Our young man, Nathan, has faced challenges his whole life. He was born with some difficulties right from the get-go, though we were pretty ignorant to what the grave faces and crowd of doctors and nurses working over him at his birth would mean down the road.
We realized something was haywire when at the age of two and a half he still couldn't speak. At three and a half he started speech therapy. He was terrified of everything. The wind blowing a leaf near him would send him screaming and shaking with terror. He would turn bright red and you could feel his heart racing.
Sleeping was a nightmare. He would cry and scream with fear. And he when he did sleep, he would do it in spurts. I never felt rested. If we slept at someone else's house it was terrible. He'd be up at 3 in the morning. No matter how much or how little sleep he got, he would be up at 4 or 5 each day. I cried a lot those years.
Of course, well-meaning people didn't help. "Maybe you should discipline him more." "Let him cry it out." "Preschool will be good for him." And I did all those things because I thought perhaps they were right. He never interacted with anyone else. He would sit in the class and play by himself and make truck noises all day long.
As he got older, we discovered multiple learning disabilities. He never got past a 5th grade reading level. His writing skills never progressed past 1st grade. His math skills are elementary age. His processing speed is very low.
When he was thirteen he started developing vocal and motor tics and was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome. He had such violent tics that he would often hurt himself. At the age of fourteen and still looking like he was eight years old, he started growth hormone therapy and had daily shots for four years.
And finally at the age of eighteen, after some very inappropriate and devastating behavior we finally heard the word that I had long suspected - autism. Because Nathan is so high functioning he fell through the cracks. He never acted out in school. In fact, he was very meek and mild and pleasant. So what should have been diagnosed from the start never happened.
And yet, I knew that something was wrong but was always told he's fine. He just needs to get involved more. But I knew that an 18 year old riding his bicycle around and around in a parking lot, pretending to be a policeman was very not okay. But again, because he was so quiet and meek around others, no one could see what I saw.
Why do I tell you all this? Because we spent years concerned about this young man. What will happen to an adult who can't read and write? What will happen if he can't live on his own without some assistance? I cried many tears over this child. And yet, God redeemed the situation and has done a tremendous work in his life in just 4 1/2 years.
Yesterday, Dan came home and told me that he found out that Nathan received Service Star of the Year Award at his job! I'm going to share bits of the letter here so you can see why I'm just crying with joy today.
"Our center store associate, Nathan Groh, has been chosen as our Service Star of the Year for 2013...Nathan is an absolute ray of sunshine here. He comes to work with a smile on his face, and is determined to do his work to the best of his ability. He is respected by his peers and is a shining example of the 4 core behaviors! Nathan takes great pride in his responsibilities. He is always helpful to his peers and the customers. He is always looking for ways to improve or searching for new challenges...Nathan has a heart for everything he does and achieves."We also had a visit from the chief and president of the fire company last week and they presented a letter for Nathan to take to the new department where he is applying. Some of the things they wrote were as follows.
"Nathan is one of our most valued members...If I had ten of him, I wouldn't need anyone else. He pursues training avidly, responds to more calls than almost anyone in our district, shows up at nearly every work detail and is serving his first year as an officer. He is a born firefighter, but moreover, he sets an example for every member here, being as willing to man a mop or broom as he is to man a line or a halligan...He sets a great example for our younger members, and even a few of our older members. You are getting one of our best; take care of him."I am amazed by God's work. I am in awe at how what seemed such a hopeless situation to me has been used to work miracles. What is even more amazing to me is how God worked outside the normal parameters to do this. Instead of using the church for this work, he used a group of local firemen, as well as the kindness of teachers, social workers, employers, and co-workers to help this young man grow into the hopeFULL life that I now see.
He still has challenges. He still needs some assistance with things, but he has grown by leaps and bounds. And that, my friends, is how God can take tragedy and turn it into triumph!