It was the first song I ever sang to you, Whitney. Holding you in my left arm, holding that little oxygen tube up to your tiny little nose with my right hand, marveling at your thick dark hair, worried a little bit about your purple hands and feet, and looking square into your newborn blue-blue-blue-blue eyes, I sang to you Eight Days a Week. Twenty-one years ago today. Or, tonight, I should say; you took a good long while getting here.
Oxygen tubes. Surgeries. Set backs. Physical therapy. Tutoring. More surgeries. Crutches. Wheelchairs. Casts. Disappointments. Surgeries. My word, we’ve spent a lot of time together in hospital rooms and doctors’ offices. I remember a lot of it. It’s been painful, I know. But I treasure in my heart your optimistic outlook and your positive attitude through every single adventure. You were ten or eleven years old when you and I had a fairly serious talk while sitting on the curb outside our house in Arlington. There’s no way you remember this. We talked together about how God is using you, how he’s proud of you, how he teaches all of us how to be better people through you and what you’re enduring. We talked about how his Spirit is inside you, helping you overcome the things that cause you so much trouble. I guess I was doing all the talking and you were listening. I wanted to encourage you. I wanted to inspire you. I wanted so desperately to help. And you looked at me with that little dimpled grin and those blue eyes sparkling in the late afternoon summer sun and said, “I know. I’m OK.”
You always say that. “I’m OK.”
No, you’re way more than OK. You’re wonderfully amazing, Whitney. You really are. You’ve never let anything ever get you down. Ever. Oh, yeah, you have your meltdowns every now and then. They’re rare, but you’ve wigged out a few times. And then the next day it’s like nothing at all happened. Your optimism is most seen by others in the precious ways you think every spring that the Rangers are going to go 162-0, every winter that the Mavericks are going to win every night, and every summer that the Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl. You never give up on your teams. And you never give up on yourself or on the people around you. You are faithful and loyal, Whitney; just like our Lord. You never give up, Whitney; just like our Lord. You keep trying, you keep pushing, you endure, and you overcome; just like Jesus.
I am so proud of you. And so blessed by God to know you and to be taught by you. I see God in you. And, wow, that’s really cool.
Of course, these are not the only things I appreciate about you, Whit. I appreciate that you beat me about half the time we play Backgammon and, when I lose, you make sure I know I lost. I appreciate your fanaticism for sports and the way you and I share special games. The way you still follow me around the house. The important ways you interact with my friends. Your supreme organizational skills and the fact that you make up your bed every single morning. Your diligence in your job. The volunteer work you do at Central. Your unbridled and barely contained enthusiasm for whatever is happening right now in this place at this very moment.
I love you, Whitney. Happy Birthday. May our gracious God continue to bless you richly with his merciful outpouring of peace and joy. And may all who know you be blessed by that same peace and joy.