The baby boy that was all chubby cheeks and belly laughs and ear infections and mischief turns 8 years old today.
How those 7 pounds turned into almost 70, that wavy tawny hair turned into a pompadour, and those subtle coos turned into non-stop talking is a mother’s grief and delight.
Your dad and I love to mark these milestones and celebrate special occasions with balloons and streamers and joy like God did when he declared all he had made – his works – as “very good.”
But what makes these once a year times worth celebrating isn’t just the occasion itself but every day lived in between. It’s the process of becoming that we celebrate. It’s all that has happened the 364 days leading up to this one.
It’s watching you wake up every morning cheerfully and energetically, hearing that basketball pound our driveway pavement, and witnessing your motivation to manage your time and get your homework done at school.
It’s hearing if you came in second place to Stanley again in your daily mile-run at recess.
It’s remembering the struggles and those private heart-unloading talks when you whisper,”I need to talk to you in your room,” about frustrations at school and sins that are surprising you as they surface in your heart.
It’s seeing you spot selflessness in a man and say knowingly, “That’s what godly men do,” and hearing your whit quicken as you crack a well-timed joke that makes us laugh like medicine to our hearts.
It’s paying attention to your dreams and smiling at your (sometimes outlandish) optimism. It’s helping you face your fears and lament your disappointments.
It’s warning you about dangers you don’t yet have the foresight to anticipate.
It’s tucking you into bed every night and singing your song to you and feeling my weary heart restored when you say, “This is my favorite part of the day.”
It’s listening to you, like a young Ernie Johnson, spout off all the stats and sports data I never knew I’d be interested in.
It’s marveling at your memory of what we did when and hearing your retelling of it all in startling detail.
It’s noticing how admired you are by everyone at school (except maybe your good but no nonsense teacher who isn’t easily charmed by your boyish impishness and chatterbox tendencies), seeing you devour a steady diet of Geronimo Stilton books, and simultaneously fearing and loving the fiery competitor you’ve become.
And most days, I find myself echoing God when I look at you.
“Yes, Joel Schaeffer. You are very good.”
But oh, my son, now you are only a fraction of what you can be, and what I pray you will be.
So, also like God, I commit myself to you for the distance and promise that I will not leave you where you are today. If God allows, I’ll see you through each day of another year, incarnating into your world as a 3rd grader, helping you take those next steps of growth and development, and nurturing you with the knowledge and certain hope that he who starts a very good work always completes it – in you and me.
Happy Birthday, to our “very good” 8-year-old son!