I cannot recall a day without a struggle or frustration of some sort. Most days, they are not too bad, but some days they can be so overwhelming and seem so insurmountable all you can do is cry. I’ve had days I’ve broken down to the ladies in my Bible study so overcome with grief about Philip never improving, frustration that he’d never be toilet trained, and many other things. I’d wonder if God would ever answer my prayers. When you are in the midst of a struggle, it is hard to see an end. It is hard to see how any good can come of it.
I’ve learned to just pray. I can’t say I understand the mechanism behind it or how God chooses to answer or what His time frame is, but I can say I HAVE SEEN GOD ANSWER PRAYER AND I HAVE SEEN HIS MIRACLES. This doesn’t mean that life is now problem free. But when I am facing another challenge or struggle, I can be encouraged by looking back at how God has carried me through in the past and blessed me over and over again.
Today my friend Ellie and her son Nelson came over again. Philip and Nelson played a couple games of UNO and Philip even spelled “CONGRATS” to Nelson after he won. They chatted a little and then went outside to join Carlos on the trampoline and play soccer. Ellie told me she was doing some back-to-school shopping and we got on the topic of schooling. She told me she spent much time praying about where she should send the kids and how Christian Central Academy kept entering her mind daily as well as the scripture, “You do not have because you do not ask.” When they finally met with the school and asked for help so their three children could attend, they were granted it- a prayer answered!
I then told Ellie some prayers God answered for me- and now I will tell them to you. These are just a few of the many…
When we were in Miami, during the first year of Philip’s diagnosis, we had a home ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Program. We had a staff of students trained by a licensed behaviorist named Andrea Holladay. There were 2 students from the University of Miami and 3 from Miami Springs High School. The kids took turns coming to our house teaching Philip the basics of learning- sitting at a table, answering to his name, colors, shapes, letters, numbers, imitating, identifying objects and actions, categorizing, the beginnings of speech. They worked tirelessly with Philip 6 days a week. Philip learned a lot, but at times it was exhausting managing and training that many people. At the end of the first year, all my students were graduating and moving on. I couldn’t bear to think of finding another group of kids, training them again, and starting over. I prayed and asked God what we should do next. This is what His answer was:
At the end of the year, not only were my students graduating, but Andrea, our behaviorist, was moving to Lakeland, a town in central Florida. She told me her friend Juliana Hunt who was also a BCBA (licensed behaviorist) was starting a school. She gave me Juliana’s card, we hugged, said our goodbyes, and never saw each other again. Then I dialed Juliana’s number. It turned out she was starting her school called ISMILE (Institute of Special Minds Interacting in a Learning Environment) at Poinciana United Methodist Church in Miami Springs. This church was located exactly next door to our house! We literally would walk 50 ft from our front door and there we were! Not only that, but the school was affordable and had trained BCBAs as teachers. Philip had a great 3 years at ISMILE.
Our next miracle took longer in the making. Who understands God’s timing? In the Bible God brought about His promise of a son to Abraham many years after he and his wife were of childbearing age. Abraham was more than 100 years old. I wonder how agonizing that must have been to have to wait that long. Yet, in another instance, God answered the prayer of Abraham’s servant to find Isaac a wife even before he finished praying!
I remember immediately after Philip was diagnosed I told Pastor Van in Miami to please pray for Philip. He did right then. During Sunday services, he would often remember to pray for Philip and our family, among other requests, in front of our church body. I also sent my church in Buffalo a request for Philip to be on the prayer chain. I included a video that showed what autism was like so they could get a feel of what to pray for.
It took many years of praying by many people before we got our next miracle- one I had never thought we’d ever get. My Aunt Maricel is a true prayer warrior. She has probably prayed even more fervently than me and with stronger faith than me. She told me she was praying for Philip daily and knew God would heal him. I would say things like “maybe God is using Philip to teach me patience and maybe he is choosing to answer no to somehow bring me closer to God.” “No,” Maricel would say, “God will bring Philip good too. You will see.”
I have had others who have specially prayed for us. My friend Jean and I have a habit of emailing each other on a regular basis to exchange prayer requests and praises. At one lunch meeting she told me that as much as she can pray and empathize, perhaps I need to find a support group with other parents going through the same thing. Her advice, given in love, is what spurred me on to start my current autism support group.
My Wednesday morning ladies’ Bible study has been instrumental in lifting us up in prayer. Nichole, Deb, Connie, Paula, and Maricel have been my front line of prayer. Kit, Lena, Jen, Janette, Amanda, Eun Kyoung, Betty, Kim, and Leigh have also prayed for us. Our Bible study meets and prays every week. There are so many requests we have brought to God and seen remarkable answers. We have prayed people through cancer, job searches, adoption, tragedies, deaths in the family, and for God’s peace, among many other things. We’ve seen God answer over and over in ways He is glorified by His amazing grace and goodness to us. I believe the many prayers for Philip is what lead us on our path to Soma. During the time of waiting God was teaching me many things: trusting in Him, patience, perseverance, mercy, and compassion. He was also building a large support network for us and training me to eventually help others like Philip and our family.
I have mentioned before how instrumental my autism support group has been in helping me discover Soma. You can read about it here. In the days leading up to our trip to Austin to see Soma for the first time, I emailed as many people as I knew, who knew about Philip, to pray for us. I sent them a video link of Soma's segment on 60 Minutes and asked for prayer that Philip would respond to this method. I myself was so nervous it wouldn’t work, but hopeful that it would. Even though I felt doubt that it would work, I knew in my whole being that God could do as He pleased. He could help Philip through Soma. So I, along with countless others, prayed and prayed. I know my Bible study met the Wednesday without me and spent a long time praying for us while we were in Austin. I literally could feel their prayers as Philip went from tantrumming the previous day (Tuesday), his first time with Soma, to sitting through his lessons and amazing us with his knowledge that was tucked away from us all these years and just now releasing itself for the first time. I came away with tears of joy each day.
As you know, our lives have been changed for the better through God’s answers to prayer. In the next few days I will post our letters of prayer and praise during our first trip to see Soma.
Philip and his teachers from ISMILE