The story of my life began on this day 22 years ago.
Naturally, my life began 46 years ago, but that’s not quite the same thing as the story of my life, although the two are intrinsically intertwined.
On this day, on a beautiful sunny Guam day, blues skies, a friend holding my hand, the baby’s father at my side, a beautiful 7lb 8oz little girl breathed her first breath of life. The moment the doctor put her in my arms, a love filled my heart that has never left.
I was active duty Navy, and her place of birth was the Naval Hospital in Guam. I was young, scared and excited about what the future would hold for this young baby entrusted to my care.
It wasn’t planned, but as with most of life’s blessings, it was the best of gifts.
Nine months earlier, I’d learned I was pregnant. At the time, I was quite “liberated” thinking only of myself and living only for myself. It’s amazing what a pregnancy can do for perspective.
A few days after I learned I was pregnant, I was on a flight to Saipan for a little rest and relaxation. The trip was planned well before I learned of my pregnancy and I had intended on sleeping late and relaxing on the white sands on the island.
Instead, I spent the days there driving around the island, which of course didn’t take too long. I visited historical remnants from World War II and a little bit of time on the beach… but mostly I spent time reflecting on the choice I was to make. Would I have this child? Would I give this child up for adoption? Would I not have this child?
On my last day there, I found myself in a small church on top of a hillside, overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean waters. There was no one there other than me. I walked into the still church; the streams of sunshine filtering through the stained glass windows created dancing colors of light everywhere. To say it had been a long time since I’d entered a church would be an understatement; likewise with praying.
I had subscribed to the belief that it was my life to live and I could do as I please – forget everyone else. I was doing okay, not existing in any meaningful way, just existing from one day to the next; one bar to the next; one mile to the next… and so it went.
But on that day… that quiet day on an island, in a church, far removed from everyone, it was just me and my feeble cry out to God. With tears streaming down my face, knees on the floor, I cried out to my God, and for all the times I turned my back on Him, there He was, quietly, yet so clearly telling me, “Have this baby.”
It took me back as I thought someone was in the church and spoke the words, but there wasn’t another soul around. Yet again, the words, as clear as a winter morning, “Have this baby.”
“Okay, Lord,” I replied, “But You have to be there for me because I can’t do this on my own.”
And so it was…
Nine months later on January 7, my daughter entered this world and my life has never been the same, and our God has never forsaken us.
This beautiful child, who is now 22, changed my life in so many ways. She made me want to be a better person. She made me want to be kinder, more loving, more generous, more humble… I wanted her to always know she is loved; that she is such a gift from the Lord and that she is cherished. Because of her, I found my way back to a Heavenly Father who so generously loves us.
To be sure, there have been trials she and we have come through, but everyday I have been so blessed and proud to call her my daughter. Her smile, her kindness, her fun nature; her gift of song is such a joy to hear when it fills the room. Her laughter and squeals of delight when something surprising happens is a wonder to behold.
From the baby to the child to the young woman she’s become, I have been there to witness it all and what a fantastic adventure it’s been. From car trips along the shoreline with her bonnet on and top down, to riding trains in Japan to Climbing Mt. Fuji to playing in the waves along the Gulf of Mexico to climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge to getting her drivers license to hearing her sing… and all the little moments along the way. Coffee on the beach… breakfast at dinner time at Waffle House… playing hide and seek… crying together at the end of “Notebook.” So many memories and each one I cherish.
The story of my life began with her because that is when I really started to live.
Happy Birthday, my sweet Shelby.
Thank you Lord for giving me her as my daughter.