I guess I can start by telling you about her day. Jeremy's out of town, so the kids and I went downstairs to bring her breakfast in bed this morning. We walked in the door to find her huddled on top of the upside-down papasan chair completely wrapped up in her blanket. She had taken off her jammies and her pull-up had been torn to shreds all over her bedroom floor. The room did not exactly smell good! Her keyboard had two keys broken off of it and her toys were scattered around the room. She was singing. (: I got her cleaned up and laid her on the bed. We sang "Happy Birthday" and fed her breakfast, then gave her one of her presents-- a new music toy. She took it and pushed a button, a smile immediately spreading across her face. She giggled. The kids were so, so excited that she liked it. Then I told them that the best present we could give her would be a clean room-- so we all worked together to clean it up while Elli figured out her new toy. The next two hours were spent bathing all the kids and getting ready for church. We made it through the Sacrament with all of us in the chapel before Elli started making loud noises and Xander started to complain that his leg hurt. I took X, E, and S out into the hallway for the rest of the meeting, where Elli happily jumped around in circles for the next 30 minutes. Then it was off to Primary. After all the kids were settled in their classes, I sat down in Sunday School by myself. I couldn't concentrate on the lesson because I was just consumed with thoughts of Elli. How difficult she was. How precious she was. How grateful I was for her sweet teachers who were spending time with her so I could enjoy some spiritual enlightenment. How guilty I felt that someone was taking care of her. How far she's come since she was placed in our arms 5 years ago. How little she's come since she was placed in our arms 5 years ago. How I can be so completely overwhelmed by her and completely overwhelmed with love for her at the same time. How the sound of her singing is probably my favorite sound in the world and how the sound of her screaming is probably my least favorite sound in the world. How being her mother is at the same time so painfully bitter and so perfectly sweet.
How I yearn for her healing.
I thought of the scripture in John 9:2-3-- "And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." You know, when I was younger I always thought that Christ was referring to the fact that He was going to heal him, and that was how His works would be manifest through the blind man. I look at it differently now. I know that Jesus could heal my girls of their blindness. But I think that because of their blindness, His works are manifest through them in a way that they could not be shown otherwise. I feel this because I have seen how they strengthen others and lead them to more Christlike lives. I feel this because their blindness has changed ME. It has made me a more patient and understanding person. It has filled me with a love for Christ that I don't know if I could have gained without them. And Elli's autism and subsequent cognitive delays and behaviors has somehow further deepened my love for Christ and my relationship with Him. For she is alive in Christ! She is a celestial spirit. And though I admittedly can easily forget this when things are particularly tough with her, I always know it in my heart, and I feel of her spiritual seniority in our home.
I remembered another scripture-- one of my favorites-- found in Isaiah 42:16. It's the one I have clung to many times (I even named her blog around it) but have not thought of recently. "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." He has not forsaken her.
He will not forsake her.
So though I didn't necessarily pay attention to the lesson being taught, I feel like the Holy Ghost gave me a lesson that I needed more-- a reminder of the special spirit that Elli is, of the Savior's perfect plan for her, and how grateful I am to be her mother.
After dinner tonight we had banana splits-- one of Elli's faves. I then put in a new CD I bought her-- a children's gospel singalong. The first song was the one that starts, "The Lord said to Noah there's gonna be a floody-floody" (I forget the name) and I started singing and dancing to it. Pretty soon the girls and Xander had joined in. Taylor and Parker just kind of rolled their eyes and laid on the couch reading their books. I tried to get them to join in to no avail. We kept dancing through the next songs before I came up with a great idea. I announced that the child who danced the least would get to clean up dinner! Wow... I had no idea my boys were such amazing dancers! We laughed and danced through the next 10 songs. It was so much fun. Elli just sat there, but I think she enjoyed the music. When "Kumbaya" came on, we all held hands and swayed and laughed. (For those of you that don't know, when our kids argue, their consequence is often to hold hands, look each other in the face, and sing "Kumbaya." It almost always ends in smiles!)
The last song we danced to was "Let it Shine." This has been one of Elli's favorites for a few years now. She doesn't sing as much or as clearly as she used to, but I remembered that we had gotten a video of her singing this a couple of years ago when she was more easily coached into singing and would sing a song all the way through! She was also unusually happy and calm during this video. I'll put it at the bottom of this post. It's a great reminder to me of how she shines with the light of Christ.
After our dance party I asked the kids to each tell Elli something they liked about her. Taylor's response was particularly sweet. He said, "Elli, I love you because you have so many trials that you just deal with, and when I get discouraged, I look at you and think of how blessed I am and you make me feel like I can do anything."
I love what Elli teaches our kids, and the pure love they give her in return.
Happy 8th Birthday, sweet Elli! I hope you dream of chocolate and Thai food and almonds and mangoes and noodles and bananas with peanut butter and pumpkin pie and breadsticks! I hope that somehow as you close your eyes, you can dream with color and images and clarity of mind. I pray that you can feel the perfect love that your family and your Savior has for you, and that you can rest your mind and body from the hardships they endure while awake. Sleep peacefully, birthday girl.
PS Elli was not cooperative at all during our family photos. She wasn't horrible-- she just wouldn't take her hands off her eyes and didn't want to stand or sit still. We tried with all our might to at least keep her hands down from her face. Smiling was just not going to happen. After family photos they took individuals of the kids. Elli still wouldn't smile-- we tried EVERYTHING we could think of. Then someone remembered how much she loves when Grandma Rose does "Peter Piper" in pig-latin. LOL. Jeremy did it for her and we immediately got a big grin! It's funny, though, as I looked at the pictures of her-- I tend to like best the ones where she isn't smiling-- it seems to capture the Elli that we know most of the time, and I think she is beautiful. (: