by Tim Paauw 11/7/16
Diagnosis. Disability. Disease. Difference. Difficulty.
Doesn’t it feel like “D” words should be “taboo”. I used to think this until I’ve been blessed with my son Nolan, who I remind daily is my best friend. One of my favorite Christian songs on the radio right now is “Blessings” by Laura Story. Blessings–By Laura Story
I am reminded that one attribute of God’s creation is a “D” word… “Diverse”. In that diversity, if we look we can find beauty. I believe even in the other “D” words when we look carefully and allow our hearts to be molded by God’s promises we are able to find beauty in the raindrops.
We heard our non-verbal son Nolan say “I Love You” for the first time on October 30… the next day we visited Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for a 3 hour diagnostic visit and heard, “Your son has autism. There is no known cause and no known cure.” One year later, on October 31, I placed my thoughts on paper. Here is a glimpse from that:
One question races through my mind regularly from this diagnosis, “If I could change Nolan’s journey on the ASD spectrum would I?” For those wondering, the answer is “yes and no”. Yes, I would want language to be fluent for Nolan. Yes, I would want Nolan’s peers to desire playtime with Nolan instead of leaving him on the side because he doesn’t react. Yes, I would change some of his mannerisms and behaviors. Yes, I would change the ‘how he learns’ because teaching others how to connect with him and understand him is a 24-hours per day/7-days per week task when we are still in the midst of the learning process ourselves. No, I wouldn’t want to trade or change my son for anything in the world. No, I don’t mind advocating for him in any arena or circumstance—he would do it for me in a heartbeat. No, I wouldn’t change him because I enjoy learning new things about my son every day. No, I wouldn’t change him because his joy surpasses my deepest understanding and in that I find a ton of my own joy. No, I wouldn’t change him because he sees people for who they are better than most people can—what a gift. No, I wouldn’t change him because his story is something special—one that will inspire others to better understand autism and open doors. No, I wouldn’t change him because I can’t imagine loving him or my other kids any more or differently.
So as we go through this fall season, my wife Laura and I will choose to smile when we carve pumpkins and know that Nolan would prefer to watch from the side instead of touch the messy pumpkin texture. We will rejoice as he celebrates the great and cold outdoors (likely without a coat) while many of us huddle inside stressing about the cold temperatures. We will laugh as he jumps on his bed when his twin sister is sleeping in hers–we know it brings joy to him and helps him regulate his thinking. We will continue to be humbled every time his twin sister, Kathryn, introduces him to others and proudly plays with him anywhere we go. We will let our hearts soar as we see the body of Christ come to life through our family, our church family, our school family, and our friends as they surround Nolan with support and understanding. We will take our next steps in this journey of parenting knowing that we have been given such a gift in Nolan and his twin sister Kathryn! What a crazy, puzzling, and beautiful journey—praise the Lord in the spirit of Proverbs 16:9! To Him be the glory for far surpassing our desires.
One way we have seen Nolan’s story used as part of God’s story can be seen on CLC Network’s newest Blog Post: Making Room For Nolan
So, I’ll end this longer reflection by saying no matter where you are at personally today or if you have a student, friend, or family member facing one of the “D” words in life… pray for beauty to be found in the rain. God can use any circumstance for His glory. A level of healing happens when we find contentment and joy in a moment and realize there is an eternal home in Christ far greater than the struggles of today–the “D” word for that is “Divine”.