if we could have another coffee date

Last time we sat down for coffee, it was the day before I boarded a plane bound for China.

Today, I am headed out of town again.

Let’s imagine we got to meet in the studio really early this morning, before I had to leave.

There are chairs inside now so it is more comfortable.

My $5.00 estate sale yellow floral chair is my favorite, you can sit there if you’d like.

If we could sit down and have a cup of coffee this morning, friend to friend, Iā€™d probably tell you something like this:

I knew this time would come, but I never imagined it would be so hard. I didn’t know that immense gratitude and overwhelming grief could be felt in the same breath. While the world around me is asking if I am excited and am ready for my daughter’s surgery, I feel an ache and a wish I could have more time, more smiles, more clefty kisses. I’ve been through surgeries with kids before – surgeries and kids should never have to go together. Excitement is the last word I would use to describe how I feel. We live in a world that rushes to fix and change things and often overlooks beauty in our quest for a facade of perfection. My children have taught me beauty. My youngest daughter has forever changed the way my eyes see the world around me and its people. Though I would never want her to go through life with an unrepaired cleft, I can’t help but ache for the loss I feel. Surgery will change her life and her future. It is medically necessary for her to be able to do so many things she cannot do now…it is essential for her speech, hearing, etc. It is so very important and crucial. And yet, I am simply a mom in love with her daughter. When I close my eyes and picture my kids….that picture includes a dark haired beauty with a cleft lip. Though her cleft does not define her, it will always be a part of her story. It will always be a part of my story. And most likely those treasured lips played a role in how our stories became forever woven. I also ache for her birth family. They will probably never get to see her new lips and there is a sense of loss in that.

There is a movie called Smile Pinki by Smile Train. In that movie a little boy about the age of 9 with a cleft lip and palate is featured. He is unable to attend school because of how others treat him. He was also unable to speak clearly. The documentary follows Smile Train as they come to his area and offer a free cleft surgery. There is one scene where several from the village are surrounding the boy’s mom. They are urging her to accept the free surgery. You can see the agony in her face. Though she knows it is an incredible gift and much needed for her son, she is in agony over the decision. I know not many may understand this type of thankful grief. I didn’t understand it before. However, today I feel it.

I am thankful for my sweet friend Angie who has gone this road before me and held my hand through this journey. She assures me that there will come a day that Little One is bopping around the house with a nose scrunched grin and I won’t feel like it is her new smile. It will just be her smile. She will heal.Ā  She will be just as beautiful. Her smile will be just as radiant. She’ll be her, just with rearranged lips. And I’ll be clicking away with my camera. And one day, she will look back on thousands of pictures of herself with her original lips. And one day, I hope and pray she will see the breathtaking beauty that I see. I hope and pray she will know she was exquisite since the day she was born.

I have a good feeling there will be a part of me that always misses her original lips.

And that is okay.

So today, I’ll carry her from doctor to doctor to doctor preparing for tomorrow’s surgery.

And then at 8:00am on Friday, I’ll gently kiss her lips one last time.

And I’ll probably cry tears of sadness and tears of thanksgiving.

And then eventually her new lips will be healed and I’ll get to start kissing them again.

And I’ll cry tears of thanksgiving.

Little One has a full day of appointments with various members of the cleft team today…not even a break for lunch or naps! It will be a long day. Her surgery is at 8am Central on Friday. We would covet your prayers on her behalf that morning. Thanks for our coffee date, thanks for loving my girl. ~ Ashley

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  • jody - just read this…thinking of you right now!!! remember….your child is healthy, your child is soo loved, your child is protected & THAT is what we give thanks for every day…for another day to love our kids. hang tough & all will be well!!!

  • Joy - Dear Father,
    Please be with Little One right now and wrap your arms tight around her as she enters surgery. Give her family the peace that only You can give. Help this day go quickly and with unexpected blessings. As the days and weeks ahead of recovery come, surround this family with support and encouragement.
    In Jesus name, Amen

  • Michelle - Praying this morning that the Lord’s immeasurable peace and love would surround you and Little One and guard your hearts and minds! That His presence would both be in the operating room as well as in the waiting room…may you encounter Him this morning like you never have before! Blessings on you and your WHOLE family!
    -Michelle

  • jules - Praying for each and every one of you today!

  • tara - praying for her and y’all this morning!

  • Sandi Glass - I know EXACTLY how you feel. I SOBBED the day my son had surgery. Not because I was worried that he was in surgery (although I was) but because I was so sure I was going to miss his beautiful wide smile. You know what helped? Once he began to feel better and his sweet personality returned, I realized that he was still the same child. His smile looks different now – still beautiful, not so wide – but he’s still my son. I bet you won’t miss the wide smile as much as you think you will, because ultimately it’s your daughter you love!! And she will return to you, recover from surgery and then you realize that you have your whole lives ahead of you and now you can just go live it! God bless!

  • Emily - I know that I, myself will miss that smile… so I can only imagine what you are feeling. Teary eyed when you mentioned the last time you will kiss her lips. She is joy personified….
    Prayers for you all!

  • elizabeth H - I’m tearing up AGAIN reading this…your daughter is SO BEAUTIFUL!!
    I can imagine this surgery is very hard emotionally…your friend Angie gave great wisdom. Little One’s cleft will always be a part of the love you feel for her.
    I read this post earlier this morning & have been lifting you both up ever since. PEACE to you.

  • Erica - WOW! I stumbled upon your blog! Your post brought tears to my eyes. My son is having his 2nd cleft lip surgery on Tuesday. My son and your daughters cleft look exactly the same! Excited to read more of your blog!

  • Melissa Stottmann - “I hope and pray she will know she was exquisite since the day she was born.”

    Tears. What a beautiful message. She is so lucky to have you and your family <3

  • Amanda - Hi Ashley,

    I have experienced you blog to for two years. Occasionally, I comment, as I know your blog is full of comments.
    I look forward to reading about it, and relating to your experiences if possible.
    Your blog is uplifting and a blessing.

    God Bless “Little One” I think she is beautiful!

  • kristen - crying as always while over here. just that last picure of those gorgeous girls is just so so beautiful. I can not handle it! Prayers for your family as you go through this. thank you so much for how you inspire and encourage us with your life. you are truly a vessel and I am so encouraged and moved by that in you. Thank you for letting the Lord work in you and shine out to us.

  • Kerri - Just beautiful, thank you for sharing.

  • jennifer - http://theskipsgreatadventure.blogspot.com/2010/01/good-bye-cleft-lipim-going-to-miss-you.html

    Hi, my friend just sent me your blog tonight and I am so glad she did. Soooo precious to read your thoughts on your daughter’s cleft and her surgery. I am attaching a note that I wrote the night before my daughter’s surgery three years ago. I can completely identify with the emotions you went through. So glad you have it behind you now! God bless!

  • Rachael - Ashley, I wanted to thank you for this post. I read this blog when you originally posted it, but came back to re-read it tonight after we recently found out that our young son will require surgery for a foot deformity the we originally thought was cosmetic but in fact now needs to be corrected. Though different I know, I haven’t felt like anyone can understand why we are grieving the gift of corrective surgery for something that will eventually cause him pain. But as his Mother, I am deeply in love with the way The Lord created him and I have grieved this process. Thank you for your thoughtful and honest words that bring encouragement and truth even months after they were written. I find encouragement and inspiration in so many of your entries, more than you could ever know. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers…blessings from CO.

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