Miracles are everywhere if you have eyes to see them.

Miracles are everywhere if you have eyes to see them | Modern Mrs Darcy

We’ve just said goodbye to some dear friends who were visiting from Seattle.

Seattle is 2400 miles away from us, and we don’t see them nearly as often as we’d like. In fact, it’s been over a year.

When my friend Randi married Ryan four years ago, she became an insta-mom (as she jokingly says) to three young kids, Ryan Jr. (now 12), Brayden (10), and Sienna (7). Both boys have autism. 

Early last year, Randi and Ryan sat down with the boys’ teachers to review their IEPs, and asked, “What’s the end game here? What’s the best you’re hoping for our boys?

The teachers told them that if all goes well at school, their best scenario looks like entering supported living and functioning in a supported work environment when they reach adulthood.

Randi and Ryan didn’t like that answer. They knew the school’s prediction was possible, but they felt like they had to try for more.

So, over the course of many months, drawing on their years of autism research, they constructed a plan that combines hours of play therapy, a squeaky clean diet, and a total change of mindset. They re-built their home to be completely autism friendly. They connected with families who were walking the same path.

They asked for a whole lot of help.

Randi and Ryan recruited a volunteer team of friends and acquaintances (and new friends and acquaintances, they need all the help they can get) to do play therapy with their boys, and just play with their daughter. Their end game is bold, considering their starting point: they want more than anything to draw their boys out of their private worlds and equip them to independently navigate their world, communicate with the people around them, and show and receive love.

Last fall, they pulled their kids out of school and dove in. This fall they ramped up their program: my friend quit her job as a part-time elementary literacy specialist so she could supervise her kids’ homeschool and therapy program full time.

Randi’s told me stories–over the phone, by text message, on Skype–about how well the boys are doing: how Brayden is beginning to speak, how snail mail has become Ryan’s favorite way to connect with the outside world. I’d heard the stories, and I knew they were feeling good about their program.

Miracles are everywhere if you have eyes to see them | Modern Mrs Darcy

But last week I could see Ryan Jr’s progress with my own eyes, and the difference was absolutely incredible.

Ryan Jr wrote us tons of letters before they visited. He wrote out a complete itinerary of what he wanted to do. He thoroughly scoped out our city on Google Maps, so it would feel more familiar when he got here. He reviewed the names and faces of all the people he’d see on his trip.

And so they arrived. Ryan Jr wanted to see our mailbox, and all the other Louisville mailboxes his letters had been delivered to. He wanted to visit the post office (twice). He wanted to buy his own stamps, and then he wanted to sit down and right more letters to the people on his ever growing snail mail list.

And he wanted to talk to me and my kids (and my husband–Ryan Jr adores my husband, who’s traveled to Seattle–and our friends’ home–often enough for work to make me really jealous) and ask us questions. Lots and lots of questions, usually in groups of three. He kept seeking to engage us, and that never would have happened a year ago. By the time his trip was over, he was even giving hugs.

It’s a miracle, y’all.

But if you didn’t know Ryan, or his family–or where they’ve come from, or where they’re (hopefully) headed–you might not recognize, at first glance, what a giant huge deal this is.

If you didn’t know the Thornhills, you might think Ryan Jr was a quirky twelve-year-old who asks some strange questions and is a little obsessed with the postal service.

When Randi and Ryan started exploring treatment plans for the boys’ autism, they asked a lot of hard questions about what reasonable expectations looked like: what could they realistically hope for?

And someone wise said to them, “Miracles are everywhere if you have the eyes to see them.”

I’ve taken her words to heart. It’s so true. And I’m so honored I got to see her family’s unfolding miracle in the making last week.

They’re back home now (stupid 2400 miles), but I’m still thinking of them, and getting updates via text–and scanning my own life for miracles in the making.

Because they’re everywhere–if you have eyes to see.

Do you have a miracle (or miracle-in-the-making) in your own life that might not seem like a big deal to people who don’t know the circumstances? I so hope you do. Please tell us about it in comments. 


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    • Randi says:

      Hi, Kelly – I love that our story meets you where you are with your niece! If you are interested in more details to share with your family, we are finding great success with the Son-Rise Program. You can read more about the program here: http://www.autismtreatmentcenter.org/
      Or you can read more about our family’s story on our Facebook page: Team Thornhill ~ Our Son-Rise Journey
      I hope you find this useful and encouraging!

  1. Katherine says:

    We have friends doing the GAPS diet to support their son with autism. She just heard “I love you” from him for the first time:)

    And I just emailed you about my husbands’ connection to the artist responsible for the Johnny Cash stamp. Would love to make that connection!

    • Anne says:

      Oh my goodness, that’s amazing about your friend! How wonderful. I don’t think I said anything about GAPS in the post, but that’s what Randi and her family are doing, too.

      Thanks again for your email. 🙂

  2. Anne says:

    What an inspiring story to start the day, Anne! So glad you could share. To Randi, Ryan, and their boys: what an inspiration you are to families facing all sorts of challenges! Sacrifice, perseverance, and courage + your love = ever changing end game for the better, I’m sure! 🙂

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story about your friends. It IS miraculous — yet it’s also testament to the fact that what we call miracles often involve a great deal of work and sacrifice and commitment! As a parent of 2 special-needs children myself, one with more severe limitations than the other, I read this and think “Wow, I haven’t gone to nearly this extent for my son, I haven’t done all this extra stuff and rebuilt my house etc.” But then I have to stop and remember that every parent must find their own path and goals and do what they feel is right for their kids and family. Your friends took the path they felt called to and it’s wonderful to see the results!

    I see little miracles every day in my kids’ lives and am so thankful for them. My son, who is eleven, is quite language impaired: he understands EVERYTHING but speaks in 1-2 word phrases most of the time, so one of his challenges at home and school is to “stretch out” his sentences. One day in the schoolyard his ball got stuck somewhere he couldn’t reach it so he approached a bigger kid and said, “Can you get the black football down please?” The other boy was so excited he rushed to tell my son’s Ed. Assistant; everyone was so pleased both with how my son had accomplished a stretched-out sentence, appropriate social behaviour, and problem-solving skills all at the same time. These are the things that encourage us just when we need it!

    • Randi says:

      Jeannie – You’re so right! Finding the path that is right for you and your family is so important! The comparison game gets vicious and overwhelming real fast, and that’s part of the “total change of midset” Anne mentioned. We found freedom in declaring, “This is right for US.” I wish you the same kind of freedom! And I love your son’s language victory on the playground. There is a sweetness in these victories that come directly from the struggle behind them. Keep fighting for your boys!

    • Debi Morton says:

      Jeannie, one of the things I love about your story is how the other boy on the playground responded. How wonderful that another child recognized your son’s victory. (I know I’m 3 years late,with this comment!?)

  4. Tina B says:

    What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing. Sending my best wishes to the parents that they and their sons will achieve even more than they can imagine!

  5. Wendy says:

    Awesome in so many ways!!! First, because your friend was willing to become an insta-mom in such a challenging situation. I signed on for the insta-mom gig without the added challenge of autism and it’s still tough. Secondly, imagine the “miracles” we would see if every parent invested in their child the way your friends have–special needs or not! If you and/or your friends have not read The Spark by Kristine Barnett, it is a MUST read. I’ll be looking for miracles today!

  6. Faigie says:

    Its truly inspiring and whats really inspiring is that your friend “chose” to become this insta mom to challenged children. If they are natural we have no choice…but to choose those challenges… amazing. ( I actually recently heard a thought from someone who said that before we are born we are shown all of our challenges in the world below and if we will accept them…and the only reason we are born is if we say yes so when the going gets rough to think…Hey I said yes)

    • Randi says:

      It’s interesting… I got acquainted with the Thornhill family with absolutely no thought of ever becoming a Thornhill! And then one day (after many, many days) I just sort of came to understand that this was MY family! It didn’t feel like a choice; it was like waking up to what I was made for! It’s not that our lives are easy, but it was the easiest “choice” I ever made!

    • Randi says:

      We accept! Any friend of Cousin Anne is a friend to Ryan! If you will message me through our Facebook page (Team Thornhill ~ Our Son-Rise Journey), we can swap contact info. 🙂

    • Randi says:

      We love new pen-pals! If you message me through our Facebook page, Team Thornhill ~ Our Son-Rise Journey, we can swap contact info!

  7. Alison says:

    I am in awe of the Thornhill family and their commitment and dedication to making miracles happen, this is such a beautifully amazing story, and such a story of love, real, active love. I would definitely love to offer our Australian home as a destination for snail mail, I’ll pop over to FB to connect 🙂

    I love stories of miracles, perhaps because I’m living my own – my (ex) husband and I are restoring our broken, shattered, divorced marriage after 9 years and a whole lot of pain and hurt, and it truly is a miracle 🙂

    Love these stories 🙂

    • Randi says:

      We’d love to connect, and “special stamps” are already familiar to Ryan. He puts his letters for Canada and Ireland in a different stack! Australia would be a new adventure! 🙂

      Blessings to you as you work to restore the brokenness in your own story. What a perfect backdrop for miracles!

  8. Maddie says:

    I’ve had a lazy eye since I was a baby. The doctor I saw since I was a baby said I would outgrow it by the time I was 12. (FYI, I’m 15 now.) My eyes got better as I aged, at one point, I was even out if glasses period. But, as I really started puberty, around 13, my eyes tanked. I couldn’t wake up in the morning and open my eyes without my eyes literally cramping. I went back to the eye doctor I had seen since I was a baby, and he just stared at my chart. My prescription hasn’t changed; there was nothing he could do because he didnt know what was wrong. I cried my sore little eyes out on the way home. The doctor just sent me home with nothing. I had nothing for the pain, or even an answer for why I was in so much pain. My parents searched all over for a doctor that could help me, as we eventually found one to try. My new doctor took me back into his office, and we realized that my left eye, which is my lazy eye, was developing, but my right eye wasn’t. We also discovered that I had no depth perception or peripheral vision. After a long visit, my new doctor figured out I needed slab off lenses, and we ordered new glasses. However, he told my mother (I didn’t find out until several months later) that he was worried I had a brain tumor my development was so far behind. My new glasses came, and it was like someone flipped a switch. I could see so well. Although my eyes still hurt, and still do every now and then, I’ve come so far. Because of the hard work of so many people, including myself, I know have depth perception and peripheral vision. My eye crosses less and less, and I have more control over it than I ever have. Everyday, I’m thankful for Dr. Ransdell and all he’s done for me. This is my miracle

  9. I stand in awe of your friends and their commitment to these children, especially Randi, the insta-mom. We have a grandson (now 18) who has ADHD and Asperger’s and even though he is considered high functioning, life with Kory hasn’t been easy for his single mom, also ADHD and bipolar, and my husband’s ex-wife who is the mainstay in Kory’s getting anything done. Often his conversational technique and thoughts are bizarre and anyone who doesn’t know him gives you questioning looks. Not a good feeling. This is why I know this family is going above and beyond to ensure their boys have a solid footing so they can hopefully experience life as independent, or as nearly so, adults. I love the words “Miracles are everywhere if you have the eyes to see them.” I believe this with all my heart!

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