My sweet Gabi turns 15 this week! Time goes by so quickly when it comes to the kids, doesn’t it? I remember celebrating her first birthday with her–when she was only ten months old! The Naranjos were about to return to Ecuador and I didn’t want to miss out on her first birthday, so I invited all the aunts and uncles and cousins, as well as Grammy and Grampy, of course, over for a birthday party and a send-off for Laurie and Fernando and Sara and Gabi. Wow. As I think about it now, what a little family they were back then. Sara and Gabi were our first grandchildren and there were just the four Naranjos altogether. Today they are eight—with six children!
Another one of Gabi’s birthdays was memorable. Her fourth birthday was on September 11, 2001—the day of the terrorist attack. I remember sitting in the rocking chair early in the morning, with both Gabi and Sara on my lap, talking about what a fun day it was going to be, when suddenly before our eyes on the television screen an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center. We finally had to tear ourselves away from the TV and concentrate on making a little four-year-old’s birthday a happy one. Bob and I didn’t have long to celebrate, though. Robbie was getting sicker by the hour and we knew as soon as the cake and presents were over we had to get him to the emergency room. That was the beginning of another month-long stay at the hospital, and the turning point from which he never fully recovered his life the way it had been before.
We’ve been able to celebrate a few of Gabi’s birthdays with her, but many others have taken place down in Ecuador. Last night the whole Naranjo family had a surprise party for her—although knowing our smart girl, I have a feeling it wasn’t a big surprise! Her older girl cousin took her out for the day and got her all gussied up for the party. Some of the others brought in live music (a big tradition down there), and her aunt took charge of planning and preparing the menu. I have yet to talk to Gabi about it, but Laurie said the kids all had a great time.
Gabriela is more like me than most of the other grandchildren. (Have I mentioned lately that I now have 11 grandchildren?) Gabi kind of marches to the beat of a different drummer. She is very creative and enjoys art, making “movies,” directing her siblings in skits, etc. She’s never been too interested in girly clothes or make-up or hair—although lately we have seen her experimenting just a little. She is a beautiful girl, nonetheless, even au natural. She is quick-witted and loves to tease and pull pranks on everyone—especially Grandma! I used to tell her how “special” she was. Her answer was to say, “Oh, sure, Grandma! That’s what they say about handicapped kids!” Well, she’s special to me, but maybe the better word is “unique.” She certainly is that!
I hope Gabi realizes how special she is to the Lord, too. He is the One who lovingly made her the unique, beautiful person that she is. Gabi is at that age when she is still a little unsure of herself. Most of us went through that phase in our teenage years. Some of us never outgrow it and struggle with self-confidence and self-worth issues all our lives. If we could see ourselves the way God sees us, though, and understand the value He places on us (He sent His Son to be our sacrifice, after all!) and the great, everlasting love He has for us, how could we ever doubt our worth? Psalm 139 says, “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it… For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well… How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.(vs. 1-6, 13-14, 17-18)
My message to Gabi, and to all of us is this: You are special! You are unique! God says he made you wonderful and marvelous! He knows everything about you; He is always with you; and He is always thinking about you! I love verses 17 and 18. He is always thinking of each one of us personally! Only an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God could do that—and yet He cares about little old me and little old you! That should certainly give each of us confidence and self-worth—not because of anything we have done for ourselves, but because of the work He has done in us and for us, and because He continues to keep us wrapped in His love!
Feliz cumpleaños, my sweet quinceañera Gabi! I love you, and you are very, very special to me!