So we say with confidence,
The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
Have you ever walked in a large theme park for the first time and was overwhelmed with where you were and how to get out? You kept looking for the exit signs but couldn't find one. You realized at one point that you were walking away from the exit and had to turn around. You don't know anyone and don't want to ask anyone. They may judge you if you ask them. Have you ever felt that lost feeling? The rapid heart beat, the sweaty palms, or the sick stomach? I remember years ago when I first got the diagnosis of autism for my son, I was lost.
Years ago I had the rapid heart beat, the sweaty palms and a big time sick stomach. I was looking for answers about Autism. I was looking for sure where the exit sign was to get us out of this nightmare. I was scared.
We were in the throws of moving and selling our business when the diagnosis came. I read as much as I could about autism to learn what it was and how to help my son, but I remember one of the calls I got from my friend Claudia helped me so much.
She had a friend who had a grown son with autism and her story was one of the first ones I heard about another mother with a son who had autism. I was scared to call her, but I did. It took me a couple months to do this.
She was so sweet and said right out the gate, "Protect your marriage it takes the hardest strain!" I remember feeling overwhelmed at first with her strong comments, but I listened as she spoke.
She told me about her son who was non-verbal many years but in elementary, the words started to come. He had high anxiety and dangerous behaviors. Again, I remember feeling overwhelmed with the information she was sharing and I kept listening.
She explained how she worked with him and what she did. She said she kept pushing him to work on skills that would give him independence. She then told me he is married now with a child. I started to cry. At this point, my Charlie was only 3 and I didn't know what the future would be like for him or really understand about Autism quite yet. I was crying with tears of HOPE!
She went on to explain the few things he is still working on, but that he and his wife own a computer company. At the time we had 3 hurricanes that came through one after another and after the third one, we couldn't get our business computer programs to work again (we owned a PT/OT/ST therapy company at the time). I had 2 different people come to fix them ($100 an hour) and they couldn't fix them. I asked her, do you think he could come and look at my computers? She said just call him.
Well, he came out about a week later. He had to drive about 1 1/2 hours from his home. He was quiet, but I gave him all the issues and he worked for about 1 hour came back in and quietly said, "You are good to go." I was in shock. I said, "You fixed it?" and he said, "Yes." I quickly logged in and boom there it was, everything was there. I thanked him profusely and said, "What do I owe you?' He said, "Well, my wife does all that I don't know. He said, "$25?" I went back to my computer and printed a check for $100. I walked over to him and handed him the check. His eyes opened big and wide. I told him you charge this fee because the last 2 guys did and they didn't fix it, you did. He was so sweet as Charlie was with us during this time and he shared what it was like when he was little. He gave me some advice and said just keep working to help him. He was so kind as I kept asking him questions and crying. He and his mom gave me such HOPE.
I still think about both of them. If it wasn't for my friend Claudia giving me her friends' number I would have missed out on that great experience of meeting him (and he fixed our computers). But more importantly, so many times when I felt discouraged I thought about him: being married, having a child, and a business. That encouraged me daily.
Charlie is nearly 16 now and I can list so many people that have given me hope on this journey. If I weren't on this journey then I wouldn't have met these great people that have filled me with joy and helped our family.
I am still on the journey, but I want to keep paying this forward. I want to help moms/dads/grandparents behind me. I want to give them hope. I want to encourage them like I was encouraged. Are you at that point to reach out to others to encourage them. How are you able to pay it forward?
If you have a child newly diagnosed or are still working through it let me pray for you right now.
Lord, I ask you help ____ today. I ask that you fill them with your peace and know that you love them so much. I know it may be confusing, scary, and overwhelming but know God is there with you every step of the way holding your hand and guiding you. Lord I ask you to give ___ direction and help. Lord please put people in their lives to encourage them on this journey of the unknown. Lord give them your power and strength. Amen
As we learn, let us all help others learn.