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number 9

Indiana turns nine years old today. It’s early in the morning and she’s still sleeping, but I know as soon as she wakes, she’s gonna be excited about her big day. She’ll make her way down the stairs, ready to get to school and see all the kids and to have her birthday party with all her friends in the barn this evening.

I’ll do my best to slow her down. To pull her onto my lap and talk with her and soak up this day. This sweet moment in time. I can’t help but think, “where has the past nine years gone?” It feels as though just yesterday, she was in her little crib and starting to sleep through the night. And now she’s laying out her clothes for school and reading chapter books to her Papa before prayer and bedtime each night.

Much has happened in the last nine years. Indy has grown from a teeny baby to little young lady and though it’s happened right before my eyes, I feel as though I blinked and missed a lot of it. And so, in honor of her big day today, I wanted to go back and see each of the birthdays she’s had and put them all together so I can remember how we got here. How our sweet little Indiana got here…

It’s almost more than I can handle to watch them. Especially the first two birthdays. Seeing and knowing how in love Joey was with Indy and how happy she was to be Indiana’s mama that first birthday morning. And then seeing how much had changed by the following year. Instead of Joey getting Indy out of her bed, it was me getting Indy out of her crib and handing her to Joey, when she could no longer get out of her bed. It is so, so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. My heart wants to burst with tears and joy, but isn’t sure which it feels more.

And from there, seeing little Indy grow year-after-year. Birthday-after birthday. First her hair and her little face and body, but also her speech and personality. For two of the birthdays we were in Hawaii with friends, a place where Joey first took us on a family trip just after Indy turned one.

We have a yardstick on the doorjam going into the bathroom here at the farmhouse. It’s filled with Heidi and Hopie’s growth marks and dates in the 1990’s, and many of Indy’s over the last few years. She is excited to have Papa measure her again today (she’s been practicing standing straight next to it for two weeks) and make her new mark on it, so she can see how much she’s grown in the last year. And we’ll have that and all the mark’s on it to remember, long after these days are gone.

I’m always happy for Indy’s birthday, just like I was for our older girls as they grew, but a big part of me is wishing I could somehow stop time for a while and keep her right where she is. I kid her and ask, ‘how about if we just skip this birthday and you can stay eight for another year or two?” She’s quick to respond, “no Papa, I have to grow up!” And of course, she’s right. I wouldn’t actually want it any other way. More than I want her to stay young, I just want to continue to be as present as possible in these moments and not miss them, or have regrets for the time I could’ve been ‘here,’ when I wasn’t.

Like the mark she’ll put on the yardstick, one day she will make her own mark on the world, just as we all do. And as sad as I am to see her growing up so fast, I’m just as excited to see what God has in store for her. To see what and who she’s going to grow up to be.

This summer when Dr. Temple Grandin came to our farm and spoke at the Homestead Festival, it was so inspiring for me to see and hear someone who has done so much to change the way the world looks at Autism. And a part of me wonders… who knows, maybe someday, our little one will grow up and make a big difference in how people look something else too?

- rory



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