Natalie was invited to her very first birthday party. It was kind of a big deal. For nearly six years she had to stay home while her big brother and sister attended these lavish affairs. Today was different. Today, it was her turn and she was going to par-tay.
Natalie’s BFF was having a real tea party with real tea and cakes and party dresses and bells to call servers to wait on them hand and foot. That basically covers every item on Natalie’s list of things she expects to find in heaven, except Jesus. I texted to see if we could just drop her off early. The gracious hostess said yes, and we thanked the Lord that we made it before the explosive excitement building pressure inside Nat took out innocent bystanders. We picked her up a few hours later, and the entire way home she regaled us with details of the party. Her chatter was incessant and I had no worries at all that she had the time of her life.
The next day, I opened a message and found that picture. Admittedly, it is a cute picture of my kid with a fun photo prop. Except my kid was born with a facial deformity. One that affects her smile and has left jagged scars on her delicate skin. That fake grin on a stick became a great equalizer and on the surface, she was just like every other little girl at that party. She intentionally picked a photo prop that concealed every trace of what she had been through.
Why did she chose that prop? Does she hate her face?
Without a word, I closed my laptop. I did not even respond to the message. No polite thank you for the invitation. No gushing about cuteness. No mom praise for pulling off a fantastic party. Nothing but a stunned stupor and deep breathing.
My husband noticed my drastic change in my demeanor and wanted to know what was wrong. I showed him the picture. His response was short and tender, but impactful, “It’s Natalie.”
At that, I let everything go and succumbed to the scourge of tears that had threatened since I first looked at that picture. I wailed. All my facial orifices leaked. It was ugly. And wet.
He is right, of course. It is Natalie, our little girl. Our gift from God. From the beginning, He has been with that child. So many times we have thanked Him for making her strong and plucky and resilient, knowing she will need those characteristics to endure her life. He didn’t give her a hardship and leave it at that. He gave her the ability to endure and even overcome it. He gives us the ability to parent her through it. No, it isn’t easy, but yes, He is faithful though it all. He has never failed.
Further, Natalie has never even hinted at scar insecurity. I just saw a picture and assumed the thing I most fear had happened. (Coincidentally, always assuming the worst is a trait I despise in other people. That makes me both histrionic AND hypocritical.)
There is one thread of imparted wisdom that I cling to in unsure moments regarding Natalie: “The way you handle it will be the way she handles it.” I decided to stop speculating handle it head on. (After I stopped blubbering, cleaned myself up, and was sure I could maintain my composure long enough to have the needed conversation. So, like the next day…)
“Natalie, come look at this picture Mrs. J sent of the party. You had so many friends there, and those photo props are awesome,” I began.
“I know, Mom!” she gushed. “I really wanted the hat, and the pearls were my next choice, but they were both taken. So, I just chose the lips because they were pink and white and they matched my dress.”
She chose the lips because they matched her dress. That is just like Natalie.
“I think you made a great choice,” was all I could manage to say right then.
“I know!” she quipped over her shoulder as she skipped away in her party hat while carrying her party purse.
That was all. The end.
I had allowed myself to get worked up, thinking my baby despised her scars, when her mind was no where near them. She was only thinking of the party, and her dress, and having more fun than a nearly six year old can imagine.
I was projecting my concerns onto her. When I do that, I am forsaking God’s promises in favor of worry and fear. Perhaps there will come a time when the scars of her facial deformity will make her want to hide. But maybe they won’t. Regardless, God will be there each step of the way, equipping us to handle it.
Scars. If I examine every experience through scar colored lenses, then scars are all I will ever see. Worse, she will learn to do the same and those scars will them become all that she sees. Hello, self-fulfilling prophecy, let me show you the way out.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94:19