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.

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

It seemed like every other Sunday morning.  I was standing in line waiting to pick up the girls from their class.  I was wondering what we were going to eat for lunch. Should we stay home and rest after lunch? Or should we go visit grandma and grandpa?  My thoughts were suddenly interrupted as I noticed something beautiful was happening.  Hope was dancing, smiling, and giggling with a girl named Livvie.  That may not sound like a big deal.  But it was.  It was a dream come true.  For years I’ve sat and watched kids running and playing together.  Making friends seemed so natural and easy for them.  My heart ached for my  girls to have a friend.  Someone to dance with, laugh with, and share secrets with.  But it’s not been easy for Mikayla and Hope to make friends.  Their language disorder seemed to be a roadblock between them and the friends they deserved.  I’ve hoped that they would one day find a friend but wondered if it would ever happen.  Then suddenly on what seemed like an ordinary day the extraordinary happened.

Livvie’s mom asked if Mikayla and Hope could stay all night at their house one night during the week of vacation bible school.  I packed their bags for their very first sleepover at a friend’s house.  They went to the park and went swimming.  They had the time of their life.  I’m so glad that Livvie’s mom got some pictures of the girls.  The joy on their faces is priceless
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One night I decided to watch the girls while they were doing the games at VBS.  Mikayla was standing in line waiting to do the obstacle course.  And a girl named Katelyn was holding her hand.

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Katelyn continued to hold Mikayla’s hand and helped her through the obstacle course.  Katelyn was selfless and she didn’t worry about taking a turn by herself.  She took her turn with Mikayla.  I stood with tears in my eyes as I watched this young lady love my daughter so well.

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The next night of VBS they played soccer during the games.  Katelyn once again held Mikayla’s hand and helped her.  They ran together.  They laughed together.  And my heart was full as I saw the sweet smiles on their faces.  DSC01221

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Proverbs 13:12 says Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  It was so hard to wait for years to see our girls make a friend. I often lost hope while I waited.  There were times when my heart felt sick.  But then suddenly God sent Livvie and Katelyn to fulfill my dream.  I can’t even put into words what it feels like to see our girls smiling with Livvie and Katelyn.  I shared on facebook about Hope dancing with Livvie.  And I found a mom who’s waiting for her daughter to find a friend. My heart aches for her because I know exactly how she feels.  I told her that we should meet at the park so that our girls can play together. Mikayla and Hope have another opportunity to make a new friend.  And I smile every time I think about it.                    

What Great-Grandpa Taught Us About Love

When Brynna was little she dragged the card table to the end of the driveway and put a “flowers for sale” sign on it.   She walked around the yard, picked flowers, and tied them together with purple yarn. Great-Grandpa showed up to buy some flowers.  He reached in his pocket, pulled out $20, and purchased a small bouquet of clover. And before he left he reached into his pocket again, pulled out $20, and he gave it to Taylor just for standing there and looking pretty.

Great-Grandpa passed away in April and then 8 weeks later Great-Grandma left us as well.  He was 94 and she was 91.  They were 4 weeks away from celebrating their 73rd wedding anniversary when Grandpa passed away.  It’s hard to imagine life without them. Great-Grandpa was always the life of the party and Great-Grandma was his sweet, quiet companion.  Right now we feel like our hearts have been ripped out.  A friend told me the other day that it doesn’t get easier it just gets different.  Yes, life is different now.  Two very special people are missing each time we have a family get-together.  Great-Grandma and Grandpa won’t be at anymore birthday parties or Christmas Eve breakfasts.  And it hurts. A lot.

We visited Great-Grandma the week before she passed away.  Brynna took me over to a cabinet in the dining room.  She smiled as she showed me the clover that Great-Grandpa had bought all those years ago.  He had taken his clover home and hung it from the handle of the cabinet.  The clover was special to him.  So special that he put it on display for everyone to see.  Brett was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house the day before Grandma’s funeral.  He saw the clover and he brought it home to Brynna.  He knew it was special. That dried up clover holds a memory that Brynna shared with Great-Grandpa.

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We went to church on Sunday.  I still felt numb from the funeral and just didn’t feel like being there.  During the worship service I couldn’t sing because I had a lump in my throat and tears trickling down my face.  I began to think about the high price that Great-Grandpa paid for that clover.  Why did he do that?  He paid a high price because he loved Brynna.  She was worth it.  And he saw Taylor standing beside Brynna and he gave her the same gift.  She didn’t do anything to earn it.  But he gave it to her anyway. Because he loved Taylor.  She was worth it.

The tears continued to flow down my cheeks as I realized that Great-Grandpa’s love is an earthly example of the love that Jesus has for each one of us.  He paid a high price for our sins by dying on the cross. Why did He do that?  He did it because He loves us.  We are worth it.  We don’t have to do anything to earn His love.  He gives it freely to each and every one of us.  All we have to do is accept His love and share His love with others.  That’s all that really matters.  Loving Jesus and loving others.

As we watched things leave Grandma & Grandpa’s house it made us pause and really think about life.  Things just really don’t matter.  We spend a lifetime accumulating things that we can’t take with us when we leave this earth.  The most important thing that we can leave behind is a legacy of love.  We can create memories that can be passed down through the generations.  Perhaps one day Brett and I will celebrate our 72nd wedding anniversary.  And we will gather around his Grandma & Grandpa’s table and Brett will tell our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids about the time that Grandpa Jimmy paid $20 for clover.  And we’ll laugh and remember the greatest lesson that Grandpa ever taught us.  He taught us how to love.