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Maria’s first birthday party!

On Saturday, Maria turned 11 years old.

And for the very first time, Maria had a birthday party.

Together, we celebrated her life and how loved she is.  And maybe for the first time, the day of her birth was celebrated. 
So we made it special, with cake and pink and wildflowers.
We boiled water for tea.

The moment Maria woke up, she was just in awe.  Mama and Papa embraced her as soon as she creaked her door open, wrapping her arms quickly around us too, and jumping.
Our voices finished, “…happy birthday, tooooooo you…” as Finley chimed in, “Y-ewwww! Yew, ‘Aria!!”
An open mouth grin on her face, eyes wide, not wanting to miss one second of these moments, of a day where she was being celebrated.  
In her day, she was filled with awe, wonderment and joy.


From a time back in last June.  Shy, tiny, silent and timid, receiving her first gift.  I think of that battle, the one to bring her home, and how close we came to a door shutting in our faces, and I think about how every moment, every step, which brought us to this first birthday, so worthy.
Moving slowly, unsure how to open it.
To this weekend, surrounded by people who love her, as she is filled to the brim with pure, free happiness.  She is loved, and today she is celebrated.
 And she truly knows.

No regular stores would have the type of dress Maria would have loved with short, modern styles, so we went to ‘Trendy’ the Mexican superstore!!!!  And it did not disappoint.  When she opened her fancy, pink, flowing dress with ribbons and bows, she was beside herself with joy that she was receiving anything so lovely.

“WOW Mama! ‘MAZING!!!”
As some mamas got the tables and tea sets ready, the girls were sent to pick flowers for the little vases.  They skipped, and laughed and filled their buckets.

With each new guest, she excitedly ran to greet them, they were all here for her!

We love Gena!

The little ones had big jobs to make the day special.

But they sometimes got distracted.

At the end of the day, she sat quietly on her bed, with a big stack of brightly colored birthday cards.  The ones most kids discard as quickly as possible to get to the presents.  But she held each card gently, silently reading and rereading each one, and each of the little notes.  At the end of each card, just before they would sign their name, it said, “Love,” 
“Mama,” she stopped and asked me. “Mama, everyone write love.  Everyone love Maria?”
“Yes,” I smiled, that she would notice something most would take for granted.  “Yes, everyone loves Maria.”
Her face lit up again.  “Oh my goodness!”
She smiled now, eyes still looking at the cards,
 “Mama, I know.”

When tea was served, we talked about fancy things and ate tea sandwiches and strawberries.

And when it was time for cake, she about jumped out of her seat, this was the part she had known would happen.
“Ev-y-body sing on my birthday?”
So we lit the two little 1 candles, and slowly walked it over, everyone’s voices singing together for the birthday girl.
 (Cutest cake ever, KMCakery, the best.)  Strawberry shortcake, her favorite.

She was so happy, this was the part she was waiting for. 

She was so excited she blew out the candles before she could say a wish, so we relit and let her blow them out one more time.


When it was time for gifts, we had her sit on a pink and white flowered chair, and we handed her her first gift.  As she opened the beautiful wrapping, she would look at the gift, picked just for her, and stare and hold it.  “Mama, I open?”  she would want to play with it right then, not knowing that there were more.

“Maria, you can play with your gifts in a little bit, there are more to open,” we told her.

“Oh, more?” as her friends offered her their gifts, and she grabbed them for a hug.

A pink octopus from Luna

Her cute friends with the sweetest gifts.

Feeling so special

So loved

So sweet and appreciative of her gifts.

This puppy is so special to her, she loves him so much!

Her own teapot!

 After presents, we bashed a pinata.  The girls killed it.  We also got the pinata at the Trendy, and filled it with cheap, neon marshmallows, que rico!

Savannah gave her a best friends bracelet that they can both wear, presh!

Our chickens are growing into their awkward teenager phase, but the kids still loved meeting and holding them.  Maria kept looking at her friends and said to me, “So cute, mama!  Everybody so cute!”
They jumped and played and ran around.

It was a fun, beautiful day.

Today was one of those days, where we could almost remember those memories of traveling, of children hidden away in rooms, almost.
Today is a day of celebration of this little life who is loved and cherished, fought for.
Her sweet, gracious spirit, who outwardly showed how blessed she was each moment throughout the day, has undoubtedly blessed us more.  And that we get to be a part?  Truly priceless, a joyful honor, I can say no more than that.

Life is beautiful, love heals and sacrifices are worth making .

It’s not all planned out for us either, and that’s where most people get too nervous to take the next step.  But know this: when Jesus invites us on an adventure, He shapes who we become with what happens along the way.   -Love Does
And in her own words,
 “Mama, today so special, my own birthday party, I just so happy!”

And then later, without a question mark,
“Everyone love Maria.”
Cause for the first time in her life, she’s really knowing it’s true.


Dedicated to all the little girls in orphanages who’s birth has never been celebrated.  We pray that each feels loved and cherished on their special day one day, overflowing with kind people who love them, just like Maria had on her day.
Cause eleven is cool!
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  • Holly Schoeppler April 16, 2013, 9:17 pm

    Wonderful post; belated birthday greetings to a beautiful little girl!

  • Jolene April 16, 2013, 9:40 pm

    My oldest just turned 11 (on April 8th) and we had to reschedule it due to illness. I was so sad but we’re planning a surprise party for her! She’ll be so thrilled! Eleven is such a great age! You are blessed and she is blessed!

  • Elle Bee April 16, 2013, 9:54 pm

    Loved everything! The cake, her dress, her sweet face–so beautiful!! what a lovely day! Happy birthday party Miss Maria!

  • teresa April 16, 2013, 10:15 pm

    What a special celebration of your precious daughter. Thanking God that she is coming to realize that “everyone loves Maria.” Her appreciation of her friends, their loving efforts, even the words on her cards is priceless. Thank you for sharing your family’s special celebration of Maria’s 11th birthday.

  • Michelle Ott April 16, 2013, 10:21 pm

    Filled with Joy reading this post!

  • Heather and Michael April 16, 2013, 10:28 pm

    She has a smile on…all the time 🙂

  • Kimmie April 16, 2013, 10:40 pm

    Made me teary – for all the right reasons. Beautiful family. Love, love, love ♥

    Happy birthday to your precious sweetheart!

    Love and squishy hugs


  • Lou April 16, 2013, 10:41 pm

    Amy – Maria is just a joy to behold. Such a huge difference in her face and in her confidence, it is just magical. You, Andrew and Finley are truly amazing people to have made such a huge difference to both Maria and Elijah in such a short space of time. You are all in my thoughts every day, and I never tire of telling people I meet about your story.

    Love & Hugs
    Lou 🙂

    PS. If you guys ever get out to NW Arkansas, our door will always be open to you. xxx

  • Luke & Karissa April 16, 2013, 10:46 pm

    Tears are running down my face as I read this….just so precious and beautiful….

  • sayin' i love you April 16, 2013, 10:49 pm

    She´s beautiful and so happy 🙂

  • Sally April 16, 2013, 11:09 pm

    Oh, Happy Birthday Maria! I love you too! I’m so happy Maria has such a wonderful family!

  • squigglyrainbow April 16, 2013, 11:40 pm

    Oh my – as we celebrated our youngest 8th birthday yesterday – this makes my heart feel unexplainable. I feel so blessed and happy to show Jude Maria’s story. You guys inspire and bless me so. Happy Birthday Maria – LOVE to you precious girl, love Rach, Jodie, Grace, Samuel and Jude xxxxx

  • Kathy April 17, 2013, 12:14 am

    Another beautiful, beautiful story. You are the most perfect parents for a perfect little girl!!! Her little heart must sometimes feel like it is going to explode with all the love she is given. And yours for the love she gives you right back.

  • dani April 17, 2013, 12:17 am

    I go to Redemption-Gilbert in Mesa and have been following along on your journey….oh what a special day! I sit here, a complete crying-snot-faced mess…tears spilling because of the love poured out on Maria….she knows she is loved by so many! And tears spilling for the boys and girls who still question if anyone loves them. May the Lord keep showing us what our role looks like in showing these dear ones His love. Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

  • Jo's Corner April 17, 2013, 12:46 am

    aah, a lovely Pink Birthday-Tea Party for a most Precious Girl!
    Happy “11th” Birthday, Princess Maria. You are Loved! Blessings all over this next year of your life, Sweetie! Hugs ~ Jo

  • Kym April 17, 2013, 12:55 am

    YES, everyone does love Maria! Happy Birthday to you sweet sweet girl 🙂

    We should all be as gracious and kind heart-ed as she is. So genuine, innocent, and wise for an 11 year old! You threw her such a beautiful party. I’m so glad that you were able to celebrate this day.

  • Annette April 17, 2013, 1:03 am

    So beautiful! I’m wondering, do you ever send photos or information back to their orphanages? I wonder what her caretakers would think if they could see her now?

  • Future Nurse April 17, 2013, 1:09 am

    Oh my goodness, what beautiful writing, photos and heartfelt emotions. Tears of joy were streaming down my face, as I looked at Maria’s beaming face and radiant smile. Happy Birthday sweet child. God bless you and your family. Sending Maria love from Canada!!! Kate xo

  • Frau Nilsson April 17, 2013, 3:05 pm

    *sigh* Beautiful pictures of a special family! Thanks for sharing and happy belated birthday from Germany!

  • kate April 17, 2013, 3:15 pm

    Happy birthday, Maria! We’re so glad you were born.

    We’re about to have our 10th birthday and the fourth party. The joy never ends. All she wants for her birthday is for everyone to sing. <3

  • Jane April 17, 2013, 4:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing this special time with us. She is so blessed to be loved by you. Yes, everyone loves Maria!!!!

  • The Shepherds April 17, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Happy birthday darling Maria! I love stalking your mama’s blog although I know none of you. Your beautiful smile could truly light up the darkest room!

  • Kate Deals April 17, 2013, 7:44 pm

    Wow, I have happy tears after your blog post. What a nice change from the news of the day. Why can’t those hell-bent on harming others see the world the way you guys do?

    I love that Maria’s first birthday (with you) was on Saturday and you were able to celebrate it. You make me want to share your story with a friend that has struggled with infertility.

    Love to you all for your example of possibilities.

  • Mindo April 17, 2013, 8:17 pm

    I love reading about your family, especially Maria! Please wish her a Happy Birthday from a reader in England who also loves her.

  • Angela Bailey April 17, 2013, 9:08 pm

    Happy birthday, Sweet Maria!! I love you so so much, too! You have a wonderful Mama, Papa, and brothers who so obviously adore you! Don’t forget who loves you most, though! God! He loves you so so very much and is so proud of you!


  • Katie April 17, 2013, 9:12 pm

    WOW. Just WOW. SO THRILLED for sweet beautiful Maria. SO glad she was born and now knows how precious and loved she is!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! The first of MANY MANY more super special days 🙂

  • Jennie April 18, 2013, 12:46 am

    Your beautiful girl just radiates happiness!!! I loved reading this post – so happy for Maria and your family 🙂

  • The Deutsches April 18, 2013, 12:48 am

    Dear Maria, Happy Birthday to you. I loved the pictures of your beautiful party, your family and friends but most of all I just love the smile on your face that radiates all the love that you give to others. You are beautiful. This month “Estelle” is in another country having her 15th birthday in an orphanage and next April she will be able to have a beautiful birthday party for the first time in America just like you. You and your family have been such an inspiration to us.
    Love to each of you, Val Deutsch

  • Amanda April 18, 2013, 1:05 pm

    I don’t know you from Adam but a friend of mine shared this story on Facebook. It filled me with joy to read it! Thank you for sharing this sweet girl and her birthday with us; I am so thankful to Jesus that she has you to celebrate many more birthdays with!

  • Wendy Talley, Portsmouth, VA April 18, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Oh my gosh…how awesome for her and you all and for sharing this will all of us. These pictures and story just brightened my day. To see someone with such wonderment, awe and appreciation is priceless. You can see how it touched her soul and how her soul just touches everyone else too.

    Happy Birthday Maria!

  • traveltheworld April 18, 2013, 6:55 pm

    Happy Birthday Maria! What an amazing story. She is lucky to be surrounded by all the kindness and unconditional love. As you said, everyone should have the opportunity to feel that 🙂

  • Sharon April 19, 2013, 3:25 am

    I can’t tell you how much I love your blog! I am learning to be a better mom from you and my youngest is already Maria’s age. You can just feel the joy in these photos, especially of you and your husband in the cake pictures. What a beautiful day for a beautiful, much-loved girl! I pray that more and more children in orphanages will some day get to know the same love Maria now knows.

  • Sam April 22, 2013, 1:20 pm

    Happy happy Birthday Sweet girl! You are so loved!

  • jahkamakura April 22, 2013, 1:42 pm

    This post made me cry happy tears. The love and joy Maria feels just shines through the photos. Thank you so much for sharing such a precious moment with us.
    Juli in Japan

  • Marie April 22, 2013, 3:14 pm

    I had to de-lurk for this one.

    Happy Happy Birthday Maria!! You are loved by so many—many you don’t even know!! Your story has touched me in so many ways and you deserve all the happiness in the world-God picked the perfect parents for you!


  • Katie April 23, 2013, 4:55 am

    My heart is so full of happiness for Maria. I remember my girl’s first real birthday party… the look on her face when she realized this was all for her… as everyone sang and her face glowed in the light of the candles… I can’t even describe it. An amazing privilege to witness. I’m so glad for Maria, and for you all. “First” birthdays for big kids are so special. Happy Birthday, Maria! I’m Katie, and I love you too, all the way from Ohio!

  • Gina April 26, 2013, 4:29 pm

    Oh my gosh, I thought I had wished Maria a happy birthday before we went on vacation, but now I see I didn’t! Happy, happy 11th birthday, beautiful Maria! You are so lucky to have your wonderful family and they are even luckier to have you. The joy on your faces just makes me cry so many happy tears. Much love from the Bergstrom-Shaw clan in NJ!

  • Libby May 3, 2013, 2:10 am

    I’m in tears. I helped at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, and right now I can’t help but cry for all the little boys and girls who will never have a birthday party, or feel so special. I loved all the pictures of Maria’s big day…did she stop smiling at all that day?? Precious memories!

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