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Hope & Faith- Autism Awareness Month

Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness. Can you have hope without faith? I would imagine it all depends on who you ask, but I know for me, they work in tandem. I have faith; therefore, I have hope. I have faith my boys will live up to their fullest potential, whatever that may be... it is God's plan. While I do not have a crystal ball to see into the future, I can envision what I want for them in the days to come.  So, I choose to have hope and faith that it will happen. I just must trust that my faith will guide me on the right path, keep my hope alive, and make the conscience choice to believe every day that we will get there. One day at a time.


There was a time when the words hope and faith were not used with any frequency in my home, before kids, sure, oh the grand plans. However, our house of cards quickly crumbled and life as we knew it came to an abrupt heart-wrenching halt. Our beautiful, perfect little boy was diagnosed with autism just shy of his second birthday. It was a swift kick in the gut that took my breath away. Next came the paralyzing fear. Not the kind of fear that passes quickly after gathering your wits, but the kind that takes hold so deep, that it pulls you under like a tidal wave. The unmitigated fear and panic that set in, not only shook my faith but had me wondering how I could ever recover enough to get back to the surface to even catch one single deep, lung-filling breath. Yet the harder my arms flailed, and the stronger I fought against it, the autism tidal wave pushed me back down with a mighty, mighty force (enter the ugly cry).


So, I had a choice to make, do I keep fighting against it or do I lean into it and embrace the amazing? I had to act fast, or I would without a doubt drown in a sea of "why me" and float away on the river of self-pity. Since that was not an option it was time to figure out how to overcome the fear, adjust my lens of life, and learn how to lean into it. Once I came to the realization I was not conceding, I was able to catch my first real breath in a staggeringly long time. I was opening the door to some amazing opportunities and experiences that I might not ever even have known were possible. So, I chose to not let fear rule my life. Every parent worries about the future of their child. That is a central struggle we all face as parents and must learn to balance so that our fears do not overshadow our hopes for them to be amazing humans.


Just when you think you have it all under control, as we often do, you are thrown another curve ball. It was not without warning though. I had my eyes on the feet of autism and was not going to be fooled by a lazy no-look fake pass. We were facing it head-on, eyes wide open. Yet, even though I saw it coming not six months after our second one was born, the blow was just as furious, and it still took my breath away, autism. There it was again, rearing its ugly, stimmy, noise-fearing, personality-stealing self again, leaving both of my children without voices and trapping them in a room with shatterproof walls that I could not break. I felt helpless, but was I? So, I was faced with the choice again, fight it or lean into it? I chose faith and hope. The choice was clear, not easier by any stretch, just overwhelmingly clear. In my fifty-plus years of life, I have made an abundance of mistakes, and still do every day. To err is human, to learn and grow from mistakes is what makes us stronger. With that said I can without a doubt state that when faced with some of the darkest days in my life, I am so thankful that I did not make the mistake of fighting the tidal wave but chose to lean into it and embrace the amazing. My life is profoundly richer, threaded with beautiful colors, and an appreciation for things that I might otherwise have taken for granted. all because of two little boys who forced me to adjust my lens of life and see the amazing!


There was a day I wondered if I would ever hear them say "I love you mommy" or engage with me in any reciprocal manner. Autism often steals that from their parents and loved ones. So, it is reasonable to fear the worst and let your lens of life fog up so much you are truly unable to see where they will be in 6 months, 2 years, 5 years, and so on. Fear is blinding and paralyzing. Yet it is a common thread that we as parents share and experience on various levels as our children grow.


Fast forward 17 years, countless hours of therapy (which they are still in now), loss of sleep on my part, and a few friends who faded away because they never really understood (fear of the unknown will do that) we are here. Where is here, you ask? Well for now my older son is performing in plays, singing in church in front of large audiences, and participating in talent shows at school without fear. I do not know many adults who could manage all that without heart-racing trepidation. He on the other hand does not see that as a limitation, because we choose to never set limits even though by and large the collective society feels otherwise. They expect less and, therefore by default assume there is a ceiling. However, we take the tact that "the sky is the limit" and imagination should not be stifled by boundaries. His heart is pure, and his light is infectious.


My younger one, while still more profoundly affected by autism, is continually surpassing all of

our expectations. He is loving, caring, and smarter than meets the eye. He takes on life ninja-style, at his own pace, on his own timeline. Slow and steady is just as amazing. He constantly blows us away with all the knowledge he has stored away. In true ninja fashion when he unleashes his knowledge nuggets on the unsuspecting, they are blown away. As much as we think he knows, we still never see it coming......ever!   


So, to all the moms and dads just tossed on the merry-go-round, attempting to navigate the unexpected journey without a map and compass, I urge you to have hope. Hope puts our feet on the path when our eyes cannot see it and with a dash of faith, you have the courage to continue moving towards the unknown. I promise you this, you will meet some amazing people along the way. Teach your kiddos to dream big and do not let fear rule your journey. Rather adjust your lens on life, never set limits on what you think they can achieve, and without a shred of doubt, I promise you will be amazed at the progress they make. where your "here" is two, three, or five years from now will not resemble your now.


Hope with a dash of faith brings endless possibilities.

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