More Than Words
with Tahni Cullen & Cheryl Ricker
No known cause. No known cure. Lifelong.
Tahni Cullen will never forget that drive home from the doctor after she and her husband, Joe, received an official diagnosis on the autism spectrum for their two-year-old son, Josiah. Turning, she glanced at his sky-blue eyes which stared into space. His gaze disappeared into that same faraway place that stole little JoJos prized words like Mama, Daddy, cookie, and bumblebee.
Since pregnancy, Tahni had prayed for Josiah’s protection, yet suddenly, the little boy she knew was gone. Snatched. And so were Tahni and Joe’s dreams for their son’s future. The couple had met in college and their worlds had converged around drama and communications. Now, their dramas all revolved around their son, who could no longer communicate. Why was this happening to them and where was God in all of this?
But something amazing happened when Josiah turned seven. Without being traditionally taught how to read or write, this non-verbal child began to type profound sentences on an iPad. Tahni remembers feeling a deep sense of God’s holiness the first time she read Josiah’s words. “It was like I wanted to break out into worship. I read his words to my mom, and she said, ‘Oh, Tahni, he’s been there. He’s been to heaven!’ I felt a mix of fear and excitement. I didn’t know what God was doing in all of this. I still don’t. But I do know he’s been leading us every step of the way. It’s humbling to watch him pull so many pieces together.”
That journey of communicating with Josiah on an iPad and all that they had been through led Tahni to begin sharing their story at different events around the country. Many were deeply moved when they heard about her discovery that her son was actually still “in there,” and she could finally connect with him. During one such event, Christian Women in Media, Tahni and Josiah’s Fire coauthor, Cheryl Ricker, were introduced. Cheryl had been so touched by seven-year-old Josiah’s poem she had heard: “My Favorite Place in Heaven.”
My favorite place in heaven is over peaceful waters
Peace is real; tired souls naturally test peace
Roses are so stunning, worship the King
Sing loud to the prized pardon who requires praise
Angels taste of his holiness, ordained great attitude of praise
Help us worship the Lord together; please him
All you hail the King of majesty forever
Make a noise to the King on the throne.
After that first meeting, it became clear that these two women had a path to walk together to make sure many more could hear Josiah’s amazing story and be blessed by his writings. “Our family has been through so much,” says Tahni, “but we’ve learned that even in crisis, God is right here to help us cling to his supernatural hope. He’s dependable, even when nothing else is. If you feel hopeless right now I’d love to encourage you. Please know that all of heaven is behind you. Look up. There’s much more to life than what you can see with your physical eyes. God is crazy passionate about you and he wants to help you write the story of your life all the way to the last chapter.”
Josiah’s Fire is so much more than a story of one little boy. It’s an amazing journey of just how remarkable God’s plans are for each one of us when we learn to look to God and never lose hope.
As it says in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
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