I want to tell you about my niece Olivia, who has low functioning autism, and her journey. But there are just too many stories to share. I feel like words could never do it justice or capture the true essence of it all. But this much I do know...Olivia is truly a blessing from God. You cannot be in her presence without immediately realizing just how special and miraculous she is. God has blessed her with such a unique mind with mysteries too great for our "normal" minds to always understand.
"Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." ~ Job 42:3
"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well."
~ Psalm 139:13-14
She has opened my eyes to see the world that so many of us turn a blind eye to. I realized many of us turn away because we don't understand and are sometimes scared of the unknown. But if only we could all understand that the unknown is full of such beauty, love and miracles. See here's another part where words fail me. My heart and mind and soul have been affected in countless ways by Olivia. God's love shines through her. Living almost 5 hours away from her is heartbreaking to the point of tears cried over getting to see pictures and videos of her, when all I want to do is ask her for a hug or kiss (which she doesn't dole out unless you have earned a place in her heart....and I am happy to brag that the last time I saw her I got three hugs and three kisses when telling her goodbye). I am in awe of Olivia's parents. An entire book could be written about the love, sacrifices and devotion they have for their girl. (And Donna, I pray every night that you get more than 2 hours sleep that night.)
The month of April is dedicated to Autism Awareness. Olivia's mother (my sister) wrote about this on her blog...
"The grand gesture of setting aside a day or a month to bring the conversation of autism to the table is wonderful. We bathe our lives in blue for a day, hoping that the general population will stop for a moment and think about, read about, ask about our journey with autism. But, this day will come and go. This month will come and go. And when it's over, will anything be different? Will I have affected change in any way? Will there be more compassion and acceptance (not just tolerance)? Will the world feel the same urgency to solve this mystery as my heart does? Will the world see my daughter as I do, amazing and worthy and a child of God?
I pray, yes. Oh, how I pray.
What will her life be like as an adult? What happens when she is stronger than me and I can't stop her from hitting her head? Will there be funding to provide the education she needs and deserves? How can I help combat the ignorance and cold-hearted feelings that some people have of disabled children? Is my faith in God's plan strong enough to withstand the dark valleys? Am I doing all I can to let Olivia's life bring glory to Him? Will this world ever move past Autism Awareness and instead come together to truly advocate for and help our children? To help our girl? So many questions. So many fears. So much love."
So what can I do as her Aunt Stephanie to help share and advocate for Olivia and Autism Awareness??? This is a question I ask myself frequently.
I have let God guide my steps. I have shared her story with people I met less than 5 minutes ago. I have shared countless posts about Autism on my facebook page. And soon, I will walk to raise money for children in the Charleston area and their families to help with the financial needs and support they need on their own journeys with Autism.
Is it enough? I hope and I pray. I trust God that every simple act we each do to raise awareness is multiplied by His love.
Here is the link where you can make a donation towards the Charleston Walk for Autism.
As a thank you for your donation and prayers for Olivia's family and every other family and person affected by Autism, I am offering a free download of these printables...
(click to download)
To learn more about this pack, click here for the original blog post!