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To Garrett, on Your 5th Birthday

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Sweet 5 year old boy:

I don’t want to turn your day into my day, forcing you to relive my memories, but it’s hard not to stare into today and see back in time to the waiting, the laboring, the fear.

You were a full nine days later than I thought you’d be, but you came screaming into the world, louder than your 16-month-old big brother ever was, and hungrier for what I could give you.

I didn’t know what to do with you those first weeks, when you wouldn’t let me put you down for even a second. You emptied me out with your desperate need for me and filled me back up the same way. Even from those very first days you were you. Five years later, you still scream loud, and still want my arms.

Last night you crawled into my bed; it had been a long time since you’d last done that. And though on any other night, I would have resisted the idea of even a moment’s lost sleep, last night, on the verge of your fifth birthday, I couldn’t help but be thankful for this fleeting chance to hold my four-year-old one last time. Against my body, I tucked yours, that body that’s small for four, let alone five, but still so impossibly big for the tiny baby that was still inside me five years ago this night, that tiny baby that I sometimes still see in you.

How can it be five years already?

I know they happened one day at a time. And even though nostalgia fogs my memory, I’m not going to sit here and say that they were all wonderful. There a lot of those days that I wouldn’t want to go back and revisit, and so many that I wish I could do again differently.

But I am thankful for all 1,825 days you’ve been here, because all of them are like raindrops, small but many, carving out the riverbed of the mom I’m meant to be.

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It’s hard, this carving. I don’t miss days on my knees outside your bedroom door when neither of you would nap and I begged the Lord for wisdom: mercy or discipline?

It’s a daily remaking; the choice to get up off the couch one more time for one more kiss, to bite my tongue at the accusations that are rising up in my throat, to wrestle my angry face back into a patient one before I look at you and respond. And to repent over and over again when I get it wrong and ignore and accuse and give my anger a foothold.

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We sit at the table for breakfast again, and again go over those words that I hope are beginning to be burned into your soul: “Your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord” (2 Kings 22:19).

I think about all the times I’ve kneeled myself low to lift you up, and how the day is coming soon when your legs will grow long like your brother’s, and I’ll pick you up and set you down for the very last time.

And if I could wish anything for your birthday today, it is that you would know this: that the path to greatness is not in the reaching high, but in the kneeling low. It is that kneeling, the submission of my needs to yours, that has been my greatest remaking.

It’s what makes motherhood both so hard and so wonderful, because it’s where we meet Jesus.

Jesus, who emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, ESV).

He has given so much more than we ever will, son. And someday when we see Christ in His glory, these verses go on to tell us, every knee will bow before Him. For now, we have the privilege of choosing.

It’s lesson I’ve been learning all these wonderful five years: we get to choose to kneel. It’s a hard choice, sometimes, but it’s always the right one.

Choose to kneel, Garrett, and you will be unstoppable.

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