Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent Day 17: Birthday reflections

A bit of a ramble today, with some questions at the end.

He's 25. The little guy everyone took care of has been around for a quarter century. So why am I temped to call Jonathan our "baby" when he's all grown up? Guess it's from hearing other mothers call their adult children "my big boy/girl" (the eldest) or "the baby" (the youngest). The label of birth order seems to stick, no matter what the age.

Moms have different reactions when kids are born. My friends talked about falling in love with their newborns. I felt more cautious and curious. I was always taken aback by the thought that whatever we named our kids would follow them for life: my husband's foreign and hard-to-spell last name meant their first names would have to be simple and rhythmic. (Matt or Andy Kowalski? Sandra or Brenda Kowalski? Maybe not.)

It can take time to understand people's expectations. So it took a few hours or days for me to warm up to each stranger who came screaming into our family. We didn't know him or her; a baby's temperament and personality are well-hidden. What I wanted was that the kids would love and serve Jesus from childhood. Honestly, the other expectations were fluid. Who knew who they'd be and what they'd do?

Luckily, babies are good trainers: feed me, clean me, rock me, and let me sleep. That's what they want of their mothers. The rest comes later.

Jono was a good baby, which was a blessing. We lived in a little house (3 small bedrooms, 1 bath, 3X 3' closets and a storage wall.) Two kids shared each bedroom, including Kirsten (8) and her baby brother. He was a cuddler and heat-seeker who would pull the covers off her bed onto his own, leaving her shivering. She soothed him at night and came for us only when he wouldn't be comforted. Kirsten helped potty-train him, feed him, and became his interpreter when Jono started to talk. When I couldn't understand a word, she could tell me exactly what he was saying.

The two older boys took him everywhere. He was playing computer games by 18 months and called the boys for help. "Die Katze! Die Maus!" he's scream when the digital cat was eating the mouse. They'd come running to the rescue. "Don't worry Jono, we'll fix it."

Jono apparently had the youngest child's high pain and torture threshold. Timothy would hold him upside down and drag him down the hall. I'd step in to protect Jonathan, but he'd say, "That's ok, Mom. He's just playing. It doesn't hurt." He was happy being with family and loves being with his friends.

Today we celebrate Jonathan's birthday. He is woven into the family, from grandparents to parents, siblings, and nephew and niece. The family says, "Friends may come and go, but family is lodged in your heart forever. Look out for them." So we do. And he does.

That said, Jonathan is also webbed into a large circle of friends. (It's a privilege to be a "people person," isn't it?) We've asked our kids to "Please run your serious dates past the siblings, not us." We've said that to Jono, too. After all, the person marrying into the family becomes a brother or sister in the tribe, as well as a mate. (Gals in Jono's generation might fool us, but siblings have a closer, clearer look at dating relationships and interactions.)

Mary, Jesus' mother, must have watched with fascination as her son grew up. Jesus' brothers and sisters didn't understand God's call for him. At first, they didn't believe their oldest brother was the Messiah, so Jesus and Mary must have kept that under wraps while he was growing up. It must have been interesting for them to see how he grew into the ministry God had designed him for. And to watch him die for their sins. When did they come to understand Jesus' mission? When he preached? When he died? When he rose from the dead? Did they see him go up to heaven?

Likewise, W and I are amazed by the journey of faith in each child. "Who are they becoming?" we ask as we watch and we pray over them. They develop year by year, making choices day by day. We haven't made any predictions of career. We haven't hoped for riches or fame or position. We just don't care to pursue those things because God gives favor, and bestows authority and honor as he chooses.

Instead, our prayer for Jonathan today is, "God, let him be the man you've designed him to be - completely, whole-heartedly Yours! Let his work and play bless and build those around him, as a reflection of God among us." (Could there be anything more exciting for Christian parents?)

What are your hopes and dreams as your child grows in your womb, comes into the world, toddles toward school age, and learns to drive a car?

What are you thinking and dreaming for them as they move out, work or go to college, or marry start their own families? What would you call success?

Read more:
*Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. John 7:3-5 ESV

*Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

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