Hard conversation

Um… so.

The other day Rhema led me to her stencil board.

Yes, she took my hand and pulled me over to the table and picked up her stencil board. That kind of initiation just does not happen all that often, or ever. She had something to say. I sensed her urgency, and I was all ears.


I gulped and my head pounded. There had been a couple times before when she told me she was mad at me, but it was for seemingly simple things like when I took her blanket from her because it was in desperate need of washing, or when I snatched an important paper away from her marker-wielding hands. But this. This was something altogether different. Her words were a ton of bricks on my heart.

“Rhema… I am sorry. When do you feel I have belittled you?”


I wanted to deny. And cry. And make excuses. But truth is truth.

“Rhema, I used to always say that you understood words and things happening around you. But on some level I must not have believed it because I was often careless, engaging in conversations about you right in front of you as if you weren’t there. Even if you were unable to comprehend language, I should not have done that. And now I know with certainty that you listen and understand everything… but I guess you’re telling me that I still do that sometimes… treat you as if you are not a hearing, thinking, caring person. I’m so sorry. I must do it without even realizing it.”

I put my forehead to hers.

“Thank you for telling me. Every letter you point to, every word you spell is honest. And you’re right, you are so very loved by me. Even more than you know. Will you forgive me? I’ve made many mistakes and still have so much to learn. Will you continue to be patient with me? Will you help me by letting me know when I am treating you differently or making you feel… small?”

My gracious girl answered,



We have conversations now. Precious, hard, amazing conversations. It is a blessing I hope to never take for granted.

And the girl whom everyone thought could not understand… helps us understand.

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Rhema and I studied waterfalls – the science of waterfall formation, types of waterfalls, famous waterfalls. All of this in preparation for the day our family would hike with a small group to Auger Falls in the Adirondacks.

It was a beautiful day for a hike. We struggled to keep Rhema walking, moving in the right direction, and staying in the appropriate areas. I wasn’t sure if we were brave to have attempted the excursion or just plain foolish.

But we made it to the waterfall. We learned that Auger Falls got its name for its resemblance to the corkscrew shape of a drill bit. Sounded like my insides, my heart all spiral-y and twisted. The Falls were a great sight, but I was distracted. Distracted about Rhema’s safety and how hard it was and so much sadness in the world and things going on back home and…

Alexis, one of our guides pulled out her Bible and read Psalm 29.

“Rhema,” I whispered loudly. “We studied that Psalm and now she’s reading it here at the waterfall!”

“Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.”


Our group continued hiking along the river, but Rhema could not continue. We went back the way we had come, accompanied by a guide.

Back at our cabin I asked her thoughts on the Falls, and she spelled this on her letter board:

“I loved seeing the waterfalls especially when we approached the area beside the trees.

It was so lovely to my senses.

I will not have mediocre thoughts about God again.

I am truly thankful for the experience.”