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I can hardly believe that in just a few short months, Haven will turn eighteen. And around the same time we will celebrate ten years of our precious young lady being a Salem.  Ten amazing years with Haven! It was been such an incredible journey–one of stretching and growing and deep valleys and glorious mountaintops.  We have had to learn how to parent a child who is completely non-verbal and very intellectually delayed.  We have needed to educate ourselves as much as possible about PTSD and what that means for Haven so that we could parent her with much grace and understanding.  We’ve navigated therapies and learned what’s best for her.  We have found our voice in knowing how to best advocate for her very unique needs.  We’ve homeschooled her and then later, made the decision to enroll her in a small, self-contained classroom environment. It’s been such a privilege.  Every single part of the journey a joy.

And through it all–every decision and every milestone and every victory and challenge that we have walked through with this beautiful daughter, God has been so very faithful.

To us.

And to her. Goodness, has He been faithful to Haven!

For so many years Haven has fought so hard to overcome many fears. Terrible, terrible fears of so many things. Her first eight years of life were filled with unfathomable, heartbreaking abuse, pain, abandonment and scarring which left our daughter unable to cope with very much at all. The world became a very scary place.

For almost ten years, home has been Haven’s safe place, and venturing beyond our four walls was, for the longest time, terrifying for her. But, slowly but surely, with so much patience and grace and understanding from everyone involved in her life, Haven has learned that her world beyond our home is full of adventure and fun things to try. And for the very first time recently, she’s been willing to step a little farther out of her comfort zone and try more new things.

This week Haven took part in her very first unified soccer game. This is a huge victory! Never before has she been willing to even try a sport. To see her running after a ball and high-fiving her teammates brought tears to our eyes.

For the longest time, PE in school was extremely difficult for Haven. Last school year, her teacher and the para-professionals who love her dearly literally could not even get her into the gym to take part in what her class was doing. Most times Haven preferred to stay behind in the classroom or sit far up on the bleachers and quietly observe everyone else doing various activities.

But God!

Slow and steady wins the race every time with this beautiful love. In her own time, and with so much love, support, and encouragement from those in her life, Haven independently decided to give more things a try this school year. And the most amazing thing?  She’s having the time of her life enjoying her newfound independence and learning new things.

Girl has crazy skills, too!

We don’t take any of it for granted. Every milestone is an enormous victory for Haven. Every step that she takes toward becoming as independent as she can be as a young adult is a blessing from heaven.  Haven will never live independently and will always be with us, but our heart and our goal for her is to equip her and enable her to enjoy the many opportunities for disabled adults in our community.  We long for Haven to live a full, fun, adventurous life filled to overflowing with so many blessings.

She has such a sweet and tender heart and a giggle that can make anyone smile.

I am so proud of her!  I am so proud of her courageous heart and her willingness to try new things. How far Haven has come in the past year! She is learning and growing and discovering that the world around her has so much to offer and so many fun things to explore.

And she’s doing it.

One miracle at a time.