Big smile with all my gums and teeth showing

If you felt something fall on your head today, it might have been heart bits. Because mine soared above the clouds this morning and exploded.

The girls and I were downstairs loading on the winter weather gear, preparing to take Rhema to school. I grabbed a new red hat for myself, stooped down, and made a funny face at Hope. We laughed extra long because being around Hope makes you laugh extra long.

Rhema was turned away from us, as usual, humming, seemingly oblivious.

“Rhema. Look at me in my silly red hat.”

Child does not respond to name. I remember the assessments as if it were yesterday. The people from Early Intervention in my living room, calling her name, trying to get her attention… but she was a million worlds away. The only way to get her to notice anything – even a highly desired object – was to wave it directly in front of her eyes.  

Lack of eye contact. God gave me a child with the most incredible brown eyes, and for years I hardly ever saw them straight on.

Zero joint attention. I remember standing at a window, jumping and waving and chanting her name while she and the babysitter stood right there, on the other side. The babysitter said “Mommy’s here!” and pointed at me. She never looked. She could not look at the babysitter and follow her gaze to me.  

Poor receptive language. “Word deafness” possibly due to seizure activity in the Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area of the brain. She seemed to have absolutely no understanding of spoken language.

Hours upon hours, days and days and years of work and therapy and tears and prayers. And we are here.

On this day she turns around. She looks at me. She lets me see the magnificent smile spread across her face. She walks over to me and ever so lightly touches my head.

(Pause with me now. This heart was once broken. Amazingly God mends it everyday, more and more. Sometimes He fills it with joy and gratitude to bursting.)

Then she turns away and resumes her humming like it’s nothing. But it’s not nothing.

On this autism journey, I’ve always focused on the present, tried not to think too much of the future – good or bad. So I didn’t really imagine this... and it’s happening every day now. When I can actually say something to my girl and…

She responds. Appropriately. She looks. She sees what I see. She understands.


Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits! ~Ps. 103:1-2 (exclamation points added by me for emphasis)

My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding ~Ps. 49:3

31 thoughts on “Big smile with all my gums and teeth showing

  1. Those are the awesome moments that you never forget. It makes you so appreciate how wonderous it is that typical kids sail through these things without a thought from either the child or the parents. It makes you appreciate.

  2. Oh….happy dance going on up on those clouds with you!!!!!! And I feel those little heart pieces on my head and I am twirling around in them!!! Yeah and a another big Yeah!!!!

  3. Was just here thinking about you and decided to see what you were up to. What a totally amazing gift this was to read. I’m happy to bursting at this. You are all so amazing. You work so hard. You, Brandon, Hope and Rhema. I LOVE that you are seeing some fruits of the hard labour.

  4. thank you for sharing your girls and these moments J–this one made my heart swell and my eyes fill up with tears. xo

  5. I love those moments … when the things we hardly allow ourself to hope for start to happen, and then happen more and more often. I love that you had such a special moment, that you got to see her smile as she looked at you. One of my boys is like your Rhema, he can seem so very far away and removed from us. But this year, after much help from his amazing team at school, he has started waving in greeting (something he has not done since he was just a year old). When he looks at me, and imitates that wave, my heart melts. He too has overcome the no response to name, lack of eye contact and lack of joint attention. Big, big steps. And amazing moments. Happy for you.

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