He arrived 14 days late after 11 hours of intensive back labor. And was I ever glad to meet him!
Baby boy #2, another perfect gift from God with ten fingers and toes, and me with tons of energy running back and forth to the nursery taking visitors to see him.
And today is his birthday, and if he were home there would be 23 candles on a cake, baked organic and vegan unlike the sweet and silly ones of long ago.
But he’s far from here so a phone call will do and I realize the last birthday I celebrated with him face to face was the summer he turned 17.
So my heart holds snapshots of years gone by and birthdays past, when he was small enough to be held in my arms, and I can see him grinning at me with those disarming dimples.
And along with snips and snails and puppy dogs tails, there were nights of croup when Christ held me shaking as we stepped inside a steamy bathroom and I prayed, please let my boy breath.
And afternoons breathless, spent chasing after him and his brothers running fast at a park all verdant and them growing up faster, and me chasing the wind in an attempt to hold on but the baby days slipping quicker than summer.
Summer birthdays came and went with bunches of boys in the backyard and water fights and laughter and me just living those precious moments, memories seared and loving everyone of them. Grateful.
And him blazing a trail across the soccer field for ten years, blazing a trail inside my heart uniquely his own since day one.
But as an elementary school kid, several years after his dad had left, his words stopped my mama heart cold.
“You don’t love me, mom.”
Putting down the laundry basket full, I looked him full in the face and asked why.
“Because you don’t hug me.”
So I put my arms around him, squeezing tight, making a mental note to hug him more even though we were a very huggy foursome.
But me and my three, we passed through childhood limping in a home broken by divorce, yet held together by the only One I knew who could keep us from completely falling apart.
So I raised them in the church as I was growing up in the church, before realizing I needed to grow up in Jesus. Baby Christian wracked with pain from a wrecked marriage and all that came before, with guilt and too many mistakes, and falling down and scrapping knees.
And their cuts and bruises that bled when bikes crashed were so much easier to heal than the unseen wounds inside their hearts.
And my most verbal son sharing feelings deep and complex, making me think and sometimes scratch my head.
And love flowing ever onward as we unwittingly approached the rapids.
Tumult of the teen years twirling and my head spinning trying to stay above water. Titanic force of darkness swirling, then the siege of senior year.
I have never been more wrung out, mother’s heart barely beating.
As the pain in a little boy lost stirred ugly, reeking of rebellion as it crossed the realm of substances that abused the heart and mind, bringing consequences unforeseen.
But he graduated and mama rejoiced.
Until the night all three went missing while I was out with a girlfriend having dinner, and I was angry with my sons’ disobedience, lack of respect, not telling me.
Older son home in the morning saying his brother had left the party last night and they couldn’t find him.
My heart quaking.
Then a call.
Bad behaviors and poor choices catching up. Me praising God for His tender care of my wayward son. And I let him sit in that cell in his orange jumpsuit when I could have bailed.
Mother’s heart swept away in a tsunami of tears. Tough love helping soften the hard.
Birthday 18 behind bars and a bible, too, read several times over. And a sweet couple who loved the Lord ministering Jesus weekly, and him attending and even leading other teens younger.
And grace from the judge ordering a year of rehab instead of prison. And choosing Christian rehab, which turned out for better and for worse, but producing fruit.
Night before he left home, a farewell address to a large group at church. Both of us speaking about the roller coaster ride we had just gotten off. And him declaring:
“Jesus Christ and my mama saved my life.”
Yes, my son, Jesus saves…and the pain of laboring in prayer for you was worth it.
So, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
And the year away wasn’t easy either, with too many legalistic restrictions and not as much love, all sadly and wrongly in the name of Christ.
My heart and his stronger, and Him leading both of us along a path of Light meant to change us forever. Heart labor constricting, pushing me past what I thought I could bear. Stretching me far beyond the belly growing big all those years earlier.
Him home again, so different. Seeking God on his own and learning to love. Stronger and more serious, with longings stirring and travels and moving, but first prayers for a wife.
“Mom, God is telling me not to date. That He will bring me the woman I will marry someday.”
Call of the wild calling to this young man’s heart. And to her’s. And wilderness survival lessons deep in the rugged heartland of the pine barrens.
And there she was. The one he was waiting for. The one who was waiting for him.
Sweet, beautiful soul of a woman who is all unfolding each day as she grows, too. And she is of earth and sky, filled with love and the spirit of God, seeking to soar.
And they are two organic peas in a pod, loving God and creation in all its glory, and each other, with all the ups and downs of relationship. Figuring everything out one day at a time. In God’s hands.
Nearly sharing a birthday. His today and her’s tomorrow! Happy Birthday, sweet girl!!
Though both too far away for this mama.
And on their birthdays, with him camping and working out West, and her skating her way across the Mediterranean with a cruise ship contract till winter, and me here with so many words and so much more love. And my heart longing to sit across the table from them like we did last October on my birthday, breaking bread but not hearts.
With so much laughter and joy.
And in the moments of in-between, these moments apart with none of us here nor there, we are ever evolving according to the Father’s plan, with our choices keeping it interesting.
Trusting. Truth setting us ever more free.
With love, love, love oozing over all, covering us warm.
Leading us on…
P.S. I love you, Ben. Happy Birthday, my darlin son!