Bible Verse: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28 ESV
How can a heartbreaking news about her child become a beautiful season for her as a mother?
Normi Herrera is a full-time homemaker and a work-at-home mom (WAHM). She is also a certified breastfeeding peer counselor. She spends her day attending to her family and their needs, homeschooling her kids, writing, and promoting and counseling women about gentle birth and breastfeeding, among others. She also partners with her husband in doing discipleship to married couples and strengthening families in their church, Victory Christian Fellowship, where her husband also works as a full-time staff and intern pastor.
With all these things on her plate, Normi strives to maintain her quiet time with the Lord. For Normi, it is vital to always pray and meditate on God’s Word to help her go through her day to day. Otherwise, she won’t be in the right state of heart and mind as she does her roles. It was a habit she desires to do with consistency, no matter how busy her day gets. And it was this discipline that has helped her when she experienced one of the most trying time in her life.
In October 2016, her firstborn son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While Normi have surrendered this possibility to the Lord even before the diagnosis came out, it still became so hard for her to swallow this reality. Normally when an autism diagnosis is given, doctors would say this is a life-long condition you have to deal with, where there is really no absolute cure. How tragic that sounded! It was heartbreaking for her to hear this. What about their dreams and aspirations for him? What happens to the destiny that they hoped for him? Her son’s diagnosis brought her to a whole new level of trusting and obeying God.
Parenting her firstborn became more challenging for Normi and her husband. There are days that became more difficult because her son had speech challenges, sensory issues and other health conditions. Having autism in the family is hard because the entire family had to adjust to the child and their special needs. She also feels the sadness when he cannot build meaningful friendships or simply connect with others. There’s also the fact that not all people are as understanding as we needed them to be. There are times they also had to miss attending family or friends’ events because he cannot tolerate crowded and noisy places. Like any human being and parent, Normi would struggle with doubts, discouragement, and hopelessness each time the reality hits that her son is on the spectrum. It was during those times that she held on more tightly to Jesus. And when she feels the pressure of her son’s condition, she runs to God and His Word. It’s the amazing grace of God that strengthened her and her family to go through this ordeal. Normi completely surrendered to God’s will for her son, that even with autism, his life will still be used by God for His purposes and glory. So wherever God would take them, Normi will fully trust and obey the Lord.
As her son went through the recommended therapies, God began to give Normi a new perspective—she saw parents who needed a glimpse of hope for their children on the Autism spectrum. She thought, “If I, who have received hope in Christ, still feel discouraged and desperate, how much harder do other parents experience who may have far more complicated circumstances?” And it became her ministry to pray and encourage every family she encounters who is also dealing with autism.
While she is grateful for the interventions, Normi wanted to be more actively involved in her son’s development. So she prayed that God would give her wisdom what to do. They decided to discontinue her son’s therapies and instead focus on customizing his homeschool lessons to target his developmental challenges. After much reading and researching, she was eventually led to the Son-Rise Program® and the story of Raun K. Kaufman—who was once diagnosed as severely autistic and with IQ level below 30, but is now fully recovered from autism and travels around the world to train parents and educators about the Son-Rise Program. She was also very encouraged by the testimonies of individuals with autism and their families who did this program, and even connected with some of them. It is based on the principle that Autism is a social-relational disorder more than a behavioral disorder. According to the website of Autism Breakthrough, a book which Raun Kaufman wrote, “The Son-Rise Program is based upon this simple idea: The children show us the way in, and then we show them the way out. This means that, rather than trying to force our children to conform to world they do not yet understand, we begin by joining them in their world first. Instead of focusing on changing behavior, we focus on creating a relationship.” The more she studied it, the more she felt their approach resonated with her and her family. As she started to apply some of the Son-Rise Program principles, her son’s response and progress were remarkable. He began to be spontaneous in his speech, became more affectionate and interactive with her family and other people, and was more receptive to learning.
When she found out that there will be a Son-Rise Program® Start-Up training for parents and educators to be held in the Philippines—when usually all their trainings are held in the U.S., Europe or in Singapore—she and her husband felt this as God’s confirmation to their prayers. Though the fee was quite pricey, God faithfully provided for them. Normi was able to attend the training last December and was so blessed with the experience of learning and connecting with loving parents and educators from other countries. The 5-day training have not only equipped her with the proper tools to help in her son’s recovery, but also renewed her attitude and mindset about how each child is uniquely beautiful and intrinsically intelligent regardless of where they are in the spectrum. The program has allowed her to see that autism is not a tragedy, but an opportunity to discover immense possibilities if you only allow yourself to embrace it. She also found a new sense of purpose to help other families in dealing with autism.
Normi believes that God allows seasons of testing to refine our faith. It is through painful situations that a true worshiper is made out of—that in the midst of it, we will still praise and worship God for who He is and what He has accomplished for us. Whether your challenge is having a special-needs child, a sick child, a rebel child, or just too overwhelmed with parenting your child, all you really need is to fully surrender to God’s will and allow Him to work in your heart and your situation. This is why Romans 8:28 has been her guiding verse ever since, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Because no matter what happens, all of these painful seasons will still be for our good and for His glory. And that’s where this mother’s hope stands.
Now, Normi sees her son’s circumstance as an incredible season of watching God’s power at work in his son’s life, and an opportunity to share with others about the Son–Rise Program®. She celebrates her son’s uniqueness and brilliance, and praises God for the privilege to love and witness this gift unfold before her every day. Son-Rise Program has helped her embrace her son’s diagnosis with much joy, hope and faith, because where his son is now says nothing about where he can be tomorrow. And Normi strongly believes that one day her son will stand on a platform, testifying about his own Autism recovery and telling other families of people on the Autism spectrum that they can have sure hope and healing in Jesus Christ—the beloved Son who joined us so we can have fullness of life through Him.
Ms. TM says:
I’ve known Normi for almost a year now and she is a dear sister in Christ. She has been part of my needed encouragement and support in doing my calling as a blogger, mentor – consultant and mother. Our fellowship is an answered prayer to me. I am so amazed how God would connect people to our lives to enrich us more in our calling and create friendships that will strengthen us in our lives in following Christ.
Her story has enlightened me about hope. I realized that I am so blessed with my 2 children. It’s true that I maybe frustrated sometimes when they do not obey me and when they have wrong priorities. But I am reminded that I should pray for them more and accept also that there are situations and things that I can only do so much and some are beyond my control, such as the safety of my children, as ultimately their protection is still in the sovereign control of our Lord. I realized that I should pray more for my children, accept our day to day situation and surrender everything to Jesus and put hope in HIM. I hope other children will also learn from Normi’s story, to be grateful and contented with what we have, in spite of difficult situations. Let us all learn to discover the world and reach out to more people, because it is with reaching out to others that we understand what life is all about. I also got burdened to share the hope I felt when Normi talked about the recent program she attended called the Son-Rise Program. That’s why immediately I asked permission if I can feature her here in my blog. I know God has a reason for this burden of sharing it, and I pray that this blog post will reach many parents with the same family situation and have hope that by faith and God’s grace, their child will also recover from their developmental challenges. Please share this to your friends and relatives, and it is my hope and prayer that they will be inspired with how GOD’s love and faithfulness can sustain them, through the testimony of Normi.
Dear God, I may not understand why I have to go through certain challenges in my life, but I ask for your grace and strength every day to carry me through. Help me to remember that you are with me and will never forsake me. May I always be reminded that you have given me the power to overcome any challenge in the name of Jesus Christ. Let my faith be refined and may I stand steadfast in you. Thank you for giving me assurance and hope through Jesus Christ. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.