Community sweet community.

This past month has flown by and in a way my brain still can’t grasp it.  Between Thanksgiving, Charles’ Birthday, Christmas performances for a certain Kindergartener, and Katie Grace’s birthday our days have been full.  As the dust settles this week, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.  Throwing this birthday party for Katie Grace was kind of a big deal.  In a lot of ways, I have hid her away.  Only sharing her when my heart felt strong enough.  There are only so many stares that you can take, or ignoring, and purposely avoiding that your heart can swallow. Also the amount of work it takes to take her places is exhausting, the getting machines ready, oxygen, do we have meds, do we have enough snot rags, diaper bag full, warm clothes, cool clothes (more often cool then warm.) Then once we get somewhere, I have zero control over the lights, the temperature, the loudness, the things that bug her and make her uncomfortable.  I can help make her comfortable at home but not when we are out.  So, because it has always been Katie Grace preference to be home, and easier on my heart, we have just stayed home.

When Charles and I settled on throwing Katie Grace a birthday party this year, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into.  You know she doesn’t talk, walk,  smile (well smile on que), open presents, or blow out candles.  Her infectious laughter wasn’t going to fill the room, and squeals of glee over wanted birthday presents weren’t going to resound through the wall.  I had my concerns about how this party was going to go down.  Not even mentioning the practical things of her care. To say I was overwhelmed with the thought of it all was an understatement. How awkward would this party be?

I found myself compelled though.  I just couldn’t let the only party I throw for my daughter be her funeral.  If this is really our last year with her, I wanted her to be celebrated on the day she chose to join this world, not just the day she leaves it.  So we planned and planned, and on Saturday December 13th , we had an amazing day celebrating.  Our friend Michele, from North Carolina, who had yet had a chance to meet Katie Grace, flew out to be our photographer.  She captured some beautiful moments for us.

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As I sit here today typing, and looking at these pictures I am moved again to tears.  Not only was there not an awkward moment, but my daughter was held, talked to, doted on, and embraced with such tenderness.  She wasn’t looked at sideways or with question but she was embraced. Friends her age held her hand, and stroked her hair. They brought her presents, cards, and filled that room with such a tangible love. And when the time came to blow out the candles on her cake, she was surrounded by kids who blew them out for her. Where she couldn’t, they did.  This was the first time I had invited so many people so intimately into my life with Katie Grace, and without a skipping a beat they wrapped us up and loved us like they had lived in our house for the past 4 years.

On that day, my not normal special needs daughter was normal. Where she lacked; her friends had more then enough.  Her community, our community that day surrounded us, with God’s relentless and perfect love.  The love that knows brokenness but does not see it, that covers you with strength when you are weak. I know heaven won’t feel strange to her because she has already been enveloped with a heavenly love here on earth.

To our community thank you.  Thank you times a thousand. Her birthday party wouldn’t have been possible without you nor would it have been the same. To those of you who donated on her YouCaring page, her birthday was because of you, thank you.

A huge shout out to the for being there to entertain and keep busy a large group of children. Your service was outstanding and unforgettable. If you live in the Redding area these guys should be on your call list for birthday parties, or if you run a preschool or daycare.

Our next adventure begins this upcoming Saturday.  We will be packing up what will seem like most of our house and traveling to Southern California to see Aunt Jessie. Just like her birthday party, it is scary and overwhelming. And just like her birthday party, I feel compelled. Compelled to give her one amazing year on this earth.

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