The alarm popped up on my phone this morning – Jennifer Wildermuth’s birthday is today, wish her a happy birthday!
Two years ago, that message would have brought on a flood of tears. You see, Jennifer is my niece. The niece that my sister had at a very early age, and the niece that she had to give up for adoption since she was so young, and our Dad was in no position to raise a baby on his own. Every year, that reminder would show up on my calendar, and it would bring me to tears. Where is she? Is she okay? Does she know about us? Will she ever want to meet us? My sister and I would celebrate her birthday – either with a little cupcake in her honor or a boo-hoo fest over the telephone – every year.
A year ago, on February 19, “Jennifer” and my sister found each other on Facebook and met for the first time again in over 16 years. It was one of the most joyous events in my life. I love my nieces and nephew like they are my own, and having the circle of family whole – finally – was such a blessing for all of us. “Jennifer” is now Vanessa – which seems to suit her much better than Jennifer. She kept our mother’s name, Gloria, for her middle name, and I know that would make mom so happy.
To celebrate my niece’s 18th birthday today, I decided to give her some words of advice via Facebook, that I wish someone had given to me when I was her age and ready to set the world on fire and change the world.
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Never in a million years did I imagine that I would have the opportunity to wish you a Happy 18th birthday Vanessa Gloria. God works in mysterious ways, we never know the plan that He has for our future, but it always contains something magically wonderful and awe-inspiring.
I cried, like a baby, the day that you were adopted. See, I never told anyone but Dad this (Dave), but I wanted to adopt you. I didn’t want you going to another family and possibly never seeing you again. At the time; however, I wasn’t in a stable situation, and the adoption agencies and courts would have never allowed it. There was a reason for that. For me to grow up, get my shit together, and for you to have a home with a family that loves you so very much. I hope you know how lucky you were to end up in such a loving home, with parents who dote on you and think you’re the moon and the stars. You don’t get that much in a biological family … let alone an adopted family. You lucked out sweetie, and I thank God every day that you did.
I am so thankful for the young woman that you’ve grown into. You have a heart of gold, and you’re as cute as a button (just like me hee hee). You’re going to screw up – a LOT – as the years go by. Just remember that for every “wrong” experience, there is a lesson to learn, and learn from it. God allows nothing to occur in our lives for no reason at all. So always remember the following:
- Find the joy in your day – no matter how horrible it may be – there is one small thing that will make you smile … and know that that one small thing is God’s love shining down on you …
- No matter how bad you screw up, remember to say I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness. It does not matter if the other person forgives you or not, you have asked, made a heartfelt apology, and done whatever possible to make amends and make things right.
- Treat others as you want them to treat you. Be kind, be generous, be respectful, be a good friend.
- Talk out your problems with your friends. Don’t talk about them behind their backs. Those that talk about you behind yours, aren’t friends to begin with, and you need to cut the strings and leave them behind. True friends can yell at each other, then talk things out and patch things up and leave it in the past. Those are the friends you will have for life. The others are not worth your time.
- When you have a problem that you just can’t fix, and you’ve done everything you humanly can to fix it, make it right, turn it over to God. Pray about it, turn it over to God, and then put it in the imaginary chest and close the lid and forget about it. No matter what the problem is – family, finances, relationships, work … God will see that you’ve done all you could, and when you give it to Him and forget it … He will answer your prayers.
- Last but not least, and probably the most important advice that I can give you …. LOVE YOURSELF FIRST. Get to know yourself. Learn to love yourself. You cannot love anyone else until you can honestly say that you love everything about yourself – warts and all. I was 30+ years old before I realized that … and I wish someone had told me that when I was your age. My life would have been SO different. Love the skin you are in, the body that God gave you, the awesome that is you.
The world and all its beauty, all its wonders, awaits you Vanessa. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, live each day to the fullest, try something new every day, live your life as though there were no tomorrow. Celebrate each and every day.
Today, on your birthday, I hope that all of your dreams will come true. I love you kiddo.