This morning Lilli awoke all smiles as she has been waiting 364 days for today, her birthday! It is hard to believe that our little girl is now 6 years old. When she was a baby, she fit into the category of "spirited baby" the one who knew what she wanted and had plenty of energy to make her needs known. Her head full of black hair soon grew into a beautiful gold, long enough that she donated 10 inches of it to "Locks of Love" at age 3. Though she is timid at first, her fascination of all animals has moved her to pet the big cows, make rounds in the goat pens in our yard, and even chase and catch a young chicken this week. She is concerned that our friends do not know the love of Jesus and thinks of ways the we can share with them. She is gifted with a heart for hospitality and service and was delighted to receive an African apron as she said "well, mom, we have always baked together. Now we can match with our aprons while we bake!" One of her favorite ways to serve is to take water and ground nuts our to our visitors in the katubi. Today she received a gift that she has begged for the last 6 months...a slingshot! It was precious to see her wear her apron around the house with a slingshot in its pocket.
Today, we enjoyed a birthday breakfast, playtime on the grounds of her school, her first day of "no nap, just reading time" (a rite of passage for a 6 year old), baking, and a delightful locally farmed talapia dinner with her requested cheese pasta and carrot birthday cake. We were grateful for the company of John, Loren, Brian and baby David Clark and Aunt Pat Abbott. It was especially meaningful to skype and talk on the phone with family as this was the first of the kids' birthdays that we have not been with family. The miles that are so long between us seem somehow shorter when we can hear their voices.
Lillian was named for Lillian Dickson, a spunky, courageous, and compassionate missionary in Formosa, which is now Taiwan. I was moved by her story and great work among the poor as I read "Angel on her Shoulder" while pregnant with Lilli. Mustard Seed International, founded by Lillian Dickson now serves in many countries aiding in educational, pastoral, and medical fields. We are always encouraged by its current director, Bill Deans, who became a good friend to us while we lived in Charleston, South Carolina. Our Lilli's middle name, "Joy" comes from the verse that is associated with her name (in my friend Mary's famous name book) that says, "'Shout for Joy, Daughter of Zion, for I am coming and I will dwell amoung you,' declares the Lord." God does certainly dwell with Lilli and she certainly shouts for joy!
So, as we close on the 30 minutes left in this day, we are grateful to God for the 6 years of the precious life of our daughter, Lillian Joy Johnson, our African princess and adventurer extraordinaire!