Our 2 y/o son was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I have just been moving forward and coordinating all the services that he needs. I have been slowly processing it with people in my life and I was in need of a silent retreat to just talk to God, unplugged and unhurried.

At the retreat, I was spending most of my Saturday morning in the reading room. Normally, I would pick up books about prayers, or about mental health issues but this time around, I searched the section about aging. I did not know a poem about adoption would touch me so deeply. It’s like I need to see my son with new eyes, accept the unfamiliarity, learn a new language, to go to a world I know of but have not immersed myself in it or step foot in it. You’ve heard about it, you admire people or parents who are in it but I am yet a foreigner. It’s like immigration for me all over again, traveling in a new land, unsure how I will fit in. I feel so alone and inadequate, … or will I find strength with other anxious mothers who had gone before me?

I was really blessed by my walk to the labyrinth, at the labyrinth and from the labyrinth. I was curious about it from people sharing at the last retreat, but I hesitated going out in the rain because I don’t like my shoes getting wet and they might become stinky! Even though it was cold and uncomfortable, I believed God wanted to speak to me through it all… To see the barrenness of the trees, the bushes with dead, dried leaves, twigs, no butterflies in sight, and no buds emerging yet. When I finally arrived at the entrance of the labyrinth, I told myself to take it slow. Then I noticed all the crystal pearls like-dew formed on the twigs and on the dead dried leaves. It was so beautiful I had to capture it and draw it. It looked like Christmas again with lights and ornaments, just glistering. Then I saw in front of me I still had a long way to the center. I did feel annoyed a bit as the rain didn’t seem to stop. It felt like it got harder with each step I took, and my shoes got wetter. I was standing at a point right next to the center but I still had to loop it around to reach there. Then I sighed at the thought that I still have to reverse the walk back! I realized I kept focusing on the destination either to the center or back to the building inside because I so wanted to go back to safety, away from the rain, not alone, warmth.

At some point of my walk, I accepted the rain was not going to stop. I continued to remind myself to take it slow, noticing my steps, my breaths, and the surroundings. On my walk back, I paused to stare at how the raindrops made many circular ripples on the puddles. I listened to the soothing sound of the pitter-patter of the rain. I noticed again those crystal pearl-like dew formed not on the bush but the entire tree this time. I admired the height and strength of the spruce tree, anchored and rooted in the ground. I observed and laughed at the ravens (or they could’ve been crows), seemingly unbothered by the rain just searching for food and hanging out on the tree branches. Lastly, I ended my journey praying more in the healing hut. When I emerged from the hut, I saw multiple purple flower buds also emerging out of the ground. Perhaps, my wintry heart will see spring soon.

I am sure that I will go through these emotions again in different seasons in my life, grunting, grieving, accepting, appreciating, embracing and grunting again but I know I am not alone. God is with me. Last retreat, I was reflecting on my 30s and turning 40. This year, I ask myself what would becoming 40 look like especially in this new path I will embark on, along with Tony.  Oh yes, the title of the book that I read the poem from was called “If I had my life to live over, I would pick more daisies” and one of the lines she wrote was to “eat more ice cream than beans.” This is to remind me to seize the moment, be patient with my journey and to take each day at a time.

Carmen Chau

Carmen Wong is a first-generation immigrant with a passion for education and mental health advocacy. After graduating from New York University with a major in Biology Secondary Education, minor in psychology, Carmen dedicated two years to teaching in the New York Department of Education. Feeling a calling to youth ministry, Carmen served in Chinese Christian Herald Crusades, where she shared God’s love through various outreach programs and camp ministries. Following a profound period of discernment with WOW!, she pursued a graduate degree in Mental Health Counseling at Nyack College. After almost a decade in the mental health field, she now serves as a full-time counselor at Beacon Christian Community Health Center in Staten Island, while also maintaining a private practice part-time. Outside of her professional life, Carmen finds joy in swimming, creating art, watching K-dramas, savoring Japanese cuisine and cherishing quality time with family and friends. She lives in Staten Island with her husband, Tony, their two sons M&M and her mother-in-law.