Recently I was going through a stack of papers. When I saw this, my breath hitched in my chest:
Last September, I prepared this birthday card for my sweet Stirling. At that point, she had long since left the Compassion program and moved far away. As a result, we had said our goodbyes (seemingly forever). There was no way for me to say Happy Birthday to her, or mail her a card. It was a bittersweet day because I missed her so much.
Inside the card is a long, heartfelt message to my dear girl, including the following words:
"I pray that one day God will allow us to reconnect so that I can give you this birthday card. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for you, loving and missing you all the while."
I imagined that if she and I were ever to reconnect, it might happen when she was a teenager. Perhaps one day she would even stumble upon this blog and make the connection.
Never did I imagine that only two months after writing this card, our paths would cross again.
Less than a year ago, I heard her voice over the phone for the very first time. We fumbled through a conversation that largely consisted of "te quiero mucho" ("I love you") and "no entiendo" ("I don't understand"). We shared very few words, but it was a miracle to hear one another's voices after believing that our connection had been severed forever.
Less than a year ago, I was able to hold Stirling again. She, her mother, and two of her sisters visited me and spent the weekend at my hotel in Honduras. We ate breakfast together, played in the pool, and went to the mall. We had puzzle races and long conversations in my much-improved Spanish. And, naturally, there were many (many) hugs and kisses and so much love I thought I might burst.
Less than a year ago (just a few months ago, actually!), Stirling and I spent our second weekend together. This time, all of her sisters were able to join her and her mother at our hotel. My husband and my mother were there, too! It was a dream come true for all of us as Mike was able to forge an instant bond with the family I'd grown to love so deeply.
This time, we spent virtually all our time either at the pool or eating in the restaurant. I had been worried that my husband would have a difficult time connecting, as he speaks very little Spanish. Those fears were completely unfounded, though. He and the girls taught each other words in their respective languages. He would point to an object on the table and say the word in English. Then, they would tell him what the word was in Spanish. It was so sweet and simple and precious that I couldn't help but watch them together (and fall in love with my husband all over again!).
They also played games at the table in the restaurant. Someone would hide their face behind a napkin, and they would be wearing a distinct expression. Everyone else had to try to guess the expression (with a simple word such as "happy" or "sad").
On this trip, there was laughter and hugs and happiness all around. But there were also many tears. Some sad things have transpired, but I love that our families are able to both rejoice and mourn with one another.
The goodbye was especially heartbreaking for Stirling's older sister, Enyily. She had never been able to visit with us. I had only met her once, very briefly, when I went to Stirling's home in 2012.
At one point on this visit she gazed out the window and whispered that this day was like a dream for her.
When it was time for us to say goodbye, the tears welled in her eyes as she looked up at me and said, "voy a extranarte" ("I'm going to miss you").
We clung to each other as she cried.
Goodbyes are never easy, but the ache has dulled a bit throughout the course of this year. I've seen so much growth in all of our lives.
To me (and Stirling's mother), there has been no greater evidence of God's love than this connection between our families.
God is always present in our lives, even when we can't feel it. He was present when I met Stirling for the first time, and He was present when her family moved away. He was present in my absolute heartbreak at the change, and He was present when he brought us back together again.
There is no way to deny His power and sovereignty as we reflect back on this year, and even over the course of the last two and a half years. At first God blessed us with a story, and now that story has grown to a true companionship and love that I pray will be present throughout the course of our lives.
I never thought that one of the greatest blessings of my life would grow out of such deep sadness.
This year, I truly feel like I understand what it means to be thankful.
"God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing."