I get sentimental around Desta’s birthday each year. Thanks to Facebook, I have an album of photos reminding of past birthday celebrations.
We had the amazing privilege of adopting Desta when she was 5 months old. Aside from her birth, we have spent EVERY.SINGLE.BIRTHDAY with our sweet Gracie girl.
On Desta’s first birthday, I thought I’d introduce her to ice cream. After spending an arm and a leg for Coldstone Creamery ice cream cupcakes, it turned out Desta hated anything cold. She was nonplussed with those cupcakes, preferring Cheerios!
By the time Desta’s second birthday arrived, we were in Florida and enjoying spectacular pool days in April.
Desta’s third birthday was still in Florida, a family celebration with a trip to Disney World a month later.
When Desta turned four, we were back in Colorado. I made a pink M&M cake and Desta was hopped up on artificial coloring for days!
In our house, you get a BIG party when you turn 5. Desta invited her entire class to an afternoon at the YMCA–bounce houses, scooters, cake, ice cream and presents galore. It took us all a few days to recover from this birthday.
Last year, Desta’s 6th birthday, was run entirely by Caroline. It was Caroline’s 13th year and she had a list of 13 tasks to complete within the year. Caroline did a stellar job creating the best Fancy Nancy Party.
This year, as Desta’s 7th birthday approached, I noticed a lot of uncertainty in Desta’s demeanor. About a month ago, we had a mini pow wow in her room. It came to light that everyone in her class was competitive with their parties–trying to outdo the other. I suggested a small celebration with one of her favorite people – Tess. We ended up with a weekend of Chick Fil A, Build a Bear and Dairy Queen Ice cream.
Why all this birthday memory lane journeying? Because this birthday, this 7th birthday of our sweet Desta Grace was a monumental event for Matt and I.
Each of our kids come to us with wounds. Whether we give birth to them or they come via adoption. For some of our kids, the wounds run VERY deep. Their scars are visible and remind them of where they came from. Birthdays, for Desta, have been very hard days.
The week leading up to her birthday each year, I’d brace myself. Thoughtless remarks, cruel words, angry stomps and shutting out everyone masked the deep pain in her little heart. Birthdays, for Desta, I believe, brought up pain of all the unknown questions she has in her young life.
It’s been a long haul this year. While I won’t share all of Desta’s story, I will say that we’ve invested HOURS of time in therapy and at the doctor’s office learning how to manage these deep rivers of wounds. It’s been a very challenging year for Matt and me. We have struggled with understanding our role and how to parent a hurting child.
When this birthday came around, I found myself breathing hard. I worried that this celebration would dredge up deep wounds. I worried that Desta wouldn’t think she was special enough.
This picture says it all to me. The smile on this girl’s face is genuine. When Desta came down the stairs the morning of her birthday, she had on the best face. While I didn’t have my camera out, I will NEVER forget that expression. It was a “Wow, this is all for me? I am so special and loved.”
This birthday Desta was a completely different child. She was authentically happy. Everything we did, she would say, “thank you.” When she’d listen to family member’s birthday messages on my phone, her smile was from ear to ear.
If you’d ask me last year about Desta’s 7th birthday, I would not have known this would be the outcome. Last year I was weary, oh so very weary, and angry. I was bitter that I wasn’t able to “fix” the scars my daughter has to bear. I was convinced that we’d never see her be truly joyful and content.
For those in the muck right now, don’t despair. We’ve been on this journey for 7 years. It’s not been easy at times. It’s been so rewarding other times. It’s been mundane and volcanic.
But one foot in front of the other is all you need to do.
God has been so gracious to lead us to people who’ve provided healing for our daughter. We are still on the journey–it doesn’t just all magically disappear. However, these highlights are such gifts in the midst of the climb!