Love like I’m not scared Give when it’s not fair Live life for another Take time for a brother
I watch you haphazardly run-trip down the hall, veer unsteady into your brother’s room. His sleep hasn’t quite worn off yet as you climb into the bed, belly down, eye to eye. “Reed? Up?” He peeks one
eye over at you, arm slung up and over his forehead, covered in thick, red curls. His lips eek out a slow smile. And then you’re off. Both of you, to play, to steal each other’s food, to hug, to run races, to argue and fight over the one toy while a billion lay ignored. And this brotherhood unfolds, dances a little crazily through my living room and kitchen, spilling out the back door. Am I watching the first stitches of a forever friendship?
I’ve written plenty already about my-not-yet-enough mama-ing of you two. But today, today, I take the backseat. And I watch the two of you, musing over what one will teach the other. So different and yet knit from the same substance.
Today I pray that you will teach each other love that is unafraid. Unassuming generosity. Life that breathes life. An ease of pace that openly invites others. A burning fight inside for those who are unheard, unloved, unneeded. A voice that insists freedom is the best gift. And an abiding faith that anchors your soul.
Fight for the weak ones Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You…
Being a mother is, to me, a mostly impossible task. I’m being asked to be who I am not yet.
I didn’t often feel the sting of failure in my mostly sheltered and protected middle-class American upbringing. Until those nurses placed that tiny, tiny red-headed baby into my trembling arms. And since that day, I’ve learned the humility of failing more times than I can recount, both in big and small ways.
And through those failings I’ve seen grace upon grace upon grace. Because for some reason, those two little boys keep loving me. Keep calling me mama and mom and mommy. For some reason, despite all my lacking as mama, they keep asking for my hugs, my off-key singing, my silly games. And perhaps most curious of all, despite these failings, I keep love being mama.
Even though. I am not yet patient enough. Or kind enough. Or brave enough. Nor do I know enough. Think enough. Feel enough. Be enough. I am not yet who I ought to be.
So I look to those who have mama’d before me and around me. I search for their reassurance that all these cracks aren’t disassembling me. They are breaking open deep wells of grace and light. They are all running together in a masterful design that is not too late in coming.
Maybe this plan of making parents out of not-yets is purposeful. A great mysterious paradox where the child is both learner and teacher. Where the mama is both not enough and just enough. So that even though I am not yet who I ought to be, I am becoming.
It seems that I’m running behind in many ways these days, and wishing you this happy second birthday is no exception. You officially entered our family 730 days ago, and these hundreds upon hundreds of days have held much joy, much laughter, and much growth.
Your smile with that almost visible dimple is the look of joy. The tone of joy erupts when you exclaim “I did it, Mama! I did it!” to any numerous daily achievements. Those little arms draped around my shoulders, your head laying flush against my shoulder — that hug feels like joy. And I know you must taste joy every time you beg for just one more berry, your favorite food.
Your laugh, that one that sounds like Boo from Monster’s Inc. The one that your daddy recorded and uses as a ring-tone. That laugh that captures the sheer incredibleness of childhood. That laugh you laugh just to see if you can make other people laugh.
Did you know that you’ve tripled in size since your birth? You’re growing tall and solid and strong. So strong, in fact, that you often insist on pulling your older and heavier by ten pounds brother around the neighborhood in your beloved wagon. I call you my work horse because you always need a task, a mission, a focus to drive you through your day. You’ve grown from a soft, warm, tiny baby into a walking, running, talking, rough-and-tumble boy. This growing is so bittersweet for your mama but inevitable I know.
Right now your constant question is “Home?” Sometimes not even fully out of the driveway, you’ll pipe up from the back seat: “Home?” as if there’s no place you’d rather be than home. Home where me, daddy, and Reed are. Home, where you play and run and stomp and yell and eat and cry and cuddle and sing and love. I pray that you have the soul of an adventurer but a heart that will always find its way home.
You are dearly loved, sweet boy!
Happy fourth birthday! Even though this is year four of your journey, it’s also been a year of firsts! Your first year of preschool, your first steps, your first time as a big brother.
At four years old, you’re favorite question is “Where we going?” You ask it when we’re putting on shoes, when we’re riding in the van, when you’re bored at home and want to go out, or just when someone walks from one room to the next. It’s your question du jour. And I wish I could capture in words the sound, the intonation, the upward tilt of your voice when that question comes. I hope it’ll forever be imprinted in my mind just the way you say it now.
Unquestionably, you look like your daddy, but you also think like him. When daddy and I first got married, I told him that under no circumstances should he ever EVER listen to me if I gave him directions somewhere; no matter how insistent I sounded or how angry I got that he wasn’t following my directions, he was not to listen to my misguided navigation attempts! Your mama is hopeless when it comes to good directions, but your daddy, he’s a human GPS. So every time from the van’s backseat that we hear “Where we going?”, I smile at the 29 years younger version of your daddy. Inevitably, you’ll follow-up my answer with “Where?”, searching for the right word to continue our conversation. You want, you need more details. And so sometimes I navigate our drives out loud, while pretty sure you’re downloading all this information so that one day you can navigate just as good as Daddy. And one day, I’ll tell you too to ignore any road directions I ever give you.
Sometimes, buddy, I wonder where we’re going, too. Where will your journey take us? What will it look like, feel like, be like? I can’t look into the future. But I can look back at the last four years that have brought us to right here, right now and I’m confident that we’re going somewhere that only you can take us. Mostly, I’m confident in the One who created you and I celebrate His creativity in making you YOU.
We love you buddy!!
That way? No, a little boy sleeping in a hospital bed doesn’t ruin a vacation. Just delays it. But it’s my heart that reduces a gracious gift to an ash-heap of unmet expectations.
A week counting down through crayons, glue, and decorations meant to land us at the beach but instead we were washed up in the hospital. His three year old lungs, struggling through asthma, couldn’t get the breath they needed. And so for two long days we lounged in a sterile pediatric ward instead of on sandy beaches. I watched pictures post on Facebook of my family playing, lazing, eating up the sunny rays. And a soured haze settled over me. We were supposed to be there.
I started counting up how many hours we were missing for building sand castles. How many minutes were dwindling away hooked up to monitors and medicine. How many seconds could never be recovered for splashing in the waves.
So you would think when we were finally released, that my disgruntled disposition would have evaporated. But there’s ingratitude’s lie. It sees less rather than enough. It demands instead of giving thanks. It overlooks instead of believing.
So the demanding, lessening, disbelieving trickled out even once we finally made it to the beach. The boys were waking at 4 a.m. The sun peek-a-booed behind the clouds. Our boys cried and whined for the first two hours we spent on the beach. (For the love of all things good, whose children cry at the beach?) I got sick the next to last night at the beach. My one year old cried unless I was holding him. Relatively speaking, the hospital kinda sounded better.
Present gratitude would have staked her flag in the sandcastles that were built, the peek-a-boo sunshine that made an appearance, the tremendously amazing food that was shared, the hilarious and endearing family shenanigans, the decadent homemade ice cream, the bay shore breezes, little boys’ hesitancies that turned to playful digging and toe dips in the water. Because all these things happened, too.
Vacations (life, really, too) aren’t ruined by what didn’t happen but by our sometimes unwillingness to let go of what we expected, for instead, what is.
Cakes and feasts and celebrations and gifts all roll right into one another as my birthday and anniversary and Mother’s Day coalesce into May.
But, I’m not good at receiving gifts, I’ve learned. Not in the respectable way — you know, the I wish everyone wouldn’t make a big fuss over me kind of way. I’m not good at receiving gifts for exactly the opposite reason. I like gifts; I like gifts being given to me; and I expect gifts that are exactly, precisely what I wanted.
So pity the poor fool who gifts me a token that doesn’t meet my expectations. I’ve been known to pout. To cry. To huff and puff. Such a picture of graciousness, right? I grew up a girl obediently writing out precise gift wish lists for birthdays, for holidays, for milestones. And usually, those much-desired gifts arrived in beautifully crisp, bow-tied packages, simply waiting my approval.
What happens to this list-making girl when she’s gifted with something quite unexpected? A gift that never crossed her mind. A gift that actually didn’t even seem like a gift but much more like a strangle-hold.
I came face-to-face with that girl holding her unexpectedness, and I saw Entitlement leaning close in to my ear. What you have isn’t a gift.
That shocking lie, that brazen label, ran a desert right through my heart. My soul starved of truth, shriveling, dried-out roots. You can’t love what you have because it’s not good (enough).
But now I’m learning, grace turns death into life. Scrapes away lies to see truth. Fills us full when lies have emptied us out. If I treat God’s gifts like I treat my birthday lists, I’ll never experience the true freedom found in the paradox of grace.
Being last and least makes you the victor. Gain life by losing yours. While we still opposed him, He sought us. Death births life. Triumph through surrender. Infinite treasure in these dusty jars of clay. Healing through brokenness. His power perfected in my weakness.
It’s always been this grace paradox that helps me right the upside down world where little boys are born with genetic disorders. And grief in all her smallness and bigness grows her roots right into each and everyone’s lives.
But grace. Though it might not change the circumstance, it always changes me.
One year ago we were just getting acquainted, you all fresh and new, me learning again how to become a mama when no two babies are exactly alike. Your nana took the first flight from South Carolina that three-week early Sunday you arrived and our families here, there, and everywhere called and smiled and beamed about you.
You and your dimpled cheek and plump legs and sleepy sighs. Your daddy held my hand as the doctor worked to bring you out, and you, you became ours.
We didn’t pray the just-be-healthy prayer because we’ve learned of greater grace than that. Reed signed baby, coming brow-to-brow with your tiny face, as he snuggled you by his side for the first time. We now pray earnestly that your brother-hearts will be knit together so that you’ll always stand for and with one another.
So fitting that the name we call you means Bringer of Light. You’ve filled us up with light and laughter and smiles (and more than a few sleepless nights). Nothing brings that baby grin faster than when people talk and laugh with you. In the sometimes weariness of life, you kindle brightness and cheer in our home.
Bubba, our greatest hope for you is that you’ll grow in wisdom and grace to know the one who is Light.
Love you so, so much.