Little Girls, Birthday Parties, and Bathroom Stalls

Facebook.  I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I love that I feel connected to the outside world when I can’t actually get out into the world. I enjoy seeing pictures of sweet little boys and girls who’ve lost their first tooth.  I love seeing all the pictures of families at Christmas. And Facebook is one of my favorite things on the planet when someone posts something that makes me laugh on a really tough day.  But then there’s the other side of Facebook that I hate. I don’t enjoy people arguing about the current or former President.  People share the best parts of their life and I compare it to the worst parts of mine.  And I find myself feeling empty and less than.  And then there are the pictures of little girls at birthday parties.  You would think I would enjoy those pictures but they’ve always made my heart ache.  I’ve carried a secret around for 11 years that has hurt too much to talk about. Mikayla and Hope have never been invited to a birthday party.  I’ve waited for years for them to have a friend.  And last year I celebrated as I watched two sweet girls from church befriend Mikayla and Hope.  My dream for them to have a friend came true and I began to believe that other dreams I have for them can also come true.  Maybe someday they’ll be invited to a birthday party.  That would be amazing.

I was driving to church one Wednesday night in January.  Life was beating me up and I was feeling pretty hopeless.  I parked the van and the girls started jumping out.  I told our older girls, Taylor and Brynna, that I needed a moment to myself and asked if they would take Mikayla & Hope to class. I looked up to heaven and I said a desperate one sentence prayer.  God, would you put someone in my path tonight who will speak something that will give me hope?  

The very first person I ran into was Amanda.  She told me that her daughter, Katelyn, wanted to invite Mikayla and Hope to her birthday party.  The party wouldn’t be until March but Katelyn was already making plans.  Amanda was telling me that Katelyn wanted to have the party at a children’s museum.  And then I burst into tears.  Is this really happening?  11 years of waiting and my girls are finally going to be invited to a birthday party.  I began to explain to Amanda the reason for all my tears.  I told her that Mikayla and Hope had never been invited to a birthday party. And that I had never told anyone because I didn’t want to be the one to make it happen.  I could’ve went around to other moms and complained or cried about my girls never being invited to a party.  And someone would’ve felt sorry for them and invited them.  But this was happening simply because they were loved and wanted.  I had asked God to send me someone to speak something that would give me hope.  And He answered my prayer within only a few minutes.  My girls finally being invited to a birthday party renewed my hope.  God cares about every detail of our lives.  Even the little details that no one else knows about.

I’ll never forget the day that Katelyn handed me the invitation to her party.  I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the dinosaur on the front of the invitation.  Mikayla and Hope love dinosaurs.  I put the invitation on the refrigerator.  It was a reminder for me to take them to the party.  But it was also a reminder to never give up on my dreams.  Don’t give up even if I have to wait for more than a decade.

March 18th was the day.  We loaded up and headed for the children’s museum.  The girls enjoyed watching Katelyn open her presents.  They were all smiles as they ate their cupcakes and ice cream.  And then they got to explore the museum and have fun being with their friend.

About halfway through the party I took Hope to the restroom.  She looked up at me and she said “Where’s my friend?”  I told her Katelyn was probably playing with some of her other guests.  And then the tears started to come.  Not in Hope’s eyes but in mine.  “Where’s my friend?”  It’s a question I never thought I would hear her ask.  She has a language disorder so just the question itself coming from her mouth was a miracle.  But it was so much more than that.  A friend was something I wasn’t sure she would ever have.  A birthday party was a place I wasn’t sure she would ever be. But yet here we were in a bathroom stall and it was all happening.  A friend, a birthday party, and a question that brought tears to my eyes.  My heart overflowed.

The invitation to Katelyn’s party is still on our refrigerator.  It reminds me to never give up on my dreams for our girls.  Don’t give up even when the road is long and I feel like my dreams will never come true.  Don’t give up when Facebook constantly reminds me of what my family doesn’t have. Because one day my dreams for our girls just might come true.  And if they don’t come true I can always choose to dream new dreams.

When You’re Between Two Paintings

 

Two paintings hang on the wall in our living room.  Our oldest daughter, Taylor, painted both of these masterpieces.  She was only 6 years old when she painted the one on the left.  I can still remember her sweet face and how she beamed with pride as she showed me her very first painting.  She’d only been going to art class for 2 months.  I was amazed at what she was able to accomplish in such a short time.  Taylor was 19 when she completed the painting on the right.  She was all smiles as she turned it around for me to see.  My mouth dropped open and I squealed with delight.  I grabbed it out of her hands and I hung it on the wall in the living room.

One day as I was sitting on the couch admiring Taylor’s artwork I started thinking about all that had happened between those two paintings.  It took 13 years to get from the painting on the left to the painting on the right.  So many things happened that people will never see.  Taylor spent many hours learning how to paint and practicing over and over again.  She painted over mistakes that none of us will ever know about.  I drove her to class every week and I waited 2 hours for class to get over.  I wrote more checks than I can count.  And there’s dad who worked hard those 13 years to pay for the art classes.  And we can’t forget about Grandma.  Grandma took Taylor to art class for an entire year after Mikayla and Hope were born.  She didn’t want me to have the stress of packing them up and taking them with us.  Getting from one painting to the next painting cost our family something.  It wasn’t always easy.  But it was worth it.

In the last two months our family has been faced with two extremely difficult decisions.  We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.  Anxiety wrapped itself around me and nearly choked me.  My sweet husband and I have had a lot of discussions (um….I mean fights) about what we should do.   I’ve consumed a lot of chocolate.  And finally we’ve found the answer to both situations.  The answer to the first decision is yes.  This yes came with a lot of questions, uncertainty, and fear attached to it. Our family will be going through a lot of changes because of this decision.  But even in the midst of fear we chose to say yes.  The answer to the second decision is no.  This no came with a lot of disappointment and heartbreak.  I wanted the answer to be yes.  I dug my heels in and I wasn’t going to change my mind.  Why can’t Brett see that the answer is yes?  It’s so obvious that the answer is yes. And then the day finally came when I heard God whisper the answer into my heart.  And His answer was no.   I was devastated.

Something happened to me once the decisions were made.  Even though I knew we’d made the right decisions I felt empty and hopeless.  I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks.  The process of walking through the decisions has been difficult.  I’ve had to give up something that I really wanted.  I’ve had to say yes to something that scares me out of my mind.  Life’s going to look different than I thought it would look.  As all of the disappointment and uncertainty were swirling around inside of me God reminded me of the paintings.

He said: You’re between two paintings.  This is the part that no one sees.  This is the part that costs something that no one will ever know about.  This is the part when you feel like your heart has been ripped out and yet you choose to go on.  Trust me during this time of disappointment.  Trust me when My plans look different than your plans.  You’re acting like this is the final painting in your story.  But it’s not.  You’re in the middle of your story.  I know the plans that I have for you.  And they are good.   

This moment with God gave me hope.  God can paint a better picture for my life than I could ever paint.  He’s taken the paintbrush and He’s painting over my mistakes.  He’s painting over the plans that I made.  He’s painting over the disappointment that makes my heart ache.  And I believe one day I will step back and look at His painting of my life.  And the no that broke my heart in 2017 will suddenly make sense.  Because I will see that His plan was better than my plan.  I will see that He painted things into my life story that I would’ve never thought to add.  I pray that if today you are feeling hopeless and disappointed that you will turn to the One who will give you hope.  If life doesn’t look anything like you want it to look turn to the One who is writing your story.  And trust Him.  Trust that His Word is true.   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 (Jeremiah 29:11).