Saturday, April 13, 2013

Anna's 1st Birthday Recap

(I wrote this first portion sometime end of November or early December 2012... not long before her birthday.)


I bought pink and purple decorations today. When I first entered the store, I was focused on getting the task completed. Then shock hit as I stood lost among aisles of party supplies... 

She's. not. here. 

There won't be photos taken of her in a party hat or eating her first cupcake. There won't be gift wrap torn by little hands. 

Would her hair still be dark and wavy? Would she be long and skinny like Isaac or more rounded like my side of the family? Would she be walking yet?

I cannot believe a year has passed. A year really isn't that long (seems shorter as I get older), but the phrase of "a year" puts time in a box and doesn't make sense to me right now. 

So for today, I look forward and upward in hope. This week and this month aren't going to be easy. No sir. I nearly suffocate some moments as I think about what we were experiencing a year ago. I need to remember that we're not living those days again. We're in a new year, a new season. Live for today. 

What a blessing to have the opportunity to celebrate Anna's birthday and life with my family and friends who have been so supportive through it all. 

This Saturday, December 8th, 2012, Anna Joy would turn one year old. I have been trying to think of all the ways she was blessed instead of being super overwhelmed by all of the time I didn't get to share with her.

(This portion was written the end of January 2013...)

Matt & I anticipated her 1st birthday with both fear and excitement. I dreaded everything about the day - the memories, the emotions, the unknowns of how it would go. I had no idea what would happen or how I would do. We planned her party for the afternoon, but I knew I would need time by myself before all that happened. 

That morning, I intentionally watched the clock. As her birth time approached, I escaped to my room. I hid in the corner on the floor between my nightstand and the hope chest with her giraffe and bear on my chest and stomach. I lit a candle, took out my pen and journal, and bawled as I wrote whatever came... and watched the time. When I saw 9:36 appear, I lost it. The combination of memories and emotions that flooded me is still indescribable. It was the same grief, but a new version I hadn't experienced previously. 

Here's my journal entry from those agonizing minutes huddled in a dreadful sight of tears and pain on the floor:

"It's your first birthday, sweet girl. I weep for all I'm missing about you. A year ago I was pushing you out. God was intervening for us in powerful ways - ways I will never fully understand or be aware of. But I think back and am amazed...
      ... you're almost here...
I was laboring so hard, pulling strength from Father God, being held by Friend Jesus Christ, and comforted by the Holy Spirit.
      I was so motivated to see you. Yes, I had fears, but God was so close - so many people were praying. You are such a blessed girl.
      I will never forget the first time I saw you. I was so thrilled to finally see you and meet you face to face.

{9:36am}      Happy Birthday
                           Anna Joy!

You are my daughter!
      You are such a blessing, a gift I don't deserve to call mine. I will always marvel at your beauty.
      Do you get a birthday party in heaven? Are you like a 1-year-old there?
So much of me wishes you were here. There's so much I didn't get to do with you.
      But I'm truly happy for you, that you don't have to deal with this world. I can only try to imagine what wonders you get to experience. I know you get to dance with Jesus and sit on Father God's lap, wrapped in His loving, everlasting arms.
      Rest there, sweetheart.
Show me what you see, what you hear, what you feel.
      You have changed my life, Anna. I praise God for you and will forever rejoice over you.
      I can't believe it's been a year. Nothing really makes sense anymore.
      We celebrate you today, thanking our Lord for YOU and all the blessings that have come to us because of you."

After that horrible but healing remembrance, I slowly unfolded from the heap, fixed my make-up and went back downstairs to continue setting up for my baby's first birthday party. The first one of many that we have to face without her present. 

We decorated, friends & family gathered, we shared. It was a very comforting, healing day overall. We were again overwhelmed at the support we have not only locally, but from distant friends. 

A friend from church offered to pick up flowers for the party even though she couldn't attend. I pictured just a couple bunches for one arrangement, maybe two if there was enough. This is what she brought me! I was so touched. Another friend came over to help arrange. We had these, plus a few more arrangements people brought. Surrounded by pink gentleness & beauty.

Anna's birthday card from my dad

One of my scrapbook pages. It says,
"I will never forget this sight, this kiss, this joy"

One of her keepsake boxes
On the front door
From another friend: 11 pink and 1 white. So thoughtful!

Even though a year has gone by since we welcomed our Anna Joy into this world and into our arms, it doesn't take much to move us back to that very moment. 

When I was younger, I thought a year was a long time. But I'm learning I can't put labels on what time should feel like or look like anymore.  It can't be true that a whole year has passed! On the other hand, the past year felt so incredibly long some days. 

I may have all that mixed up inside me, but I also have been covered in a sweet grace that I can't help but fall into. I have no doubt we've been protected from so much. I think God has covered our eyes at times so we haven't seen things we weren't ready for, or steered our feet so we'd walk in a brightly lit path - without our knowing. 

The way our Heavenly Father faithfully & gently carries us through has continued to amaze us. Not that we think He would ever drop us, but His care is so very constant, personal, and obvious. 

I may feel that not much makes sense sometimes, but when all I know is that Jesus is with me, and He won't leave me or fail me... nothing else matters. It's what makes this unspeakable heartache survivable. 

I'm holding on, and I'm celebrating through the tears. 


  1. What a privilege and honor to read your heart's words to your little girl. Thank you for sharing your journal entries. Anna's 1st Birthday party was amazing. I didn't remember seeing the 11 pink roses and 1 white rose. How beautiful and powerful! God bless you Alissa.

  2. Dear Alissa, Matt, and Isaac

    I have followed your journey, although haven't commented. Just know that there are those of us who care about and are lifting you up in prayer who may not comment (for me it was because I couldn't figure out how to do it).

    May God bless and keep you close to His heart!
    Anne McStay

  3. God's amazing grace is evident in your lives. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  4. Thank you for such a sweet witness of God's love. May He bless you abundantly as you continue to rest in His everlasting arms.