Kristen's 2nd Heavenly Birthday


I've wanted to get all the details of Kristen's birthday written down, but have had a hard time getting it done.  The days leading up to May 7th were tough ones.  Then to be followed so closely by Mother's left me emotionally tuckered out.

I'll start with something I ordered earlier this year...a Baby be Blessed doll.  Ever since I found out about this ministry, I've wanted to get a doll for Kristen.  Each doll is handmade and includes a scripture on its tummy.  They have lots of colors and styles to choose from and are truly a joy to work with.  Sweet Laura from BbB contacted me after I submitted my order to let me know that since it was a memory doll, they could include a photo or handprints/footprints along with the scripture patch.  This preview was made into two patches to actually fit on the doll:

I love that Kristen's name and the scripture form a heart shape.  The doll is just precious, too.

My oldest daughter is an amazing combination of technical and creative.  She folded a garden full of tiny purple origami tulips and arranged them in the shape of a 2 for Kristen's birthday.  After adding some fun effects to the photo, she included it in a collage print to frame as a surprise for the rest of the family.

Then she created a Basic program on her computer that, pixel by pixel, spelled out "Happy Birthday Kristen" and played the birthday song. 

I was very touched to have a friend of Grace's bring me this pretty yellow rose in honor of Kristen's birthday.

Her mom sent a yummy cheesecake to work for us to enjoy during our Wednesday afternoon staff meeting.  It was such a thoughtful thing to do!  Though the flower and the cheesecake are both gone, they remain a beautiful reminder of how loved we are and that Kristen is not forgotten.

I was finally able to get the pink geraniums planted around Kristen's tree a couple of days before her birthday.  In all honesty, geraniums have never been my favorite flower, but I wanted to have something pink around her tree that would look pretty on her birthday and continue to bloom throughout the summer.  Geraniums fit the bill!  The ones I planted last year were a solid pink.  We went with a "designer" variety this year that are two-toned.

We woke Saturday morning to find a birthday balloon, some yellow and pink potted daisies and a beautiful stained glass purple solar light around Kristen's tree.  I made a pink and white balloon wreath for the tree and hung it at 6:25 a.m. - the exact time of her birth.  Someone brought a lovely bouquet by sometime while we were gone.  The little tree looked beautiful!

The four of us released some bright pink balloons a little later.  It was a beautiful morning, with just enough breeze to take the balloons up and away with a few notes.

We headed to Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard, KS for a family day.  We enjoyed seeing and interacting with a variety of animals, from penguins and armadillos to kangaroos and kookaburras.  Grace fed a giraffe and a ring-tailed lemur, and Emily rode a camel.  We drove out by Lake Afton and watched some remote control airplanes for a while.  They even have a landing strip for them.  We capped off the day with a delicious meal at Carriage Crossing in Yoder with my dad and step-mom.

This little guy loved the craisins Grace fed him.
He even grabbed her hand!

Camels are good at bumpy rides...

This giraffe loved lettuce leaves.

Since we were gone most of the day (and had splurged on dessert at Carriage Crossing), we decided to hold the birthday treats over to Sunday.  Will's parents joined us at church, then came back to the house for lunch.  Will's younger sister and her family joined us, too, and we enjoyed BBQ brisket, baked potatoes, sweet green bean bundles and Mel's yummy pea salad, all followed by birthday cake and bread pudding.

We are a family of chocoholics.  The requests for birthday cakes are always for chocolate cake.  For whatever reason, though, whenever I think of Kristen's cake, it's always white cake.  I frosted the two round layers with bright pink buttercream frosting, trimmed them in white and added a big monogram-type "K" to the center.  It was a new cake recipe (definitely one I will make again), and it turned out beautifully.  And I didn't get one single picture of it!

Bread pudding is also a "must-do" tradition for Kristen's birthday.  I'll save that story for another post, but suffice it to say that bread pudding makes me smile.

By the time Sunday evening arrived, I was feeling an odd sense of relief at having made it through another of Kristen's birthdays and another Mother's Day, too.  The days before had been such hard ones.  The highs were not especially high, but the lows were extremely low.  Extremes and tears at nearly every turn.  And God continues to be faithful.  He provided comfort, yet again, through loved ones who remembered us, and remembered Kristen.  The support of my dear Respite Retreat friends was (and is) such a blessing.  The sweet thoughts and prayers from friends that I've never even met in person are like a warm embrace.  Thank you, one and all.

Dear Sweet Kristen,

I don't know what birthdays in heaven are like.  Every day is beautiful and perfect, so maybe birthdays are just like any other day there.  Here, however, your birthday is a tough one for me.  I know it's a celebration of your birth, and that is absolutely a joyous occasion.  But that joyous day has a line attached to the saddest day of my life.  It's like a beautiful balloon with an ugly weight tied to it.  Though I can't separate them, I can set my eyes on that balloon.  You taught so many of us to look up, Little One.  I'm doing my best to follow your lead. 

All my love, Mommy



There are still days that I feel utterly stunned over the events of the last couple of years.  There are moments that it all seems so unreal, like a bad dream.  A really, really bad dream.  Yet, I know all too well the very sad reality of  missing my youngest daughter every minute of every day.

I made it through her first birthday without her, and now I face her second one on Saturday.  And I'm still having trouble keeping a wider angle on my perspective.  When I stay focused on my hurts, they sting all the more.  It's only in pulling back and looking at the bigger picture that I feel any lightening of my spirit, any joy.  I'm able to do that, but I'm having a hard time keeping it there.  I feel like I have a faulty zoom goes in, and stays, and stays, zooms out briefly, then goes right back in again.

I'm sad that she's not here to celebrate with us, to tell me what kind of cake she would like, to delight in the balloons and decorations, to smile and pose for pictures with her sisters.  It breaks my heart that we have to celebrate another birthday without her.  It's just not the same.  And it hurts.  As overwhelming and painful as it is, that's the small picture.

She gets to celebrate every single day in the glorious presence of our Lord and Savior!  Oh, the beauty that surrounds her!  Anything I could ever imagine absolutely pales in comparison to what she's experiencing.  She's perfect and happy right where she is. 
That's the big picture.

Why is it so hard to stay focused on THAT picture?  It's certainly one that is full of happiness and joy, rather than sorrow and tears.  It's a struggle, one that I feel I'm on the losing end of most of the time.  Perhaps I've gotten lax in my grieving.  It requires one to be very intentional in many areas.  If I'm completely honest, I have to say that I don't always make the effort.

I'm working on that.  I pour out my heart to God knowing full well that He understands like no one else can.  I'm praying for His strength and for patience as I figure out how to work this lens.  He's a willing instructor just waiting for His student to be teachable.  And it's hard to be teachable when your focus is off.