Today, February 13th, 2013, is your eleventh birthday.
I remember the moment I found out we were expecting you. It had been a long road of infertility, heartache, doctors appointments, and disappointments in the years before you. There has never been a moment in my life where I have felt such incredible joy as the first time I saw two lines on a pregnancy test. You were on your way, and I was finally a mother.
We chose your name because it means "My God has answered my prayer". You were and are a gift from heaven. You were His before your birth, you were His at the moment of your birth, and you are His still.
|-Three weeks old-|
Your birth was my first attempt at an unmedicated birth. Thinking about touching you, kissing you, nursing you, and smelling your newborn smell is what got me through the long labor. You were worth every ounce of pain and I would have labored forever just to experience the joy of holding my first child in my arms. From the moment of your birth, we were inseparable. Where I went, you went, for years. I couldn't stand even a short time away from your sweet little self.
|-One Year Old-|
You loved to nurse, snuggle, sleep with Mommy, giggle with Daddy, and play with books. Lots and lots of books. You had a shy nature and reserved your jubilant personality for those who knew you best. You were a gentle and quiet soul, easy-going and self-entertained.
|-8 Months Old-|
As our firstborn, you were granted "guinea pig" status. We learned so much about ourselves as we learned how to parent you. I'm so sorry for the times we were too hard on you, the times when we didn't realize how unreasonable we were being, the times when we were harsh in the name of "godly parenting". We know better now and I love watching you as you learn to parent gently by caring for your siblings. You will be an incredible, patient mother someday.
|-2 Years Old-|
I remember how badly you wanted to have long hair like Mommy. For a very long time, your hair just did NOT grow! We began to wonder if it would ever get long! (it finally did and now it's gorgeous!)
|-Just Turned Five-|
Two busy little brothers came in quick succession after you. Even though you played with boys most of the day, you were (and are) a girly-girl at heart. We stuck close together, you and I, playing dolls and tea parties. You prayed daily for a little sister....so when I got pregnant again, you were hopeful that it would be a girl.
|-6 Years Old-|
|-Just Turned 7-|
Instead, God blessed us with another boy. :)
|-Ethan, One week old, Ellie, 7 years old-|
|-Ethan, 3 weeks old-|
|-Gabbey's Gotcha Week, China. Ellie, almost 9-|
Gabbey melted your heart the first time you held her tiny body. She attached to you right along with Daddy and Mommy. I love it when she cries for "Sissy!!" to sit by her in the van or at meal-time. You are truly "buddies" and have been so good for each other.
BUT--God wasn't done answering your prayer just yet! Instead of just ONE sister---in just nine months, He blessed you with a total of THREE sisters!
|-Sisters by adoption, Friends for life--Johanna, Eliana, Gabriella, Alyssia-|
I'm most proud of you for how you've welcomed Johanna into our family. Sharing your first-born place in the family was harder than any of us imagined....and yet you gracefully and repetitively have chosen to love Johanna. You two have become the best of friends, growing into sisters in the true sense of the word. You have taught Johanna how to share, how to give sacrificially, how to treat others, and how to forgive. I want you to always remember, that even though you are no longer the "oldest" in the Bergey Bunch, our love for you in unchanged---deep as the deepest ocean, high as the highest sky, never ending, always growing.
Daddy and I stand amazed at the mature young woman you are becoming. You still have lots of "little girl play" left in you, and I kind-of hope you never lose that. :) Your innocence is radiating. I'm so thankful that you're not swayed a bit by the typical pre-teen fads, fashions, and moods.
Always remember that true beauty is not found in body-size, makeup, clothing, or accessories....True beauty comes from a genuine walk with God, and an unselfish love for others.
In our eyes, you are truly beautiful.
Our only prayer for you is that you will serve God with complete abandon. Hold nothing back--only follow Him. Let Him mold you into His perfect masterpiece. Nothing else will bring you radical, radiant joy in life.
I promise to do my best to hold your hand through life's greatest joys and trials. I will encourage you, I will help you pick up the pieces, I will rejoice with you, and I will cry my eyes out with you. I can't promise you that life will always be easy, but I know without a doubt that you will overcome the challenges that come your way. Know that I pray for you daily---always, I'm praying for you.
Happy 11th Birthday, my beautiful daughter.
I love you, more than words can express.