Tuesday, September 24, 2013

For Zack, on the occasion of your sixteenth birthday

Dear Zack,

The other day, we sat and flipped through old pictures and howled with laughter over Adam’s hairstyles and your own growth from a small and slightly-awkward nine year old with pizza-grease on his face, to the strapping young man you are today. And I realize that sounds silly, but seriously. You already know you look far older than just sixteen, and you have grown into yourself in every sense of the word.
When I think back on those days after we first met you, seven years ago now, I wonder if I could have envisioned what a beautiful place you would have in our hearts and families someday. I watch your mom watching you today as you celebrated your sixteenth birthday, and I think of the ways she has sacrificed. The way she labored and pushed and breathed deep and birthed you into a world that was harder perhaps than she could have dreamt. Letting you go, when holding tighter feels easier. Asking for help, loving you well. She rubs her swollen belly and rocks softly while she cranes her neck to laugh at you wrestling Adam and racing Jayci in the pool. And I know that this thing we have somehow stumbled into is a beautiful conjoining of community and the-really-truly-way-it-was-intended-body-of-Christ.

The truth is that you are an extraordinary sixteen year old. We see it, of course, when you tickle and chase and wrestle your two little shadows for hours. Without fail, lifting them into an embrace and pouring them water and getting them snacks endlessly without complaint. We see it too in the way you notice and do dishes, even though you’ve told us that dishes and pancakes top the list of the five-things-you-hate-most-in-the-world. You are a leader, you are funny, and handsome and talented and athletic. And we see it every day. We just hope and pray as your sixteenth year begins, that you will see it too. That you will look at yourself in the mirror and recognize the imprint of a God who has made you to be a change-maker, a leader, a man after His heart.

Though my own womb didn’t stretch and carry and labor you into this world, I have perchance been rewarded with some extra laugh lines and worry-wrinkles for the privilege of walking hand-in-hand with you these past seven years. For better or worse, you are a part of our family. And I know that sometimes you like the fact that you get to come inside when everyone else sits on the front porch. You probably enjoy the extra trips to Tin Lizzie's and the insider relationships and pleasures that come with being a son. But I know too that sometimes you doubtless wish you were just another kid. We expect more from you. I realize this, and I recognize the burden you carry sometimes for the ministry you never really asked to be a part of. And so I want you to know how grateful we are for the grace and dignity with which you have carried that mantle, even when we draped it over you perhaps before you were ready.

You have known me long enough to know I am better at grace than I am at confrontation, or drawing hard lines in the sand. Sometimes, I think you might be better served by someone firmer, who will teach you more about boundaries and consequences. I just never want to worry about your behavior to the detriment of your heart.

My mentor when I was in college used to always tell me: “what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.” Her gentle words reminded me that the things that come out of me (be it behavior, language, or attitude) could only be a reflection of what’s already in my heart. And so rather than simply focus on what comes out, I pray that you will also focus on what is going in, and what’s already inside.
The world is relentless in telling you what it means to be a man, what looks cool, what is important, what woman should mean to you. The world is relentless, so I will be relentless. That said, let me apologize in advance if I drive you crazy with the number of times I tell you I love you, with the number of times I remind you to watch your language, or to stop listening to things that will pollute your heart. I am convinced you are special and worth fighting for, and I will be relentless in my pursuit of your heart to that end.

As you begin this sixteenth year, I mostly just want you to know how much we love you. How proud we are of you, and how grateful we are for all the ways that you have changed us and stretched us. We are better for knowing you.

Lots and lots of love and love ☺


  1. I have to tell you that as I sit at my computer tears pour down my face, this is beautiful, Zack is so blessed to have you and Adam... I am so grateful for who you are in the lives of the kids in Atlanta, I can't wait to visit! I am praying for Zack and your sweet family today, and every day!

  2. Yay! Happy Birthday, Zack! I am so glad you all have each other. Clearly the Lord brought you together.

  3. This is just beautiful. Truly, it is. I feel the love in your words. I also feel the fragility and vulnerability of what it means to parent, even those that weren't born into your family, but in whom you've chosen to invest. I'm praying Zack will take every opportunity to be more than this world tells him he will be. God wants to use him in big way, I just know it. And I know Satan knows it, too. Praying he will do the hard things and be mighty for the Kingdom. And praying God blesses your precious family. You're one of my heroes.

    1. girl, you're awesome. I'm making Zack read all y'alls comments. Made my day.

  4. Happy birthday Zack! He sounds like a great kid and as much of a blessing to you as you are to him.

  5. Zack, it was a pleasure for Gabe and me to meet you that one day back in July. You had no idea who we were, but I felt like I'd known you a long, long time. There's something special about you, that's for sure. And Becca's right. You're a young man with sweet privileges and big responsibility. We know you've got this. Keep leaning on Jesus. It's an honor to pray for you and your family. xoxoxoxo and happy birthday!!

    1. AW :-) meeting y'all was just so fun! We love you guys!

  6. Lovely post, Becca. And happy (probably late now) birthday, Zack!

  7. This is beautiful. You are beautiful!!!


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