To Cor, on the Occasion of His 10th Birthday

Dear Cor,

Happy Birthday! There are some really nice things about having a birthday at this time of the year, aren’t there? This transition from summer to fall is just lovely: still warm enough to go around shirtless (as you clearly love to do!) but cool enough for jackets at night… We get to enjoy the start of soccer season and football season… You get to be one of the first kids in your class to bring in birthday treats, which is especially great when it’s your Mom’s yellow-cake-and-fudge brownies… And, of course, best of all, this is the time of year we get to celebrate you!

I love you so much, Cor. You’re smart, spunky, fun, ferocious, considerate, and kind. Any time of year that we get to celebrate you is a great time of the year.

That being said, I think there are also some challenging things about having a birthday at this time of the year. Especially in a family like ours, where we’re so tied to school schedules. You’ve got to get on the computer and do Spelling City every day after school before you’re off to soccer practice. Elliot is always at the high school, for soccer practice or band practice. Olivia is doing homework in her room. Mom is on campus. I’m making a mess of dinner preparations — cradling the phone between my ear and my shoulder to talk about H2O business, while wildly shifting pots and pans and plates from counter to counter… Insanity, isn’t it?!?! It always takes us a little while to find our rhythm, after the transition from summer to fall, and — for better, for worse — your birthday falls right in the middle of all that action and adventure.

Do you remember your birthday “party” from last year? You, Elliot, Max, Opa, and me? Driving down to Columbus with the car stereo blasting “Radioactive?” Getting into the soccer stadium just in time for that massive storm to be unleashed, water gushing from the sky well into the second half? We had a fun, memorable birthday experience — but man! We got wet!

Somehow that experience from a year ago reminds me of the way that the last year of family life has felt. Lots of energy, lots of action and adventure — but also lots of “thunder and lightning” and “rain.” Wouldn’t you agree that it’s been a kind of stormy season? Challenging for all of us! Yet, you’re such an emotionally-intelligent person that I think you’ve absorbed that deluge in unique ways. You’ve expressed sadness and loneliness at times. You’ve craved connection with each of us through all the storms. I love the way you are aware of these feelings, and I love the fact that you’re communicating these feelings. And I just want you to know that these trials and tribulations of your tenth year have have not gone unnoticed.

Just this week, I was reminded of the story of Jesus calming the sea and the storm.

I swear to you: I did not go looking for this passage! It seems like God came looking for me through this story. Jesus’ followers were all together with him, out on a boat crossing a lake, when this massive storm whipped up around them. Believe it or not, Jesus happened to be napping as the storm reached its climax, but Jesus’ followers were frenzied and frantic — and they apparently didn’t think to wake Jesus until the boat was about to capsize. As soon as they got Jesus involved, though, the situation shifted dramatically. Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves; he just told them to settle down, and they did. And then Jesus turned to his followers and asked: “What happened to your faith?”

This question, from Jesus to his followers, felt highly relevant to me in the midst of a rather stormy week. It helped me to remember that life works best when Jesus is the center of my day-to-day life and ministry, not when I try to make everything about me! It’s all about Jesus! He’s the author and perfecter of my faith. How could I ever forget that?!?

God is more powerful than any storm you will ever experience, Cor. He is strong and good — and I feel confident that He lives inside of you because you regularly demonstrate God’s strength and goodness. So let’s try to remember this, shall we? Let’s not fret or fear when the storms come along. Let’s trust God and let Him restore peace.

  

I love you so much, Cor. You’re growing up. You’re changing. I still love to scoop you into my arms and tousle your hair and tickle your ribs and kiss your neck. But it’s getting more and more tricky to do this as you keep getting bigger and bigger. Now that you’re ten, and counting, we need to keep learning and adjusting to express love and support for each other in meaningful ways. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we need to keep communicating and checking in with each other through all of it.

When I pack your lunch and unwrap the covers to wake you up and chat with you about sports headlines over a breakfast of Lucky Charms, that’s my attempt at saying, “I’m here for you. I’ve got your back. I’m standing by to help you succeed.” When I ask about your homework and help you remember to keep making progress on your preparations for soccer practice, that’s me trying to say, “I’m proud of you, Treaker-Boy! I know you have what it takes to succeed.” When I shout encouragement and affirmation at your soccer games (no more “parental coaching” from the sidelines), or when I applaud at your school performances, that’s like me going, “I love you, son! I’m excited to share these experiences with you.” And when I say, “I love you,” of course, that means, “I love you.” Because that’s the one thing you can count on never changing — no matter how many more birthdays, or even decades, we celebrate.

Happy Birthday, Cor. I love you.

Dad

 

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