Her name is Vivian, she’s four years old, ash blonde hair, she’s wearing a navy one piece with a white ruffled skirt and small pink flowers.
As terrible as the timing is, we really needed this getaway. Self-contracting our new home has left me feeling weary on the good days, and downright hypocritical on the difficult days. You see, I’m the ultimate teacher of “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” But, as Lysa TerKeurst so aptly wrote: “I didn’t choose this topic because I have mastered it. I chose this topic because I want to dig into the core of what it really is and expose and finally heal it’s deep infection.
My cup hasn’t been empty, and I’ve definitely been pouring. But the filling has felt more like a 10 mile walk uphill to a well with a baby strapped to my back and 2 more running astray rather than simply turning on the tap. My exhaustion is mostly mental. But as they say: no pain, no gain. I’ve matured mentally more throughout this 6 month venture than in my 10 years of life as an adult. James 1:2-4 And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
I packed in advance, we got a good night sleep, and I even had time to detail my car before we left. Aside from a few meltdowns and a less than mediocre truck stop breakfast, the drive down was great. I got to have uniterrupted, meaningful conversation with my Husband, finished a book, started a new one, broke down a verse I’ve been stuck on for a while, and caught up with some team.
Branson, MO is like a second home to my in-laws. They’ve been coming here for years and have been so gracious as to invite us along a few times a year. They typically have every detail planned for us before we arrive, which is a dream as parents of many small people who have age appropriate levels of patience.
This time was different, we didn’t have an agenda – which led us to two museums, lots of swimming, and a ton of delicious but guilt inducing food on our first day.
I woke up the next morning feeling like a bloated tick from eating like a horse the day before. Knowing we’d be spending the day in water which would require me to wear a bathing suit, I opted to bring a shake to the legendary Billy Gails for breakfast rather than inhaling a 14″ pancake as per usual vacation diet habit.
I met a new friend who was intrigued by my coffee + whole food shake + mason jar concoction. We got to chat for a while and shared much in common. This would go on to happen a few more times over the course of our trip. Not much bonds women over coffee, sharing what makes life and health easier, and genuine conversation. Oh, and big pink flowers. You know the ones, hot pink peonies, laid across a farm sink for bonus points. Just dreamy.
I was feeling a lot less bloated, and SO excited for my babies as we arrived at the water park, and our day was about to get even better. As we approached the entrance, a family stopped us to ask if we could use four free admission tickets. We offered them cash several times, but they refused. This act of generosity saved us $150. Day totally made.
We all went to the kids’ section of the park together. Our older two, John and Vivi, immediately took off to the big slides, but the whole thing was a bit too much for a two year old. Hanky baby wasn’t up for the slides and massive amounts of water shooting out at every angle from everywhere.
So Big John and I decided to take him to the baby splash pool at the other end of the park, leaving the big kids with family.
A half hour passed, Hank was having a blast. John decided to go check on the big kids. 10 minutes passed. I picked Hank up and started the walk back across the park to see what everyone was up to. I never made it.
I met John halfway.
“We can’t find Vivi.”
“They thought she was going down the slides but no one has seen her for a while. She’s not in the kids’ area for sure.”
I don’t remember what I did with Hank, I guess I handed him to John. And then I started running. A missing child in 2017 doesn’t mean the same thing as it did 30 years ago. 99.8% of children who go missing are found. But when a true abduction occurs, the recovery and survival rates decrease drastically with each hour that passes. No one could tell me exactly how long it had been since she was seen last. Maybe 10 minutes, maybe 15, maybe longer?
Increased heart rate, muscle tension, narrowed vision, hypersensitive hearing – when my children are in danger, “flight” is never an option. Upon the activation of the maternal sympathetic nervous system, we always fight. The Mama Bear comes out, and she doesn’t stop. I ran until I found the nearest lifeguard. I told her my daughter had been missing. She continued motioning for slide riders to get out to make room for the next person to come splashing in. I told her again that my daughter was missing, and asked her to do something. This must happen several times a day, because it wasn’t until I screamed “MY DAUGHTER IS GONE, HELP ME – SHE’S ONLY FOUR” that I got her attention.
I watched her take her time walking somewhere to do something. I couldn’t wait for her. I started running through the park calling Vivi’s name. Other parents began to notice and immediately joined me in searching for her.
“What’s her name? What does she look like?”
“Her name is Vivian, she’s four years old, ash blonde hair, she’s wearing a navy one piece with a white ruffled skirt and small pink flowers.”
I can’t remember how many times I described her. “Navy suit, white ruffles, small pink flowers….she’s only four….”
But, you see, it was always to other parents. Moms, Dads, Grandparents, other kids, Aunts, Uncles, other people. The water park staff were not concerned.
5 more minutes passed. I’ve been up and down and through every part of the park. She is gone. There are so many people looking for her, but still – we go mostly unnoticed among the huge crowd soaking up the last bits of summer sun. The waves continue in the huge wave pool, so full that you can barely see water, let alone the bottom. I scream for them to please evacuate the pool. “My daughter has been missing for at least 15-20 minutes, please!” They do nothing.
May 21, 2013
I go to bed early. I am very tired, very pregnant, and have a very fussy toddler. Any day now, there will be another.
May 22, 2013
It’s 1AM. The back pain wakes me. It is time. We head to the hospital
It’s 9:32AM. “It’s A GIRL!” I know, I think to myself. I’ve known all along. My Vivian. “What’s her name, Mom and Dad?” “Vivian.” my husband tells them.
May 22, 2014
I thought she’d at least have some hair by now. I fasten a huge bow to the few strands she does have. We eat pink cupcakes and sing to her. One year. My Vivian.
March 2, 2017
I left my job a couple of months ago, time was passing too quickly. I pull in to drop them off at school. She jumps in the drivers seat, gives me a hug, and says “I’ll never forget you, Mommy.” I made the right decision. I will never regret coming home.
August 19, 2017
Its 1PM. The big kids are having a blast on the slides. We take Hank to the baby pool. We didn’t want John & Vivi to see us leave. I never said goodbye…..
5 more minutes pass. I beg them to close the entrance gates. “We have people looking” is the response I get. I keep running, looking for my Vivian.
What is the purpose of this, I ask God in this moment. I trust you, but what are you trying to teach me in this? Why her? Why me? Why us? Where is she? Please. Send her back to me…..
A man in a bright green shirt with a walkie talkie grabs my arm. We found her. She is with someone in your party. “Where?” I scream. I don’t give him time to answer. “Where is she? NOW. TELL ME NOW.” He is aggravated with me now, but points toward the center of the park. I start running again. 10 seconds pass. I see John, he’s 6’5″. Hard to miss him. There are people everywhere. I see that he is holding Hank, walking my way. I can see little John holding his left hand. I take a few more strides, the crowd thins, navy suit, white ruffles, puffy eyes. My Vivian.
I run faster, she runs toward me, I pick her up, we find a little tiki hut with flimsy beach chars to sit down. She’s so light, she always has been. That’s why we call her “Tiny”. She’s barely 30 lbs. I hold her and we cry for a long time. My eyes stay closed. After a while, I open them and look down at her. My Vivian. Four years old, ash blonde hair, navy one piece, white ruffles, and big pink flowers.
I bought this suit for her 2 years ago. It’s a bit tight by now, but it is her favorite. I’ve seen it almost every day this summer, we practically live at the pool. I was wrong. I told everyone small pink flowers. They are big. I was wrong.
She looks up at me. “Where were you, baby girl?”
“I was looking for you, Mommy.”
Any shameful and hateful inner self-talk I was about to do in that moment was stopped by two little girls who approached. “We found her crying by the showers, so we took her to the gift shop.”
“Thank you. Thank you.”
My daughter Vivian, searched for by so many people who could have chosen to look away from the frantic mother running around calling for her child. People of all ages, races, sizes, and cultures who in that moment joined together for one cause and one mission. A little girl in a navy suit with white ruffles and big pink flowers. People. We are so different, but also the same.
Live in harmony with each other, united in thought and purpose. Corinthians 1:10
United in thought and purpose, for 20 minutes, to find my daughter Vivian. God is good.