Every Sunday at church, I can't help but glance down the pew, sometimes to see that the little ones are behaving, but most times to catch the precious profiles of 5 little (and big) boys lined up, cleaned and combed and squished together between their father and me. And, my eyes always linger a little longer on the tallest boy...
I remember when Benedict was just a baby perched on my lap at church, drooling down teething toys and tossing every board book on the floor over and over again just to watch me pick them up. I looked down the pew back then too, and wondered what joy would come if one day God would fill up such an empty space.
And, oh, how quickly He has done this great thing in our lives. He has heard my heart, the place that speaks of a longing desire for lots of little ones to love. And, in His Mercy, He has allowed me to struggle through every weak moment of whining, of feeling overwhelmed, of wishing I could just sit alone for a moment at church, knowing such moments are only temporary, only human. He knows me, oh how he knows me, and I trust that. And, He's not done filling us up with His love. Soon, we will scoot down and make room for one more sweet breath of that awesome love.
The Chesterton quote rings in my ears, Why be something to everyone when you can be everything to someone?" Thirteen years later, I'm still challenged by this truth.
Now, this teenage boy stands beside me at the stove. I season soup and he talks track, explaining which events he wants to try this year. My heart pounds with pride when he says "I might try long distance." He speaks of one of my great joys, as if it might become one of his.
He doesn't know how hard I'm listening, enjoying every word, so content to know these plans, these ideas, these goals he's chosen to share. Don't stop sharing. What you have to say is important to me. YOU are important to me.
I try to keep up with him, keep eye contact, hoping he doesn't intuit my attention slipping in and out of memories of when he was so much smaller and would stand close beside me, arms reaching up, eager to see and to know what what was happening in my world up high. Soup stirred with one hand. Table set with one hand. Life conducted with one hand. Hands give pause to hug with two.
Thank God I can still hug you. Thank God you'll still let me!
When did he stop reaching? Stop needing to be buckled in, having his hair combed, shirt buttoned, tucked in at night, lifted up to shoot the basket?? Without being asked, he gave up his spot on my lap, in my arms, beside me at story time so that the younger one could have his turn. And then, the younger one gave up his spot for another, and so this is how the story of growing big goes.
You have led the way, you have set the example, you have shown them how this is done.
No, as hard as it is, the apron strings have been loosed. Your dad has helped me with that - helped me let you live a little on your own. If anything, I probably expect to much of you, depend on your helping hand a bit too much, assume you should step in and know how to handle life on so many levels. And, I'm sorry, if my expectations are too high, we're growing together, aren't we?
Now, here we are! You're officially a teenager!
Charlie is the one who waits at the window for his biggest brother, who hasn't missed a day of greeting him with a great BIG, "Hi, Ben!! You're home!!"
Not a day goes by that I don't think about how blessed I am to be this boy's mama, to have the privilege of sharing another birthday with him, and to walk through all of the days between this birthday and the next with him.
Happy Birthday, Benedict! We love you!!