her tender heart

My middle baby turns 12 in 3 days. On the one hand, where has the time gone?? On the other, how in the world is this beautiful, mature young woman only 11??

Last night, we were casually discussing plans for her birthday, and I could tell she was about to cry. We sat down on the couch to talk about it some more. Her original plan for her b-day was to make a million cupcakes and have water balloons and a photo booth out in the courtyard with all the neighbor kids.

She has since decided that would be way too much work, way too much chaos, and chances are, no one would even be very appreciative (unprompted thank-yous from kiddos are kind of rare around these parts).

Our discussion went round and round, with me trying to suggest fun things and her sadly shooting them down. Because here’s what’s a “fun thing” is to Ava:

1.) something that doesn’t cost any $ and/or 2.) something that involves being somewhere other than America (where we do things that are also free except for the $9000 it costs to get us all there for the free, happy fun).

The longer our mostly one-sided conversation went on, the more I felt like a terrible, no good mom who cannot even make her daughter happy on her birthday.

Finally, I said, “I feel like a really bad mom. Is that what you’re hoping I’ll feel?”

I didn’t think it was, but maybe she was mad at me for something?

Shakes her head no. More tears.

“Ava, please tell me what’s wrong. Is this about more than just your birthday?”

Long pause. More tears. “I’m jealous.”

“Jealous? Of who?”

“The people in my books who get to travel the world.” Tears flowing.


This girl has read Kisses from Katie three times and has a burning desire to be her when she grows up. She kept asking me if there were any more books like KFK, and I said I couldn’t really think of any, but I’d ask on Facebook (this was a few days ago).

She has since finished Jantsen’s Gift and is halfway through Ana’s Story. And has two more books lined up to read next.

We had also had a conversation 30 minutes earlier about traveling to foreign lands. A dear friend had offered me a potential free plane ticket to Honduras for a vision trip next month, and as AWESOME as that sounds, we (Gabe and I) promised our girls back in July 2010 (when we got back from our first trip to Cambodia) that we would never again leave the country without them. So far we’ve kept that promise.

I held her while she cried and told her I know how much her heart longs for Cambodia, and that I know know know that God’s going to get us there. Money is nothing to him. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. If we’re faithful and make cards and sell stuff and do jobs, little by little, money will come.

And sometimes, God will just wow us out of nowhere with something HUGE while we’re doing the little stuff.

“And, hey,” I said, “How many of those people in your books are 11?”

“None of them.”

“And you’ve already been around the world, right?”


“God knows your heart, baby girl. Better than you know it. He knows what you love; he knows what you desire. And he wants to give it to you. And he will. Trust him.”

She nodded, and I held her.

And today has been a good, good day. Waiting, watching, hoping, praying, working, gluing, cutting, packaging.

With God, nothing is impossible.

We’ll be back in Cambodia hugging our sweet friends’ necks before you know it.

13 thoughts on “her tender heart

  1. Rachelle

    A girl with a heart that’s restless for her God called home. Lord let your Kindgom come! I look forward to the day Ava writes the story God is telling through her life.

  2. John McCollum

    I was 18 before I ever got west of Indiana. Lack of travel options as a child is no indication of what one’s adult experiences will be… She’ll get there.

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      She misses her friends now though. They’ll all be big and grown when she’s 18. 🙂 We’re looking forward to all your photos when you get to Prek Eng!

  3. Cheryl Pickett

    Could you Skype or FB chat with some Cambodia friends that day? It’s not the same but maybe you could do a virtual party with just a few of them, blow out birthday candles and maybe there’s some kind of game you can play with each other online too. I know there’s a time difference so her birthday could start really early or go on really long :-). There are also lots of fun group games that use household items or no supplies at all maybe she could play with her friends here (I just collected a few for VBS, I can send the list if you want, email or message me on FB if interested) I’m sure all will work out.

  4. Rhonda

    It took my girl 7 years after she felt called to missions to make it around the world to serve full time. It is so awesome to look back and see how God was perfectly preparing her every step of the way. He’s preparing you right now Ava for the special purposes He has planned just for you. Remember, His timing is perfect and He will reward your obedience and faithfulness.

  5. Cheryl Prether

    We have friends who are missionaries in Cambodia, right now the wife- Karen is fighting for her life. She has been sent to Taiwan for medical treatment. Do you think you and your girls would mind putting Karen on your prayer list. Also pray for their adult children as they make the decision to fly to be with their dad or whether they should stay here in the states (there is also the problem of passports and money to fly) .
    Your daughter’s tender heart towards others and her desire to help others is a direct result of being raised by caring parents. Praying your daughter can find happiness for her birthday.

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