Today you are four. And while I can still count your years on earth on one single hand, your journey here has been anything but simple.
Your daddy had just returned from a 15 month deployment when God first laid you on our heart. As most hopeful parents do, we did the genetic testing, the prenatal screenings, armed with bottles of vitamins, supplements, and stacks of pamphlets we eagerly left the doctors office. But what the doctor didn’t know, what we didn’t know, was that you were already there. Quietly, secretly growing in my tummy, waiting to make your presence known. And my world was changed.
The discovery that you were on the way was one of pure celebration for our entire family. From grandparents to cousins, everyone was anxiously awaiting your arrival. And then came the day when we thought we lost you. For hours we sat in the hospital, waiting and praying for what seemed like a lifetime. Test after test, we waited. And then, we saw you. Our first glimpse of your tiny little heartbeat beating away on a screen of black and white swirls. My fear turned to relief and then overwhelming emotions as I lay there crying and staring at your tiny being. And my world was changed.
My water broke three weeks early, but true to form, you could not be rushed. 13 agonizing, drug induced hours later, you made your debut. They placed you on my chest and you looked up at me in your cheese covered skin and I knew at that moment that I would lay down my life for you. You were a small, but healthy 6lbs 13 oz with black hair, blue eyes, and a heart shaped birth mark on your back. I was positive the angels had kissed you before they sent you to me. And my world was changed.
Nine hours later, your grandparents arrived from Tennessee, anxious to meet their first grandchild. They hugged and kissed you and passed you around as though you were the first baby ever to be bestowed on our family. But there, in that same bed where you had been placed in my arms just hours earlier, we learned that my daddy, your Papaw, had cancer. And both our worlds were changed.
You never knew your Papaw when we wasn’t sick but oh how I wish you had.. Because there was no one more excited to meet you than him. And for two years, your daddy and I did everything we could to make sure you spent time with him, knew him, loved him. And just three days after your second birthday, when your Papaw went to heaven, you cried little tears of grief and sadness, and I knew in my heart that you understood. And your world was changed.
Three months after your Papaw passed away, your baby brother made his arrival. You loved him immediately and took to him as though he was your baby doll to nurture and cuddle. But his presence also meant that you had to share my attention and my lap. And you soon realized that your new baby brother demanded a lot of mommy’s time and that you were now the big sister. And your world was changed.
Five weeks later, your daddy left for Afghanistan. I wasn’t sure how you would handle the separation, especially after so many changed had just occurred. But you amazed me with your strength, your love, your wisdom and your patience and you soldiered through the year with all the ease of a seasoned pro. You learned what it meant to serve, to sacrifice and to pray. And your world was changed.
One year and two Christmas’s later, your daddy returned. Again, I wondered how you would adjust. For weeks we prepared for the big day and I wondered if I would remember all the important milestones of the year.. But when the time came, you walked up to your daddy and eagerly began telling him all about your day, and your school cubby, and your new bear, and everything that had been important to you over the past year. And you learned the joy of homecoming and reunion and how to thank God. And your world was changed.
In a few months we will begin preparing to make another Army move. It’s not our first, and it certainly wont be our last, but it will be the first one that you remember. You will have to say goodbye to friends, your school, your room and your home. I know it won’t be easy for you, and it hurts my heart to know that you will feel the pain we all feel when saying goodbye. But I also know the pride that you will feel when we’re all settled into a new place, making new friends and building another new life. And you will learn to be tough and resilient and flexible. And your world will be changed.
Over the past four years I have watched carefully as you learn and grow, and as every mother does, I worry if I’m making the right decisions, if I’m showing you the right way. I am continually in awe at the size and purity of your heart and I pray daily that God will make me more like you and allow me to see things through your eyes. I often wonder who you will be when you are grown, what you will do with your brilliance and passion and what mountains you will move- and there is no doubt in my mind that you will absolutely move mountains. But whatever you do, however your world grows and changes, know this: because you are here, because I see your smiling face, hear your infectious giggle and your sweet, tiny voice, because you have a heart that knows no bounds, because you love un-ending and unconditionally, because your imagination cannot be contained and your creativity cannot be predicted, because they placed you in my arms those 4 years ago, on a day when I had no idea how much I needed you- because of this and so much more, you have already changed the world.