The back story
On the last day of school before the holiday break I carried in small gifts for the many teachers who give to Rhema (and to our family) day after day, year after year. Every year I bring in these gifts knowing they cannot begin to convey the depth of our love and gratitude for the people who teach and care for our girl so well.
So I was caught off guard when Rhema’s teacher, Heather, held out of beautifully wrapped gift to me.
She said that Rhema had a gift for us on Christmas, and I knew instantly it was not one that could be found in stores or ever put a price on.
The card was addressed to “Brandon, Jeneil and Hope”, and that alone kind of got to me. It said something to me about family somehow – that each one of us is important to Rhema and she is important to each of us.
Merry Christmas! Rhema has been working very hard with all her teachers to create this project for you. She wanted you to be surprised so these programs have not been on her data sheet. We are all very proud of her and working with her is a wonderful gift every day!
I wish I had the words to convey how meaningful and precious this gift is. At the same time, I know many of you know and rejoice with us. I’ll ramble on, but in so many ways the picture speaks for itself.
So here it is.
This is a gift not just from Rhema, but also her many wonderful teachers. They quietly worked with her on every tedious stroke… all with the intention of blessing our socks off on Christmas. Yeah, that kind of got to me.
Rhema has been learning to write her name for the past two years. When she holds a crayon or pen, her first instinct is to scribble vigorously – it takes much focus and motivation for her to change course. She needs a lot of support and physical prompting to write her name, and even then it’s hit or miss.
But here, it’s perfect. I can’t stop looking at it.
We had no idea she could write or trace any other letters besides those in her name. But she wrote Dad, Hope, Mom and traced I Love You. !!!!!
I’d heard she’d been learning to draw stick figures, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. Hope’s stick figure has a crown. That kind of got to me, too. (And Hope was thrilled when she saw!)
We’ll hang it in a prominent place, and we’ll treasure it always. But for now I’m like a child by the Christmas tree, clutching a cherished present to my chest.
Every now and then I release it, lean back long enough to stare and be filled with wonder again.
In its reflection I see moments of days I’ll never forget. Sitting my pregnant self down in a small office while Rhema stimmed on a slinky, and a developmental psychologist gently confirmed everything I already knew. Autism. I would never see the woman again, but I remember her name, her eyes, her hair, her clothes, the pearls on her neck. I remember wondering why, why, why. Why my child?
I see us in the hospital room looking at images of her brain lit up with epileptic activity, and the meds not working. I remember wondering How? How can this be?
Then, I’m in an IEP meeting and they’re telling us about a stamp goal. ‘She’ll probably never learn to write, so she’ll need to learn to use a stamp with her name on it.’
And I had no idea of the divine conspiracy. That God would use what I thought to be such a tragedy to be my greatest source of blessing. To lead us to a community of friends and parents and teachers that we are so much the better for knowing. To teach us and help us see sweet, hard, beautiful things we otherwise might have missed.
(Blubbering now, any eloquence out the window). I’m just so grateful to Heather and all of Rhema’s teachers. I’m just so amazed by God and the way He heaps blessings on us. I’m just so proud of my little girl.
And I’m sure of it now every time I see her, her gifts, there’s even more than this to come.