12

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My Son,

Twelve years ago we were anxiously awaiting you. Stubborn from the start you made us wait. Every evening for about a week the contractions made me stop and breathe and begin to hope but then peter out again. I walked miles and miles. I worked in the yard and pulled bushes out by the roots to keep the contractions going. But you already had a mind of your own.

You made us parents. We were nervous and unsure of ourselves but completely besotted with you. We couldn’t put you down. We memorized your every expression. We analyzed your cries. You taught us how to be parents. This is the burden of being the first child. You get the undivided attention but you also get the first mistakes of parents who are navigating new waters.

Here we are now twelve years later and I still find myself gazing at you with wonder like I did in those first days of parenthood. This year has brought so much change. I see the planes of your face molding into the man you will become. I feel the tenor of our conversations mature.

You are passionate and enthusiastic. You are intelligent and curious. You are attentive and tender and patient with the younger kids that are in our lives. You have the most amazing laugh. You are a natural leader.

It’s been a fun year for sure. We have watched you continue to develop your acting and singing skills, putting your enthusiasm into every role no matter how big or small. You’ve easily tackled more challenging school work, being responsible and diligent. You’ve put your leadership qualities to good use helping to coach your brother’s soccer team and being the playful and interested cousin that all the younger cousins look up to.

This year was a big one. You moved up into middle school and we dropped you off at your first youth group event wondering how we had come so quickly to this moment. We are watching you find your way as you straddle the worlds of childhood and young adulthood. And honestly son, we have no idea what we are doing. The world of increasing maturity looms large and I find myself praying desperately that we are equipping you properly. I know that I am making many mistakes. I am sure that I put too much pressure and responsibility on you and I know that I lecture too much and don’t listen enough. I hope that the weight of my (often unrealistic) expectations don’t burden you beyond what you can bear. But I trust God’s grace to cover up our imperfections as parents.

I have not been the kind of parent that dwells too much on nostalgia. I like to celebrate each milestone and look forward to the future. But I will admit that 12 is a bitter sweet milestone. You have always been independent, but I feel even more independence around the corner and time seems short. I can’t wait to see the ways that you will grow and I am excited to watch the continuing process of your maturing, but I am starting to feel the poignancy of our numbered days together. Goodness, that sounds so melodramatic.

Really, I just feel like I am along for the ride on this wonderful journey that is your life. Your father and I consider it an enormous privilege to be the people chosen by God to guide you. I hope that underneath all of our mistakes, and through the sometimes turbulent times that are sure to come, you will always feel the foundation of our love for you. Because we do love you completely and unconditionally.

Happy 12th Birthday, bear!

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Prayer and Answers

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Yesterday I was reading a post I wrote 2 years ago about the labor of prayer. I had written about how when things seem dark and circumstances in a loved ones life are beyond our control, prayer truly is a labor, a work we do, to somehow spiritually bring strength even though physically we can’t do much.

Not long after re-reading that I got a text message from my sister-in-law. She was 40 weeks pregnant and has had a stomach virus and her water broke. She felt weak. She wasn’t sure how she could do what she was going to be required to do. And so, the labor of prayer for her began, as her labor began.

I am not a theologian. I don’t understand how prayer works. But I know how prayer feels. I know the restlessness of spirit that won’t let me loose until an answer comes. I know the weight I feel when a friend is in need and the only way to help is pray. I know the wonder of seeing prayers answered in big and small ways.

I don’t practice prayer well. I am not one to sit for lengthy periods of time. I have much to learn about the discipline of prayer. I watch women, more gifted than me in this area, and yearn for the same intimacy they seem to have with God while at the same time slightly afraid of what it would take to get that. A deep, intimate prayer life I have observed, seems to be wrought in the fire of trial.

I gathered my boys and we prayed. We prayed for a quick labor. We prayed for strength for my sister-in-law. We prayed for a healthy baby and strong mama. We prayed for peace and wisdom for my brother as he supported his wife. We prayed that God’s presence would be clearly felt in the birthing room. As our evening progressed they weren’t far from my thoughts.

I don’t know about you, but I still get surprised when God answers prayer. I obviously have faith literally the size of a mustard seed. But four hours after receiving the initial text from my sister-in-law I saw my phone light up with my brother’s caller ID and my heart leaped! My newest nephew had arrived after about 3 hours of labor and everyone was well. My boys danced in the hallway because the boy cousins now outnumber the girl cousins. I spoke to my sister-in-law and my tears were flowing when she told me about how God had sustained her through the prayers of her friends and family. That little boy is going to be a living, daily reminder of God’s great love and answers to prayer. Faith grows when we pray and see God work.

Our church has an unusual tradition. Every Sunday we have a brief open mic time for worshipers to share praises of how God has been working in their lives. This morning the praises came fast and furious. One of our members is 10 years out from a cancer diagnosis, another family has seen growth in their daughter adopted just a few months ago, my friend celebrates two years of healing since her stroke, and another friend praised God for three years of no seizures for her little boy. Being able to labor in prayer with these friends and watch God work has taught me a lot about God and who he is. We believe He is good regardless of the outcome, but in these cases where He answered specific prayers and chose to heal and spare life are worthy of celebration and remembrance. We need these markers of reminder like the Israelite’s piles of stones in the Bible. I am quick to forget that God is here, now, working.

Our pastor reminded us this morning that the purpose of prayer is to know God, not to receive blessing. Yes, God does bless us. But the mystery of prayer is that through laboring in prayer we grow in our intimacy with God, we feel His presence. This has certainly been true for me.

This morning as we left for church there was dew sparkling in the grass and sun filtering through the early morning fog. My heart was full of joy and my eyes were open to God’s mercy, promised and new. ┬áThis intimacy and joy is the gift of prayer.

Five Minute Friday: Safe

It’s Friday. I have a few things I am writing that are sitting in my drafts folder but I can’t seem to get a handle on them. So it’s a relief to have a time to set my timer and just write for five minutes.

This week’s prompt: Safe

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As the sun rises I am safe and snug. My house is warm. My children sleep deep, tucked in their beds. My steady husband is driving country roads to work. I savor the still morning hours knowing that our day will unfold with the usual daily routine.

This safety and security is not something I deserve. It is a privilege. It is a gift. I have to fight feeling guilty for it, knowing that there are many today who do not have this calm peace of mind that I take for granted.

I can brood over world issues. I can become anxious thinking of all the problems in my community and the world. I worry that I am not doing enough. So I focus on what is in front of me for this day: holding my temper with my children, nurturing their spiritual selves as well as their physical selves, teaching them to think and question, broadening their minds and their view of the world and the people in it, showing them how to give and receive grace. I can create a home environment of safety and welcome and generosity. It seems small. But it’s what I have been given.

STOP

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