Sunday, November 30, 2014


As December begins tomorrow, many people will begin the countdown to Christmas—if they haven’t already started—with Advent calendars to keep track of the days left until December 25th. Since Alex loves numbers and calendars, Advent calendars hold a special place in his heart. In fact, we have two Advent calendars to count down the days: a wooden one with numbers that must be changed daily and a traditional German one with doors that open to reveal chocolate candies each day. In addition to our Advent calendars, Alex has started another countdown and has marked the days on our kitchen calendar. Like my seventh grade students who are ten years younger than he is, Alex is eagerly anticipating his birthday, and he started counting down the days a month in advance. While my students look forward to their thirteenth birthdays, marking their entrance into being teenagers, Alex is even more excited than usual about his birthday, which will be his 23rd. Every day, he excitedly comes to tell me how many days are left until his birthday on December 16th.

While Alex looks forward to turning another year older, I must admit that at times I would like the clock to stop. The older he gets, the more I fret about his future. When he was younger, I had goals in mind about what he would be able to accomplish by certain ages. Although some milestones eventually arrived on a delayed schedule, others still wait to be accomplished sometime in the future. While most young adults his age would be finishing college and starting careers, Alex still relies upon Ed and me for his basic needs. Certainly, he has made wonderful progress, which we appreciate and celebrate, but he still has a long way to go before he can be independent. Of course, Alex doesn’t worry a bit about life, and his unwavering faith reminds me to hold fast to the promise of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I know that God has plans for Alex, but I still wonder what the future holds for him and what his divine destiny will be.

Several years ago, I was blessed to find an online ministry known as Children of Destiny, started by Christian ministers Jack and Rebecca Sytsema. After two of their sons were diagnosed with autism, they began writing daily e-mail devotionals with scriptures to support parents of children with autism, who, like them, needed encouragement and spiritual guidance. [To view Children of Destiny, please click here.] This online ministry has grown and helped many people during its twelve years of existence. Over the years, their devotionals have repeatedly reminded me to have faith when times looked bleak and to praise God when prayers were answered. Describing their family’s life with autism, the Sytsemas note, “While each intervention has helped them [their sons with autism] come to new levels of success, we firmly hold to the belief that the most powerful intervention we have brought into our sons’ lives has been to give them over to God and allow Him to order our steps.” Indeed, that surrendering our children to God proves the hardest, yet the most important step of faith we parents of special needs children must do. Moreover, the Sytsema’s declaration that these children with autism do have a special destiny, despite what limitations autism has placed upon them, reminds us how much they have to offer the world.

Last week, after I posted my blog entry about Alex’s positive interaction with a kind grocery store clerk, I received very positive feedback about that story from friends and family, who were touched by the sweetness of Alex and his “new friend.” While I never want Alex to be a bother to other people, I sometime forget what a blessing he can be to people other than Ed and me. We see the goodness and kindness behind his awkward social skills, but we wonder if others recognize his sweet soul, as well. After reading the blog entry, my cousin Amy reminded me in a loving note that Alex does, indeed, have much to share with others: “I hope you know what a blessing Alex is and the joy he brings to others. I say share your sweet wealth.” Similarly, another autism mom friend thoughtfully wrote to me in response to the story, “Alex touches more lives than he will ever know.” Their encouraging words made me realize that Alex is fulfilling God’s destiny for him. Maybe his job right now is to reflect God’s love through his joy for life, his love for people, and his trusting faith and abiding hope that everything will be all right in the end.

As Alex happily counts down the next sixteen days until he turns twenty-three, I need to put aside the disappointments that his life hasn’t turned out as I had planned and to share in the joy he finds in the simple things that others in their busy lives can often miss. Moreover, I must stop thinking about the things Alex can’t do yet and remember that God has His own countdown that I must trust will be the right time for everything. In the meantime, God keeps Alex busy with His own tasks, those far greater than I would have assigned, and certainly much more valuable because they truly reflect God’s glory.

“And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him and reflect His glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18


K. C. Wells said...

A good reminder that sometimes our plans aren't THE plan for our lives. ❤️

phyllisbizeemom said...


You are an inspiration to me!
Thank you!
(You also touch & bless
more lives than you know!)

May you all have a blessed
Christmas and New Year!

Love & prayers :-)

Dawn Marcotte said...

Great post - the comment about not hitting milestones really hit home for me. My daughter is in high school now, but on track to graduate in a couple of years - then what? We are working on it - but I really like the idea that we need to give them to God and follow His direction.

God Bless

Pam Byrne said...

Hi K.C.,
I totally agree! As a planner, I have trouble accepting that my plans aren't always THE plans, but God and experience are teaching me otherwise. :) Wishing you and your family peace, healing, and blessings this holiday season.

Pam Byrne said...

Dear Phyllis,
Thanks so much for your sweet note; I really appreciate your kindness. Keeping you and your family in my prayers and hoping for many blessings this Christmas and in the coming new year.

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Dawn,
Thanks for your nice note. We thought it was tough when our kids were little, trying to find the best therapies, but when they're older, we fret more about what the future holds. I hope your daughter continues to make great progress so that you don't have to worry. :)
Take care,