David’s Eleventh Birthday

Guess who had a birthday today?

David turned eleven.

I can hardly believe it.

Seems like just yesterday, I was laying on the couch, eating Cheetos and Oreos, processing the fact that I was going to have another baby. Number five.

The timing didn’t seem right, but boy, was I surprised. David has brought such joy to our family, and a unique tenderness to me.

His talents are ever-increasing and surprising. He is fiercely loyal. He is a quiet kid, with a deep, thoughtful heart.

It is our family tradition to allow the birthday boy or girl to choose their favorite food for dinner. Each kid has some sort of special request; frankly, most of them choose to go to Grandma’s house (because NOBODY cooks like Grandma cooks…) When I asked David what he wanted this year, he replied, “I would like a selection of my favorite meats.  Bacon. Pork chops. And steak. Oh, and some macaroni and cheese.”

The boy knows what he likes.

We settled on ONE meat – steak – and Grandma’s homemade mac and cheese. It was a good time.

 He was excited. Note the props to Maida Vale, a fine rock and roll band….

Tony gave him some sort of funny card. It had the word ‘fart’ in it. David loved it, of course.
Oh, yes. A bunch of plastic dinosaur bracelets.
His one specific request was for the Iron Man 2 PSP game. He got it.
I love my son. I love him for who he is, for the person he is becoming. I am shocked at how quickly manhood looms ahead, and I can’t say that I like it much.
It goes without saying that motherhood changes you. David’s presence in my life has shaped and molded me in powerful ways.
Tonight, we celebrate eleven years of his life and I am grateful.
Happy Birthday, Dave.

From Kicking Rocks To The Flat Rockers

I wrote the following about four years ago. Four years ago my life was so completely different (Wasn’t yours? Just stop a minute and think about what you were up to in the spring of 2006…)

Here’s where I was:

March 15, 2006

The best epiphanies just rise up out of the mundane and surprise you with brightness and a sort of holiness that exudes mystery. One just caught me and left me weeping, incapable of anything but a mantra of ‘thank you, Jesus…thank you, Jesus…thank you, Jesus…’

Watching through the window as my boys waited for the arrival of the school bus, I saw David kicking gravel from the driveway into the street. His little 6-year old leg swung hard, heaved towards the rocks and shot a chunk or two across the street to the neighbor’s ditch. He’d kick, glance both ways, then run across to fetch the rock and kick again. Sometimes, as he ran back, he’d spin around, or jump, or fling his arms up into the air. Typical child-like play, swinging at the wind, making fun out of simple things.

And it broke me, his spinning and jumping and leaping, coupled with his prayer last night that he would have four legs so that he could run around the track at school as fast as Philip. He smiled and carefully explained to me how he could use two legs until they got tired, then switch to his extra legs. This seems to him a real possibility.

Things like this were so common with my other kids – the innocence and joy of childhood that carried each one of them through those early years. It is unique with David, though, for he has experienced a different life. Where the girls and Daniel all had the fairytale ‘happy childhood’ in their younger years, with two parents and little conflict, David got a different story. David’s third year of life was in an atmosphere of arguments and conflict, shouting and frustration, the television as a lousy substitute for parents who could not give the attention he needed, and, ultimately, a huge upheaval in his life. Separation, different houses, confusion and fear. David has lived a completely different life, and it has stained his soul.

It’s been obvious to me, in this last year. The impact of our implosion and divorce was huge on David. He has struggled, and shied away from people and relationships. There has been no awe in him, no anticipation of the love and happiness and possibility of life. A huge uncertainty has characterized his personality, and it has stymied and saddened me.

Lately, though, I have seen a beautiful thing…hints of joy within him. He is smiling and laughing more, and imagining a greater world than what exists. Hope has returned to my child, I think, on the wings of angels who invite him to play and run faster and in the constant, gentle hand of Jesus, who has never stopped inviting him to kick rocks and play with Him.

David was only six then. Today he is ten years old.

Last night he and his two best buddies performed an original rap about their school; they were next-to-last in a long line of elementary school stars in a three-hour “Rockin’ With the Stars” celebration.
This little boy, who just four years ago was bearing the heavy burden of a situation he never asked for; he has grown and matured and is now blossoming into a strong, confident kid who enjoys life. He can identify his passions (art, beat boxing, music, his best buddies).
Give the credit where it’s due: lots of grace, a steadfast commitment to the family by his grandparents, his siblings, his dad’s investment in his life over the past year, an incredible extended family via Powhatan Community Church, a big sister who adores and encourages him, excellent teachers in the Powhatan school system, an amazing, gift-from-God stepmother, a step-father who will spend serious time with him…on and on and on….
It is the life we have created.
Two things I am thinking in this post, which has meandered a completely different direction than I intended: First of all, don’t let anybody tell you that kids don’t suffer through a divorce. That is nonsense and foolish. Divorce hurts kids; it wounds and scars and it hurts. Yes, kids are resilient. Yes, they get through it. But they are changed, marked for life.
Secondly, in spite of all that, grace abounds. There is great value in believing the best about people, in surrounding yourself with community that cares and does its best to know you, love you, and simply be with you through the ups and downs. I have found the best of that in the church I attend. I floated into PCC six years ago a broken mess. I cried for six months, alone in the seats, wondering how I would ever get my life back together again.
Flash forward to today and I am now working full-time for that same church, investing my life in the place that handed me a rope when I was sinking. It’s tethered tightly to God, and it has rescued and sustained me. Time and grace have brought healing to me.
And David, as well.
Grateful for the past, ready for the future. It is a good day today.

Tripp, David and Bryce during their debut as “The Flat Rockers”.

Spring Break 2010

There’s one reason I come to the beach:

There’s something about walking along a vast expanse of frothing water, stretching out towards the horizon uninterrupted, that brings a sense of balance to my world.
As far as I can see, the sea undulates. I stretch my vision and my imagination towards the line of demarkation where sea and sky unite, and I get a better sense of my place in the world. It becomes obvious to me that I have spent too much energy thrashing about in a narrow tunnel of vision, that I have based my opinions and attitudes on far too little information.
At the edge of these United States, on the soft sand of this crystal coast, I find my place again and again and again.
I have some history here; I have returned many times, walked this beach and pondered great changes and challenges in my life. I have cried and conversed with God over things great and small.
And it always comes back to this: the world is his, and everything in it. In light of the depth of the ocean and the breadth of the horizon, I can see with what I know, in my soul, is a perspective fitting one who follows Christ.
Eugene Peterson, in his creatively energetic way, said it this way when he approached the 8th Psalm:
I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps.

God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world.
My ears open to that echo when I am here. I am so grateful.
And now, past the introspection, to the fun; a few photos! Because, although perspective is indeed the driving motivation, there’s also sand and sea and sun and more!

David checks out the water temperature; the air was warm, but the ocean?

Not so much!

We were hoping David’s buddy Tripp could come with us – since he didn’t make it, David created a sea turtle in his honor. I thought it was awesome!

David’s favorite meal? Steak and corn. Yum.

We went to the Dairy Queen for a treat. I had $3 cash with me. David wanted a milkshake. With tax, the shake cost $3.11. Whoever heard of a $3 milkshake? Ridiculous. Anyway, the point was this – I was 11 cents short, but the DQ guy gave David the shake and said, “Just come back later with the eleven cents!” So, we did.

Reminded me of the time, several years ago, when I took the kids to spend our vacation savings ( a year’s worth of change gathered in a jar ) to this same DQ for treats. We paid for $12 of ice cream in dimes, nickels and pennies.

Good times.

Since it was just the two of us, we splurged and rented two AWESOME bikes for the day. We rode about 90 minutes down the island and explored, along with two trips to DQ and a grocery store run. Loved these bikes!

That’s David, up ahead. I’m balancing the bike and taking pictures. Multi-tasking…

It’s been a great, short break. I’m grateful to the leadership of PCC that gives me grace to get away and recharge my batteries.

And now, we’re headed home….