Little Sis turns three today. Three. Gone are the days of swaddling and bouncing and spoon-feeding. No more baby talk, no more pacifiers, no more potty training sessions.
Actually, we’re still experiencing those things, but with her baby dolls. There’s Natalie, Jennifer, Giggles, Teeny, Tiny, and lots more. Instead of spreading a blanket on the floor for Little Sis to play on, I’ve assumed the role of Auntie Anna as I spread the blanket for her little plastic children.
The other day, I told Ellen I might cry on her birthday.
“Why will you cry?” She asked, her little face level with mine.
“Because I don’t have a baby sister anymore. She’s going to be three years old!”
And then Little Sis smiled sweetly.
“Don’t grow up, Ellen. Okay? I want you to stay little forever.”
“No mine can stay little forever!” She exclaimed, using her trademark grammar that sometimes drives her oldest sister nuts.
“Why can’t you stay little forever?”
“Because God made me to grow up!”
Well. How can I argue with that?
She’s entered a new phase. The toddler phase is quickly following the baby phase. The result: a tiny little girl. A giggling, smiling, dancing, heart-melting little girl.
On Ellen’s second birthday, I posted “The Story of a Miracle” which was a letter I wrote to Ellen. I also have something I want to share this year. It’s a creative non-fiction story I wrote in a creative writing class this past summer. It’s the true tale of the months leading up to her birth, told in short story form. Yes, I turned this in as an assignment in a secular university. And yes, it’s a powerful story of God’s unending faithfulness. When I submitted it to a workshop in that class, and later as I submitted it in my final portfolio, I prayed God would use Ellen’s life to strengthen others’ faith in the way her story has strengthened mine. The power doesn’t come from the vocabulary, sentence structure, or imagery. The power isn’t the result of anything I can possibly write. See, there’s power in the truth, and this true story shows that God really does know the plans He has for us. It’s my prayer you’ll be encouraged, too, as you read “He Knows the Plans.”
So happy birthday to my littlest sister. You’re God’s awesome answer to the prayers, doubts, and questions of your oldest sister. You’re proof that God’s still in the miracle making business, writing incredible life stories for His children. You’re all of that plus so much more, and you’re only three years old.
I’m going to love every minute spent watching you grow in the love of the One who is most excellent.
I’ll love you oh-so-much forever,
“He Knows the Plans”
by Anna Schaeffer, 2012
Where’s Mom? I thought as I rolled a creamy coat of paint over the concrete wall. I made a W shape with the roller, matching the concerned expression on my brow. I hope she’s not in another room painting. A few moments later, I sighed with relief as my Mom appeared in the doorway to take some pictures. I brushed a sweaty lock of hair off of my face and reached for my water bottle. “Mom, you should probably go back into the main room where the fans are. It’s too hot back here.” I kept my voice a whisper, so that the other people in the room wouldn’t overhear.
“I’m fine, Anna. I’m just taking pictures.” Despite her reassuring tone, my anxiety was as thick as the New Orleans summer humidity. I reluctantly nodded my head, then resumed painting by criss-crossing another W on top of the one I had just painted.
I was seventeen that summer, and on a mission trip with my family and some church members. I’d anticipated the trip for months and thought the trip would be a worry-free week of ministering to others. But that was before the family meeting. As I worked, my mind wandered back to the meeting that had occurred home in Georgia just a couple of days before.
The day before the trip, my parents gathered my two younger sisters and me into the living room. This was unnerving, because my family never had meetings unless a relative had passed away. But rather than announcing the death of someone, my parents told us about a new life: a new sibling’s life. This news came as a gigantic shock to me. My parents were in their forties, and it had been twelve years since a baby had been in the house. It was the kind of news a soon-to-be high school senior needed time to process. However, as I packed for the mission trip, I was told to keep the news a secret until my mom could see a doctor.
I dragged my mind back to the present when one of our team’s leaders announced it was time to leave for Bible club. I, along with the other teens in the group, loaded up on the sweltering church bus and headed towards the inner-city mission building. I loved playing with kids, and I loved sharing the good news of Jesus with them, but my mind remained on my mom and the baby. As I played kickball in the hot sun with my mission team and a group of children, I worried that my mom might get too hot back at the construction site. When the group migrated inside the building to cool off with some icy Kool-Aid, I wondered if Mom was staying hydrated. When the group colored pictures with the children, I hoped she was staying away from paint fumes.
As I sat at an old wooden table, concentrating on a jigsaw puzzle with a group of young girls, I felt like a hypocrite. After all, I was supposed to be bringing hope to a city filled with desperation. How could I share with people that God was faithful if I was having so many doubts about how He would look after my mom and the baby? Clearly, my heart needed a renovation. I was like that shell of a house my team was working on; still functioning, but not the best I could be. I believed in the power of prayer, but I still worried when uncertainties entered my life. Of course, I didn’t realize these things until after the trip was over, but at the time, I was gradually learning to rely on God and to place my worries into his capable, omniscient hands.
Half a year later, on January 26, 2010, I anxiously switched my weight from one foot to the other in the corner of a tightly-packed room. Four stark white walls surrounded me, and machines beeped and whirred next to the bed. My two sisters, dad, and grandmother stood next to me as I anxiously fiddled with my hands. Time seemed to pass in slow-motion as I waited to meet my new sibling. Finally, after nearly nine months of waiting, praying, and learning to trust God, I got to hear my baby sister utter her first cry. It was a shriek that pierced the air, but rather than covering my ears, I raised my hands to my mouth, overcome with all kinds of emotions I couldn’t yet sort through. The cry was proof of life; proof of miracles. As I held Ellen for the first time, I ran my finger over her chubby pink cheeks, her strawberry blonde hair, and her tiny, rounded nose. I counted her delicate fingers and stared into blue eyes full of promise; not only promise of a purposeful life waiting to be lived, but also the promise of God’s faithfulness. I felt tears trailing from my own blue eyes, down to lips that whispered, “Thank you, God” like a praise song on repeat.
As I stood with my newest best friend wrapped securely in my arms, I knew I was safe in the strong hands of God. As much as I already loved my sister, I knew God loved us more than I’d even begin to understand. As I pulled Ellen even closer to my chest, I remembered the Bible verse my family had claimed shortly after the surprising baby announcement. In the NIV version of the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God had proven his faithfulness to my family by blessing us with a perfectly healthy baby and mother. I realized all of the worries I had experienced were futile, because God had been in control of the situation all along. However, had my family never gone on the mission trip to New Orleans months before, and had I never experienced such anxiety, I never would’ve learned to fully rely on God. Only by facing uncertainty did I learn God’s promises are sure, and that He knows the plans He has for us.