Happy birthday – that’s just how you are

Categorized as 08/24/09 Goshen News column

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear…”

This song gets a lot of play at our house in the summer months with three birthdays in June and July. If things had gone according to the plan, we would be spread out over July and August, but no. Here, everyone is in a toot to show up with only one of us actually holding to the schedule. That would be the firstborn who, defying all statistical odds, arrived smack on his due date.

Nonconformist that he is, his little brother went, “So that’s how he did it? Then I’ll do it exactly the opposite,” and he trotted out three weeks early. We should’ve known then that we had a live one on our hands.

Maybe it was the thatch of dark hair. Maybe it was the pouty lips with the dimple in the chin. More likely, it was the bright blue eyes blinking up at us that tricked us into thinking we were taking home an innocent, beautiful baby when what we really got was a little hand grenade in a diaper. But we found out. Oh, did we find out.

It was while we were on vacation that the “grenade” had a big birthday – his sixteenth, to be exact. This week, I decided to commemorate this milestone by penning him a letter.

Dear Jamison,

Where has the time gone? Wasn’t it only yesterday that you arrived, frowning up at us from beneath a cap of dark hair? We were thrilled, even though it meant that the awesome girl name Dad had picked out went unused.

Your three-year-old brother was excited, too. He had prayed for God to send a baby, and there you were. Never mind that later on he said, “I prayed for a baby, not a monster.” He really does love you, you know, although he’d rather poke a pencil in his eye than to admit it.

You were your own person from the beginning. I can still see you, a tiny boy in a diaper, leveling that drop-dead stare on strangers. You’d take your time, evaluating them, until you decided you were ready. Then you’d break into a smile, captivating them and winning their hearts. That’s just how you were.

It’s no secret that you were a strong-willed kid. You’ve always felt the need to push the line and test the boundaries. Somehow, you needed the security of knowing that the line would hold firm.

I’ll never forget the day you decided to test Mom again. You were two. I don’t remember what you did, but what you really wanted to know was, “Are you still the boss or am I?” It was a tough session, but when it was over and you sat snuggled on my lap, you said something that went straight to my heart. “Joo job, Mama.” Good job, Mama. That’s just how you were.

Oh, how I loved the cowboy stage. When you were four, you would march around in cowboy gear, which included boots, a hat, a belt, and a “pindana” with a Tinkertoy gun in your pocket and a sheriff star on your shirt. We would visit daddy’s office and people would smile. Sometimes, brother would paint a brown marker mustache on you, and off we would go to get groceries with Wyatt Earp in tow. Old people would laugh and you would look at them soberly with your blue eyes.

You’ve always loved little children, Jamison, and they love you back. In no time at all, you have them laughing and warming up to you. What love and care you show your little brother, for whom you diligently prayed. Watching you with him, I can see glimpses of what kind of father you will be someday. And I like what I see.

How thankful your dad and I are that early on, you developed a strong faith. This, combined with that strong will of yours, has stood you in good stead many times, for through it, you are able to resist peer pressure in ways that amaze me. And when you mix your persistence with prayer? Well, stuff happens.

You have such a compassionate heart that extends especially to your unsaved friends and the underdogs. The innate understanding you have for working with people is very rare, even for adults. I suspect you got it from your dad. How you stand up to bullies, earning not only their respect, but also their friendship, is nothing but a gift.

You’re the one kid who still kisses Grandma and the aunts, and you never leave the house without kissing your dad and me. You would extend such love to your big brother, but you know how that goes over. That’s just how you are.

When Dad and I look at you, we see an exceptional young man with a heart for God and for other people, and we are proud of you. We know that the Lord’s hand is on you, and that you will make a difference in the world one day. After all, that’s just how you are.



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