“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
My middle child has autism. Why? I do not understand, but I know the Lord does. In my ten years of parenting this amazing creature, God has taught me more than I could ever express in words. Parenting my precious son while serving on a church staff has quite possibly been the source of my greatest lessons.
When my son was in pre-school, I began my position as a weekday school director at a church that I did not attend. During the transition of beginning this endeavor, I realized that our story could be shared, or it could be secretive. Being both an adoptive and a biological mom had given me opportunities to share my struggles of infertility with other women. It has always been my prayer that my story might save another woman a little bit of the pain and isolation that difficulties in conceiving a child can bring. But could I have the same transparency with our family’s experience with autism? I wasn’t sure. The only thing more difficult than not having a child was watching my child encounter daily battles as he learned even basic skills. Sharing that with others was risky.
I did choose to openly share our story, and I do honestly believe it has helped other families. The program I lead now partners with community agencies to provide services for other children diagnosed with autism. God has been so good in leading me to serve other families. I have had the opportunity to pray for, cry with, and celebrate with parents that are on the path of autism with me.
What I could have never imagined was the healing that has come to our entire family. In the honesty that began as an opportunity to support others, our family has been the recipient of abundant support. I am no longer just a staff member. Our family found a church home. All of our children are involved in church activities. Our church family is quick to forgive the not so magical melt- downs, the dark circles that too often show up under my eyes, and the sweatshirt hood that my child hid under during the Christmas program. They are just as quick to encourage our steps and rejoice in our successes. They understand the magnitude of a hug from our boy and delight in seeing him on stage during that Christmas program, sweatshirt and all.
The pressures of church work and publicly parenting a special needs child can be a tricky mix. I know that I don’t do either perfectly. What I am certain of is that I wouldn’t have been as fulfilled had I not done both together.
Kim Divelbiss is Day School director at NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma. She is married to Richard, and they have three children, Porter, Cash, and Judd. Having a passion for children with autism spectrum disorders, Kim is excited about the fact that NorthHaven Day School has been chosen to pilot the Early Foundations Autism Model and Outreach Project in Cleveland County.