*to be read while listening to Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky” for maximum emotional impact.
Dear Leveler of my pride, Wrecker of my schedule, Crusher of my pretense, Invader of my heart…Agent of grace,
Well. One year. Were there times when you wondered if we’d make it? Because you know I did. Especially during those first few weeks, okay months, when the sleep was rare and the crying frequent and you resembled more of an alien than a human. I can’t even think about that time you spit up and choked without crying; I shudder when I recall cutting your nails for the first time and drawing blood; and the dark moments in the hospital, then at home, when the alarm went off and I struggled to feed you and we both looked at each other like, “What the HELL are you doing?” Now I look back and realize how terrified I was. Keeping another person alive? So much has never been asked of me during my heretofore self-centered existence. At first, it was too much. Sometimes it still is. Then I remember I’m not doing it alone. And I breathe. And we keep living. Like Rihanna, we found love in a hopeless place (to be clear, I am not referring to Chris Brown).
By month two, you were holding your head up and sleeping through the night. Thanks for that, by the way. By month three, you were smiling at us and we decided we’d keep you. By month four you were laughing. This is also the month I took you to daycare. After thinking I wouldn’t survive at home all day with you, I really didn’t think I’d make it through leaving you with someone else. But we both made it, and you loved it. By month six, you were eating solids and sleeping twelve hours a night. WORD. Things started speeding up. By month seven, you were wearing an orthotic helmet and sitting up on your own. A little while after that, your first teeth came in. You began to push up on your arms and around month eleven, you were crawling. Now you’re pulling up and getting ready to take your first steps. I remember it all.
Every moment holds truth, if we open our eyes. Those first few months taught me how insufficient I am–that I don’t know everything. Such an important lesson to learn, and one that I didn’t embrace early enough in life. It’s a truth that I want you to realize soon, because it is nothing to be afraid of. The sooner you understand that you are not the center of the universe, the sooner you learn Who is. And that’s when all that you have to learn doesn’t loom, but becomes opportunity.
My parents told me life isn’t fair. And they’re right. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be. Another thing? Most people won’t earn your respect. But that doesn’t let you off the hook of treating them with it. Because of what we believe in this house, and what I pray you will believe early, we don’t operate by the world’s rules. We know that each person on this earth is of unimaginable worth because of the image in which (s)he was made. This means you don’t get to write anyone off, or rip them off either. You are to practice justice in an unjust place, and if your dad and I do our job right (let’s face it, we will and we won’t), you will do so without any sense of entitlement as to what you deserve. You will know that through grace, you have already been given more than you will ever deserve, and that will keep you from looking to the world for value or redemption. You will work hard and love much and be just not to gain anything from it, but as a response to what grace has done on your behalf.
I want to teach you to be sincere without being overearnest. There’s no benefit in taking yourself or others too seriously–trust me. If you can’t find something to laugh about in a situation, start over and look again. As far as H’s go, I value your humor and heart above your happiness. That word, happiness, is so arbitrary and ill-defined in this world. It sells books, but it doesn’t last past the circumstances upon which it is based. You want true joy? Accept the life you are given and look for the grace in every moment; be grateful before you get what you think you want. You may find that you never really needed whatever that was in the first place. We don’t do trite cure-alls and needlepoint phrases around here; look around and try to find a Joel Osteen book. We do grace: real, raw, flesh-piercing grace that reveals a love the world shrinks away from. You will love with that kind of heart, and be loved by it. Expect to be misunderstood. Learn not to care. Someone greater than everyone around you knows you inside out and loves you beyond what you can imagine. THIS IS ENOUGH.
A few other practical matters: you will have impeccable manners, not because you are a show horse but because you will be considerate of other people. Ma’am and Sir and (especially) thank you will be some of your first words. It’s not a Southern thing, sweetheart: it’s a respect thing. And you will treat adults with respect because we are different from children. I’m your mom, not your BFF. (Yet, at least.) You will learn the sufficiency of the statement “Because I said so” for the simple reason that though we don’t know everything, your father and I know more than you do and you will listen to us. To that end, when we’re wrong, we will admit it and show you, in that, what it means to need forgiveness and receive it. But we still get the final say, because like Cliff Huxtable said: “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out.”
You will read more than you’ll play video games because reading is the healthiest way to escape this world while remaining in it. You will be silly: I’m talking dance parties, secret languages, and laughter till your sides hurt. That’s the way things are around here.
You will respect women. And I mean how. Watch how your dad treats me (man, did I luck out; ps–luck=God). Unfortunately, way too many women depend on a man to make them feel good about themselves. You won’t be that man, but you’ll point them to the One who is up for the job (to be clear, it’s not Chuck Norris). Even if a woman makes it easy for you to provide quick validation, you will know she’s worth more than that. And you’ll consider that fact before you do anything.
As receivers of grace, we live in an upside-down version of the world. Brokenness leads to wholeness; weakness is strength. Never call the score before the game is over. Deal beneath the surface. And know that the most important part of life–relationship–takes the most sacrifice and risk. You are so loved that you will be free to love wildly.
The Christmas season has always been my favorite time of year, so I find it appropriate that you scoffed at your January due date and showed up early for the party. When I was young, I thought these few weeks were magical; now I know they’re holy. Your arrival only added to that. You have opened our hearts and taught us grace on a daily basis.
What a gift you are.
Now learn to wipe your own ass, would you? Mom needs a martini break. I’ll just leave some words from Hall and Oates as the end piece here.
I ain’t the way you found me
And I’ll never be the same…
‘Cause you…you make my dreams come true.