Read below for a guest post from Kris Ray.
My world was rocked when I found out several months before my 40th birthday that I was pregnant after giving up hope that I would ever have a child. Little did I know at the time how much this tiny baby would alter the course of my life.
Maddie Grace came into this world under an incredible amount of trauma. After spending several days in NICU we thought the worst was behind us. Gradually over the course of the next couple years we began to notice that something wasn’t right. Maddie was happy but wasn’t like the other children. When she finally learned to walk at 18 months and was no longer “held captive” in our presence it became glaringly evident that she preferred to be on her own. She would “play” with the same toy for hours on end and would not respond when we called her name. She licked windows, stared at ceiling fans, and continuously rocked her head. At 22 months of age, we got the diagnosis we had been dreading. Maddie had autism.
My grieving period was short but pulled me into a dark place of guilt and shame. I began replaying everything I could have possibly done wrong to contribute to this.
Was this my punishment?
Was she to pay for my sins?
I could have wallowed in this state for a while, but I chose to quickly come to terms with the fact that Christ had forgiven me and there was nothing I could do to change the past. I had no choice but to focus on moving forward and doing whatever I could to help Maddie. Suddenly my very self-centered life made a 360-degree turn. I poured my soul into finding the best therapies and supports for Maddie. Many hours and dollars later I found myself exhausted beyond measure. There was NO WAY I could do this on my own, even with the support of my family. One sleepless night, I dropped to my knees at the foot of her crib. As tears streamed down my face I pleaded with God for help. THIS is what He had been waiting for! In the middle of this storm, He began to part the clouds and light the way.
I began to focus on the present and His presence. Every day I told Maddie how beautiful she was and how much she was loved. Maddie is almost eight now and just beginning to express her thoughts and feelings in words, a day I wasn’t sure we would ever see. Praise the Lord! But even before she was speaking, Maddie was singing. I played praise music where ever and whenever I could and begin to notice how it transformed her. Maddie could go from a total meltdown into lighting up a room. I would take her in for music at the beginning of church service and she would dance and lift her hands like no one was watching! This was something I had always been too self-conscious to do so I knew that she was being led by His Spirit and it moved me deeply. I cannot count the number of times people would come up with tears in their eyes telling me how much they had been blessed by her pure and uninhibited joy.
Maddie truly has a special relationship with the Lord, one that I feel so privileged to watch grow. Whenever I am ready to throw in the towel, she reminds me how it is possible to find joy beyond my circumstances.
Now not a day goes by when I don’t hear Maddie emphatically proclaim, “Jesus loves ME!” or “Bella loves Jesus”. Bella is the name my mother calls Maddie, taken from Beulah which the Lord gave to her before Maddie was born. It means “bride of Christ”. While Maddie may never walk down the aisle, she will always be Christ’s beautiful bride. Perfect in His sight. Made to worship Him.
Ephesians 5:19-20 – “…filled by the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Kris Ray is married to her wonderful husband Justin and the mother of Maddie Grace. She works for a healthcare information technology solutions company and is also a distributor for Young Living Essential Oils. Kris rededicated her life to the Lord at the age of 38 after a mission trip to Guatemala where she was convicted of years of selfish choices she had made that separated her from God’s will. Since her daughter’s autism diagnosis in 2008, Kris has endured many difficult times which have deepened her faith and reliance on God. She been led to minister to and encourage families affected by autism in her community and served on the board of Autism Society – The Heartland for 2 years. Kris is now partnering with a local children’s museum to sponsor sensory friendly events where children like Maddie can enjoy and explore the exhibits with special supports that encourage creative play and social skills.