What a wonderful birthday present you all gave to Annie!  Have you read the Scripture comments from the last post?  It provided us so much encouragement on a hard day.  We continue to lean on the TRUTH no matter if our day is hard or easy.

We ended up celebrating Annie’s day more than we anticipated.   This was mostly due to the fact that there are two little kiddos who couldn’t imagine why a birthday would be sad . . . to them it was a happy occasion.  So we went with the flow.

We spent the weekend in Ann Arbor, the place where Annie spent her last days.

Our first stop was Mott’s Children’s Hospital.  We put together a basket of goodies for the doctors and nurses who took such loving care of her and us and delivered them on Friday afternoon.  It was hard to face the flood of memories that met us with each step, but it was something we felt we needed to do as we heal.

As we pulled into the parking garage, Kate piped up, “Are we here to get our Sweet Girl?”.  Oh how I wanted to tell her yes, that our life would very soon be happy and normal again!  I hadn’t anticipated that question, but as soon as she asked it,  I knew that in her little three-year-old mind it made perfect sense.  After all, it was the last place she saw her alive.

William took note of the room where we had told them Annie would die.  I remembered his reaction, “It just can’t be true!  She didn’t even get to live very long!”

We didn’t spend a long time there and that was okay.  Little by little we’re wading through everything.  Finding ways to celebrate others was a tangible thing we could do to honor Annie.

The rest of the weekend was filled with swimming, a Children’s Museum, hours in bookstores and exploring.  We had a great time.

Do you remember the phenomenon of swimming in hotel swimming pools?  I guess I had forgotten it until I had my own kids.  It was the BIGGEST DEAL EVER.  They dressed especially for the occasion (not to mention it was the only time I actually remembered to grab the camera).

We arrived at the hotel and minutes later it looked like a tornado had hit our room.  The kids were rummaging through bags, finding swimming suits and goggles, tossing everything else aside.  We were at the pool within 10 minutes of arriving.  And that’s when disaster struck.  They were closed for maintenance . . . for the next four days.

So we checked out.

I started repacking the tornado, Peter started calling other hotels, the kids started watching the Disney Channel and turning up the volume whenever they didn’t think we were looking.  It got a little chaotic.

But the story has a happy ending.

We found a hotel– with a pool– and the Disney Channel– and proceeded to take over there.

Thankfully the back-ups (my parents) arrived the next morning to help us with the constant cries of, “Can we go swimming now?  Is it time to go swimming?  You NEVER let us go swimming!  We haven’t gone swimming for SO LONG!  We just keep asking because we’re SO EXCITED to go swimming!”

So Annie’s first birthday wasn’t what we expected.  We wanted balloons and a face messy from cake.  We wanted birthday ice cream and an overstimulated baby from all the fuss.  We wanted presents tossed aside because of the excitement of the wrapping paper and older siblings getting in trouble for not letting her open her own gifts.  We wanted to fill in another page of her baby book bemoaning the fact that our baby is turning into a toddler.

But nothing is as we expected it.  Except that God is still God.  He has promised to see us through every step of our lives– good and bad– and He is faithful.  And He gives such good gifts . . . flowers from friends on an especially hard day, notes of encouragement from strangers, funny kids that bring a smile to my face when I feel like giving up, a reminder of Scriptures that were written so long ago yet speak to me so perfectly.   Without Him, I know I could not survive this journey.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself; 
with my whole heart, I will praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
He ransoms me from death and surrounds me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
Psalm 103:1-5