Bitter about Birthdays

(( FYI:  I struggle a lot with knowing what to say on my blog that anyone could skim through. It is my utmost desire to keep these children's stories private for the most part but paint an accurate picture of what my experience is. If I only blog about my weekend activites and the good in the day, you will get a completely wrong picture of my experience. However I never know how much to say and I wrestle with this in every blog entery))

Birthdays =  a time to celebrate you. From what I'm use to this follows with a few presents, cake, family and friends getting to celebrate another year of my life. Last night through tears I was reflecting at my past birthdays. I took the time to try and remember each one and realizing very quickly the mood on each one of those birthdays: happiness. I was happy. It was about me that day and people came to see me, sent me a card or told me they were thinking about me on my birthday. I was recognized. I wasn't being forgotten.

Since living at the boarding house birthdays have been the opposite (not always, but most). I buy the child sweets (gummies) and write them a birthday letter. That's really all I can afford to get them to make it fair for each child, whatever gender. Coming into this I assumed (stupidly) that birthdays would be a happy time to celebrate another year of their life and also have a present to go along with it. I never thought my present would be the only present they got. I didn't know that for some of these children their birthdays aren't really recongized- the child isn't acknowledged. I'm frustrated with this and it often leads me to tears and venting to God trying to find his inner peace. (which He always provides might I add)
The past 3 birthdays I've experienced at the boarding house have always been linked with tears and sadness. These 3 girls each had their individual reasons to cry on their birthdays but the general theme was missing something. They missed their families. They missed feeling loved. They wanted someone to care.

 I watched as one  mother promised for 4 weeks that she would come and bring her daughter a birthday cake- she never came. I texted this mother twice asking her to be honest and say if she would actually come because I watched this girl wait and wait and wait and wait... this mother promised me she was coming on two different occasions and never showed. I had to watch this precious young girl realize after a month that her mom wasn't coming and whatever reason she had linked with it wasn't good enough.

I got to talk to her last night again about her birthday and she told me that most of her immediate family had died and that birthday's are so hard for her as it is. It broke me. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit was speaking through me because last night was all a blur. I feel terrible sometimes asking God for strength because there are so many people who need that strength more than I do, but I am blessed that God is WAY more than enough for the 7 billion people living on this earth. God gave me strength to get through 3 very difficult conversations yesterady- ending in this one with this girl about her lost family and forgotten birthday. As I tucked her into bed I grabbed both of her hands and prayed that she would feel God's love- that she would feel part of His family- knowing He is her heavenly Father and His desire is to take care of her.

(Pause with me for a sec). Why am I talking about birthdays? because I've realized that they aren't always the happiest time of the year- but one of the low points because they are forced to reflect on their life, who is taking care of them and what they have. I am also talking about birthdays because it was another beauitful girl's birthday at the hostile yesterday- she turned 8. 

She came running to me telling me it was her birthday yesterday and I pulled her into a huge hug and sang happy birthday to her! Her face lit up at the beginning of the day trusting that it was going to be a good birthday. I was excited for her. 8 is a big deal for a little girl like herself. Her Auntie brought her cake at the school and she celebrated with her class and teacher. This little girl cherished this 5 minute birthday party so much that she took all the used cake plates  (paper plates) from the kids and took them back to the boarding with her. I asked her why she wasn't throwing them out and looked at me and said happily "Auntie Maddie, they are my presents!! I have presents!!" 

I didn't have the heart to tell her that these weren't presents but belonged in the garbaged and prayed that I would see used paper plates as presents. They were memories to this girl, that she had that many friends at her birthday party. She wanted a memory of her 8th birthday.

However after a few hours passed the excitment she once was carrying slipped away. Her face was sad. I was watching her trying to figure out what was going on in this precious girls heart and mind. Finally once dinner was over and we were semi alone I turned her to face me, looked into her eyes and asked her "whats wrong?" Without one word said between us tears started falling on her beautiful cheeks. I could tell she was embarassed at the fact of how easily she was crying and looked down at the floor. When I told her it was alright and that it was a good thing to cry and tell me how she felt the tears came harder. She hadn't said a word yet but she climbed into my lap on the kitchen chair and rested her head in my neck, sobbing. I didn't know what was wrong but this was one of my short prayers to God reminding Him that I can't handle this and that I'm not strong enough and God replying right away that He is more than enough.

 The other girls were around and realized how sad she was on her birthday. After a few mintues had passed I asked her what was wrong. It took another 5 minutes before a response but she had said kids teased her and made fun of her on her birthday. ( I wanted to punch those kids - don't they know birthday's are hard enough as it is.. why do stupid children have to ruin it more for this girl.. urg... i was mad! but don't worry.. those were just some of the thoughts running through my mind- they never were vocalized or showed in my emotions)

The girls and I decided to put on a concert for her to help make her birthday a good memory, rather than a memory that led to tears. Since we were in the kitchen the spoons and forks became our micraphones and was started dancing around the kitchen singing justin bieber on the top of our lungs dancing around the table. Her smile started to appear- we stood her on the kitchen chair dancing around her singing happy bithday. The other girls got it. They understood far more than I ever can. They were doing everything they could to make her feel loved. I had to sit back and make a mental picture in my mind promising that I wouldn't forget the atmosphere of last night. The tears went away and turned into laughter. After about an hour I declared it was time for bed. As soon as some of the girls left the birthday girl stayed back tears once again falling on her cheeks. "O Lord, please give me your eyes, show me what you're seeing" - this is a simple prayer I pray ALOT. God knows what is in each one of these children's hearts and I so want to be on His team - seeing what He sees to know how to approach each situation.

As I grabbed her hand and led her upstairs to bed the tears turned into sobs and by the time we reached bed with all the other girls she had reached the point of crying that is just all pain. I asked her if she needed a moment and with a shake of her head yes- I carried her into my room and sat on the bed. Another girl came with. I put a pillow on my lap and told her to snuggle up! With lots of tears, filled with pain and exhaustation she told me how much she missed her mom. How much she just wanted her mom to see her. (Her parents both died when she was younger, 2 years apart, both of a sickness) Anytime these girls talk about how much they wish they had parents or about missing their mom I cry. Usually I would excuse myself go into my room and let the tears sob, chatting with God about how thankful I am for my mom and how hard taking the burden of these girls lives onto mine is. But she was already in my room and there was no where to go. I tried to be strong but the tears still came. As I rubbed her back, I started praying outloud over this girl asking God for strength and to realize that she was part of a family. I told her it was ok to miss her mom and to know that her mom was so proud of her along with other things. I don't know the whole story but this little 8 year old has been through a lot. ALOT.. more than I can write on blog.

I let her fall asleep in my bed the whole time just praying over her. I know God heard me and I know He is in control. After tucking her back into bed last night I realized that I hate birthdays here. Yes, a bitter thought but I'm being honest with you. I am thankful there are no more birthdays for a little while and I'm determined that when the next birthday comes up I will do everything I can to make it specail, but God reminded me that I can't fix that pain- only He can. Even if I throw the greatest party, all she wanted was a hug from her mom and I can't make that happen.

It's been a really emotional time and I'm sure it will only continue into next week. Most of the kids are leaving the boarding house and moving on. (some to highschool, one to Capetown and four children are transfering schools) This means a new batch of children are coming through but I think it will be less than 17. The dyanmaic is changing in the house as the mood starts to swing into "good-byes." Coming into this week I told God that there was no way I could handle this and He reminded me that "He always can!"

I am so blessed to have this experience to be used- to serve a living and Holy God. Even though these nights are hard I am so greatful to have this opportunity to live in the moment, to learn and to love on these children. God is always in control and I trust in Him for that. 


  1. In my opinion, your best blog yet. So raw, so full of truth, so obvious that you're in need of Christ. I had to fight back tears the whole time I was reading it. I love you my dear. So encouraged by your faithfulness to God and the strength He provides and the change you are making in these children's lives.

  2. Thanks Maddie. Praying for you and your south african family, thanks for being real! Love, Kaitlin

  3. Maddie, I`m so thankful that God has you there for these moments...you are a true blessing to these little children! May He be your strength always! Love you, Gillian

  4. Thanks for your words, Maddie. Your blog is a great blessing and we love your updates and insights. We are praying, supporting, and loving you from Elmira. Love from Pastor Peter and Jenn


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