(A little late, as her birthday was in January!)
Double digits WHAT?????? It has truly been a joy this past year to watch you grow and change. You’re slowly finding your place, joining in the dance. Your beautiful smile shines a little more all the time, and you’re pulling yourself toward us, pulling away less frequently. And I’m grateful to God for it and for you.
You’re tasting joy, and your whole face changes when you do. You relax, you grin, and you know peace. You tell us you know that joy is from God. I know you still don’t want him, and I understand why. But you know the source of the happiness, and I still believe one day you’ll be ready to embrace it completely.
My prayer for you this next year is the same prayer I have for me—to stop fearing. This one word, fear, is a powerful little booger. It rules us without us being aware. It stops us from embracing who God wants us to be, and just like your mama, it’s taken over your mind. It’s a hard one to fight. We fear what others will think of us, we fear not being good at something we try, we fear bad things happening to us or those we love, we fear ourselves because we know what we’re capable of.
But it’s not supposed to be that way. Jesus came to defeat fear and to replace it with a freedom greater than the freedom we also celebrate on this holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., a brave man who fought hard for freedom for his people. He loved Jesus fiercely, and that love gave him the power to fight through his fears even to the point of giving up his own life, much like the one who strengthened him through it all.
But the freedom Jesus gave us wasn’t just a freedom for all people to be equal. It was a freedom from shame. A freedom to show all our cards, to confess our failures, to embrace tomorrow, to know who we are, to walk in a new identity because our past doesn’t define us anymore. It’s a freedom that makes us princes and princesses of the kingdom of God, his adopted children with the same inheritance as Jesus, so what others think of us is a moot point.
Your single digits weren’t always good to you. As always, Dad and I are the soldiers at the forefront on Team Heaven. We will fight harder for you than anyone else. But our general is King Jesus, and my hope is that you’ll be able to embrace him, his freedom and his joy, in your first year of double digits.
I love you more and more every day, my H-Dawg.
Mom and Dad
I pronounce your nutrition good:
Victoria: Does the milk in my tea tepniptly (technically) count as milk for the day?
Me (reading): “Napoleon believed at that moment it was destiny for him to become great.”
Making up sentences for a spelling test:
Me: Pounds. The boy weighed 100 pounds.
Josiah: 100 pounds?!!
Victoria: She’s just making up stories for spelling. A boy didn’t ACTUALLY weigh 100 pounds.
As I sit here pondering what to write for your birthday letter, I can’t help but smile because you’re such a funny mixture of fun and play and silliness and growth and comfort and development and mischievousness and hard-headedness (on both our parts!) and impatience (also on both our parts!) and just plain ol’ turd nuggetness. You are our fiery Aiden, intense in your excitement and joy, but also in your rebellion. The fact is, you’re super cute and a big hot mess and incredibly difficult—which is another way of saying you’re just like your dad. (Especially the super cute part.)
I realize as I write this that you’ve been with our family longer than you’ve lived anywhere else. The family and home God prepared you for in eternity past is getting more deeply rooted with time and tears and temerity. Praise be to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus for that! But as I get excited about that fact, it’s tempered and turned by the remembrance of those two and half years where you weren’t in our family. What’s both good and sad is that I frequently forget the crap you’ve gone through to get here. It’s good because I don’t want you to be defined by your past. We serve and are loved by the God who resurrects the dead and rewrites tragedies into comedies. But I’m also sad, because as a dad, I forget that your story has been particularly twisted by sin.
Of course, you don’t remember any of this anymore. And I thank God for that! But the reality is that our pasts shape us and set the courses for our futures, even where we redirect those courses. And it breaks my heart to remember that you still struggle to trust and be at ease, to be the you God has created you to be without trying to become some false version that pleases but never penetrates. And this is the six-year-old version of you. I think this is a battle that you’ll still be fighting at sixteen and probably twenty-six, and maybe even sixty-six.
And as I write this letter, I know that six-year-old you probably just wonders when I’m finally going to stop talking so we can eat cake. Which is cool. Cake tastes better than this letter would. But I also write this knowing that one day you’ll be able to read these birthday letters when you’re older, with more understanding and story beneath it. So, with that in mind, I say this to you both as a six-year-old and whatever age you are when you read this again:
You are my son. God brought you to your Mom and me because in his grace this was the family he wanted for you. From your infancy, you have known hurt and anger and violence in a way that I never have. Sin and Satan and the forces at work in this present darkness tried their damnedest to throw you into the pit so they could sell you into a slavery of despair and emptiness. But the Light of the World, the one with a birthday celebration six days from your own, took all that despair and emptiness and slavery upon himself to set you free. He took the curse you’d been given and traded it to you with his blood-bought blessing. His blinding Light washes out the darkness of your past to give you a new life, a new home, a new family, and a new identity.
My plea with you, as always, is to live in that newness. It is all yours. And nothing can take that away from you. No amount of hard-headed, turd-nugget behavior will ever stop you from being my son. And if that’s true of me, even though I’m evil, how much more true is that of your true Daddy who will never abandon you or abuse you or crush you or leave you or forsake you. Through Jesus, you can and do and will have a security deeper and fuller than any you could ever know or imagine. You are going to struggle so hard to believe that deep down in your bones. My prayer for you is that you’ll eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Savior, and find it satisfies you more than cake or candy or crumbs.
Happy birthday, kiddo,
Dad and Mom
(We’re obviously a little late getting this up since her birthday was last month!)
You beautiful, beautiful girl. How happy I am to celebrate you today! I feel like I’ve watched you grow more in the past year than any other of your years, and not just in height. Though Holy Guacamole, you’ve certainly grown a ton in that area, too. I think you’re only two inches shorter than me now, and wearing the same size shoe. Sigh.
I’ve see three big changes in you since this time last year. First, your faith has grown by leaps and bounds. You’re developing more of an awareness of your own sin and are more willing to confess it, sometimes on your own without being prompted. You love to help others understand Jesus, and the times your eyes fill with tears and your voice catches because you’re in awe of Him or you’re moved by others’ love for him or you hurt for those who are weak are the times you’re the most gorgeous. True beauty, not the artificial kind we work so hard for on the outside.
You’ve grown in maturity. You could almost run my house at this point. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, and just a general understanding of how the house works day to day. You know how to care for others well and have gotten to practice with some babysitting jobs, and you do it with skill. You care for others in your friendships, too, more often than not putting yourself last so others can have the best.
The third is how much you’ve become my friend. I’ve always loved any time I get with you, but as you’re growing, so are your conversations and the depth of your heart, and I find myself simply enjoying our talks and thinking of you at times more as a sister than a daughter. There are still a few years left before that transition is complete, but the glimpses of our relationship when you are a grown woman fill my heart with gladness.
One of the most encouraging things for me as a mother is watching how much you strive to be like me. I love you for it. But don’t cheapen your goals. God has gifted me with much grace, but it’s so so pitiful in comparison to him. Look to him more than you look to me as your example. You’ll see some of him in me, but you’ll also see plenty that should be in me. Focus your eyes on eternity, remembering always who you are, and laugh with joy. I’ll be standing beside you cheering you on every step of the way.
If this is what I’ve seen in the past year, I can only look with excitement to what’s coming in the next year. Rejoice in the Lord my sweet girl who’s quickly, so quickly, becoming a woman. Keep chasing after Jesus. He’s ready to welcome you at the finish line.
With deep love,
Mom and Dad