If you’ve met our oldest daughter, Whitney, then you already like her. You like her smile, her good manners, her willingness to serve, her desire to make others happy, and her warmth. You really like that about Whitney.
If you’ve spent any time with her at all, then you already love her. You love her laugh, her bright outlook on life, her gullibility, her passion for her favorite things and favorite people, her silly trash-talk, her fierce loyalty, and her hugs that last for twelve days. It takes about six minutes with her to experience all of that. You already love that about Whitney.
If you are Whitney’s dad…
…well, let me tell you. If you are Whitney’s dad, there’s so much more to love about her that not everybody knows.
I love how hard Whitney tries to do things right. Whether it’s tying her shoes and hitting a baseball as a little girl or learning to drive a car or sack groceries as a young lady, Whitney wants instruction and practice. She focuses on doing things with excellence, doing things the right way. She’s patient, she’s determined, she’s committed. And I love that.
I love Whitney’s optimism and positive disposition in the middle of pain and disappointment. Our oldest girl has suffered plenty of both in her life. You probably already know a little about the meningitis and the surgeries and the results of that time in her childhood that still impact her today. You know about the hearing aids and fine motor skill limitations and balance issues. You haven’t seen her the day before a surgery or the night before a doctor’s appointment or the hours leading up to an entrance exam or a job interview. I have. Everything’s upbeat. Everything’s positive. Everything’s going to work out fine. And then, because things don’t always work out just fine, the bounce-back. Whitney’s great gift is her bounce-back. Yes, she can wallow in disappointment and heartbreak — for about ten minutes. And then it’s on to the next thing with faith and trust and great joy. Unabashed joy. And I love that about Whitney.
And I really love what God is doing with our daughter and, more surprisingly, through our daughter. Whitney shocks us quite often with her perception of what’s happening around us. She can lead a prayer for someone, as she did this past Sunday night during our small group, that penetrates to the very soul of what’s going on inside that person. Things few of us would have remembered, things few of us would ever say out loud, Whitney remembers and, somehow, ties it all together, and blesses in the name of Jesus. I think God puts Whitney in people’s lives on purpose in order to bless them. It seems to me that the people in Whitney’s life need her as much as she needs them, the people hugging Whitney need those hugs as much as she does. God uses Whitney to bless others. She seems to be increasingly aware of it. She’s paying attention more and articulating more what God is up to in this world and how she’s actually in on it. And I love that.
I love you, blue-eyed angel. Happy Birthday.