Our beautiful pain, our greatest blessing

The author, Rizal and Brenda with their daughter Julia and son, Rich Enzo. The Pinlac family first attended The Feast in Valle Verde in January 2008 and continues to do so till now.

My wife, Brenda and I along with our daughter, Julia, then 2 year-old, first attended The Feast in Valle Verde on the first Sunday of January 2008. From that day, we felt home. We never missed a Sunday Feast since then up to today that we are now four attending – with our 2nd child, Rich Enzo, now 6 year-old. When Julia turned 5-year-old, we started leaving her at the Awesome Kids Ministry. At first, they are puzzled at her because she seemed different from other kids, but after a while, they have come to accept and love her as she is – and even made a special program and activities just for her. Julia is now 10 years old.

We went through quite a painful process upon learning our daughter may be different from other children. There was confusion at first. The moment of denial came in piece by piece – she may just be developing slowly than other children, like she was able to walk by herself without assistance at 3 year-old, so the speech may come later and her hyperactive behavior may be natural for her age. But as days wore on, the fear crept in. When the doctors dropped the news that our daughter has Global Developmental Delay (GDD), making her fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADD), it was like a bomb – so loud, it numb all our senses. How can something so perfect as my daughter be afflicted with such a confusing developmental condition? But we did not go through a long denial – we accepted the diagnosis, but not the prognosis – so we can always cling on hope that things will still change for the better. But I embraced my daughter’s uniqueness even more. Her exceptionality does not make her less beautiful in my eyes. Her beautiful smile is enough to make me happy. She is an angel in so many ways - pretty like her mom, a comic like her dad, different like everyone else, pure and incapable of committing sin. But society demands for norm and normality would always make us long still for a normal child – not for our sake but hers. I was never in denial. But I grieved for the lost of a normal child. I never questioned God why, I only asked Him how. How can we make her understand the world as it is? How can I can love her more the way she would know that she is loved? And the greater challenge is how can we join her into her world and see the universe the way she sees and understands it?

God may have loved us so much that she gifted us a daughter like Julia – to whom we can immensely outpour such unconditional love. I must admit though that there is the pain and the fear. It is painful to see a future so uncertain for our daughter. It makes me fearful to think that no one might love her the way we do. What’s going to happen to her when we are gone? It is then we realized that our daughter is our pain – a very beautiful one at that. Her condition has made me resign to God’s will. It has also made me more compassionate to others on the same journey. Our greatest pain is also our greatest blessing. It is when I have accepted Julia’s condition that I felt God’s painful caress – His amazing grace and wonderful embrace, telling us that all is, and will be, well.

The outpouring love Julia receives from the The Feast Awesome Kids Ministry is more than enough assurance that God is taking care of our daughter – and that others will accept and love her too unconditionally. Here at the Feast, mourning is turned into dancing, darkness into light, and fear into love.

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