Most words used to describe autism usually make the child appear defective or incomplete...
At about 17 months my wife and I noticed that our daughter Revecca was beginning to speak less and less. At first we thought she was regressing a bit in light of her younger sister but it didn't turn out to be a phase. We had her evaluated as she was diagnosed with autism and our lives have not been the same again.
My Revecca is extremely bright, affectionate and charismatic. It is my experience that there is nothing missing from Revecca, if anything she is more me and more Zoila than either one of us could ever expect to be. Autism is described as a social disorder directly impacting communication and a person's ability to form relationships with people and objects around them. Here is my description of autism - imagine having a stomach ache, all the time. Think for a minute about the last time your stomach bothered you and you tried to concentrate on what was going on around you. Now, imagine having that upset stomach while you were at a fair with all the lights and sounds that come with it and having to have a normal conversation with the person next to you; you just can't do it. Revecca is learning to have those conversations regardless because she's one tough kid.
As a teenager I saw God as a friend, a confidant, someone who would listen to me regardless of what shallow thing a teenager wanted to vent about. I thought I had it all figured out God included! As a father and a husband, I quickly learned that I knew very little about the important things in life God included. The gospel taught me that it was okay that I didn't know everything. It was okay not to be perfect because we are all imperfect people. The gospel taught me that God wanted to have a relationship with me like I had with my girls. What a beautiful feeling that God could love me like I love my girls (my wife and two daughters) because I can't quantify my love for them! Can God love me that much? Even now I still have a hard time wrapping that around my head. The closer I get with God, the more I appreciate the gifts I was given with my girls. Meeting Zoila when I did and how I did was an answered prayer. I have no problem saying that in a public setting and embarrassing her because it's the truth. She's made me a better person because through her my relationship with God was reignited.
Halfway through 2014 I was let go from a job I had held for almost 16 years throwing Zoila and I into a new chapter that we had never prepared for. Personally, loosing my job almost meant loosing an identity that I had worked very hard to build. I was the provider, Zoila was the nurturer (among thousands of other roles she took on while I was providing); I worked very hard...that's what I did. I might not have been able to sit in on Revecca's therapies, because they tend to affect me emotionally, but I could work extra hard to make sure that we could afford those therapies no questions asked. Not being that person for my house meant a serious question mark how I fit in and belonged.
However, I've learned if you trust in God, your heart will be at peace - I have been overwhelmed by how our church family has treated us during this period. Their prayers lifted us up and in a period that should have been dark and scary we found ourselves feeling rich and loved. Don't be afraid, God will catch you - I remembered thinking, "If this is a test, I will not fail it." Month after month, the rent got paid, the bills were covered. We didn't despair, we didn't fight. We grew tighter together and learned how to be resourceful...God never left us. Little by little, I had let my job take over my life. I travelled all the time and brought work home with me so even when I was home I wasn't often present with my girls. When the travel interrupted with school I stopped going and convinced myself that my original aspirations were unrealistic and impractical. I needed a good Ctrl+Alt+Delete (keyboard shortcut to reset a PC) for my life and I got it.
I am excited for what's ahead as I've started a new job and have completed my first year so far and really enjoying it! It's a different industry than the one I came from so it's a learning experience. Having a different scheduling need means we get to continue to participate and grow with our church family. A few months ago with Zoila's encouragement I re-enrolled in school in the evenings. The new job will allow me to continue, I start my fourth semester in a few weeks! Moreover, I've started to work in a Robotics club on Sunday evenings where the ideas are boundless. Lastly, my wife and I are committed to our church family and we're committed to lift it up as we were lifted up during my unemployment and allowing the gospel to work in our hearts every day.