Come and Listen

I enjoy blogging and will probably continue, but I am convinced that this post is the culmination for Autism In A Word. I cannot imagine that there will ever be a post here as good and meaningful as this one.

So here’s a recap,
Rhema is a 5 ½ years old with autism, aphasia, and a seizure disorder – all of which make it extremely difficult… no, nearly impossible for her to speak and understand language.

When last tested, Rhema had the expressive and receptive language of a 12-month old.

For years I wondered how/why God would give us a daughter named Rhema – a name that means the “spoken word” – that could not, would not speak. Now I know that it was, as my twin would say, the perfect setup. The perfect setup for God to do something amazing with The Word.

Readers of this blog know that I have quoted a verse to Rhema every night since she was a baby. It never seemed like she was listening. But she was. Recently she began saying parts of the verse on her own. Of all the countless hours of language-based therapy she has received, no one taught her this…

This Word is in her heart, and now, it’s in her mouth.

Over the past year of blogging I have been blessed and surprised at the care and interest people have shown toward Rhema and our family. Many have cheered the ups and endured the downs with us for over a year now. Many have prayed for Rhema.

Come and listen to what the Lord has done.

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:8,9)

I want to tell everyone I know that God is the Speech Maker. He alone can heal… and give words to the one with no voice. With Him, nothing is impossible.

If you can spare a quiet 3 minutes and 40 seconds:

In Her Heart

For nearly all of her life I have been waiting for words. (That’s about one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five days and counting).

I can still remember the moment I knew her name. I was 7 months pregnant, and Brandon was preparing to deploy to Iraq. My friend Shannon and I were chatting after dinner in my kitchen in Heilsbronn, Germany. I told her I that I was not crazy about the name we had chosen for the baby – it just didn’t seem to fit.

Shannon insisted that I had to be excited about the name. And so we brainstormed long into the night. Shannon was the first to say the name Rhema.

And when she spoke it, I can’t explain it, but it’s like my heart remembered. I knew her. I knew that was her name. I was so excited.

The name meant “the spoken word.” Specifically, “God’s Word revealed.” At first, Brandon thought it was too sacred of a name to put on a child. But my heart was set on it, and we studied the Scriptures for anywhere the Greek word rhema (which is translated as “word”) appeared. We chose Romans 10: 8-9 as her “theme” verse: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” I recited the verse to her while she was still in the womb.

Little did I know that a year prior my mother had been praying for me one night. I had been trying to conceive for a couple years. My heart was breaking because we could not get pregnant. When my mother prayed, she asked God to “speak our baby’s name.” She remembers it being a strange request, but that’s what she had felt led to pray. Just before Rhema’s birth, I told my mother her name. My mother’s face contorted as she recognized the name, and remembered the prayer she had prayed.

 

Autism, for us, has been about adjusting expectations. Initially after her diagnosis, I thought, so I can’t expect conversations anytime soon… I’ll settle for sentences. Then it was… o.k… how about phrases? No?… o.k., o.k… Words? Approximations? Single sounds? Instead of “I want pop”, if she just says “p-“, we are to celebrate the effort.

All along we have been hoping, praying, fighting for words. Maybe I’ve focused too much on the language part? As she gets older, I kind of get that vibe… that maybe I should let it go.

We hold on to the hope – the belief – that her name is a promise.

Every night for the past several years I have quoted Romans 10:8-9 to her as I tuck her into bed. “Rhema, the Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…” Every night. It’s my ritual – half the time I don’t even know if she’s listening. If Brandon or a babysitter puts her to bed, I slip into her room after she’s asleep and whisper that verse.

I’ve written the verse on her bedroom door.

 

Tonight as I tucked her in, I quoted the verse to her (not nearly as enthusiastic as I was 1000 days ago).

“Rhema, the Word is near you; it is in your mouth…”

I touched her lips.

“…and in your heart…”

I traced a heart on her chest.

“Har.” She whispered, echoing me. Out of the blue.

I don’t think I was dreaming. Honestly, I was tired. But I don’t think I dreamed it.

 

The Word is there.  It’s in her heart.