“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” -Hebrews 12:1-2
Maybe you have received a diagnosis or have a closed loved one that has at some point. It may be for a physical issue, an emotional struggle, or something else. If so, you can relate to my first entry for BeautifullyPuzzled.com where I shared the heart feeling that comes with a diagnosis of any sort–that feeling where your heart stops, the world freezes, and all sense of ‘normal’ goes out the window.
We empathize with others because diagnoses steal the feeling of “life as normal” and lead to “life unknown”. Embrace it. In that moment you are exactly where God wants you–dependent on Him.
When Nolan was diagnosed, we got home from that appointment and felt lost. “Now what?” We wanted to solve it and felt powerless. The truth is, that was a healthy thing. It taught us, required us, to open our eyes and realize the volume of people in our life that wanted to help. We became fragile, vulnerable, most importantly dependent.
We began to realize that the only way we could provide what is best for Nolan’s needs was to simply be humble and ask (fighting that human nature of pride). As the Bible mentions in the opening verses of Hebrews 12, we needed to throw off everything (pride, self-pity, sorrow) that was hindering us, that distracted us from the beautiful fact that Nolan is a child of God. Christ is in Him. He is an image bearer of God. With that understanding, there is worth in persevering through the challenges as they shape us. We could learn to fix our eyes on the journey ahead and find energy and support from family and friends. The cloud of witnesses in our life, those that we have opened up to and trusted with Nolan, have made the challenges seem achievable.
Our advice to anyone overwhelmed with a diagnosis (no matter what type)… don’t believe that “confidentiality” and “privacy” is your best avenue. You need to recognize the cloud of witnesses surrounding you. If you don’t have close family and friends who may help, call a church close by and request a meeting with the pastor for the purpose of enlisting help.
If you are a family member or friend of someone asking you for prayers or help, don’t ever reply with “I am not really an expert in ____”. None of us are. Instead, accept the request and join the journey and team. Research the diagnosis and find out more. Ask questions. In doing so you send the message, “I’m trying to also understand. Please let me be a part of your journey.”
Laura and I decided early on that we would study up on autism, learn the facts and read the research so that we would better understand how to parent him but also educate and build awareness for others.
A few steps our family has taken in the past few years in Our Autism Journey:
We have been blessed by the encouragement and resources offered through the CLC Network in Grand Rapids for schools and churches (CLC Network Blog)
We now visit Autism Speaks regularly. We have purchased their t-shirts as a step of supporting awareness and to engage others in conversations.
We have found an amazing ABA Therapy group who has provided coaching in our home and meets works with Nolan 1-on-1 weekly (Behavioral Analysts of West Michigan).
We googled “laws regarding autism in Michigan” and learned of the Autism Reform Law in Michigan that allows our health insurance coverage to support many therapies (Michigan’s Autism Links).
We asked for help at church and now have an entire team of supporters who make each Sunday possible for our family (Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Ada)
We are blessed by a school in our neighborhood that believes in including students of all abilities so that the entire body of Christ can grow together spiritually, socially, and academically (West Side Christian School).