On possibilities

“Will Rhema still have autism when she grows up?”

We’d been rolling along smoothly, happily, taking the girls out for a Valentine’s Day Eve dinner. Our dining out in itself a reason for celebration, such a statement to how far we’ve come.

Hope’s question shot out like a canon ball, startling us all, sucking the air out of the car. We’ve talked openly about autism, and we’ve let Hope process things as she is able. But autism simply does not dominate our conversations at home, so I was surprised at the question, and the feeling of tears in my gut.

I wanted to say, it’s a good, honest question. Early on, I’d convinced myself she would in fact “outgrow” it by age 3 or 4, and I was bewildered and then devastated when I met a mother of an adult daughter with autism.

I wanted to say that autism is a part of everything we love about Rhema, a part of who she is, a part of what makes her mind so complex and beautiful.

I wanted to say that the autism that causes her to struggle, traps her, and paralyzes her communication… I would do almost anything to take it away, if I could. 

But instead I just said,

“Hope, God may choose to heal Rhema in heaven.”

I could hear the confusion and alarm in her voice as she asked:

“But how will she take care of her children???”

It felt like a punch to the stomach, eyes smarting from a pain I thought I’d buried. Neither Brandon nor I could speak.

“Mommy. Daddy. How will she take care of her children?

The words hung in the air. We didn’t answer. We couldn’t.


After the girls had gone to bed, I went to work on finishing Rhema’s Valentine’s Day cards. I had to smile, remembering how the girls had sat at the table together. It was a first for Rhema – decorating the cards with us. I’d written her name and tried to help her trace the letters. We were not very successful, but she’d squealed and colored and loved being involved in the activity.

Instantly, I knew I owed Hope an answer and I found her still awake in bed.

“You wanted to know how she will take care of her children.” I said softly.


(In her 5-year old mind it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that she will grow up to be a Mommy and a princess. And if the princess gig doesn’t work out, a mermaid. She assumes the same for her sister.)

“I don’t know, baby.”

Her eyes and mouth turned sad.

“How will she get married?”

“I don’t know, baby.”

“How will she cook?”

“She will make macaroni and cheese, of course.”

We laughed.

“Did you know that things that seem totally impossible to us are totally possible with God?”

“I didn’t know that!”

I held up one of Rhema’s Valentine’s Day cards so that Hope could see it by the glow of her night light.

“Hope. For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

She giggled at the card, Rhema’s name in swirly letters, nearly every inch of it colored turquoise.

The ache in me eased. I rested.

Maybe I’m a fool. I choose to err on the side of overbelieving in my girl, as Schuyler’s dad would say. Maybe, some days it takes a lot more fighting and a lot more faith to believe that everything’s going to be alright, that she will be ok. I believe in her. I believe in Him.

So we’ll work hard, we’ll prepare for the unknown as best as we can, and we’ll always, always keep our eyes open wide for miracles.

21 thoughts on “On possibilities

  1. Oh, love. This one hits me like a freight train today. I know that so many things are unknowable, but I do know this: our children will surprise us with miraculous things when we least expect them. Maybe even when we’ve secretly given up on hoping for them. God is funny like that. xo

  2. Wow. Those questions from the backseat really do suck the air out of the car. Usually I’m very grateful to be wearing sunglasses and facing forward so I have a moment to steady my voice.

  3. Well, you can tell Hope that not all of us non-autistic adults can even have children! And many decide they’re happier not being married. Oh wait, hm, that might make it worse. 🙂 The funny thing in my case is that as a kid I fantasized about being a professor, and never once thought I’d have children. I’m not sure why, but that vision of my future turned out to be true.

    Well, sorta. We do hope to foster someday soon.
    That, like fertility problems and never marrying, is an extended family tradition. 🙂 I think that’s why my models for adulthood were so different.

    • lisbet, i’ve been wondering what exactly about Hope’s questions pained me. it’s not about marrying and having children — that may not be God’s plan for her life and i’m fine with that. i think it has to do with my deep desire that R have the same possibilities as anyone else. it hurts to think that she may not. and that is where i’m choosing to believe that with God extraordinary things are more than possible.

  4. Cheers to that! Oh but you are beautiful in your believing. We believe with you and for you. Happy Valentine’s Day. Love you all so much.

  5. I love your faith.
    I love your perspective.
    I love that you answer life’s hard questions with the only real answer…. God. Our Creator, Provider, Shepherd, Sanctifier, Ever Present, Righteousness, Peace, Most High, One who Sees, Everlasting.

    I often worry / stress / and fear what will happen to our girls when we are gone. Thank you for the reminder that with God all things are possible. That is repeated in 3 of the gospel accounts. He must REALLY want us to know that.

    Hoping that we both hang on to Mat. 11:28-30.

    God bless.

  6. Oh my sweet friend. Your Hope I so wish that one day she and my Mae Mae might meet. The same conversation almost word for word have happened with my sweet girl. Who will take care of his children? Who will make not his macaroni cheese- but his toast.
    They are painful conversations….I think for Mae Mae it is her need to wrap her arms around Dawson’s autism and that it is not going away. The stark reality that we have to tell her that even though her brother makes progress that he autism is will always be a part of him. That he may not get married one day. And that is okay if he does not get married. That she might not get married and that is okay too. But like you we let our Mae Mae know that someone The One will be there to make sure that the toast or macaroni is made. And together…..holding hands…..they will sit at the table and eat. Your Rhema, Your Hope, My Mae Mae, My Dawson….they will be nourished, they will be fed….holding hands together they will be held.
    Thank you for your beautiful and most honest words…you are a gift yo us all. Thank you, thank you and thank you!!

  7. This made me cry. My older son doesn’t ask too many questions about Jackson’s autism. He thinks his food allergies are what makes him act the way he does :-). However, I’m constantly reminded of the widening gap in their social abilities. Oh, the questions that linger in the recesses of my mind, the fears that haunt every dream I have. Choosing to believe in Jackson, and believe in the God who is still very capable of miracles. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Hi! I am Joel’s sister and I’ve had to answer some hard questions like that to my 7 year old son. Sometimes he seems to understand very well his 12 year old brother’s medical condition and actually defends him from other kids in school who tell him his brother is weird. But there are other times, like recently, Abiel had been very ill in the hospital for 2 months and came home, but only for two weeks because he got sick again and we had to return to the hospital and Jeremy asked me: “Mom, what’s with God, is he playing with us? Abiel was doing so good at home”. I answered: “Jeremy, I don’t understand either but I do know that everything happens with a purpose and we have to continue to trust in God”, He answers: “Mom, but if God knows the future and he knows if He’s going to heal him or not, why doesn’t he do it!! I know it’s a hard journey, but just like you we have decided to keep believing for our miracle and in the meantime we cherish and enjoy our boys as much as we can!! When you have a child with special needs you tend to celebrate each and every little achievement!! Thank you so much for sharing your story and for all the encouragement, I have been blessed by reading some of your blog!! Thanks again! You and your family will be in our prayers!

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