, it is still somehow O.K. when you have Him.

Psalm 62:1,2, 7-8 “Truly my soul waiteh upon God: from Him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense, I shall not be greatly moved… pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.” I know Him like this, Rhema. I know Him to be the very rock of my strength; my salvation, my glory, my strong tower, and all at once my refuge. By and by, He’s teaching me to trust Him at all times, and I finally feel a revival beginning in my heart in the midst of trial.

Psalm 28:1, 6-7 “Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me… Blessed be the Lord because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him.

Simply by trusting in Him, we are helped. And our hearts rejoice.

My Rhema, know that when you can read and understand this letter, that our Lord is faithful and He has worked an amazing work in you, for His glory. Until that day…

I love you always,


14 thoughts on “Notes about God and a girl

  1. Oh, I am going to have a cry! It’s been an emotional week… your words are difficult to read because one can feel the pain in them. But they are still beautiful.

  2. There’s that strong tower, stronghold image again! I can’t stop singing, “You’re Good” by Kathryn Scott. He is even before we know the answer to “how” and “why.”

    I am so impressed by your notes in full sentences of perfect handwriting in in tact notebooks. Mine are scraps of bullet points and illegible shrapnel:/

  3. Seeing Rhema’s video and reading these early thoughts of yours helps me see, once again, the faithfulness of our Lord… how in his time and in his way, he honors the deepest prayers of our hearts with answers that we cannot imagine on the front end of our requests, yet answers that come nonetheless.

    Time has a way of giving us perspective along these lines, so as I pray my prayers this morning (so varied and multiple in nature), I listen to Rhema and her morning “read” with her therapist, and I believe God more for the answers he has in mind for my prayers.

    They will come for me in time; they will come for you as well.

    So glad for the new job, new house, time with friends, and family life that is emerging for you, sweet one. May this week hold many new milestones for the Russell family as you move forward in faith and with God!


  4. i cried all thru this post, i see myself in it.

    it is comforting to read that someone else totally knows what i went through inside me and how to talk it out with God Almighty.

    Thank you for writing this, it must have been a heavy hearted entry to pen down.

    Shalom and in His Love,
    Jesselyn Ng (Singapore)

  5. so so so beautiful. im glad you wrote everything down. we forget so quickly when the moments get buried underneath years of living. your journaling is a gift to you, and because you share it… it is a gift to all who hear you.
    God has truly blessed you 🙂

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